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Jul
06

The call came early; the voice on the other end of the line was frantic.

“My kids are making me crazy,” my sister said.  “How am I supposed to get any work done with their constant fighting, yelling and arguing?”

I listened and shared stories of my own kids: backtalk, whining, complaining, and in-fighting.

Ahhhh, summer.

It’s usually around this time that I get a surge of phone calls from friends and neighbors, all of whom are wonderful parents, but who begin to doubt their sanity as the lazy days of summer pass.  If you have kids, you know the drill:  boredom, complaining, sibling arguments, sassiness, yelling.  What’s a parent to do?  Below are some tips to help make your summer and your family a little more manageable.

  • Have a family meeting.  You can also meet one-on-one with each of your children if necessary. Make it clear that bossiness, yelling, and fighting will have a consequence, which in our house means picking out an extra chore from the jar.  Extra chores also go to those who whine, complain, talk back and hit.  There’s nothing like dog-poop pick up duty to make a 12 year old reconsider talking back!  Here’s a twist we use in our house: extra points go up on the white board for those caught being good.  Good behavior includes using manners, not arguing about chores, talking nicely to siblings, and doing something without being asked.  After 25 points we all go out for ice cream.
  • Don’t overbook.  If your family is anything like ours, the entire school year is a constant flurry of activities:  sports, piano, homework, chores.  For us, summer is about taking it easy, as much for the kids as for me.  Of course you want your kids to do some fun activities, but if you are constantly driving and feeling anxious, you are doing too much. Remember that allowing your kids down time to read, ride bikes, use their imaginations, or just be lazy is a very important part of their development.
  • If you work, plan one fun activity a week you can do with your kids. If you work full time and pick your kids up in the evening, usually everyone is hot, tired, and probably a little crabby.  To work around this issue, try to plan one activity each week the whole family can enjoy.  Examples can be take-out dinner and a picnic at a park, an evening trip to the pool, a movie night or game night, or going out for ice cream after dinner.  This way everyone has something fun to look forward to, and you can use this as leverage if your kids start acting up.
  • Plan time away from your kids.  Even if you work full time, you still need to re-energize your battery.  All parents need a night out with each other, even if it is for one hour to take a walk.  If you are a stay-at-home parent try hard to schedule a few hours one day a week with a baby sitter to just get out of your house and away from your kids.  There are usually a whole gaggle of middle school girls who would love to earn a few dollars to play with your kids!
  • One-on-one time.  Lastly, our family has a long standing tradition where each child has a special day or evening to spend alone with us.  My kids call it “mommy and me day” (or daddy when it’s his turn).  Whether you have one child or five, it is very important for your kids to spend some one-on-one time alone with you.  It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal—go out for lunch, see a movie together, take a hike, or go swimming.  Kids feel energized by the time that they have your full attention.

By following these rules, we’ve been able to tone down the summer squabbling in our house to bearable levels — and believe it or not, lately I’ve been catching my kids having fun together and even (gasp!) playing nicely!

Since the invention of summer vacation, kids have been making their parents crazy.  But even though it can be trying at times, summer is a great opportunity for your children’s brains and bodies to relax.  It’s a time to try new activities, declare some independence from parents, learn a new skill, play and just be a kid.

(And if all else fails, remember:  school is only a few months away!)

What do you do in your house when the sibling fighting starts? Any tips or questions for Dr. Joan? Ask them here!

Dr. Joan Simeo Munson is a contributing writer for Empowering Parents. Read the complete bios of all our contributors and parent bloggers here. If you’d like to blog for EP, please contact us at editor@empoweringparents.com!


     

If you find any comments that are rude or inappropriate, please contact us immediately.

  • Mom of 3 Boys Says:

    Dr. Joan, we have three boys, and they are all pretty rowdy. My oldest son is especially a handful (he’s 12) and has become the ringleader with the younger ones. He gets them to do all kinds of things I know they wouldn’t come up with on their own! (Like talk back to me, shut the doors of their rooms and lock them and not come out when its chore time, I could go on and on.) How do I take back control? I feel like our oldest son is running the show now, and he’s only 12. Help!

  • Sue in WA Says:

    This article came at a good time as we were dealing with sibling fighting, backtalk and chores yesterday. How can I use your suggestion of picking another chore when misbehavior happens when it is a major struggle to get one chore done? I’m dealing with a 12 yog and 13 yob. Yesterday the objective was to clean their rooms so they may earn a trip with the youth group to go bowling the following evening. I know cleaning a room can be an overwhelming task so I always talk about breaking it down into smaller chunks. With all the fighting, yelling, and attitude going on with not much progress, we never feel like the reward is ever earned. If we pile more work on them they feel like oppressed slaves and nobody gets a break to have some fun. What are we doing wrong or better yet, how can we get chores accomplished without all the drama and attitude?

