Crowdsourced parenting

Ah, the joys of having two boys home for the summer. Together. Every day. Incessantly.

They’ve never particularly worked well together, what with the opinionated and high-strung (don’t know where he gets it) paired with the flamboyant and stubborn (don’t know where he gets it, either). Since the beginning, the eldest gives his brother exactly zero slack, and the youngest adores his brother until he perceives slight, and then he lashes out.

It’s good times. And has been for years.

So to keep from committing some form of -icide this summer, I’m trying a few techniques. And I want to know which YOU think might work better:

1. Put the whole cache of toys in time-out. Not initially, of course. But starting with the first shriek of disdain each morning, every nasty word, hit, kick, sneer, tease, and threat will trigger a toy being stuffed atop the fridge. The fridge where I prefer to keep the cereal and the whiskey will buckle beneath the weight of endless supplies of LEGO and Pokemon and traffic cones (geez with the construction cone obsession). I figure removing cherished treasures to psychologically beat them into submission has potential. Just not sure if I have enough time and enough fridge top. Or if imprisoning the distractions will bring on full-scale war.

2. Force them to say “I love you.” I realized tonight that each genuinely thinks his brother hates him. Really does. Peanut has no sense that his younger brother worships him, and Butter has no idea that the little acts of kindness that arise here and there are peace offerings from a brother whose always wanted to love but feared the wrath. So every time they hit, kick, punch, flick, pull hair, menace, or berate, if I make them say I love you, they should develop a healthy aversion to that phrase, distrusting it and using it as a tool in the same way most kids forced to say “I’m sorry” learn to distrust and manipulate that phrase. Win in the short-term, win in the long-term, seems to me.

3. Scream and wring my hands. Because talking about kindness and gentleness, positive reinforcement, and expectations for civil behavior have fallen on deaf ears for 4 years, I should up the stakes, right? Scream, wail, fling myself between them? It would, at the least, serve my need for the theatrical.

4. Sob and wring my hands. See above explanation and…and nothing. Just replace “scream” with “sob.” That’s not me being a lazy writer. That’s some serious strategic planning.

5. Effusively praise kindness. We’ve had success in the past with the “notice a kindness, put a marble in a jar” scenarios in which kindnesses accumulate toward a big friendly family event like movie night or a walk with glow sticks. I guess I could try that rather simple idea of calling attention to what I like and want from them. Sounds boring, though. Can we go back to writhing and wailing?

6. Maximize their chances for success. Get them outside and moving as early and often as possible. Hikes, runs, bike rides, soccer drills, tennis, walks, yoga, catch…anything that gets them into their own bodies and off of each other. This is the best thing we’ve come up with to date. But then, tonight, I hear during the daily recap of favorite-moment/biggest-challenge-and-solution-brainstorm that Peanut’s favorite was today’s hike and his biggest challenge was his brother kicking him on the hike. I’m not sure what part of the hike I missed, but I should have had a camera poised for this highly athletic child’s crowning moment in which he can hike and kick someone at the same time. Similarly, it would have been nice to capture the stage-averse eldest in this decidedly dramatic moment. I’m guessing he threw himself to the ground and writhed a bit. Don’t know where he gets it.

7. Combine them all. Toy-removal consequences, concordance rewards, screaming, sobbing, exercise outdoors, and forced professions of love. What could go wrong if I just throw myself into micromanaging every breath out of their contentious little mouths?

Anyone? Ideas for brotherly peace? Other than from the famous Camp Don’t Fight with Your Brother, which for some reason has a waitlist, what do you vote? Please tell me you’ve had success with the sobbing. That’s my favorite. But I guess it’d be okay if you suggest something else. It’s not like any of my plans are winning us a calm, silly, kind household.


17 thoughts on “Crowdsourced parenting

  1. #6 is great but exhausting #5 is one of the only other things that has ever worked for us. We tried taking things away as a consequence, but couldn’t find anything my daughter cares enough about to lead to any behavior change. (our kindness jar is linked to screen time – she only gets TV if she earns it via tickets in the jar. It felt gross like bribery at first, but it totally works so I don’t care).

    • See…this is it! I feel like it’s bribery, so I try all that “fill your brother with kindness and he has enough to give back” stuff. And I give them family dates as reward. I think I need to hand out cash. That couldn’t go wrong.

