n. Minute, trivial, unnecessary, and unjustified criticism or faultfinding.

Ever wake up in the morning ready to rumble with the first poor sap who crosses your path? And no matter what anybody says, it just irritates you all the more? To top it off, in spite of your best efforts to keep it together, you just cannot seem to stem the stream of doodoo coming out of your mouth? Yes? No? Maybe it’s just me.

How about your children. Ever had it happen to them? That every thing one of them does bugs the heck out of the other? All day long one is bickering and snapping at the other, and no matter what you do or say, that child is simply NOT SATISFIED? Yes? No? Maybe it’s just me.

So what’s up with this?

Here is what I think:

We are tired. We do not get enough sleep. We do not eat right. We do not have any time for ourselves. The well is dry so we set a bad example: “Here is how NOT to do it, folks.” And those little beings around us soak it all in and play back what they have heard.

And what about your children? They are tired too. They are overbooked. They do not have enough down time. Their well is dry, and so they just do what they have seen: Us, at our worst.

Bottom Line: Any of us, when tired and stretched to the max, will revert. It is a fact folks. Wishing and hoping that it will be different is only going to add more grief. In case you are not sure what I meant by “revert,” think of it as control mania.

Control mania includes:

1. Wanting and trying to control the feelings, thoughts, words and actions of others.

2. Feeling that we are justified in controlling others.

3. Falling back to unschooled behavior patterns, specifically: judgment, criticism, and manipulation. Treating each other horribly.

4. In a nutshell, NITPICKING.

Have you ever noticed that when those around us nitpick each other we just end up nitpicking them to stop? Like that is going to work!

Now I know that when I am in the middle of a drama, it all seems very real and important to me, no matter how ridiculous it may look to you.

It is the same for your children. We all want to be heard, acknowledged and treated in a way that shows that what we think and feel is important.

OK, OK, You get it! What do you DO?

1. Expect it. 2. Name it. 3. Create a family plan of attack. 4. Follow it.

Is it really that simple? Yep....

At this point, I am guessing that you might need a little guidance on “The Plan of Attack.” Happy to oblige:

1. Call a family meeting.

2. Agree on a name. One, my school children recently suggested is “The Trouble Game.”

3. Agree on a plan: “When your try to control me by:

  • trying to change my feelings,
  • nitpicking,
  • criticizing,
  • telling me what to do,

I will flash you this reminder hand signal. (Agree on one.) And you will close your mouth, walk away, and do something to help yourself feel better.

If we have anything to resolve after one day, we will bring it up at a meeting.” Yes, that is all there is to it.

Now the tricky part: Go out and do it. It does not matter what the “IT” is, as long as you all agree to it.

Keep in mind:

  • Everything you do or try is simply an experiment.
  • Keep what works for your family.
  • Get rid of what does not work.
  • Change the rest.
  • Keep trying until you figure it out.

Here are a few Band-Aids for when the plan does not work and you or your children are going for it tooth and nail:

  • Separate the parties.

  • Let everyone cool off. Once cooled, listen to each person’s story in full.

  • Ask questions from front to back: “What did you do before that? What happened before that? And before that?” Keep asking, you will eventually get the truth.

  • Problem solve: What can we do about this? What do you need to feel satisfaction? What do you need? What do I need?” Everyone has a voice and a vote.

  • If they are doing it to engage you, address that as a separate issue and come up with solutions together.

Parting Thoughts:

None of us can handle being together all the time. When your children act out towards each other, they are telling you they need a break.

When you act out, you need a break.

Build alone play and book time into your regular schedule. Be sure to take those times for yourself too.

In a melt down emergency, walk your fence lines, take a shower, burst into a silly song. Anything to get a moment to yourself. Know that the children will follow you. Try to be OK with it. Breathe.

Schedule weekly 1 hour sessions so that each member of your family has one-on-one time with each other person.

  • Week 1: Mom and child A. Dad and child B.
  • Week 2: Mom and child B. Dad and child A.
  • Week 3: Mom and Dad: Kids with a sitter.
  • Week 4: Family fun night.

Make protein snacks available every two hours. Instead of inviting, simply set them out. Sit down and eat with them. If you are grumpy, you need more protein too.

Schedule special days so that each member of your family has one day a week when they are in charge.

Hand out daily complaint tickets. Two per family member. Decide together how long one can complain.

Set up nitpick time. We all nitpick at the same time for one minute.

Do less. Reevaluate your obligations and prioritize according to what really matters to you and yours.

Keep your sense of humor.

Get more sleep, go to bed earlier.

Remember: We are all in this together. You have thousands of parents in the same place cheering you on. We can get through this.