What do you do when you have 2 siblings that are only a year apart in age, and they start bickering and fighting non stop? I can remember when the girls were each other’s best friends. They would play together and yes occasionally, we would have the sisterly fight. But that was the abnorm, not the norm. Things have taken a turn recently and while I know it is normal to fight and fuss with your sibling, it doesn’t make it any easier to correct from a parental role.
I have raised 3 children, so I totally get the sibling rivalry. Two of my children are 2 1/2 years apart in age, so believe me when I say we had our fair share of bickering in the house. It is funny now that that they are grown, and they tell me about stories of things they squabbled about. I know that had I heard about those squabbles back then , they both would have been in trouble. Which is why I never heard about them, they would get “into” it with each other and say “don’t tell mom”, because they knew there were consequences.
I think I have a harder time with the granddaughters because a part of me wants to be the Nana, that allows them to get away with stuff. Yet, I am in a parental role with them, so I can’t do that. If you talk to my two younger children though, they tell me all the time that I allow the girls to get away with sooo much more than they were EVER allowed to get away with. I am sure that there is some level of truth to their statements, even if I don’t want to admit it to them or myself. If nothing else, it is hard to balance the need to make sure the granddaughters are given the correct amount of discipline and correction for wrong behavior and still be a grandparent. I mean, the reality is , I don’t want them growing up to be little terrors and not have respect for others or each other. Days like today, really have me reflecting on all of those questions and dilemmas.
We are at the end of Christmas break and I am trying to get the girls back on a regular bedtime and nighttime routines, after the excitement and changes during Christmas. The girls had taken their showers, got PJ’s on , teeth brushed and had their 30 minutes of tablet time. They then are given another 15-30 minutes to be able to write in their journals. Then it is lights off and time for sleep. That is when the “war” broke out among them. I am sitting in the living room and I hear a huge fight break out. I go back to the room and find that one sister is kicking the other. (they share a full size bed) UGH. I let them know that there will be consequences tomorrow and have them turn their backs to each other , and are told to get to sleep. It did get quiet after that, because they knew I meant what I said.
First thing the next morning, they were told they had chores to do as a result of the nighttime battle they had. I am a firm believer in doing “hard labor” when you misbehave. I mean in real life that is what happens right? The rule in my house has always been, if you are in trouble, you are going to do chores. We have a ton of tree’s in our yard and due to recent weather , we have a BUNCH of miscellaneous branches all through the yard. Luckily , for some crazy reason we had an almost 70 degree day today, perfect for yard work and lesson learning. So I sent them out to pick up branches in both the front and back of the house. It wasn’t long before they came in and told me they had finished the front. I asked them twice if they were sure? “Yep, we are done Nana. ….. ” OK, but if I find sticks, I will add 5 minutes for each one I find.” Well, needless to say that wasn’t a true statement, so I added another 40 minutes to their “chore time”
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the lesson, however, sadly it wasn’t. They hadn’t been outside long and they were fighting again! Before all was said and done, they had broke into another bickering fight and earned another 20 minutes of chore time. When they finished with the sticks and branches outside, then it was time to come in and finish up the extra hour they had earned. The rest of the chores they ended up with were things like, dishes, scrubbing the outside of the fridge, scrubbing down the microwave inside and out, cleaning bathroom (tub, sinks, toilet, floors) and dusting. I had only initially planned on maybe 2 hours of work, but due to the continued bickering they worked for about 5 hours this afternoon.
I have to admit, I was beginning to wonder , was this really working? I mean were they understanding that it was easier to get along than to have to spend the day doing manual labor? I got my answer tonight when I put them to bed. Same routine as the night before, but when I went in the room 15 minutes after they were all tucked in and found them still awake. Yes , they were fussing with each other, but not a true fight (yet) They hadn’t broke out the “big guns” and started hitting or kicking. The youngest one, Natalie looks at me and says, “ “ Nana , we weren’t fighting. I didn’t kick her….do we have to do chores again tomorrow?!”
I thought to myself….hmmm….maybe today did have an impact!! I am planning on implementing the “get along shirt” for the next battle they have. In case you haven’t heard of the “get along shirt”, let me explain briefly. You put them in a large shirt (hubby’s shirt is perfect), one has one arm and the other has the other arm and then they each have an arm inside the shirt. They have to basically wear the shirt together and go about their day functioning like that. The idea is they learn to “get along” or have a rough day!! I am sure in the beginning, they would have fun with it, but I have no doubt that “fun” will wear off. Just make sure you do this on a day you don’t have to leave the house, unless you are willing to take them out like that. The key is to keep them in it long enough that they REALLY DO have to learn how to function and get along together that close to each other!! I will do another post when I use this method and update you on how it goes!!
Sometimes it is the little acknowledgements that you have to grab onto and think OK , maybe this is working! As a parent, I think we are always questioning if we are doing it right. After all, it isn’t like kids come with a manual when you bring them home from the hospital. I know because the girls are so close in age (Natalie is 9 and Angela is 10…1 yr and 18 days apart!) that they are going to fight and bicker. I just want to see more days of them getting along, than not. I don’t know if I will see that happen for a few more years, but I can always hope and pray. At the end of the day, I want to raise little girls that are respectful to each other , to love one another. I tell them all the time, that your sister is the one that will always be there for you , and will always have your back and be your biggest fan!! You need to make sure that she is the one that you are loving on and is your best friend! Here is praying that it sticks!!
What do you do when your kids fight and bicker? Or do you have children that never do? I would love to hear your input!!! If nothing else, I figure misery loves company!!