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Siblings and fighting and anger management: the day I locked my kids out of the house on purpose

by Traci Schumacher on Tue, 01/15/2013 - 11:37am

It's funny how being a parent can really bring out the worst in a person (hypothetically speaking, of course). A friend of mine, who normally appears very calm and kind, once commented that she never knew what a terrible person she was until she became a parent.

It's true, those sweet little darlings have a way of knowing just the right buttons to push to drive us to the brink of crazy at times. And the supreme irony is that, in order to change their behavior and attitude, we have to model it ourselves. It simply won't do to yell, “Stop yelling at your sister!” So to change them for the better, we must first change ourselves for the better. Ugh! Yeah, no short-cuts here.

This idea was reinforced for me recently as I have been reading and re-reading the book, Have a New Kid By Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman. As sibling rivalry in our home had escalated into all-out war, I turned to this book for some practical, straight-shooting advice.

I realized, first of all, that I had to contain my own anger. Remember the commercial that said, “Never let 'em see you sweat?” Well, never let 'em see you angry. When we parents respond in the midst of anger, no good thing comes of it. If I want my kids to be kind and not angry toward one another, then I need to treat them the same way. Even while they are driving me nuts. But that doesn't mean there are no consequences for bad behavior.

To deal with sibling warfare, for example, first stay calm. When the kids are fighting with each other, Dr. Leman advises to confine them in an area together until they work it out to your satisfaction. Nothing else happens until the issue is resolved. If they miss out on time with friends or soccer practice or whatever, that will drive the point home even faster. They work it out together; you stay calm outside of the drama.

So a couple weeks ago, my older two darlings were loudly “fussing” at each other at the kitchen table. I calmly escorted them out the back door and onto the patio, and locked the door. I told them they could come back in once they had worked it out together. After about 30 minutes of alternating quiet and screaming at each other, they came to the door calm and friendly, and I let them back in. I gave them each a hug and we got on with our afternoon.

Later I heard my daughter telling my husband about the incident. “Mom locked us outside on the patio and made us talk to each other!” Oh, the horror! Let's just say my husband was not overly impressed by my daughter's sense of suffering.

The triumph was that I remained calm and in control and my kids learned some communication and relational skills while solving their own problem. Instead of looking to me to referee and resolve their issues, they are learning to be responsible for their own problems and behavior. And our home is much more peaceful these days.

 

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