Fighting siblings


Today’s Question:

“I understand that it’s summer and my kids are spending a lot of time together but the constant fighting is so annoying! Mostly arguing, stealing toys, tattling, but it can escalate to hitting, biting and total meltdowns. It bothers me to see my kids treat each other so poorly. I try to limit their screen time but it’s so tempting to give in just so I can have some peace! No matter what I do, the problem persists and I feel like I’m failing at teaching my kids how to love each other.”

 

Parent Educator Answer:

It is so common for moms to see behavior they don’t like and think, “This is a problem and I need to solve it.” So we go to work, breaking up fights, resolving conflict, separating kids or taking away toys or whatever the triggers are. If this works, great. If not, it might be you are trying to solve a problem that isn’t yours to solve. 

Imagine your daughter and son are fighting over whose turn it is. One yells, the other bites, then pushes, then tattles, you know the drill. I find it helpful to separate out who is responsible for what. 

Your daughter is responsible for the words she chooses to say to her brother and the way she chooses to say them. It’s her business whether she bites, hits, kicks, or whatever she does with her body. She also gets to choose how she wants to feel about her brother’s actions. If she wants to interpret his behavior as mean, unfair, or a competition to rise to, that is up to her. Write her name on a piece of paper with a circle and write down everything that is your daughter’s business. 

Then we move on to kid #2. Put his name on the paper with a circle and write down his words, his feelings, his actions. He gets to decide what he wants to think about his sister’s behavior, his mom’s behavior, and his own. If he wants to believe he is right and everyone else is wrong, that’s his choice. You can let that go. If he thinks the world is unfair and you love his sister more than him, that goes in his circle. That is his problem to solve, not yours. 

The 3rd circle is God’s business. Even if you aren’t a God person, anything YOU don’t have control over goes here. The fact that you have two children who share living quarters is God’s business. Your children’s innate personalities, we throw those in God’s circle, it’s just how they are wired. The fact that many siblings fight with each other as a way to learn social dynamics isn’t our business. Kids can be like puppies, fighting, wrestling and learning social boundaries.

Watch your children argue with each other. Could they leave the room at any time and are choosing not to? Is it possible they are ENJOYING fighting with each other? “Verbal jousting” is more entertaining than a lot of other things kids could be doing. If one kid is having fun by fighting, and the other one isn’t, God’s business.

So what’s left? If what your children think, say, feel and do are not your problem to solve? What the heck is mom’s business? 

Your business, Momma, is what YOU choose to think, feel, and do. You get to decide what you want to believe about your fighting kiddos and the rules you set in your home. To do that, we’d better dive into the life coaching.

Life Coaching Answer:

When we think “This is a problem and I need to fix it.” We put on our Supermom cape and go to work. We get to the bottom of things. We make decisions. We yell and put kids on time out. We give consequences. If this works, great. The problem comes when this DOESN’T work. 

If the result is that our kids are still arguing and we are still thinking this a problem and I need to fix it. We start spiraling up (yelling more, getting more annoyed with them) or spiraling down (walk away, give up, stop caring). When we have the thought, “This is a problem and I need to fix it” and WE CAN’T, we feel like a failure. We start thinking things like, “I’m failing at teaching my kids how to love each other.” This thought makes us feel completely dejected, hopeless, and ashamed, which makes Supermom feel very, very tired. 

I know you want your children to get along, but that’s really up to them. They get to decide what kind of relationship they want to have with one another. You can suggest peaceful ways to interact, you can let them see you resolving conflict in peaceful ways with your friends and family. Learning to let go of things you have no control over will set you free. 

 

One thing that is your business are the rules you establish in your home. Kids like clear, consistent expectations for behavior. It makes them feel safe when they know what to expect, and that an authority figure will follow through with 100% predictability. 

I suggest my clients establish House Rules that everyone abides by. Rules that everyone in the house agrees will make for a peaceful place to live. For example:

  1. No name calling.
  2. No hitting or hurting.
  3. Ask first before borrowing someone else’s belongings

Post these rules on the fridge or a public place where everyone can see. Make sure your kids know what the consequences are for breaking these rules then follow through. You may want to say things like “use nice words” but that may make a better consequence. Let’s say your daughter hurts her brothers feelings, her consequence may be that she find some nice words to uplift him. 

