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My true story about mastering sibling rivalry in our home.
A while back, I sat in my living room, deep in conversation with my long time best friend. She ranted on about her mother-in-law, telling me about an awful argument they’d gotten into.
“What are you gonna do?” I asked her. But before she could answer, a loud wail came from the direction of the playroom.
“I’m telling mama,” it was Aiden’s voice, my middle child. I steeled myself to be pulled from my own conversation. “Mama!” The wailing continued. “Sissy won’t let me play with her!” His devastated face peeked around the corner.
Of course, I was immediately annoyed at this all too familiar scene and my lazy parent mode kicked in.
Now to be fair, I had already read all the sibling rivalry books, I’d tried every technique I could find. So, at this point, I had resorted to the tried and true method, we all use when we are at our wit’s end. I yelled.
“ADELINA!” I bellowed in her general direction. “Let your brother play.” I wasn’t really sure if she’d heard me but to be honest, I also wasn’t really sure if she had done anything wrong in the first place.
Nevertheless, it seemed to satisfy him. A smile spread across his face as though he had won and he turned around to head back to the playroom. I returned to my conversation hoping the issue would magically resolve itself.
“Anyway,” I said. “So what are you gonna do?” She had barely responded when another ear piercing wail floated my way.
This time, I didn’t wait for an explanation. I got up and headed towards the playroom.
Getting down on the floor I motioned for them to come towards me. When they stood in front of me, I briefly noticed that my daughter’s face looked angry and Aiden’s face was still upset. I gave them a quick lecture about being best friends and how they needed to watch out for one another. I informed them that they needed to work things out and then I sent them on their way.
As I started back towards our living room to return to my conversation, I felt slightly uneasy, knowing the issue wasn’t done. If there is anything I’m 100% sure about when it comes to parenting, it’s the fact that lectures never work. Already, I could hear a fight starting back up in the other room.
This time no words came my direction, only sobs and a tear-stained face. For the first time since the argument began, I tuned into Aiden’s feelings. My previously irritated (and somewhat selfish) mood began to dissipate and I knelt in front of him. “What’s wrong bud?”
His next words were unintelligible at best. “Sissy…. play… and… won’t…”
That’s about all I caught. I let loose a heavy sigh and knew I needed to get my brain in the game. I contemplated my next move.
Then it struck me. I had just had the same conversation with my friend. A “Can-you-believe-she-did-that?” kind of conversation. Suddenly, I knew exactly what to say to him.
“Oh No! ” I exclaimed. “What are you going to do about that?”
For a minute, he looked confused. After all, he never had to do something about it before. I had always stepped in and mediated the fight.
” I don’t know,” he said with facing his palms towards the ceiling.
And he was right. He DIDN’T know what to do. I had never taught him. I spent some time helping him figure out an appropriate response to his sister’s bullying and he left empowered. We had taken a good first step towards teaching him some independent tactics for dealing with conflict.
You see, parenting is a hard gig. I mean, REALLY HARD. All good mom’s question their decisions at least once a day. (right? RIGHT?)
Sometimes, we’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to enforce the rules. But those times can really be limited to 4 basic issues. (Disrespect, Disobedience, Defiance, and Destruction)
The rest of the time, it really is okay to be their friend. Our parents instill our core values, but our friends influence our decisions.
Someday, when your teenage daughter comes to you and tells you about a girl who called her fat in the lunch room or a boy who told everyone she slept with him, she will not be looking for you to fix it. She will be looking for you to comfort her, and teach her how to handle it. Why wait for those big issues that will damage her self-esteem. You can start right now.
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