i get a little obsessed over themes...or ideas...and it seems to me that there is always one overwhelming theme or idea that sorta pervades parenting through a phase in your child(ren)'s life.
once my middle child bodie (2.5) got to be old enough to play with his older brother bryson (5.5) it seemed like all of the sudden there was constant conflict. there are several steps we have taken as an intentional course in ridding our household of conflict.
step one...get rid of stupid toys. i have been to many a house of parents with children who have bins upon bins with toys...and i am always amazed that their children actually play with their toys. my kids are not of that temperament. my kids like to take a toy and then fight over that one toy for an hour...then the next day that toy sits...and the next...and the next...for months. its like they just want an excuse to fight over it. i also personally am not a fan of toys that make noise- i feel like children are born with this amazing capability to re-create sounds and make their own *amazing* sounds for toys and it breaks my heart a little when a toy does it automatically for them. for instance...light sabers that light up and make noise. my husband bought one for bryson without any consultation and i was a little sad that it was no longer him making "woosh" sounds, but the toy doing it for him. also - imagine 3 boys all with different sound making toys...i just can't handle it. for my own selfish sanity sake. plus my boys are always better with outside toys anyway - i would much rather spend money on a scooter than a box of legos because i will not trip over a scooter in my house (cause its outside you see) and also they are getting fresh air and exercise, which i believe are two key ingredients to a child's overall well being!
so we purged. like totally purged. we only kept the things they play with on a consistent basis and also boxed up sets so they could be taken out and played with during a set constructive time. its not overwhelming for them and that way they are actually excited about it.
step two...remove the parent from (most) conflict(s). i learned this at bryson's pre-school...and i am sure there are probably many of books on the subject and this is not something i made up...although i think the idea is pretty genius. when a normal conflict happens between the two older boys and one runs up to me and says "bodie hit me in the face" my response is something along the lines of "i am so sorry he did that! did you ask him why? did you tell him how that made you feel?" and then i sit back and watch him ask "bodie...why did you hit me? that hurt! i was only trying to show you how to play with that!" and then i smile if bodie says "i'm sorry" and gives him a hug. it doesn't always end like that of course, but that is a part of parenting conflict. teaching them to resolve it among themselves. i will not always be there to mediate conflict.
step three...stepping in. when i found out i was having a second boy and not knowing about brothers (our family had 2 girls and one boy and so did my husband's family) i asked a dear friend who happens to be one of five boys (!) what to do with brothers...when to step in and when to let them get it out. his reply was immediate and direct "when there is blood". i have (almost completely) taken this to heart. i realize that boys like to physically express emotions sometimes and there is a healthy version to that. even in complete friendship and fun there is physicality...and it can be hard as a mom to sit back and watch your son get pinned and all red in the face and not tell the other kid to let go of him...but i do...because i believe it is all a part of teaching them healthy conflict resolution.
please don't peg me wrong - i dont let my boys go all out and i never step in. i step in when there is a serious threat, or i feel like someone is taking advantage or manipulating wrongly and correct them, but the point is - i let them try to figure it out first. i think that is an important point.
step four...modeling healthy conflict resolution. here lies my struggle. of course. my husband and i come from two very different models of conflict. one model they openly had conflict in front of their kids in maybe the not so healthiest of ways. in another model they only argued behind closed doors, so that when it happened the children were scared of divorce. so our whole overwhelming theme right now is how to model healthy conflict and conflict resolution to our children, without making them aware of very adult discussions that they should not be aware of. i should also add here that this is a constant theme because my husband and i work together...so there is that. enough said.
i think the point of it is that in every relationship that is of worth and value there will be conflict. that is completely normal, right? so it all comes down to your choices in how to react and resolve said conflict. and, i might add...how to make your children aware that conflict is okay...and not scary.
i remember when we were newly-ish married and starting to really get into conflict (past the honeymoon phase) i was reading marriage books and "love" books...and then somehow i got turned on to the book "The 5 Languages of Apology". this was an amazing eye-opener of a book for me. at the time whenever we dealt with conflict my husband would re-hash the whole series of events of where i went wrong...then explain his reaction...then tell me about my reaction...oh my goodness - this took hours my friends...and the whole time i would be defensive saying "but i said SORRY!!" my reaction was always the same...i felt he was beating a dead horse...i would get super defensive. i am the quick to blow up and quick to forgive type. not him. he was the SLOW to blow up and SUPER SLOW to resolve conflict. so this book helped me see where he was coming from. it helped me to see that everyone has different ways to accept and give apologies. it is still my go-to source for conflict resolution in intimate relationships.
so...we are obviously still learning...10 years later...we still have a LONG way to go to be anywhere near being good at it...but it is still in my immediate thoughts and concerns.
this is already a long post and i have a lot more thoughts on the subject...but will save it for a different time, but if you have any conflict resolution parenting books or relationship books or advice you want to share - PLEASE comment and share!