Positive Parenting Tammy Sassoon, M.S. ED

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Dear Tammy, 

I have three children – ages six, eight, and nine, and they fight with each other so often that I really wonder how normal this is. Do you have any tips or suggestions to offer me that would help them to be kinder to each other? 

Signed, 

Looking for Peace

Dear Looking for Peace, 

Many parents describe what you are experiencing. I believe that it is human nature to be selfish and competitive. Our job is to motivate our children to rise above that, and to become kind and giving people. How that can be achieved?

First, we must understand that changing a culture of a home is very exciting, and requires hard work and consistency! And hard work is something to be enthusiastic about!  

So, you are describing the current culture in your home as being competitive. Children only fight when they want something they don’t have, or they are worried that they will lose something that is rightfully theirs. Your goal is going to be to change the culture of your home from one of competition, to one of having a “win-win” attitude. Go right ahead and teach your children (not in the midst of the fighting, of course) that there are two ways to go through life. One is with a “win-lose” attitude, and one is with a ‘win-win’ attitude. People who think “win-lose” can’t ever be happy because they do not realize that they can be successful EVEN if other people (in this case siblings) are successful. They always feel like they never have enough, and that if another person “wins” or has, they have “lost” or do not have. That is a sure recipe for misery. People who think “win-win” can be much happier because they realize that Hashem has enough success and abundance for everyone to enjoy (tailor made for each person). And if someone else has, it does not have to mean something is taken away from them.

Another tactic I suggest is that you teach your children about the different levels of viewing other people’s differences. Tell them that there are three levels: 

Lowest: Shunning differences 

Medium: Tolerating differences 

Highest: Celebrating differences 

When people celebrate differences, they realize that it’s exciting that every human being (including their siblings) adds value to the world and to their family, and one must rise above their natural instincts in order to recognize that. 

We want our children to learn how to celebrate differences, because then they are able to: 

  • Look out for each other. 
  • Go out of their way to make each child feel important.  
  • Be happy for each other when they are successful.  

We want our children to believe that thinking “win-win” and “celebrating differences” are difficult things to do, and are only reserved for those who CHOOSE a strong, capable, and confident path. Therefore, after you teach these concepts: 

  1. Go out of your way to comment on them having a “win-win” attitude, or celebrating differences even if they are simply not fighting because they are spacing out. (For example, say, “Your brother just got a new pair of nice gloves, and you are thinking ‘win-win’ because you know that you have exactly what you need already.”
  2. Talk often about how “Mature People” choose to have a “win-win” attitude, and understand that other people’s differences are something to be celebrated and excited about. (All children want to be considered mature and capable, and we are teaching children what types of choices strong and capable people make.) 

And of course, above all, we need to always practice what we preach! So, make sure that you are living your life with a “win-win” attitude, and are celebrating the differences of people in your own life. Let your children see that you are happy for your friends, neighbors, and relatives when they succeed. Let your kids see that you embrace everyone you meet with a feeling of the camaraderie, which is just what you hope your own children will emulate and embrace.