Sibling arguments and fighting, when to step in?

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Magna
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21 Aug 2018, 12:55 pm

We have boys all under the age of 13. I can admit here that they make me agitated and anxious oftentimes. Some reasons for this is that kids by nature are unpredictable and can be loud. I wear passive noise cancelling headphones at home when needed because of this.

I'm a very black and white thinker. As such, I'm prone to overreact or think something is a near crisis or disaster when it's not. When children's emotions go from stable to explosive in an instant and I'm "in the moment" trying to figure out what to do, it's not always easy for me to think rationally, or at all.

I've talked to other parents who have successfully raised boys and I've asked them how they've handled the fighting. I've gotten mixed responses. Some have said that kids need to figure out how to resolve problems on their own, to let them argue or fight and only step in if it get's very physical. I'm the opposite of that as a parent. When I sense something brewing (and we all know as parents we can sense something's about to happen between the kids even when the kids don't even realize it), I shut it down before it starts or when it's just starting.

When the kids start to argue, I'm already envisioning the following type of scenario:

"They're arguing in the house. One will throw something at the other and possibly break something in the house. The other will charge at the first and in ensuing melee, more things could be broken. Maybe the house will have to be repaired? Maybe one will hurt the other and have to go to urgent care? CRISIS! CRISIS! TERROR!...."

Not only is the moment a crisis, but I've realized my instant anxiety also comes from the potential for something the kids could do that could upset the order of my environment or upset my routine and potentially create a costly problem or a problem nonetheless that I then have to figure out how to deal with.

We've had doorknob holes in a few of the walls for some years now from one of the kids or another swinging their bedroom door open in anger or frustration. I'm not fixing those walls until they're old enough for me to teach them how to fix the holes so they'd be required to do it themselves in the future or......until they move out.

I'd like to hear from other parents as to how they handle arguments and fighting between the children.



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21 Aug 2018, 1:39 pm

They need to know who’s boss and the corollary that your happiness is more important than theirs. Before it even occurs to them to express their frustration in any way, physical or otherwise, they should remember that you can and will express yours harder.


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21 Aug 2018, 4:15 pm

I have an aspie who is nearly nine and a most likely neurotypical 4 year old. Generally I try to stay back and not step in. If I step in it is because I feel it has gone on too long and is going off in the wrong direction and I step in to model the alternative (better) direction.

I think of the end goal. I would rather they were resourceful in trying to find ways to sort out situations and resolve things together or independently even if it causes some rifts and anger and frustration rather than rely on me to resolve everything between them (even if that keeps the peace better).

We did have one breakage recently. I wanted to eliminate that kind of behaviour so I said my daughter would either need to sell her Lego to pay for it or do some chore whilst I fixed it, if it was fixable.

I am an only child though, so this is my first experience of what being a sibling might entail!


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Magna
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21 Aug 2018, 4:32 pm

Thank you for the advice.

I never had a brother, so raising boys close in age is foreign to me. I have a niece who has ASD and one of her sisters was just diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder ODD. My sister, their mother, believes she may have had ODD when we were growing up. She was emotionally explosive and our childhoods were very difficult at times because of her behavior. In researching the characteristics of ODD, I have a suspicion our youngest may have ODD as well. That makes it tougher because he will not let things go if he feels he's been wronged. He will seek revenge of some kind toward whichever brother has wronged him and when he's bored, he LOVES to start fights with his older brothers.

For me as their parent, their fighting triggers me, big time. To the point that if it's heated and I try to diffuse things and it's not working and I'm getting upset I call my wife to come in and stop it. If it's highly emotionally charged and I'm triggered, I leave the room. I have to, otherwise I can shut things down by yelling or if it's bad, screaming. Trust me, Dad can have an extremely booming house shaking voice. Not cool, not good for anyone. And, it can take me hours to calm down after I'm riled from the kids. I think I get this "flight" response from my Dad. He had PTSD from Vietnam and when my sister and I would fight or my sister would have one of her epic meltdowns, my Dad would yell a bit but then leave the house and drive off. For him, I think he did that possibly from being so triggered that if he stayed he may have become violent toward us. Thankfully, other than punching a hole right through the wall, he wasn't violent toward us. Thankfully I have never been nor would I be violent toward our kids. I leave the room because I feel sometimes I will "blow my top" and have a meltdown myself and lose my temper to an inappropriate and unhealthy degree.



