Sibling rivalry and my big mouth

I’m a problem solver. A fixer-upper. A peacemaker. A negotiator.  But is it right to be all of those as a parent? I used to think so but now I’m not so sure. 

Today is the last day of the school holidays and if it wasn’t for the fighting  between my two testosterone-fuelled boys (8 and 6), it would have been a pretty amazing time. There have been some wonderful moments of kinship and co-operation but many hours have been darkened by the cloud of my boys’ fighting. It’s nothing really serious, just the odd explosion of loud, unkind words and the rapid projection of fists and feet. Normal boy stuff, I’m sure 🤔


I’m confident that I know why it is happening. Two young children with mountains of energy in a small home with similar interests but different needs and boundaries, combined with different methods of communication, both competing for my attention while managing less sleep due to longer hours of sunlight and holiday “routine” (aka little-to-no routine). Phew! A pretty obvious recipe for pent up frustration right? 😤


Accepting that arguments between siblings is part and parcel of childhood development may alleviate concern as to whether or not one's children might be “normal”, but knowing how to deal with the arguing presents a whole new quandary. 


This morning my boys were at each other's throats (literally and figuratively) and instead of getting involved and putting my stamp on their argument, through gritted teeth I sent them outside and explained that they were not allowed to come in until they had:

 

  • Listened to the others’ side of the story
  • Expressed the emotions they were feeling at the time 
  • Explained why they behaved the way they did
  • Considered what they could have done differently

This is the script we have always worked through after an argument but this was the first time that they needed to nut it out on their own.


5 minutes later they came in with the following:


Master 8 “I think I was the more violent one”

Master 6 “I think I started it” 


Two simple sentences. Two statements of ownership and responsibility.


Such a HUGE contrast to the typical hurling of accusations and blame, tears and resentful frustration. And the best part, those words came from their minds, not mine. 


Their ability to handle the situation not only gave me an escape from the emotional turmoil and exhaustion of having to take control, but it also empowered them with the knowledge that they have the mental and emotional strength to work through a conflict on their own. Because as much as I want to protect them, they will face challenges far greater than sibling rivalry and when they do, I want them to feel strong, and capable, and to be able to take responsibility for their actions. I want them to know that there is always another side of an argument, another point of view, and that someone else's emotions are just as valid as their own.

 

I’ve made a promise to myself that from now on I’ll be taking a deliberate step back when my children argue. I’m going to keep my mouth shut so that they can use theirs, as well as their heads and their hearts because I reckon there is a fountain of pretty amazing stuff that is just waiting to pour out when given the chance.

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