Top Ten Tricks to Outsmart your Teen – Trick Two

Back again. Now that we have figured out how to get them to co-operate with us, let’s work on getting them to get along with each other.

Trick Two: Bickering Siblings – Making it End without Committing a Felony

Oh, those dulcet sounds of sibling communication – otherwise known as fighting: “Mom, she is looking at me!”; “Mom, he is touching my computer!”;” Mom, she stole my sweater!”;” Mom my sister is still breathing – make her stop”. Their conflicts are about as sensible and pleasing to the ear as Tom cats duking it out beneath your bedroom window.

Here is the trick; you have to not invest in who is right or wrong, who started it, or how to fix it. This is their problem after all, and once you make it your problem, you are doomed. Not to say you should deck them out as Sumo wrestlers, and the last loincloth standing wins, rather, make them deal with their own conflict, because once you set yourself up as judge and jury, the only one doing time is you.

Here are two ideas.

Technique One: Come Back with One Story

This technique can be kind of amusing. Your kids come to you bickering.  Jackie complains that Sarah borrowed her sweater without asking.  Sarah says that that isn’t true, that Jackie is a liar. Now you could ask questions, try to figure out who did what to whom, counsel, advise, admonish, but all you are doing is putting yourself in the middle of their conflict, and in the middle of their rivalry. You, after all, are the prize, not the sweater. What they are really after is you picking one sibling over the other. Save yourself – don’t do it.

Instead, tell them you will only listen to them when they have one story, and when they have one version of events, then they can come back and tell you all about it. Have them sit on the couch (preferably far away from you) and come up with a version of their complaint that they can both agree on. This means they are discovering each other’s point of view, negotiating their own conflict, and most importantly, leaving you out as the arbitrator. If they come back, and the agreed upon spokesperson is interrupted by the other as misrepresenting the conflict, tell them they do not have one story and back to the couch they go. By the time they have their one story (i.e. Sarah did indeed borrow the sweater, but last week, Jackie borrowed Sarah’s pants without asking) they have already resolved their conflict and come up with a resolved version of events. Ipso facto, there is no side for you to choose!

Technique Two: My Problem, My Solution

This is a much faster and simpler approach, but still keeps you off the hamster wheel of who did what to whom. When the Bickersons bring their conflict to you, you tell them that, “when they make it your problem, they get your solution”. For example, when Jackie comes to complain of Sarah’s sweater swap, and Sarah of Jackie’s pant pilfering, you tell them to work it out amicably, or your solution is to take both the pant and the sweater to the charity bin and let some other cursed family inherit them. The codicil here is that both parties suffer equally regardless of fault – after all, you are not trying to build a legal case but to get them to resolve their own conflicts – and that your solution is worse than their grievance.  The “you make it my problem, you get my solution technique” is a quick and painless way of staying out of your children’s conflicts.

 After a while, with these techniques in play, your kids will avoid bringing their squabbles to you because you are more annoying to them than they are to each other.  

Congratulations you outsmarted them again.

Next Time: Trick Three – the Solution to the Money Drain






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