Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Chapter 5: Teaching Conflict Resolution

This is the latest installment in the Round Table that Natural Parents Network is doing for Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham. Head on over for other reflections and reviews!

This is our Get Along Cart... ;-) 
So she opens this talking about those horrible Get-Along shirts and calls them what they are: at best another punishment, at worst they're encouraging sneakiness (we'll hide the behavior rather than change it) and bullying (the larger kids pushes around the smaller kid.)

"[Using the shirt] is like saying 'They'll put themselves to be if they get tired enough...I'm going to bed.' It's reneging on our responsibility as parents." - p95

Parenting is work. The goal is to front-load as much as possible so that you can step back sooner rather than later. Form good habits early means less stress and more fun later. Similarly to how you put all of your electives off until your senior year so you can spend that year not worrying about your GPA. It's important for parents to intervene, rather than waiting for things to blow up and resolve themselves, but it's equally important that the parent (or caregiver) act as an arbiter and not take sides or try to resolve the issue for the children.

"It's not parental intervention that's the problem. It's taking sides. The trick is regulating our own emotions so that we can stay calm, empathize with both children, and resist our impulse to decide who's right. That creates the foundation for children to learn how to work things out with each other without hurt or resentment." -p.99

On the next page, so lists 10 reasons children bicker and follows with tips for aiding resolution and situational examples.  The reasons are what you would expect - everything from temporary annoyances to deep-seeded resentments and imbalances.

The tips:

"*Stay calm, connect with both kids, and empathize.
* Describe the problem without judgment.
*Interpret by coaching each child to express their feelings without attacking the other.
*Restate the rules.
*Coach kids to problem solve." - p.101

 She covers teasing, aggression, intervention, and how to repair the relationship after a fight - rather than forcing an apology.

"Focus on helping children communicate rather than on the ritual of apology. IF you follow the practices of helping children express their wants and needs, listen to each other, and restate what they hear their sibling say, children will begin to heal their conflicts at a deeper level, so that apologies often become superfluous, just as with adults." - p. 143-144

When in doubt: instigate manual labor.
In this case - chalkboard paint on old cookie sheets
 which will be used as chore charts. 
I don't really have any examples, except to say that I DO make the kids apologize for the same reason that I make them say "thank you" - it's a cultural ritual we have that acknowledges the other person. In the case of "I'm sorry" - it acknowledges that what you did caused harm, whether intentional or not. In the case of "Thank you" - it acknowledges a kind act from another person. We have conversation around both, so that it's not just a thoughtless reaction and is instead full of meaning. Be actually grateful, and be actually sorry. I don't make them hug-it-out, either. I'm not a big hugger, so why should they be? The entire point of this whole exercise is teaching empathy and respect. The end.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings - Chapters 3 and 4

This is the next installment of the Natural Parents Network Round Table discussion. (Follow the links - there's good reading there!)

Apparently I vastly over-estimated how much writing time I'd have on vacation. I did manage to get a bit of reading and note-taking accomplished, but it means this is 2-2-two posts in one! (Wasn't that from a commercial?)

My sister and I at Southfork Ranch...sometime in the 80s.
So Chapter 3 - What Causes Sibling Rivalry and How Parents Can Make it Better starts with a focus on sibling spacing. I'm going to just chat about this because it's THE question from parents who know they wants more than one but have no idea what the "ideal" spacing is.

In my experience, this is 2.5 years. Or as close as possible. In my cousin's experience (I assume, I didn't actually ask her flat out, but based on her spacing with her sister and the spacing of their children...) it's about 5 -6 years.

But more than that - it's important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of them.

"Your job - and it's a big one - is to take care of yourself, so you can meet the needs of [your] children...that's what allows you to develop a positive relationship with each child. And that's the foundation that supports your children to develop a happy relationship with each other, regardless of their spacing." -p.59
Reassuring your children that each of them has equal space in your heart - and that your heart just grows and grows rather than splitting and splitting - does more good than almost anything else.
"Research shows that if you have a positive relationship with each of your children, they're much more likely to have a positive relationship with each other." - p.61
Regarding that: what my cousins, my sister, and I all have in common: strong, positive individual relationships with our parents. My mom and my sister hold twin spots as my best friends. My best friend's  brother is 13 years younger than her, and they have a strong relationship with each other and their parents.

So plan some dates, each parent with each child - one on one - where you do something you both enjoy and bond over shared experiences. (I read somewhere, not sure where, that it's easier to have "bonding" conversations with boys if they're physically occupied - like if you're working on a car together or pitching a tent or something. Getting their muscles going helps get their mouth going. So keep that in mind when making your plans.)

For more Chapter Three goodness, follow this link and then follow those links!

Just a little sibling picture of my recent graduates.
Moving in to Chapter 4 (please note that I am skipping over SO MUCH good information and you should definitely read this all for yourself) I want to skip straight to the end and talk about Tattling.

Chapter 4 is entitled "Coaching Kids to Communicate and Problem-Solve" and, again, I am skipping over so much good information that you really should read.

Dr. Markham's opinion on tattling, once you get past their desire to make themselves look good by getting their sibling in trouble, is that it is a child coming to you for your help navigating a situation they don't know how to deal with on their own. As parents, this is what we want. So that instead of reacting (often poorly) they can reflect and act appropriately.

"So when your child comes to you 'tattling' about how her siblings acted toward her:
1. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that your child is trying to make things better the only way she knows how.
2. Restate the situation to be sure you understand...
3. If the "offense" was against the child who has come to you, empathize, then support her to look for solutions...
4. Ask her if she wants you to do something about the situation, or if she just needed to talk about it...
5. If your child comes to you about her siblings when she's not involved in the situation, empathize, say thank you if that's appropriate, and take action...." -pp91-92

Markham wraps the chapter with a focus on safety versus basic rule-breaking-- the given example is of a child reporting that her sibling is climbing out the window, and one in which the sibling is playing video games - and how to handle each.

"Empathize with your child's concern and assure him that you'll handle it...if it's happening in real time, take action...then talk to the rule breaker in private, just as your always would when a child breaks the rules." - p92

Obviously, this puts a rosy picture on things, because what happens in the aftermath when the rule-breaker discovers that his sibling is a turncoat? Luckily, Chapter 5 addresses conflict resolution.

See you then!
Wrapping up with another picture of my sister and I, at my First Communion.
(Also, note my very trendy-before-its-time flower crown.) 

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