This is a question / statement I often get because of my profession. I love answering this because it gives me the opportunity to talk about how much I work on being perfectly imperfect as a parent and human being. No, my boys are not perfect, and I'm not perfect. We are all our good enough selves. I'm working hard to teach them that I am here for and with them no matter what. No matter the emotions they are expressing. Yes I teach appropriate expression of emotions, that is I say yes to the desire and need and no to the behaviour. I try and see their underlying need and what need is fuelling their behaviour, connect and meet that while teaching other maybe more appropriate/acceptable/workable methods of seeking those needs to be meet. I also aim to teach them that perfect or imperfect, my love for them is not dependant upon that, my love for them is always. I love them because they are themselves, not because of what they do or don't do. We are human beings, not human doings after all.
My eldest son, 5yo, has a nervous system which is strong in fight. My almost 3yo, has more of a flee nervous system. My own nervous system is more inline with last three f's at different times; flee, freeze and faint. So much so that I can faint and fit when loved ones are in pain and there is nothing I can do...My mum was in the ER as part of her MS and I ended up in the bed next to her because I could tell they were hurting her while trying to draw blood!
Supporting and teaching my eldest son, how to effectively use his fight and to calm his nervous system down, we are trailing this for the next month.
Yep, paper chains. Why?, you ask.
As part of my work with families we often talk about how to support siblings negotiate, be loving, be kind, considerate and not fight. As I've said my 5yo is a fighter and his younger brother takes flight (most of the time). A 9yo client was telling me about what they'd been making at school and my brain heart and soul zinged:)
It zinged with an idea of using paper chains to help with work things out together before coming to me or dad and also to help learn the 'pause' before acting or speaking or yelling or hitting, to make a choice about how to respond.
Heres how it works; if there is an 'dispute' for example, about what game to play or who is having which toy or increasingly so in my house who is talking to mummy (almost 3yo is really finding his voice:). One person will say, "Please stop that I don't like it" or "Please can I have a turn of that" or "I have an idea, can we play my game first and then your game". If the interaction doesn't go well, the person asking whose challenging feelings are increase, rips off a circle, brings it to me or dad. This tells us that they have tried and their siblings isn't listen or cooperating and that they need support in making a loving helpful decision. We then go and support both children in their interaction. Being conscious of not placing one child into a box (naughty, helpful, annoying, aggressive) and the other child in a different box. In interactions like these both children will feel the victim and we need to support each as such. If one yelled or hit, be inquisitive as to why, before blaming or 'punishing' them. [see our Reclaim Discipline blog about what discipline needs to be] We are parents, find it hard, as we do not want our kids to be hurt, to be a victim, and we want to teach the perpetrator a lesson. This is hard when the victim and perpetrator are our children. Who is the victim and perpetrator will change moment to moment with many sibling interactions. We curious about what happened for each child before you becoming included. The paper chain allows for us, as the parents to be asked to be included and not imposing ourselves into the interaction if we didn't feel it was going well. The paper chain allows for the kids to feel empowered about taking control and ownership of their lives. The paper chain allows for the family to have a tool within their tool box of working with challenges.
We have a motto is our house...we can swap out 'hands' for 'words' if the words being thrown around are hurtful. I use this statement when looking at the interaction and its an anchor for the boys in knowing and predicting what is acceptable in our family.
The crafty element of the activity of making the paper chains also provided for fine motor skills, sharing in conversation as eyes and hands where busy so more open conversation flowed and dialogue around what the paper chain was going to be used for.
I'll keep you posted on Facebook about the success we have this month. Please let us know if you use it and how you go.