“If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves. Carl Jung
Is the way my children treat each other mirroring the interaction between my partner and I? Book: ‘What Children Learn From Their Parents’ Marriage: It may be your marriage but it’s your child’s blueprint for intimacy,’ written by Judith P. Siegel, Ph.D.
How are my personal issues interfering with my parenting aims?
Have I one “good guy” and one “bad guy?” or do they switch off to maintain a stressful homeostasis in our home?
ACKNOWLEDGE BROTHERS AND SISTERS FEELINGS
ABOUT EACH OTHER
CHILD: “I’m gonna hit him! He took my new (toy) car.”
Respond with words that identify the feeling
“You sound angry.”
Respond with a generalization in the form of a wish; Respond to the desire not the complaint
“You wish he’d ask before using your toys.”
Offer a symbolic or creative activity
“How would you like to make a “Private Property” sign and hang it on your closet door?”
Encourage the development of emotional IQ by exploring alternative solutions “What else can you do?”
STOP HURTFUL ACTIONS
“Freeze!” People are not for hurting.”
(“Freeze and Thaw” is a game to play for fun, so that when you then want to use it in parenting, it is more likely to be effectively responded to.)
MODEL HOW TO DISCHARGE ANGRY FEELINGS ACCEPTABLY
“Tell him with words how angry you are. Tell him, “I don’t want my car used without my permission.”
AVOID LOCKING A CHILD INTO A ROLE
Not by his parents
INSTEAD OF: “Johnny did you hide your brother’s ball? Why are you so mean?”
PARENT: “Your brother wants his ball back.”
Not by the child himself
JOHNNY: “I know I’m mean.”
PARENT: “You are capable of being kind.”
Not by his brothers or sisters
SISTER: “Johnny you are mean! Daddy, he won’t let me play.”
PARENT: “Ask him differently. You may be surprised at how generous he can be.
“Carla’s our little artist.” “Carla, what a colorful picture!
“Don’t mind Jeff, he’s our shy one.” “I guess Jeff isn’t in the mood to talk
“John’s our jock. He’s the athlete in “John hit a home run and his team won
the family.” the Little League championship. What
a day it was.”
“Bonnie has never had a head for math.” “What can we do to help Bonnie with
her challenges with fractions?”
The ‘Labeling vs. Encouraging’ examples are from Nancy Samalin’s book, ‘Loving Each One Best: A Caring and Practical Approach to Raising Siblings.’
FOCUS ON TREATING CHILDREN UNIQUELY, RATHER THAN EQUALLY
Instead of giving equal amounts
“Here, now you have just as many grapes as your sister.”
Give according to individual need
“Would you like a few grapes or a big bunch?”
One prepares the other chooses
Let one sibling cut the cake and the other pick which of the two slices he wants.
Instead of showing equal love
“I love you the same as your sister.”
Show the child he or she is loved uniquely
“You are the only “you” in the whole wide world. No one could ever take your place.”
Read the children’s book, ‘I Love You the Purplest’ together.
Instead of giving equal time “After I finish helping with your sister with her homework, I will help you build your lego tower.”
Give time according to need
“I know I’m spending a lot of time going over your sister’s composition. It is important to her. As soon as I am finished, I want to hear what is important to you.
RESIST THE URGE TO COMPARE
Instead of comparing one child unfavorably to another
“Why can’t you hang up your clothes like your brother?
Describe what you see
“I see a brand new jacket on the floor.”
Describe what you feel
“I feel angry that the hallway is messy.”
Describe what you want done
“Please put your new jacket in the closet now.”
Use statements rather than questions, (“Would you please put your new jacket in the closet now?”) to ensure your child understands it is not a choice.
Instead of comparing one child favorably to another
“You are so much neater than your sister.”
Describe what you see
“I see you hung up your jacket.”
Describe what you feel. Call attention to your core values.
“I feel happy when the hallway is kept tidy.” The five feelings are sad, angry, afraid, excited and blissful. Therefore, it is not an expression of your feelings to say, “I appreciate that, I like the way you keep the hallway looking neat.” (Please request the Creative Therapies ‘Praise and Encouragement’ handout, for further explanation.)
GIVE SUPPORT TO THE CHILD THAT ASKS FOR IT
WITHOUT TAKING SIDES
PETER: “Mommy I can’t finish my map for school. Make her give me the crayons!”
CATHY: “No, I coloring a pretty picture.”
State each child’s case
“Let me get this straight, Peter, you want the crayons to finish your homework and Amy you want to finish coloring.
State the value of the rule
“Homework assignments get top priority.”
Leave the doorway open for the possibility of negotiation
“But Peter if you want to work something out with your sister, that’s up to you.”
WHEN CHILDREN DO NOT WORK OUT
A CHALLENGE FOR THEMSELVES
Call a meeting. Explain the purpose and the ground rules.
Write down each child’s feelings and concerns and read them aloud.
Allow time for rebuttal.
Invite everyone to come up with solutions. Write down all ideas without evaluation.
Decide upon solutions you all agree with.
There are words described in the brain research as switching off’ the brain and consequently diminishing cooperation and perhaps understanding. These words include: try, don’t, forget, lost, can’t failed, and but.
HOW TO HANDLE FIGHTING
Level One: Normal bickering
Ignore it. Think about something wonderful in your life.
Remind yourself that the children are having an important experience in conflict resolution.
Level Two: Situation heating up: Adult intervention may be helpful
Acknowledge their anger.
“You two sound angry at one another. Avoid singling out who you think is ‘wrong’ and address them together, “Kids.”
Reflect each child’s point of view
“So Allison, you want to keep holding the puppy because he just settled down into your arms. And Julie, you think it is time for you to have a turn.”
Describe the challenge with respect
“This is a challenge: Two children, one puppy.”
Express confidence in the children’s ability to find their own solution
“I have confidence that you two can work out a solution that’s fair to each of you…and fair to the puppy.”
Leave the room
Level Three: Situation possibly dangerous
“Is this a play fight or a real fight?” (Provided play fights are permitted in your home.)
Let the children know:
“Play fighting by mutual consent only.” (If it is not fun for both, it has to stop.)
Respect your feelings
“You may be playing but it is too rough for me. I feel afraid. Find another activity now.”
Level Four: Situation dangerous
Separate the children
“It’s not safe for you to be together. Take some feel better time in your rooms. Quick, you to your room and you to yours.”
Book: ‘Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can too’ written by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE EXPLODING
1. Take ‘Feel Better Time’ and model self-soothing
Talk about yourself not them
Remain in the present
Only make rules you can enforce
Model making peace