Dear Brain Trust,
My children fight from sun up to sun down and it’s driving me crazy! Help!!
~ Losing it in Louisville
Dear Losing (not to be confused with “loser”!),
I’m going to sound pretty harsh here, but don’t put up with it. This is a problem you’ve simply got to commit to solving. Find a parenting book that addresses the issue, and make this issue a priority. For me, one of the surprise blessings of homeschooling is the relationship my kids have built with one another, but that’s not accidental. We place a high value on kindness, and when there’s a slip (and there frequently are!), I don’t ignore it. I think some parents think that fighting among siblings is inevitable, but I strongly disagree. Kids must be taught kindness, forgiveness, and negotiating skills. These are the most powerful, life-changing lessons we can teach during the natural course of the day, so embrace the opportunity (okay, maybe that’s a little naive……should I say, “embrace the horror”?). You can do it!
Dear Brain Trust readers, can you help Losing in Louisville with a recommendation for a book that addresses the issue of fighting siblings?
Or some tips of your own?
Peace be with you,
Dear (Not) Losing it,
You’re in good company! This problem of sibling “fighting” can be traced back to the beginning with Cain and Abel. That doesn’t give us much hope that we will be exempt, does it? But I do believe we can hope for better. Hy is right, we must be aggressive and ready to deal! The tools you give your children to handle conflict with their siblings will be one of the greatest gifts you give them! We must put on our big “girl/boy” pants to face these issues!
I have four sons and one daughter. The competition, the wrestling, the one-liners and the sheer physical presence of that much testosterone is amazing. So, each morning I put on my game face. Yep, I am like a hawk waiting for their first move, and it doesn’t take long before one of my lovelies is throwing out “signs” that a conflict is brewing.
So this is how it works in our home: I watch for attitudes. A glare. A snarled lip. A comment that slights. A huffy response. These all reveal positions of the heart. An attitude, or a thought, gives way to action. I spend much of my energy and effort training attitudes. I find that if my work thwarts a sour or grumpy attitude, many times that will curb the inevitable, full-blown fight. Yep. I am attitude-buster. I don’t wait for the fight. Here is a scripture that fortifies my position from Proverbs 17:14, “The start of a quarrel is like a leak in a dam, so stop it before it bursts.”
So, my recommendation is to look for the “start” of a quarrel and let training begin there. Teach forgiveness and how to turn a cheek. Train your children on how to serve the brother and sister when they don’t feel like it. Give them examples through scriptures, as well as personal and historical examples to fortify their hearts. Love always wins. Getting along with people is not an easy business, but this gift you are giving your children will live long past their time in your home.
Dood (not sporting a “tude”)
Dear Losin’ It,
What a predicament for the ages! And one that is cramping my style at the moment as well. The bad news is: I don’t think there is an answer. Egads! Not what you hoped to hear from an advice guru, I know…. but I’d rather give bad advice than flat out lie. As Dood pointed out, sibling warfare isn’t a particularly recent phenomenon. And I’m afraid we could spend years trying to unearth the deeply rooted psychological reasons for the chronic bickering between siblings only to be left with yet another fire to extinguish.
So let’s deal with this head on: kids can be jerks. They can be jerks for no good reason. And they can refuse to express an ounce of remorse for it to boot. Why? Because they’re jerks — someone isn’t paying attention here. If you prefer church lady lingo, simply replace jerks with sinners and proceed. I’m going out on a limb here, but adults think the same thing kids do. The guy who pulled out in front of you in traffic is a “cutter.” The friend who didn’t invite you to her cook-out is a meanie doo doo head. The scarf you gave Aunt Edna is a tag, you’re it, no tag backs gift. The difference between us and them is “socialization.” We know better. We were taught better. And on our good days, we behave better. How, exactly, you teach your children to behave better is entirely up to you so long as it doesn’t involve child authorities. Every household employs different techniques. Maybe you make the juvenile offenders do hard labor in the vegetable garden. Or perhaps they give each other simultaneous foot rubs until they display a suitable degree of remorse and swear on their no-good honor to abstain from further squabbles. Use your imagination — you’re the parent for crying out loud. I personally try to enforce consequences that will keep my children’s future therapists entertained for hours. But I’m sure you’re a more civilized meanie doo doo head than me.
Dear Losing it,
Bull makes me laugh! What she says is funny, but oh so true! Our children are miniature versions of us who lack refinement.
My girls fight everyday. Mostly, the oldest corrects the youngest… the youngest pesters the oldest… the oldest corrects the youngest… the youngest pesters the oldest. You get the picture. It is a vicious cycle. It is easy for me to be one of two extremes: hypersensitive to it, or completely ignore it. To be quite honest, this is an area where my consistency lacks!
When I am on my “A” game, these are some things I have found to be effective:
- Stop it as soon as it starts
- Point out the environment they are creating in our home. I often ask them how they would feel if their daddy & I spoke to each other that way? They always say it would stress them out… and that’s the point! It stresses people out, so take that into consideration!
- Make them stop and serve one another… When they do that, their attitude is always terrible to begin with, but then it turns around. I typically have them clean each others’ rooms.
- A year or so ago, we used a thankfulness notebook. Anytime there was hatefulness happening, they would have to write something in their notebook about their sister that they liked, but it couldn’t be superficial. It had to be a character trait or a gift they saw in the other. It was hard but good!
I think siblings fight in order to learn how to get along. Wish it was easier on us as parents, but I have hope that eventually it will bring about peaceful and loving relationships for them!
Grace & Peace,
Image courtesy of Amy Teague Photography, www.happilysituated.com
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