It’s funny how life can work out.
On April 29th I received a new book in the mail from a colleague.
On May 2nd I tore my ACL.
And on May 3rd the fighting between my boys intensified greatly.
Understandably, though, right? I mean, here I was, stuck on a couch, unable to play with my kids, hardly able to hold a conversation, and completely unable to crawl into bed and give good night snuggles. Not only were my boys already on edge with everyone as a result of witnessing my accident, but now they were also desperate for my attention of which I had so little to give. So, they started fighting with each other even more than before which is to say, their fighting went from slightly intolerable to majorly intolerable and oh my gosh did it make me want to SCREAM!!!
Luckily, the book I had received was Dr. Laura Markham’s new book, “Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.” I mean, talk about perfect, timing! Every second I had enough energy, I read Dr. Laura’s book for I simply could not put it down. All of the non-preachy insights and ideas that just made good, logical sense that I knew I could remember and implement had me hooked!
I would love to share with you all that I took away from the book because I know that fighting siblings is a wonderful trigger for yelling. Gosh, between the extra noise, the lack of peace, the frustration around, “why can’t we just get along and have a fun family time,” the physical outbursts at each other, and the competition, it all leaves me wanting to yell! Am I right?!
That said, I underlined and highlighted so much in the book that if I shared all of my takeaways I would just be re-writing the book J So alas, here is my main takeaway and then a few other takeaways that have been game changers for me in how I approach my boys when they are fighting and how I approach parenting in general.
My Main Aha: Kids need coaching on how to problem solve when they are fighting, not just to “work it out” by themselves.
You all know I am a fan of the concept that discipline means to teach and that my role as a mom is to teach my kids. Before this book, though, for the most part I followed the “work it out” themselves approach. Sure when things were huge I stepped in, but for the most part I let them figure things out. This worked sometimes (think small issues) but for the most part, one kid just ended up frustrated and either walked away screaming at the other or came running to me crying. Which when I think back, makes total sense! Kids aren’t born knowing how to compromise, how to listen to each other, how to make “I” statements, or how to “fight fairly and productively.” How can I expect them to “work it out” themselves when I haven’t really, truly taught them the tools to do so in the first place? I mean sure, here and there I share a lesson, but the lesson really needs to be right then and there during the fight so it can be put to use. I need to coach them. I need to teach them to problem solve on their own. Which is exactly what I focus on now – teaching them to problem solve. Teaching them this skill is so much more than about reducing sibling fighting by the way; it’s about giving them a life skill that is so ridiculously important, on so many levels. So focus on teaching them problem solve I have. And the results have been mind blowing.
About one week into my injury, the boys were out fighting in the back yard over who could use the red toy (because obviously the blue one at their feet was inferior. Duh.) I gave it a few seconds to see if they could figure it out and when I realized things were about to escalate, I stepped in and used Dr. Laura’s tips.
“Uh-oh! It seems we have a problem. But we can solve this. Let’s see. Why don’t you each tell me what you think the problem is…without using your brother’s name. Andrew, you go first….Okay, James, your turn….This is like Scooby Doo guys! It’s a mystery as to what the solution is. Let’s problem solve; what can we do here?”
Side note: the amount of times I bring cartoons into my parenting sometimes scares me, but it does make relating easier! Moving forward.
I followed Dr. Laura’s suggestions for how to continue the rest of the conversation. Within minutes, NO JOKE, and without raised voices or tantrums, the boys ON THEIR OWN came up with a solution. Before I could even say “good job!” they had run off playing TOGETHER. Laughing. Happily. Like I said, Happy Siblings = Happy Mom. I then SAT in a chair UNINTERRUPTED!!! for 20 minutes watching them play. It was a miracle. It was beautiful.
Coaching my kids through a fight instead of letting them work it out on their own was the biggest take away for me from the book and it has continued to be a useful insight/tool/life saver. Just the other day two of my boys were walking together, holding hands, whispering to each other and evidently making a plan. They had been fighting minutes before but with the mere prompt of, “Looks like we have a problem,” they figured it out. Again, lifesaver!
Here are 5 other inspiring tips that have made this summer a wee bit more peaceful. (Note: these are my interpretations of her points; I might interpret somewhat wrong so apologies Dr. Laura if I do. Regardless, you inspired me to think and act better so thank you!)
- Use “And” instead of “But”
The word but sends the message that whatever you just heard and acknowledged, well doesn’t really matter. “I know you are angry BUT we don’t hit.” It’s okay to be angry. That shouldn’t be dismissed. So instead I try to say things like, “I know you are angry AND we don’t hit.”
- Focus on “Taking Turns” instead of “Sharing”
Taking turns on the child’s initiative (outlined in book) promotes generosity from with-in which is a great life skill as opposed to forcing sharing which doesn’t do so as much.
- Beware of Unintentionally Fostering Competition between Siblings
The simple and personally frequent statement of, “Stop picking on your brother!” automatically pits them against each other as opposed to: “In this house we use kind words.”
- Use the Past to Find the Positive
I am a firm believer in catching my kids being good as a really useful parenting tool. That said, this summer it has been HARD, hard, hard with one of my kiddos. Dr. Laura’s advice? If you can’t find something positive now, use an example from the past. Duh! So simple, so effective.
- Keep Kids from Ganging up on Each Other
This is a huge one in our family L which saddens me to no end. I so often say, “You and you, don’t exclude him” which puts the “offenders” on defensive (we aren’t!) which means the chances of behavior changing are slim to none! Using the Socratic method of asking questions instead of accusing works better. “We aren’t leaving anyone out, are we?”
“Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings” truly empowered me to get the sibling fighting in my home to a better place and I do feel that we have made major strides in that department…with room to improve, of course! But seriously, with less fighting and shorter fights, there is a lot more happiness in this house and for that I am way grateful. It’s been a hard summer as is and I can’t imagine how it would have been if the fighting was where it was 3 months ago! Yuck. So thank you Dr. Laura for sharing your book with me and for making my life a wee bit saner!