Tuesday, September 29, 2015

1,000 Times

My boys fight like all siblings fight. I get a lot of "MOMMY! HE TOOK MY (fill in the blank)," or "MOMMY! HE PUSHED ME!" They will then barrel into the room like a herd of antelope and stand with wide eyes waiting for me to persecute the wrong doer. Over and over again I have said the same thing. "Oh no! That must be so frustrating! What could you do about that?"

My oldest gets annoyed. "I can tell you about it so that he's in trouble!" 
He begrudgingly works through the problem solving with me until he's satisfied and runs out to handle it. My four year old is a bit different.

"I could...hit him?" 
"No bud, you can't hit him. What else could you do?"
"I'll tell him I'm mad at him for doing that!"
"Great start!" I say as he runs away to try out this new tactic.

I honestly didn't think any of this was sinking in until we were at a birthday party last weekend. It was held at a bounce house place and there was an area for 2-4 year olds. My two youngest had a great time in the smaller bounce houses until a bigger boy showed up. He started grabbing foam blocks and throwing them at my son. They didn't hurt him but my son was clearly getting agitated and he jumped out of the house to tell on the other boy. 
"He keeps throwing blocks at me!"
This time, I forgot the "what could you do about it" line and I stood up to speak to the other child. But before I could reach him, my son took care of it.

"Excuse me. I am mad at you for throwing those blocks at me. Please don't throw them at me any more."
The boy started at him, open mouthed. "Um...Okay."
They both went right back to jumping together and ended up having a great time.

My mom has told me that she had to say something at least 1,000 times before it completely sank in. I would say that feels fairly accurate. There are plenty of times I want to switch to a new tactic because I don't see immediate results. But when I saw my son use the skill of conflict resolution without my prompting, it was an incredible moment. It reminded me that we all need to keep going on this quest to build up kids of strong character. We may not think they are hearing us, but they are. In the end, we will be giving them a gift of much more centered life. Even if it means repeating ourselves 1,000 times.

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