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Sibling fighting

The CRUNCH:
You see this? You want it?

CRUNCH deets:
Thanksgiving weekend means one thing: turkey. But along with the meal comes the discussion about what you’re thankful for. And of course you ARE thankful for your munchkins, but it’s kinda hard to appreciate them when they keep arguing/punching/biting. So much for brotherly love.

The Fix:
Butt out.

Fix deets:
Guys, I’ve got fighting on the brain. If it’s not us against our neighbour, ToughBaby it’s our boys against each other, or our daughter taking on one of her big bros… she’s a toughie. Every time the boys are bickering and it’s driving me bananas, I’m tempted to step in. Lately I’ve been playing problem-solver a little too often, and Alex and Jack are starting to take advantage. So I’m pulling some old tricks outta my sleeve, ones I learned years ago when they first started fighting (because, ya know, baby Jack grew big enough to actually want to play with Thomas and Mater instead of admiring from afar).

Here’s what to do if your monkeys are monkeying around a little too much:

  • Ignore it if it’s not getting physical. The only exception I make is if one kid is seriously getting the shaft. For us, that’d be when Alex is taunting Jack by interrupting or pretending he can’t understand him. Jack still has a super-sweet lisp and is finessing how to use his words, so it causes him serious frustration when he’s misunderstood or not able to express himself. If Alex is pushing buttons and Jack’s about to lose it, I head it off before the storm.
  • Call a T-O to make sure they’re both on the same page before letting mayhem ensue. I’m not totally cool with the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, but my boys do love to roughhouse. There’s a fine line between fun and pain though, and all camps have to be onboard if that line’s about to get crossed. Before I let them have at it, I remind them of our code word: blueberry. If anyone says ‘blueberry’, the other one has to stop ASAP or he gets a timeout/chore jar. I also remind them that if they agree to play-fight and someone gets hurt, I’m not likely to be sympathetic.
  • Let them know their options. Our boys often spar out of sheer boredom. Asking “Are you ready to stop fighting so you can {insert-fave-activity-here} or do you want to take it outside?” often gets them to switch gears OR gets t11Oct2013bhem to release that tornado in the backyard (still within earshot but not quite as under-the-skin-irritating).
  • Don’t pick a side when someone comes a-tattling. My general response is a non-committal “Hmm,” although I might also add “I guess you shouldn’t fight so much, huh?” while I continue with the food prep/laundry/baby-walking.
  • Let them know the consequences with a casual “Listening to this argument is making me so tired I don’t think I’ll have the energy to make a snack/read a story/set up the wii/do whatever they want me to do.” Speak within earshot but not directly so they don’t think you’re bossing/scolding/nagging. I often make this comment to Lola – the boys always listen best when they think I’m paying more attention to their little sis.
  • If they’re in a confined space (think car/bike trailer/restaurant) and will. not. stop. arguing, whip out an updated version of “So help me, I’m gonna to turn this car around!” The more effective way to put the kaibosh on the quarreling is to wordlessly pull the car over (gets their attention so they’ll actually listen to you) and politely say “It’s hard for me to concentrate on driving with so much fighting going on. Can you stop or would you prefer to get out and walk?” This might be all you need, depending on how long you’ve been in the car and how bored/hungry/tired they are. To amp it up, after they both agree to stop fighting, add “Okay, I trust you, so I’ll keep going,” and continue on your merry way. If your drive is long enough that more bickering ensues, calmly pull over and instruct the misbehaving sh*t-disturber (there might be more than one) to get out and hike it, as in “I’m happy to drive anyone who acts appropriately and lives up to his word, but since it doesn’t seem like you’re able to then I guess you have to walk.” No doubt this is kinda harsh, but do it strategically when there’s only a block left before your destination, drive slowly alongside your kid to make sure he’s safely stomping, and the next time the boredom bickering begins he’ll zip it ASAP after that first warning.

Remember this:
When babies grow old enough to do anything independently, giving them the freedom to do it themselves means one less thing for you to do and one more confidence boost for them. Setting limits and teaching them how to resolve their own problems also means that next year you might actually be thankful for more than just the alcohol when you sit down to the bird. No, the other bird.

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