I have 3 daughters who are 10, 13 and 16. One of our favorite activities to do together is watch reality TV. We love Dance Moms, Real Housewives, Honey Boo Boo and several others. We’re a very busy family and it’s difficult to find things that we all can enjoy. We look forward to being together watching these shows.
One of my closest friends is shocked that I let my girls watch these programs and we’ve had numerous disagreements about it.
Please tell me what you think and settle this argument.
A real mother in Hopkins
Dear Real Mother,
Thank you for raising this very important issue.
I agree with you that it is important for you and your daughters to spend time together and that it can be challenging to find things to do that all of you can enjoy.
That being said, I share your friend’s concern about these programs. Although they may be fun entertainment for adults, I wonder about the messages that children might be getting from the way the characters are presented. Typically, the women on these shows are generally portrayed as self-centered, materialistic, ill-mannered and inarticulate. In addition, men and minorities are not accurately represented either. Healthy relationships built on mutual respect, honesty and trust are non-existent and interactions with partners, family and friends are often inappropriate and disrespectful. Women are not shown in a positive light nor are they seen as intelligent, empowered or competent. These shows are promoted as “real” even though we know that characters are manipulated through the editing process. What is shown to the public is highly crafted and not real or spontaneous as we are led to believe. The episodes are advertised for their drama and hype. Adults can understand this; but children of all ages may have difficulty making the distinction between what is real and what is fantasy. The behaviors and personalities of these characters and the messages they convey can be very confusing to them.
What I admire and support is your commitment to have time together with all of your daughters but I strongly recommend looking for other ways to accomplish that. There is nothing wrong with you watching the shows that you mentioned but consider watching together some of the other reality shows that focus more on skills and talents like The Amazing Race or Top Chef. Explore other activities like going to women’s athletic events. Have a movie night at home and record programs to watch later. This gives you more control over content and the messages they are getting from what they are seeing. Attend school productions. Go on a hike or bike ride. Read an article together and discuss it. My daughters and I used to love reading advice columns in the paper and giving our own answers to the questions asked. (I guess I’m still doing that. J) We had lots of fun and had some meaningful conversations about the issues presented.
It’s okay to make this a gradual transition. Talk with your girls about your reasons for making the change and listen to and incorporate their thoughts and suggestions. You might be surprised by the creative and fun activities they suggest.
All the best, Barbara
Dear Ask Barbara,
I have three children ages 6, 9 and 13. The other day we were driving home and my 9-year-old asked me why so many bad things are happening, like floods and shootings and kids dying of the flu? I don’t have the news on while the kids are around and I couldn’t believe my ears. I don’t even know how he knew about these events. Then my older one chimed in and of course the 6-year-old started asking what happened and what her siblings were talking about. How do I explain why these horrible things happen?
At A Loss for Words
Dear At A Loss for Words,
Thank you for asking a really important question and one that many parents struggle with. Every tragedy is different, but I will give you some general guidelines.
- Find out what your children know about the situation. They may know a lot or a little. Their information may be accurate or it may be untrue. I agree with you that it is important to keep news programs off when kids are around, but they often find out about big, unpleasant stories. Ask questions like: How did you hear about that? What do you know about what happened? Listen to their answers.
- Understand your own thoughts and feelings about an event before you talk to your children about it. Give yourself time to think about what you want to say to them. Try to be calm and reassuring. Children need to know they are safe and these tragedies are very rare. It’s ok to say, “This is an important topic and I’m so glad you asked me about it. I need a little time to think about my answer, so we’ll talk about it before dinner.”
- Keep conversations simple, honest and age appropriate. Kids can always ask for more information, but you can’t take back something once it has been said.
- The discussion that you have with older children will be different and should be separate from the chat you have with younger children. It’s appropriate to ask the older ones not to share information with the younger ones. If you talk about something all together, then the level of detail needs to be geared to the youngest child.
- Sometimes these horrible events can be an opportunity to share your values, religious beliefs, faith and spirituality. Why do you feel the way you do about gun control, immunizations, etc.? Sometimes they can be an opportunity to discuss a family emergency plan, but remember to pace yourself so that your children aren’t overwhelmed.
- It is normal for children to feel anxious and stressed when they learn about tragic events, especially – but not exclusively – when they happen locally. Again, tell them they are safe and validate that it’s understandable to feel this way. Encourage them to talk to you. You might want to talk with their teacher and school counselor. If you are concerned, consider consulting with a therapist.
