Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sibling Conflicts: Guest Post Solutions From Becky Eanes

Becky Eanes' wonderful blog page.
Definitely worth checking out.
Somewhere along my parenting journey I found a wonderful blog called Positive Parenting which was so full of great, straightforward advice that it caught my attention and I stayed and read article after article and followed post after post on her extremely popular Facebook page. I've learned a lot from Becky Eanes, the author of that blog. 

One of the things I love about Becky is that she doesn't hold herself up to be more of an expert than you or I. But she reads and researches a ton and is passionate about positive parenting. She's terrifically smart and writes blog posts that offer great insight into many of our most difficult child raising issues. I was very excited that she agreed to take part in this guest post series and answer another reader question about sibling conflicts. 
"I have B/G 18 mos. twins and I had a few questions. You mention the wrestling, especially for boys. Can you elaborate? They love climbing on Dad and he tolerates them sitting on him and jumping and 'hitting' but I don't. How do you teach your kids to play nice and then allow for this kind of roughhousing? 
I have started using a colorful egg timer for taking turns. Sometimes by the time the timer is done, the one who wanted the mop has moved onto something else. Do I follow through? When I do, the child who has the mop gets upset and it seems like if I had just continued to let them play, they would forget that they were fighting about it. But, I don't want to break promises... 
Also, there are a few times the kids are playing well by themselves and I try to say, "Good playing! I like how nicely you are playing!" And then the attention makes them 'aware' and they start fighting for the same toy! I had read that I should try and give as much positive encouragement in the times they are doing well alone but this sometimes back fires on me. Any advice?" 
~ Jessica W. 
Good, old-fashioned roughhousing is actually
a critical part of a child's development. (AP Photo)
Roughhousing has many benefits for children, both boys and girls. There is an entire chapter devoted to this in Lawrence Cohen's Playful Parenting. Here is an excerpt: 
"Boys and girls - rambunctious children and quiet ones - all benefit from thoughtful physical play with adults. The active ones, who are going to be in the thick of the rough and tumble in school and on the playground, need a chance to do it first with someone who can give them undivided attention, help them deal with their fears, hesitations, impulses, anger, etc. That's our job, because we won't call them names if they cry or if they give up, and we will stop for a rest when the child needs one. Other children are not going to hold back very much, and they certainly are not going to encourage expression of feelings. Meanwhile, children who are less physically active need roughhousing with adults so they can explore their physical power and develop their confidence and assertiveness....[There is a] set of guidelines that help make wrestling the kind of play that brings closeness, confidence, and healing from emotional hurts. In other words, we are not talking about professional wrestling here."
He goes on to discuss the basic rules of wrestling or roughhousing, which I will summarize:

1. Provide basic safety
  • Set up ground rules to make sure nobody gets hurt. No hitting, no biting, no punching, no kicking, and no head locks. Besides being safer, pushing and holding are more helpful in building confidence and connection than hitting. Your commitment to no one getting hurt builds feelings of safety.
  • Don't tease or humiliate the child. 
  • Agree on a code word that means that everyone will stop immediately and always stop right away when someone uses the code word. 
  • Children may need to be reminded about these ground rules many times. If safety permits, it is best to keep reminding them or holding them gently but firmly so they can't hurt you, instead of stopping the play. 
  • See if you can stay engaged, continuing to play while maintaining safety. This gives us a chance to help children who are impulsive or aggressive to gradually control these feelings.
2. Find every opportunity for connection. Take cuddle breaks. Insert as much connection as possible, wherever possible.

I always loved this photo of RFK playing
with his children before bed.
(Photo by Art Rickerby)
3.  Look for every opportunity to increase their confidence and sense of power. Mostly this is done through giving the right level of resistance and encouraging them. 

4. Use every opportunity to play through old hurts. For example, if a child faced a difficult challenge earlier in the day and was not pleased with the outcome, she can replay it with you, with you representing the obstacle or bully or difficulty.

5. Provide just the right level of resistance for your child's needs. The goal is let them use their inner power fully in a way that does not hurt anyone. They need enough resistance to know you are there and to get a sense of themselves being powerful, but not so much that are overwhelmed or feel abliged to give up.

6. No tickling allowed. No holding others down and tickling against their will. Tickling can be fun, but it can also feel to children as if things are out of control.

There are more, but I think those are the basic points. My husband does most of the roughhousing with my boys, and I occasionally join in as well. At this point, I don't generally allow my boys to roughhouse each other because they get carried away. They're 5 and 3, and my 3 year old is more aggressive, which usually causes my 5 year old to end up "losing" and "whining!" :) 

As for your question, how do you teach them to play nice and allow for this kind of roughhousing, that is in the ground rules. Make it clear its about physical fun, not at attempt to cause injury. This helps them to build inner discipline.

A timer can be a great tool, especially when kids
are very young. But work on teaching
siblings negotiating skills as well. 
Using a timer to take turns. If you're using the timer for taking turns and one child loses interest, let them continue on playing without interfering. There is really no need to follow through if the other child has lost interest in the toy or object. Timers can be useful for all sorts of things, but its important to also work with them on problem solving skills.  Teach them how to negotiate with each other when they both want the same thing.

What about when siblings are playing nicely? Positive attention is a good thing, but it can backfire when used at the wrong time, like you have discovered. If they are playing nicely together, there is no reason to always make mention of it, especially if you notice this causes them to become aware and start fighting. They're supposed to play nice together, so, while you want them to know you acknowledge their efforts, you don't want them to feel like they're doing something over the top special, as though you expected them to fight and are so pleased that they're not! Its best to let them enjoy playing together, and you can make mention of it later, such as at bath time. "You two were very kind to each other today. I appreciate how you cooperated with each other."

If you are interested in learning more about positive parenting, please check out Becky's blog, Positive Parents or her Facebook support page. And especially look into her two eBooks, The Newbie's Guide To Positive Parenting and Positive Parenting In Action. Both books are excellent and full of helpful advice and resource information. 

If you have any questions about Becky's advice or have a sibling question of your own, please leave it in the comment section below. Thank you to Jessica for your question and to Becky for your generosity in taking part in this series!
Share it!
Tweet it!
"Like" The Twin Coach on Facebook!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...