Our golden doodle Copper and a fresh pile of snow
Vacation began a day early last Friday with a foot of snow at our doorstep. What a great way to start Christmas! Visions of sledding, hot cocoa, baking (um. . . maybe), and cozy family time danced in our heads. Two weeks of happy family harmony.
By 8:30 a.m., echoes of yelling, crying, hurt feelings (and possibly bodies) wafted up my basement stairs. ”Oh joy!” I thought, ”time to nip this in the bud, or it’s going to be a long vacation.”
So I pulled out my favorite technique to force inspire sibling communication. Each child is sent off to write a letter expressing how he(she) feels and what he(she) might do differently next time. I try not to require mandatory apologies, but they often come naturally with the process.
The results this time:
From N, age 10
I am sorry I called you those names. It wasn’t right. Next time I won’t call you names. Next time I will control my anger and ask you to not annoy me.
And from the other:
- from K, almost 8
Please forgive me. I’m sorry that I kicked you. I won’t do it next time. Please don’t call me stupid. I was a little frustrated with you. Next time I will control my anger.
My children have had a little practice with this. They groan when I bring out the paper, but in the end they’re usually happier. It buys at least 10 minutes of peace and quiet, and sometimes it even transforms the moment into something special. Sometimes they refuse to write or read each others’ letters for awhile, and that’s okay too. We just wait it out until they come up with something to share. Quietly.
My husband’s favorite strategy in moments of high conflict is to dole out pushups. It might sound a little boot camp-ish, but you’d be amazed how effectively it can shift angry frustration into cleansing exercize. Shoveling the driveway and walking the dog work well too. Afterwards, problem solving comes much easier.
With all of the “opportunities” for conflict resolution these next two weeks, I think my three kids are going to build communication skills and buff biceps by the end of vacation. Maybe we adults could learn something from these practices too.
Stay tuned for episode two.
What about you? How harmonious have your holidays been so far this season?