I LOVE It When They Fight!

gloves

When siblings are aged 11 and 9… in between angelic offers to help with dishes and intellectual conversations about the motivation of Rolf in the Sound of Music, they, well, argue… and fight… and beat up each other… and yell… and scream… and bicker… and find ways to really, REALLY get on each others’ nerves.  And mine.

Traditionally, I try to be patient for a while until they hit my tiger mom maximum level of tolerance and then I roar at them to stop, or else.  Lately, we’ve all been debating the idea of or else and what that could be, because really, once they reach an age where they realize, no, we don’t really have that much control over them, it’s all over for the authoritarian parenting style.  I could yell at them, but they can yell back.  I can punish them, but what punishment is really meaningful if the goal is for changed behaviour from using anger when they are frustrated?  I could take away their entertainment, but again, would that change their behaviour, truly?  They are at an age where if they wanted to run away, they could.  They could really go in a direction that I really wouldn’t want them to go if I’m not careful.  They remind me that they watch videos or play games that I really know nothing about.  They are coming into their own… as human beings… as autonomous people.

Now that I have to be more careful about my health and stress level, I’m very conscientious about when I start getting agitated.  To be fair, they are sensitive to it too.  So today, while I was taking them to school and they were bickering in the street car, I shushed them and said, guys, you are being too loud.  Other people would like to transit in peace and quiet.  They joked that mommy was getting stressed and that I was about to yell at them.  As we got off the street car, I turned to them and they braced themselves for my usual admonishment about how they should behave better and how stressed they are making me and how I expect much more from them.

Instead I decided to pilot a new initiative: “I LOVE when the two of you fight.”

Bewildered looks were exchanged. They smiled a little and then furrowed their brows… there was a pause as we walked in silence for a few moments.

Then the older one snickered and sarcastically said “Yeah, sure you do.”

I explained, “I LOVE when the two of you fight because it means that you are both here, I can hear you, you are safe, you are intelligent enough to interact and you have each other.  It means that I’m around you and we are still together.”

Now the younger one looked at me, wrinkled his little nose, and added “And you just love it when we scream at each other…”  They were no longer arguing with each other, telling on each other, tripping each other.  Instead, they were trying to figure me out. Their little brains were like “Huh? Is Mommy being serious or sarcastic? Is she going to get mad at us?”

I nodded earnestly now and continued, “I LOVE when you scream at each other.  It means that you have brains to think and have feelings. It means that you have been communicating with each other.  It means that you care enough about something to fight about it. I LOVE it when there are toys all over the house because it means that you have a house, toys to play with, and it means that you still live with me in our house.  I love knowing that you had a good time with your toys.  I REALLY love it when there are a pile of dishes to do, because it means we had dinner together at home and we had a healthy meal in our own home.”

They were both relaxed now and they walked on either side of me, holding my hand, “At least until we move out of the house! You have to put up with a messy house until we move out of the house.”

“Yep.  Until you move out of the house.  Right now, I get to be with you.  I get to love you and I get to know that you are okay.  What more could I ask for?”

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too.”

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Shut Up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gloves

Oh my.

I yelled ‘SHUT UP’ at the kids this morning.  I don’t normally.  It’s not something I like to do and it’s certainly not something I plan on doing often, but they were in an emotional, not to mention LOUD, gridlock over a situation that neither could let go of.  They bickered so angrily and loudly… it was going nowhere.  A1 was resolute that he was right and that only his logic made sense, while A2 was progressively getting more and more frustrated, his fists were poised to beat his older brother, his tears were spilling out of his eyes and he was shaking with anger.

It was not pretty.

It would not stop.

It was so incredibly loud.

I yelled “shut up!!!!!!!!!!” which did shut them up, but of course my children reminded me that my yelling shut up at them was sort of not the best way to handle things, which I acknowledged.  It took all my energy and headspace to have them agree to hug it out and declare a truce until they returned from school.

I did piece together the situation: A1 had asked A2 to go in with him on a game.  $20 each.  A2 said okay, but then over time realized that the game was attached to A1’s account so all the earned V bucks (I’m saying this, but I don’t really know what it means) goes to A1’s account.  A1 feels like this was the deal and the deal was that A2 would get to play whenever he wanted.  And that he would have never purchased the game all on his own.  But A2 felt like he paid half but wasn’t really getting half, so he wanted his $20 back.  They could not and would not see each other’s point of view and just kept going round and round in circles.

So let me ask you, my dear readers (all 2 of you), what would be a good resolution?

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Coincidentally, another mother was describing almost the same morning with her two boys and she had to take away their screen time privileges.  I shared their story with them and hinted that I could potentially solve this problem…  neither of them liked the idea that I might be able to solve their fight with a very simple idea involving getting rid of what they were arguing over…

P. S. We finally did reach one, whew, but it was not easy. It involved a lot of ‘trying to understand the other person’s perspective’ type of side discussions… a lot of humour… some analogies (‘so, if you guys bought a condo building together, each paying $20 million, does that mean A2 doesn’t get the rental income from the tenants?’ ‘yeah, but I would give him the rental income until he gets his investment back’)… walking through and testing out their logic (‘so in real life if you make a deal and realize you don’t like it afterwards, you can just get out of the deal?’ ‘yeah, but this is not real life’).