Siblings have been fighting since the dawn of time. To think, “I must not be doing it right if my kids are fighting” is not helpful. Just like a teacher isn’t responsible for your child’s grades, you aren’t responsible for your child’s relationship. You get to TEACH kids how to treat each other. Teach them your values, establish rules and expectations, teach them to apologize and make amends, but whatever they do with your amazing lessons is their business. 

Supermom Kryptonite – Being the hero

I remember when my son was scary sick. I was bouncing from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out who could help him. I was stressed and scared and nearly lost my mind when they sent his prescription to the wrong pharmacy, right before closing time. I felt like I was all alone in trying to solve his health problems.

So I pulled out my life coaching notebook and this amazing thought popped into my head, “I was made for days like this.” Suddenly I had a burst of energy. My Supermom cape was ON! I could totally handle this. I’m great in a crisis. This is my son, who better to come to the rescue than his mother? I am the perfect person for the job. I researched, I persisted. I found alternative practicioners who knew how to help. I was the hero and I felt great about all I did to help him. 

So why is it a kryptonite? 

Because then he turned 14 and I was fired. He wanted to be his own hero. He didn’t want my help anymore. He wanted to solve his own problems. 

This sounds great on paper, but it was an identity crisis for me. It’s not like he was perfect, the just wanted to be left alone with his own problems to solve. It was a rough transition and to be honest, it’s still hard to not be allowed to help. I loved being the hero. 

Some kids never become their own hero. I’m sure you know some adults who need mom and count on mom to come to their rescue. It is easy for kids to get stuck feeling helpless, unwell or incapable. Moms may inadvertantly keep their kids from “adulting” in order to hold on to their role as hero. 

I was lucky I had life coaching colleagues who warned me. “Be careful not to let your son identify as a sick person and you as his care giver.” I didn’t like hearing it, but another coach told me, “Your son doesn’t have a problem because you have taken it from him.”

Being a Supermom feels great, but don’t get stuck there. Make sure you hang up your cape frequently. Let your kids work out their own problems, allow them to struggle, so they can be the heroes of their own lives. 

 

Supermom Powerboost – Ear phones

When kids are going at it with each other, it can be really hard to ignore. You can think about the benefits of bickering and how your kids are learning about respecting boundaries and resolving conflict.

If that doesn’t work, pop on a noise cancelling headset. These babies are the best mom invention I know. Not those tiny airpods that your kids can’t see you wearing. Big, obvious earphones work great to demonstrate you are not listening, nor interested in hearing about, your children’s conflict. No amount of “MOOMMM” is as compelling as your music, your podcast, or, let’s be honest, the beautiful sound of silence.

Putting big earphones on is a non-verbal way to say to your kids, “I trust you to work it out”. When kids see you disengaged, they realize this relationship is theirs to figure out and you are giving them permission to solve their own problems. Only if they break a house rule do you need to get involved. Let them be their own hero.

Quote of the Day:  “My Mom taught me a lot. A lot about minding my own business and leaving other people’s business alone. And let them think what they want.” Ray Charles.

Attention seeking behavior

This Week’s Question: Attention Seeking Behavior

Hello Torie,

I recently found your podcast; thank you for providing such great information. I want to pick your brain about parenting a child who shows more attention seeking behavior than her siblings.

My middle child (a 9 year old) is constantly pointing out how life is unfair for her and how everyone else has it better. I try my best to be as “fair” as possible to each child. I also point out how even though it seems like everyone has it better than her, she actually has a lot to be grateful for as well (which I know doesn’t go over too well).  My other two kids are pretty laid back and compliant, so, in comparison, she seems more needy!

