Erika asks: My two sons, aged 11 and 13, had a fight over a remote control a month ago and surprisingly they have not spoken to each other after that. I am quite worried. I have asked them to shake hands several times, and threatened to remove some privileges if they continue to not talk to each other. They would ask nonsense questions just to please me, but when left alone, they are back to their non-speaking situation. What else should I do, as I am so worried sick that this situation will remain for the rest of their lives!
Hi Erika –
It’s so interesting how these things happen. Today, I also got a letter from Ricca (even a similar name to yours), about a fight she was in with her sister. I want you to read that one, because I think it applies, but of course you’ll need more than just that. (Just put her name in the Search box, and you’ll get it).
Of course the difference between you and Ricca is that she was in the fight and you’re not. You’re on the outside, just like me!
But from my outside vantage, I need to point something out, that’s very clear from this distance (but maybe not up-close). This fight is not about a remote control. It never was. No one cares this much about a remote control! This is about your sons’ issues with each other, which existed long before that fight, and are continuing. Now I don’t know exactly what the issues are or were, but that’s our job to figure out!
It is, of course, totally normal for siblings to fight – especially brothers. But not speaking to each other is very different from the usual wrestling matches or pranks. This sounds colder and more scornful. But also, they are uniting in one cause – which is to defeat your wish for them to be friendly! So, although it feels unpleasant, my suggestion is that you use that energy more. Maybe tell them that they won’t get dessert until they go to a movie together. Now they might well choose to “rebel” by going to the movie and not speaking to each other; if so, fine, let them! Then set up another occasion similarly, and another. And then, give them a project to do – like shopping for family gifts together for the holidays perhaps. Before too long, their annoyance with your demands will have made them best friends!
Then, of course, you’ll have a new problem: getting them to be your kids again! And the way to do that will be to take each of them out, without the other, and discuss what was wrong, and why they had such troubles with the other. Again, it’s not about a remote control.
But maybe, by doing this trick of controlling a bit remotely (!), you can get to the bottom of this problem, and create a happier family.
Good Luck! Let me know how it goes!