We have five daughters. The older three- ages 7, 5 and 4, are constantly yelling at each other and getting very upset when they are asked to do anything or they get caught doing something they shouldn't (our 5 year old has taken to dumping food on the floor and then stepping on it).
Let me get a few things out of the way first---
1) We're aware this is our fault. Where we haven't been screaming at them or hitting them we still haven't been the most engaging of parents since the twins were born in the summer of '09.
2) They are not physically abusive towards each other. They don't even call each other names. They just have little to no patience for each other or anything else for that matter. They yell at each other at the drop of a hat: "LILY, GET OUT OF MY WAY I'M WALKING HERE!" "MABLE, DON'T LOOK AT ME!" "OLIVE, I WANT TO PLAY WITH THAT!"
3) I know that sibling fighting is normal. I even know that yelling is normal. However this has gotten a bit extreme. From morning until night they are screaming at each other, throwing things in frustration and stomping off. Seeing them getting along is so out of place these days it startles me when I don't hear them fighting. And when I say extremem I mean it goes beyond the typical fighting and yelling. They are red in the face, teeth grinding, viens popping out kind of mad.
4) They treat us this way, too. They never say no to us but they yell at us like this in a "how dare you ask this of me!" sort of way. And though they don't say no to us they do completely ignore us once our backs are turned.
5) When we do catch them doing something they shouldn't there is no yelling, certainly no hitting, even before we can say anything they are in a fit of rage over it. They usually end up stomping off and then screaming and crying in their room even before we can utter a word.
So what we have been implementing is being more present, more actively involved. The twins are older, I'm hoping to wean them soon, so this is much easier to accomplish. Of course this is going to take time but the fighting still has not eased up. When we are together actively engaged in some activity it's hard to keep them from fighting like this with each other and with us but once that activity is over it's right back to it. Obviously we need more than just active play and craft time. My question for everyone here is some ideas on how to help them calm down and be more respectful to others. I feel that we have been flying by the seat of our pants for the past few years and need a refreshed course in GD and productive ways of communication and discipline.
It's easy to get to this point, and I think most of us have been here in one form or another. Don't beat yourself up about it. *hug*
I think, if it were me, I'd feel like there was SO much work to do, I'd be overwhelmed and also reluctant to correct them all.the.time. I think I would choose just one thing to work on, and try to ignore the rest (or at least keep responding how you have been, even though you know it is ineffective). Then, you aren't constantly nagging, and they don't get the feeling that you don't like them anymore or something.
You are already actively engaging a lot more, and I think that's going to go a long way...as long as you don't allow them to act like that to you anymore. I think it will probably be important for you to be constantly watching for a time, to constantly interject what you'd like to see. I've heard an analogy about tomato plants before...when they start to go wild, they need staked. Your little girls might need to be staked close to mama for a time, so they can grow straight again. At this point, it sounds like they have been allowed to react in this manner for quite some time, and I'd guess it's a pretty ingrained habit. Telling them to "stop it" leaves a big empty hole of "what to do." So, a good deal of monitoring, and repitition is probably in order.
Maybe, for a week, when you hear, "LILY GET OUT OF MY WAY!", say, "Excuse me, please, Lily." After a week or so of them rehearing the correct way, invite them to try it, "Olive, it sounds so much nicer when you say excuse me. How about you say it now." And then, after a week or so of that, I might say, "Look girls, I have a jar full of jelly beans, when I hear someone being polite to someone else, I'll get a jelly bean for you!" (I have done several incentive things before, and have found it's best to say that no one ever gets a jelly bean (or whatever) if they ask for it...gets out of hand too fast that way.) Or you could drop a coin in a jar that when full could buy ice cream out for everyone. It's not really a reward or a bribe, in my mind...it's a temporary tool to help develop a new habit.
After they get the new habit under their belt, I might deliberately do things so that only those who are sweet and kind are allowed the fun. At our house, people who are being disagreeable are sent to their beds while the rest of us finish the story, or whatever fun thing we are doing. So, when one of them stomps off to their room, quickly dish up ice cream, or scoop up the others for a story, or whatever, and get it almost over with before the grumpy one gets back. Gently say how sorry you are that their rotten attitude made them miss the fun, and how you hope next time they feel that way, they'll stick around and talk nicely. I wouldn't make any apologies, and I wouldn't talk about it any more after that, no matter how much whining ensued.
Okay...so those are the thoughts off the top of my head...really interested in reading more suggestions.
"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."
7, 5 and 4 y/os generally don't have a lot of patience in general, so not surprising that they're short with each other. First off, how are they sleeping? Not enough sleep can lead to more irritability than normal. How do you interact with your dh? Sometimes kids pick up the way we speak to each other, esp. the stuff we don't want them to;) Although finding one on one time with each child when you have 5 is hard, how often do they get that? A good book on sibling issues is Siblings Without Rivalry and it goes through a lot of ways to deal with these issues such as maintaining neutrality even when one sibling seems to be at fault.
Cathy mom to 13 y/o DD, 10 y/o DD, 7 y/o DS