Sibling world war 23756 breaks out just as I’m trying to get tea. I’m tired and frazzled from a long day and too many thoughts going on in my head and too long a gap since I last stopped to clear them. The cries and screams get louder and l can feel my heart rate increase and little bubbles of irritation start to expand in my chest.
The urge to yell, “Oh for goodness sake, what’s happening now?? Can’t you all just play nicely just for ten minutes whilst I get tea ready?” is enormous. The urge to slam my knife down on the chopping board and release my annoyance onto the most obvious (but not necessarily the actual) perpetrator is huge.
But another part of me remembers that I’ve been here before. Well, several hundred times actually. And this part of me is ever so slowly learning that this is not a productive solution. This is a satisfying release of tension for maybe five seconds. But then things get worse, and dealing with the aftermath takes time and energy and is frequently messy.
But as the screams get louder, my mind goes blank. All that stuff I’ve read and learnt over the years about dealing with situations like this, damn, where’s it all gone?? What am I supposed to do and say again?? That wise list of ‘Ten ways to ease sibling conflict’ that I saved the other day, yep I can remember the picture, the font it was written in, but what the heck did it advise?? In this precise moment, when I need it most, I have no clue.
Can you relate?
Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in parenting advice; ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ and’ shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’, and endless lists, and helpful phrases and memes. Which all seem perfectly logical and perfectly helpful at the time of reading. But in that moment, the moment you really need to use it, everything flies from your head and you are left with nothing but a floundering, half-baked, auto-pilot reaction.
If so, you most definitely could do with this; this one utterly awesome word:
Yep, this one word, that I picked up from the brilliant Janet Lansbury, has got me though a lot of tricky times of this sort. When all else fails, it’s the only thing that I strive to remember. I think I may get it tattooed onto my hand actually. UNRUFFLED.
Take a breath and just think or say UNRUFFLED.
This is the perfect description of how you want your mind to be. How you want to think. And how you want to speak. This is what you want to mirror to your children. This is what you want them to feel.
Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to calmly take stock, find some objectivity, and detach from the emotional heat of the situation.
Things have become highly charged, but here you are, calm and UNRUFFLED. Not taking sides, not accusing or judging, not yelling or punishing.
Yes, you may have to intervene and separate them if there’s a danger of someone getting physically hurt. But doing this firmly yet calmly and in as UNRUFFLED a manner you can muster will always be the best way.
Being UNRUFFLED will signal to your children that there’s no imminent danger, no threat. This will help to override their fight-or-flight response quicker and re-establish the ‘stairs’ to their upstairs brains (see here).
Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to commentate on what you’re seeing in a balanced and fair way.
Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to pause and let them express their big emotions if they need to.
Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to give them space to come up with their own solutions.
And however much they are fighting and however emotionally messy and tense it becomes, if you succeed in being UNRUFFLED, at least you won’t also have your own guilt at how you handled it to deal with and ruminate on later.
I can’t promise it will work for you. Or that it will work every time. All I know is that it’s very often worked for me and for lots of other people too.
So why not give it a try?
Finding the self-control to resist from having your own tantrum is excruciatingly tricky. But it’s most definitely worth it.
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