Our home life is a series of battles and I can't figure out what to do - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 08-13-2012, 12:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have almost 7 yo twin dds. When we are not home or in the car, all is well. They play well with other kids, they are kind to each other and to me, we have fun together as a family, they're well mannered in any public space (to the extent that people comment on it), and they are bright and alive and interested in the world. When we're home (or the second the car doors close to go home) it is a different story. They are immediately at each other's throats teasing and being mean to each other with each word uttered, physically tormenting each other, and then hyper-sensitive to each other's actions. They become rude to me, quickly angered when they run up against the slightest boundary, and moved to hitting me to prove their anger. And it's only becoming worse. The consequence of this behavior in the car is I can't drive and we pull over, but it's taking us FOREVER to get anywhere. And there is the occasion where we have to be somewhere. At home the consequence is seperation in their own rooms, but it's not really much of a consequence for them. And I have nothing that is.

 

Today one of them accused the other of writing on her shirt (while she was wearing it). The writ-ee rips off the shirt and throws is on the floor. I pick up the shirt, see that there is nothing there, say nothing and put the shirt on the chair next to the shirtless one. She is furious with me now, picks up the shirt, hits me with it. I take the shirt (a favorite) and put it in the laundry (clothes that go in the laundry do not come back out until they're washed -- a rule instituted due to other dramas), dd hits me a couple times screaming that she has nothing else to wear. I send her to her room to calm down, she refuses and hits me a couple more times. As a result she doesn't get to go to her grandmother's swimming for the afternoon. She is sent to her room and sister goes with Dad. For the next hour she repeatedly comes out of her room to yell at me and is sent back. Finally I break, yell at her, and threaten that if she continues she will "lose toys." She, as is usual, continues, and I take toys out of her room that she gets back for civil behavior (if she makes through a day without hitting or name calling she gets things back). This is the only thing that changes her attitude but it's really useless because it's only in the moment, it has no lasting effect. She actually usually forgets about whatever was taken, even when it's something I think is a favorite (they're really not toy kids). Now she is pleasant for the rest of the afternoon. We talk, read, enjoy each other's company. The second her sister comes home after dinner they are instantaneously at each other and rotten again to me and their father.

 

This is just an example. It goes on all day at home. I am at such a loss with this. Advice is always "we just don't tolerate hitting/rude behavior/name calling in our house." But HOW do you not tolerate it? I can find nothing that gets across that this is not ok. Bribery works temporarily, punishment works temporarily, but it isn't an answer. I've read Siblings Without Rivalry, Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me, several postive discipline books, unconditional parenting, etc, and though I try, it doesn't seem to be implementable in our house. They are very intense girls and I put a lot of effort into this but it seems, at the moment, like it's snowballing into a disaster. I feel like a failure as a compassionate and guiding parent.

 

By the way, we just had a 9 day family vacation that was mostly wonderful and everyone got along. Probably because we were doing something almost every minute of every day. An activity level I can't keep up at home.

 

Words of wisdom PLEASE!

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#2 of 16 Old 08-13-2012, 07:15 PM
 
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Have you sat them down and ask them what they think the problem is and how it can be fixed?  Sounds like you need a family heart-to-heart.  We did that when my 10 yo twin boys were probably around your girls' age and it made a tremendous difference.  We talked about what it meant to be a good brother, what they wanted from their brother and what they should do if the other was acting inappropriately.  You'd be amazed at how your kids want things handled (my boys are much stricter than I would be!)

 

I'll admit my boys have never fought like your girls do, but when they used to bicker, we could easily diffuse the situation if we told them they were going to have to kiss and makeup if they continued.  Of course they cracked up at that punishment and they absolutely did not want to have to kiss their brother!    

 

One of the other things we used to do was have them do mitzvahs for each other, especially if we couldn't figure out who had done something wrong.  We're not Jewish, but a mitzvah is basically a good deed.  So I'd give them a certain number of mitvahs they had to do, depending on the transgression.  