- Accept the fact that some questions like “Why do children die,” may not have answers and may never make sense to us or to our children.
Remember that you are not alone. JFCS is always here to help with challenging questions and difficult times for families and for our community.
I wish you all the best, Barbara
My son is in 6th grade. He is very busy with after school sports and Hebrew School. This year he has so much more homework. Several nights he has waited until the last minute to do something or has forgotten to finish an assignment. To be perfectly honest, I’m helping him a lot and have even finished some of his work for him. It is really important to all of us that he do well in school and he gets so overwhelmed and upset when he feels unprepared. I’m concerned that we have already gotten into a bad pattern because now he knows that I will help him out if he gets into a bind but I don’t know what to do.
Thanks for your help,
Doing 6th grade homework…again
Dear Doing 6th grade homework…again,
I can tell that you are a very caring and attentive parent. I agree with you that you have gotten yourself into a pattern that, in the long run will not help your son. Homework is more than just completing assignments; it’s also about learning time management and taking responsibility and ownership for one’s work. How can he take pride in work that he didn’t do? How can he feel competent and experience the feeling of success and accomplishment from finishing a challenging task if you did the work for him?
I know that you only want what is best for your son but doing his work for him is dishonest. You are teaching him, though I’m sure unintentionally, values that will not serve him well today or in the future.
Here are ways that you can help and support him:
- He can’t do everything. Teach him to make choices about his time and prioritize. This is a life-long skill.
- Go over his assignments with him and check his work when he’s finished. This will help him feel confident about the work he’s completed.
- Meet with his teacher if you feel that the amount of work is unreasonable or too difficult.
- Build his confidence by allowing him to experience natural and logical consequences if he makes mistakes or misses an assignment. Successfully coping with failure and disappointment develops a healthy self-esteem.
- Teach by example the values you want him to learn, like honesty and hard work. Let him know that you love him, no matter what, and that trying his best is what matters most.
I know that there are lots of parents who do their children’s homework, special projects, even college applications and essays. In my opinion, it’s not okay and in the long run does not help kids. Your son is really lucky to have a Mom who loves him too much to continue to do for himwhat he needs to do by himself with your love, guidance and support.
Mazel Tov!! You have graduated from 6th grade homework to advanced parenting.
All the best, Barbara
Our daughter is getting married later this summer. As we get closer to the date, it seems like we are arguing over every little thing. My husband and I are paying for most of the wedding and think that we should have some input and influence over the decisions that are being made. Obviously, my daughter thinks otherwise. This is really exhausting for everyone. I wanted this to be such a happy, special time but lately most conversations end with one or both of us of us being angry and often in tears. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks, wedding planning blues
Dear wedding planning blue,
Wedding planning can be really stressful and as the big day gets closer, everything becomes more emotional. Here are some things to keep in mind:
It sounds like you and your daughter have a different vision for the day. Since this is her wedding, I think that the vision of her and her fiancé needs to take priority. It’s wonderful that you are willing and able to pay for the celebration. Give them a budget to work with. If they want to spend more on photography than flowers, more on music than cake - that’s their decision. I know that it can be difficult to give up control but it’s important for this to be what your daughter and her fiancé want. Even though you are hosting the event, it’s their special day and should reflect their personalities as individuals and as a couple.
That being said, if you and your husband have one or two requirements or expectations, be sure to communicate them clearly and as soon in the planning process as possible.
As the big day approaches, it will seem like there is nothing else to talk about, but try not to make every conversation about the wedding. Take some time to talk together about different subjects like work, movies and other shared interests. Schedule time for wedding meetings and keep a list of things that you need to talk about. Finding healthy ways to deal with stress like going for a walk, spending time with friends, journaling or meditating, will help everyone cope better with the emotional rollercoaster of planning and the ongoing details and challenges that need to be addressed.
It’s very difficult for parents to adjust to having a new role in their child’s life. Not too long ago, you were the people that she consulted with and bounced ideas off of. Now, she’s not including you and she’s having those types of conversations with her future husband instead. That can be really difficult but that’s the way it should be. She needs to create a new family with her partner. You will still be important to her and you will have a place in her family but this is a big change for everyone. Be more supportive and less critical. It will pay of in the long run.
Keep your perspective and your sense of humor. Over time you and your daughter may not remember what you fought about but feelings that get hurt during the planning process can take years to recover from and can even permanently affect relationships. See this as an opportunity to create meaningful, lasting memories about one of your daughter’s most important life-changing events.
