Monday, March 31, 2008

Sibling Fight Management 101

Aaah - another refreshing night's sleep on the couch. Susie has a cold, so I felt as though I was sleeping between the dueling banjos of snoring until I finally went downstairs for a decent night's sleep.

David and Larry returned from camping unscathed. David had a great time, notwithstanding his extreme reluctance to go on this trip. He found a new best friend, and Larry enjoyed talking with the best friend's dad. It is interesting that, even though they spent a full 24 hours together (including sharing the same tent), Larry never discovered that this guy's kid is homeschooled also. David told me. Because he is only 10, and so has not yet developed the non-communication skills of a true guy. Give it another year, and he wouldn't have known either.

Uncle Matt got tired of the sleep deprivation (hey, that pun wasn't intended, but it's a pretty good one) and packed up and got the heck out of here. But not before we all watched The Man Who Knew Too Little last night. If you're a Bill Murray fan, this is a must-see. I missed it when it came out 11 years ago, as I was having a baby at the time.

Rachel and Susie keep having altercations of one sort and another, and they are all very emotional. I am not used to having 2 girls fighting. It's always been boy-girl or boy-boy. People got mad, but they also got even. Theo would pinch Anna. Anna would take his toys. (They don't do that anymore.) The boys just punched each other. Rachel bit Brian a number of times when they were littler and then he'd yell, "I'm telling Mommy!" Somehow, it was a lot simpler. Girls, however, get very emotional and there is much wailing and screaming of things such as "I hate her! She's mean!" accompanied by these big, gulping sobs and huge tears rolling down their cheeks. It's overwhelming. So I smack them.

Ha, ha - kidding. I just mail them to India.

Stop that! I don't know what to do, actually. But I don't worry about it too much, because I know that before long they will have outgrown this stage and gone on to be teenagers and won't that be fun?

I feel a list coming on...


1. Talk so your kids will listen ('cuz they don't listen unless you are siding with them)
2. Use your conflict resolution skills (see #1)
3. Call your husband at work and have him threaten them over the phone (not very effective and it annoys him no end)
4. Try to be fair (as in, "Now, Susie, you've had a turn with the old, bent spatula from the kitchen drawer; now give Rachel a turn.") This technique rarely works because (you guessed it) they both want the crappy old spatula first and who cares that they have a perfectly decent set of play kitchen tools of their own that cost more than all your cooking equipment put together, not that that bothers you or anything...
5. Scream "Shaddup, youse!" and burn them both with your cigarette (Ha - joke - though it is tempting... it's a good thing I don't smoke, I guess)



1. Studiously ignore them - they just want to find out who Mommy loves more. Also, most fights evaporate after a few minutes. Intervening too soon prolongs the disagreement, leaves you with a splitting headache, and annoys you no end when you see them playing happily together 10 minutes later as you lie on a couch nursing a migraine.

2. If the fight lasts more than a few minutes, or turns violent, take away disputed object. Hide it. Out of sight is truly out of mind. Kids are way distractable.

3. Redirect the fighters' interest ("Oh, look! I just saw a giraffe outside! Quick - go see!"). See above re distractability of young offspring.

4. If undistractable, the fighters should be put in separate rooms and allowed to scream at each other safely from behind closed doors while you go back to lying on the couch and nursing your migraine. This approach has the advantage that you can drink something, um, comforting without the little brats seeing and telling Daddy.

5. Remember to say at some point, "Just wait until Daddy gets home!" Sometimes the old ways are the best.


  1. Enlightening though this is, it just reaffirms that I'm glad my kids are now in school. You can't imagine how that has reduced the fighting around here. At least during school hours.

  2. Yep, I have boys. Unless one of them is crying (which means he's truly physically hurt), I practice benign neglect. Seems to work just fine. They don't fight much. And if one of them DOES hurt the other, I usually hear, "You just broke a rule of this house!"

  3. Wow, you are on a roll with your lists...

    Love it, especially this one:
    "This approach has the advantage that you can drink something, um, comforting without the little brats seeing and telling Daddy."


