Before becoming a mother I’d heard that every parent has a moment where they decide that a change in their parenting style needs to happen.
I had one of those moments a few weeks ago. This Moment coincided with moving the girls into the same room together, rather than having their own rooms.
My two daughters are 4 years and 6 days apart. The two year old is incredibly communicative for someone her age and she and her older sister have, in the past 8 months, begun fighting over toys, messes they’re supposed to be cleaning, who sits where at the table, etc.
The fighting is nothing unusual. I grew in a family with four children and the fighting was a near constant thing, with someone always yelling, “Mom! She hit me!” Or “Mom, she won’t give me my stuff!” As far as I can recall, my mother always intervened in one form or another.
My bold step is that I’m no longer intervening in the disagreements my daughters have. They holler for me and my response is, “Work it out on your own.”
The exception, of course, is if one of them starts hitting the other. That simply isn’t tolerated.
I realize that three weeks really isn’t very long to consider a “change” a success but I can see already that my backed-off approach is working. The fights they are having aren’t as loud or as long. The two of them are learning how to compromise, share, and work things out without the need or even desire to have me work it out for them.
Some of this desire was due to an unpleasant event that occurred near the end of my Christmas vacation. I had chosen not to be on speaking terms with one of my sisters when it became clear that having her in my life was creating negativity that I didn’t want. It was not a decision I’d made quickly or lightly. This same sister decided to take matters into her own hands and requested a meeting with her, her husband, our other sister, my husband, and our father.
I found the entire “meeting” highly offensive. For one, I was informed the meeting would happen via our younger sister about 2 hours before the meeting happened, rather than my dad or the sister requesting the meeting. Second, we are in our 30s. There is absolutely no reason to involve our dad. We’re not children. Thirdly, Sister-wanting-the-meeting came “armed” with emails I had sent her and that she had supposedly sent me. She clearly had an agenda but chose not to allow me the same opportunity to prepare for this meeting.
In short, my husband and I were ambushed. . . by a sibling who has never learned how to work out her problems without daddy getting involved.
On a side note, my mother used to be the one involved but since she’s passed away, that is not an option.
Yesterday an old friend shared an article that validated how I feel about my parents’ involvement in sibling squabbles when we were young as well as the decision I’ve made to be more hands-off in the fighting my children do.
The article, which I highly recommend you read, can be found at http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps
From the very first paragraph I was sucked in.
Maybe it’s the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path… at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.
The author, Hara Estroff Marano, goes on to talk about educational accommodations, something I dealt with in my former life as a high school math teacher and still deal with as a private tutor, as well as changes in college aged adult behavior, the change in age for the social markers of adulthood, playtime for youngsters, and anxiety.
It’s a great article for people of ANY age, but particularly fabulous for parents and parents-to-be.
To give another example from my personal life: my parents let us ride our bikes to school in a group of friends starting in 1st grade. The route was close to 2.5 miles and crossed a very busy road. We moved and began riding the bus when I was 8. I believe Mom walked us to the bus stop that first day so we’d know where it was, but that was it.
In contrast, neighbors have been making comments about me because I let my 6 year old walk home from the bus stop by herself. It’s 80 yards and involves a nice sidewalk and a short small neighborhood street crossing with good visibility in both directions so she can easily see cars coming from both directions. The other parents at the bus stop still walk their 4th graders home!
I have said before to friends, and maybe even in one of my few blog posts, that my goal as a parent is to raise my children to be independent adults. That independence isn’t just financial, but also emotional. Clearly, my Sister-wanting-the-meeting is not emotionally independent. She’s a mother of 4, with one on the way, and still wants her father to pick her battles and make the world better.
It’s highly distressing!