Dec 1, 2009

The Two "F's"....Fairness and Fighting.

Do you love your siblings? Have you always loved them? I am the oldest of six kids. I had almost three glorious, "being alone with all the attention" years before my next sister rudely came along. The rumor on the street is that it was very traumatic for me when she arrived. I was getting all the attention and then all of a sudden I wasn't. I am pretty sure I made life difficult for Becky. She drove me absolutely crazy. When I said my favorite animal was a horse she said her favorite animal was a horse. I burnt her with a curling iron. I kicked my shoe at her once and it went out the window and broke the window. She never lost her temper at me she would just stand there while I would make every attempt to illicit a response. It would drive me crazy that she had such control of her emotions. Our parents made all of us girls sing together in church....a lot....and Becky's vibrato in her guessed it...... drove me crazy. I was sure she was doing it on purpose to bother me. Almost exactly a year after Becky was born our next sister Sarah was born and they were only a year apart and did everything together which just added to my reasons to be mean. Anyway, you get the idea, right? Mean older sister......innocent younger sibling :)

Well now I love, love, love my sister Becky. I admire and covet her discipline that used to drive me utterly crazy when we were kids. We get along great now and she doesn't do one single thing that bothers me.....although I have not heard her sing in a long time or asked her what her favorite animal is now :) HAHA

Siblings fight right? I have a really good friend who I was friends with in high school and I was also good friends with his family. I saw his mom a couple years ago and we were talking about siblings and I asked her if her kids ever fought and she said, very emphatically, "NO." I was stunned. That meant it was possible? Drat, after thinking about what she said for way too long I finally consoled myself with the thought that it had been a long time since her kids were all at home and maybe she just forgot their fights.

I don't know about you but it is so discouraging to me when my kids fight. I don't have any research to back me up but I have a nagging notion that it is an important part of life. Learning how to get a long. But that does not help me right now when I have 5 kids at home that spend a lot of time figuring out how to anger each other. I started out my parenting career in the 80's reading everything I could get my hands on about raising kids but I soon became disillusioned because my significant other was not interested in what I read and most times disagreed with what I discovered so what was the point ? Most of the sibling rivalry and fighting in this house has naturally resolved on it's own with minimal guidance from me. But I have two children that are "at" each other a lot lately and it has been enough that they finally have my full attention. I mean it is really serious if I feel the need to furtively Google "why siblings fight."

Just as everything in life seems to be there was no simple, straight forward answer as to why they fight with each other. But I was surprised to read that most of the time you have to look at the whole family to figure out sibling rivalry...mostly at the parents.... just did I miss that part? It makes sense that it would be my fault.

Then another article I read went on and on about the absolute importance of fairness. How can I be fair? Every child in this house is so different. I can't treat them all the same, I mean, that's not......fair. I wondered if I was reading the article right, maybe I did not totally understand the definition of fair so I quickly looked it up and fair means, "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice." Can it ever happen? The more I go through life the more I wonder if it is from bias? Can a judge really be impartial?

"The more tuned in you are to the balance of fairness in your children's lives, the more you can do to reduce anger and family conflict, and the more you can do to prevent its occurrence in the first place," Yeah, that's a quote.....not from me....from Peter Goldenthal a Pennsylvania family psychologist. If your kids perceive unfair treatment from you it really is one of the things that can trigger sibling rivalry.

Apparently as they are driving you crazy with their fighting they are learning how to compromise and communicate. Hmmm, why doesn't that make me feel better? The thing that is weird in my situation is that the two children who are fighting the most in our house at this moment never fought with each other before this 15th year of their lives together, as other children have left the home it has naturally thrown these two siblings together and they have discovered they hate each other.

All the articles deal with little kids fighting about their mom's lap, or a toy. Not two teenage girls fighting about lights on in their bedroom or the way the other ones voice sounds. I see both sides. I understand how they both feel. I am clearly an "expert" on sibling rivalry and fighting....(see first paragraph above :) But this may be my biggest challenge yet. Do you want to trade kids?


C Tam said...

ahhh, one of my favorite topics. But sadly, I have no educated comments because there isn't much current research on it. Families are small these days and there aren't enough children with multiple siblings to study their rivalry. I do have a book called "Helping and Healing Our Families," which probably has brilliant insights if you read it with this subject in mind. Also its companion, "Strengthening Our Families." Put both on your Christmas wish list. Or borrow them from me in the next week before I move. =)

Jenny Jackson said...

I would definitely not want to take you up on the kid trading. I have enough angst about my own.

But I just have to comment about that psychologist who thinks that if a parent is "fair" it will prevent anger and conflict. Baloney! No matter how much you try, it is not possible to be fair as a parent. And I think it is stupid to try. I have told my kids before when they complain that someone else gets something and they don't that it is because I like them better. Haha. I am sure that will give them lots to tell their therapists in later life.

Actually, what I say (after I have said that I love their brother/sister more) is that I do the best that I can for each of them, and that might not always be the same. But in my opinion, it is more "fair" that way anyway!

In a big family, kids fight. They even intentionally do things just to bug each other sometimes. But, like you, my siblings are now my closest friends. And my older kids are actually pretty good friends now, even though they used to hate each other.

Mama Parker said...

Um, Ditto? I wasn't very nice when Lisa was born and I asked my mom if we could give her to the trashman (she tells everyone this story). My kids are fighting constantly lately. I'm reading parenting books too! :) So are you telling me it doesn't get better?

Madeline said...

aww Mom, don't worry about it. Me and Amanda used to hate each others guts remember? And now we're totally chill, they'll grow out of it

Rebecca S. said...

If Lehi didn't have the answer for sibling rivalry, I'm not hopeful that we will either. In the meantime, don't go on a journey through the wilderness or on a long boat ride together.