  4. That's so funny. Despite the laughing, I am soaking up this advice for when I need it.

  5. it! So far this morning we have had 2 time outs and 2 threats of "getting daddy" and 1 "Mommy will NOT let you go to school EVER AGAIN if you don't stop!!" (4yo loves preschool, so thought this might help). And the big fight of the day? Who was going to get the spoons for breakfast and who was going to sit in which chair. COME ON NOW!!!!

    And I have ALL girls-a 4yo, a (almost) 3yo and a 9month'll be FUN when they are ALL teenagers!!!

  6. I havne't gotten there yet but good tips I will keep them in mind :)

  7. when they come to me and say, "he did this, he did that" i just look really interested and say, "ahhhh," like i'm fascinated.

    they look at me like i am a moron and then walk away.

  8. "Because he is only 10, and so has not yet developed the non-communication skills of a true guy." LOL

  9. Next time there is a sibling squabble in our house, I'm calling you to yell at my children. I think they would take you much more seriously.

  10. Love the list... I LIVE by the second set of rules... unfortunately Daddy hasn't caught on yet. I am so great at ignoring fights... because 1) they are truly momentary and 2) nothing I can say will make it better, it'll just create a new fight!

  11. Oh my, yes, the boy fighting gets violent, but it lacks the emotional wear & tear of girl fighting. For this I am thankful.
    Hope you get a good night's sleep tonight. & Glad to hear the camping trip was a winner!

  12. I'm with Marie above. All I have is girls, 3 1/2 y.o. twins and a 6 1/2 y.o. and it is HIGH DRAMA around here when the oldest isn't in school. It's just medium drama with the twins at this point. And the wine at dinner is always a MUST.

  13. I'm laughing and printing this list out at the same time. The fighting drives me crazy.

    But you're right--10 minutes later, it's all butterflies and rainbows. I don't drink enough.

  14. Yeah, that distracting thing works really well.....NOT!
    The taking away the thing that they are fighting over doesn't work so well either. My kids have fought over imaginary objects. How do you take away an imaginary object and keep them from imagining another?

    We have a new method of fighting going on over here. It's called "But then he'll probably just hit me"
    It goes like this;
    HER: "Mom, he's bugging me!" (said in the most whiny voice possible)
    ME: "Just stay away from him."
    HER: "But he'll probably follow me and stare at me again."
    ME: "Go to your room so he'll stop bugging you."
    HER: "But he'll probably follow me into my room"
    ME: "If you go into your room and close the door, he won't follow you."
    HER: "But he'll probably just break the door down, and come into my room and mess it all up!"
    ME: "He won't break the door down, and he can't mess up anymore than it already is."
    HER: "Well then, he'll probably just come in and hit me!"
    ME: "He won't hit you."
    HER "Yes he will, that's why I wanted sisters, because sisters don't fight!"

    As of now, whenever I hear a fight starting, I go hide in the closet. That way they can't find me, and that's also where I have a stash of emergency chocolate.

  15. wow, as always I am very impressed at the way you can analyze conflicts/potential hazardous situations.

    My teenage years are not so long gone and I know many pre-teens and teens so I really understand what you are going through.

    How do you handle rivalry when it comes to school and sports performance?


  16. I learn so much about parenting from you! Apparently I should take up smoking.

  17. I would say I know what you mean, but I have two boys, so I'm in the much easier, beat the crap out of each other and move on category of disagreements.

  18. I am so guilty of everything on the what not to do list.

  19. I actually told my youngest this morning that for every half hour she made me mad she would have to spend an hour in her room to make up for it when she got home from school. Then all three of my kiddos got together and I heard the word PMS. After that it was rosy as rain here. :)

  20. I can't believe I've never tried #5 on your first list. I may have to go to the store right now.

  21. I second you on the old, bent spatula. That happens a lot at our house, although they like the old, bent whisk with the sharp, metal pieces sticking out of it.

