Put Them in the Same Boat
My son Brad Ainge is choosing a tool card a week from the deck of Positive Discipline Tool Cards and sharing his efforts to follow the advice on each card in his blog: http://www.singledadbrad.com/ I’ve been raving about his blog and telling everyone to read it because he is such a good writer—funny and heartwarmingly real.
I’ve decide to do a blog on his blog, either sharing articles I have written on the tool card he chooses, or responding directly to his musings, or both. I have picked a touchy one to start with—one on which, as Brad shares, we disagree. He’ll soon discover that we really don’t. You might want to read Brad’s blog first on “Put Them in the Same Boat” to make sense of mine.
After reading Brad’s blog, I realize we don’t really disagree. Staying out of fights is not the same as “not being around” when the fights take place. Actually, parents should not stay out of fights until they have taught their children problem-solving skills through family meetings and other one-on-one problem solving sessions.
Focus on Solutions
My favorite way to “put kids in the same boat” is to guide them to focus on solutions.
"What ideas do you kids have to solve this problem?"
"Which one of you would like to put this on our family meeting agenda."
"I have faith in you two to work this out." (Of course, you have been teaching them lots of problem-solving skills.)
"Pig pile!" as you jump on both of them and wrestle them to the ground."
"Would it help you both to go to your 'positive time-out' spaces until you can access your rational brains to work on a solution." (Of course, you have taught them about the brain, and how they go into their 'fight/flight response' when they are upset, and taking time to calm down allows them to access their rational brains again--and that is why it is so helpful to have a positive time-out area that helps them feel better.)
None of these suggestions involve neglect or punishment, and it isn’t really staying out of children’s fights. It is getting involved in a way that let’s them know you love them both, and you guide them toward finding solutions.
Belonging and Significance
Most fighting involves issues of "belonging and significance.” From a kid’s point of view, it is difficult to understand that parents have more than enough love to go around. They think they have to compete for the love. So, they do what politicians do—put the other party down so they can look better. Adler or Dreikurs called it "deflating to inflate"--try to make yourself look good by making someone else look bad. Or, one child might “provoke” another child. The parent doesn’t see this. All he sees is the provoker clobbering the provokee. So the parent gets on the case of the provoker, not realizing that he has just reinforced the idea the provoker has that the way to be special is to get the provokee in trouble.
The way parents interfere in fights, often increases the competition. When they take one child's side, they reinforce the idea that parents can love only one child at a time—so the competition increases. This is why we suggest that you "put children in the same boat" and treat them the same. By the same, we mean don't take sides. You don't really know who started it anyway. You don't see the subtle things one child might do to provoke another child into "reacting." So, put them in the same boat to "focus on solutions."If they up the ante—trying to get the same response they are used to—it may be best to walk away saying, “I have faith in you to solve this problem,” or “both of you go to your corners until you feel better so you can do better.” If you are afraid there will be violence when they are left together, put them in the same boat by saying, “Kids, you’ll need to separate until you are ready to find a solution. Eventually they might learn that cooperation is a better way to find belonging and significance than competition.