My boys, 5 years old and 3 years old, fight almost every day. One minute they could be having fun together, laughing and giggling, and the next, someone would start to whine or grumble or growl and then a fight would ensue. Most of the time, it's just squabbling --
"I want this train!"
"But I took it first!"
"But I want it!!"
Then they would start snatching the toy or chasing each other around. Sometimes one of them would start to hit the other. Most of the times, my older son would ask for mummy to intervene, and my younger son would cry.
Even though such drama happens practically every day, I can never get used to it. On good days, I could well control my temper and find "soft ways" to manage the boys. But on days when I'm caught up with household chores or trying to do work on my computer, these episodes really drive me crazy.
One afternoon, the boys were fighting to lie on the same side of the sofa after their screen time. I was sitting at a distance reading something on my phone and I gave stern warnings for them to stop but neither of them relented. I asked, "Are you guys really going to keep fighting?"
Just then, the boys got rowdier. My younger son was standing by the sofa hitting his brother's head, and his brother retaliated by raising both his legs and gave a flying kick right at the younger one's abdomen. The younger brother fell backward, but luckily managed to land on his butt and regain balance before hitting his head on the floor.
I was shocked.
I rushed to lift up my younger son from the floor who started to cry. The first thought that came to my mind was to get the cane and discipline my older son. But I managed to hold back, and said gravely to my older son,
"I can't believe you did that. I can't believe you did that."
I carried my younger son away to check his abdomen and asked if it was painful. In the midst of sobbing, he said yes, but refused to let me lift up his shirt to check. I suppose as much as his abdomen hurt from his brother's kick, his ego was even more bruised from being "defeated". He ran back to the living room and sat beside his brother and said, "I don't want gor gor (elder brother) to kick me".
I asked my older son what he should do, now that he had hurt his brother, and he said, "I don't know".
I insisted that he knew but he said "I don't know. You tell me". Such stubbornness and strong-headedness!
By this time, my older son was quietly tearing, and I could tell that he was angry. To my own surprise, I managed to maintain my cool. I calmly told my son,
"Do you know what you just did? Do you know that you are now a very big boy? You are much stronger, much taller and much bigger than your little brother. Do you know that because you are so strong, you could have really injured him?"
"Mummy was very shocked to see you do that. I don't think that was the boy that I know. The boy that I know loves his brother and sister very much. The boy that I know is always very helpful and helps mummy to take care of his younger siblings."
By now, I could see his anger dissipate, and sadness overwhelmed him and he started to cry.
"I know sometimes your younger brother disturbs you and wants to fight you, and that can be very frustrating. I know that you can get very angry. And I understand that sometimes when we are angry, we may do things that we don't usually do because we can't control ourselves. I think just now, when you kicked your brother, you were really very angry. But it was still wrong. Now that you know you are actually so strong, and could hurt your brother, how do you feel?
Son said quietly, "I'm scared."
"I'm scared too, dear. But it's okay now. Your brother is fine. We just need to learn how to control ourselves when we get angry. Remember Mummy taught you to hit the pillows if you are really angry? That's one way of letting out our anger. But we don't fight each other. If anybody tries to hurt you or your siblings, mummy will do my best to fight the person and protect you guys. But we don't fight ourselves because we are family. Do you understand?"
I turned to my younger son and said, "You shouldn't have hit your brother too. That's not right.
What are hands for? Remember? Hands are for love.
Hands are not for hitting. So, how many people are in the wrong here?"
The both replied, "Two".
And I said, "Yes, both of you are wrong to fight each other."
To my younger son, I said, "I know you are scared that gor gor kicked you just now, but do you know gor gor still loves you? He said yes. "And do you still love gor gor?" My younger son nodded.
I asked my older son the same thing, "Do you still love di di (younger brother) even though he fought with you?" And he too said yes.
Then I asked to have a family hug where the three of us huddled together. I also asked the boys to embrace each other.
I have to admit that I don't always manage similar situations with such level of cool-headedness. I could have ended up shouting at my boys and bringing out the cane, lashing out threats to cane them. But I have tried different ways to discipline my children, different ways to manage them and deal with siblings' conflict. It's not always possible to reason out with my older son like that. Of course it depends on how receptive the child is.
As the child grows, I too have to grow as a mother and modify my ways of managing the situation and handling their emotions with care. There will never be one method that solves it all.
What works for one child may not work for the other because of different personalities and level of maturity.
We always have to think on our feet and come up with the best solution for varying situations that will keep us sane as well as handle our children's vulnerable emotions.
But I believe, LOVE is the most important. I believe in always reinforcing my love for my children, to let them know my love for them never changes, even on bad days such as above.
I also believe that as parents, we need to reinforce to the children that as much as children are gifts from God to the parents, siblings are God's gifts for them too.
So we need to do our best to foster a loving relationship between siblings and reinforce their love for each other especially when they have conflicts like this.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
- 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
About the Author
Xuan W. Lee became a mother of three by the age of 30. After becoming pregnant with her third baby, she was determined to find ways to work from home while being the main caregiver to her young children. She was inspired and motivated to be a Mumpreneur and discovered that she could put her passion to work! She rekindled her love for writing and with a heart for all her fellow mummies, she has taken to documenting her motherhood journey which also serves as a source of encouragement and inspiration to other mummies.
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