I started writing an article about the horrors of my recent move, then thought hey, this is a parenting website, I should get back to it. And I thought of a beautiful Facebook friend who recently gave birth to her second son so an article about fostering love and cooperation between siblings arose in my mind.
This was something I was surprised to find out now that my oldest are adults, that I was fairly good at. My sons seek out one another’s company without me trying to force them to spend time together as my own mother is prone to do. So I thought about some sibling do’s and don’ts. There are times when working it out amongst themselves will be appropriate but mostly it’s not, because that’s what you the parent should be doing especially when they’re younger.
Case in point, if your children are beating the shit out of one another, you should step in and separate them. Sorry mom, but leaving them to have at it just doesn’t work. When my sister and I were kids, we often got into nasty fist fights. I would scream across the apartment that I was killing my sister for messing up my stuff, and my mom should come get her if she didn’t want that to happen. Sometimes my mother would deign to actually enter the room at which point we would pause, fistfuls of one another’s shirts twisted in hands, fists cocked in the air and wait expectantly for intervention. At which point she’d say something like, “you two stop it now. Work it out between yourselves.” And go back to whatever we’d interrupted her from doing.
Parents, this does not work. At no point did we just let each other go, sit down and say things like, gee, if only I’d respected your justified feelings of anger after finding I’d drawn clown make up on your favorite doll with permanent marker, this fight never would have happened. No, the fight continued until (I, the older and usually ‘slighted’ party) was too tired to punch or felt a degree of satisfaction for exacting revenge. We did not grow up cooperating, hanging out together and with a strong bond of sisterly love, which I am sad about to this day because I love my sisters.
But it turns out that punching each other is something many siblings come by naturally. You have only to step in and repeatedly say, hitting your brother is not allowed. It’s tough when your little guy is the jerky one. As a toddler, my son T liked to walk up to his big brother and hit him with toys to get a reaction. Ok look I won’t lie, the first couple of times that happened and Sean jumped up and yelled, “Ow T! That really hurt!!” I covered my mouth with my hand and laughed. That was immature and of course, the little one continued. But it really wasn’t funny and I stepped in, and would take the offending toy away, say ‘No!’ and move the baby away. Surprisingly, this would upset Sean and he would run to hug his brother (who’s now crying because I told him no). After that I got a little smarter and paid better attention to my toddler so I could intervene before the hits took place and soon enough he realized that, one, hitting wasn’t tolerated and two, he didn’t want to make his brother cry anymore. As I type that sentence that wraps it all up I want to mention that it was exhausting and a lot of work and like SIX MONTHS before that break through actually happened. There were points in time during that 6 months where I just wanted to scream and tear my hair out. Or their hair out, except T still didn’t have any, so… take breaks. Keep reminding yourself that it takes a while for kids to learn to control basic impulses. Shit it takes adults a while to control some impulses, am I rite?
Don’t give up, be consistent and seriously, take breaks and leave those little hellions with someone you trust for a few hours to regain your sanity. Banging your sibling over the head is just human nature.