Here’s another real deal dilemma submitted by a parent facing an issue that is all too common. The topic tends to vary in degrees of severity, but I’m sure that most parents of siblings can certainly relate to this!
If my 11 year old son and 13 year old daughter don’t wind up killing each other they are going to drive me into an early grave. They can’t seem to be together for more than 5 minutes without finding a reason to get in a fight with one another. It doesn’t take long for these fights to get physical with pushing, hitting, kicking, etc.
In conversation they are always looking for ways to insult one another.
They are constantly being punished for fighting with nasty chores (like cleaning the toilets) and losses of privileges (e.g. no TV/computers). My favorite punishment is driving them a couple miles from the house and forcing them to walk home. At least we have peace and quiet while they are outside!
But none of this seems to work. We are reduced to pretty much keeping the two of them separated. We rarely do activities together as a family. My wife will take one child while I take the other. This is how we even handled our visit to Disneyland a couple years ago. We only met up to go home at the end of the day.
The odd thing is that they actually like many of the same things. They like the same movies, shows, books and music (e.g. they both like Doctor Who and X-Files). But they can’t stand to watch the same show in the same room!
I am feeling like I must have seriously messed up in how I raised my kids and am pretty much at my wits end. Am I just going to have to accept that this is how life is going to be until my daughter is old enough to go to college?
My two cents:
Yikes! Even with my children being younger, I see them fight constantly! Do you remember my horrific story about sibling rivalry and the pizza in the toilet? I didn’t grow up with any siblings close to my age, so it’s a little hard for me to find a frame of reference as to what’s normal and what’s not. They fight, they’ve hurt each other, they’ve told on each other to me and I tell them the same thing – As hard as you fight against each other, you better fight just as hard for each other!
Of course, I don’t mean that completely literally, because whoa…that could become really ugly, right? But the point I try to convey to them over and over again is that it’s ok for them to have disputes and not get along, but first and foremost they have to know that we are a family and our love has to outweigh our disagreements.