As I enjoy a coffee and listen to Frank Sinatra on a mid afternoon I am struck by how quite it is. If you have more than one child in your home then chances are they fight. ALL THE TIME! It’s enough to bring out the Barbarian in any of us and ruin the most well planned family outings. If they don’t then please tell me what your using to sedate them… The rest of us must rely on more creative ways of solving the issue.
First off, we must identify the cause of the bickering. Often this can present itself at the start because of differences in opinion and personalities. As adults we get to pick and choose who we spend our time with, but children are stuck with whoever is under the same roof. Once the bickering begins it can take deep root in your children’s behavior through your acceptance and grow into habit. If your reading this article I suppose like me you are far into the stage of habit. My kids bicker over absolutely nothing and when I ask what they’re arguing about they have one or two complaints that after some simple questioning leads back to “nothing”. Its enough to drive a Buddhist monk insane!
If this sounds familiar don’t throw in the towel yet. We have a plan. There are many discipline systems out there and in our house, I use a simple allowance in poker chips system. I will cover it in detail on another post, but essentially I pay them an allowance at the beginning of the week in poker chips and they keep it or lose it throughout the week by behavior and chores. At the end, they get to cash out what they have left and discuss why they lost it. At the same time if they did well this is a great opportunity to give them a pat on the back. It’s worked for a long time, but like any system it has become routine and complacency has set in. I’ve lost the WOW! factor in our punishments and we need to shake up the house a bit. Peter Drucker said it best when he said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”
These are turbulent times in your kid’s lives and they need a leader to help guide them through. My program will attack the problem from many sides, some new and some proven methods in our household. My air and ground campaign will include:
- Identify the cause of the bickering.
- They must have sanctuary places from each other when appropriate.
- Outline a punishment and reward system and be consistent! A system breaks down the moment you become inconsistent and they don’t know what to expect next.
- Give them the attention the crave so badly that they act out for it, but do so on your terms and not theirs.
- Don’t participate in the blame games and join in on the argument.
- Identify team building exercises to promote healthy dialogue. Its ok here if you are the “enemy” and they must band together to avoid your wrath!
The reason most kids fight is boredom and habit as we said before. Usually one of them wants to play a game the other doesn’t or wants to chill while the other wants to blow off steam. Lately the perpetrator here in our house has been my daughter. Yes, the sweet and adorable little angel of mine has a mean streak. When she gets bored she will start poking at her brother, either little insults or literally poking. In this case as a pre-teen he needs his own space. In our home he can go to his room, which his sister is not allowed in or he can ask for exclusive use of the play room, which we allow for an hour or two at a time. On the other hand, if he is the one being physical she knows she can do the same to get a reprieve.
This one will be a new addition in our home. As I stated before, we have a pretty sophisticated reward system in place that needs some tuning. I’m going to keep that system and add to it poker chips with the things they get grounded from. I will hang a board and call it the “wall of regrets” because I’m a smart ass and its funny. Here they can hang a chip for all their beloved video games, tablets, cell phone, Netflix and snack. These are things that I already stress to my kids as wants and not needs. It is a clear distinction to make to young ones that they will never have to fear losing the things they need from me such as food, shelter, safety, warmth and love. These are freely given, but the things they want they must earn through chores and behavior. I will use this new wall of regret as an attention grabber to undesirable behavior.
The normal groundings still apply if a behavior is bad enough they will lose video games for a week or two, but for the bickering they may lose it for an hour and then take it back. This will be the attention grabber before they leap off a cliff with their loose mouths. The reason this poker chip system works so well is that it forces them to disengage. They have to physically get up and retrieve the chip. By the time they sit back down their little brains have the chance to reengage and they will often move on. This is something that many adults have problems with too…
The key to giving your kids the attention they want is to do it on your terms. Both of my children act out in different ways to get attention and this may be aggravated in my home because I spent so many years traveling in the military. Now that I am home for good they seem to be trying to connect and to be honest I’m struggling with how to best do that myself. For the first time in our lives I don’t have a month or year long absence on the calendar. So, I plan to provide my daughter a daddy-daughter date at least once a week. This doesn’t have to be anything formal, maybe pancakes Saturday morning or a picnic Wednesday afternoon. My schedule at work varies with what we are training, but time can be made with a little effort on your part. For my son I will give him time as well, but maybe an hour of his video games, YouTube silly videos or a hike. It’s important here to do something they want to do and not force them to watch football and call it “quality” time unless that’s what they are genuinely into.
For younger kids I really love Jordan’s idea from her www.funcheaporfree.com blog. In this video she outlines an amazing program they designed to fit their five kids, all of which are under the age of 6!
Too often, parents forget in the heat of the moment that they are the adult! You can not engage your kids in these battles of wit and attention seeking behavior. I am not one to say that there is never a cause for a spanking, but too often I’ve seen parents that spank their kids to vent their frustrations on them. There is a point where there is no longer a lesson being taught and you are simply being the bully. I stopped spanking my son early on because he took it as a challenge and I was engaging in his anger. Me spanking him was feeding the fire whereas with my daughter the occasional spanking and threat of one often kept her in line. Now that they are older both have mostly out grown the usefulness of the threat. This is a dangerous line to draw and although I do spank my kids I do not rule my house with fear.
Now here is where the fun begins! For as long as it takes to get them in line they will be performing “team building” exercises. As a veteran of these great United States I consider myself well versed in how diabolical these can get LOL! This weekend they will be setting up our tents, cleaning them and taking them back down. This is a task that is impossible to do alone at their sizes and will require work. If you don’t supervise this will create more bickering opportunities, but supervised they will be forced to work together and use constructive dialogue. Looking forward to this one! I think I will enjoy it from a shaded tree with a good, cold beer 😊