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#3 of 16 Old 08-14-2012, 12:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We have tried the family meeting.  The most recent attempt was a few hours before I wrote this post.  I can't get them to sit down and talk seriously.  This time it was silliness and name calling guised as silliness, but entirely unproductive.  As soon as a serious intention is perceived, behavior deteriorates. 

 

I could assign them mitzvah's (we are Jewish -- well, dh's family), but what do you do when they laugh and call the other one a name and say it's a mitzvah to let her know what she really is?  Truly, I can see that happening we these two.  On the other hand, when one is sick, the other thinks of the thing she truly loves, and makes it happen.  The mitzvah's are there, but at my request or as a penance, it just wouldn't happen without a lot of drama. 

 

How often did your twins get one-on-one time with you or you dh?  I think that may be a factor here, but dh's work schedule makes it really tough to accomodate.

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#4 of 16 Old 08-14-2012, 02:07 AM
 
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*probably not very GD*

 

I don't tolerate hitting like my mother didn't.  The first time my DD hit me (in a non-toddler way - obviously they hit when they are babies and i dealt differently) i leaned close and GROWLED very angrily "Don't you DARE hit me!" into her face.  She never hit me again.  She doesn't hit anyone, even her little sister.  She does however growl "don't you DARE hit me" into the faces of bullies who have just hit her (even once to a boy of about 9 when she was 4, and he went running off scared!).  

 

We do not hit in this house, it's pandora's box, and i need them to be clear that they aren't allowed to open it any more than i am.  In our home we don't hit because (this is the theory) we love each other and there are better ways to communicate, but in the real world if you hit someone they are likely to hit you back, often harder, so i decided it was better to teach them that hitting opens them to retaliation than try to talk out something which is actually just plain off the cards, HOWever they feel and WHYever they did it.  It is clear that to my eldest at least (she's 6) whether or not i hit her is unrelated to whether or not she might hit me.  She doesn't care if i hit her or not, her world doesn't operate with such "deals".  But she understands that i am not to be hit, that other people in general are not to be hit, so that works for us.  DD2 is only 2, but her personality is different, from being very small she would cry if she thought she'd hurt you, i don't get the feeling she is ever going to need to be told not to hit.

 

With older babies/toddlers who are getting too rough i just put them down and walk off if they hit (after a warning).  Of they cry i come back, pick them up, tell them why i put them down again and find some fun distraction for us.

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#5 of 16 Old 08-14-2012, 05:09 AM
 
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I agree with PP, hitting and name calling are not tolerated in our house. I have had no major problems between ds and dd except maybe the accidental bumping into each other, but ds tried reacting in anger to me and I made it clear it was not acceptable.

 

The way I see it, your kids always know the consequences for their actions are not serious; they can always get their things back if they behave in a certain way for a period of time. You try to be fair and impartial and they find ways to get around it. You say: "what do you do when they laugh and call the other one a name and say it's a mitzvah to let her know what she really is?" I would answer: This is not acceptable and you know it. Try again.

 

If my kid hit me with something and it wasn't her first time doing it, that thing would go directly in the trash. They really need to see you mean it. No more warnings for hitting and name calling. I got this when I gave ds a warning for something he did and he said: "Is this my last warning?"; he wanted to know if the had one more chance at misbehaving.

 

Also, if no one is hurt, I would let them sort out their quibbles between them. Sometime they do it because they want attention from mommy.

 

You said that sending them to their room is not really a consequence, what do you mean by that?


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#6 of 16 Old 08-14-2012, 08:28 AM
 
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since they do well out of the house, maybe the family meeting should be at the park or a family walk instead. try to get to the root of the issue and try to find solutions. establish that the behavior is not ok and ask them what they think the consequences should be. decide on an appropriate consequence and follow through. i've been pretty amazed at what my kids come up with.
 

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#7 of 16 Old 08-14-2012, 08:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We could try a family meeting out somewhere, never thought of that. 

