Playing Mediator Between Children
How many times have you heard "Mommy, he touched me!," or "Mommy I don't want to watch this." As a mother of 3 children, a 7 year old girl and 4 year old twin boys, I hear these kinds of things way too often.
Recently, i have been trying to find the line between teaching them the value of independence and learning how to resolve their own issues and jumping right in to save the day. I have always been the parent who will say, "Be nice to your brother" or to change the television to a station none of them really want to watch because they can't agree. This approach has gotten me absolutely no where but to the cabinet for Excedrin at least once a day. Why? because now the 3 of them rely on me to resolve their issues for them, which is not effective for any of us.
My new approach is to let them work it out. If they come to me upset that they can't agree on a tv show to watch together, I won't get in the middle. I will tell them that they need to discuss it among themselves and come up with a plan that everyone can agree with. My twin boys are old enough now that their sister doesn't rule all and they definitely speak up. The deal is, if they can't all agree or come to a compromise, then the television (or movie, or video game) goes off altogether and they can try again the next day.
it has been about 3 months now and I have far less headaches to deal with when it comes to trivial arguments. Needless to say, the first few days resulted in missing some new episodes of shows they generally enjoy, but they got it together and have formulated a plan on their own. They take turns choosing shows to watch and on occasion, will simply compromise when there is a disagreement.
In the past, I have also played mediator when they argued and fought each other. I can't remove myself as much from this, but did talk to the 3 about how to get past it. I requested my twins give my daughter some space to do girl things without them jumping all over her. They are typical boys and rough-housing is a language they speak fluently. I asked her not to be so hard on them because they look up to her so much. They love to be right under her and it drives her insane, which usually results in some heated arguments.
Nowadays, when someone comes to me crying because another is being mean or one hit another, I will call each 1 that was involved in the altercation to me and we would have a mini therapy session. I don't ever assume 1 is guilty because the other came in crying. Knowing my 3, the 1 that came to me crying is the 1 they may have provoked the argument in the first place. Everyone gets a chance to say their piece. If one hit or hurt another, he has to apologize and give hugs. Additionally, there may be time spent in his room for putting his hands on the other. If their argument resulted in a busted lip (it's happened a few times) or the need for a band aid, the 1 who did the damage has to care for the 1 who is hurt. That includes retrieving the ice pack and holding it until the other feels better or getting the band aids and staying with the other until he is ready to play again.
Further, I will sometimes implement the "guilty by association" rule that my elementary school teachers used to use. They will be responsible for each other. If 1 goes down, they all go down. If I had to say stop running in the house to all 3 twice or more, everyone is on punishment for the next 1 that runs through the house.
So far, this has been really effective. I will say my piece and make sure I know they all understand my instructions and I leave it up to them. I'll laugh to myself because I will hear 1 brother tell the other to listen because he's not going in his room because he didn't want to listen. My daughter will offer incentives like, "I will read an extra book after mommy reads hers to us tonight if you guys are on your best behavior." Again, at the beginning of this, there was turmoil, but they have gotten on the same page.
It is really important that our children learn the confidence to resolve their own issues. They need to be able to communicate well with others and get their points across without yelling or fighting. I certainly haven't abandoned them and they know they can come to me with any problem they may have, but I want them to be able to at least attempt to resolve things on their own. I won't ALWAYS be around to fight their battles for them and it is important to me that they believe in themselves and what they can accomplish on their own.