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I Swear I Will Turn This Car Around

Undoubtedly if you are reading this, you are currently or once were a child; and possibly one of the lucky ones to have siblings. Now, while having siblings can be great in many aspects, it also has its downsides. You have to share with them, they have seen you at your worst, they usually know how to push your buttons and you have to share. All joking aside, those very same aspects of having siblings contribute to a very common and much more arduous aspect, fighting. There is not a parent in the world who hasn’t wished their children would stop fighting with each other. Fighting children is the quickest way to grate on parent’s nerves. It can be “he took that from me” or the ageless “she’s looking at me weird”, either way, Dad is screaming at the end. So what can a parent do to keep these arguments to a minimum? How can your children be more like “The Cleavers” and less like “The Simpsons?” Below are five tips to help limit the fighting and increase the sanity.

1) Penalty Box

I’m actually stealing this from a former client as it was very effective and ties in sports. When arguments broke out in the house, Dad, and hockey fan, would simply take the two offenders and place them in opposite corners. This eliminated the “he started it” argument and also provided a set in stone result: If you got into the fight, whether you started it or not, you were going to the box. Obviously this can be tweaked in many different ways, but the only alteration I would think to make would be an instigator penalty. If there is a definite instigator, or someone who went out of their way to start the fight, then add on an extra two minutes. This is an effective technique because it takes two to fight and this deals with both of them.

2) Daily affirmations

This is an effective technique that helps change the thinking. Daily Affirmations are written letters or verbal expressions to show an individual their value. When children fight, they get wrapped up in the moment and react, most of the time in a hurtful manner. By using daily affirmations, they have to think differently about that sibling and write or tell the sibling something they cherish about him or her. The key is parent proofreading. I worked with a family that tried daily affirmations, but Mom was not checking what was being written. After two weeks of the fighting only escalating, I asked to see the daily affirmations and found they were veiled insults such as “I guess you’re not that ugly” or “you smell slightly better than raw sewage.” Obviously, we tweaked the system and had Mom check the messages before they exchanged hands. After a week things started to improve.

3) Team Building

What better way to stop an argument between two kids than to put them on a task that requires teamwork? Chances are they will fight more at the start, but eventually they will figure out that they need to work together and the fighting becomes secondary…if they don’t kill each other first. The key is to make sure that the task is at least a two person job and it has to be carried out. If one is left doing all the work, then it will just make the fighting worse in the long run.

4) School is in session

This idea is rooted in a threat my father made to me and my siblings years ago. He never actually carried out with the punishment, but I have always been intrigued by its potential. When me and my siblings were fighting, my father told us we were each going to write him a 600 word paper entitled “How not to be an ass.” We never actually had to write the paper, but at the very least, it was an intriguing idea to me. Most children don’t like writing or anything that resembles school work, so it would act as a deterrent for future fights and it would also provide practice for children to help them become more proficient in writing. One of the necessities for this is a proactive parent that would read and possibly correct the papers. Parents will also have to be creative with new topics to write about, but that could put a funny spin on the punishment.

5) United Against a Common Enemy

If all else fails, you can always use the Herb Brooks approach. In 1980, Brooks was the coach of the US Men’s Olympic hockey team. The team was made up of college players who just months earlier were on opposite sides of storied rivalries. The team was in disarray and players were constantly fighting with each other as they were taught to do for their college. Brooks was struggling to find a way to unite his team. How could he get Boston College players to play effectively alongside Boston University players, or Minnesota players to play alongside North Dakota players? Brooks decided that the best way to unite his team is to unite them against a common enemy, himself. Brooks began to work his team to the bone. Frequent, hard hitting practices that would go on for hours. He would never compliment his players and would often criticize them. They eventually bonded together over his tyrannical reign and eventually won the gold medal, as portrayed by the movie “Miracle.”
This is an extreme measure for a parent to take, but it can be effective. If your children are fighting with each other, it is sometimes effective to take on the bad guy/girl role and exert your will. It ties into number three on the list nicely. If your children are fighting and the bad, evil parent makes them take on a large project, they can bond over how bad or evil the parent is. If it’s not done effectively, it could lead to more arguments than before, but at least your attic will be clean!
Christopher Curran M. A.

Categories: Uncategorized
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