Okay y’all…this is a shout out to any mamas out there who are older and wiser. My kids are 16, 14, 10 & 7 and they just can’t stand each other. I know “sibling rivalry” is supposed to be normal, blah, blah, blah. But this is ridiculous. Today, I’m at a loss. There are plenty of things that we have figured out and plenty of wins that we’ve had in our family. But right now, all the good is overshadowed in my mind by the way my kids treat each other. In the overall scheme of things, they are great kids. Especially one on one. But mix them all together and it’s not pretty. Rather, it feels like some failed toxic science experiment. Why?
First, they are hyper-offendable. (Is that even a word? or compound word? I don’t know.) But you’ve heard of giving someone the benefit of the doubt? Well, imagine the opposite…they always seem to be sure the other one “did it on purpose!” You know what I’m talking about…”He touched me, he pushed me, he took my seat!” Yada Yada.
Second, they know how to push each other’s buttons and they do it constantly. Have you seen the Shrek movie where the donkey is riding in the back of the carriage making a popping sound with his mouth? Shrek puts up with it for a while but then he loses his temper. My youngest, “Seven” will be singing at the top of his lungs (which offends “Ten”…see point number one) so “Ten” says, “Can you please stop?” Rather than stop, Seven just sings the same song in the same goofy tone but barely audible. Is he quieter? Yes. But he’s actually now doing it because he knows it bugs his brother. He’s not being cooperative…he’s instigating trouble. With a smile on his face. And Ten responds by losing it. Which leads me to the third bad habit…
They over-react. If a situation calls for a reaction measuring about a 3 on the response scale, they tend to land somewhere between 9 and 10. This just escalates the whole thing into a “knock-down drag-out” fight in a matter of seconds. You’ve heard of The Golden Rule? Treat others as you’d want to be treated. Yeah, well they seem to ascribe to its lesser known cousin, The Black and Blue Rule: Treat others as you’ve been treated. Um, sorry…not the same thing.
These scenarios happen daily. I feel quite vulnerable writing this because I don’t want to imply that my kids are bad kids or that things are always one big argument around here. But I’m being honest. The unkind, distrustful, paranoid behavior has me wanting to leave my house and not come back. (Well, I would come back between the hours of 8am – 2pm…it’s peaceful then.)
Here’s a few of the things I’ve tried:
- I’ve taken away privileges for a time (mostly any and all electronic entertainment)
- I’ve fined them a quarter for every mean thing they say to one another (the “perpetrator” has to pay the fine to the “victim”)
- I have had family meetings where we talk about being more loving, giving the benefit of the doubt and choosing to overlook offenses.
- I have removed all play date privileges before, explaining that if they can’t get along with each other, they will not be allowed to play with other kids until they learn to like each other.
- And I have written up contracts for them, gone over the behavior that I expect and had them sign on the dotted line.