 

I agree,  Hitting should not be tolerated in a house.  It is the enforcement of the zero tolerance that I am having trouble with.  Growling in their face would have no effect, other than they would start growling in each other's (or my) face.  They know that hitting is not a good thing.  They would NEVER hit anyone other than their sibling or me.  I just can't find a consequence for hitting that makes them care enough or make the connection to actually stop.  When I say going to their room is not really a consequence, I mean it's not really such an undesirable consequence that they are willing to give up hitting to avoid it.  And tbey really don't care that much about their toys and possessions.  Besides, taking them away as a punishment just doesn't make sense to me (though I do it out of desperation -- though not to throw away).  You hit me, I take a toy.  That is what I have done in the past.  And there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, but in the long run, they don't care.  The lost toy is forgotten (and it's not that they have so many toys, they really don't play that much with toys),  On top of which, it doesn't make that much sense to me.  What has their toys got to do with them hitting me or each other?  (of course if they hit WITH something, there's a somewhat logical connection, but when they're just hitting, I don't see the connection).  ?

 

So maybe the question is, how does one enforce zero tolerance?

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#8 of 16 Old 08-15-2012, 04:56 AM
 
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Before I try a family meeting , I would first do a one on one CPS - collaborative problem solving. The idea is to hear and listen -  we want to get your dd's concerns on the table , take it slow and listen without judgement so the kid feels understood . Next -put your concerns on the table , define the problem and brain storm solutions . Then see if you bring them together and you facilitate discussion.

 

The problem with family meetings is that they need structure. CPS provides structure . I also like  using TLC - talking , listening and caring .  So combining the 2 - talking -  kids put their concerns on the table . Now the problem is that most people and kids usually present their concerns in terms of solutions. So ' I want lights out at 1 am ' is a solution to a concern -  I want to read before going to sleep . We need to take a step back and focus on the concern. Brainstorming mutually satisfying solutions that address their concerns  is the caring part.

 

Maybe you would need a 3rd party to help facilitate a family meeting - also best to do it outside the home over some treat. Also the best investment for your dds would be an elder sister or buddy or could spend some fun time with them. She could also help with conflict resolution

 

You could come to an agreement what to do when things get out of hand  -  chill out time - so you are not trying to impose a consequence

 

for cps check http://livesinthebalance.org

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#9 of 16 Old 08-15-2012, 07:15 AM
 
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Originally Posted by crowcaw View Post

 

When I say going to their room is not really a consequence, I mean it's not really such an undesirable consequence that they are willing to give up hitting to avoid it.

 

So maybe the question is, how does one enforce zero tolerance?

 But they CAN'T hit each other if they are separated each in her own room.

 

That's the difference between consequence and punishment imo.

If being sent to their room is supposed to be something undesirable in order to teach them a lesson / make them pay for something they did wrong (not saying that's you intention), then it doesn't work. They will hit again.

If being sent to their room is a consequence, then it's neutral. They can play or read in their room, or cry, or try to calm down or whatever they want to do, until they are ready to play nicely again.

The key is being consistent and send them to their room each and every time they hit.

 

I've noticed this with my own ds; I send him to his room very rarely. Sometimes he's frustrated and cries. Sometimes he starts playing and having fun. (At first I was upset by this, wasn't he supposed to "pay" for what he did? But then I realized: my goal wasn't to make him feel bad, but to stop an unwanted behaviour, which I did.)

 

Just wanted to add a disclaimer, ds is generally very well behaved and we can talk and explain our expectations, and so does he. I don't spend my time sending him to his room. That's why I find that being consistent and firm works, you don't have to do it over and over again.