When she was younger, this would manifest as a lot of crying spells/meltdowns over seemingly insignificant things, which I know is normal, but her behavior was so unlike my other two.  She also tends to be the instigator when it comes to any sibling fights.
She will still say things like, “You don’t love me,” or “You don’t care about me,” and I tell her firmly that’s not the case (obviously!!). One common situation is that my youngest is very attached to me and will reach for my hand when we’re walking, so naturally, I oblige. But then my 9 year old will complain that I’m holding her sister’s hand instead of hers.
In the past, I’ve given her more attention and tried to make her feel special, but once I take away this attention, she melts down and seems to demand even more. She responds well to time together and one-on-one attention, but even then, it has to be on her terms (I have tried to initiate on my own, and she will be indifferent at times).
How do I balance the attention she needs versus the attention that she wants?
-Grace

attention seeking behavior

 

Parent Educator Answer:

This is a great question to talk about defining and accepting your child’s TEMPERAMENT.  Temperament refers to the different aspects of a personality.
Grace is calling this “attention seeking behavior” but sometimes when she gives her attention, it doesn’t work. What I’m hearing in this behavior is a temperament that is sensitive, dramatic, persistent, and intense.
The great thing about kids is that often they tell you exactly what they are thinking. Grace’s daughter genuinely believes that life is unfair. She thinks, at times, she isn’t loved or cared for as much as her siblings. She truly believes she is getting the short end of the stick.
There is nothing her mom can do about what her daughter chooses to believe. We cannot make people think differently (clearly she’s tried already to convince that she is loved and treated fairly).
There is no amount of attention mom can give her to make her think differently. She could spend 48 hours straight one on one time, come home, hold little sister’s hand, and she’d be right back to thinking, she doesn’t get enough love. So trying to get her to think differently, through words or actions, isn’t going to change her.
When a child is intense and dramatic, we tend to see them as powerful. They seem so strong and capable, we get annoyed that they don’t act differently. We tend to match their intense energy, yelling, and putting in the time out. This is why I’d like to add the word “sensitive” to describe Grace’s daughter’s temperament.
She’s been having meltdowns since she was little. She struggles to feel safe and loved. Her brain easily goes to a fear response. Nobody acts their best when scared. We don’t know why she was made this way, it’s no one’s fault, the world needs all kinds of people.
Thinking about having a sensitive child helps us slow down, quiet our voice, lower our posture, speak softly and kindly. When her emotions overwhelm her, her brain goes into fight or flight. Our goal as parents to help her shift out of fear so she can access the logical, calmer parts of her brain. She cannot get there on her own.
We don’t have to agree with what she is saying to calmly validate what she is feeling. “I understand you feel like nobody loves you. You feel jealous of the attention I’m giving your sister. It’s hard for you to believe that you get as much as your siblings.”
Think about if you truly believed you weren’t loved by your mom. How would you feel?  It would be so scary to be a 9-year-old kid thinking your mom doesn’t love you or she cares more about your siblings than you. Even though we know it’s not true, she thinks, at that moment, that it is. She’s terrified. So she screams, yells, and fights for love and attention.
If you were to come to her, get down on her level, touch her, use a calm voice, repeat what you hear her saying, it would calm her down. It would also make it hard for her to believe you don’t love her when you are clearly making her feel seen, heard, and felt.
We cannot make our kids think differently but we can help them feel seen, heard, and felt. In a nutshell, that’s all we really want.

Life Coaching Answer:

I remember talking with my parenting coach and having this huge a-ha. I was embarrassed because I was supposed to be this “parenting expert” and yet I was pulling my hair out with trying to understand my strong-willed four-year-old. But I sucked it up and hired a coach and I’m so glad I did! The lightbulb went on when I realized, “It’s her TEMPERAMENT”.
Arguing with her temperament was like arguing with God. This is how she was wired, who am I to think she should be different than she is? From that day on, once I accepted her rebellious, strong-willed, non-people-pleasing personality, life got so much easier!
What gets in our way when we see a difficult personality trait in our kids, is the belief that we can change them. This will exhaust and frustrate us. It’s not our job to change their personality, but to work with it and appreciate them FOR their personalities.
I think Grace is doing this. She sees the value in her daughter’s strong will, but she’s arguing thinking she “shouldn’t act this way” or “If I was a more attentive mom she wouldn’t behave this way.” This will just anger her and make her tired.
Trying to control something we have no control over will drive us crazy. Personality is something we cannot control. A good question to ask yourself is: “How can I be a great mom to a kid who is sensitive, intense, and scared?
Imagine there is another kid like yours out there in the world. Let’s say she’s having a meltdown at a park. She is saying, “You don’t love me” to her mom. You are watching this scene and thinking, “Wow, that mom is a really great mom.”
You are totally impressed at how she is handling her daughter’s meltdown. Imagine what she is doing? What is she saying? What energy or emotion is she rooted in?
The reason our children’s personalities bug us is because of how WE FEEL AND ACT when they annoy us. We don’t like that our kids can turn us into yelling, out of control, crazy people!
If we got to be the PARENT we wanted to be, their behavior wouldn’t bother us. We try to control their behavior so that we can act like a good parent. This doesn’t work so well. Putting the focus on OUR feelings and behavior works much better. You get to decide how YOU feel and behave, regardless of how your child acts.
Focusing on controlling the one thing you have control over will feel much more empowering.

