Sunday 24 September 2017

David Coleman: My daughters' constant bickering has me at my wits' end

Fighting among sisters is typically due to an underlying rivalry.
Fighting among sisters is typically due to an underlying rivalry.
David Coleman

David Coleman

I DON'T know where to start. I have just had my latest argument with my daughters, aged 19, 13 and 10. They are the centre of my world and even though I may not always do or say the right thing, everything I do is for their benefit.

They do know that and they are not bad girls but the bickering never stops. They can't agree on anything, and I mean anything.

For example, on any given morning they could row about how far to pull back the curtains, how long each takes in the bathroom, how they should brush their hair or who sits where in the car on the way to school.

The younger two have completely different personalities: one is very uptight and serious whereas the other believes rules are made to be broken. The eldest has just finished her first year of college but has absolutely zero ambition and zero motivation. Now she, too, is back in the middle of things.

It would take too long to explain a day in the life of our household but all I can say is, at this present moment I would love to pack it all in and run a thousand miles away. If there is any advice you could give me it would be much appreciated.

I THINK there are households around the country with parents who can not only sympathise but empathise with your situation. Sibling fighting is an everyday occurrence in almost every home.

Most typically, fighting between sisters arises from an underlying rivalry. This isn't necessarily full-blown jealousy but I do think that from their perspective, many children and teenagers perceive that their brothers or sisters are better treated in some way than they are.

The reality is that most parents try their best to be fair and just in dealing with all their children. But even with the best will in the world, we can end up comparing siblings negatively, spending lots of time with one child, getting frustrated more with a particular child, and so on.

Children and teenagers have a remarkable capacity to notice and store up these perceived injustices. So you may hear things like, "You're always driving her to her dancing . . .", "Oh, she's so perfect, you never give out to her . . ." and other such comments.

Your three girls all seem to be frustrated and cross with each other and are showing it with constant bickering. I think your best approach to resolving the issues is to get the three of them talking to each other.

It is very hard for children and teenagers to name the strong feelings that they have about each other, and much easier for them to 'have a go' with slags, jibes, moans, bitchiness and fighting.

Naturally, all the negativity just builds up resentment and a desire to exact revenge or retribution for the perceived hurt, and stays stuck in a constantly revolving spiral of attack, counterattack and so on.

Arrange to have a family meeting with yourself, your husband and the three girls, and help them to express the frustrations that they seem to feel.

Ask them to explain any injustices they perceive, any resentments they feel and hurt they have experienced. It may seem a bit daunting to be explicitly bringing up such negative feelings, but actually it is so much easier to resolve it when it is clearly expressed in words.

The negativity and frustration is there anyway, unspoken but visible in the fights and bickering. All you are doing in this process is giving a voice to the feelings so that you can then, hopefully, resolve them.

The resolution can come about through the girls' greater understanding of each others' perspectives. You can then prompt them to show more understanding and compassion to each other, while role modelling your own acknowledgment of how they each feel.

Irish Independent

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