      • There is a parent educator at my daughter’s preschool who made me feel better about it. She said you can’t rely on rewards/praise alone, but if it’s just one tactic among others and it works, to go with it. She claims they are still learning what is right and expected. She also talks about how parents tend to expect too much out of young kids, and how some of those life lessons re: compassion/kindness/being a decent human just won’t click until they are older.

        I don’t know. I believe her because she’s a professional and it’s what I need to hear. But giving out cash also sounds solid.

        • I know that being egocentric (egomaniacal, but whose being a semantic stickler?) is part of childhood. But the nastiness with which they talk to each other just wounds me. And the physical stuff is somewhat manageable, but the tone of voice from one to the other is devastating. Devastating.
          So you think quarters to start? Or go big and inconsistently dole out singles?

  2. Ugh. I seriously feel your pain as the mother of a 6yo and 5yo — both boys. Number 6 works well for us, but it’s hard to do every single day. One thing that has worked for me is separating them as soon as they start fighting. I make one kid play while one stays with me and does chores. We switch after 10 minutes. After about an hour (I know!) they beg to play together. It’s tough to do especially since I work from home, but I’ve been doing this since school got out and they’re getting along much better. I also seriously downsized our toy collection. I boxed up lots of toys and have been strict about them keeping their room and playroom picked up. If they want to get a toy out of the box, they have to trade one of the toys from their room. I think they get along better when they have more space and fewer toys — less stimulating, I suppose. Good luck! I’ve done PLENTY of sobbing and screaming. Fighting seriously works my nerves! :-)

  3. This is probably very wrong, but I’ve been allowing my kids to fight recently. They get minor ouchies, and then come running to me. I say, “Oh, that’s so sad that you’re hurt.” Kiss and hug. Then, I say, “If you don’t want to get hurt, then don’t fight with your brother.” Then, both get time outs. It’s seeming to work. They are fighting less. The older one gets it better than the younger one, but they’re making progress.

    • Less fighting doesn’t sound wrong. I do intervene less now that they both have words and both know what I expect. There’s a fair amount of “I hear someone saying ‘stop'” coming from me in a different room. “Find a compromise and do something fun,” too. To no avail.

      I don’t kiss fighting hurts. I toss an ice pack to the injured and ask if he wants a hug. Nobody ever does. But it allows me to thwart revenge.

  4. If you figure it out please let me know! I have the girl version so there seems to be less physical violence and more psychological drama but it is now so bad that I am taking the girls on separate vacations just so I don’t have to be with both of them at the same time. I totally feel your pain…

    • Each of mine wanted a birthday party without the other. So I had to plan a party and childcare for the loathed brother. Super duper family fun, right? Ugh.

  5. #7. Make them cage match! Lock the little shits in the closet until they both bleed. Hell, get out the kitchen knives, divy them up so they can Slice And Dice. Whoever is alive at the end, wins all the toys and gets to rule the world. There. Problemo solved.

    Oh sorry. I don’t know where that came from. Nevermind. I do. I was watching Expendables. Eerily similarities, I’m sure.

    #8. Sic the cats on them.

    #9. Do the neighbors want kids?

    #10. There’s a dungeon in every castle. Know of a good dungeon to lock them up and throw away the key?

    I’m a big help. :)

  6. God. I don’t even know. My kids are at each other what feel like all the time. But I know it isn’t as bad as my brothers and me. I suggest # 6. According to an article about the foremost researcher on siblings (I’ll hunt down the article if you would like), he says sibling rivalry is inevitable and that the best thing to do is create lots of happy memories of them being together so that they remember those. My goal is friends when they are adults. But to keep from losing my sanity, every time they hit or say something bad, they do to time out. If they can’t stop harassing each other, I make them pick up X number of toys, and if the toys are all picked up (aka bad days), then they start doing chores until they can figure out how to use their energy for something other than harassing each other. I have a friend of adult sons who had a pile of rocks, and whenever the boys went at it, they moved the pile to the other side of the yard. The pile was moved a bunch. Good luck, soldier. You’re doing a good job!

    • I love the rocks idea. Heavy lifting and other big exertions with large muscle groups are a good way to redirect testosterone.

      Sigh. I’m off the to ACME boulder company to distract Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

Comments are closed.