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What your kids might really be needing as they scrap with their siblings...

What ever possessed me to write a blog about siblings fighting!? When just the thought of my girls getting scratchy with each other sends tiny prickles up my legs and arms. I know why really. It's because my biggest parenting challenge is managing to keep my cool and support my kids in a way that's true to my values, and something in me knows that bloggin' it out, will etch compassion and competence deeper into my cells. Plus, I like to think sharing what I've learned from practicing Nonviolent Communication (NVC) might benefit others seeking support in this area.

The reasons behind me becoming so triggered when my kids fight, is for another topic. Why I've caught myself many times throwing blame all over the place, not dissimilar to a lolly scramble at Halloween, where instead of the poisons being in the sweets, they're in my words, we'll save for another time. Today we'll focus on what can be done.

First things first, NVC starts with me. What use will I be if I go in there in a blaze, expecting my kids to come back to their cool and work things out, when I'm all worked up?!

So imagine the scene: sounds of violence erupt from your kids. Right away, check your body and what's happening there - is it tightness? heaviness? clenched jaw? Are you rigid to the rafters?

Next take a look at your feelings, without analysis, letting yourself actually feel them, remembering e-motions are energy in motion and want to move. Is frustration there, over/underwhelm, anger, exhaustion, concern, helplessness, sadness, confusion?

Now for the magic - Ask yourself: What is it I really want here? Do I want peace? Everyone to get along? Kindness, respect, consideration for everyone? Is it progress in these situations perhaps? Trust in your parenting? Reassurance that your children are growing to be healthy, emotionally rounded beings? Do you want to support them, or do you need support yourself? Breeeeaaaaattthhhhee as you recognise your heart's desires.

Connecting with your own Needs helps you to choose your next move with clarity and confidence - remembering it can very supportive for your children's emotional growth to sometimes give them the space to work it out for themselves, I aim to find a bit of a balance with stepping in or not, so they get to experience it all (you may just want to keep one ear on alert in case you're required to dive in with a Super Woman rescue roll if one or both your kids are in danger of getting hurt - in NVC this is referred to as Protective Use of Force (as opposed to punitive force).

So, all this BEFORE you even make a move, 'sounds a bit full on', you're thinking, and I hear you. But I promise you this; practice this self-connection process often and you'll soon be doing it in a whizz.

Now you are centred in your Needs and your choice is to join your kids made from your intention to support them, regain peace and also for growth in your own capacity to "do" it, holding everyone's Needs with care, an exchange between you might go something like this:


I: "She's reading MY book!" (flicking a towel near her sister)

Me: "Oh honey, it sounds like you're quite upset?"

I: "YES!!" (continues flicking towel, me keeping an eye on it, noticing it's not touching her sister)

Me: "Is it about wanting to be asked if you're happy for P to read your book, or is it that you're worried about it and wanting it to be cared for?"

I: "All of it!" (stops flicking towel and lies back on the bed)

P: "This is my book."

I: "No it's NOT!!" (sitting straight up again to look at P, face burrowed in a frown)

Me: "Hang on a second I, I understand you want P to realise this book was a gift to you, and I also want to care for P - could you give me a moment to talk to her?"

I lies back down.

Me: "P, it looks like you're wantingt to enjoy some nice quiet time on your own, is that right?"

P: "Yes"

Me: "Mmm it looks so relaxing. I guess you can hear what I is saying, about wanting to be asked first - do you want to see how I know this book was a gift to her?"

P: nods and I show and read to her the writing at the front, which reads "Dear I, Happy 3rd Birthday.." P closes the book and tosses it to I. I takes it and I notice tears in P's eyes.

Me: "are you sad P?" at the same time I says: "can we go build the dolls house now.?"

Me: "I can just see your sister is upset and I want to help her, though I'm happy to talk about that in a moment." (turning to P) "P are you sad and want to know that we care about you?"

P: shakes her head

Me: "Mmmm I'm wondering if you're feeling a little sad and what to choose which book you read?"

Before P answers, I passes the book back, saying "you can read this P."

P takes the book back, seemingly content that she has been understood, cared for, and heard.

The key component to my intention here is to give each the experience that they are heard and the trust that their Needs matter. It's so helpful to remember that most often, being heard becomes far more important to each of them, than whatever the original conflict was about!

The dialogue can go any way, anytime, in the NVC dance of self-connection, giving empathy and self-expression. It's about following the life in each person.

I might choose at a later point to express myself about what came up for me when I saw the towel being flicked at her sister, seeing if I is open to exploring other ways of getting her Needs met, whilst still caring for others. I find, especially with I, that she is way more likely to be interested a little while after the event, before bed perhaps, the next day or any other time in the future that seems like a powerful moment to bring it up!

If you've got this far, I'm wondering if you have thoughts like, 'Heck that takes a lot of time!' And in short, the answer is yes, it takes time. However, when asking myself if I'm willing to put in the time required to support the children in my life in coming up with peaceful resolutions, the answer is a resounding yes. I am 100% willing to be with them, no matter how long it takes, when they are struggling with their own emotions and they begin reacting in ways that aren't true to their own nature. I deeply believe all human beings are compassionate by nature and it's the environment they grown up in that can sway that. I also recognise that understanding and meeting my own Needs is just as crucial as supporting theirs, and I am committed to the practice of continually returning home to my heart, in the easier times, so in the heat of the moment when my own triggers arise, I am able to reconnect and be present for my girls. It ain't easy, but after each single incident I approach this way, I sense healing within, the strong connection with my girls' in tact, and on a more subtle level, a shift in the world around me, that I can describe as blissful opening...

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