Archive for the ‘Conflict Resolution’ Category

Preventing and Mitigating Sibling Melt Downs

Art Credit: Siblings Without Rivalry

This past week I attended a class with one of my favorite early childhood experts, Carrie Contey. This was a class on siblings. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the unique needs of children based on their birth order, new insights on what drives sibling conflict, and several light bulb moments on better meeting my daughters’ emotional needs in general. Austin Mamas – if you haven’t taken a class with Carrie, I highly recommend her. I’ve never left a class without several valuable new insights and workable ideas to put in practice.

I’ll share the high level take-aways with you here:

* Birth Order. Firsts never forget that they were here first and don’t want you to either. They need acknowledgment and appreciation of their role as first. Forever.  Middles need to hear how special it is to be in the middle. Youngests need to know that you understand how frustrating it is to be the youngest and not get to do what olders are doing. They need ongoing empathy for this.

* We’ve got 3 parts to our brains:

  1. Human – Thinking. Learning, talking, listening, reasoning, loving, playing.
  2. Mammal – Feeling. Not listening, resisting, crying, demanding, whining, clinging.
  3. Reptile – Fearing.  Fight or Flight. Fight: kicking, biting, screaming, hitting. Flight: avoiding, running away, shutting down.

Babies consistently live in the reptile part of their brain as they cry to get their basic needs met. And as they grow from age 0 to 7, they are working on developing their human, thinking brain. When children are apart from their parents in preschool or daycare or with a nanny, they are working really hard to contain their emotions, to think, to work, to learn. And even with all this positive, wonderful growing — it’s draining and stressful. When they reunite with parents, meltdowns are common because they are letting down from working so hard to contain their emotions without Mommy or Daddy.

Food. Sleep. Love.

* Sibling rivalry is normal AND they need their parents to be the Steady Eddies in the fire to help them regulate. It’s inevitable because they likely spend more time with each other than anyone else at home. And it’s through a sibling that they learn how to resolve conflict. Once again the cry for self-care comes through loud and clear for Mothers which so many of us find so difficult to do. But it’s when you’re depleted that you are more likely to join the fire with your own reptile brain instead of provide the calming, grown-up force to diffuse it.

Three Tips on Preventing and Mitigating Meltdowns with Small Children:

  1. Fill them up with Big Attention after every separation – including sleep. Whatever that looks like for you, and take it up a notch with the level of intensity.  Rather then feeding them the heightened negative attention of “STOP THAT!” intensity, feed them with big “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”. Big silliness. Physical games.  Your eyes and ears completely on them and bouncing back and forth between each child.  In the mornings now I’ve been trying out Carrie’s suggestion of simply saying, “I see you!” to each child and going back and forth between the two, saying it over and over again.  When they are filled with intense attention, even in just small bursts, they’re less likely to get into sibling conflict or their own individual melt-down mode which is just another way to get your intense attention. Just not as much fun for anybody.
  2. If you are a working AP Mama like me, consider making those three or four hours a day that you have with your children during your week uninterrupted by anything else.  Put all screens away so that you’re not distracted by a single text or email during your time together. Knowing that transitions are hard and that I usually come home to kids having melt downs, I’ve been looking for ways to help make this time together more pleasant since we have so little time.  The “A-Ha!” suggestion from Carrie that I’m running with: When I come home from work, I’m not worrying about getting dinner on the table or talking to my husband or our baby-sitter about anything for a good 10 minutes. I’m giving all my attention to my girls and going back and forth between them quickly to fill them up, play, hug, be silly — whatever.  I’ll let you know how it works….
  3. If a conflict between siblings is underway, don’t try to reason with them or get to the “why”.  (like I do) I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “No honey, of course you’re not poopy. Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it’s true. We don’t talk that way to each other.”  Instead, focus on a quick redirection and come back to a mini discussion on your family’s values at another time when all is peachy.  Carrie’s fabulous redirection suggestion:  Grab their attention away from picking on their brother or sister and say, “I think you need a challenge!”  And then give them something to do that’s both mental and physical.  Do three twirls. Then count to twelve. And then hug your sister while you sing.  You get the idea….

All these ideas for melt down prevention or “work-around”, by the way, assume that you’ve covered the basic needs:  food, drink, sleep.

So what happens when everyone is short on sleep because one of your children kept everyone else up all night with her coughing and crying and you have to run an errand the next day because there’s no other option?

I can confidently say that in these cherished Mama Moments, you must simply breathe through the kicking and wailing on the floor tantrums that take place at XYZ store because the child wants something you’re not up for them having or in my recent case — something impossible. My Littlest wanted the same kind of princess underwear I was buying for my Oldest at Target — and her size was out of stock (bless her heart). Absolutely no other kind would do and the eye of her hurricane was too intense to redirect her attention to anything.

And when someone stops to look at you with a why-aren’t-you-doing-something-to-stop-your-child-from-screaming look, you simply look them back in the eye in a penetrating sort of way and flip them off.

No, I didn’t give anyone the bird. That part was pure fantasy. Maybe in my next life.

All for now. Gotta fill my cup with some sleep!

Posted in AP & Self Care, Attachment Parenting, Conflict Resolution | 2 Comments

When All You Want to Do is Yell

My next goal in life is to be a book author and speaker. Just typing those words right now I almost laugh out loud as I battle my dominant inner voice that says, “Yeah right, when in the world are you going to write a book? And, “What could you speak to people about? You’re not an expert in anything!”

