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How to resolve a sibling fight without saying anything

What happens when you are able to "detach yourself from the outcome". And a simple trick that you can use to calm yourself.

This morning, I was shaken awake by my 4 year old daughter, crying loudly.

"Fred (her brother) doesn't want to be my cat. I want a cat and he does not want to be my cat."

Before I could reply, her brother came into the room on all fours, meowing. "Pretend I'm saying I'm a cat, but I am not Sarah's cat. I'm my own cat. Meow, meow, meow."

My daughter responded with more crying. "I want him to be my cat," she shouted. The more she cried, the louder the meowing became.

Then suddenly my son was on the bed, meowing that I should scratch his tummy because that's what cats like. This must have looked fun, because the next thing I know, my daughter is also on the bed, suddenly a happy cat, also wanting her tummy scratched.

All of this happened within the first minute of me waking up...

I don't have a lesson or tip for you from this story. Because honestly I'm still not sure what was going on. The situation was resolved without me saying a word.

But as I was writing down this story just now, it reminded me of something that Dr Paul Jenkins said when I interviewed him recently for my book "How To Get Kids To Listen".

Dr Paul Jenkins is a child and family psychologist, coach, speaker and author, with over two decades of experience as a professional psychologist.

When I spoke to him, Dr Paul shared his best technique for getting kids to listen and cooperate. He calls this "detaching from the outcome".

We find as parents, a lot of times, we'll get frustrated, and we'll end up yelling. Well, our kids are not listening when we're yelling. But if we're smiling, and if we're detached from the outcomes, then they listen much more carefully, and they actually respond in much more positive ways.

Dr Paul Jenkins

According to Dr Paul, just like the cat episode this morning, the more you can stay detached and not become emotionally involved, the more your children will start calming down, listening, and thinking.

Every interaction we have with our children is going to invite them to do one or the other, to think, or to fight. If we are smiling, our kids are thinking. If we're feeling all pressured and upset, if we start yelling, then our kids are just going to fight with us.

Dr Paul Jenkins

During our interview, Dr Paul shared a very simple phrase that you can use to automatically help detach you from the outcome. Using this phrase when your child starts becoming emotion helps keep you calm, and forces your child to start thinking.

He also shared some techniques that you can use when you struggle to detach yourself from the outcome, like when you feel like you are running late and you need to get your kids ready, but they just keep delaying and being difficult (I'm talking from experience here).

You can find the full interview with Dr Paul Jenkins - How “detaching yourself from the outcome” helps your children respond more positively - here.

Talk soon

Sue Meintjes