Wouldn’t it be nice if your Mother’s Day gift from your children would be their promise never to fight again and to love each other always. As much as we try for sibling love and harmony, we cannot make it happen. But we can influence their relationship, their treatment of one another and the respect and support they give each other. In her new book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Dr. Laura Markam shows us step by step, complete with dialogue, how to stop the fighting and build thoughtful, considerate connections between our children.
Instead of punishing, banishing, labeling, fixing the problem, and otherwise setting our children up to compete with one another, this book helps parents understand how important it is to connect with each child’s emotional state so that they learn to understand and respect each other’s. When that happens, children are well equipped to work out their differences through problem solving and conflict resolution with you acting as “interpreter” and coach rather than judge and jury.
Dr. Markam and I could not agree more on the power of connection to help children learn to both understand and then regulate their emotions. When we connect with each child’s individual needs, we help build their self-confidence and thus their capacity to resolve conflicts with each other now and in relationships throughout their lives.
Laura and I both work with parents who will try anything to make their kids get along and stop screaming at each other. We also both know that frustrated parents don’t want to spend a lot of time and know-how to make this happen when all they want is for their kids to just do what they say.
We also both agree on why this picture, that so many parents find funny and a good idea, is just plain wrong. Why? Because of the underlying foundation of our parenting philosophies: Compassion.
Finding this photograph funny means that the feelings of the children don’t matter—and the children know it. They are being forced to “get along”, which is not the most effective method of helping children actually get along. Among the eight reasons that Laura gives about why this picture is a bad idea is that it “humiliates both kids, so it teaches them that people with power get their way by using force to humiliate and subdue smaller people”—good training for bullying. And of course it “makes each child more upset and angry for which they—naturally—blame their sibling.”
Instead Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings guides the parent through problem solving and conflict resolution to help their kids work through their problems rather than punish, reprimand reactively, or force an apology. By being your child’s guide first by connecting compassionately and then with problem solving skills, you are “empowering [your child] to see himself as a generous person who can make things better when he’s done something hurtful.”
Every child has a reason for behaving the way they do. These reasons are often hidden from the parent—He just whacked her for no reason at all! We must understand that there is always a reason. When the parent is able to connect with the child’s internal emotions, her feelings can be purged. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to have to share me with a little sister can bring on healing tears. Laura even suggests “scheduled meltdowns” to help children tap into those emotions trapped inside that provoke hurtful behavior. She says, “Fortunately children are designed to heal themselves by surfacing their hurts, just like their immune system will push an infection to the surface to heal. All you have to do is support his natural process by creating safety.”
Kids fight. We both agree that sibling fighting is fertile territory where the ins and outs of life’s relationships are learned. But when resentment and anger keep siblings mostly on the fighting range, they need our help to learn skills that repair their relationship—skills that last a lifetime. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings is the help you need to help your children.
So for Mother’s Day, I want to offer you a copy of Dr. Markam’s book as a giveaway to one of you. All you need to do is make a comment below about your siblings up until midnight, Saturday May 16. On Sunday May 17, using a random number generator, I will choose the winner who will receive a free copy of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.
In the meantime, listen in on a conversation that Laura and I recently had about sibling relationships. We covered a lot of territory — https://goo.gl/2AM7IH