  22. i find the first one amusing .. just leave them alone cause they just want mom's attention and who mom's love the most .. sometimes thats true .. a kid tries to weigh down words from mom's mouth hoping that those words will be on his side .. till then someone gets hurt when mom intervene.

  23. I think I advised someone once to make them put their arms around each other and sing, "You Are My Sunshine."

    Except they don't know that song anymore. I wonder if Alicia Keys' "No One" would work. Ummm..."no one can get in the way of what I feel for you..." Could be self-defeating.

    I think Mrs. G's got the solution. Let's start a group, where we can call each other for proxy kid-yelling. Better yet, we'll do it on webcam. Imagine from the kids' perspective: Some strange middle-aged crazy lady on the computer monitor calling you out...yeaaaahh.

    Did you get your "something comforting" from Starbucks, Karen? Hmmm?????

  24. Hee. I'm a big fan of #2. I cannot tell you how many times in a week I say something along the lines of "If you're going to fight over it, you can't have it."

    I'm also fond of saying, "If you don't stop fighting right now, THERE IS GOING TO BE A PUNISHMENT."

    "What punishment mom?"

    "A HORRIBLE PUNISHMENT. Something very, VERY BAD."

    They usually back away slowly and no punishment is ever actually needed.

    I'm thinking we are going to have large therapy bills.

  25. Laughing out loud -- came across YOUR blog yesterday and thought the same thing -- "hey, my template! give it back!"
    Don't know where you are, but I'm in the deep South, far, far away from Dayton and the fun people at the conference.
    A virtual toast to you ...

  26. Hahahahahaha! Oh, too funny! (I'm sorry - I am probably the lamest commenter ever, aren't I?)But you can't top that post, right?

  27. Yup... my oldest will fight with her sister over anything. It could be old pacifier, all crusty and gross... doesn't seem to matter one bit.

  28. I especially like 3 and 5 from the first list.

    No 5 from the second list is a definite goer!

    I'm still working from last weeks list - "Don't get involved if no blood has been shed."

    Fabulous advice as always - you should write a book!

  29. I'm with you: the boy-boy/boy-girl fights usually involve violence, but at least it's over with one quick pop to the jaw.

  30. Good news: I've been doing #1-4 on your list very well.

    But since my husband is our stay-at-home, I can't do #5, unless he's out for a run.

    Not that they fear him, anyhow.

  31. My kids only fight over ridiculously mundane thing. Makes me nuts.

    Love your lists.

  32. What is it with siblings and fighting? My step-daughter's only here every other weekend and when she's not here she calls every day and tells the little guy how much she loves and misses him. (Sweet, right?) Then, within five minutes of her arrival, the crying and yelling and fighting start and she's trying to get away for some "private time." (Did you even know 7 year olds needed private time?)
    Kids are great.

  33. You forgot screech like a fishwife. That's particularly good now that spring's almost here and the windows will be open.

    Too funny (because it's true) about the non-communication of men. HRH already responds to "what did you do at school today?" with "I don't want to talk about it."

  34. Couldn't agree more. Leaving or threatening to leave is also highly effective.

  35. mine have suddenly realized that they're faster than I am. "NO! DON'T EAT THAT!" is followed by a child stuffing the offending thing/food in the mouth as fast as humanly possible.

    Screeching like a fishwife is getting really big around here. Also a swift thump on the head when I finally catch up with them.

  36. I laughed so much while reading this that is distracted two of my little girls from a dispute they were having!

  37. I just clicked over here from Jenni's blog.
    You and I could so have coffee. Breaking up fights and what not has ruined so many visits with friends of mine who do intervene.
    You and me though? We would drink our coffee and only raise our voices slightly so we can talk over the rumble.
    I'll bring the smokes! Er...Crumpets.

  38. AnonymousMay 05, 2009

    Well, you are all so funny. Helped me alot cuz I am a grandparent-parent so I get to do this all over again. You'd think I had learned something the first time around. Anyway, thanks:)