Q: My kids—five and seven—argue all the time. Any tips on how I should handle this?
A: Let me start off by giving you a little hope: First, it’s not your fault and you’re not alone. All siblings bicker … maybe to varying degrees, but they all fight. There is a reason why they bicker like they do and that reason is this: other people are just annoying. Especially other people who live in your house. (You need only look over at your spouse as evidence of this.)
The second piece of good news is that you will forget all of this by the time you have grandchildren. My mother is convinced that my brother and sisters and I “hardly ever argued.” Which of course is completely false, evidenced by the barely visible, rectangular scar on my leg the exact dimensions of a metal Hot Wheels car. (But good for her in her happy memory bubble, right?)
The not-so-good news is that the bickering and arguing may last well into their high school years. ’Cause let’s face it, they’re bugging each other now … throw hormones into the mix and you’re looking at Three-Mile Island. So what you need are some strategies on getting them to want to be together. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Al Qaeda, it’s that nothing brings two feuding sides together like a common enemy. Namely, you.
Here’s what works best for me: When I have had enough, I just have myself a nice, cleansing little flip out and put them both outside in the heat of summer with some tsk-tsk like, “If you are going to act like animals, I am going to treat you like animals! Out!” (Never mind that as I say this, the Chihuahua is on my bed and all four cats are sleeping in random cuddle spots about the house.) Don’t worry, they won’t be out there long before they will have banned together to plot their revenge against their evil dictator.
If this doesn’t work, or it is not above 110 degrees, give them a really crappy job to complete. Together. They’ll be ugly to each other at first but before you can say, “sparkling clean litter box” they’ll be more angry at you than at each other. And after a few rounds of hosing out the garbage cans, playing Legos together, even though they irk each other, sounds like a whole lot more fun.
Jeanne Martin is a freelance writer, graphic designer and mother of two kids and an ornery chihuahua.