If you asked parents of multiple school-aged children what their main struggle is with their kids, many of them would say “How can I broadcast them on pay-per-view, because they fight like its their job, and it’s about dang time I got something out of it besides a headache.”
OK, maybe I’m the only one that would say that exactly and everyone else would just say “fighting.”
I am just OVER refereeing fights about absurd and ridiculous things. Let me give you some examples of things my kids have fought over just this week.
- Who gets to open the car door
- Which verse comes first in “The Wheels on the Bus”
- Whose hair is dirtier
- Who likes more vegetables
Y’all, they aren’t even together for 15 minutes after school before somebody has to start something. Please tell me this isn’t just my kids. Please?
I have tried every tactic on the whole Internet and nothing curbs the fighting for long. Threats, bribes, grounding, time out, taking away toys, holding hands and making up, gross chores, separating them, letting them duke it out… nothing works!
I started thinking about how my mom handled my brother and I when we fought nonstop. I figured she must have done something right since Baby Brother and I now get along very well and are still close. I came away with some promising tactics that I’d love to share with you, in case you’re having the same struggle I am.
The first thing that came to mind was that we really were left to our own devices much more than my kids ever have been. I’m not aware of any laws that existed in the rural south in the 1980s that gave a minimum age for children to stay home alone. I was “babysitting” my brother with no adult supervision from a very early age. (Babysitting= ordering him to do my chores and threatening violence for noncompliance.)
Mom liked to hear from us during the day, but we knew what serious consequences we would face if we called for her to intervene in fights over the last Twinkie too much. So we learned that we’d have to solve it ourselves if we preferred our hides to remain of the untanned variety. Most resolutions were me bullying Baby Brother into submission and making him so mad that he ran away to grandma’s house for the rest of the day. Then I could watch Nickelodeon all day without having to change channels to Ninja Turtles. See, better for everybody!
The “deal with it yourselves… OR ELSE” method was very effective, but we eventually found an even better approach to improving sibling relations: finding a common enemy. Now, there were the obvious enemies: the bully on the school bus, the bus driver, the grumpy old lady next door. We teamed up and handled those foes pretty easily, avoidance being the best weapon in our arsenal. But there was a common enemy then, that we still bond over.
Our mom. That’s right, the oppressive force that we both had to stand against to gain our freedom. We ganged up on her, made fun of her catchphrases (“If you EVER…”) and were generally obnoxious dependents who probably would have been better off having our hides tanned regularly. Baby Brother and I stopped fighting when he was in junior high and I was in high school, and that was exactly the time we began bonding over our annoyance at our mom, The Meanest Mom in the World.
If you really think about it, we were always doing it for her. As a mom, I know that all moms want their children to love each other and be close forever. We all want our kids to be best friends with each other. So our us vs. her mentality is really what she wanted in the long run. See how generous we are? Can I get my World’s Best Daughter coffee mug now? Because I’m sure not getting the World’s Best Mom mug!
Overheard at the Salon: “It was the worst fight I’ve ever seen! They just hugged for 30 minutes, then that one guy fell down.”
Julie Holt is a wife, mother of three, writer and suffers from chronic road rage. She loves to keep it real, but she is not lit or woke. Actually, she’s pretty basic. Her hobbies include naps, pizza and writing about herself in the third person. You can read Julie’s blog at jholtwriting.com or follow her on Facebook @julieslighterside.