BY SHEVACH PEPPER
Sibling rivalries and sibling fighting can drive anyone crazy. The children fight over the most trivial things but the results are far from trivial – havoc in the house, the parents feeling irritated and frustrated, and a sense of unpleasantness.
You might try to stay calm and help the children work things out but “more often than not” you end up yelling at them or giving them a punishment hoping that this will solve the problem.
The bitter truth is that it doesn’t. Sure, for a few hours (or minutes) things are quiet but then it starts all over again.
In 1977, the psychologist Fitzhugh Dodson wrote a book called How To Discipline With Love in which he contends that punishment doesn’t always help to stop a child’s bad behavior, on the contrary it can be the cause of the behavior. He called this peculiarity “The Law of the Soggy Potato Chip.”
Simply put, the Law of the Soggy Potato Chip states that, when there is no choice, the second best is also good. Just like a soggy potato chip is better than no potato chip, so to negative attention (being screamed at, being put in their room) is better than no attention.
Jay McGraw in Life Strategies for Teens writes of an extreme case of a teenage who literally self-destroyed himself to get some attention from his parents.
Jay had a friend who was very popular with his peers and had good parents but they were busy in their respective careers and they didn’t have too much time to give to him. One day he went to a party where there were drugs and was caught. His parents sent him to rehab, not because he was a heavy user but just to play it on the safe side.
While he was there his parents visited him every day and when he finally came out he looked great. Life returned back to the norm, his parents got re-involved in their work … and he was back in rehab!
Remember, in the beginning he wasn’t a heavy user at all. He simply craved “a potato chip” (his parents’ attention) and was willing to settle for “a soggy one” (going through the pains of drug abuse and rehab)!
His parents didn’t realize what was going on and this repeated itself a few times until the drugs got the best of him and a little while later he became a statistic.
To a much milder degree, this is one reason for the sibling fighting; it is a call for attention to the parents.
When your children fight (like most normal and emotionally healthy children do at times) look for the reason and try to stop it. If it still continues, “chill” with them a little.
Believe it, the investment of 15 minutes or even a half an hour a few times in a week is worth the result of eliminating sibling fighting and having a nice peaceful house.