elsapelsa
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22 Aug 2018, 3:35 am

Feeling close to loosing it with children is horrible. I lost it and started shouting this week. It is very rare but extreme sleep deprivation (both kids are jet lagged from travelling so waking up at odd times) and my daughter's need for constant reassurance shooting right up due to transition anxiety pushed me over the edge. At those junctures though I am not angry with the children, I am angry that I do not have more help so I get to that point of exhaustion. It doesn't happen often but it is horrible when it does and I agree it is a priority to avoid it.

I find it easier to regulate my anxiety and temper when I am acting on something for instrumental reasons. I have an agenda that I am trying to achieve rather than just go with the flow of things. So I break most things down into projects and aims and outcomes. This helps me think and act rationally. So for example, my elder daughter's inability to sit still for dinner bothered me massively. Then I thought about it and decided the most important goal was that she eat healthily and enjoy food and I had to let go of my frustration. Long after this I realised she had considerable sensory needs and now with a wobble cushion she sits still. Now, even before the cushion given I had decided what to prioritise and why and rationalised it in my head it stopped frustrating me. It is just a case of constantly choosing priorities. If I have my goals and aims clear then I get less frustrated.

I would look at Stephen Biddulph, think he has written lots on raising boys. Haven't read it myself but often hear it recommended.

Also, how about thinking about martial arts, or something similar, maybe especially for your youngest son? My eldest can also stir trouble when she is bored. Usually she will need to make a few laps around the house of find some other outlet. It is just like excess energy builds up in her and she doesn't know what to do with it. I think it is all about giving a helping hand to self-regulate that. What is he into?


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16 Sep 2018, 7:03 am

Magna wrote:
We have boys all under the age of 13. I can admit here that they make me agitated and anxious oftentimes. Some reasons for this is that kids by nature are unpredictable and can be loud. I wear passive noise cancelling headphones at home when needed because of this.

I'm a very black and white thinker. As such, I'm prone to overreact or think something is a near crisis or disaster when it's not. When children's emotions go from stable to explosive in an instant and I'm "in the moment" trying to figure out what to do, it's not always easy for me to think rationally, or at all.

I've talked to other parents who have successfully raised boys and I've asked them how they've handled the fighting. I've gotten mixed responses. Some have said that kids need to figure out how to resolve problems on their own, to let them argue or fight and only step in if it get's very physical. I'm the opposite of that as a parent. When I sense something brewing (and we all know as parents we can sense something's about to happen between the kids even when the kids don't even realize it), I shut it down before it starts or when it's just starting.

When the kids start to argue, I'm already envisioning the following type of scenario:

"They're arguing in the house. One will throw something at the other and possibly break something in the house. The other will charge at the first and in ensuing melee, more things could be broken. Maybe the house will have to be repaired? Maybe one will hurt the other and have to go to urgent care? CRISIS! CRISIS! TERROR!...."

Not only is the moment a crisis, but I've realized my instant anxiety also comes from the potential for something the kids could do that could upset the order of my environment or upset my routine and potentially create a costly problem or a problem nonetheless that I then have to figure out how to deal with.

We've had doorknob holes in a few of the walls for some years now from one of the kids or another swinging their bedroom door open in anger or frustration. I'm not fixing those walls until they're old enough for me to teach them how to fix the holes so they'd be required to do it themselves in the future or......until they move out.

I'd like to hear from other parents as to how they handle arguments and fighting between the children.



MommaGx3
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02 Oct 2018, 2:25 pm

That's the type of question that can certainly get a few different types of responses. My girls (ages 21 and 18) were relatively close growing up, but my 18 year old is an Aspie. So there were times when I had to tailor how I dealt with them depending on the situation. All I can do is share my experiences, if you find any of it valuable, awesome, if not, that's ok too.

I do believe that girls are less physically inclined to express their anger and frustration, and with that said, there was one time my oldest got mad, kicked her foot, her flipflop flew through the air, hit a picture on the wall and knocked it off. I just looked at her and asked her if she was done.

Here is my philosophy, we have emotions to experience them. They help us learn about right and wrong about what shows others if we care or don't care. It helps forge the relationships that we need. Bottling, hiding or ignoring an emotion is fuel on a fire.

