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Desperately need help with DP's constantly fighting (tween) sons

(10 Posts)
Dustingaversion Wed 09-Dec-15 10:13:24

DP's three boys have always been pretty scrappy, but as they've got older, it seems to have got worse, not better. (They're now 6, 9 and 12.)

We don't expect them to behave perfectly. We expect some squabbling, arguing, etc - when we were kids, we bickered and occasionally scrapped with our siblings. But not like this.

It's come to a head recently. Twice within a week, they were fighting non-stop (and shouting and swearing) while I had family and a friend over. It was enormously distracting, DP was off trying to deal with it the whole time, and I felt deeply embarrassed.

DP is at his wit's end, as am I. We feel stressed by the constant conflict and as though we have no control over having a calm home when they're here (one night a week and every other weekend). We're feeling disinclined to book a family weekend away next year - why pay hard-saved cash when money is tight, for a concentrated spell of aggro?! And for the moment we've decided not to invite family/friends over while they're here - which seems ridiculous, really, but necessary.

It's the older two mostly. The younger one has feisty moments like most six-year-olds. But there's deep-seated animosity between the older boys (we're guessing because Mum has blatantly had a favourite over the years, which has caused default resentment) and we suspect this has a lot to do with it. But of course we can't change or control the dynamic with Mum.

The fighting is physical - punches, kicks, shoves - often accompanied by swearing and shouting. A week ago today, it went on for over two hours with little let-up. It was extremely stressful and exhausting.

I've trawled some old threads on here and found some good advice - zero tolerance, no discussion (I think maybe we've tried reasoning with them too much), separate rooms to cool off, more positive attention, etc. But these threads all concerned younger kids. We can't pick up and carry a stubborn 12-year-old off to another room! I feel they're getting a bit too old to be fighting this much and this intensely, but maybe I'm wrong.

I will be having the boys for a few hours on my own later today and TBH am dreading it. (I do have children of my own BTW so am not a parenting novice! I'm just way out of my depth here.)

DP has spoken to his GP, which wasn't much help; counselling isn't available, and we can't afford private family therapy. Does anyone have any other ideas for what we can do to curb this worsening behaviour, with the older boys particularly, possibly even encourage them to actually like and enjoy one another (and make it easier for us to enjoy them), and reclaim some relative calm in our home?

Dustingaversion Wed 09-Dec-15 13:37:17

Anyone? Feeling rather desperate. sad

pluck Wed 09-Dec-15 13:57:41

I guess that the two older boys are at different schools, but wondered if the individual schools might help, with social-skills club, school counselling, "listening ear" type services? If they're at different schools (primary/ secondary), the schools don't need to take sides and can support each one individually. That might also get fed back to home.

Which one is the "favourite"? Did your DH ever do any "compensating" with the other one?

pluck Wed 09-Dec-15 14:00:12

Sorry, meant to add: good luck for later today! flowers

Dustingaversion Wed 09-Dec-15 14:15:38

pluck, thank you so much for posting.

The older two are at different schools, yes, but that's a good idea about school counselling. I think one of the boys already has a "listening ear" kind of support at school, but we could find out if the other boy could access something similar.

The 9-year-old is the firm family favourite, on Mum's side. It's led to a "Perfect Peter" kind of manner in him - he doesn't think he can do anything wrong, even though he can and frequently does (he can stir and push buttons). The eldest seems to hold an entrenched contempt towards his brother, and will lash out whether provoked or not. We've tried talking to him about why he feels such hostility, and he just says: "DSS2 is annoying." Then add DSS3 to the mix, who's pretty physical and loves a wrestle. Chaos! confused

DP hasn't done any overcompensating, I don't think. He loves them all the same, treats them fairly, is trying to address their behaviour. DSS2 is so unused to being called up on his behaviour that he plays the hard-done-by victim a lot when DP tells him off; lots of backchat and swearing back at Dad. The eldest just has it in for DSS2, pretty much all the time. When told off and told to go to his room to cool off, he'll often flatly say: "No."

The fighting, as we understand it, is a backdrop to life whether they're with us or Mum. Sigh. I want a calm home and to be able to enjoy, not dread, my DSSs being here.

Thanks for the flowers - I may need them. Alcohol chilling in fridge for later ...

pluck Wed 09-Dec-15 15:01:47

Do they interfere with each other's homework (even the 6yo should have some)? That means you could get both schools involved with addressing the rivalry. It also means there's a mediator involved between you and the other parent, who's likely to be ve-ery defensive!
wine wine

WhyCantIuseTheNameIWant Thu 10-Dec-15 10:32:32

Could you re-arrange their visits?

Have 1&3 at different times to 2?

Maybe having some time apart would be good for all of you?

Find a trat that each of them would enjoy, then just take that one.

Eg ds1 can have an afternoon ice skating
Ds 2 can see a film at the cinema the following week
And. Ds 3 can go to see Santa?

Either extra to or in place of their regular visits.

It will probably be easier for their mum too, if she hasn't got all 3 fighting!

pluck Thu 10-Dec-15 20:20:36

Hope it all went well the other day!

Splitting them up sounds a good idea!

TheLesserSpottedBee Thu 10-Dec-15 20:37:38

I have two sons who are also 12 and 9.

10 is the age of criminal responsibility. I have made it very clear to my two boys that any physical act of aggression will not be tolerated, not just by me and Dh but teachers/police/adults.

Ask them if when adults disagree or annoy each other what would happen if they started a physical fight? Or you don't like something your boss said to you about the quality of your work. What would you do, punch them?

My Aunt was a victim of domestic abuse, no-one has the right to put their hands on another person.

Re the back chat, the conversation would be over. I wouldn't engage in one where they were not prepared to listen. Also with the eldest refusing to go to his room, ignore and praise the other one for doing as you ask. Also remove whatever affects them most, phone/tablet/computer privileges and reward the child who does as he is asked.

Mamamoose1 Thu 10-Dec-15 23:14:36

You've said they swear/fight/refuse to listen to each other and also to their father, but what are you both doing about that? Physical violence should never be tolerated, it's something you need to put a stop to, before the boys get bigger and stronger. It sounds like they need some help with conflict resolution. As someone had mentioned, take away their privileges until they can show you, their father and each other some respect.

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