It’s the summer holidays: weeks and weeks of time for children to bond – or not. If you are having to deal with daily battles between siblings about toys, make-up, hair gel and who sits where on the sofa, here is Workingmums.co.uk’s guide to faking that you are in control.
1. Filter – this means basically ignoring any sibling rivalry until it gets to all-out battle levels and weapons are involved. Filtering is one of those parenting arts which mean you basically only take in essential information such as high level screaming and ignore all the low-level grumbling and moaning and ‘he did it first’ ‘she has made my life a misery since birth’ sort of stuff.
2. Alternatively, take the UN approach and step in early to institute some form of peace talks. Make it formal. Put one sibling on one side of the room and the other in the opposite corner. Create a white flag and wave it. Ask each side to present their grievance. Start quoting lots of stuff that sounds like international legislation. End by imposing an international embargo on both parties for several hours, meaning you get a much appreciated hiatus of peace.
3. Distract siblings by creating an even greater disturbance elsewhere in the house. Eg run in yelling ‘have you seen the HUGE spider in the bathroom. I wonder if it’s a tarantula’. This will, of course, result in a lot of disappointment when they find that it is just a daddy long legs or similar, but you can then dredge your memory for all important facts you know about daddy long legs and bore them to tears until they completely forget about whatever was upsetting them in the first place and bond in a united front against you.
4. Read child psychology books or at least the ones that have handy bulletpoints at the end of each chapter. Throw child psychology terms into conversations with angry siblings to the effect that they are falling into classic patterns of attention-seeking/competitive behaviour and tell them this is an important learning curve for them for use in later life.
5. If the heat gets too much and the screaming volume is too high, why not join in and outscream them? It may shock them into silence.
6. Take a leaf out of the teachers’ book and create a chart which outlines what happens in the event of anti-social behaviour. A green light means they’ve been great and get to play out for 30 minutes, an amber ones means ‘oops I made a mistake’ but I’m really sorry so they get to play out for 25 minutes and red means dire consequences will ensue – no outdoor play and they will have to clean the entire house for 10 weeks.
7. Delegate someone else to deal with constant squabbling. This could be a partner or, for the more dastardly parent, another sibling if there is one, thereby creating a sibling triangle and a whole extra dimension to family tensions.
8. Take a preventive approach when tensions start to bubble. Make a cake. Create an obstacle course. Focus on team work and they may forget their rivalry and work together. Or they may not.
9. In which case revert to long sessions of counselling, telling them stories of how good sibling relationships last for ever and that “family is for ever”, etc, etc. They may, of course, not listen to one word you say.
10. Remember your own childhood and your own relationship with siblings. Perhaps a certain amount of sibling rivalry is no bad thing and made you the competitive/bitter/anxious person you are today.