Bait and Tackle—Sibling Rivalry

Read about being a mom of 12. Our 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

The fun and the not-so-fun

It's funny how first time pregnant moms (and their husbands) never imagine how obnoxious their future kids will be. They think only of the joys of parenting and never of the more annoying side of raising children. I'm the lucky mom of 12 kids and I can tell you that I've experienced both the fun and the not-so-fun aspects of raising kids.

Major annoyances

Right up there on the list of major annoyances would be siblings baiting each other in front of you, in sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. Here's how it works. Kimmy and Bobby are sitting with you at the dinner table. Bobby says with mock matter of factness, "I didn't know that it was proper to eat peas off of a plate with your fingers."

You glance at Kimmy and see the color red creeping up her neck and onto her face—she's doing a slow, or maybe a not-so-slow burn. "I didn't know," sputters Kimmy, spewing droplets of ketchup onto the white tablecloth and gesturing at Bobby with her fork, "that jerks like you could talk and chew at the same time."

Bobby might respond, pointing to the ketchup stains created during Kimmy's wisecrack, "Hey, I wonder what CSI would make of those spatter patterns? Did she do it—or is she too stupid to do it?"

How far do you let things go?

How far do you let things go before you sigh, and giving up on the idea of a quiet supper, try to break things up before an already ugly situation becomes even uglier? "All right, you two, knock it off. This is a dinner table, not Madison Square Garden."

Next time, watch your kids. Do they, under all their bravado, look relieved when you intervene, or do they look disappointed that they didn't get to face off until arriving at a natural conclusion (did I hear someone say 'coma' ?)?

It's true you can't let them hurt each other, but you should let them work out their differences without interference if at all possible. On the other hand, you don't have to let them spoil your dinner. The best tactic in this case is to speak to them in a quiet tone, stating with firm resolve, "The two of you can finish this now, but in a different room, or you can decide to wait until after dinner to work things out."

Keep your words short and sweet. They'll get the point. And you'll get to eat your meal in peace.