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Mama Drama: Sibling Sarcasm

Dear Mama Drama:

My sons have recently been very rude and sarcastic with each other. They are frequently putting each other down or making what I consider unnecessary negative comments about something the other one is sharing. They even do this thing where they say, “I don’t mean to offend you, but…” and they finish with something really offensive!

Do you have any ideas to help them speak more respectfully to each other?

~  Offended Mama

(Photo credit)

Dear Offended:

Bickering, sarcasm, and put downs are easy habits to get into between siblings, but with support, modeling, and reinforcement they can be replaced with more positive speech.

The first step is to take a look at how you as parents are talking to your children. I’m not blaming you for their behavior, but since we are the only ones we have real control over it helps to start with ourselves. It is easy as parents to slip into the habit of noticing on the things our kids are doing wrong and commenting or correcting only on the problems. When we do this without a balance of noticing all their positive choices, we model the critical, negative behavior in which you describe your sons engaging. A good rule of thumb, taken from the PBIS teachings of George Sugai, is to give four positive comments for every one correction or negative comment. Challenge yourself to this and see how things change.

The next step is to have a conversation with your sons about your observations of how they are speaking to each other. Give them a chance, without blaming, to express how they feel when these rude or sarcastic comments are made. Let them know how you feel when you see and hear these comments, too. And if you noticed in step one that you are being overly critical, own up to that and let them know you are going to work on making changes as well.

Then set some family expectation about how you will talk with each other. First, if you start as statement with, “I don’t mean to be rude or offend…” it will be rude or offense so don’t finish it. Second, before you say something take a moment to answer these three questions:

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

All three questions should be answered with a yes or the comment should not be made. This doesn’t mean you can’t correct each other, it just means you can choose your words more carefully.

Use sticky notes to post these questions around your house as reminders to everyone to practice using them to guide their speech. Bathroom mirrors, kitchen cabinets, the dining room table, near the television, and inside the car are great places to start.

When you notice your sons stopping themselves from saying a negative comment or making kinder, supportive comments to each other make a big deal about it and recognize their efforts. You can even set up an easy positive recognition system that helps you remember to notice and gives them a concrete representation of the positive choices they are making.

An example is to put a marble in an empty jar every time you notice them making positive comments to each other. When the jar is full, do something fun together as a family. Putting a note on the jar stating what that activity will can help motivate them more. Make sure to follow through when the jar is full and choose something that you can all participate in together, continuing to encourage those positive interactions.

Remember that there will be days when they are cranky or are having a hard time. Be gentle with them, and yourself when you have those days, and encourage them to keep at it. The positive relationships you will build as a family are definitely worth it!

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Mama Drama: Cheering Chores

Dear Mama Drama:

I feel so frustrated trying to get all of the housework done, laundry cleaned, lunches made, and still find time to be with my kids. They complain that I’m always too busy for them, but there is so much to do.

I also feel like they don’t appreciate how much I do for them and that they are not asked to do very much at all. It seems like the more I do, the less respectful they are to me.

~Choking on Chores

(photo credit)

Dear Choking:

I think you found the answer in your question. You are doing all of the work and your children are taking you for granted. They don’t understand to value of the work you do as they have not been asked to contribute. They have lots of time to hang out, but you can’t join them because you are so busy doing things for them. Get them involved and plan to play a game or go for a walk together when the chores are done.

Giving children responsibilities around the house gives them a sense of accomplishment, teaches them life skills, and increases their self-esteem. Not to mention that if they are doing some of the jobs, you won’t have to.

Children as young as two can help around the house. Obviously, different aged children can handle different responsibilities and need varying degrees of supervision. Getting them in the routine of helping when they are younger can prevent it from being seen as a burden later on. When asking your children to do chores, be sure to teach them how to do it and offer support and encouragement. Recognize the effort they put into the job, even if it isn’t done perfectly. Remember to resist the urge to redo the job for them as that will defeat the purpose.

Small children can contribute by cleaning up their toys, putting books in a basket, wiping down the front of the refrigerator or dishwasher with a sponge, or wiping up the spots on the kitchen floor with a wet paper towel. As children get older they can sort their dirty laundry, put away clean clothes, use a small broom and dustpan to sweep small areas, and use non-toxic cleaning wipes to wipe down the counters and floors in the bathroom. Most kids love to vacuum, although they are often not strong enough to do it until they are a little older. Other helpful tasks are watering plants (use a squirt bottle for little kids and a pitcher for older ones) and dusting with an old sock or non-toxic dusting wipe. As they get older have children help make lunches the night before, gather their items for school, and fill water bottles to help mornings run more smoothly.

Children like to be helpful, so use that natural inclination to get them involved. Let them know you need their help and that you’ll be able to have more fun together when they pitch in to help. Then be sure to follow through with the fun!

How do you readers involve your children in daily chores?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.