GETTING THROUGH THE"DOG DAYS" OF SUMMER

 

A mid-summer's nightmare.  It's early one beautiful summer morning.  Ahh...the sweet smell from the garden, the gentle warm breeze, the birds softly announcing another day, an occasional panting dog...suddenly overshadowed by your children arguing and fighting!

 

 And why not?  They are bored.  Life is tough.  It doesn't take long for children out of the highly structured school environment to become bored.

 

"Billy!  Leave the t.v. alone, I'm watchng that!"

 

"But you're always watching t.v.  I want to play a video game!"

 

"Mom!"...

 

Parents would love their children to play happily together all the time.  After all, there's no school.  But for occasional chores, there are no major stressors for twelve weeks.  Children-- and productive and creative thinking-- are on a

long vacation; nothing ahead but sunny days and blue skies…and boredom, which leads to fighting. 

 

So naturally, it's the parent's job to fix that.  One might think with all the summer has to offer a child, how  could he or she become bored?  But "child" cannot live on swimming and ice cream alone!  So, there's picking on each other.  Not coincidentally, siblings who fight also force parents to pay attention to them. 

 

Each child loves and depends upon a parent for nurturance, guidance, acceptance.  As such, he constantly strives to gain the favor of that parent.          Sharing toys and household space is hard enough for children.  Sharing the favor of one you love and respect-- a parent—is much harder.  Hence, sibling rivalry.

That's right.  Very often, no matter what they seem to be fighting about, it's you!  They are the contestants and you are the prize.  Think not?  Leave the house and watch how quickly they work things out.

 

"I can't leave them alone-- they'll kill each other!  Besides I'm a mother, being the sheriff is my job."

 

As a parent, it's perfectly natural for you, loving your children, to want those children to love each other and be best friends all the time.  After all, didn't you plan it that way?  You even discussed it with your spouse, remember?

 

"Honey, we are going to have more children who will love each other and be best friends all the time."

 

Yet, although we can encourage siblings to play happily and show love some- time, we cannot legislate their feelings.  They typically have very strong positive and negative feelings toward each other.  At times a parent can help a child understand and even alter negative feelings  toward a sibling.  An essential aspect of this process is gaining the respect and trust of the child, which can be accomplished by accepting-- not ridiculing or punishing-- feelings toward the other sibling.

 

In short, the fact that your children are not loving playmates all the time and, in fact, fight frequently, is quite normal. However, despite their rivalry there are some strategies you can try to prevent them from razing your home by summer's end.           

·         1- If you insist on being the sheriff, make the children deputies and let them police themselves.  Remember, in effect, you are the prize for which they are fighting.  Thus, your attention is highly reinforcing and will likely increase the number and types of disagreements.  In contrast, many sibling squabbles resolve themselves more quickly  without parental involvement.  In other words, by ignoring !

·         2- Enforcing rules implies their existence.  You need to create,

             then enforce rules that promote safety.  You might call this,

            "management by objectives."  By clearly stating the conditions

             under which you will intervene, then doing so if necessary, you

             are creating parameters for children to resolve their own dis-

             putes.  For example, "You guys don't have to always like each

             other, and may choose to argue, but fist-fighting or throwing

             of any objects will be met with severe punishment!  Does anyone

             have a question?"

 

Typically, parents operate through what might be termed "management by crisis."  Rather than creating and enforcing rules that are clearly understood ahead of time, upon hearing a disagreement, they will suddenly burst in and ask the one question that produces no useful solution (but inadvertently enhances the argument):

 

"All right!  Who started it?"

 

(What child in the history of mankind ever answered this question honestly?)

 

"He did!!!"  (In unison).  This also increases parental gastrointestinal distress.

 

In contrast, a house-rule is a "cue" that certain behavior will lead to a conse-quence.  It also indicates what behavior is acceptable.  Furthermore, it promotes the parent as a legitimate enforcer, fair, but capable of intervening in a meaningful way.