Diamond to Twitchy Parent

By Diamond | Jul 28, 2016

Dear Diamond,

I am the fortunate father of two very good children (and this is said with the understanding that I'm somewhat biased on the subject). One is a girl age 10 and her brother, a teenage boy. The only thing that concerns me is that they argue and pick at each other verbally and consistently. My son has to always have the last word. His sister resents him bossing her around. This makes car rides a pain and lately they have trouble even sharing the room together without a dust up. It is my hope they will have a good relationship with each other so that they have that extra support when they are adults. I'm also tired of the annoying fighting as a backdrop to my every drive and evening at the house. What do you suggest to make the bickering less frequent?

Sincerely,

Twitchy Parent

 

Dear Twitchy Parent,

Bickering has been around since Cain and Able. And it drove Adam and Eve just as crazy, I’m sure. No matter what you do, you may not be able to get rid of it entirely, but you can definitely take steps to minimize it.

Diamond found that the less we got entangled in the bickering, the more chances the kids had to figure it out. The less we took sides or acted like the judges, the more chance we gave them to work it out first. There is a golden opportunity here to learn how to work out conflict. Of course if it’s bullying or a physical fight, you have to step in, but otherwise this is an opportunity for the kids to learn some self-control, how to compromise, and how to resolve an argument.

If one of them broke something of the others or hurt them somehow, the Young Diamond was asked, “Now how are you going to make this right? You think about this and figure out a way to make this right again.” It was usually interesting to see the creative solutions they came up with. Siblings know each other well and know what the other needs. Sometimes it even seemed that they liked solving it. I found that the less we stepped in, the more often the kids stepped up and resolved the fight. Tell the kids that it’s time for them to come up with fair solutions on their own and that they are expected to be part of the solution not just the problem. It’s time to start throwing the ball back in their court. These are the beginnings of restorative justice.

Of course you can’t just suddenly start to do this. Have a family meeting about it away from the heat of the bickering. We employed a “talking stick”, a stick that was held by only one person at a time, the one who was talking. This allows everyone to express their feelings AND BE HEARD. Being heard goes a long way in conflict resolution. We all want to be heard, including you, Twitchy Parent. Your kids need to know how hurtful it is to you. When you are away from the heat of the bickering, tell them this.You work hard all week, you want to take them on a trip and you are stripped of enjoyment because of the bickering. Tell them how you feel and how unfair it seems that this is not between just the two of them; it affects you, too. It’s much more than annoying— it’s disheartening. It ruins your time with them that you cherish more than anything else and it saddens you that they may not get along when you are old and that they better figure out how to get along because they will know each other a lot longer than they'll know you.

How do you as parents provide a model for conflict resolution? Sometimes I see parents who constantly bicker with each other, so it’s no wonder that their children follow suit. They see their model. If you have an argument in front of your kids, do you also show how you make up in front of them?

A recent article in this paper mentioned a story of an educator who visited a classroom where the children were all kind to each other. She quickly realized that these fortunate children had a kind teacher who modeled to the children how to be kind to each other. Kids model their mentors and parents.

See if you can break the cycle of the bickering by emphasizing kindness, respect of one another things, and coaching them on how to compromise, just as you would do with a friend.

I had to look honestly at the way I treated each child. Was I favoring one over the other? Was I taking sides? Was blame usually placed on one and not the other? Was I perpetuating jealousies by unconsciously giving more attention to one of them and placing blame on another?

Diamond grew up in a very large family and fights happened. My father used to make us go out in the yard to stand in front of the Blessed Mother statue to make up and shake hands. Sometimes we were ready to make up and sometimes we weren’t, but usually we ended up laughing and playing again. It seemed to work for the most part.

I wish you all the best and I hope this helps you.

 

With grace and peace,

 

Diamond

 

Advice appearing in Dear Diamond is for entertainment only and does not reflect the views of Courier Publications or its editorial boards. This column is not intended to replace the services of medical, financial or legal professionals.

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Email: deardiamond@courierpublicationsllc.com

 

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