When dealing with whining, complaining, hysteria, screaming and other less-than-pleasant conversational ploys, my first instinct is to lecture. Loudly. Sternly. Firmly. But it doesn’t seem to work very well, so I decided to stop and try something else.
A recent and consistent change in procedure is working beautifully. When a child says something in an inappropriate tone of voice, I model the correct way to say it and have them say it again properly.
Lia, whining: But I don’t want to wear the pink sparkle shoes! (Wow, somehow whining does not show up properly in print. You have to use your imagination to get the high-pitched whine here.)
Mommy, calmly: Mommy, I don’t want to wear the pink sparkle shoes.
Lia, calmly: Mommy, I don’t want to wear the pink sparkle shoes.
Mommy: Oh, which ones did you want to wear?
Lia: I want to wear my white high heels.
It’s also working well in sibling issues.
Lia, pushing and shrieking: No, that’s MY toy! Give it to me!
Amelie, holding tightly and shoving back: Miiiine! Miiiine! Miiiiiiiiiiine!
<As the situation rapidly accelerates and escalates, Mommy wades in (sometimes having to initially raise her voice loudly to be heard over the commotion).>
Mommy: Lia, please ask nicely, “Amelie, I was playing with that. May I have it please?”
Mommy: Amelie, say, “Here you go, Lia.”
Mommy gives mini-lecture and tools for future use: Girls, it’s important that we are kind to one another and share nicely. Lia, if Amelie doesn’t give you back your toy when you ask nicely for it, you can come get me and I will help you.
It’s turned out to be a good situation diffuser. With consistent modeling, they will get used to speaking kindly and nicely and calmly. At least, I’m assuming that’s what will happen.
To take sibling issues a step further, we’ve decided to alter our apology dialogue. Usually we spark the conscience, the perpetrator says “I’m sorry” and gives the victim a hug and a kiss, or some other action to try to make things right. But while Devo’s mom was here, Lia had to apologize for something and after she said sorry, Devo’s mom replied, “Apology accepted”.
That struck a chord with me. The standard acceptance of an apology is “it’s okay” or “I forgive you”. Because a lot of times the wrong that was done is not okay and it’s not something that needs forgiveness, per say. When one child hits another, it’s wrong to coach the wronged child to say, “It’s okay that you hurt me.” It’s not okay and it never is okay.
But “apology accepted”, ah, now that’s a different story. Truth telling and grace all wrapped up into one.