Kids don't know how to troubleshoot. They aren't the best at problem-solving. They don't know how to react to conflict. All the things that are expected of functioning adults in our society. They have to have the opportunity to learn those lessons. If the girls got into an argument, I let it ride. But, I would note the time, if they were still screaming at each other and slamming doors after 15 minutes then they had a choice, they could quit arguing or they could take it outside. Now, that's assuming there is no real damage taking place. There was one time my oldest threw a temper tantrum and threw the keys and keychain in the car and busted my touch screen nav panel. She had to pay that off.

If there is no property damage taking place, then I'd let them work at it. I know that as they got older and their prefrontal cortex started maturing, the ability to use reason became easier. When they were 10.... very little reasoning was taking place.

For my Aspie, we had a "thinking" chair. When emotions became overwhelming then that was the place to go to be undisturbed (we preferred that to her hiding under a hoodie curled up in a ball in her closet).

One thing that I made sure to tell my children, It is ok to be angry. It's ok to be mad, sad, or disappointed. Those feelings happen and what we have to do is learn how to keep them from becoming harmful. I recall one time, I repurposed a lesson from my mother, they were angry and pent up about something. I gave them a dozen eggs and a target and told them to go throw those things as hard as they could... then, continue the conversation. Surprise, surprise when being able to physically release that tension in a controlled manner pretty much diffused the argument.

Ok, too long, I know. Bottom line for me and my parenting style, I let them go for a set amount of time (in my mind) and then I would intervene. I wouldn't try to become the monkey in the middle. No, I would try and redirect them.

I am sure it's tough, I wish you luck~!



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02 Oct 2018, 2:44 pm

Thanks for the reply. I agree that boys are generally more physical. I have three nieces a bit younger than our boys. They are not physical when they argue.

Our latest fight du jour is:

Our oldest's room is the place to hang out. If he gets upset with his younger brothers (usually it's our youngest, the button pusher who likes to create chaos when he's bored) he'll tell them to leave his room. "Get out!" They won't listen. He escalates his orders for them to leave. Then, often, before our youngest leaves, he'll wreck a lego set our oldest put together or he'll throw something at him or hit him. Something where he causes our oldest to howl, scream, cry, etc before he jets out of the room...

We then send our youngest to his room for time out. We ask our oldest of he's OK, which for some reason, makes him mad and he SLAMS his door shut in anger.

Who knows.....



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02 Oct 2018, 2:49 pm

After my observations of different couples and their children, I noticed a surprising correlation between how parents and their children create and solve conflicts, similar level of verbal and physical violence as well. I suspect children simply copy unconsciously their parents. (I am also curious if you also find such correlation in the couples with children that you know)

I think in any case, children must be protected as much as possible. They should all feel that family is a secure place for them. Maybe you can separate them and decide on separate activities for them, in different rooms from time to time... to get some rest ;)



MommaGx3
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02 Oct 2018, 4:22 pm

Magna wrote:
Thanks for the reply. I agree that boys are generally more physical. I have three nieces a bit younger than our boys. They are not physical when they argue.

Our latest fight du jour is:

Our oldest's room is the place to hang out. If he gets upset with his younger brothers (usually it's our youngest, the button pusher who likes to create chaos when he's bored) he'll tell them to leave his room. "Get out!" They won't listen. He escalates his orders for them to leave. Then, often, before our youngest leaves, he'll wreck a lego set our oldest put together or he'll throw something at him or hit him. Something where he causes our oldest to howl, scream, cry, etc before he jets out of the room...

We then send our youngest to his room for time out. We ask our oldest of he's OK, which for some reason, makes him mad and he SLAMS his door shut in anger.

Who knows.....


Hmmm, That's tough. Your youngest, how young is he? When he has been calm (i.e. not during the situation) but later or a different day, have you asked him why he doesn't leave his brother's room when his brother asks him to? I don't know their personalities to really give good advice, but maybe trying something....

