I was making dinner yesterday, thinking about all the things I had to do that evening, when I could hear my kids start bickering from the living room. “Hey, give that back!”
“It’s mine, it’s not yours!”
“Why aren’t you listening to me?”
“I don’t have to do everything you say!”
I took a deep breath and told them to cut it out. And I said what I always say, “You two are brother and sister and I need you to act like it! You’re supposed to love each other, not fight with each other.”
They got quiet and I went back to cooking. As I was digging in the drawer for an oven mitt, my son came up to me and saw the tea candles nestled in the drawer. He asked if I could light one so he could blow it out. We had a brief discussion about fire safety and why it’s only okay for adults to light a candle. Then I lit it. He blew it out and said, “Do you know what I wished for?”
“I wished that my sister would be nicer to me.”
I know siblings fight. It’s what happens when you’re little and you’re battling for the same stuff and trying to figure out how to get along with people. It also doesn’t help that my daughter is one stubborn little girl,
just like her mama and my son is much more aloof. She spends most of her day bossing him around like he’s one of her minions.
Sometimes as long as no one’s getting too mean and there’s nothing physical, I let them go at it. But other times, I have to step in and help them work out their differences. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Turn the atmosphere from being competitive to collaborative.
During one really bad argument, I decided I had enough of their fussing. I decided to do a remix of the “You Will Get Along” shirt that I’ve seen floating around the internet (see below – those are not my kids, btw).
Luckily, my kids are about the same size so it was perfect. I got their attention and then told them that we were going to play a game to see if they could work together to accomplish a certain task—but the trick would be that they were stuck together. I put the shirt on them and then I tied their inside legs together (like in a three-legged race). First, I asked them to walk around the first floor to get the hang of walking together. I heard them whispering together, “Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…” They made a circle around the kitchen and then came back to me.
“We did it!” they said.
“Good,” I said. “Now I want you to get a snack out of the cabinet.”
I could see the wheels turning in their heads and they quickly got to work. “You grab the bowl and I’ll grab the pretzels,” my daughter said to her brother. Each of them only used one hand but they managed to get a bowl of pretzels and bring them to me.
“Isn’t that much better than you two arguing all the time? See how well you worked together?”
“Yeah,” they said reluctantly.
“So will you try to work together first when you have a problem?”
I went to take off the shirt and untie their legs but they jumped back. “No, we want to stay like this. It’s fun!”
The rest of the afternoon they played and giggled together and had no more arguments. Well, that day at least.
What do you do to diffuse arguments between your kids?