Cock Fights in the Chicken Coop

Cockfighting dsc01729

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One of the first songs I was introduced to in Mrs. Fairbairn’s music class as an awkward 11-year-old immigrant girl was “Let There Be Peace On Earth (and let it begin with me-e)” Being a sentimental little girl I loved the song, and sang it with all the hypocritical gusto I could muster. The truth was, the only peace in my corner of the earth that I could realistically effect was with my younger brother, and God only knows how often my dear mother bellowed, “TAKE IT OUT BEHIND THE CHICKEN BARN!” when she’d had her fill of our bickering. In keeping with the general temperament of my family of origin, the two of us fought loud and hard, and it drove my mother crazy. (We’re basically pale Italians that eat Borscht instead of Pasta, but otherwise proprietors over the same fiery temperament). Perhaps Mom secretly prayed for her grief to be visited on us when we too became parents.

Or maybe it’s the prayers of Oliver’s mother that have been answered (though, to be sure, that gentle soul would never wish grief on anyone). I am told he and his younger sister had some terrific battles as well, although their style of fighting was different. Apparently only his more vocal sister would scream while Oliver quietly taunted her, causing her to get the short end of the rod of correction more often than he did. That’s how his sister tells it, anyway. Prayers or no prayers, the sins of our youth have been visited upon us in our adulthood and we are now the frazzled parents presiding over two flavours of fighting: Teddy and Sammy fight like my brother and I did – loud and hard, while Sammy and Caleb fight like Oliver and his sister did, with one screaming at the top of his lungs while the other surreptitiously whips up his brother’s ire. The chickens have come home to roost, except we have no chicken barn to which we can drive the three of them when the battle gets too intense.

The experts tell us that sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up. One author I read put it this way: if your husband came to you one day and said that he has enjoyed being married to you so much that he would like to take another wife, you wouldn’t be pleased. In the same way the Apple of Your Eye, your First-born, does not appreciate you introducing a sibling into his little world either. Neither will your Second-born appreciate the Third. In fact, it is quite likely that he will say things like, “I love Caleb a little bit, but I love Teddy millions!” or “Caleb can go live with another family now.” He may even talk about your family in terms that completely exclude that nasty youngest child who came to usurp his throne.

I don’t know where to pin the blame, but in the last few months conflict has been at an all-time high among our children. As anyone knows who has had to referee fights on a half-hourly basis (if not every five minutes) this results in a very, very cranky Mommy. A very cranky Mommy results in very cranky kids, who can stand each other even less than they could before, and so the cycle is perpetuated. Separation only works as long as they’re in their separate corners. When time-outs are over and life resumes, so does the fighting.

Short of proposing a child-swap with another family, we really feel like we’re at our whit’s end most of the time. Until this week when Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family Magazine arrived in our mailbox, and on the cover the headline, Can your Kids be friends? I tore off the plastic wrap and devoured the article immediately. Out of that article came a brand-new approach that we have tried with our two eldest with some measure of success. Most of my readers are probably already practicing this ingenious method of problem-solving with their children, but here it is anyway:

Step 1: put both parties in a time-out to give them a chance to cool down. Insist that you will not entertain any explanations (translation: tattling) at this time.

Step 2: without listening to either side of the story, sequester them in their room together with strict instructions to use words to express their frustration with their sibling and talk out their problem.

Step 3: if they still cannot solve their problem, get involved by hearing both sides of the story. So far we have not yet reached step 3. Our children have been able to solve their problem peacefully without Mommy or Daddy around. The process is much shorter and the peace longer-lasting than when we attempt to get all the facts and dole out appropriate consequences. I think that basically the kids just want to get back to playing and would both rather save themselves additional penalty minutes.

As for the younger two, I’m still waiting for my epiphany. Given that they’re 4 and 2, the previously outlined approach will not work. Any suggestions?

What I cling to, is that their fighting actually means they care about each other. Although my brother and I fought like cat and dog, somewhere along the line we became best friends and remained very close until we met our respective spouses. Both of our weddings felt a bit like a funeral for the other, who knew only too well that this new spouse was the replacement, the rightful occupant of that place of trust and dependency we had occupied for each other during our growing-up years. Today, after several years of working out the kinks in our overhauled relationship, fused together by new bonds of shared marriage and parenting joys and frustrations, our relationship remains strong and committed. The fights are a thing of the past and our mother can finally relax. Still, 30 years seems like a long time to wait for peace!

 

 

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Wendy Stirbet said,

    My oldest two always fought like cats and dogs. I really could not leave the room for more than 5 minutes before they would get into a squabble. Unfortunately fighting included biting, hitting and throwing, thus I could never leave them to just work it out. The oldest one still loves to be controlling and pushes everyone’s buttons to see how annoyed he can get everyone. The younger two fight as well, but #3 is much more devious and deceptive to get his own way. Fortunately #2 is a peace maker and three younger ones can play together nicely from time to time. It is incredibly tiring to be an always on call referee. It is nice that there are more problem solving techniques for the children as they grow older.

  2. 2

    Again, nicely put.

    I was given an award recently and had to choose 5 bloggers to pass it on to. You’re one of them!

    http://carolynnsrecipebox.blogspot.com/2011/12/liebster-blog-award-for-me.html

  3. 4

    Sally Martens said,

    Thanks for sharing Step Nr. 1, 2 and 3. I think I´ll try that with my 10- and 13year old.
    Well, we do have that chicken barn, but somehow it seems more fun to fight in front of Mom. But let´s hang in there, times really do change.


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