The Silver Lining to Sibling Squabbles

Last week was spring break, which meant a LOT of munchkin and mama time and not much mama-alone time. :O It also meant more opportunities for sibling squabbles because what do siblings like to do the most? Drive each other CRAZY. It’s like an unwritten rule in the sibling by-laws, maybe even rule #1. But because my younger sister and I are a decade apart in age, we never had our share of fights and I never understood what all this rivalry nonsense was about. If you don’t know either, it’s basically like an intense love/hate relationship with your closest ally/enemy.

Case in point: One day we were all in the car and hubby and I heard lots of yelling coming from the backseat. When we turned around, the kids had their arms around one another’s shoulders in a tight side hug and huge grins on their faces! When we faced forward, they started squabbling again, but as soon as we looked back, they were all hugs and smiles! It was HI-LA-RI-OUS.

Despite all the craziness that comes with sibling squabbles, I’ve discovered its silver lining: The munchkins have lots of chances to practice getting along. And I have lots of chances to help them. (Insert scared face here!) I’ll admit though that I am the most ill-equipped person when it comes to repairing relationships. In my marriage, there’s one person who’s known to shut down at the first sign of conflict (*ducking my head*). 😛 So, I’ve been learning along with the kids on how to get along.

Recently, however, I had a major breakthrough. So major that I wanted to give myself a pat on the back and I couldn’t wait to tell hubby about it. After yet another sibling squabble, one of the munchkins had slammed their bedroom door, forcing the other one out. I didn’t know exactly what had happened, but I knew one of them had pushed the other one’s buttons. I also knew the button pushee would eventually get over it and make up with the button pusher because that’s how the dynamics of their relationship works. I was pretty fed up though with the whole situation and knew I had to address the issue—but how? I needed to give some better advice than, “Go make up NOW. And don’t do it again!” Then it came to me, “it” being my brilliant nugget of wisdom that I was about to impart. I said to the button pusher, “I know she’ll forgive you, but it doesn’t mean you should take advantage of her kindness.” And I followed it up with, “Be careful when you go to the bathroom; the floor’s wet.”

Boom! (That was the sound of me dropping my mic and exiting the room. Just kidding!)

What I liked about my response was that one, I kept my cool and delivered it in a calm but firm voice. Two, I attempted to address the heart (namely, the issues of gratitude, grace and forgiveness) and not just focus on the behavior. And three, I showed that I wasn’t necessarily taking sides and that I still cared about the button pusher because I didn’t want him to slip on the freshly mopped floor. It was the kind of “tough love” talk I’d always heard parents should give, but it was the first time the words had come out in a natural and sincere way.

It was seriously one of my proudest parenting moments (which aren’t many)! To be honest, I don’t know how much my words made an impact that day, or if they did at all. But the experience showed me that I have a little more insight now into repairing relationships. And it gives me hope that I (and the munchkins) will continue to learn more about how to get along with each other. Because there will be plenty more munchkin and mama times coming … especially during summer vacation, which is like ten times longer than spring break. (Insert scared face here again!)

P.S. This experience also reminded me of our relationship with God and the truth behind Romans 6:1-2: “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” This could be a whole other blog post, one I’ll have to save for another day. 😉

I don’t really have a song that goes with this post, but I’ll leave you with Lindsey Sterling and The Piano Guys’ cover of the Mission Impossible theme song because parenting is all about getting the impossible done!

What have you learned about sibling squabbles? 

The Four Upsides to Sibling Rivalry

Often times people who see my munchkins interact will comment, “They get along well, don’t they?” to which I will reply, “When they do, they do, but when they don’t …” This last part always ends in an ominous tone and is accompanied by an expression much like this one:

Image courtesy of danitiny2013/deviantart.com

Image courtesy of danitiny2013/deviantart.com

I hate sibling rivalry with a passion (especially after witnessing lots of it over the summer), but I have to admit I do appreciate the many teaching moments it provides (which I can peacefully and quietly reflect upon now that school is back in session). 🙂

Here are four upsides to sibling rivalry:

1. Learning to express yourself. Both E and C know how to speak their mind and express their emotions when they get annoyed, frustrated and impatient with each other. I consider this a plus because they aren’t afraid of conflict and they don’t stuff their feelings or opinions inside. They have a voice and they know how to use it.

2. Developing a thick skin. With all the name-calling and insults thrown around, E and C have learned to not take what the other says about them too personally. They have also learned to stand up for themselves.

3. Calling out bullying behavior. These positive aspects of sibling rivalry only come through when there’s a referee (aka. parent) overseeing the “battle”. E and C have learned from me and hubby what things are okay to say or do and when they cross the line into bullying (which are good lessons they can apply at school).

4. Learning how to make up. Getting the bickering between siblings to stop is only half the battle. The other, more important part, is teaching them how to make up. E and C understand the benefits of apologizing, forgiving, cooperating and trying again, and they practice them often (which is something we all need to know how to do).

So for all the times that my two munchkins drive each other crazy, I remind myself of the many times that they get along well. Such as last weekend when the two of them offered to pluck my white hair. Five minutes into the ordeal, I heard E say to C, “How about I find them and you pull them?” to which she heartily agreed, “Okay!” Five more minutes later, they had freed 19 white hairs from my head and put a smile on my face.

So yes, they not only fight well, they work together well, too. 😀

Side note: Eyebrow pluckers work great for pulling white hair!

Speaking of making-up, here’s Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds”. It’s probably not the happiest song to pick for this post, but it’s one of my favorites.

Apologizing, forgiving and cooperating – which of these do you want to do better at?