  • Caroline Says:

    I have felt a sense of guilt about your suggestion on spending one-on-one time with each of your kids. It is something that I have been beating myself up for because I know I want to do this with our daughter especially. Both of them would be great, but our daughter is getting older and has asked for this. I feel guilty that since her little brother was born a few yrs ago, that a lot of my energy has gone to dealing with his Eczema issues. Thankfully he has been helped with this by taking Vidazorb probiotics, but now he has become a bit demanding of this “attention” even still. I am trying to “un-do” what I started out of necessity in helping him. Anyway- thanks for the reminder- I am going to make sure this happens for our sweet girl! Caroline

  • drjoan Says:

    To Sue in WA:

    Your question could not be more timely and I would like you to read James Lehman’s latest article, “I’ll do it Later!” 6 Ways to Get Kids to do Chores Now. I think you will find this article applies to every problem you are experiencing with your 12 & 13 yr. olds.

    What kids this age need is structure. Sit down with each of them and decide what time chores are going to get done. I especially like the idea of having them do chores first thing in the morning. This means before cell phones are on, computers are up or the television is blaring. It also means before meeting with friends or doing fun things. Offer up fun activities as a reward for getting chores done (i.e., hitting the pool, going to the mall, or seeing a movie all work as incentives). The nice thing about structuring when chores are to get done is that you can simply say, “We agreed–chores first, fun later”.

    If fighting occurs while chores are getting done, I suggest taking away their time. Nothing is more precious to a teen than their time, so stating that bed time is 15 minutes earlier tonight since they can’t stop arguing can work as a fighting deterrent. In my house if fighting among siblings continues they get one warning, then they lose a privilege for that day. This can include computer time, watching a DVD, or playing video games.

    Lastly, your children will never be happy about doing chores! Your job is to let them know what your expectations are, stick to your plan, and follow through with positive reinforcement as well as consequences at the end of each day. Good luck!

  • drjoan Says:

    To Mom of 3 boys:

    As the mother of a 12 year old boy (and a 10 year old boy and a 7 year old daughter) you have my complete sympathy. They’re a handful, aren’t they? First, let me say that he certainly sounds creative and has the potential for real leadership! However, some of his more disrespectful behavior has to end, so with that said, it’s time to take back the reins and get control of the family again. Here’s what you do:

    First, hold a family meeting and explain that there’s a new sheriff in town (that would be you) and you have some new ground rules for the family to follow. In terms of getting things like chores done, make it clear what you expect and when you expect them to get completed. In our house the first thing my kids do in the morning during summer is pick out 4 chores from the chore jar. Then, we write them on a big white board that hangs in the kitchen. After breakfast, everyone starts moving towards chore completion. While some chores (such as setting the dinner table) can’t be completed until later in the afternoon, all other chores must be finished before the fun begins. That means no bike riding, computer, video games, etc. until chores are finished!

    Second, during your family meeting explain to all 3 boys that if/when the disrespectful behaviors begin, there will be serious consequences. Feel free to make a list of what consequences will be doled out for various behavior. For instance, if doors are locked to avoid chores, computer time goes away for 3 days (or whatever you deem appropriate). Explain to you children that you are no longer tolerating their no listening to you.

    Third, it’s time to hold a one-on-one conference with your 12 year old and explain to him that his role as oldest child is an important one, filled with the potential for leadership and privileges if he can control his enthusiasm for misbehaving. Review with him the qualities you like most about him and what you are willing to let him do simply because he is older (such as staying up later). Remind him that being oldest has its privileges if he can show you that he is responsible. This trick has worked wonders with my oldest son who loves the fact that he has an hour later bed time than his siblings and more autonomy in our house if he can behave. I would also consider getting your oldest son involved in some activity this summer that capitalizes on his creative/energetic personality that does not involve his brothers. I’m thinking swim team, an outdoor education group, or an art class.

    Summer is hard. Boys can be difficult. But remember that you are in control of your house and the sooner your boys are aware of this the better you will feel! Good luck. You sound like a very caring mom.

