I live in a madhouse run by a tiny army that I made myself
Siblings Fight should be a sign nailed to all parents’ bedroom doors who consider having more than one child.
It is important for a parent to try and channel negative energy in one’s little brood before the little brooders do too much damage to each other. It is equally important for a parent to stop the fighting before they enter the fray themselves out of sheer frustration. I remember rising from the dinner table, fork in hand like an angry trident-wielding Poseidon from the sea, when our eldest son shoved a pea up his brother’s nose, causing loud wailing amid the snorting. A mother can be scary. Mind you it worked that time and silence ensued for at least a few minutes, though occasionally it can scare the culprit and the crying can be deafening, which kind of defeats the negative energy channeling.
We used to have a punching bag hanging from a rafter in our basement that was meant to be just such a channel for aggression. The kids used it as a kind of cling-and-swing and would take turns pushing each other back and forth on it in an effort to see how long it took to knock each other off. It did channel energy but usually one of them would fall and wound themselves. Then of course the yelling would ensue.
An important parenting skill is to be able to gage the tone and volume of a scream. There are questions to be considered. Could it be pain or just anger? Is there more than one voice involved? Might a cookie solve the problem, or perhaps a band aide? Of course one must have a band aide or cookie for all the kids or you are back to square one and the fight is now over who gets the loot. I once broke up a particularly robust ruckus with a large roll of cotton bandage, which I wrapped around each little curly head. The kids looked like a helicopter offload from a MASH episode. But it worked. There was peace in the house. That is until a bandage fell off, was stolen away and the fight began again.
I must say that constant fighting can do damage to a parent’s nerves. One solution that a friend suggested was to sit the combatants down and order them to say something nice about each other. The best thing about this is that inevitably a blessed silence will ensue. This is progress in itself.
According to my friend, the first time she tried it the dialogue went something like this:
“Sebastian, what nice thing can you say about Camila?”
“Nothing” (Nothing of course is not acceptable but it does encourage creativity).
Upon motherly encouragement and lengthy consideration, Sebastian’s answer was “I like your friend.”
Camila on the other hand made a more magnanimous gesture and said “I like your shirt.”
Children do not always grasp the deeper meaning of some of these exercises that psychologists cook up. Sometimes it just takes a scary, frazzled mom (rising like Poseidon from the sea) to solve a dispute.