Peace Begins at Home: 6 Tips for Siblings

In our home there seems to be a constant struggle to have our boys play together peacefully and respectfully. Although our younger son (4) shares very well, his older brother (7) has a hard time with it. There’s also a constant battle for control between them. The result? Stress for everybody.

The following article by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., sheds some light on how to help our children’s interactions be more peaceful and pleasant. I’m grateful she’s allowed me to repost it here …

“Haven’t we evolved and learned war is not an answer?”

The state of the world has been on the mind of so many of the families I work with. Too many wars, too much aggression, too much not caring about each other and the planet. It’s created an underlying anxiety even for the youngest kids who are exposed to the news in their living rooms. One tense teen asked, “Haven’t we evolved and learned war is not an answer?” In his mind, it’s hard to fight someone who doesn’t want to fight you back, so if everyone would decide not to fight, war could end.

Although we may not be able to do anything about what’s happening across the globe, surely we can do something about what’s right in front of us. Peace can begin at home – starting with brothers and sisters.

Like nine-year-old Lars. All he wanted from his big brother was peace. He hated arguing over video games and TV, and was hurt and angry at the older one’s constant teasing. Or six-year-old Taylor’s jealousy of her three-year-old brother. Although she longed for a sibling, it was different once Riley was born. Taylor flip-flopped between loving hugs and dangerous squeezing.

Kids tell me they want positive interactions with their siblings. But buttons get pushed, defenses go up, and friction abounds. We all play a crucial role. Cooperation, empathy, kindness, fair play, and self-control don’t always come naturally to children; they are skills taught through practice, just like making a bed and riding a bike.

If you want to encourage kindness and generosity, let kids see yours. To foster self-control, watch how you respond to frustration and anger. Each conflict is a learning opportunity and a child’s imagination makes a great study partner. Even ten-year-old Melody, who couldn’t speak up to her big bossy sister, conjured up an imaginary Wizard who coached her to say “No” in a strong and clear voice.

Consider these 6 tips to squelch sibling squabbles and develop more loving connections:

(1) Don’t Underestimate Stress:
When pressure is high, patience for little annoying behaviors fall. Teach your children to use the 0 to 10 Scale for stress check-ups (0 = no stress; 10 = the most stress). Then, use Balloon Breathing (slow deep breathing about two to three inches below the navel) to calm and re-center, lower reactivity, and raise tolerance.

(2) Find Out What’s Under the Big Bad Feelings:
Start by accepting and validating whatever your child is feeling about his sibling. Then gently guide him to the core issue. Listen to whatever he offers for angry or hateful feelings, then advise, “Close your eyes, and be surprised at what’s under your anger (jealousy, betrayal…).” Taylor found sadness under her hate for her new baby brother – she was sad because she missed the attention and time with her mom that she used to have. When your child faces the emotions under his distress, you can help him make a plan to release them and make peace with his sis or bro. Taylor’s mom invited her to help with the new baby – Taylor got to spend time with mom and feel proud of helping out.

(3) Use Animal and Wizard Wisdom in a Pinch:
Suggest calling in a wise imaginary Animal Friend or Wizard for advice for any sibling disputes. Taylor’s Blue Bird flew in and recommended instead of pinching her brother or pulling his hair, she pinch and pull her pillow. And Mr. Magic offered her the gift of a magic eraser – it erased her bad thoughts about her brother.

(4) Have Feelings Talk to Each Other:
Your child probably has a range of emotions about his siblings, some of which are as distinct as love/hate or happy/mad. Having his feelings “speak” to each other can result in a creative compromise. Once they get the hang of it, kids can practice together or role play, as the Anger of one negotiates with the Sadness of the other, helping them understand each other even more.*

(5) Give the Marble Jar a Chance:
This usually works like a charm. To encourage your kids getting along, let them know you appreciate and want to acknowledge their efforts at being kind to each other. Then take a jar, and every time you “catch” them being “neutral or nice,” drop a marble (or pasta piece or colored glass bead) in the jar. In the beginning, lots of reinforcement is important to encourage their positive behavior. When the jar is filled up (about a month) offer some terrific fun time. And along the way, say each quarter up (about a week) reward them with something simple but enticing (picking the videos you rent, special ice-cream, whatever you decide together).

(6) Unique, Not Equal:
It’s okay to treat your kids differently. They are different – likely different ages and certainly different personalities and needs. Talk to your children about how and why you make your choices. Listen to any hurt feelings, and let them know what you can change, what you can’t, and why. At the same time, try to avoid favoritism and comparison. Celebrate each child’s uniqueness, and encourage cooperation, not competition.

Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA and bestselling author. In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children’s imagination.

You can visit Charlotte’s Web site at: www.ImageryForKids.com. You can also check out her book, The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success, at Amazon.

Collective Bargaining for Dads

Over the past few weeks, teachers and parents across America have banded together to keep collective bargaining alive so that teachers have a voice in their own future.

But what about dads?

