Sibling Rivalry? Get Some Boxing Gloves

by Lian on March 30, 2010

Old Skool Parenting Strategy for Sibling Rivalry

Old Skool Parenting Strategy for Sibling Rivalry

I cracked myself up today, which, as you all know, happens to  me all the time at CCHQ.  This afternoon, while I was working on an advice column about sibling rivalry for, I thought about a “parenting strategy” my mom and dad used for taking care of such issues in a family with 8 kids:

They got us boxing gloves.

Yup, 8 kids, 2 sets of gloves and an actual boxing ring. Then, they’d go out to dinner and we’d pummel each other. Brother against brother. Sister v. Sister. And , of course, epic battles between the sexes. Mano a man in our Lanz nightgowns with our brothers, our tormentors.  Wow, did we work it out in that ring!  Are you laughing a little, too? Ah, those were the days. Well, certainly the days before such phrases as “parenting strategies” anyway!

I’m not saying my parents’ solution to the constant bickering and competitiveness was perfect. First of all, as the youngest, I can tell you that I got hurt. A lot. Like ears -ringing- and -fuzzy- vision kind of hurt that I am sure lowered my SATs a few points . My brother Brendan’s 3 years and 50 pounds were quite an advantage in the ring, even if he did agree to fight on his knees. But there was a simplicity to their strategy you have to admire:  work it out amongst yourselves.

Ultimately, that has become my strategy with my boys, minus the gloves. I try to avoid entering any fracas until the situation is dire or medical care is necessary. Do they fight? Yes. Are they competitive? Yes? Is there a perfect way to handle every incident in a fair and just manner? Of course not! Who has the time!

So, instead, I hang back, moderate if necessary, and give my kids the same advice my brother Dick use to give before I headed into the ring: Get low and brace for impact.

Embracing my Chaos,


More advice from

Cut the Chaos: Fight Mommy Brain!

Cut the Chaos: Raising the Average Child

Cut the Chaos:  Be a Positive Sports Parent



Lian April 4, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Mary– I’ve been lobbying my husband for a punching bag too! I wish we’d gotten one sooner. I like the phrase “Take it to the basement.” Really, every day a situation arises where I’d love to be able to say , ‘Take it to the basement.”


Mary April 4, 2010 at 9:55 AM

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting my boys, 10 and 14 boxing gloves and punching bag. I was the youngest of six and my brothers had them. Whenever the boys started my Dad would always say, take to basement and work it out on the bag. And you know if was great advice. They channeled their anger in a positive way, got a little exercise, and worked it out. My youngest will be 11 in May, I think that and a new basketball hoop are on his list. Now I got to talk my husband into it.

Thanks for the cute article

Joan April 2, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Lian, I love this family story! Thanks for sharing. The last line, advice from brother Dick is priceless.
Happy Easter! You’ve given me hope with your wisteria. We just planted it this year so if mine is nice like yours in three years, I’ll be happy.

Cyndi March 31, 2010 at 7:33 PM

Trying to picture good parents going out … eight kids with boxing gloves going at it … a good ending? Most likely, somehow …

Don’t know how the actual boxing ring with a mixed crowd fared, but I’m picturing a bad scene, haha .. !

Times have changed.

MNMama March 31, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Wow, boxing gloves! I would have never guessed that as a Dolan tradition in a million years. I’ve been an avid listener to the SS, as well as your podcast since it began…yet I don’t remember ever hearing anything about “the ring”. What a sight that must have been. Hopefully, someone has a match on videotape that can be hauled out and played at family reunions and holidays – good times.
With just two girls, my mom’s solution to unbearable bickering/fighting between us was also akin to boxing–we both had to go to our “corners” (our rooms) and just take a break from each other. Really, sometimes a mama just needs a break too!

Susan Stitt March 30, 2010 at 3:12 PM

My favorite fight with my big brother Pat was one night while I was doing the dishes, I squirted my brother with the Dishmaster sprayer, he went upstairs, got the Water Pik, plugged it in, in the kitchen, and started squirting me with it! We drenched the kitchen with water, and then had to work together to clean up the mess before our parents got home! No harm done, tons of fun, can’t remember what the argument was about anymore!

Kristin March 30, 2010 at 1:13 PM

My approach is…. I am not intervening if there is no blood. :) Not sure how amusing that is when a bruise or hurt feelings are the result of some epic battle, but it has to be my standard. They have to work it out….

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