Q: We have two boys, 8 and 7. They are completely out of control. They constantly argue, fight and tattle. If they’re not fighting, they’re playing chaotically. Homework is a constant battle, and getting them to bed takes over an hour. They ignore us when we give them instructions, and one boy’s disobedience seems to make the other worse. We can’t go out in public or have people over because their behavior is at its worst when other people are around. HELP!
When unresolved discipline problems have piled up to this level, parents begin acting frustrated, frazzled and frantic, which makes matters worse.
To begin solving the problems with these wild boys, you’re going to have to focus on one problem and one problem only. While doing so, you will need to let the others fall by the wayside. Just muddle through them as well as you can, the important thing being that you stop losing your cool. How do you stop losing your cool? By experiencing some success and realizing these problems are not insurmountable. You are in desperate need of some optimism, and I’ll do my best to help you acquire it.
I recommend that you focus on the sibling conflict.
Create a “three strikes, you’re out” rule. A strike occurs whenever the sibling conflict, regardless of what form it takes, disturbs you in any way, and that includes tattling. A strike, no matter which boy causes it, applies to both, and means they have to sit in separate chairs in separate places in the house for 30 minutes. Use a kitchen timer to signal when time is up. If either of the boys so much as stands up before the timer goes off, keep resetting it until they’ve sat for an entire 30 minutes. The third strike means they sit in their designated chairs for the rest of the day, which you shorten by putting them to bed after supper. Give them five minutes an hour to go to the bathroom.
If they have separate rooms, put them in their rooms at the third strike, but for this to be effective you have to first remove anything they can use for entertainment.
If you can keep your cool and enforce the “Do Not Disturb Mom and Dad’s Peace” rule dispassionately, you should begin seeing improvement in a couple of weeks. Give it two more weeks for the progress to “harden,” then add a second problem to the list.