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When Kids Fuss and Fight

To suggest a topic for a column, a friend sent a link to an article: ‘ReeDrummond Shares How She Stops Her Five Kids from Fighting.’  Drummond is best known as The Pioneer Woman who has a cooking TV program.  Her article took me back to raising my two children.

Drummond and I could’ve gone to the same parenting school that taught parents to let children solve their own differences, unless they bicker just to annoy each other and then tell them to stop and separate them. And if children try to physically hurt each other, adults must intercede.

I never knew siblings argued, sometimes I think for their own entertainment, until I was a mother.  My only brother was almost five years older than me and treated me like a princess.  I remember only one time, a summer day, when we argued and probably shouted mean words.  Mom broke two switches off the cherry tree in our back yard and told us if we wanted to fight that we could “switch” each other. 

I went first and flipped the backside of my brother’s blue jeans.  Then it was his turn.  He refused.  He slapped the switch several times on his own legs. I cried. Mom walked away and my brother hugged me.  I don’t remember what we argued about, but I know Mom never called us down for arguing again. 

            When Daughter and Son were elementary school age and argued, I’d sit them down on the couch, one on each side of me. I told them to complement each other, saying only positive things.  It went something like this.

Son: She has a really nice brother.

Daughter:  His sister is smart.

Son: Her brother can shoot a basketball.

Daughter: His sister can play the piano.

By then, I was biting my lower lip and snickering, and they continued this chatter until all three of us laughed.  When they were older, they’d throw out pseudo-compliments without my direction – I think for my entertainment.

Sometimes when they got into she-said, he-said disagreements, I gave Daughter and Son pieces of paper and told them to write exactly what happened and suggestions to fix the problem.  Most times they’d come to me after a few minutes and agree that the problem was solved. 

When they were teenagers and argued, I sent Daughter and Son out of my hearing.  One winter evening, they bickered in the kitchen while I cooked supper.  I opened the back door and sent them outside and said that they could come inside when they were speaking kindly to each other.  Then I locked the door. 

Son and Daughter tell this story to their children and swear it was freezing cold and they were both barefoot and I wouldn’t let them in no matter what.  I expect they’ll soon say they got frostbite, but both still have all their toes.

The Pioneer Woman tells her kids to shake hands and hug. That probably works.  Parents, whatever it takes to survive kids fighting and arguing, do it.

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