Oh, the joys of sibling rivalry! I always wanted a boy first, to be the protective, cool big brother. Be careful what you wish for because this dream came true, but it hasn’t been sweet vision I imagined! While my son may be the Golden boy at school, he’s a very different person at home. Like many kids, he’s moody, he saves his worst for home, and his sister just gets on his nerves for no good reason at all.
It truly hits are soon as he sees his sister and interacts with her for the first time in the day after school. There’s no ‘hi’, no sweet hug, no positive anything at all. We don’t even make it to the car, most days, before they’re already at each other. Usually, but not always, it’s him wanting to aggravate her (I think it’s become his favorite hobby lately!). Using his little sister to take his daily frustrations and anger out on has become part of his daily routine, and maybe mission.Then, she gets mad and retaliates. And so on, and so forth. It’s so fun especially after dealing with many angry and fighting children all day long.
There are consequences for behaviors such as hitting, kicking, body-slamming, and name-calling (which is usually her).While this doesn’t happen a lot, it does happen more than I’d like to deal with. This week, my straight-A son has been a pill. He’s basically unhappy whenever he’s at home, and he even admitted this to me last night.
He’s angry with me for giving him consequences and thinks I’m so much nicer to Anna. He proceeded to explain that:
I’m just reacting to the way you treat me.
Huh….. (we’ve always thought he’d make a good lawyer with the way he likes to argue and insist it’s always someone’s else’s fault!) But, I liked the way he was thinking and this turned into a somewhat productive and calm conversation.
Good begets good. While I agreed that yes, I am indeed treating her differently and maybe even nicer, it’s because she’s being nicer to me. What I disagreed on was who started it. Is he reacting to me, or am I reacting to his behavior?
Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
It’s the same way between students and teachers, friends, spouses, and family members. There’s an energy between people. We want it to be positive and produce more positive interactions and reactions but we can often times get caught in a negative cycle. Who started it? YOU started it! It’s easier to blame than to accept you’re part of the problem.
When we’re annoyed, or frustrated, or irritable, we are quick to point the finger. There’s been a lot of finger-pointing this week and, then, more unhappy, moody behavior. So, I sat on his floor and chatted with him about what he meant. He pointedly said he hasn’t been happy at home this week (he’s been grounded all week). He admitted he doesn’t act like he’s been acting at school. He listens, is kind, and does his work at school. (…..We’re just hoping for for some of this at home…just give us something!)
What started as frustration with me, then jealousy with Anna, then turned into stress over an essay he has to write at school, Brody explained. You see, the more I listened calmly, the more he wanted to vent. We all have hard weeks when the little stressors seem like mountains and not molehills. And, we should all have someone to talk to and vent to.
Reacting negatively to someone’s negative actions is natural, but is it always productive? Asking yourself, what part do I play?, leads to a better, reflective place. I’ve learned that when we just punish, and react, there’s no room for growth and change. There’s not going to motivation to change if a child already believes that you think they’re bad and going to make more bad choices. Now, Brody knows that I don’t think he’s a bad kid but some weeks, he needs (we all need) some extra reassurance that someone believes in them.
Brody did have a point. We all play a part. They will just react and keep on reacting to you if everyone’s grumpy. And, you can’t teach and listen if you are still angry. We have to forgive and move on. It’s hard but we have to be the grown-ups and make wiser choices, not reactive choices. I’m so fortunate to have a son who will talk to me and explain how he feels, whether I agree with it or not. It’s good practice for leading a happy and productive life that’s moving forward instead of staying stuck in a reactive place.