  • Elisabeth, EP Editor Says:

    Dr. Joan, Thanks for this great blog post — I think just about everyone is dealing with summer squabbling right now! Just out of curiosity, what would you recommend for parents of singletons? Although sibling rivalry isn’t an issue in our house, we’re dealing with frayed nerves (mine as well as my son’s) the eternal declarations of “I’m bored!” and too much time spent in front of the T.V. and video games. (Although I’ve gotten good at switching off the tube at a certain time every day, it seems to be all my son wants to do.) Any tips? As always, thanks for your great advice!

  • drjoan Says:

    Hi Elisabeth,

    I think parents of singletons sometimes have it harder than those of us with more because of the boredom factor. Fighting vs. boredom–which is worse? My main suggestion would be enrolling your son in various camps throughout the summer. When my kids were younger they loved outdoor education, art class, tennis camp, and even a pottery class. I think alternating a week of class with a week off is a nice change for kids.

    During the in-between weeks how about a kid swap with some friends? This is always helpful because it is a great way for you to get some free time (operative word–FREE because you aren’t paying a babysitter) to work or run errands. Granted, when it’s your turn to host you have more than one kid at your house, but at my house sometimes it’s a lot easier to have a friend over to play because at least your single child is distracted and not glued to the television!

    Finally, set up a section of your house with activities for your child. We have a little table in the corner of the kitchen that includes paints, crayons, tons of paper, play-doh, stickers, math work sheets, writing work sheets, and a big basket of books. When you hear “I’m bored!” you can send him to the activity corner and tell him he can pick any one of the fun things to do. And if he responds with “I don’t want to do any of those things” tell him he’s free to do some chores around the house that have to get done. That usually makes the activity corner look a little more exciting!

  • Elisabeth, EP Editor Says:

    Dr. Joan: What great advice. We do have an activity table at our house — I haven’t used the “activity vs. chore” idea yet, but I’m going to try it. :) Thanks, Dr. Joan!

  • mabel Says:

    Hi,

    I have a 7 yr girl whose behavior gets worse every yr, around May, and it lasts for a few mnts. She doesn’t listen,talks back,yells, stomps, her feet, you name it, you need to keep reminding her to do things, she just doesn’t want to do anything at all, unless she gets something for it. I have been trying to be firm, and tell her that unless her behavior changes, she doesn’t get anything she asks for, but it seems to get better for a few hrs,and it starts again, help. Any suggestions.

  • Mom Of Four Says:

    Hi Dr. Joan,
    We are having a bad day today – we are due to leave for a one-month camping trip this week and my husband and I are exhausted by our two oldest children’s fighting. They are 11 and 9, and constantly say mean things to each other and provoke each other to hit and kick.

    We are deciding between cancelling the trip (which would punish our whole family as well as extended family we would be visiting), leaving the two oldest with grandparents, and going on the trip but not allowing the two oldest to do any of the “fun” stuff that we have planned. This would mean one parent would have to sit out every event with them.

    Are we missing some better options here?

  • drjoan Says:

    To: Mabel

    It seems that maybe you’ve gotten into the rut of your daughter doing things only if she gets rewarded. I certainly understand how tempting it can be to offer rewards for every chore done, but in your situation I think it’s time to step in and set some more serious consequences for this ongoing difficult behavior.

    First, explain to your daughter that chores are something everyone does in the family. In our house, my kids get rotating chores so that they are not bored doing the same old things each day. This can break up the monotony. If possible try getting chores done all at once. First thing in the morning works best because you can use her completing chores as leverage to do other things during the day. A conversation might go something like: “You are welcome to have a play date with Susan as soon as your chores are done. If they don’t get completed by this time, there is no play date”. Set a timer and encourage your daughter to get her jobs done before it goes off. Invite friends from school over during the summer so she has fun activities to look forward to.

    As for the yelling, talking back, and stomping feet, tell your daughter (when she is behaving) that this behavior is no longer going to be tolerated. Make a list of what the consequences will be for each and every one of her bad behaviors and then follow through when they start (examples include losing a privilege for sassy talk or going to bed a half hour earlier for yelling). When her behavior is good, make certain you commend her for it. You can even create a “listening chart” where she gets a point for each time she listens without complaining or does a chore without making a fuss. After so many points take her out for a treat (ice cream?) or something to show her you appreciate her helpful behavior.

    This is not easy, but she needs to start learning that you are the one who sets the boundaries and that you will follow through with consequences if she chooses not to listen. Good luck!

  • drjoan Says:

    To Mom of Four:

    Do not cancel your trip! If you do that you are teaching all your children that they have the power to control your family activities. If anything, make them go on this trip, but only after you have a family meeting.