I wish you all the best. Remember to enjoy this special time and smell the flowers – especially because you paid for themJ.
All the best, Barbara
My 17-year-old daughter is a junior in high school and has been dating the same boy for the past six months. They spend a lot of time together. Lately, I’ve noticed they are more openly affectionate with each other. My daughter doesn’t share much about the relationship and I don’t want to pry. She is excited about Prom and I know that there is a lot of planning going on, although I don’t know the details. I’m worried that they are getting more serious and I don’t know how to approach this with my daughter. I want to respect her privacy but I don’t want her to make decisions now that she isn’t ready for and that she will regret later.
Dear Concerned Mom,
You are not alone. A lot of parents of teens struggle to find the balance between being respectful of the fact that their children are growing up and need some privacy, while at the same time knowing what is going on in their world and helping them to make healthy and safe choices.
These are important conversations that you need to have even if it feels uncomfortable. (And believe me - it’s not just awkward for you; it’s awkward for your kids, too!) Having these conversations is a way to let your daughter know that you can discuss difficult and sensitive subjects together. It shows her that you care about her well-being and gives you theopportunity to share your values, concerns and expectations with her. That being said, it is important to remember that these are continuous conversations and not lectures. You need to listen to what she has to say and not freak out if you hear something that worries or shocks you.
Ask her what her plans are for Prom before they are finalized. It is also appropriate to ask her, in a respectful way and probably in a different conversation, if she is already or planning to be sexually active with her boyfriend. These are often difficult decisions for teens and it is a real gift to her to be able to talk about it with you - someone she trusts that knows her and loves her unconditionally. In my opinion, it is sometimes necessary to give kids a clear, but mixed message. Make sure to include honest, specific reasons that are consistent with your values and beliefs. “I want you to wait until you are older because:_______ . But if you are going to be intimate with someone, then it is important to be safe and take the necessary precautions against disease andpregnancy. So let’s talk about that. I want you to know that I feel strongly about this and even though we don’t agree, I want you to know that I love you and that we can keep talking about this and anything else. ”
I consider this to be parenting – not prying. Trust your instincts and proceed thoughtfully and respectfully, with an open heart andmind. Below are three websites that have helpful information.
All the best, Barbara
I have three great kids – Adam is 12, Claire is 9 and Josh is 6. With the holidays fast approaching they have turned into “gotta have it” monsters. They each have a passion. But their passions are costly and far exceed what we can afford to spend. Josh is all about Disney “Cars”, Claire is obsessed with American Girl dolls and accessories, and Adam insists that he really NEEDS an Xbox 360 complete with games. I’m totally overwhelmed by all of this. I’m also really disappointed to see how materialistic my children have become. We’ve tried to raise them with good values—gratitude, moderation and caring about those less fortunate—but something happened this year. I want to make Chanukah special and I don’t want them to feel disappointed. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
Signed, Hoping for a Happy Holiday
Thanks for your question. This is a common concern for many parents, especially during this time of the year as kids are naturally influenced by the consumerism of the season. As we move closer to Chanukah, values are tested. This is a perfect time to create opportunities to involve your children in living your thoughtful and caring beliefs. Here are some suggestions:
1. Go grocery shopping and let each child fill a bag for the food shelf and then deliver the bags as a family.
2. Declutter by donating unused toys and outgrown clothes to organizations that will distribute them to shelters and those in need.
3. Balance the focus on gifts by doing something different and fun every night of Chanukah as a family. Involve the kids in planning this and make the holiday truly reflect your values.
4. Talk with your children about their gift requests. Helping them to be more reasonable and realistic about their gift expectations will keep them from being disappointed.
By making holidays special with meaningful activities and shared family experiences that are consistent with your values, you will create memories that will long outlast the toys they want today.
Our just-turned-teenaged daughter insists on changing her clothes constantly. This happens numerous times every morning before school as she tries to look a certain way.
It has turned our mornings into frenzied chaos and she's always running late. I don't understand what's going on and I don't have a clue as to how to handle it. Every time my wife or I try to intervene there are tears (not always my daughter's) and arguing. Her mom and I are worn out already and the school year has just begun! Any advice would be appreciated.
