It is Christmastime at the Dilleys, home of America's first surviving sextuplets. As one could imagine, the holidays at the Dilleys are more like the "Nutcracker" on fast forward than "Silent Night."
The "Dilley six-pack," Adrian, Brenna, Claire, Julian, Quinn and Ian, turned 9 on May 25, and ABC visited the family a few days before Christmas to see how they're all doing.
The success that parents Keith and Becki Dilley are having with their six 9-year-olds has a lot to do with teamwork. The theme of the Dilley family could be all for one and one for all — sisters and brothers to share with and play with and cheer for you when it really counts.
As with all 9-year-olds, the Dilley kids are developing their own unique personalities. Of course, along with their developing interests and ambitions, comes some sibling rivalry. And the Dilley kids have more than their share of it. Ian seems to be particularly adept at aggravating his three brothers and two sisters. "He taunts everybody in our family," Brenna said. "He just bugs me most of the time" said Quinn. "He makes fun of people," Adrian said, adding, "Sometimes I hit him on the shoulder and say, 'Stop.'"
Ian is sensitive, artistic and loves to dance. And he may have sharpened his teasing skills by being teased himself, and coming through a very frightening illness. A few summers back, Ian was suffering from what at first was a mysterious ailment. He began losing weight. At first, the Dilleys thought their sensitive little boy was simply unhappy. Ultimately, he was hospitalized and doctors learned that Ian had contracted a viral infection.
But that frail, sensitive boy has definitely bounced back. And he's got a defense when his siblings say he's the big teaser in the family. Ian says that sometimes, when he's having a bad day, "They mess with me."
Child psychologists say sibling rivalry, including taunting, happens in all families with more than one child. But when you have six children all the same age, there are 30 potential rivalries for the kids — and parents — to plow through.
Discipline is tricky for most parents, but imagine how exasperating it must be in the Dilley household. Keith and Becki Dilley tried just about everything, including "timeouts" but rejecting spanking. It took a bit of brainstorming for them to come up with the right strategy. They came up with something they call "the discipline ladder."
The kids climb up or tumble down the figurative ladder based on how good they've been that day.
"Ten and six and eight are my favorite ones," said Quinn. "Three is you can play with action figures. And four is you can play in and listen to music up in your room," said Claire.
"If you're really, really bad you have to move down to a zero, it's where you have to go outside and clean up dog poo," Adrian explained.
Ian said, "Five is you can go downstairs and then you can go outside and play. And six is watch TV." Troublemaking Ian knows the lower rungs pretty well. He said when he's bad, he usually goes down to a two.
But Becki said the kids are pretty well-behaved. "Most of the time, they're all at a 10," she said.
During this "season of peace," Becki and Keith rely on another innovative tool to keep the peace in their home. It's something they call "Dilley Dollars," which are minted on their desktop printer. Each day every kid has a chance to earn or lose the precious currency depending on their behavior.