As a twin mother I have learned to live with conflict. In my shining moments I even embrace it fully and welcome it. I have three passionate kids and conflict is a regular visitor in my house. The other day both my boys had a major conflict over who gets to use their sister’s American girl doll trailer and play food first. It involved major meltdowns from both boys with throwing things around, rolling on the floor, kicking and punching anyone who comes near them, etc. And this happened at the end of the day (of course!) when everybody was tired. I got to a point where my heart was beating too fast. I tapped into my spiritual practices, took a break and focused on my breathing for a couple of mins. When I went back to the boys I was much calmer and more compassionate towards both of them. I did the cycle of validating their feelings and invited them for a hug. My calm presence had already diffused the situation quite a bit for the boys. Within a couple of mins all three of us were snuggled in the bed reading books. After reading I talked to each of them about what happened and reinforced what not to do (throwing things, punching, kicking, etc) and asked them what they could do instead. They both instantly said ‘walk away’. So they know what to do but they are struggling to implement it which is quite normal for their age. Then I stated the problem of sharing their sister’s trailer to them in simple words and asked them for ideas on how to solve it. I got a pen and paper and told them that I am going to write up a contract for all of us to follow based on their ideas. I got this idea from a parenting book that I read recently. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work but I decided to give it a try. To my surprise both of them came up with a few ideas. We discussed each idea, tossed out a couple of ideas and I wrote up a final contract based on the ideas that were remaining. Then I read the contract to them loudly and clearly. I had them both raise hands for each point in the contract if they agreed with it. Then I drew stick figures of them at the end of the contract and had them sign there in their own way.
Last night we implemented the contract peacefully and both boys were very supportive. There were moments when both of them tried to push the limits but I reminded them of the contract that they signed and they backed off immediately. This demonstrates to me that conflict resolution can be taught to three year olds if the parent is motivated. It also demonstrates to me that instead of getting stressed out and overwhelmed when my kids run into conflict if I am able to get centered and fully tune into those moments I can actually use that opportunity to teach my kids conflict resolution skills which are essential in today’s world. Tuning into conflict is a very hard thing to do, atleast for me it is because I am conflict averse. In fact I had some bad parenting moments the morning after this incident (will talk about that soon). But I realize that I am imperfect. I also realize now that there will always be bad parenting moments because I am human. I make mistakes, learn from them, always make amends with my kids and keep marching forward with purpose and motivation. Most important thing is I never give up. I continue to learn and grow no matter what. I also refuse to make parenting something that I do on the side while juggling everything else in my life. This is my commitment to my kids and to myself. Onward!
Trailer Play Contract:
- We will not move the trailer around. We will keep it in one spot and play.
- We will take turns with the trailer. Mommy will set the alarm first. Mimi will take his turn first. When Mimi is done with his turn Momo will take his turn.
- We will take akka’s permission before playing with the trailer (Akka = Big Sister)