“Londyn,” fourteen year old Paije said. “You have to clean the griddle since you used it.”
Londyn replied with, “No, kitchen is your stewardship this week. You have to do it.”
“I had to wash the griddle when it was your stewardship, so you have to wash it now.” Paije countered.
There was a battle brewing. Both girls were standing their ground.
“No you didn't.” Londyn demanded.
Paije's eyes narrowed. “Yes I did. You are being selfish. At least I...”
“You should disagree appropriately.” I calmly observed.
At that moment a light bulb went off in Paije's brain. She knew from past experience that arguing doesn't help solve a problem, and that she already knows problem solving skills that can help her get her point across more effectively. One of those skills is disagreeing appropriately.
Sibling rivalry is really nothing more than two family members trying to dominate each other in order to get their way. Domination shouldn't be the goal because it destroys family relationships. Instead, siblings can be taught basic communication skills, like disagreeing appropriately, and learn problem solving.
Problem solving is a very mature and refined skill. But, even young children can learn a proper problem solving model and get in the habit of calmly sorting out a situation instead of power struggling.
Paije's Disagreement – Problem Solving Process
“Londyn, I know you don't want to wash the griddle because it is my stewardship, but last time I helped you when I made a mess. Can you help me this time?”
Londyn, without even really taking too much time to think it through said, “no.”
That was it. Just “no.”
Paije gave me a look of bewilderment. Usually when one sibling disagrees appropriately the other will be more understanding and at least disagree appropriately back. Londyn was confidently choosing to give a no answer instead of discuss the situation.
“Paije, since it is your stewardship you need to accept the no answer. But, this is a good lesson today. Now you know what it feels like to try to synergize with someone and have them not care. Try not to ever do that to someone. But, you have also seen that just because you help Londyn, that doesn't mean she is going to want to help you back. So, in the future you may find it is a good idea to have Londyn accept some no answers too. Just say okay.” I said.
Londyn looked at me in surprise. It was like she just recognized what she was doing.
“That's right Londyn. When you are unwilling to help someone, they may not want to help you in the future either because they will not feel like you will appreciate it.” I explained.
Now, of course we would all love it if our children would just be charitable and always help each other no matter what and never think about what they are going to get out of it. But, people, especially children, are usually selfish first and then charitable. So, once they have what they need and want, then they reach out to help others. If we could erase all selfish thought that would be fantastic, but we can't. It is in us. This is why I occasionally appeal to that selfish place when explaining why a person should choose one thing or another.
Paije looked at Londyn really calmly and said, “okay.” Then she went back to her kitchen cleaning. She didn't get her way, but she did keep her cool. She problem solved with the skills she had and then she accepted a no answer when it came. She chose not to lose control and fight over something silly. Paije chose learning and understanding instead of force and anger by using one of the best problem solving tools: disagreeing appropriately.
I love this story, because it was one time that the disagreement didn't work, but was still the right choice. Appropriate disagreements won't always work, but they will always help the person speaking stay emotionally free and thinking clearly as opposed to reacting selfishly to a situation and damaging relationships.
Effectively Teach Problem Solving Skills To Your Children Too (all same link.)