    Prior to the meeting you must sit down with your spouse and map out the behavior you expect of all 4 of your kids. Then, list all the behaviors that make you crazy (hitting, kicking, etc.). Next to the crazy-making behaviors, list a consequence that is reasonable and easy to follow through on when you are on vacation. An example is the following: “If someone kicks, that person has to go to bed a half hour earlier and gets an extra chore for the day”. Other examples could be making them take their own money on the trip and paying you a dollar each time they hit, being responsible for the chores of the child they are being mean to, or being left out of a fun activity for the day.

    Then, call the family meeting and calmly tell your kids that this vacation is going to happen and you and your spouse are going to have fun. Tell everyone you hope they have fun too, but if they choose to misbehave and be miserable you have a list of consequences they will face. Review the list as a family. The important factor here is to not let your kids think that they have the power to influence whether or not you enjoy yourselves! I realize of course that kids can make you miserable when on vacation (a recent trip to Mexico and a stubborn, miserable 9-year old comes to my mind) but you HAVE to put the onus of responsibility for good behavior on their shoulders and not let them see that they are bothering you. So when they act out you can say, “You are making a choice right now to be miserable by acting poorly. I am going to enjoy myself and when you are ready to do better you can join us again”.

    Lastly, and as the mother of 3 I know this is difficult, you are going to have to ignore a lot of their behaviors. My husband and I say that if no one is hurt or in danger, we ignore it. I always say to my kids, “Figure it out….or else!” and trust me, my kids know that the “or else” means a serious consequence. Most of the time they figure it out (at best) or choose to ignore each other (still a good option).

    I know how hard having a lot of kids can be, especially with the fighting, but if you put into play some serious consequences, your kids will know you mean business. At the very least, plan a date night NOW for when you get home from your trip!

  • Mom of Four Says:

    Thanks, Dr. Joan, for taking the time to respond. I like your suggestions. One thing that we always seem to have problems with as parents are those consequences! Which are appropriate? Which are too harsh? Which will actually make the kids CARE that we’ve given a consequence?

    Sheesh. Someday we’ll be expert parents – just about the time our youngest child gets married!

    Thanks again,
    Mom of Four

  • LISA Says:

    I have a seven year old step-son he lives with his father and I… He has been living with us full time for about two years now…. he has been diagnost with adhd and odd… he is currently taking adderall xr 10mg… his is a pretty good kid for the most part but he had to be the boss with other kids and he has to win at games or he flips out… he becomes very mouthy, his latest thing is cursing at his father and i. but i let my husband do most of the disciplining. he plays a sport, and really has it made at our house. i just don’t know what to do with his outbursts with the screaming and the name calling and the cursing. my husband can be a softy though he gives in all the time and does not take him seriously, or me for that matter. What TO DO?

  • titans Says:

    Hello
    I am a single mother of a 10 yr old boy and a 8yr old boy.Every day they don’t just verbally fight they fist fight.Sure I seen alot of sights saying let them fight no blood leave them alone.Well today my oldest kicked my 8yr in the chest and then my other took a very large nerf gun to him.The eight yr old has heart issues.Not life threating.But not good for him to be kicked.My problem isn’t getting any better.I have taken everything from them but their clothes and bed.didn’t work,been grounded didn’t work.I have them wrighting 50 times I will not hit my brother.8yr old is doing it.Ten yr old said no I will not do it.Your mean,Its torture.Bla Bla kept going.So I ended it by putting him to bed.Its 6:00pm.Yes I feed him dinner first.They just don’t stop.What can I do.Thank you
    Michelle

  • Jennifer Says:

    ok now summer is over and the homework is on, sports,hebrew school how do we take some time off?

  • Dr. Joan Says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Your problem is a common one: trying to successfully merge two families and having problems as a result. I always say that one of the hardest things to do is to parent not just your own kids, but step-children to boot. You and your husband however are in a crisis mode. Any time a 7 year old begins to run the house (and make no mistake, your stepson is running the house at this point) it is time for an intervention.

    Sit down with your husband tonight and let him know that the two of you need to begin working on his son’s behavior NOW. This child is asking for boundaries and parameters to be set for him so he doesn’t hurt himself or others. By letting your husband do the disciplining and then your husband becoming a softy, the two of you are doing more harm for this boy than good. Parents and stepparents make all sorts of parenting mistakes based on guilt, fear of being disliked, or simply not knowing what to do.