1. If your youngest is motivated by rewards, then offering him something for leaving when he is told might motivate him.

I recall when trying to use rewards (punishments and consequences NEVER worked for my Aspie) to get my gal to clean her room. She was in her pirate phase, wearing the pirate hats and the hook and all that. I said, "ooo, would you like some coins to put in a treasure chest!" and naturally, she said yes. So the first time she cleaned her room and I gave her some shinies to put in a box. of course.... that method only worked once. But the point is, if there is something he likes to do and often has to "share" time when doing it... offering him 15 minutes of just him spending time with a parent, or just 15 minutes playing a game or something. Then when he does as he is asked by his brother, he gets that reward to help guide him.

2. Alternatively, let's say that he's very uncomfortable with nudity. He is in his brother's room. It is in a person's private room where they change clothes. You could have the older sibling tell the younger sibling to leave because he needs privacy. If the younger doesn't leave and he is uncomfortable with nudity, then the older sibling could strip down and do a helicopter and hopefully the younger darts out of the room.

Of course, that is assuming the older is comfortable and the younger is uncomfortable, but the lesson here for the younger child is... there are some places which are private to people. People can invite you into their private place. However, if they ask you to leave or do not want you there, you must follow that rule. (it's the same type of rule to use when they try to go into employee only doors, try to walk into the bathroom on people, etc).

3. You could help aid your older child by giving him some authority to help when he is being pressed. Your younger child doesn't care about the implications much since he doesn't want to do something and it is very hard for a "peer" to get an Aspie to do something... so maybe you could tell your older child to nicely and politely say that visiting time is over and they have five minutes to finish up whatever they are doing and leave. Then at 1 minute, provide a one minute warning. Then at the time, go stand by the door and say to leave. THEN, if the younger child doesn't leave, the older one can say, "I'm getting a parental unit intervention if you do not leave." Then let your older child come to you and tell you that he needs a privacy intervention. It sounds a little silly, but it makes everyone's actions and expectations much more visible and "hard-coded" instead of assumptions. If that makes sense?

Like I said, I don't know your children or you, really, but these three are just some random things that come to mind. I always tried to stage the lessons I shared with the kids in a way to help them learn some of those life lessons.



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02 Oct 2018, 5:00 pm

Magna wrote:
I'm the opposite of that as a parent. When I sense something brewing (and we all know as parents we can sense something's about to happen between the kids even when the kids don't even realize it), I shut it down before it starts or when it's just starting.


as a former child i would very much appreciate it, on behalf of your offspring, if you did not do this. i know i absolutely hated it when my parents intervened early because it always made things worse. a lot of the time, parents (mine, at least) don't know that the conflict is about at its core which puts them at a disadvantage if mediation is concerned

it's important for boys, especially at that age to learn to settle and go through the motions of conflict on their own - i'd intervene if it got overly physical or valuables were at stake. but not before then.


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Magna
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02 Oct 2018, 11:25 pm

LaetiBlabla wrote:
After my observations of different couples and their children, I noticed a surprising correlation between how parents and their children create and solve conflicts, similar level of verbal and physical violence as well. I suspect children simply copy unconsciously their parents. (I am also curious if you also find such correlation in the couples with children that you know)

I think in any case, children must be protected as much as possible. They should all feel that family is a secure place for them. Maybe you can separate them and decide on separate activities for them, in different rooms from time to time... to get some rest ;)


I'm very thankful and fortunate that when my temper has flared, I've never been physical with our kids. I see that as a barrier that I would never cross. I also don't throw things, break things, etc when I'm angry. If I do feel like my anger is escalating to a point that I will "lose it" (yelling), then I will ask for my wife to intercede and we'll "tag out". She is more of the umpire of the house than I am because I admit I'm not good at conflict resolution. I never learned that from my Dad.

I'm a very black and white thinker. Also, there were some issues in my household growing up that have unfortunately molded my psyche. My Dad has PTSD from a violently alcoholic father and serving in Vietnam. I have one sibling and growing up in the 1970s, she had major meltdown issues and major behavioral problems (diagnosed as an adult as bipolar with OCD). Admittedly as a child, I would tease her sometimes into a frenzy. Perhaps our youngest doing the same is karma payback for me. At any rate, when things got extremely heated and emotional in our house, my Dad would leave the premises and drive off for a few hours. I resented that greatly as a child because he wouldn't stay and parent. Looking at it from an adult's perspective, I believe in part, he was leaving to save from being violent (he never was violent to us).