Supermom Kryptonite – Therapy

I believe one of the reasons we live in a culture of perfectionistic parenting is because of therapy. You’ve got a whole generation of women who went to therapists and learned all the things our parents did wrong.
A common goal of therapy is to take you back to childhood situations where you didn’t receive what you needed and give you the compassion and empathy that you needed at that time. It works. It feels healing and healthy.
But the side effect of it is an entire generation of women who have learned that there is a right way and wrong way to parent. We learn that doing the wrong thing can have devastating consequences and cause pain to our children.
If we are to be good parents, we need to always say and do the right things and prevent our kids from experiencing negative emotion. Therapists don’t say this, it’s just a side effect of the therapy model.
Children are going to experience negative emotion. Parents are going to yell, mess up and say the wrong thing. There is no way that any parent can do everything right. The reason I like life coaching so much, is you learn how much control you actually have.
No parent, spouse, or child has the power to make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. It gives you permission to be imperfect, but still strive to do your best. Accepting the things you have no control over, like your child’s temperament, helps you relax and enjoy things as they are.

Therapist vs Life Coach

There is a time and a place for therapy so since I just bagged on it, let me tell you where I see the value.
Therapy was based on the premise that a client is mentally and emotionally unwell, and it’s a therapist’s job to bring them up to a state of wellness.
Life Coaching works with the assumption that a client is already mentally and emotionally healthy and stable, they just want to feel better, change something up, go after a goal, settle into a new identity, etc.
People hire life coaches to help them with parenting, career, relationships, creative pursuits, athletic pursuits, entrepreneurial pursuits, etc.

Supermom Powerboost – Therapy

A client is better served by a therapist when they have experienced trauma and they’ve never spoken about it. Whether this trauma was during childhood or adulthood, it’s so helpful to tell your story to a compassionate witness. To revisit this traumatic story, once or twice, talk to someone without judgement.
A therapist helps you identify the emotions you felt and interpret the trauma in a way that is empowering. It can be hard to move forward in life without this, so it really can serve an important and helpful role.
Once you have told the story of your trauma to a compassionate witness and processed the emotions of the event, repeating that story again can actually keep you stuck in the past. Life coaching is more present and future-focused.
I don’t care so much about what happened in your past, but about how those events might be impacting your future and getting in the way of creating a life you want.
If you feel like it’s time to “open this can of worms” and finally speak out loud about something that has haunted you for a long time, find a therapist in your area. You won’t get a boost of energy right away, but over time, cleaning up the past will help you feel more energized about your future.
If you don’t have a trauma that needs verbalizing and you just want to feel better, try life coaching.  If you’ve already been to therapy and you want your life to continue to get better and more aligned with your higher self, go to www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me
Quote of the Day is the Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer. I always thought this was a perfect fit for parenting.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

Fighting kids – How to get my kids to stop hating each other

Episode #14

Today’s Question:

My middle school kids are constantly fighting. They are close in age (12 and 13) and used to be the best of friends, always playing happily together. Lately, however, it’s been awful. They bicker and are constantly picking on each other, trying to bring the other down. I really want my boys to be friends again! How can I get my kids to stop hating each other? Sheila

Parent Educator Answer:

If your children used to get along very well, that tells me you did a great job of staying out of their conflicts. Children who are at each other from a young age have figured out how to bring mom into the argument and triangulate the issue. When mom is involved, kids can use siblings to fight for power, control, attention, superiority, etc. (If this sounds like you, or you have other issues with fighting siblings, go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/record-my-question and tell me about your situation).

