It’s been bad around my house lately. My 7-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son fight every. day. They walk in the door, home from school, and the bickering, door-slamming, screaming, and tattling begins. It’s terrible! When I decided to have more than one child, I envisioned camaraderie and support, built-in friendships, love and family ties that will endure when I am gone. Instead, I find myself screaming, “When I’m dead all you’ll have is each other so you better learn to get along!” on a weekly basis.
Even worse, nothing I do seems to help matters. I’ve tried mediating their fights in lots of ways with punishments, consequences, forced “sorries,” and even time-outs together. Nothing really works any better than simply ignoring it and letting them duke it out. In fact, I’ve noticed that they seem to fight more when I’m around and involved in what they’re doing. I suppose they are vying for my attention or the fight just doesn’t matter to them unless I witness it. Whatever the reason, I’ve learned to stay out of it, if possible, in order to defuse it.
And if I’m being honest, when they behave like this and say that they hate each other and, even, “I wish you had never been born,” it hurts me more than it hurts them. They say ownership is 9/10 of the law and that seems to be the case at my house. My kids fight about their things. Someone touched their thing or used their thing or moved their thing. I really believe the underlying contention bothers me as their mother more than the touching of the things actually bothers my kids. I hate it when they fight. It’s mean-spirited and cruel, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s my fault.
Have I not taught them to be peacemakers?
Have I done something to make them hate each other?
Have I not given each of them enough of my affection so they’re forced to compete for it and resent whatever the other one gets?
Is it normal for my kids to fight so much?
These questions have been running through my head a lot lately. Thankfully, I’ve come across some reassuring research that suggests sibling rivalry is normal and spats between brothers and sisters are to be expected. The advantage of having two older children (a teenage boy and girl) along with this younger set has also helped give me some perspective on the situation.
The older siblings are very good friends now; they hang out and confide in each other. It’s what I’ve always wanted for them (and hope for my younger two). It didn’t really start happening until they were in high school. I think part of of it was simply developing the maturity to get along, but I think seeing each other as a friendly face in the sea of craziness that is high school bonded them to each other. At home my kids were competitors for love and resources, but at school they were allies. They had a lot in common and realized that they actually liked each other. They finally saw each other as friends in addition to siblings. And it certainly didn’t hurt that my son started driving and could take his sister anywhere they wanted to go — without me! While I don’t remember the older ones fighting as much as my younger two are going at it these days (which is most likely the result of “selective mother’s memory” that kicks in soon after your second epidural is administered), I do remember them fighting a little bit away back. This gives me hope that eventually my younger pair will grow out of it.
Until they do, I’ll just be trying to keep the faith by looking to my oldest son as the light at the end of the tunnel. While he’ll still fight with me and his dad, that’s nothing on dealing with the younger ones bickering. If you need me, I’ll be staying out of it and waiting for my kids to grow out of it. Here’s hoping!