- Fashionista’s Dad
Dear Fashionista’s Dad –
Your daughter sounds like a typical "just-turned-teenager.” How she looks and how she feels about how she looks is really important to her. As girls and boys experience the physiological changes that go along with normal growth and development, there's a lot happening to their bodies of which they have no control—how tall they are, how mature they look, are they developing faster or slower than their friends, etc. What they wear is something they can exert control over and this contributes to its importance.
Another factor that is key at this age is the desire to look like your friends and not look like your parents. With all this going on...it's easy for things to get out of hand. That's where you come in. She needs you to provide some balance, guidance, and consistency in a clear but loving way.
1) It’s okay to change clothes three times every morning if she gets up early enough to "take care of business," eat and get to the bus on time.
2) Unworn clothes should be hung up and/or put away at least before bedtime; rather than left on the bed or floor or thrown into the laundry when they're not really dirty.
3) If she's creating lots of laundry she may need to help with it or even be responsible for doing her own.
4) You might try suggesting that she pick out her clothes—even try them on—the night before. (To be honest, I'd be surprised if this worked but it's worth a try).
As her dad, she needs to know that you think she is beautiful and capable and that you love her unconditionally. Sometimes that's easier said than done at this age. A good sense of humor, keeping your perspective and talking with other parents of middle school girls will be helpful.
This can be a trying age for parents. It's a challenging time for her, too and she needs to know that you're sticking with her no matter what.
The good news is that just as she’ll outgrow all those clothes she keeps trying on…she’ll most likely outgrow this behavior as well! But it’s hard to say which will happen first.
Now that the school year has started, do you have questions/concerns about how your child is adjusting? For a private, confidential response, contact me at AskBarbara@jfcsmpls.org for helpful suggestions. I’m here for you!!!
My son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, ages 4 and 7, are coming from out of town for Rosh Hashanah. They have never visited for the Holidays before and I am very excited. My daughter-in-law is a lovely woman who is Catholic. My son had a Bar Mitzvah, was Confirmed, went to Jewish camp and Israel----but as an adult, has never really shown interest in Judaism or celebrating holidays or having a Jewish home. I worry that my grandchildren will not have any religious identity or understand anything about their Jewish roots. I don’t really know why they are coming for the Holidays this year but I feel like this is my chance to show them what it means to be Jewish and to have a Jewish home. My husband says I’m too pushy and I need to leave them alone, but how can I pass up this golden opportunity? What should I do?
Dear Eager Bubby,
This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with your children and grandchildren and share your customs, traditions and rituals, but I think that it is important that you take it slow and not ask pointed or probing questions. Be yourself and relax. Wait for your children to bring up sensitive issues that they are probably trying to figure out. Be a good listener and offer advice or opinions only when asked. I know that’s not so easy to do but it is important and respectful. Make your Holiday celebration fun and inclusive. Let them know how happy you are that they are with you. Ask your daughter-in-law what you can do to make the visit comfortable for her. In your home, make sure that any blessings said in Hebrew will also be translated into English. Have some books available to read to the kids about the Holiday. Invite adults and your grandchildren to cook with you. It’s a wonderful way to share family recipes, traditions and stories in a genuine and non-threatening way. Make the visit special by doing things like apple picking, going to museums, children’s theatre, etc. in addition to attending services. Every conversation should not focus on religion.
Your goal should be to offer a positive experience for everyone; then they will want to come back to share other Holidays and special times with you.
I wish you and your family a happy and sweet New Year.
My three children are transforming me into a nocturnal creature. Help! I have a 3-month-old, and a preschooler and kindergartener that share a room. The 2-year-old wakes up one to two times a night, yelling for me with urgency. When I come in, she has a big smile on her face. I think she just wants to know that Mommy will come running at any time, day or night!
My 5-year–old has tremendous fears. She recently had her birthday and I think these fears are common in children her age. During the day she is afraid to be alone in a room, even if I am in the next room. In the night she needs to go to the bathroom, but just being up alone and active in the dark frightens her. I don’t want to be tough with her because I know these fears are real, and if it weren't for there being three kids with nighttime needs (and one me) I'd be happy to help her at night.
In general, the girls have adjusted very well to the baby and I don't feel their nighttime issues have anything to do with him.
Thanks so much for providing this service!
Sleepless in Minneapolis
Dear Sleepless in Minneapolis,
Sleep disturbances are pretty common in young children. It is also perfectly normal for children to react to a new baby and I believe that there is a connection with your daughters. A new baby creates a lot of significant changes in a family.