There is a lot to talk about with sibling rivalry, and we’ll need more than one podcast to cover all the topics. 

For this one, I’m going to assume that Sheila is not getting involved, but is just bothered by having to listen to her two precious babies go at each other.

There are many reasons why pre-teens might start picking on their sibling when they didn’t before. I want to focus on the two most common and developmentally appropriate reasons for this sudden change.

  1. Adolescent angst. Puberty does a number on kids. The hormones cause stronger emotional responses and mood swings, making ‘walking on eggshells’ an everyday situation. Puberty also usually involves hanging out with people who constantly scrutinize and criticize each other’s appearances, performance, speech, and food choices. You name it, some adolescent is judging it. When kids are soaking up everyone else’s negative, insecure emotions like a sponge all day long, they ring it out when they get home. Who is the easiest person to target? Their sibling.

The question I would want to ask my kid is, “Does it work?” If they feel yucky when they get in the car, do they feel better after putting their sibling down and pointing out all their flaws? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, either way, teaching your child to reflect on their own words and actions is super powerful. 

Whether the answer to the question is yes or no, I would then ask, “Is there another way you can purge the yucky-ness of your day and feel better, that doesn’t involve picking on your sibling?”

Some kids purge verbally, by venting and getting it all off their chest. Some purge physically by hopping on their bike or shooting hoops. Spending time alone, taking a shower, writing in a journal, hanging out with friends, reading a book, are all ways pre-teens have found to feel better after being surrounded by negative people all day.

 2. The other reason why you might see an increase in sibling rivalry during puberty is your child (usually the older one) is wanting to create a bigger separation between himself and his sibling. This desire to be seen as older, wiser, different, and more mature grows really strong between 12-15. (This can be seen with twins as well). Adolescence is all about figuring out who you are and who you want to be? When kids are trying to figure out what their interests and skills are or which friend group they feel most comfortable with, they need to wiggle out of their child self like a snake shedding it’s skin. It can be hard for a pre-teen to know who they are if they maintain the tight relationship they’ve always had with their siblings, parents, or close friends. The pre-teen years are a time of rapid and massive growth and they need space to figure it all out.

It’s pretty common for kids to “cocoon” as they transform themselves from a kid into an adult. Cocooning can look like being in the bedroom or bathroom for long periods of time with the door closed, wanting more alone time, or cocooning with a best friend and excluding others. The sibling relationship connects to who they were as a child, some kids need to separate from it in order to become the adult they are meant to be. Fighting and constantly putting down a sibling is an effective way to separate.

It’s nice to know why things happen, but what the heck is Mama supposed to DO about it?

Parent Educator Tips for Sibling Rivalry 

  1. Stay out of it. As much as we would like to, we don’t get to decide what kind of relationship our kids are going to have with each other. Their relationship is their’s to figure out and we need to let go of any preconceived idea of what it’s supposed to look like. If your sister is your best friend, you might have expectations for your girls having the same close relationship and get really bothered when they “hate on each other”. 
  2. Protect their SAFETY. Wrestling and “horse-play” are great ways for kids to learn boundaries. When kids grow up “rough-housing” they learn about remorse, apologizing, inflicting pain, boundaries, and saying no like you mean it. Generally kids will stop on their own, right at the point where their sibling might get hurt. But, if they have triangulated a parent into it, or are using sibling rivalry to serve themselves in an unhealthy way, they may harm their sibling. Then, it is absolutely the parent’s job to protect the sibling.
  3. Treat your children as fairly as possible. If they sense favoritism, they may take it out on their sibling. Don’t compare: “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Don’t label: “She’s the aggressive one, he’s the smart one,” and spend quality time with both.
  4. Let them see you resolving conflicts in a calm way with other adults.
  5. Establish house rules like “no hitting or hurting” or “no name calling”. Post them where everyone can see and have consistent consequences when those rules are not followed.

Life Coaching Answer –

Learn all you can about how to responsibly manage sibling rivalry but when it’s not working for you, life coaching comes in handy.

