|Written by Jeanne Martin|
Q: My kids—five and seven—argue all the time. Any tips on how I should handle this?
A: Let me start off by giving you a little hope: First, it’s not your fault and you’re not alone. All siblings bicker … maybe to varying degrees, but they all fight. There is a reason why they bicker like they do and that reason is this: other people are just annoying. Especially other people who live in your house. (You need only look over at your spouse as evidence of this.)
The second piece of good news is that you will forget all of this by the time you have grandchildren. My mother is convinced that my brother and sisters and I “hardly ever argued.” Which of course is completely false, evidenced by the barely visible, rectangular scar on my leg the exact dimensions of a metal Hot Wheels car. (But good for her in her happy memory bubble, right?)
The not-so-good news is that the bickering and arguing may last well into their high school years. Cause let’s face it, they’re bugging each other now … throw hormones into the mix and you’re looking at Three-Mile Island. So what you need are some strategies on getting them to want to be together. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Al Qaida, it’s that nothing brings two feuding sides together like a common enemy. Namely, you.
Here’s what works best for me: When I have had enough, I just have myself a nice, cleansing little flip out and put them both outside in the heat of summer with some tsk-tsk like, “If you are going to act like animals, I am going to treat you like animals! Out!” (Never mind that as I say this, the Chihuahua is on my bed and all four cats are sleeping in random cuddle spots about the house.) Don’t worry, they won’t be out there long before they will have banned together to plot their revenge against their evil dictator.
If this doesn’t work, or it is not above 110 degrees, give them a really crappy job to complete. Together. They’ll be ugly to each other at first but before you can say, “sparkling clean litter box” they’ll be more angry at you than at each other. And after a few rounds of hosing out the garbage cans, playing Legos together, even though they irk each other, sounds like a whole lot more fun.
Q: My two-and-a-half year old has started to push kids out of her way to get to things (toys, the slide, etc). How do I get her to mind her manners?
A: This “rushing to get there” behavior has more than likely resulted from one of two things: either your sweet baby girl has attended the final Saturday of Jazz Fest, or she has been hanging out with other children.
Toddlers tend to come in the more rough-and-tumblin’ variety than their younger counterparts and generally have very little patience (much like their fathers). In order to get to their next task faster, they will shove, chop and mow their way through, especially if they were to stumble across something as delicious as your iPhone or a shiny new pair of garden shears.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are lots of patient two year olds out there… I just haven’t seen, met, or ever heard of one. (Sleeping two year olds do not count.) Both little boys and little girls at this age are just in a hurry. They are very busy little people disturbing sleeping animals, unpacking cupboards and rearranging the furniture. Whatever the task, they just feel like they need to get to the next thing, like, yesterday! It is a rare sight indeed when you see a little toddler lagging behind their parents … what we usually see is a frantic father trying to catch up with his toddler ninja who is skipping through the mall shedding clothes faster than Pamela Anderson.
So as to manners, this is a toughie. She probably isn’t trying to be mean, she’s just not waiting behind some slow-poke when that gleaming slide is just SITTING there begging to be ridden. Try to get her to slow down a bit. Take it down a notch by acting out how it feels to be shoved aside when she is waiting for something. Be dramatic.
Better yet, point out another obnoxiously out-of-control little one that is exhibiting that type of behavior, so she can see what she looks like to others when she is over pushy. But try to do this in a calm state of mind. Channel Yoko Ono, use your practiced yoga techniques and speak to her as serenely as possible while explaining to her the important issues here: waiting her turn in line, other people’s personal space and why in Heaven’s name Ryan Seacrest is a celebrity (cause really mom, none of us understand that).