Mirroring Monday: The annoying little sister

A parent has been experiencing lots of fighting between her two
children; a boy,(Peter) age 6 and a girl, (Amy) age 3.  The boy who
previously was fairly good natured and co-operative especially before
his younger sister was born has become extremely moody and aggressive.
He will sometimes try to hurt his little sister and says he hates his
life.  Parents are frustrated and tired of nagging their son and
giving him consequences as it doesn’t seem to be working.
They learn about the concept of mirroring and decide to give it a try.
They also decide to commit some one-on-one time with their son,
without any interference from the sister, and this happens 20 minutes
a day for two weeks.

The mirroring is an attempt to match the affective state of their son.
It goes something like this:

Parent:  It’s  sooooooo hard for you having a little sister
(Amy) who goes in your room when you don’t want her to and bugs you so
Peter: Yeah, it sucks.
Parent: You used to have us all to yourself and now Amy always
interrupts and wants so much attention.
Peter:  Yeah, I hate when she does that.
Parent: I know… Sometimes she can be really annoying and always wants
to do what you’re doing.
Peter: Uh huh….. (Three empathic, accurate mirroring statements has
helped Peter calm down).
Parent:  You know, I think Amy really looks up to you and thinks
you’re the greatest even though it’s just annoying to you.  I wonder
if we might need to make a few new rules so Amy stays out of your
stuff more often, and maybe you could be a really cool big brother and
teach her some of the things you know, like building a really tall
tower so it doesn’t fall down right away.  What do you think?
Peter:  well, maybe….

Initially, Peter is not thrilled about this, however, when his parents
validate his need to have more ownership of some of his toys, he is
more receptive to being more co-operative with Amy.  With consistency
on the part of their behavior, parents report Peter’s aggression
begins to significantly decrease and Peter seems happier.

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