Posts tagged ‘conflict resolution’

Right Under our Noses

I don’t talk a lot about Feeleez, our line of empathy tools. It’s funny because almost daily I print out labels and Nathan scoots off to shoot Feeleez packages off to excited customers. Kris and I talk business talk at the park while our children shovel sand, and we have big hopes and dreams for this little seed we are watering. In fact this very blog was started as a place to discuss Feeleez news and triumphs, yet I almost never mention them at all. In fact, even though Feeleez forms the fabric of our lives I even forget to use them as tools in my own parenting. Maybe it’s the case of the bookkeeper’s own checkbook remaining unbalanced, the therapists own relationships continuing disastrously, or the housekeepers own house staying perpetually messy, I’m not sure. But in any case I used Feeleez last night for conflict resolution and felt like a doofus for passing our poster by so many times, for not using it for all it’s worth, for not employing it ten thousand times a day.

Nathan is a thespian, so he has been away during the evenings this week rehearsing for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I have been holding down the fort. So you can imagine the scene at seven-fifteen last night. Three tired girls, dirty from a day at the corn maze, and frayed at the edges from non-stop sister dynamics. A sink piled high with dishes. A mama working feverishly against the clock so that when things went downhill she could usher them toward tooth-brushing and story reading and later when she emerged from the sleep-filled bedroom she wouldn’t still face that ugly mountain of pots and pans. In other words, the perfect scenario for a scrap and the perfect scenario for Mama to yell and fail miserably at gentle parenting.

And so it went. In their last-ditch efforts to squeeze every last drop of fun from the day Bella and Xi flitted about from one game to the next, finally settling on drawing. But when Xi slid a piece of paper out of the pile she hit Bella in the arm. Bella was pissed, yelled. Xi yelled back, explaining it was an accident. Bella, not believing her, struck back. Xi cried and stomped away. I watched it all go down and continued to wash dishes. Eventually I explained to Bella what I saw, but it was biased and preachy and my speech certainly didn’t inspire her to run to the bedroom and drape empathy over Xi’s shoulders. I washed more dishes. Then I dipped into the dark bedroom and ladled out empathy myself. Xi felt better but she could hear play continuing in the living room. She wanted to join back in, she wanted to have fun but she didn’t want to act as though nothing had happened either. She was trapped.

I stayed on the dark bed with her for a while, reminding myself that mothers don’t have to know what to do. I could simply hold her and sit in the dark, there are no rules that say mom has to make everything better, and in any case I didn’t know how to do that anyway. Finally I thought of the poster. Glory be! Xi was game so I invited Bella to join us there. They stood awkwardly, like newlyweds in a tiff, and I acted as host. Who wants to start? Will you tell us how you felt at the very first hit? And so we went through the progression, not how the fight went down, but how the girls felt at each stage.

Bella: Well when Xi first hit me I felt mad like this:  Then, I also felt like this: . And like I wanted her to hurt too, like get back at her. So I felt like this: ,

and:  . After I hit her, I have to admit I felt a little like “doh!”, like this: . Now I still feel a little like that but also a little like this: .

When I asked her what she would prefer to feel like she said, less of the “doh!/oops” feeling and more of the happy one.

Xi said: When I accidentally hit Bella and she yelled at me I felt like this: 

But I also felt a little like this:  because I wish that I had been more careful getting the paper out.

And then when she hit me I felt sad still and also like this: .

I still feel sad but what I want to feel like is this: .

I stood in the background and said almost nothing, only oh, uh huh, and oh yeah. That’s it.

The girls started out with their bodies turned as much away from each other as they could while still facing the poster. As they pointed and described, the space between them closed. By the end they were nearly belly to belly and grinning, shyly at first and then full throttle. They hadn’t directly exchanged a single word. They hadn’t “worked” anything out, they simply saw what is was like emotionally for one another. And that was it. I eventually said: Are you guys looking for a sense of closure? It looks like you want to hug. And they did, collapsing happily into gigggles and each other.

It’s miraculous. It’s empathy via pointing and it takes very little. As dirty, tired, and crunchy as they were last night I had very little hope that things would turn out. I imagined surreptitious elbow jabbing during tooth-brushing and crying ourselves into bed. I imagined herculean emotional feats on the part of mama, a collapse on the couch in exhaustion kind of evening. Instead we snuggled, all three of us in the big bed, close, warm, and well-loved. They drifted off to sleep with smiles on their faces.

Holy shit.





October 22, 2010 at 8:55 am 6 comments

snowy dialog

I’m going to start posting actual dialog that occurs in our house. Not because every word spoken in our house is a gem of wisdom, (no way!) but because we have heard that it is helpful for parents to hear how we communicate with our kids. By the end of the day my brain is not capable of remembering more than one exchange verbatim so please keep in mind that these excerpts are not necessarily exciting or ground breaking, just a conversation that I remember.

This is an exchange between me (Natalie), Xi (5 years old), and Echo (2 years old).

Xi: Echo!!! I was playing with that!
Echo: NO! No Xi! I’m playing with that!! (screeching)
Me: Xi will you please let go of…
Xi: (panicked, crying) But Nallie I want Snowy back!
Me: OK. I can help you with that, but grabbing Snowy out of her hands isn’t going to work. Echo, Xi feels like she wasn’t done playing with that teddy bear will you give it back to her?
Echo: No.
Me: Xi, to be fair, Snowy was just sitting there so she looked available to Echo.
Xi: But Snowy was watching me do Webkinz!
Me: OK but now you are done with Webkinz what did you have in mind for Snowy?
Xi: I was going to just walk around with her.
Me: OK do you want to talk to Echo about that?
Xi: Echo I wasn’t done with her yet. I was going to walk around with her. Can I have her now?
Echo: No I hold her.
Xi: Nallie!
Me: Echo I see that you are holding Snowy and having a turn. Just to let you know Xi is waiting to have her back.
Echo: (no answer)
…time passes. meanwhile Xi tries to pretend that Snowy is crying for her to hold her etc.
Me: Xi I think that you pretending to talk for Snowy and pretending that she wants you to hold her is keeping Echo interested in Snowy.
Xi: But I want her back. Will you help me get her?
Me: Yeah. What I think I will do is wait one or two minutes and then talk to Echo about it again.
Xi: Two minutes!! How ’bout one minute.
Me: OK
…a few minutes later…
Echo: Here you go Xi. You can have Snowy.

This exchange wouldn’t work if there were not A LOT of trust in place. They trust that we can work it out. They trust that I care about each of their feelings. To find out more about creating a trusting relationship with your kid please visit us

May 26, 2009 at 3:05 am 4 comments

The Candy Dispute, recapped.

Nathan helps Bella and Xi recap a disagreement they had over some candy using the Feeleez poster. The camera got there too late to film the resolution of the actual situation but we almost always go back over the stages of a problematic interaction and the feelings that accompanied them as this seems to really help the girls.

February 3, 2009 at 3:12 am 2 comments

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