Fear & Loathing in our Backyard

Anyone have children that fight?

This morning I was trucking through Circuit Training without Guilt & Shame for Beginners when child #4 ran outside claiming injustice and abuse. Before long the uninvited child #5 felt that lies and accusations were being shared at her expense and decided to audit the diatribe. I was unenthusiastic about the interruption, but continued lifting 3 lb. weights over my head, now presiding behind the invisible Bench (with my invisible gavel.)

Child #4 was stating his version of reality which resembled #5’s version of reality not at all. Screaming began. I calmly insisted calm voices be used. Screaming ensued. I then joined in and yelled at both of them to “Sit down and shut up!!”

I continued to alternate between getting my heart rate up and convincing my rebellious hamstrings to work with me.

The kids did not love sitting there without a word for about 10 minutes while I calmed down and decided what to do. #4 even decided to try a little manipulation and said accusingly, “This is why I never come to you for help.” Ten years ago that might have worked, but not today, my son.

This summer one of my top 3 priorities is teaching 4 and 5 how to avoid arguments. They really suck at this right now. They are the most skilled children I know at getting into arguments over nothing. (I don’t mean respectful disagreements. I mean yelling, fighting, being dumb.) We’ve had this crusty paper on our refrigerator door for about three years now, but sadly it doesn’t seem to translate for 4 & 5 at all.

Photo Jun 27, 10 43 39 PM

After a while I told them to sit (NO talking!) and think about ways they were both promoting and preventing an argument. They were not allowed to even THINK about all the horrible and terrible crimes committed by their sibling. They were to think only of their own words and actions.

I was about 20 minutes in by now, so the exercise was benefiting my frame of mind. (Love, love, love serotonin…) Then I knew what to do! I didn’t want to just let them get up and go inside. My goal for them was not only reconciliation, but also some tools. I sent Child #4 & 5 (separately) into the house for a piece of paper, a pencil, and something to write on. As I enthusiastically maneuvered a resistance band, they drew a line down the center of their paper. “Promoted” was written on one side, and “Prevented” on the other. They then listed FACTS only under each column. I wanted them to see at a glance if they’d put more effort into preventing the argument or promoting it. I said if they left out any facts, there’d be trouble, mister. So the goal was to expose the part they played in the conflict instead of being blinded by offense with the other person, which usually means all you can see is how it was their fault…which leads quickly into the pit of “you always do this,” and “how can anyone be expected to live with this?” (Trust me, most divorces begin with similar thoughts resulting from an unresolved offense from about a million years ago.)

Believe it or not, by the time I sat down with them, they were peaceful and ready to reconcile. Then we looked over the lists and as they owned their actions, they were ready to apologize for a few more things, and were forgiven. Then #4 (who is a thinker) said he noticed that it helped to reflect and calm down before talking. Yes, it does, young grasshopper.

And that’s how we do. Piece by piece by piece by piece through the years. Intentional training is not a quick fix, but if you’re ready for the long-haul, your kids are ready to learn.


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