    The two of you need to find a mental health counselor who can help you create a game plan for you step-son. His issues are large and difficult, but you CAN help him help himself and your family as well. Call your pediatrician and ask him/her for a recommendation for a therapist who specializes in parenting and child development issues. Most therapists have a sliding fee based on how much income you and your husband make if money is an issue. A therapist can get the two of you on the same parenting page, help you better understand your step-son’s needs based on his diagnoses, and give you the tools to help him in a consistent and helpful manner. Please do not delay–your entire families future may depend upon you and your husband getting help today. Good luck!

  • Dr. Joan Says:

    To Michelle:

    First, I have never agreed with the idea that boys should be able to hit one another as long as there is “no blood”. This “boys will be boys” attitude creates a violent home and your home sounds like it is spinning out of control. It also sounds as if you are not being respected as a parent and that you have no authority in your own home. My fear is that all this hitting and back talk is going to result in some more serious violence and disrespect as these boys get older.

    First, do the boys have an active father in their lives? If yes, then you need to enlist his help in your action plan. If no, then you will have to do this on your own. Anytime a parent has reached the end of their rope it is time to get outside help. You need to call your pediatrician today and fill him/her in on what is going on. Ask for a referral to a mental health specialist who specializes in parenting issues. What you need is support and guidance in the area of setting boundaries and gaining respect in your family. I greatly appreciate the fact that you are trying to set up some rules, but for some reason it does not appear to be working. Are you inconsistent? Do you turn soft when they whine? Do you follow through with consequences? Since I have no way of knowing the answers to these questions, you need to find a trained professional to help guide you through the process of balancing love/discipline/rules in your house.

    If you do not do this today, your boys run the risk of increasing their aggressive behavior towards each other and you as they reach puberty. Please call and find a parenting therapist to help you with these issues as soon as you can. I am sure this is overwhelming being a single parent, but you obviously care enough about your boys to reach out for help. Take the next step and help yourself help them. Good luck!

  • EP Blog: Our Top Ten Posts of 2009! | Says:

    [...] Sibling Fighting, Backtalk and Yelling–It Must be Summer by Dr. Joan [...]

  • Lacedeno Says:

    These posts are great, thank you everyone. Dr. Joan, I have a couple of questions. First, I’m a single mom of 2 boys, ages 14 & 12. I work full time out of the house, usually don’t get home before 6 pm. During the summer the boys will be home alone. I don’t have the $ to send them to camps this year, hoping that some $ will be available to send them to NYC to visit my family for a couple of weeks.

    Regarding chores: currently my boys are responsible for keeping their room clean, including keeping it neat, dusting (monthly is the goal, & it’s a challenging one at that!). They also have to feed the cat & do their own laundry each week – sort, wash, I fold. I’m liking your idea about the chore jar, but not sure what chores would apply. I have to ride them to do what they currently have and that’s only cleaning up after themselves! They complain (especially 14yo) that all they do is work (HW is included in that complaint). What kind of chores do you have in your chore jar? Who is responsible for what doesn’t get picked? Can you elaborate a little more?

    Summer: again, since the boys will be home alone for much of the summer, I have no way to enforce getting the chores done before they go out. I create a list of things to get done…sometimes they do it and other times they say they forgot or didn’t see it. How would you address this situation?

    I know these posts are a little old, I hope it’s still being monitored! Thanks for all your great advice!

    Leslie

  • Dr. Joan Says:

    Dear Lacedeno,

    Ahhh, boys! My first 2 are boys and my 3rd is a girl. What a difference! First, let me say that their behavior is perfectly normal. I have never heard of a child who will not bitterly complain about chores. A couple of suggestions:

    In our house I have a giant white board that hangs in our kitchen. Each of my kids names are on it and below their names are a list of homework that needs to get done, upcoming school projects and chores. They are in charge of looking at the white board each day, completing their chore and putting a check next to it when done (don’t let them erase when finished–it’s too tempting for them to not do the chore, erase it, then you can’t remember what you wrote). Your job will be to review the white board each evening after dinner. This will take a lot of commitment from you, especially after working hard all day. However, they need to know that you are on to them and also what you expect of them. If it is right in front of all 3 of you there can be no excuses that they “didn’t see it”.

    You may break up chores into 2 categories: the first includes chores that have to get done that day. Examples are: setting the table, unloading the dishwasher, making their beds, putting dishes in the dishwasher, walking the dog, etc. These are things that have to get done every day. Second, there can be week-end chores: mowing the lawn, washing the car, laundry on Saturday’s, meal planning for the week (yes, your boys can make a shopping list), watering plants, cleaning the basement, picking up dog poop in the back yard, dusting, clean garage, washing windows, etc. These are things everyone can do on Saturday’s or Sunday’s.