Holding the space for the desire for now. I guess technically I have enough material that swims through my head daily and can be found on this web site to write a book.

But when I imagine myself speaking and try to drum up my inspiring presentation topic, the only thing I can come up with right now is, “Attachment Mama’s 101 Ways to Unravel as a new Parent” or “Attachment Parenting, Full-Time Work and Self-Care? Best of Luck!”  Not that inspiring!

Today is one of those Mondays where I really would love the social freedom to stand in the middle of the street, on top of my desk at Whole Foods and in the middle of a meditation or yoga class (yes, all three) and yell at the top of my lungs.

Yes. I would find that enormously satisfying. And then after I let go of each of those yowls, I would like to be transported instantly to Colorado where I could hike for three hours to the top of a mountain and yell some more.

I could go into my personal sob story on why self-care feels utterly impossible to me and how challenging my personal juggling act is and how I’m running on empty consistently. But I feel totally lame doing that because I know every mother has her own version of spinning plates. And not to mention single mothers out there that are doing all of it without any help!  And, worse than that, there are mothers who are dealing with a lot more than figuring out how to stay sane while feeling over-extended.

Most the time at work, I keep to myself because I have 1800 (feels like) projects to manage and can’t afford to get distracted by small talk.  For the same reason, I rarely if ever get on the phone any more with my girl friends.  I’m sure I come across as unfriendly at work and lame to my friends, and that sucks.  I’m working on figuring it all out…

So last week I decided to reach out to a woman at work that I had secretly labeled “rough around the edges.”

I asked questions about her job, her expertise on certain products and then noticed a picture of a teenage boy on her shelf.  So I asked if it were her son.  She said, “Yes.”

I then asked how old he was.

She said, “He was 14 in that picture, but he was 23 when he died.”

I quite literally started crying on the spot as I told her how sorry I was.

She went on to say through her own tears that if I’ve overheard her being short with people on the phone that even though it’s been three years, she still has trouble coping and being present in the world.  Good Lord, of course.

Can anyone imagine anything worse to have to live with every day?

When I then think about the work-house-children-childcare-diet-marriage-no exercise rut that I’m in, I think, Thank Your LUCKY stars for the health and well-being of your children and husband, for your health, and for your job.

Now, just because I know that other women are facing life challenges far, far, far bigger and deeper than mine — I still believe that we all have feelings of frustration that come up that we need to process and allow to move through us so that our emotions don’t come out sideways if you know what I mean.

According to Carrie Contey, when you feel like upping the volume with your frustration about something related to your children — do it!  It’s healthy and normal to express frustration and anger. But here’s the trick.  Don’t unleash ON them.  She recommends letting the emotions flow UP and out of you and avoid scaring or shaming them directly.

So, instead of yelling at their little faces about whatever they’re doing in the moment that’s driving you crazy, tilt your head up and yell at the ceiling or the sky with “I” exclamations.  “I’M SO FRUSTRATED!!!”  or “HITTING HURTS PEOPLE and I WANT IT TO STOP!!”  or “THIS IS NOT OK WITH ME!!!”

And then our Littles can learn that feeling and expressing emotions like anger is normal and parents feel them too — but they’re not put in a place of being traumatized by it.

I think the greatest possible gift for our children would be to grow up witnessing and experiencing their parents expressing frustration, anger, and disappointment and modeling how to get to the other side to resolve issues and support each others feelings in the process.

My husband and I hold the vision for it every day and we’ll continue to practice until we get there.

Posted in AP & Self Care, AP and Working Moms, Conflict Resolution | 3 Comments

Healthy Conflict Resolution at Home

Everyone feels angry from time to time.  We’re human and conflict is part of life.  How we express it — or not, is what makes our family functional or dysfunctional.

I’m keenly interested in the subject of conflict resolution because I think it’s truly at the heart of everything that matters in our communities, our businesses, our governments, really our world — and we’ve all heard the adage a million times:  world peace starts at home.

How we model conflict management as husband and wife will very likely be how our children work things out (or not) with each other and their friends. And the more young people in this life that learn how to communicate and work through issues where each person feels honored and heard — the better our world will be in the future.

Because truly — who and how we are when we’re first dating, flush with cash, time, libido and baby-free freedom is fabulous and fun and is the juice that led us all down the isle.  But how we are when things aren’t easy breezy — this is when it really counts. This is what can strengthen or damage our bond. And this is what ultimately impacts children deeply.

What happens when Mom and Dad disagree or when one is making a request of the other?  What happens when Mom or Dad is frustrated about something I’m doing?  What can I do when I feel angry?  Do I have to stuff it to fit into the family?  Or can I cry and scream if I want to as long as I don’t hurt myself or others?

Do you all remember that beautiful poem by Oriah called “The Invitation”?  So powerful in addressing what really matters in marriage.

...I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.I think that fire includes the fire between us. Can we stand up to what’s hard within our relationship — the foundation for our home and our family — and not shrink back?  Can we always seek compassion and tenderness when every button in our body has been pushed and our cups are empty?  (more…)

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Posted in AP & Self Care, Conflict Resolution, Marriage | 7 Comments


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