The kids had a melt down while I was putting Annie down for bed. Ron was working late. I went downstairs and found Leigh crying uncontrollably, and three other kids not knowing what to do.
It was all about the fact that Jake had found Leigh lying on the couch, and he sat down on her feet. He would not get off her feet. Then he inched over about two inches, and she started kicking him, because two inches was not far enough.
I said, “We have a tool to prevent this problem! Did anyone ask our magic question, ‘May we please discuss this?”
The kids shared with me why it did not work. So we spent half an hour, re-devising the question and how it operates in our home.
The kids sometimes feel that something is unfair. When things are unfair, and never rectified, I believe that children emotionally disconnect from their parents and siblings. Even at age 10, for example, they can begin detaching. You may not really see it, but unfairness is one of several reasons, I believe, that so many kids disengage with their parents over the long term. The home needs to be a safe, fair place. But it is so darn hard to be fair!! As parents, we sometimes just break up the problem, re-direct, get them to stop crying, cheer them up, and change the subject. We are tired of the fight, and feel like we have succeeded if we get it to stop. But if there is unfairness that is not actually rectified, kids feel that as a breach, and keep it with them.
So we spent the time, working out our system.
Problem: Someone Being Annoying
1. Annoyed Person says, “May we please discuss this?”
-If she fails to say this “magic question,” and shouts, stomps, etc., she loses a chip.
2. Annoyer MUST STOP THE BEHAVIOR for a moment to discuss (that is what is “magical” about the question. It has the power to stop the annoying person).
-If she fails to stop, she owes the annoyed person a chip.
3. Then they must discuss the solution. Solution: The annoying person will stop the behavior for good in 10, 20, or 30 seconds.
-If the annoying person does not, she loses a chip.
In the beginning, anyone who asks the magic question, “May we please discuss this?” instead of shouting or acting frustrated gets a chip.
The goal is to foster RESPECT FOR OTHERS, which is a virtue that is especially important for pre-teen and teen years. I am confident that there will be a constant onslaught of irritations among these siblings for the next decade.
Leigh has been singing “Frere Jacques” non-stop this week, and it is driving everyone MAD. Jake is bouncing balls in the house. Mary is twirling on point. Clare is shouting at all of them to STOP. 🙂
Having to stop the behavior, within 30 seconds, and just dealing with the fact that you need to stop (or go somewhere else) to be kind to those around you is an important virtue to have.
May God help us survive the many challenges the upcoming teen years!