A Child’s Life: Experimental Parenting (april 5, 2011)

My daughter is 8 and my middle son is 6.  They vacillate between the extreems of best friends and sworn enemies about 12 times a day, and lately, between the shrieks and new found clinginess of my toddler and their diva vs bully routine, I have had quite enough.

Taking my inspiration from the movie, The Parent Trap, where the sisters were required to do everything together until they sorted out how to be civil to each other, I have come up with an experimental parenting project.  Each morning my two children get a wrist loosely tied to each other’s wrist with a scarf.  They must accomplish all their tasks as one.  When we go for several hours without bickering they get free time from each other.

My hope is to get past the “diva” my daughter throws down when she doesn’t get her way and the bullying my son engages in when he feels bossed by his big sister. The first day was, at first, hilarious.  It quickly dawned on both of them, though, that it was a lot of work to communicate and cooperate, and I had several moments of doubting my creativity as howls and yelling filled the air.  Glad to report no one was hurt, and by bed time they were smoothly getting things accomplished with respectful attitudes.  My suspicion is that they were testing to see if I was going to stand by my new tactic…

My husband praised my creativity, and then asked, “so what is your goal?”  My answer to him… that our daughter learns respect for her brother and our son learns respect for his sister.  That they both learn to favor each other’s needs, and that they learn the art of listening to each other – which in my estimation is the biggest key for effective communication.

Something that has come out of this that I did not foresee is how well their strengths compliment each other. Something I think they are discovering too, as I watch my daughter give way to my son in a task he is better at and vice versa.  And the reality that how we treat each other comes back to either haunt or help us is dawning on them, especially my daughter.

I can’t say I would recommend this for everyone, but for what it’s worth this is showing to be fairly effective for my kiddos.  My favorite quote to come out of this so far: ”You have got your way the whole day.”-”Not the whole day, it hasn’t been a whole day yet.”

Oh – I should probably add, the scarf is loose enough that either of them can get their hand out without help, and they do not sleep with it on.

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