I decided on the spot that I had to put an end to the out-of-control fighting in our home. I gathered my (ferocious) ducklings around me and we sat criss-cross applesauce on the front room floor.
I could no longer make it through an evening in our home. Someone was always crying because someone else had hurt them. There was hitting, biting, scratching, pushing and screaming. I don’t know how my little kiddos could handle the chaos, either.
As we sat in a semi-circle, I looked into their worried little eyes (what in the world was Mom up to?!) and asked them how the interactions in our home made them feel. Their answers were standard but not encouraging. My 7-year-old said he was always scared his 4-year-old twin brothers were going to gang up on him. They often did gang up on him — like velociraptors at dinnertime. One 4-year-old said he felt “sad” and the other (with a twinkle in his eye) said he felt “mean.”
I think he was beginning to enjoy being mean, and that probably worried me the most.
In those few minutes on the floor, we talked about what it meant to be a bully. We talked about the things we do that hurt others and decided we didn’t want any more hitting, pushing, biting, fighting or saying mean words. My sensitive 9-year-old told us how mean words hurt her just as much as shoving hurts.
We decided to adopt a "No Tolerance Policy." Well, really I decided to adopt a "No Tolerance Policy" and they agreed they were on board. Together we decided the consequence for being a bully in our home: no warnings and straight to time out. Repeat offenses during the day would result into the loss of a colorful, fluffy pom-pom from their pom-pom reward jar.
There has only been one other time I’ve threatened to take pom-poms out of their glass mason jar. Several months ago I had enough of the "potty talk" — it lasted all day, every day. Over night I rid our family of inappropriate fart jokes by extending up to three verbal warnings, and if they didn’t fix their language, I removed a pom-pom out of their jar. Just like that, it worked. Could curbing fighting really be this easy also?
I remember the terrible fights I'd have with my siblings when my mom wasn’t looking. Once we locked my younger brother out on the front porch in only his underwear. And I don't think we let him back in very quickly. Most of the time we’d chase each other around the dining room table, yelling and screaming until eventually someone’s knee went through the wall.
Are siblings just meant to fight? What is appropriate sibling rivalry? Will this madness I live in only get worse as my kids get older? I just couldn't wait to find out. I had to try and stop them.
Our pow-wow on the floor was three days ago. I’m already sure this battle won’t be as easy as eliminating bum and booger references from the dinner table. But thankfully, when I voiced my parenting frustrations on Facebook, my Facebook friends came to the rescue with some great — and extremely creative — ideas to curb the sibling fighting in our home. I'm not sure they'll all work for us, but several are worth a try. Maybe they would work for your family, too — although, I bet your kids are great friends and never fight.
1. Establish the rules. OK, this tip didn’t come from Facebook but it’s where you need to start. Decide as a family what kind of home you want to have, decide what behavior is not allowed, and determine together what the consequence for mean choices will be.
2. Encourage nice behavior. Use positive reinforcements and emphasize the nice, kind things your children do for each other.
3. Cleaning consequences. If they fight, make them clean each other’s bedrooms, take the other child’s chores or pick a chore from mom’s list. This would probably work if your kids actually clean in the first place.
4. Force them to get along. Send the fighting kids into a room together and don’t let them out until they’ve created a song or dance to perform for you. (I’m not sure my kids would leave the room alive.)
5. Take a break. Send them to their own room to cool down or place them in the corner. If that doesn't work, you can lock yourself in your bathroom. Either way, the fighting momentarily stops and you get a quick break.
6. Kill them with kindness. Make the offenders hug each other, sing a song about love to each other, or say three nice things to the other person. I’ve actually tried this and it works really well. They’ll roll their eyes and cast some shade at first, but the idea of hugging their sister will keep them from hitting.
7. Bribe them. One of my friends gives her son $10 in quarters at the beginning of each month and every time he hits or makes someone cry, he has to pay up 25 cents. This is pretty much brillant.
8. Be consistent. Above all else, be consistent with what you decide to do about the fighting so your children know you are serious and know what to expect when they choose to break the family rules.
By the time that first fight-free night was over, we had settled the violence a bit and only had one repeat offender. Here’s to hoping for some peace and kindness around here, and maybe in your home, too.