Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Staying sane

My kids are driving me batty. I love them to pieces - both of them - separately. Together - not so much. In the past month or two the fighting has escalated to the level of WWF Smackdown.

For over a year Cate ruled the roost - she would slap X, knock him over, make him cry, etc. He was too small to retaliate so she spent a great deal of time in time out (where she would pout and say, 'I not sorry'. Fab). Then it leveled off - she left him alone, things were fine. And we moved.

Maybe it's because of the stress of moving, perhaps it's because I put them in the same room and they  share a bed time now. It could be that I've been really grief stricken over the death of my sister and have been a bit lax with time outs and playdates. Maybe it's combo of everything. But whatever it is - I'm approaching the end of my tether.

Cate still likes to grab X and knock him over, but he's rapidly approaching two and is a sturdy, tough little fella (like he had a choice!). He's done with being abused and now fights back. His weapon of choice: hair pulling and pinching. Those tiny chubby hands can certainly cause trouble! Often he'll just run up to Cate and pull her hair.

Once, when she grabbed his blanket, he turned beet red and went on the attach: with a bloody war cry (he gets that from his Samoan blood, I'm guessing) he charged Cate from behind, grabbing two fist fulls of her shirt, swirled her around, body slammed her and then yanked her pigtails with all his 24lbs of might. He meant business. I think Cate was more shocked than hurt but she now thinks twice about grabbing things out of his hand.

I am seriously running out of patience with this. I cannot turn my back for a second without one of them causing the other to cry, or tattle, or attack. It's driving me insane. I don't know how my mother did it - she had four of us - at one point she had three children under the age of 4. Granted she had full time help and was a lot less lenient than I apparently am (and boy she does she let me know about it).

As a child I recall Mom yelling at us to cut it out. I always thought, 'What's her problem?' I now get it. Her most effective line of control, 'I don't want to hear another word from any of you or I'm getting the belt.' That was enough to scare the bejesus out of us. We have a long hallway in our house and when we did push it too far my mother would come down that long, echo-y hallway (the ceiling is 22 feet high which just added to the terror) slapping one of my dad's belts on the wall. She never had to use the belt because the anticipation was punishment enough - by the time she showed up in the doorway we were all silent, sorry, and willing to make up.

My kids are too young for this tactic and I think the neighbours would wonder what the racket is going on in here if I did. Instead, I've watched multiple Super Nanny episodes, bought her book and I'm trying everything.

Would love suggestions on how to help my children get along and play together. In all my dreams of being a mother, never did this scenario pop up. Neither did the sleepless nights (Cate is still jet lagged and comes into our room nightly to wake me up). Either way - if you have any ideas, solutions, suggestions, hints or comments: just bring it! I'm open for anything (that includes wine - you can bring that too!)


  1. Yup, been there done that. I suggest that you read Siblings Without Rivalry (don't have authors handy - it's by 2 women and I have a copy if you wish to borrow). Amazing and chock full of ideas. Good luck!

    Delia Lloyd

  2. I hate to say it but my kids are great together. Now, my sister and I that we fought pitched battles!

  3. Try 'No blood, no foul.' If they are just arguing, let them settle it. Ignore them. And since you have such a problem on your hands, choosing your battles will include enduring yelling, for the time being.
    Have a little chat with them and tell them they will go to the simmer down areas if there is [fill in your limits]. They can play as they see fit until you have to inttervene. Then everybody is in trouble. If they were fighting over a toy, it's yours. If somebody got hit, they both go to their rooms "until they apologize and are willing to play without hitting, pinching, pushing, or punching." If it happens again, they are in their room for the rest of the afternoon or bed an hour early, whatever works for you. (Extra sleep makes everything better.) Playdates and parties cancelled, etc. Make a fresh start each day (otherwise they would quickly be in their rooms until they were 18). Since they have the same room, you will actually need to set up simmer down corners for them. Whatever the details though, they need to know that their freedom is contingent upon them living in the same house without physical violence and without you negotiating. The second you have to step in, everyone is in trouble. Pay no attention to cries of who did what. Tend to any injury without much ado. Don't make big fusses over apologies or stubborn insults. Think of yourself as a referee calling a foul in basketball. It isn't a court case, it is a whistle blow.
    Try a bit of reverse psychology as well. If they have a hitting fight, then they aren't allowed to play with each other for the rest of the day. 'Nope. Sorry. Y'all didn't play nicely this morning. Go find something else to do.' Make together time forbidden fruit and they might want it more.
    Also, try some preventative measures. When they aren't simmering down, try to have separate activities for them, playdates and the like. This will be easier when school starts. My eldest are currently having a bout of too much togetherness. They've spent more time than normal in their rooms this summer. A couple of separate sleepovers, however, have helped things considerably. You can try appealing to Cate as the elder, telling her that you depend on her as the big sister to help teach X how to play with others and the best way to do that is to set a good example.
    Sorry that all of this will be time intensive on your part, but calm and consistent should make the lessons go faster.

  4. my mother made us hold hands when we were fighting. We had to sit on the couch together and "be angry." That usually solved it. But X is a tad young. So maybe just close the door?

  5. AHLondon makes a lot of sense.

  6. Firstly, siblings fighting is normal and indeed healthy to a certain extent. And second recommentationfor siblings without rivalry.

    I let mine argue and roughhouse, and to a certain extent expect them to figure out their own battles, but my three year old would get the rough end I the stick if I didn't intervene often. If they fight over a toy, the toy gets a time out. If one deliberately really hurts the other the victim gets sympathy and attention and the perpetrator gets a time out, until he or sh is ready to make a sincere apology, which can take a while!

  7. Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm trying everything and we've had two days of little fighting. I think we may be on to a solution. I'll report back! Only 4 weeks and 4 days till school starts. Hooray.


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