Kids fighting with each other is a circumstance. As much as she would like to, Sheila can’t make them change without the kids wanting to change. Wishing they would stop is like going outside everyday and yelling at the weather, telling it that it needs to be different. It might be true. You might be sick of the cold or rain, but feeling annoyed everyday because the weather isn’t they way you’d like it is fruitless and only causes suffering for YOU.

Sheila wants them to stop because she doesn’t like how she feels when they are fighting.

She’s probably thinking thoughts like…

“I want them to get along like they used to.” (arguing with reality)

or “They shouldn’t be so mean and hateful with each other” (too much negative emotion)

or “I don’t know what to do” (causes confusion).

These thoughts or similar ones cause negative emotions for MOM. It’s time to figure out what you have control over and focus on that.

How do YOU want to feel WHEN your kids are fighting?

You get to choose!

Do you want to feel confident? Think the thought “I know what to do here”.

Do you want to feel calm? Then think “I can trust them to work it out”.

Do you want to feel content? Think “This behavior is normal and temporary”.

When you are feeling a positive emotion, you will be more likely to implement the recommendations parent educators have to offer.

Before you are in the situation of your kids arguing, play it out in your imagination. Picture them fighting with each other, and imagine you are staying calm. Imagine evaluating the situation peacefully and objectively, “Do I need to keep him safe?” “Is he just purging the “yuck” he picked up during the day?” “Is he trying to separate himself from the family?” Observe the fighting with a scientific mind, then practice feeling calm/confident or whatever emotion you want to feel. Picture yourself taking action from that place. Imaging making comments appropriate to the situation like, “You guys sure like to fight” or “You must have had a pretty awful day today to be picking on your sister so much” or “Let me know when you are done fighting so I can make us a snack”.

You cannot control your children’s relationship but you can decide how you want to feel about it. When you stay calm, and model how to resolve conflicts peacefully, you are showing them another way.

Supermom Kryptonite – Mirror Neurons

We have mirror neurons in our brain that help us connect with the other people in the room. Mirror neurons are what make us smile when a baby smiles at us, or cry in a powerful “This Is Us” episode. When kids are “hating on each other” our default is to “hate on them” or “hate the situation.” We default to matching or mirroring the emotions of the people around us unless we do something deliberately different. We think,”You need to stop being so mean to your sister because it’s driving me crazy.” We think our argumentative teens are making us feel annoyed and frustrated, but our emotions are coming from our brain. Taking time to notice how we are feeling and deliberately overriding these mirror neurons is completely possible and a great thing to model to our adolescents. 

Try asking them, “How do you hang out with critical, insecure middle schoolers all day and not let it affect you?” They may not believe you if you tell them how mirror neurons work but this might plant a seed in your teen’s brain. When YOU learn to separate your emotions from your kid’s emotions, you will be modeling for them, how to separate from other people’s negative emotions. 

Supermom Powerboost – little ones

Even though you can override other people’s negative emotions by setting a clear intention for the feeling you WANT to feel, most of us don’t want to work that hard. If you are surrounded by cranky adolescents, go hang out with some little ones. Babies, pre-schoolers or any pre-pubescent kiddo is a joy to be around (especially when you aren’t responsible for their well being). When adolescent angst hit my home, I got myself a part-time job at an elementary school. It’s much easier to deal with argumentative teens when I spent the day with happy children who write me love notes and get so excited when “Mrs. Henderson” walks by. Do you have nieces or nephews to play with? Could you volunteer once a week or invite the neighbor kids over for a holiday craft? You don’t want to ride the emotional roller coaster of adolescence along with your kiddos. Find ways, like hanging out with small children, to keep you separate and balanced so you can be your best self for your teens and pre-teens.

Quote “Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.” — Sam Levenson

Arguing Siblings

and minding my own business.

My kids are driving me crazy. I am listening to them ARUGE and BICKER about the most mundane, annoying things.  Now that I have two teenagers in the house, I expected our conversations to become more interesting, sophisticated even.  Rarely have our dinner conversations been intellectually inspiring but I kinda hoped we might be heading that direction. NOPE.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids are great to talk to individually. For some reason, when they get together, the conversation turns into “right fighting”. Each child defending some ridiculously unimportant stance to prove that they are right about something.

