If there were any other skills we parents might learn before we begin this parenting trek, it would be this one…how to kindly, authentically, diplomatically deal with people.
Really. Tough. Work. Trying to figure out how to co-exist in the world with other people.
But we weren’t put in this world alone, so we better figure out how to empathetically engage in our social sphere.
This one is tough for all of us. A lifelong lesson in discovering why we do what we do…and understanding why the people that are in our closest sphere do what they do.
There are some people that might not choose to be in our sphere for reasons we might not understand. Or we might choose to not play friendly with those that are decidedly unfriendly. We might have boundaries they’d like to cross, and we refuse to agree to play that way.
Our kids learn to navigate these relationships by watching us.
The sibling relationship, especially in a homeschooled home, where continuous contact is present, requires an energetic, proactive parental approach.
Who says bullying, or at least, mistreatment, doesn’t happen in the homeschool? Teaching kids that they have relational power and can use that power to build up or tear down doesn’t happen overnight.
Some days it feels like no matter how many directions you give them, they still resort to headbanging, hairpulling, tattletale, bugging one another. And you get to hear the full transcript…
“And mom, then she said…”
“But first she pinched, or hit, or told me what to do, or grabbed that thing away, or…”
On my best days, when they were younger, I had them talk out their problem in front of me; occasionally, I suggested they do it independently.
Me: “So, both of you are now cooled off, sitting in front of me. Why don’t you take turns sharing with each other what you’re feeling, or what your main issue is? Then when one of you has shared, the other is going to repeat back what they’ve heard– a matter of factly–no unkind tone, no contempt, no rolls of the eyes, just repeat back what you’ve heard, so you know that you’ve been heard, that she has been heard”.
Kid #1: “So this is what I thought you said: you think I’m a purple elephant riding a green tiger that poops on figure eight on the sidewalk…”
As long as she’s not lecturing, making “you did wrong” statements, or “I can’t stand it when you…” statements, kid #1 has the freedom to tell kid #2 what she thought she heard.
Kid #2 then has a turn: “No that’s not what I said! I said you can be the purple elephant riding a green tiger that loops around the figure eight on the sidewalk!”
And though it takes a few go-arounds to figure out WHY they were even talking about purple elephants riding on green tigers that loop around anything, they might come to some understanding of one another and live happily ever after. Mwahahaha.
Though this is not magic, no tricks, no bullets, no wands, this process enables siblings to understand one another, being quick to listen and slow to speak. Hopefully even learning to engage harmoniously.
So if you’re someone who is thinking: this takes WAY too long, I do not have time for this, just deal with it yourself kids: well, I feel ya. I understand entirely how annoying it is to have to interrupt your activities for yet another squirmish. But, I suggest to you that teaching your kids these skills is more valuable than any skill under your homeschool roof.
There isn’t a bigger gift that you’re going to give your kid than the gift of empathy or emotional self-regulation.
Understanding someone else’s perspective is a tool your kids will use for the rest of their lives, enabling internal peace, mental freedom, and deeper, more connected relationships. And if they don’t learn it when they’re young, they might just have to do it under the auspices of an expensive overseer, a paid therapist.
Trying to teach empathy and emotional self-regulation isn’t a lesson learned in a one-hour block — it’ll be a lifelong classroom–and it’s one of life’s most essential skills.
“The most ominous of fallacies — the belief that things can be kept static by inaction”.Freya Stark