She tore into the room, face splotched and eyes blazing. I braced myself for the barrage of accusations as her brother flew in behind her, already in defense mode.
“He ate my pie!” she yelled, pointing her finger accusingly at her brother.
“Did not!” he yelled back.
Holding up my hand, I asked the first obvious question. “What are you talking about? What pie?”
“My pie! The pie I baked for Justin Beiber!” my then five year old daughter wailed. My son smirked.
“Um,” I began, trying to figure out how to formulate a proper response. “Is this a pretend pie we’re talking about?”
“It was my pie to give to Justin Bieber,” she cried again. “And he ate it! He ate it all gone!”
“Can you just…um….bake Justin Bieber a new pie?” I asked.
“No! I’m outta ingredients!” she stomped her foot and stuck her tongue out at her brother.
This is an actual argument that my children had a few years ago. And it is this level of absurdity that often makes me feel as though I might lose my mind.
When I hear my name screeched from across the house, my typical response is to hang my head, because really? Again?
There’s a certain inflection in a child’s voice that immediately sets off the Mom Sensor telling me that this is not an actual emergency, but rather the indignant cry of a child who feels compelled to tattle.
I have four children. Well, three and a half, really. The youngest is only nine months old. She can’t talk, yet, so she just sits on the floor and grins like a happy little Buddha. And she’s my favorite for it.
I’m kidding. I don’t play favorites. But if I did…
The older three are in the thick of the growing up years. And they have an extreme love/hate relationship with one another. They are in that phase where fighting and arguing takes on creative, and often baffling, shapes.
Though I will say that, thankfully, we haven’t argued over pretend pies again since that fateful day when Justin Bieber apparently didn’t get the sustenance my daughter hoped he would.
Living under the same roof with one another means that conflicting personalities must interact on a daily basis. There are some combinations of children that work swimmingly in our home, and some that are toxic. And learning to love one another despite the differences is our daily challenge.
Maybe you have the same problem. Perhaps your children simply cannot get along, and you lament what appears to be a lack of love between them.
Here are a few solutions to the love conundrum between siblings:
1.) The Smiling Time Out
When my kids are just at each other’s throats all day, and I find myself ready to beat my head against the wall, I pull this little gem out of my back pocket. I make the offending children sit cross legged on the floor just far apart so that their knees aren’t touching. Then I set the timer for five minutes, and tell them to smile.
They aren’t allowed to stop smiling until the timer goes off. They can’t move or touch each other or talk. Just smile. Usually, by the end of the five minute time out every one is laughing, and tensions are broken.
We are now in the name calling phase of child rearing. It’s super.
This is the time when frustrations run so high that releasing the steam generally occurs in the form of a really biting name.
“Idiot.” “Stupid.” “You’re ugly.” “I hate you!”
Each time I hear a hateful name said to one another, I fine the offender two dollars. If they don’t have two dollars, they owe me a chore.
My baseboards and toilets are sparkling white throughout much of the summer.
Sometimes they just need to be sent to their respective corners of the house. This helps my children, and myself, cool off and chill out for awhile. Win-win.
In the same way that poor speech is punished, kindness toward one another is noticed and complimented. “I saw the way you helped your brother today. That was awesome! You’re such a good sister. You guys are going to be such good friends.”
I tell them what I want them to believe, because at the end of the day my heart’s desire is that these kids have one another’s back. Because when all else fades away, and friendships falter over time, family is the one constant.
Loving one another isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. And some days, it’s nothing more than a simple requirement, always with the prayer that the love will prove genuine when they’re all grown up.
How do you handle sibling arguments? I’d love to hear your creative ideas!