Did you know that in Wisconsin there was a bill called the Equal Placement Draft that was proposed during this same time period? The bill proposed that dads who were willing and able to take care of their children 50% of the time should be able to do so. Overshadowed by the the issue over teachers’ collective bargaining rights, also an important issue, the bill got lost in the shuffle and was not passed.

How did we arrive here? How is it that our government does NOT find it overwhelmingly just and fair that a dad who is WILLING AND ABLE to take care of his kids should be allowed to do so?

Yet thousands of dads are sitting home right now without their children. I can assure you that some of them are in tears over it. These dads work hard, and they deserve to be an equal parent to their kids – yet they are not allowed to do so.

Who wins? Not the kids. Not their dads. I’m sure that there are moms who are happy to have their kids around most of the time. That’s only natural. But is this arrangement benefiting the child when dad is a man of integrity that mom just doesn’t get along with anymore?

Our schools and our communities aren’t winners when they have to deal with children that have behavior problems because there is no male role model to guide them.

Taking a long term view, who wins?

It looks to me like the courts are the only winners, because it’s far more simple to give dads 4 days a month to see their kids (just over 10% visitation) and 100% of the child support than it is to give a couple who are disgruntled with each other a settlement that is fair to the CHILD. It’s a classic case of dad being treated like a second-class parent, and it is shameful.

When a marriage does not work out, that doesn’t mean that bitterness and negative feelings should overtake a parent’s responsibility to put their child’s welfare at the top of their list of important things. This is true whether the parent is a man or a woman. Yet the courts have conditioned the process to strip dads and children of their rights.

There was an amazing response by teachers and parents, alike, when it was proposed that collective bargaining be taken away. But here’s my question:

Where were the dads and dad advocates?

Why was downtown Madison, WI, devoid of people shouting for dads’ rights? Are divorced dads so defeated that they believe they don’t deserve to be heard?

And remember, you are not alone …

Appreciate Your Mate on Valentines Day

Remember to kiss your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.

And don’t forget to take a minute to think about how different your life would be if he/she wasn’t there for you. This is a great way to appreciate them, which is not always easy to do when we get caught up in the daily routine of life and survival.

Beyond money, beyond possessions, stress and pain – there is something that truly does make life worth living. Love.

Our mate is the person who gives us the love and support we need to carry on. No matter how big a problem may seem, having my wife by my side to solve it is one of the greatest gifts I can ask for.

And remember, you are not alone …

Make a Date with Destiny: Schedule a Deadline for Your Goals

I used to think that setting a specific date on my goals was unrealistic. I felt that I’d accomplish what I set out to do when I was done, and that a definite completion date was forcing the issue, and would cause too much pressure.

Boy was I wrong.

For years I have set one-year and five-year goals for myself, but there was a time when the specifics of my “due date” were relegated to a statement like, “a year from now I will have accomplished my goal of (insert specifics here).”

One day it dawned on me that each time I stated my goal, along with the fact that I’d accomplish it one year from now, I was always the guy who would accomplish his goal ONE YEAR FROM NOW. I was never getting any closer to the due date because as each day passed, my deadline kept extending to exactly one year.

Placing an actual date on my goal moves me closer to the deadline each day. And as we all know, when a deadline we’ve committed to draws closer we get moving in an effort to accomplish our goal (or project). The pressure of an oncoming deadline creates the momentum necessary to accomplish it. Otherwise, it’s just too far away to take seriously.

Even if you’ve discovered what it is you want, defined it clearly and set attainable steps toward accomplishment – without a specific completion date, we’re far less likely to get where we want to go. Without that date, how do we set milestones or a timeline of when we need to have each step of the process done?

The pressure I was once so afraid of creating is actually a key ingredient to success.

What if a deadline arrives and we haven’t accomplished our goal?
Then we need to reassess and figure out why we weren’t able to accomplish our goal. At that point we can refocus our efforts on the goal, set a new plan and a new completion date.

Check out the following links for more details on goals:

A Fresh Look at Goals for Parents, Kids and the Family
The Magic If: Do you Know What Your Future Looks Like?
Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

And remember, you are not alone …

Great New Men’s Resource: Thirtymag.com

There’s a fantastic new online publication for men called Thirtymag.com.

According to the publisher, Christian Collard, the publication has one simple goal: “to provide content that will inform, inspire and engage with today’s guy.”

Simple? Maybe. Easy? Absolutely not – but Thirtymag.com delivers. I think the key to the publication’s success is Christian’s ability to bring together dads and men from all walks of life. Yes you, as long as you’re a man, can submit an article to Thirtymag.com.

“Our website is an outlet for men, husbands, and fathers to connect, share, and engage with an active community of similar lifestyles and personalities. We leave the door open to any writer or blogger with an idea to share, topic to cover, or even a event to promote. ThirtyMag.com covers topics such as health, adventure, travel, fitness, fatherhood, relationships, food, sports, cars, money, and fun. We publish regular content appropriate for all ages (stuff that won’t get you in trouble when viewed at home or the office).