It sounds like your 2-year-old has found a really effective way to get some attention. With the girls sharing a room, it may be impossible to ignore her outbursts but you might try it. If you do decide to try this, make sure that you tell her ahead of time —before bed—that you will not come in if she wakes up screaming. She may also need to test you and so it might get worse before it gets better. Another option would be to give her very little attention. Simply come in, cover her and leave. No conversation, no affection. You don't need to be angry or unpleasant—more like a robot.
Becoming more fearful about a variety of things is normal developmentally and this can often happen when a child’s routine has been disrupted. Changes, like the birth of a new baby, can also create a feeling of loss of control and that can be scary. Your daughter may also be feeling some stress either at home or school. You might want to check with her teacher. Think about what might help her feel safe—a nightlight, some special stuffed animals, toys, etc. that will serve as "protectors" in her room or on her bed. Reassure her that you and her dad will keep her safe because that's your job as parents and you will check on her even when she's asleep.
Some children respond well to a simple reward system. For example, if she stays in bed all night (or whatever conditions you want to establish) she gets a sticker in the morning. Five stickers earn a very small, simple reward such as an extra story. Don't get grand and expensive with the rewards. Some 2-year-olds respond well to this; some are not quite old enough. Make sure that the desired behavior is realistic and that your children understand what they need to do in order to get the reward. Make the explanation clear and simple. If they can explain it back to you then you know they understand. What gets complicated is that you do want them to wake you if they really need you.
Having a consistent bedtime routine is very important. I suggest that you stick to it like glue. During periods of change and adjustment, routines and rituals give children a sense of stability and security.
I'm also wondering about their daytime activity. Do they nap? If so, maybe they don't need to anymore, (I'm sure that's the last thing you want to hear right now.) Do they get enough activity and exercise?
If nothing works and you feel like you just have to wait this out, can you get some help? Can Dad help handle the girls at night while you take care of the baby? It sounds like you're doing an amazing job but even “Super Mom” needs to sleep sometime. Can you arrange for play-dates for the girls during the day or have a sitter come so that you can nap?
I wish I had an easy, foolproof answer, but I do think that some of these changes will help you get the rest/sleep that you need.
Dear Barbara - I have a daughter who is just turning 5 and she asks a lot of tough questions! My sister, who spends a fair amount of time with us, is in the process of getting a divorce. Whenever my sister stops by my daughter asks where Uncle Jim is. Do I simply tell her that they decided not to live together anymore? Is there more appropriate language I should use?
She also listens closely when the news is on. Because at her preschool they talk about Israel, often she picks up on stories regarding the conflict between Israel and Iraq. Recently we were grocery shopping and saw a local news anchor and she said "that is the man that talks about Israel on the TV."
She asks questions about good people and bad people, and war, and people dying. I am being more careful about what I listen to when she is around, but I’m still not sure how to answer her, I guess because I myself don't know how I feel about it all.
Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated!
Too Many Questions in Tonka
You're right...these are tough questions...but not impossible.
Generally speaking, when children ask questions about complicated subjects, the answer needs to be simple and honest. "Simple" because this is the beginning of a conversation that you will be able to add to and build on as your daughter grows and matures. "Honest" because this is how she is learning that she can depend on you for accurate, age-appropriate information. Your answers teach your daughter that she can trust you.
So a "simple" answer to your first question may be “I need to tell you that Uncle Jim and Aunt Melanie have decided not to stay married anymore. That means that they won't be living together. When grown-ups feel this way they usually get a divorce. There are lots of complicated reasons why this happens. I want you to know that you can ask me any questions that you have now or anytime."
She may have lots of questions right away or it may take awhile. It's certainly OK for you to bring it up again..."Remember when we talked about your Aunt and Uncle? I'm wondering what you think about it. Do you have any questions?”
It's very common for children to get concerned about their own parents and family, and she may ask you questions like "Would you and Daddy ever get a divorce?" and "What would happen to me?"
When it comes to questions about war, you are right to turn off the news (TV and radio) when she is awake. Have conversations about these topics (both in person and on the phone) after she is asleep. She clearly is taking everything in. With the volatile situation in the Middle East, there will continue to be much media talk about crime, war and terrorism, and you need to protect her from this as much as possible.
As far as answering her questions...you don't need to make up answers
if you don't have them but you do need to respond. Again, honest
and simple is the best way to go.
