My daughters, ages four and two, have a little ritual they like to reenact about 10 times a day:
“Moooom! Kit took my stuffed dog and won’t give it back.”
“Isabelle hit me.”
“I did NOT!”
“No I didn’t! Give me my dog right now.”
“Girls, give it a rest, okay? Kit, give the dog to your sister.”
“Oh great! She licked it and now it smells weird.”
“I no yick it! You hush.”
“YOU hush you naughty baby!”
“I’ve had enough! Both of you hush until I say you can speak again, which will probably be sometime around Christmas.”
Sound familiar? Unless your kids are fed a steady diet of Prozac and raised in separate wings of the house, they will inevitably grate each other’s nerves and engage in some of the dumbest, most mind-numbing arguments you have ever heard. Well it’s time to shuck your striped shirt and ditch your referee’s whistle, because you don’t have to put up with it anymore.
Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Let’s be very clear about something; if you’ve got kids, you’ve got sibling rivalry. And you’re not alone. You only have to get a few pages into the Bible to read about Cain killing his brother Abel, or Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery over a colorful coat. A quick look at nature reveals baby sharks devouring their unborn siblings in the womb and firstborn baby eagles pushing their brothers and sisters out of the nest as soon as they hatch to secure all the available food for themselves.
Children are really no different. While they might not worry about hording all the goldfish crackers and apple juice to survive, they absolutely desire something more important to human beings than food—love. Dr. Anthony E. Wolf, PhD, author of Mom, Jason’s Breathing on Me! explains it brilliantly: “There exists in all children a desire not just for some of a parent, but every possible bit,” he says. “This craving is normal. It comes as part of the healthy love attachment that children make to their parents in earliest childhood. It is love, which in its most desired form is I want to engulf and be engulfed by my beloved.”
This primitive, animal need for love explains why infants who are given food and shelter, but no eye contact or attention, will fail to thrive and eventually die. It’s why researchers at the University of Minnesota recently discovered that babies as young as six months will cry when they witness their mothers cuddling a baby doll, and why older children, who are perfectly content to amuse themselves in the presence of their mother, will instantly turn whiny and demanding the minute she answers the telephone and turns her attention to someone else. Your love is your children’s sustenance, and anyone who threatens the supply of attention is by the laws of nature, a rival.