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#10 of 16 Old 08-15-2012, 10:01 AM
 
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Today one of them accused the other of writing on her shirt (while she was wearing it). The writ-ee rips off the shirt and throws is on the floor. I pick up the shirt, see that there is nothing there, say nothing and put the shirt on the chair next to the shirtless one. She is furious with me now, picks up the shirt, hits me with it. I take the shirt (a favorite) and put it in the laundry (clothes that go in the laundry do not come back out until they're washed -- a rule instituted due to other dramas), dd hits me a couple times screaming that she has nothing else to wear. I send her to her room to calm down, she refuses and hits me a couple more times. As a result she doesn't get to go to her grandmother's swimming for the afternoon. She is sent to her room and sister goes with Dad. For the next hour she repeatedly comes out of her room to yell at me and is sent back. Finally I break, yell at her, and threaten that if she continues she will "lose toys." She, as is usual, continues, and I take toys out of her room that she gets back for civil behavior (if she makes through a day without hitting or name calling she gets things back). This is the only thing that changes her attitude but it's really useless because it's only in the moment, it has no lasting effect. She actually usually forgets about whatever was taken, even when it's something I think is a favorite (they're really not toy kids). Now she is pleasant for the rest of the afternoon. We talk, read, enjoy each other's company. The second her sister comes home after dinner they are instantaneously at each other and rotten again to me and their father.

 

I have been thinking about this, as my mother was a childminder and had various kids who would behave this way.  This is what she'd have done with THOSE kids (might help, might not) whose faces she wouldn't have growled into...

 

When the shirt was ripped off but not written on she would have said sternly "there is nothing on this shirt, do not be dramatic to start a fight" and put the shirt back on the child.

 

When the hitter hit her with the shirt she would have said "go to my room immediately" (they didn't have bedrooms at our house) and if they refused she would have physically taken them there.  Once there she would tell them "in this house you do not hit, you will sit in here until you are ready to apologise and act civilly" and she would have put them in and closed the door.  She held the door shut if necessary to prevent them coming out, and remained silent when doing so.  I can remember this happening vividly with a few of the kids she looked after (who after a few trips to the time out were angels by comparison) and they generally raged for a bit, then cried for a bit, then apologised.  Once they said sorry she opened the door and asked them if they wanted to come down now, if they did she'd take them.  They always got hugs and tissues for any tears they still had after the event.  She never bore a grudge, she always moved on immediately and started a new activity with everyone all together again right away, so there could be no dwelling or starting-it-up-again if the fight had started between kids in the group, she always made it clear that the CHILD was great, and there behaviour was what she was dealing with during these times.  I never saw a child do anything that warranted this treatment more than twice and some of them were HORRORS who would literally be knocking lumps out of each other when they first started coming.

 

She always reacted the FIRST time they crossed the line, rather than trying to ignore it/maintain composure until she lost her temper.  I only saw her ACTUALLY lose her temper a few times in my whole life, because she just didn't let her buttons get pushed more than once before she put a stop to it.

 

So, i wonder if you not reacting/staying calm for such a long time actually puts you at a disadvantage, because they never know how long it'll be before you REALLY lose your temper and the consequences get tougher?  And because there's always a little leeway before they get into trouble, they are going to keep pushing that boundary.  I would never have thrown my shirt on the floor over such a thing.  I might have complained if there was a visible pen mark on my shirt, but there's no way i'd have taken it off and thrown it down, it wouldn't have been tolerated.  

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#11 of 16 Old 08-19-2012, 11:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Before I try a family meeting , I would first do a one on one CPS - collaborative problem solving. The idea is to hear and listen -  we want to get your dd's concerns on the table , take it slow and listen without judgement so the kid feels understood . Next -put your concerns on the table , define the problem and brain storm solutions . Then see if you bring them together and you facilitate discussion.

 

Last week was the perfect opportunity for one-on-one meetings. One girl was in camp in the morning and the other in the afternoons. DDs' concerns are that I am mean and their sister is mean. I am mean because I yell at them. Their sister is mean because they tease (each said that about the other and about me). I couldn't get any further elaboration. I stated my concerns as hitting out of anger. Brainstorming solutions had them both reciting current consequences (we get sent to our rooms, separated,...).

 

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 But they CAN'T hit each other if they are separated each in her own room.

 

That's the difference between consequence and punishment imo.

If being sent to their room is supposed to be something undesirable in order to teach them a lesson / make them pay for something they did wrong (not saying that's you intention), then it doesn't work. They will hit again.

