Expert Parenting Advice
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The Butterfly of Discord

Why you need to teach your children to sort out their own problems and disputes, instead of relying on you to resolve their fights.

A few weeks ago, we were taking a walk in the park when my daughter discovered an injured butterfly on the ground.

Now, my daughter (4 years old) loves butterflies. It is one of her top 3 favorite things (Butterflies, Pandas, and Princesses). So finding the butterfly was a Big Deal.

"I love you butterfly. I'm going to take good care of you. I'm so happy I found you," she whispered to the butterfly as she picked it up very carefully, her eyes sparkling.

But the happiness was to be short-lived...

Sensing something was up, her older brother (6 years old) turned around and came to investigate.

He saw the butterfly. "Give it to me," he said. "Butterflies are my favorite!"

And so started the War Of The Butterfly - a several hour long back and forth fight for possession of the poor butterfly.

When my kids fight like this, my natural instinct is to want to jump in to sort out their problems. In this case, I had to use all my self control not to jump in and tell my son "leave that butterfly alone, it is your sister's," or tell my daughter "you need to learn to share."

Instead, I remembered something that Dr Rosina McAlpine said when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Dr Rosina is an author, family wellbeing expert, multi-award-winning educator, and CEO of Win Win Parenting. She supports parents to manage day-to-day parenting challenges like struggles with technology, emotional outbursts and keeping calm even in the most volatile situations.

When we spoke to her, she shared her "two-step system" for teaching children how to manage their emotions and solve their own problems.

So, instead of telling my children how to solve their butterfly dispute, I listened to the Dr. Rosina in my head, and tried to help them solve their own problems.

When they ran to me with their complaints about the other one "snatching the butterfly," I just listened, acknowledged their feelings ("That must have made you mad"), and then asked them questions ("What do you think you can do about it?").

This repeated a few times, and then the shouting stopped. Imagine my surprise when I came upstairs, to find them playing quietly with the butterfly. They had worked out a 4 minute turn sharing system using our Amazon Alexa as a timer.

They had solved their problem! Without me telling them what to do!

According to Dr Rosina, the big benefit of her two-step process is that not only does it help children deal with difficult situations in the moment, it also teaches them valuable skills to self-manage their emotions as well as how to solve their own problems.

In the interview, she shares how you can teach your child to acknowledge and manage their emotions, and how to help your children solve their own problems.