Parenting: Taking the Bad Along With the Good

The best part of being a parent is watching my kids fight … said no parent ever!

I grew up as an almost only child (my sister is a decade younger than me), so I was fortunately (or unfortunately?) never exposed to sibling rivalry. Now as a mama of two munchkins, I see, hear and breathe it every single day. Let me give you some examples:

Scenario 1: E grabs C’s favorite chicky toy and hugs it tightly to his chest while C pounds on his back and demands it back.

Scenario 2: C (with a sneaky smile on her face) purposely touches E’s shoes when he specifically told her not to.

And my favorite (sarcasm intended) Scenario 3 (in the car as they sit side by side):

C: E’s trying to lick me! He’s blowing air on my face!

E: C’s foot is in my spot! Tell her to move!

Me: That’s enough! Keep your tongues, breath, feet, everything to yourselves!!

Argh. I’m getting riled up just thinking about this. (Pausing to take a deep breath.) 😛

So, the kids’ daily fighting got me thinking some deep thoughts one day (thanks also in part to my recent mid-faith crisis). All  the anger and frustration and shock that I feel when E and C mistreat one another give me a tiny, ant-like glimpse into how God must feel when we (mankind) mistreat one another. I’m talking about the things we see on the news and the things that happen behind closed doors, the inconceivable acts people do to harm strangers and even worse, their own family members. 🙁

All the crazy stuff going on in the world makes me wonder, Why can’t we just get along?!

I wonder if this is something God asks, too. But of course He knows the answer to this question. He knows the reasons behind each of our dark thoughts, intentions and behaviors, yet He is still patient with us. How can this be? How can God see all the bad happening in the world and not want to pull His hair out or hide away in a closet somewhere as I often want to do when my kids get out of control?

Maybe it’s because even though He sees all the bad, He also sees all the good.

Now that I’ve been a parent for 8+ years, I’m starting to understand a few things about having kids.

1. They will misbehave, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they do.

2. They also have the capacity to be kind, helpful and compassionate.

3. I readily take the bad along with the good because I love them and they are mine.

I’m not God (thankfully!), but I’m guessing that He really enjoys it when His kids do get along. Sure, we don’t get along all the time, but there are plenty of moments when we’ve seen love at work among family, friends and even complete strangers. I have experienced it myself and I’m sure you have, too.

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I love it when my munchkins love each other! (Please disregard the mess – this picture is from a few years ago. LOL)

So we (or maybe more specifically I) shouldn’t lose heart over all the crazy stuff that goes on in the world (or the backseat of my car) because there’s still a lot of beautiful, amazing stuff happening, too.

I think this verse from Romans 12:21 about sums things up: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This post was inspired in part by Alicia Keys’ new song, “We Are Here”. The lyrics talk about the troubling things happening in the world, but also the love we can show each other.

How have you seen good overcome evil in your life?

Sibling Rivalry 101

I hate conflict.

You could say that conflict and I have never gotten along and we likely will never become friends. I prefer hanging out with my pal, Passive Aggressive, over the other guy, Direct Confrontation, any day. But we know people have all kinds of different ideas and opinions, so conflict is (gulp) inevitable in relationships. This was a hard fact for me to swallow when I got married, especially since I married Mr. I-Love-Debating. :p  It’s taken me a good decade’s worth of work to be willing to look conflict in the eye, instead of avoiding it, but have no fear, I have plenty of more opportunities to face it. This is where my kids come into the picture!

I never realized how peaceful life was when we only had one child. Of course there was a lot of crying and screaming with our high need baby, but at least I knew how to deal with it (ie. meet E’s needs by feeding, holding him, etc).  However, three weeks after C joined our family and E realized there was a “no returns/no exchanges” policy on siblings, things began to get a little sticky.  This is when I got a crash course in Sibling Rivalry 101.  And ever since then, conflict has been a part of my every day life (faint!).

These are some of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. Siblings can fight over anything and everything.  Sometimes I think they just want whatever the other person has, regardless of what it is.
2. There is a resolution for every conflict, but cutting mom in half isn’t one of them (this was C’s suggestion for how she and E could share me).
3. Conflict can bring siblings closer (if they are taught how to work through it).  It’s amazing how E and C can say to each other, “I’m not your friend anymore!” and then, “You’re my best friend in the whole world” a few minutes later!

I’ve had to learn a lot of conflict resolution skills over the past few years.  It hasn’t been easy with my lack of experience in this area, but believe me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have plenty of  opportunities to practice.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to hear both sides of the story and to address each person’s feelings, especially if I was in the other room when the screaming started.  Once I know what’s going on, I can then give some advice on how to end WWIII and also prescribe a “make-up hug”.  🙂  I’m finding that the more we deal with conflicts, the less frustrating and emotional they are (at least for me) and the easier it is to move on from them.  But of course the fewer conflicts I have to deal with, the better!

I do have to say that I appreciate sibling rivalry for the good lessons that it teaches my kids.  Having a sibling means that E and C are learning how to share, how to wait and take turns, how to consider another person’s feelings and needs when making decisions, how to forgive when they are wronged, how to apologize, and most of all, how to develop lasting friendships.  They are light years ahead of me when I was their age in terms of their relationship skills.

Image courtesy of sattva/freedigitalphotos.net

Even though conflict isn’t my friend, I guess I shouldn’t consider it my enemy either.  It’s just one of those things that you can’t live with, yet you also can’t live without.

Check out Pentatonix’s cover of Sugarland’s song, “Stuck Like Glue“.  It reminds me of E and C’s bipolar friendship.  🙂

How did/do you handle sibling rivalry?