A guest post from Sergeant J, mother of four, who heads up the parent troopers at Parenting on the Front Line.
I have four girls. To me, it seems that the older two, who are aged 8 and 4, are constantly at war with each other. I spend way too much of my time trying to prevent battles occurring, or splitting them up to prevent upset and injury.
They battle over stupid, petty things like who gets what cutlery, or which TV programme to watch right now, even though both programmes are recorded in the Sky+ box anyway. They get competitive over who can win one of many spontaneous races – who can get to the next lamp-post first – or who can jump the highest. Invariably, it’s the 8-year-old who wins, but the 4-year-old just has to join in, and it always ends in tears. No matter how much I plead with the eldest not to start a pointless competition, or with the younger one not to be tempted to join in, they don’t listen.
Both girls are very bright and spirited, but each has to be right and have the last word. It gives me headaches. I explain that being the best at everything all the time is not possible and that while being competitive is good for some things, it’s probably not a good idea to try and outdo your own sister, especially when it just ends in a fight.
They have caused each other injury when their competitive spirit has become a full-blown row and developed into fisticuffs. We have had bumps on the head when the pushing has gotten over-zealous, and red marks from the nipping and Chinese burns. It makes them stop the battles for a while, but once they’ve slept they forget and it all starts again the day after.
A couple of weeks ago, I read that fighting between siblings is the result of rivalry caused by a competitive nature passed down from, and nurtured by the parents. Since then, I’ve tried ignoring the fights and reduced the attention the girls receive because of them. I’ve told them that I love them both equally whether they ‘win’ or ‘lose’ in the hope that they start to think that it’s pointless battling for my love. No effect.
I don’t know what to do for the best. I don’t want to get rid of the competitive spirit altogether. I firmly believe it’s an essential life-skill. I want to bring up children who know that for things to happen in their life, they have to grab the bull by the horns and go and get it for themselves. Yet, I’m getting pretty sick of the on-going war in the meantime.
My plan for the last few days has been to show the girls the benefit of team-work. Explaining how if they used this energy together, for the same goal, rather than against each other, they could achieve something good. Kind of like The Wonderpets – “what’s going to work? Teeeeeeam-work!”
I need something. Anything. Just for a moment’s peace. Whatever it is I find that works, I’m going to bottle it. My twins are coming up to 2-years-old, and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be exactly the same all over again.