fighting boys...HELP

Jakki - posted on 02/14/2015 ( 7 moms have responded )

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My boys are 6 and 8 (15 months apart) & ALL they do is fight...it is always a competition. And it turns brutal sometimes....I feel like a lunatic who just yells at them threatening them constantly. Not only that I'm sure I look like one. Even my husband said I'm doing it all wrong. What do I do?? It's not stop and always turns into meltdowns and screaming or hitting that I have to referee....HELP I will take any advice.

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Jodi - posted on 02/14/2015

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First, you do need to stop yelling. Yelling is ineffective when you are trying to discipline children. Threatening is also not appropriate - threatening implies not carrying through.

First, you need to have a "if you cannot play together nicely, you can't play together at all" policy, and if it is a particular toy they are fighting over playing with, they lose the toy. Try to make the consequence fit the specific behaviour and be really consistent about it. Try also to deal with it calmly and quietly.

Do they have separate rooms at home? I would separate them the minute it starts, remove the source of the disagreement, and have them do a little thinking about their behaviour. Once they have calmed down (and you have calmed down), they are old enough to have a conversation with about it - have them think about how they could have done things differently, how they might be able to handle it next time, who they have hurt by their behaviour (it hurts you and daddy too) then have them apologise to each other. Maybe some extra chores or removal of some tv or game time. Whatever you decide, it needs to be consistent each and every time they argue.

I disagree the competing is about insecurity. It's actually normal sibling and normal boy behaviour. Not acceptable, but normal.

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Jakki - posted on 02/17/2015

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Jodi!!! You have changed my life with just a few helpful iDeas......thank you. The "both" in trouble is working as they do want to keep the other out of trouble. Setting on beds until they can act respectable to each other and thinking of why they are sitting there is really a winner....they hate that one lol!!!! But it's working!!! Thank you

Jill - posted on 02/16/2015

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I've had this experience, only with girls who are now teens. I can definitely relate to how frustrating this situation can be. I used to think I needed to use discipline and threats and consequences, but all of these were temporary solutions at best.

One thing that I have found to really work is to create projects for them to work on together, such as building a Lego creation. You give each child a separate job to do, like job titles. Have them generate the list of job titles so they can own the process and then have them draw their own job title out of a hat for each project phase. Maybe one boy is only allowed to build the foundation and walls of a structure and the other boy is only allowed to build doors and windows.

Or maybe break the project into phases and then give each boy a specific job within each phase. The rules of the game are clear. They get a token (I used poker chips) each time they are successful, without fighting, in getting the next phase of the project complete. They must learn to rely on each other and they must learn to communicate their needs effectively to each other. If they are successful in getting the whole structure built within a certain time frame, then they get a pre-agreed upon prize like a cookie.

It's kind of like bringing a video game to life. You can only get to the next level if you overcome certain barriers. Of course, at the beginning, this game/activity will have to be closely monitored and refereed, but with each success they will see how using manners, expressing gratitude, communicating and collaborating, being fair, being helpful, etc. all lead to tokens being earned by both parties. Eventually, they will get good at it and they won't need your help anymore, plus they will have developed some excellent project management skills, which will be very useful in the world of work later on.

When I tried this strategy, initially I gave tokens for everything, even tiny little things, but as the skills improved, it was harder and harder to get tokens and I used a variable, intermittent reinforcement schedule so they couldn't predict which behaviors would earn tokens. This meant that in order to get the reward at the end, which got bigger as they got more adept at the skills, they had to be collaborative all the time and each time they figured out a pattern for earning tokens, I would just change it so they couldn't manipulate the system.

I can see your boys building some amazing Lego creations and becoming the very best of collaborating project managers. Good luck.

Jodi - posted on 02/15/2015

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If they share a room, then find a time out place for each of them (in which neither of them are in a place unequal to the other). That might be a better idea. And punch ups are unacceptable - they need some consequences for that. Maybe remove some privileges for a few days. And an apology to the church minister?

Jakki - posted on 02/15/2015

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They share a room. But have bunkbeds....I am taking it and going to be consistent with it. Thank you so much. They had a fist fight in church this morning over the water fountain. I have never been so embarrassed. ....one is on the top bunk reading aloud right now while the other is on the bottom having to listen...bad idea? Or good start?

Lucka - posted on 02/14/2015

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Seperate them. Ha ve one go to a friends house while the other gets attention from you and then have the other one at home while the othe goes to a friend. My sister an di are still fighting into adulthood. Keep them both busy seperately. They aseem to be insecure if they are competing. Obviously it's hard to show them both attention at the same time and try and explain the futility of competition to them . Get a counselor . I wish i could go back in time ..i would have gone to counselling for every little thing, in hindsight. They will wear you down if u try to do it alone..imo

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