If being sent to their room is a consequence, then it's neutral. They can play or read in their room, or cry, or try to calm down or whatever they want to do, until they are ready to play nicely again.

The key is being consistent and send them to their room each and every time they hit.

 They can do anything they want in their rooms except be with their sister.  I try really hard to be consistent and almost always both girls are sent to their own spaces unless one is clearly entirely innocent.  If I say "until you are ready to play nicely" they're out in a second saying they're ready, so I give them an amount of time they must stay in their room.  If they come out and are right back at it, they go back to their own rooms for another period (usually 10 minutes each time).  We have spent entire afternoons in and out of their rooms. 

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I have been thinking about this, as my mother was a childminder and had various kids who would behave this way.  This is what she'd have done with THOSE kids (might help, might not) whose faces she wouldn't have growled into...

 

When the shirt was ripped off but not written on she would have said sternly "there is nothing on this shirt, do not be dramatic to start a fight" and put the shirt back on the child.

 

When the hitter hit her with the shirt she would have said "go to my room immediately" (they didn't have bedrooms at our house) and if they refused she would have physically taken them there.  Once there she would tell them "in this house you do not hit, you will sit in here until you are ready to apologise and act civilly" and she would have put them in and closed the door.  She held the door shut if necessary to prevent them coming out, and remained silent when doing so.  I can remember this happening vividly with a few of the kids she looked after (who after a few trips to the time out were angels by comparison) and they generally raged for a bit, then cried for a bit, then apologised.  Once they said sorry she opened the door and asked them if they wanted to come down now, if they did she'd take them.  They always got hugs and tissues for any tears they still had after the event.  She never bore a grudge, she always moved on immediately and started a new activity with everyone all together again right away, so there could be no dwelling or starting-it-up-again if the fight had started between kids in the group, she always made it clear that the CHILD was great, and there behaviour was what she was dealing with during these times.  I never saw a child do anything that warranted this treatment more than twice and some of them were HORRORS who would literally be knocking lumps out of each other when they first started coming.

 

She always reacted the FIRST time they crossed the line, rather than trying to ignore it/maintain composure until she lost her temper.  I only saw her ACTUALLY lose her temper a few times in my whole life, because she just didn't let her buttons get pushed more than once before she put a stop to it.

 

So, i wonder if you not reacting/staying calm for such a long time actually puts you at a disadvantage, because they never know how long it'll be before you REALLY lose your temper and the consequences get tougher?  And because there's always a little leeway before they get into trouble, they are going to keep pushing that boundary.  I would never have thrown my shirt on the floor over such a thing.  I might have complained if there was a visible pen mark on my shirt, but there's no way i'd have taken it off and thrown it down, it wouldn't have been tolerated.  

 

I go back and forth with myself on this one.  It is not easy for me to stay calm and sometimes I think I should just give into the big reaction when they start (which, of course sometimes I do, so I'm inconsistent).  I do feel, particularly when the problem is conflict with me rather than their sister, that they are waiting for me to get mad. 

 

I honestly feel at the point of giving up and letting the kill each other, which is advice I 've gotten from a few irl friends.   

 

Thanks everyone .

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#12 of 16 Old 08-19-2012, 01:32 PM
 
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The thing is, she was stern when she reacted, but she was also very calm.  She never acted like nothing was happening, but she never acted mad or shouted either, if that makes sense.  I can remember a mother mentioning to her, in front of all us kids, that she never got them to behave so well, even when she really screamed at them, and my mum said "oh they never behave as well for their own parents as they do for other people" but later she told my dad "Once you shout you've lost already".