It's a good opportunity to share your values. For example, you might say, "I don't like war and fighting and I think it should be avoided whenever possible. But I also want Israel to be safe." It's OK to say that this is so complicated that you don't completely understand it all yourself and you're still trying to figure out what you believe.
Reaffirm that it's OK to talk about this and she can ask questions whenever she wants to. And always begin by keeping it simple, honest and making sure that you understand what she's really asking.
It's wonderful that you're willing to struggle with these difficult topics. As your daughter gets older you can look forward to many more challenging questions and interesting conversations. These are golden opportunities for you to share your values and beliefs about complicated but important subjects.
I wish you and your family many wonderful conversations in the future!
Dear Barbara - When is teasing... teasing? My 12-year-old daughter was at a friend's cabin for the long weekend with four other girls. When she came home she said she had a great time and she even told me one girl she hadn't known particularly well made a point of telling her how fun she was.
Then one of the other Moms, who I know slightly, called me to tell me that her daughter said my daughter, had been teased a lot over the weekend. I asked my daughter about it and she said everyone teased everyone! She said he was probably teased the most, but she just laughed about it. She said some of the other girls did get upset when they were teased.
So should I simply not worry about this? (Not sure that's possible) Should I be glad that she handled it so well? As I reread this it doesn't sound like much of a problem, but it makes me sad to think of her being subjected to teasing. I may be overly sensitive because I was teased mercilessly growing up.
- Teased in the Twin Cities
Barbara says: You should be proud of your daughter for doing so well at her friends cabin and for being able to not take the teasing too seriously. It's possible that she was teased a lot because she could handle it and the other girls thought that she was a good sport. But, as you know from your own experience, it doesn't take much for "playful" teasing (which is pretty common at this age) to take a more serious and hurtful turn...even becoming cruel and persistent bullying.
Use this as an opportunity to let your daughter know how you feel about all of this. It is also a wonderful "teaching moment" to share your values and expectations about her behavior. It may be appropriate for you to share more about your own story - or not. Sometimes kids are really interested and find it helpful and sometimes they just roll their eyes, yawn and can't wait for you to be done. I would suggest something like:
"I’m proud of you and glad you had such a good time. And I'm glad that the teasing was not such a big deal for you but I know from my own experience that being teased can be painful. I want you to know that you can always let me know how things are going and I'm here to help you if things are difficult or hurtful. It's also important to me that you know that I don't ever want you to participate in teasing or doing anything that would make another kid feel bad. "
It sounds to me like you have a great child who is lucky to have such a caring parent.
If your child experiences teasing, bullying or other inappropriate and hurtful behavior from peers, contact the JFCS Intake and Resource Connection at 952-546-0616.
Dear Barbara - I have three sons, ages 4, 6 and 8, who fight over everything no matter what my husband and I do!
They fight over which TV show to watch, so we turn off the TV. They fight over whose turn it is on the computer. So we don't let either one use it. Again, they don't learn.
If they fight over a toy, we take it away, choose who gets it, or decide no one gets to use it at that time. They never learn from the consequences.
We have tried letting them work it out, but one usually ends up hitting the other and they both come running and screaming to us. We constantly give consequences and either stick to them or have the kids earn their way out of them by showing extraordinarily good behavior. But they never seem to learn to stop being so mean to one another.
We need your help!
Sibling rivalry is normal for children and can be extremely upsetting and frustrating for parents. Children who are close in age and same-sex siblings tend to be more competitive. Your sons meet both criteria which may explain some of their behavior.
Begin by setting some new house rules and expectations. These may be rigid but if you want to establish new behavior patterns you need to let the kids know that you are serious. You can't force your children to like each other, but keep in mind that just because they are having trouble getting along now doesn't mean that they won't be close when they are older.
Don't insist that they share their personal belongings with each other. Concentrate first on community property like the computer and TV. Set up a non-negotiable schedule and post it with who gets to use it, when and for how long. They could alternate days or times of day. If the others don't like the choice, then they don't have to watch, but they can't complain or be disruptive; their turn will come.
It's important too, to have a consistently enforced "no hitting" rule.
You and your husband need to sit down with the kids and explain the new system, rules, expectations and consequences to them. Then it's important for you to be realistic. Some fighting is normal and to be expected, and eventually the boys should be able to do a better job of settling their differences without driving you crazy or hurting each other.
Try reading: “Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
Remember...be patient. Change is slow, but you will see an improvement.