Naturally, my kids will turn to me to play judge and carry out "punishments". As a mother, I always want to be fair BUT you know what I learned, I can never be fair to all my children. If I side one child and not the other, I'm not being fair. One child will be happy but the other will not. If I decide not to take sides, I am also not being fair. Plus, there is always the possibility that I do not know the whole story of what happened.
Here is an example:
D2 (crying): Mommy, koko kicked me.
Mommy: Koko, why did you kick him? No physical violence isn't it?
Koko: Fine-lah. He can punch me but I cannot kick him-lah. He do me first. You don't care about me, you only care about him.
Mommy: D2, why you punch koko? Of course koko will fight back isn't it?
D2: Because he don't share with me his junk food
... and the story can continue on and on and whatever judgment you give, it is not going to be fair to someone.
So, what to do?
I took a step back and decided to implement some principles that have been taught by parenting experts:
- Acknowledge their feelings
- Use the word "I"
- Seek first to understand... then to be understood
No more playing judge. I realized that what the children really needed was not for someone to say who is right and who is wrong. When they come running to me with tears in their eyes and a complain, they really just want someone to emphatize with them. They want someone to acknowledge how they are feeling.
For example, when my daughter came to me bawling because baby bit her arm, I just acknowledged how painful it must be and lovingly rubbed the injured spot. After a while, all is well.
So the past few days I've been using the phrase "I know you are feeling...."
Use The Word "I"
When my kids come to me complain about their siblings, they always start the sentence with "he" or "she". For example, "he snatched my scissors from me and don't want to give it back". Well, whenever the sentence starts with "he" or "she", it is in an accusing tone. And no one likes to be accused right? That's where the arguments start.
So, when my kids come to me to complain, I asked them to start the sentence with "I". I say I want to hear what happened to them and not what someone else did.
It wasn't easy for the kids to do this because they are so used to talking in an accusing manner.
Many times they needed help, so I would start the sentence for them "I feel... because...."
This also helps them convey their feelings better.
Sometimes, they would get so frustrated not knowing how to start the sentence, they would just huff off and forget about it. Hahahaha.
Seek First To Understand... Then To Be Understood
This one is from Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.
I realized that more often than not, the arguments are because of misunderstandings. My children like to assume the worse of their siblings. What was accidental is interpreted as intentional. What was done as an act of good will is seen as an act of annoyance.
I realized that often they don't even know why the other sibling is angry at them.
So, not only do I try to understand what they are feeling, I try to get them to understand each other too. It was hard for them to talk to each other without shouting. So, on this one occasion, I had them write notes to each other. On the note, they were to write:
I know you are feeling....
I will ... (write what they are going to do for the other person)
This really helped a lot. The hitting, shouting, name calling etc... are really the kids' ways to get the other person to acknowledge and understand how they feel. Once the "angry" person is understood, the angry feelings go away.
Well, I won't say my home has achieved 100% bliss :) The kids still do argue and fight. But at least we have a better way of solving the problem.
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