Jul 28, 2014

Raising Needham: The Sibling Squabbling Phase

With all of the phases children go through, the fighting phase has to be the most frustrating.

Raising Needham: The Sibling Squabbling Phase

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Maybe it was bad karma for breezing through my friends' Facebook posts with an air of superiority when they posted about their children’s endless fighting. Maybe I was just due for some “real” parenting after so many years of smooth sailing. All I know is I am now knee deep in the dreaded sibling rivalry phase—or, as I call it, “if you two don’t stop fighting I am going to _________ (insert your favorite threat here)” phase.

I have no idea why I think any of my lame threats will work when they obviously haven’t in the past, but sometimes a mom gets so raging mad that she says the craziest and dumbest things. Why, just last week I unleashed one of my crazy threats to my kids and my daughter responded with, “Mom, you know you would never really do that!” To that I just rolled my eyes and kept quiet.

Parenting 101 tells you never to give any consequence you can’t follow through with. I have failed Parenting 101 many times, and my kids know I would never do half the things I promise them I will. They know I am frustrated, and sometimes I think letting them see that sends a stronger message than any half-baked plan to leave them with their least favorite baby sitter while I go off to their favorite place.

So what do you do when your kids argue more often than not?

I am in the midst of figuring that out, but I can tell you that patience, persistence and a glass of wine are involved. So I have decided to set into motion a plan that the kids will get to know intimately and that I will hold to dearly, even if it means really following through on some of those less insane threats.

Step one: Set ground rules. Yes, yes, this seems all too obvious, but these rules fall by the wayside and get abused, so you need to regroup and make it very clear what is and what is not acceptable. No hitting, pinching, poking, put downs, tattle tailing or licking. (Yes, licking; don’t ask.) Get the kids to write out these rules, post them and drag them to that list every time they stray. They made the list, so they should adhere to it.

Step two: Dig your heals in. Be prepared for a fight. Not only between your kids but between you and the kids not knowing what just hit them. Maybe they aren’t used to you being so firm. Maybe they aren’t used to two parents so firm in their resolve to squash this hideous phase. Regardless, you and your spouse have to be on the same page on this and really hold your ground.

Step three: Communicate. Let your kids know what you are doing, why you are doing it and what they can do to make it better. Regroup each night and ask them how they thought the day went. Tell them what made you happy and what upset you. Get the kids together for a family meeting and let them express their frustrations. Talk to your spouse and see how he/she thinks it is going. And reach out to other parents you trust and see what they did to make it through.

Step four: Give yourself a break. This is the rule I need to work on most. When it comes down to it, my kids are beautifully behaved when we go out. They play nicely and welcome new friends. I bet some of my friends reading this article will think I am making this all up just to have something to write about. No, it is in fact true that my kids fight with each other a lot. A lot. That being said, they are amazing kids and I need to look at the big picture and realize most siblings argue, but most make it through and are friends long into their adult life.

That is my main objective after all is said and done. I want my kids to grow up to be friends. My sanity is only icing on the cake. I have three awesome big brothers who would drop everything to help me if I called on them. We fought as kids, and sometimes we still do, but we will always be “besties," and that is what I want for my kids.  

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