There’s no question in my mind when it comes to what my kids fight about. Mostly, they fight about me. Occasionally, they fight about one another (as in, two siblings fighting for the attention of another sibling). Once in a while, they fight about candy. But mostly, they fight about us, and even more specifically, they fight about me. Even more clearly since the advent of Rory, in our house, it’s all, all, all about who’s got Mommy’s love/attention right now.
I know this is better when I don’t engage. When I walk away from the fighting, refuse to referee. When, as Parenting on Track guru Vicki reminded me to just last week, when I STOP. ANd so I do, most of the time. I will not decide which of you gets to sit in the more desirable of two seats. I will not help if so and so just snatched such and such right out of somebody else’s hands. Somebody hit you? Don’t hit, somebody. I say that last so mildly, and with such lack of interest, that it’s really not worth coming in to ask me for.
But that last one is sometimes a problem. Now, sometimes I’m watching. I KNOW you were just barely bumped, tapped, nudged or otherwise interfered with. And sometimes I know you were just belted a good one, and sometimes you deserved it, and sometimes that battle for my attention just took a turn for the ugly. I have seen one sib trip another just from sheer anger over something I did or said. I have seen one sib knock another half-way across the room, on purpose, in an attempt to keep that sib from getting to me first with some problem or for some privilege. And I have seen just plain run-of-the-mill I’m torturing you poking (we’re not really punchers or real hitters here), but the kind of poking that actually hurts, and makes me suspect that one of you (hello, Wyatt) is taking advantage of that mild “don’t hit” response.
And this is where Parenting on Track, and everything else, has let me down. Now, obviously, we’re at a whole lot more risk for fighting over Mommy than some families, and with more reason in several cases, but still, it’s the same general deal. The more I interfere, the worse it gets–but even if I manage nearly no response, it doesn’t actually stop. I think my four get along better than most, and we have some fantastic sibling times, but too much of the physical stuff remains. And I don’t know what to do.
Send you to your room? Oh, done that. Separate you, make you apologize? Oh, been there. I tried the retroactive removal of a privilege in the car and it was a huge success–everyone acts in my car like they would act in a friend’s car. So, I suppose, for this, the remedy is the same: You want to go to Trevor’s house? Oh, I would LOVE to send you to Trevor’s house, but the last time I checked, you thought hitting people who were standing in your way was a good idea, and I can’t possibly send you to Trevor’s to do that. I know it would work, but I can’t face it. For one thing, my babysitter’s house is a playdate. For another, I need those playdates. Those aren’t for you, they’re for me, so I can pick someone else up without someone little falling asleep in the car, or get to the store without using babysitting/work time. For another, we don’t really have that many, and they aren’t kid-initiated for either of the primary offender, one of whom only has a playdate once or maybe twice a month, and is, to be honest, having a hard enough time making friends outside the family without my messing with it.
But they hit one another, however mildly, and I haven’t come up with a good way to make it stop. Rory is the typical victim, but when she’s the offender, she hits a LOT harder than Wyatt hits her. (This isn’t an issue with Sam or Lily). But Wy pushes her to the brink. I don’t want him to be able to bully her. I know she fears my disapproval more than he does, so she doesn’t usually hit until she feels it’s worth it (or when she thinks I’m already so upset with her it won’t matter). It’s so freakin’ complex. I as so open to suggestions here. Help!
How about this: “If you guys can’t stop fighting over me, I’m going to take a time out.” And then do it. An adult timeout is nice — your age in minutes to read a book or magazine. When they bug you, tell them you can’t respond because you are in time out.
It’s kind of fun to watch their minds explode the first time you send yourself to time out. (insert evil laugh)