When Added Time for the Holidays = Added Time for Misbehavior?
When Chris and I first got together, we knew that we were blinded by love. But we were both educators, we knew kids. Worrying about how they would interact once we moved in together and later got married. This is what we do, right?
Well, perhaps we were a little overconfident.. The kids were like gremlins - just add water and they turn in to freaky little monsters? Yes, just add moving in together and marriage and they turned into unrecognizable heathens! Half the time, I thought I was going to get whiplash from turning my head left to right too fast trying to keep up with the volleyball of insults that they threw at each other. The could not keep their hands off each other. One day it was "accidental" glue in the hair, the next day someone spit in the other's face (but didn't really mean to do it), and still the next the little one was skidding across the floor after being tripped - but, oh, that was an accident, too.
There would be months at a time that we would not see peace until we separated the kids - Xavier outside to play basketball, and Marissa off to swimming practice or some other activity. When we brought them back together, I often heard my stepson say, "well, you need to tell her to leave me alone or she gets what she deserves."
Had he turned into the king of the house right under my nose? And without my permission? I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back and convinced me that time apart during our "joint" visitation weekends would be better than what was going on now - with all the hitting, threats, spitting, and fighting, I was tapped out. And frankly, I was tired of not being able to leave these two step siblings alone for fear of what they might do to each other.
But keeping them apart and trying to fix the problem for them did not work for us - especially around the holidays when we had more time with both kids in the house. So what made things better? What got them to the point they are now where they pool their allowances so that they can buy better toys together that they share? Well, we finally put the lessons we knew from being educators into practice in our own home. It
- Do not allow children to dictate the discipline of any children in the house. Thank them for their concern, but let them know that you are the parent in the house.
- Don't resolve issues for the kids. Let kids know that you expect them to work out a resolution that makes the both of them happy.
- Keep a structured schedule during vacation days and holidays. It is true what they say, "idle time is the devil's playground." The more structured their time is, the less opportunity and energy they will have to mess with each other.
- Hold children responsible for their behavior. Children should know that there are positive and negative consequences to all of their actions. There are many "special events" planned for free time, but those events should not be a given, regardless of behavior.
- Communicate the expectations and the consequences of not meeting them up front.
- Refrain from using time with family as a consequence or punishment if possible.
- Provide a good example of how to resolve conflict and work with your child to explicitly learn the lessons you want them to get.