With our kids, when they fight and their tempers flare, unless we step in, they seem to continue to escalate the emotion until we do step in. I don't think it's a cry for attention. With my black and white thinking and from my upbringing, when the kids are going to reach a level 10 with their tempers, in my mind, I'm already in crisis mode and I'm feeling like they're taking it to 100. I fear that they will end up breaking something in the house even if not intentionally and, as odd as it may sound, part of why I feel like it's the crisis of the century is because if they did break a window, etc, it would upset my routine. I would have to figure out what would need to be done and how to go about fixing or getting something fixed. My world would be turned upside down and my stress level would increase....

They certainly don't fight all the time and there are times they're best of friends.



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02 Oct 2018, 11:49 pm

MommaGx3 wrote:
Magna wrote:
Thanks for the reply. I agree that boys are generally more physical. I have three nieces a bit younger than our boys. They are not physical when they argue.

Our latest fight du jour is:

Our oldest's room is the place to hang out. If he gets upset with his younger brothers (usually it's our youngest, the button pusher who likes to create chaos when he's bored) he'll tell them to leave his room. "Get out!" They won't listen. He escalates his orders for them to leave. Then, often, before our youngest leaves, he'll wreck a lego set our oldest put together or he'll throw something at him or hit him. Something where he causes our oldest to howl, scream, cry, etc before he jets out of the room...

We then send our youngest to his room for time out. We ask our oldest of he's OK, which for some reason, makes him mad and he SLAMS his door shut in anger.

Who knows.....


Hmmm, That's tough. Your youngest, how young is he? When he has been calm (i.e. not during the situation) but later or a different day, have you asked him why he doesn't leave his brother's room when his brother asks him to? I don't know their personalities to really give good advice, but maybe trying something....

1. If your youngest is motivated by rewards, then offering him something for leaving when he is told might motivate him.

I recall when trying to use rewards (punishments and consequences NEVER worked for my Aspie) to get my gal to clean her room. She was in her pirate phase, wearing the pirate hats and the hook and all that. I said, "ooo, would you like some coins to put in a treasure chest!" and naturally, she said yes. So the first time she cleaned her room and I gave her some shinies to put in a box. of course.... that method only worked once. But the point is, if there is something he likes to do and often has to "share" time when doing it... offering him 15 minutes of just him spending time with a parent, or just 15 minutes playing a game or something. Then when he does as he is asked by his brother, he gets that reward to help guide him.

2. Alternatively, let's say that he's very uncomfortable with nudity. He is in his brother's room. It is in a person's private room where they change clothes. You could have the older sibling tell the younger sibling to leave because he needs privacy. If the younger doesn't leave and he is uncomfortable with nudity, then the older sibling could strip down and do a helicopter and hopefully the younger darts out of the room.

Of course, that is assuming the older is comfortable and the younger is uncomfortable, but the lesson here for the younger child is... there are some places which are private to people. People can invite you into their private place. However, if they ask you to leave or do not want you there, you must follow that rule. (it's the same type of rule to use when they try to go into employee only doors, try to walk into the bathroom on people, etc).

3. You could help aid your older child by giving him some authority to help when he is being pressed. Your younger child doesn't care about the implications much since he doesn't want to do something and it is very hard for a "peer" to get an Aspie to do something... so maybe you could tell your older child to nicely and politely say that visiting time is over and they have five minutes to finish up whatever they are doing and leave. Then at 1 minute, provide a one minute warning. Then at the time, go stand by the door and say to leave. THEN, if the younger child doesn't leave, the older one can say, "I'm getting a parental unit intervention if you do not leave." Then let your older child come to you and tell you that he needs a privacy intervention. It sounds a little silly, but it makes everyone's actions and expectations much more visible and "hard-coded" instead of assumptions. If that makes sense?

Like I said, I don't know your children or you, really, but these three are just some random things that come to mind. I always tried to stage the lessons I shared with the kids in a way to help them learn some of those life lessons.


