Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

"Shut up! I don't want to hear you talk anymore!"

These are just a few of my least favorite words.

They always mean that my kids are arguing, which hurts my heart.

But they also mean that I'm going to have to stop what I'm doing and go actively parent. Which, don't get me wrong, is exactly what I signed up for when I had kids. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't rather be watching Netflix and poking needles in my eyes.

I really hate it when my kids fight with each other.

When kids argue, I can't take sides. I have to be on everyone's side. We're a team. Or...some other appropriate sports metaphor. And I sometimes don't want to. But other times I just want to tell someone that they're being an idiot, and to stop it.

But I'm the mom. I have to listen to both sides. Tonight Bridget was supposed to be picking up the playroom, but got distracted and played on the computer. Piper got mad about it. Pretty straightforward as sibling spats go. It ramped up as feelings were hurt.

I could see where Bridget went wrong. So could she. She needed to stay focused. But that's hard for Bridget, and it's not helpful for me to tell her something she already knows. If I can't tell her something new, then I have to teach her a new way to look at it. Otherwise I'm just lecturing her, and neither of us wants that.

To be fair, she probably didn't want any of it, but my Mom bonuses are calculated based on this kind of thing. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Anywho, Bridget is going to get distracted from time to time. Or she's going to make some other mistake. We all do. What she has to learn is how to react.

They actually both need work on that. So, that's what I made it about. Neither of them could control what they felt, but they can control what they did. They can take tension and make it worse, or they can diffuse it.

I'm not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination. But I don't think we teach kids enough of these skills. They need to know how to actively listen, how to hear what people mean, even if they're not using the same words we'd use. They need to know how an "I'm sorry" can make a huge difference in how someone is feeling about you.

"I'm sorry" by the way, is one of the best phrases I think we can learn.

And I'm teaching them that the response to "I'm sorry" should be "thank you". Because I think "I'm sorry" is a sort of gift. Especially for kids like Bridget, "I'm sorry" is a very vulnerable thing to say. "Thank you" shows that it's appreciated.

I was reminded as we went through this tonight, and both girls thought of ways they could approach the other that would be assertive, rather than aggressive, that I can always take a step back and rethink how I want to respond to something that's upset me, too.

Because I have eight kids in my house, a husband, a dog, and it's possible that occasionally I might have just the teensy weensiest little bit of stress that makes me want to do things like yell and scream and stomp my feet until everyone sits the crazy lady down, and give her chocolate.

Crazy, right? But I'm not going to be that mom.

I have to make sure that every day, I'm being their example. Which also probably means not heading to bed with a glass of pino and some Ben & Jerry's.

That kinda blows.

Being their mom, though? That part I wouldn't trade for a gallon of Ben & Jerry's in a hotel suite with a king size bed that I could sleep in alone, a hot bath, room service, and a masseuse.

Although, some days, I'd probably think about it for a while.

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