ThirtyMag.com hopes to provide quality and engaging content from a wide range of viewpoints with the goal of informing and inspiring men of today. We are connected, we are learning, and we are sharing.”

I’d like to thank Christian for taking some time to tell us a little bit about his site. I also hope you enjoy Thirtymag.com as much as I do.

And remember, you are not alone …

Jedi Joss Shows off His Moves

The force is strong in this one. He doesn’t even need an actual light saber. One of daddy’s combs will do just fine …

May the force be with you.

And remember, you are not alone …

Remembering 9/11

Today is September 11th, 2010.

It’s a day to remember all of those who lost their lives nine years ago in the Twin Towers. And to pray for the families and friends that have survived, who struggle.

No matter what you’re stressed about, or what’s wrong in your life – you are alive and you can change it.

The best way we can honor those who have passed, as well as the people closest to us, is to fulfill our potential.

Start now.

Peace to all.

And remember, you are not alone …


Related posts:
9/11 Remembered (2008)

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee …

Have you ever thought about the similarities between life and coffee?

Some people have good cups, some great – while others have a cup that’s bitter, full of yucky grains, or has simply gotten cold.

You could say the same about our lives.

In my experience as a dad and a man, I’ve found that many people think that they’re stuck with whatever cup they’ve been poured. Not true.

We all have the ability to empty out our cup, clean it, and start fresh with a better blend.

Stepping away from the metaphorical and toward the practical, what I’m really talking about is rebuilding our lives. Whether it’s changing jobs, going back to school, improving our health – whatever – there are steps we can take to go from bitter to better.

What about when others try to throw stuff in our coffee?

Sometimes it’s people we can easily avoid, like coworkers or acquaintances that are negative. But sometimes its family, and that’s a situation which becomes much harder to solve.

My youngest son has been throwing stuff in my coffee by waking up every night crying. This has been going on for longer than I can remember.

He’s obviously not trying to throw junk in my coffee – yet in it goes. Since I love him with all my heart, I want to help him, but this is making my waking hours incredibly difficult. From work, to exercise, to growing my speaking career – it’s simply much harder to move forward toward my goals because I’m exhausted.

Even in this case, there is a choice. If I let the circumstances dictate who I am, then I’m simply reacting to my environment and I am lost. If I remain true to who I am as best I can – as a dad, a husband, a writer and a speaker – then at least I’m not throwing more junk in my own coffee. It may not be perfect (yet), but this choice is certainly the better blend.

And remember, you are not alone …

Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

Well actually it is, but not in the way you think.

Until recently, when I thought of work it had a negative connotation.

I think many people perceive work as unpleasant, dreadful or boring – not to mention life-draining. But work is not a negative or an expletive. Nor is it innately bad.

It’s the ruts and the patterns we allow ourselves to fall into that are negative.

I started to become aware of my own negative perception of the word when I began working from home back in January. As I build my speaking career and freelance writing business, I block off certain times of the day to “work.” I soon noticed that I had a problem with the word. All sorts of negative connotations were attached to it – most of them including feelings of pain, suffering and misery.

I tried to re-name work, to help create a more positive perception in my mind. The best I could come up with was “Personal Achievement,” which only reminded me that I was trying to avoid the word work. In other words, re-naming work didn’t work.

Point being, if we find our work pleasant, fulfilling and it helps us move toward goal achievement (other than just making money), it’s certainly going to feel and be positive. If our work does not provide us with these things, we need to take a fresh look at our goals, and do our best to get back on track to the life we want.

In my “four letter word” series, my goal is to change the perception some of us may have about certain words. In doing so, I hope that we can create a shift in perception that leads to a shift toward a more happy, fulfilling life.

Words have power because of the meaning we imbed within them.

And remember, you are not alone …

Star Wars Episode 7: Dads are not Droids

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …
… Daddy Brain’s children thought he was a droid.

At least that what it seems like sometimes. Like most kids, mine are constantly demanding my attention – either to play, eat, bathe, or break up an argument about something that nobody will remember 20 minutes from now.

All in all, I love my role as a Work At Home Dad. But alas, I am not a droid. I can not recharge my battery in one hour like my iPhone. And I struggle with processing all the input that streams into my brain all day long. Working on growing my speaking career, caring for my boys, my wife and myself – not to mention actually mowing the lawn every once in a while is a constant struggle. And it’s exhausting.

I was speaking with a friend the other day and he told me that my quest for “balance” was impossible – especially if I’m constantly trying to have a balance between work, family and self on a daily basis. I think he’s right. Quite frankly, everything is cyclical – whether I want it to be or not. Sometimes the focus needs to be on work. Other times on play.

Above all, I need to recognize when my wife or kids need me. Although this is paramount over the former two things, it’s sometimes difficult because it involves being flexible. And being flexible means occasionally letting go of what I have planned. Finally, I need to make sure I take good care of myself so I can do all of these things well, and have a clear head to know where to direct my attention first.

Like my good friend, R2D2 the astromech droid, all I can do is my best.

May the force be with you.

And remember, you are not alone …