Here’s what I’m listening to my kids argue about:

-Who can pronounce the word “tomorrow” with the best Australian accent.

-The difference between the words curricula and curriculum and when each should be applied.

-The correct lyrics to the Calliou theme song.

I wouldn’t mind if this was a DISCUSSION, but the passion, voice tone and IMPORTANCE of these debates is awful to me. I can’t stand arguing. I can’t watch Judge Judy or The Women Tell All. My Mom wrote in my baby book, “Victoria would love Kindergarten if it weren’t for yelling teachers”.

But here’s the thing, not once did either kid walk away. What I learned from watching is that THEY don’t hate arguing, just me. They kept it up for an hour! Were these arguing siblings actually ENJOYING themselves? There was plenty of other things to do yet they were CHOOSING to engage in this verbal jousting. And you know what else? They’ve been playing together better than I’ve seen them in years. In the past, I would have interrupted, made them stop or repeated my constant request to please “elevate” the conversation. This time, I let em go, and now they are actually choosing to spend time together (without arguing).

I think raising teens is a lot about recognizing what is OUR business, and removing the expectation that our teens to be the way we want them to be. As our kids grow older, their relationship becomes none of our business. Whether they choose to play nicely or argue fiercely, how they bond is up to them. I think our job is to let them have the relationship they are going to have.

The best way to stay sane while raising teens is to figure out what is our business, their business, and God/Universe’s business. I’m going to call it God’s business that my kids are different genders, different personalities and 4.5 years apart. Those are just circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Their business is what they make of this, how they play, talk, bond, interact. My business is upholding certain house rules, letting go of expectations and allowing them build a relationship separate from me.

  • When dealing with siblings, it’s important to establish house rules like no name calling, eating together as a family, doing chores, etc. If you find yourself struggling with sibling bickering, see if you can figure out where you trying to control something that is someone else’s business.  If you want help with this or establishing and upholding your own “house rules”, schedule a free discovery call. 

One Habit Happy Parents Have in Common

Do this one thing today to help create more cooperative kids and happier parents.

There is one thing you can do today to have happier, more responsible, self-confident kids. PRAISE THEM. I don’t just mean “You are a great kid” or other general statements. I mean specific, timely, honest praise that gets you more of what you want.  Let’s say you have a 10 year old slob living in your home. He leaves food, shoes, backpacks and smelly socks everywhere. It drives you bonkers. You are constantly bouncing back and forth between frustration, nagging and hopelessness. Turn your attention and try to catch him doing SOMETHING towards your goal of cleanliness. “I noticed that instead of kicking off your shoe so that it would fly and hit the ceiling, you wedged it off and left it in the entry way. Thanks for aiming closer to it’s designated spot, I really appreciate your effort in helping our house stay tidy.”  Even if it’s nearly impossible to find something praise worthy, keep trying and look for the slightest nudge towards what you want. 

Perhaps you live with a surly, private 13 year old whose moods change on a dime. If you want to reinforce more steady, polite behavior, find a moment to praise it. “I notice when your friend came to the door, you were polite and sociable. That must have been hard since you were so grumpy a minute earlier. Being able to manage your emotions is a wonderful life skill and I’m impressed you are learning it at such a young age.”

You don’t want to lie or be sarcastic. Just find one small, incremental movement that demonstrates effort in the direction you want to see. Notice my title says “One thing happy PARENTS have in common”.  Sure, this will help your children be happy, but so will happier parents!  It’s just too easy to see the shortcomings in our kids, especially during adolescence. When we only see the negative in our kids it feels heavy and yucky to us, and to them. Focusing on what our kids are doing well will make everyone feel happier and more at peace. Try it today. Pick a behavior that bugs you and then find something to praise about it. “You brought your dish to the sink!” “Sharing space on your plate with a vegetable takes courage and that zucchini sat there the whole time!” “I noticed how when you got angry with your sister, you went to your room to cool off instead of letting it escalate.” “You remembered you have a test tomorrow!” “You still brush your teeth every night even though I stopped reminding you!  You are so responsible!”

Avoid “You are so smart” or “Great Job” or anything fixed like intelligence, appearance, talent or skill. The key is to praise their EFFORT, something they have power over changing. Find something every day to praise, you will never regret it!