 

I will admit i shout (only human here too!), but i always feel when i do that it's "lazy parenting" because i know it will work in the short term, for a few days, because i rarely do it.  But after those few days they begin to be immune, because MY emotions aren't really much of a consequence, unless i use them more constructively (i once was told by my eldest, when i was fairly stressed, cooking dinner at the witching hour and trying to soothe the teething 5mo, and was unable to help her with the craft project she'd undertaken that i was "such a complete idiot" - i was furious and wanted to shout, but instead i failed to lay her a place at the table and failed to fill her a plate, telling her acidly i was so sorry but i'm such a complete idiot i must have forgotten, she apologised and i let her fetch her own plate and cutlery and served her).  There needs to be a bigger consequence for them to think about what they're doing.  My yell can hurry them along in the immediate sense, but it needs a swift, consistent, unpleasant/uncomfortable consequence for the lesson to really get learned.

 

Take heart in the fact that despite her firm and fair approach my brother DID still hit me, if he could, in secret, and very hard.  He tormented me in fact.  When i told her she dealt with it but it would only take a few months for it to begin again.  Now he has serious issues, and was also sexually abusive, so it's not a "normal response" type thing, BUT i just mean even given her great tactics, she couldn't cover all the bases all the time.  Our kids are little people all their own, who to SOME extent can be directed by us, but who cannot ultimately be controlled by anything or anyone but themselves.  You are looking at their behaviour and trying to think of solutions, that is fantastic, that's all any of us can do.  I can't write a list of things that work on my mellow youngest but not her wild big sister, it'd be too long to fit in the box!  Keep thinking and trying, stay sane and be kind to yourself.  You're doing your best, no one could ask more.

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#13 of 16 Old 08-19-2012, 03:00 PM
 
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By the way, we just had a 9 day family vacation that was mostly wonderful and everyone got along. Probably because we were doing something almost every minute of every day. An activity level I can't keep up at home.

 

Are you sure? Because I was going to say it sounds like a case of "not enough to do!" Try putting these energetic kids in soccer, and karate, and violin, and dancing, and art class, and drama camp, and kayacking, and science camp. Then who'll have time to hit? No one.

 

These things can be expensive, but you can sometimes find free programs! Look around.

 

Worth a try!

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#14 of 16 Old 08-19-2012, 05:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Stern without anger.  I guess that's what I mean by being calm.  At least I think I'm stern and I think the boudaries are pretty clear.  But maybe the boundaries allow too much before they're run up against.  In the example of the throwing the shirt on the floor, I didn't think it was that big of a deal to throw the shirt.  I did think it was a big deal to hit me with it.  Maybe I'm not seeing my/their behavior realistically; perhaps I'm more wishy-washy than I think.  And they know I'm going to angrry eventually, so stern doesn't mean much to them, they're waiting for angry.  I and do feel like my yelling is lazy parenting.  Lazy and desperate.  There seems to be so much that I do that I know isn't the right thing but what makes sense to me just ends up going wrong.

 

And activity level... They have been in some sort of camp almost every day of the the summer this year and take dance and swimming lessons.  Camps have been anywhere from 3 to 5 hours followed by swimming, beach, playground, hiking, playdates,....  We're usually out of the house for 6 or more hours every day.  They have been in traditional camp, pottery camp, horse camp, museum camp, dance camp, farm camp... and take dance and swimming lessons once a week.  So some may say it's a case of too much to do.  But it really isn't.  They have boundless interest and energy.  Vacation was literally activity from 8 am until 8 pm; that's what I can't do at home.  Maybe I need more for them to do at home though.  I need to get back to projects for them.  We used to have projects we worked on toghether and that has fallen off this summer.

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#15 of 16 Old 08-19-2012, 06:05 PM
 
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Breifly - I think things will get much better once they are back in school. Sounds like summer-itis in kids who like structure. They sound like my dd and dsd 8 and 10.
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#16 of 16 Old 08-20-2012, 07:11 PM
 
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Yea, I tend to agree about summer-itis!  My favorite practical advice book for older kids is one called "Taking Children Seriously". It's a bit of a laborious read but it has the most practical suggestions in it. Have you tried posting this question in the multiples forum?  Or maybe in the "Ask the Experts" forum: http://www.mothering.com/community/f/16927/laura-markham


Mama to DD September 2001 and DD April 2011 *Winner for most typos* eat.gif
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