    As far as being the enforcer, you’re right, you cannot physically force them to do their chores. However, you can set some pretty stiff consequences for them if the chores don’t get done. For instance, do they have cell phones? Those can belong to you if they don’t complete their chores, for however long you want. Computers can be unplugged, televisions removed, all video games finished, friends not allowed over, etc. Call a family meeting and say, “There’s just the 3 of us so we need to work as a family here for the summer. We all have jobs. Mine is to go to work each day and you guys will have to complete chores. Each evening you will pick 4 chores out of the chore jar to do the next day and write them on the white board. I expect you to do these chores daily. When you finish them, mark a check next to each one and I will look at them when I come home. If you don’t do a chore, you will have to do it that evening no matter what else is going on. If you fail to do that, your consequence is (fill in the blank here). If you can complete your chores each day for one week, we can celebrate by doing (fill in the blank here). Suggestions are a trip to a water park, dinner out, a movie, visiting the local museum, a concert, whatever you think they would like!

    Our chore jar has the following chores: sweep floor, unload entire dishwasher, load dishwasher, clear table, set table, menu plan for the week, wash floor, vacuum, dust, clean toilets, wash out sinks and mirrors, recycle goods all day, clean room, sort dirty laundry, wash laundry, put laundry away, feed dog, clean out dog bowls, walk dog, put out garbage/recycle. Add whatever you think is appropriate for your house.

    Lastly, have your boys be engaged in activities since you cannot be with them during the summer months. For instance, what about volunteering at the library, your local rec center, a senior’s home, or as a camp counselor? Do you belong to a church that has opportunities for your kids? I also wonder about whether you can find support in their friends parents? Maybe they can hang out at a friends house one or two days a week? I have an open house during the summer where a lot of kids who are home while their parents work are hanging out in my kitchen! Your boys are old enough now to do more during the summer than just hang out at home or with friends. I really encourage you to see if they can do more now that they are older. You sound like an awesome mom who is greatly concerned with their upbringing. Good luck this summer!

  • sfehir Says:

    Please help!

    I have a 4 yr old and 6 yr old daughter who rely on my to constantly keep them busy. They will never play with their toys- they would rather help me unload the dishwasher or watch me fold clothes. I feel like I constantly have to keep them occupied or else they fight. Lately they are fist fighting and pushing. I have put them in time outs, given them warnings, and even separated them into separate rooms for entire nights. What else should I be doing? Making a chart? I mean, how many incentives can I be giving them on a daily or weekly basis before they just start expecting them? What else should I be doing?

    -Frustrated mom

  • GloryB Says:

    I need a new method because I am at wits-end with my kids cruel behavior. I have two boys 10 & 12 and a girl age 7. They do not physically fight but just as bad they speak rudely to one another; call names, tease, gang-up on one another, give unwarranted rude comments, tattle, and try to parent each other by bringing each others bad behaviors attention and correcting each other in not-so-nice ways, have a nasty aura. We are a blended family (divorce) and have two sets of rules those at mom’s home and those at dad’s. There is no possibility of unity or support in way of values. I am ex-military and was raised “old school” and I expect accountability, responsibility, respect & honesty. My children already follow a chore chart, follow though with responsibility but of course don’t appreciate having to contribute in these ways due to the different life they have at their father’s. I get pulled in the middle of what seems like every argument. I give them all suggestions of how to address each others behavior – be direct, tell each other “you don’t like it when …”, remind them to speak as you wish to be spoken to, at times ignore, walk away, refuse to play with each other until you are treated fairly. I remind them that none of them would treat their friends in these ways, to which they agree. I always follow up with explanation and a lecture. I know this guilts them for the moment but still we never have any improvement. I have had a trial of consequences some presently and others in the past like; complete each others chores, make each others bed, give a true apology, pay a “kind jar” fine as well as forfeit rewards like watching a family movie. I have forced them to stay in each others rooms without the other for a set time. It’s not all about consequences, I compliment them when I observe them playing nicely together, I reward them with trips for ice cream, and icee or an agreed upon family activity. I know each of them can hold it together, they do so at school, but why is it family life comes with different rules? I have followed the Total Transformation Program, I just ordered the Calmer Parenting program, we have attended a family therapist in the past(at full out-of-pocket cost). I am obviously open to help. I just want a loving cohesive family unit. What can you suggest for my family. Much appreciation.