Our youngest is nine. I'm wondering if he has ODD. If he feels his brothers wrong him, he will seek revenge. From a very young age and perhaps being the youngest and being small for his age, he feels like the world is against him and he has a pessimistic attitude. When he dislikes how his brothers might treat him in a certain way and they're called on it, he simply can not see that it's not OK for him to act the same way toward them. He can't seem to understand the concept of the Golden Rule. He's very irritated by little things. We have a small young dog. While he's not intentionally mean to the dog, he just doesn't get that taking the dog's bone out of its mouth and hiding it to tease the dog isn't a proper way to play, throwing a blanket or pillow on/over the dog. It's very frustrating because we've had the dog for a year and we do not let him alone with the dog. We give him chances, but often he's "banned" from the room the dog spends most of his time in because he didn't play nicely with the dog. I wonder if he's that way because he knows my wife and I get irritated with him about the dog (negative attention?).

My youngest and I are similar in certain ways. It's hard for me to talk to him when he's upset because we feed off each other and try as I might, I often end up making him more upset and he me. He does have meltdowns.

Thank you for the suggestions and the feedback. It's true that for him, unlike our other two, punishments (time outs, no TV, having to write sentences, etc) really don't seem to change his behavior. But you bring up a good point, rewards might be the ticket. One of my nieces (I have three) is autistic with epilepsy. My sister has a teaching degree and uses rewards with her girls. During a holiday, my sister had brought some "jelly band" bracelets along and gave little tasks for our boys to do to help out (pick up toys, etc). Our youngest was enthralled with the jelly bands. He would do the tasks without complaining (a first...) and was asking repeatedly if there was anything else he could do. I thought in a good way: "Who IS this kid???" Our older two (12 and 11) assisted with the tasks but were not motivated or interested in the jelly bands.

I will definitely think about that more now that you've mentioned it. If we find a simple uber-motivator reward for him like that, it could even help with his dog playing behavior.

Thank you!



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02 Oct 2018, 11:51 pm

Kiprobalhato wrote:
Magna wrote:
I'm the opposite of that as a parent. When I sense something brewing (and we all know as parents we can sense something's about to happen between the kids even when the kids don't even realize it), I shut it down before it starts or when it's just starting.


as a former child i would very much appreciate it, on behalf of your offspring, if you did not do this. i know i absolutely hated it when my parents intervened early because it always made things worse. a lot of the time, parents (mine, at least) don't know that the conflict is about at its core which puts them at a disadvantage if mediation is concerned

it's important for boys, especially at that age to learn to settle and go through the motions of conflict on their own - i'd intervene if it got overly physical or valuables were at stake. but not before then.


Thank you for your input. It's tough because things escalate quickly from verbal disagreements to one wrecks something of the others and then that one goes ballistic on the first and it turns bad quickly. I never had brothers as a kid, neither did my wife, so boys fighting is a foreign thing for both of us.



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03 Oct 2018, 12:34 am

kids /boys will fight, my brothers fought a lot, they're still good friends
tolerate some bickering, don't take sides and don't police everything
violence is not allowed ofcourse
give them the same punishment when things get out of hand (don't try to find who's most at fault)
it gives them more a them (parents) vs us (kids) bond,
all play fight is learning to deal with conflict and boundaries

when it's purely or mostly for your attention, it's time to do things with them, new and challenging things,
aventures out of molehills, learning skills and counting bruises, doing chores disguised as heros

make sure they get outdoor play after school
ah the youngest starting, afais that's always the case, it must be frustrating to be the youngest, but it will pass

one's never too young to learn, what about fixing the holes with their help?
you can't expect learning them respecting the things if they stay broken over long periods of time.
it's what you do that's the example, not what you say or plan,
also the rules apply equally to all, that's a thing they see straight through if you put yourself on another rule



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Location: Pacific Northwest

03 Oct 2018, 7:42 pm

I can't stand to hear drama so whenever my kids bicker and argue, I shut it down fast. I tell them to both be quiet, do not say a word, I also separate them if I have to when we are at home. I bark at them (figuratively) and that gets them to shut up and leave each other alone. And if they are fighting over something, I just take the thing away than yelling at them to stop fighting and quit bickering. I warn them first though, I say "Don't bicker about this or none of will get it." I have banned inflatable toys because they wouldn't stop bonking each other with them and I got tired of screaming at them about it so instead of just screaming at them, take them away and problem solved. None of them get them. This works for me.


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Son: Diagnosed w/anxiety and ADHD. Also academic delayed.

Daughter: NT, no diagnoses.