I was not prepared for what raising three girls would be like. I assumed they would be best friends. But my twins (age 7) and their 5 year old sister argue and bicker a lot. Being a parent is never easy, but some days our house seems like a combat zone. Sure there are moments of laughter and sweetness among the kids, but the general sound we hear around here is that of children arguing. Most days, I am at my wits' end and I just contribute to the fray by yelling at the kids to stop yelling. Needless to say, this is not very effective and doesn't make the kids or me feel very good. My husband (a far wiser person that I) suggested we just let them work it out and not intervene every chance we get. Here's how and why we are practicing Letting Kids Work It Out.
Letting Kids Work It Out
Now this practice goes against everything I have ever done. Isn't my job as a mom to keep things happy and harmonious? To protect my kids from hurt and sadness?Anytime I would hear the slightest sound of discord I would come swooping in and break it up. I could even determine when an argument would start based on the tone of the conversation, and I would attempt to get in there to defuse the situation before it began. I felt like a super hero who was just waiting for the call to come in and save the day. Here's the thing they don't tell you about being a super hero: it's exhausting. I felt like I was always on a state of high alert waiting for the next disaster to strike.
So back to my husband's radical suggestion that we don't keep trying to break up these incidents. I was trying to think of what would happen. Screaming and yelling would escalate. Hitting might occur. My girls don't typically hit - they will cut each other down with a mean comment instead, but it could happen. My husband asked me to think about what was the worse that could happen. To quote him, "they don't have access to a razor blade." (Please note, if your kids do have access to razor blades, this advice might not apply.)
So with some apprehension on my part, we have stopped swooping. What we have noticed is that things descalate a lot quicker than they did when we were constantly butting in. It's almost as if without the attention from mom or dad, the argument (crying, yelling) ends quicker than it used to.
I wish I could say letting the kids work it out has made for a lot fewer arguments around here. I haven't noticed that yet, but things definitely don't escalate or last as long as they previously did. I still keep my eyes and ears open and am never far away, but I am feeling more confidence in the kids' ability to stand up for themselves. And even better, I know that I am raising kids who will be able to deal with sadness, disappointment and hurt. In trying to shield them from those things, I was doing them a huge disservice. I was not allowing them the opportunity to discover the strength of who they are and how they relate to others.
*You know your children best. I am in no way advocating ignoring your children or allowing them to do serious damage to each other. I am just sharing something that is working for our family. Your results may vary.
Resources for dealing with sibling relationships:
This awesome blog post from Pint Sized Treasures What to do When Your Kids Hate Each Other.