The Twelve Steps of a Brother Fight in Our House (Ages 6 and 8)


My two oldest boys are two and half years apart and are truly the best of friends. The kind of friends who disagree much of the time and generally have a legit smack down each day.

I shared this with an almost-stranger recently and she looked horrified. “That’s a lot of fighting.”

To me, it’s no longer shocking. It’s not even something I’m willing to feel any shame or embarrassment about. Despite having grown up with three sisters and no brothers, I have adjusted and grown to love being in a boy household… or perhaps just a household with these particular boys. They love each other, but their arguments are sometimes expressed… aggressively shall we say? 

I present, the current arc of 99% of their fights. 

  1. Younger sprints by cackling maniacally brandishing a sword/ light saber/ paper towel roll towards nobody/ nothing. Older thoughtfully considers for two seconds whether to join. Yes, he definitely wants in. He either: (a) remembers where he last saw the specific weapon he just thought of or (b) decides he can handle this with his bare hands. He enters.
  2. They play.

    The older is talking constantly – directions, corrections, orders, scripts, plot twists. The younger DOESN’T CARE. He listens to nothing. He is in the zone; his own zone. Both are content, in a loud, violent way. This lasts 10-15 seconds.

  3. Either: (a) the younger accidentally clobbers the older in the side of the head due to his lack of motor skill development (b) their two year old brother comes in roaring with absolutely no skill or reason and hurts everyone including himself OR (c) the younger secretly encourages the two-year-old to “get” the older brother. 
  4. Older dramatically flops onto the ground. He is close to losing consciousness (I suspect, not sure). Eyes are squinted, he’s panting, hand to head. We are about to lose him.
  5. Older recovers enough to speak and verbally assaults the younger. Words. Lots of angry words. Basic message: You are entirely responsible for my near-death, have no redeeming qualities, and deserve to be kicked out of the family.
  6. Offended at this character attack and seeking vengeance, younger doesn’t hesitate. Direct strike, mostly physical. It is extreme. Flail-y. BIG.
  7. I show up. I have either been somewhere else and just now can hear what’s happening because… younger, the volume of younger OR – more likely – I have been 100% aware of the entire occurrence and have been ignoring it because: (a) there is a chance the disagreement will magically diffuse on it’s own with neither of them noticing (probability: 1 out of 300) (b) there is a chance they will resolve it through discussion and mutual respect (probability: 1 out of 400) (c) I’m super pumped about getting the entire load of laundry into the dryer before addressing this type of scenario for the fourth time today (probably this).
  8. I physically disentangle the inmates (but just barely because combined they outweigh me now, the eight year old is almost stronger and the six year old is… agile and somewhat feral).
  9. Commence separate chill out time. Older uses this time to prepare his defense. He knows the lingo moms loves to hear. He decides which part of the escalation he is willing to take responsibility for and apologize for. It will be something like: I am sorry I was too gentle or I made the mistake of not preparing my tae kwon do block quickly enough. Younger uses the time to either fume internally so that there will be enough potential energy to really take the older down once he can get back in the ring OR absent mindedly destroys a toy within reach.
  10. I initiate a CALM review of the episode, attempting to give each a chance to state their version of the other’s wrong doing, as well as their own. Some are more prepared for this than others and so some perhaps believe they are more successful in their reasoning. This same “some” also doesn’t realize that mama does indeed have a tiny bit of a clue.
  11. There are apologies. There are plans for different behavior next time. There are breaths taken. There is potentially one exclamation of “IDIOT!” (three max). 

    We get back on track, we laugh and bond over the fact that the two-year-old is learning completely inappropriate language.

  12. Steps 1 – 11 take approximately eight minutes. There is no one they would rather play with and so they run off together and start the predictable route towards the next altercation. 



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