Like siblings throughout millennia, my girls bicker with each other. They pick, they poke, they boss (okay, Flora bosses), they stick their tongues out at each other.

The majority of the time, I can let it wash over me. It’s background noise, perfectly *normal* background noise, and I usually let it go. I’ve also noticed that if I decline to play referee, the girls themselves usually quickly move on, and start playing together with absolutely zero conflict.

But there are times I can’t ignore it, and I have to do something.

For example, dinner time.

Dinner during the week is usually just the girls, M, and me. At the table, Kate is a noisy wiggle worm. She squirms, she hums, she makes noise. As a mature adult, I can easily tune her out — unless she jumps up three times in 30 seconds. Then I’m like, “Sit down! What do you want?”

But Flora cannot ignore Kate’s steady stream of noise. (Which of course is rich with irony because Flora sings, talks, and whistles to herself all the live-long day, except 1. at the dinner table and 2. in the car, which is the other place that this happens.)

Flora asks Kate to stop. Kate doesn’t stop. Flora starts to whine, and teh whining I cannot tolerate. I should be a bigger person here, but Flora whining at Kate to stop or whining at me to make Kate stop sets my nerves on edge.

I don’t know if Kate doesn’t stop because she knows it bugs the shit out of her big sister, or if Kate doesn’t stop because she just can’t stop. I suspect it’s a combination. Kate starts humming to herself without even noticing it, her big sister starts in on her, Kate revels in the attention and keeps humming.

I have a couple of strategies to deal with this. One is to put on some music (right now, “Call Me Maybe” is at the top of the playlist at Casa di RPM). This distracts the girls long enough to get us through the meal. The other option is to simply send Flora away from the table to wait it out. Once Kate is done, Flora can come back to the table to finish her meal in peace.

Sometimes the music backfires, especially if we’re in the car, and Kate wants to sing along, and Flora doesn’t want her to sing along. Sometimes, asking Flora to go into the other room results in a meltdown, usually because I won’t let her bring her food, and then she can because quite unreasonable, and I have to send her to her room.

So, distraction or separation. (I may need other distraction suggestions.) The other time the bickering bothers me is when I need them to get something done so we can leave the house or otherwise get on with our day. Leaving for Target for back-to-school shopping can be delayed if the girls won’t stop arguing with each other long enough to change their clothes.

Our other conflicts occur when the girls become a team, and they are playing against me, or against Dan and me. Yesterday, the girls simply refused to clean the front room. Dan and I must have asked a dozen times. They were asked; they built forts; they were asked; they started and stopped; they were asked; they threw a few things in bins, and went to play Pokemon battle. I was losing my mind. (I finally took night time show away, then night time treat. “We don’t mind!” they chirped.) So they bicker bicker bicker except when they can be united in their distain for cleaning up after themselves. Fantastic.

What do you do when the bickering threatens your sanity? Conversely, what do you do when the bickering is over, and your children are utterly ignoring your orders to do their chores?