Over the last month, my boys got to spend a lot of time with their cousins at the family cabins. There was fun and games in abundance as well as all the foibles and fumbles that happen when families get together for extended periods of time. Even slightly differing values around parenting and guidance approaches can make for interesting dynamics.
If things are getting a little crazy and you’re feeling the need to intervene but don’t want to make things worse by correcting another parent’s children, there is something you can do that almost always has a positive effect. Begin to download positives into the situation using “When you _______ I feel _______ because” as a script.
Here are some examples:
- “I really appreciated it, Jeff, when you were careful to with the little kids during that game. It made them feel safe and they had a lot more fun.”
You can say this to Jeff even if it would be good for him to be a little more gentle, because it will help reinforce in him his prosocial skills.
- “Jane, it was nice of you to give your older cousins a break. It helps them have more energy to play with you later when you give them a little space.”
- “Steve, it made Buddy feel really special when you took special time to do that activity with him. Thanks a lot.”
It’s important to download the positives especially when things are getting tense. It helps to refocus the situation and bring a breath of fresh air. Grab the smallest possible positive thing you can find and maximize it. Sometimes we need to “create” a positive by mentioning one that isn’t quite manifesting yet. It’s amazing how powerful this can be at transforming situations.
One thing that was really important for Braden and I over the 4th of July weekend was to take regular father-son breaks. For us, these were imaginary hunting trips with his toy bow and arrow. It gave him a break from the competition with his cousins for attention and status. When he came back from his safaris, he got to tell his uncles about the animals he had bagged. Great fun for both of us.