Waging the Sibling War

By: Shannon Shull

Once upon a time, a certain sister and brother fought and fought and just couldn’t seem to find the niceness for one another that their mother demanded of them. They slashed each other with ugly words and hit one another with hands and feet. At times, the cruelty seemed to grow like a fire that this Mommy could not put out, no matter what requests, demands, pleading or threats she attempted.

What does a Mommy do to make her offspring see the light? She taps into that magical power called RESTRICTION and utilizes it to promote peace. However, like the wars of the world, the battle never ceases, and the attempts at cooperation, understanding and love are consistently put to the test in a desperate effort to create harmony within the story that is the fairy tale of our lives.

Every child and every situation is unique and requires a different disciplinary equation to achieve a solution that might actually work, whether just for a bit of time or for rest of time. Trust me, I understand and have experienced that sometimes (even most times) the threats and restrictions don’t work worth a toot, and that the sibling fights continue to torture anyone in the vicinity of the rascals. Some offspring consistently laugh in the face of discipline.

The beginning of the battle always seems to be the toughest – when the stubbornness runs so deep that ugliness intensifies to degrees that would make a parent feel as if his or her chest would literally explode at the reality that he/she created this monster. The drama-filled meltdowns are enough to make a parent either laugh or cry at the reality he or she is enduring. In “real” life, humans are fighting for their lives in wars or against life-threatening ailments, leaders are making decisions that affect millions, people are battling mother nature or stressing over how they’ll pay their bills and yet, in the moment when a parent is up against an angry, disrespectful child, the weight of life can bear down on you as if you’re a mental patient strapped into a straight jacket.

The incredible actor, Ed Asner, once said, “Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare.”  Thus far, I’ve discovered that if there is any hope at all of surviving the warfare and bringing peace to the nations, one must absolutely have patience. Patience, the strength to stick to your guns and use the weapons of discipline! Kids are some of the smartest little beings on the planet and very easily learn early on how to manipulate those around them in ways that would impress just about anyone. So when you hold firm in your strictness and carry out your threats, there may just be some hope that you will get through to the little buggers and actually teach them a lesson.

On a recent, particular day in my storybook life, the sibling ugliness had boiled over and this fairy godmother was determined to turn down the heat! The beloved gadgets – Kindles, iPods, laptops, and television – were banned, put on prisoner mode, until the two l’il heathens could prove that they did indeed have love in their hearts and could get along.

SlblingsAs I pushed through the initial drama that started the fight, holding firm in my battle plan and pulling patience from my toes, an amazing thing happened….this particular type of discipline was working!  The harsh war cooled, the stubbornness gave in to cooperation, and the ugliness turned to togetherness. We were able to carry out the entire rest of the day with zero access to gadgets and low and behold, there was joy in the air! We read books, made some art, had our own Michael Jackson dance party and played the board game “Life.” It made for a lovely, miraculous day.

When tempers started to even barely engage, the threat of more gadget restriction seemed to calm the storm and get them back on the happy track. There were even moments of high fives and hugs between these two supposed enemies. By nightfall they earned the reward of playing a Wii game, but they had to play together. Miraculously, they worked together and actually enjoyed it. And, I gained even more of a win because they were wearing themselves out physically. On that particular day, the battle was won.

Another day will be another story that very well could prove to be a disastrous loss. We never know how or if the battles between siblings can be won because we never know how the little soldiers will respond to their leaders. The fairy tale can turn into a horror story at any given moment. But in the case of my storybook, I will continue to use my weapon of choice – restriction from gadgets and a high dose of patience – as long as it seems to lessen the blows of sibling warfare!  So to all those parents out there with more than one child, who have to consistently wage the sibling war… may the force be with you.  😉