Examining the things that every parent of a young child has said in moments of extreme frustration, and why experts say you should stop yourself short the next time.
Even though I've never compiled a list of the things my kids do that are infuriatingly pointless, I know exactly what would be at the top: fighting over a toy.
If you're like me, having to listen to two small kids at each other's throats over a truck or playtime microphone or even a tiny keyboard they know doesn't have batteries probably makes you want to drag yourself over to the freezer (or wherever it is you keep your vodka).
Why? Because these fights always happen in a house full of toys. More toys than any kid should have, to be honest. And, what's most infuriating of all, these fights are never about the toy, but some sibling power play that is so inconsequential it's about a million miles from qualifying as an actual problem.
To mediate these things as if they're worthy of anyone's attention is too tiresome a proposition to countenance. Instead, I bark, "Share with your sister!" (or "Share with your brother!" depending on how the power dynamics are shaking out). It has never worked. Not once.
Montreal-based parenting coach Linda Aber says parents should "validate all the wonderful things you see the kids doing," which sounds pretty exhausting. But it may set the groundwork for diffusing a bickering toy battle.
"When they're playing Lego and they're not sharing, you can say, 'I love the way you shared this morning and I really believe you guys can work it out and share because you've got such wonderful hearts,'" Aber says.
If my wife ever heard me say this we'd both burst out laughing, which actually might distract my kids enough that they'd stop squabbling, come to think of it. To be fair, Aber doesn't think you can always quell kids with warm words and rainbows. "If they're already in a meltdown, what you need to do is be able to separate them," she says. Once they've calmed down, you can talk to your kids about why it's important to share.
It certainly can't hurt. But before that conversation happens, I'm taking the toy away and playing with it like it's the most fun thing ever. Ever! When both kids beg for me to let them play with it too, I'm going to ask them, in a sarcastic voice as dumbfounded as an idiotic cartoon dog, "Why? Is it important to share?" And only when they get that will they get the toy.