07 July 2006

Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me! by Anthony E. Wolf

Recently, the struggles between my offspring have reached unbearable levels. I have tried a lot of the standard remedies for bickering - time outs, negotiation, etc. - but nothing has been very effective. This book offered an alternative that fits my parenting style though - disengage. The author, to his credit, spends the first chapter of the book explaining the justification for this method, and then admits that this is all you need to read in order to understand his method. The next chapters are devoted to vignettes and elaborations on the basic idea. To summarize: engaging in sibling conflict reinforces the conflict and promotes further involvement of the parent in the future. Disengaging, conversely, encourages the siblings to develop necessary conflict resolution skills which will serve them well with their sibling, their peers, and others throughout their life. One outcome of this that I surmised is that rather than the majority of parent-sibling-sibling interactions being focused on conflict resolution, other interests can be explored - such as cooperative learning, or frankly anything that is more interesting to the parent than settling bickering. One key recommendation from the author was to choose a key phrase to use consistently with the children when they come to you as a result of their fighting, and to implement a consistent unpleasant response when thus engaged. In my house, that means if a complaint is brought to me, I offer sympathy then ask "Can you handle this yourself?" And, if not, then both children are sent to lie down in bed for 5 minutes to cool off before they can resume playing. Note, the author advises that when taking this approach you need to keep ground rules in mind, such as, 'I will ignore bickering but intervene if real harm may result.'

Read the 1st chapter if you're pressed for time and want quick advise on this topic. The rest, read at leisure or for clarification.