Behaviour

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Why can't we all just get along

sibling rivalry
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TUG-OF-WAR: By the time you step in to break up a fight, it's hard to tell which party should be punished.

My husband is lucky. He doesn't just possess spousal deafness he has the added bonus of a children-fighting hearing impairment. Unless there is blood splattered on his laptop, he doesn't respond to the children brawling. "They'll work it out", he says. They may lose a limb in the process, but he's right, they will eventually find a resolution.

I dream of his Laissez-faire parenting style, where hairs do not instantly stand erect at the sound of a sibling squabble, where steam does not immediately spurt out of ears when the screams of a child who is not getting their way rebounds off the walls of the house.

School holidays are a breeding ground for fights. Obviously, the children are in each other's faces 24 hours a day for seven weeks straight. That's 1176 hours of potential fighting. (I've included the time they are in bed, because I think my children have the ability to fight in their sleep).

My cherubs are no different to the majority of kids out there. Sometimes they get along like beautiful, angelic, pictures of perfection and for the remaining 55 minutes in every hour the irritation they feel for each other is executed through bickering and arguing.

Fighting is the one thing that sends me wild. I've learnt through many years of Google therapy that my "triggers" are noise and mess. Given that self-knowledge, I concede having four children, three of them boys, was not the most intelligent decision I ever made. However, I can cope with the noise and the mess if it is a cubby built out of sheets that buys me a solid few hours of sibling bliss. Should that peace turn into yelling and fighting, it is a short distance between calm mother and ranting woman with exploding receptors.

Experts like to tell us that fighting is often a result of bored children looking for attention. Thank you experts. Most of them probably don't have children, and certainly don't spend seven weeks in a row trying to find activities to entertain them, without going broke or insane.

Fighting is a natural part of growing up, they add. It is a perfect opportunity for children to learn problem-solving skills. How exactly do I teach my two-year-old that yelling at his older brother for looking at him is a chance to explore some resolution techniques?

It seems that my kids always fight when:

1. We are in the car
2. I am on the toilet or in the shower
3. I am feeding the baby and otherwise occupied.

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I am not blind to the pattern forming…

So, as I am the adult in this equation, it seems it is up to me to come up with some resolution techniques of my own. Thus far, I am failing.

I've tried allocating a chore every time they fight – here's a basket of washing you can fold and here's a broom you can sweep the floor with. Inevitably there is then a fight about the unfairness of the assigned chore.

I've tried getting to the bottom of the argument and demonstrating a more productive way of dealing with the problem. Waste. Of. Time. "What happened?" and "Why did you do/say that?" have to be two of the daftest questions ever asked by a parent in the incidence of a sibling argument.

Separating the bickering parties works for older children, for a period, but when you have a two-year-old menace weaving his way into the scene, separation does not work.

Yelling? Nothing like shouting at your children for shouting. For parental brilliance, it's up there with smacking a child for hitting their sibling.

As we near the end of the school holidays (thank every god there is), I have found the only solution to managing sibling rivalry is to have dinner and a glass of wine with a friend, out of the house, far, far away from the noise and the bickering. That way, I can recharge and face the battlelines when I return. Armed with earplugs.

How do you cope with sibling fights? Any valuable tricks up your sleeve?


- Essential Kids

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