For the Love of Introverts

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Today’s favourites are related to the post I shared yesterday on personality types. As I mentioned, I’m an introvert and I love my alone time!! But as a homeschooling mom of three kids, it can be hard to recharge, so today I’m going to share three things which have been really helpful this year. If you’re an extrovert, take notes, because you’re bound to have an introvert in your life who could benefit from these things, too!! (affiliate links included)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book has been showing up everywhere, and for good reason – it is AMAZING!! It’s such a good read for anyone, extrovert or introvert. It’s been crazy for me to read the ways in which our culture is built for extroverts. I’ve actually needed to read this book slowly, because I need to give my mind time to keep up with all the shifts that happen as I read it! I’m constantly recognizing ways in which I give in to pressures around me, or how I’m parenting my own little introvert in ways that aren’t helpful or healthy, but it’s just the way things have always been done.

Susan Cain has done a phenomenal job researching this book, and it is so well written. Her interviews are fascinating, and she questions many things we consider normal, but are really geared for extroverts, and make introverts miserable and uncomfortable. I keep realizing how much I’ve come to accept being uncomfortable! It’s hard for me to be honest and stand up for myself, and say no to things which don’t work well for my personality type. No, I’d rather not shake hands with complete strangers in church. (No offense!) No, I’d rather not answer my phone…like, ever. (I bet an introvert invented texting!) No, I’d rather not work with a group of people on anything I could just do it by myself.

As I shared in yesterday’s post, I truly love people, and I don’t like to be alone all the time. But there are certain interactions (small talk, gossip, strained conversation, etc.) that drain me quickly, while deeper conversations about topics which interest and inspire me are life-giving. It’s interesting to think of ways to recover from energy-sucking interactions, and add in more of the life-giving ones.

This book is great for introverts who want to find out what’s awesome about being an introvert, and for extroverts who need to grow in their appreciation for all that introverts are capable of, and why we need them to keep things balanced.

Headphones

Best purchase of the year. All of my kids looooooove listening to music, but most of the time, I just want it to be quiet and peaceful. I don’t like multi-tasking, so my favourite time to listen to music is when no one else is around, and I don’t have to listen to people talking to me and listen to music.

We’ve struggled with my low noise threshold for years, but finally figured out that headphones would save the day for everybody. It’s been the best thing ever – I have my peace and quiet, and my kids take turns listening to as much music as their little hearts desire. They think it’s far more fun to listen to music with headphones than without, so it’s suddenly become a special treat, and great entertainment.

Podcast Episode: How Personality Types Manage Energy

I used to think being alone was enough to recharge me, but listening to this podcast episode was very eye-opening. There are 16 different personality types (take the test here), and each type recharges in a different way. Each one has it’s greatest area of strength, and when we utilize that strength, we are recharged. For me, that strength is thinking! Specifically, it’s thinking about how my day is going, noticing patterns in my kids’ behaviour, trying to think up solutions to make our home run better and keep everybody in a healthier place. When I have the chance to be alone, I make myself set aside the phone or the book or whatever would distract me, and I just think. At first it felt weird and like I should be doing something more productive, but it’s been amazing for me! I could think for hours. However, there are also times when I need to get out of my head, and so the best way for my type (INFJ) to balance out is to do something that physically connects me to the moment of enjoyment, like yoga, a walk, or a hot shower.

But that’s just my type. There’s a type that recharges by going back to a familiar book or movie, and a type that feels most rested when they’re learning, so listening to a podcast feels very restful. Extroverts feel energized and refreshed by different types of social interactions. There are many different ways to recharge, and it makes a lot of sense to get intentional about it. When we just blindly stumble along and do whatever feels good, we could be wasting valuable down time that’s not leaving us recharged. This episode is definitely worth listening to, for all personality types!!

Alright, let me hear it – what are your favourite ways to recharge? What gives you energy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personality Types

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

You guys, today’s topic is my favourite of all the favourites. It’s shaped my thinking in some big ways over this last year, but it’s a huge topic, so I’ll only be able to give you a bit of an overview. If anything peaks your interest, I’ll point you to some great resources so you can dig deeper if you’d like.

Today we’re talking about personality types and the Myers Briggs tool. Most people are at least familiar with this tool, so you probably know about it, but this was the year I dug into it and got a much better understanding. In case you’re not too familiar with it, here’s how it works:

There are 16 different personality types, but this doesn’t mean each person with the same type will be exactly the same. We give our personality our own individual twist, and there are many factors playing into it, but these generalizations can be extremely helpful in exploring how we think and respond to people and situations.

Each 16 types is given a combination of four letters which stand for words describing your personal preferences – Introvert or Extrovert, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. My letters are INFJ, and Ben is an ENFP, for example. Here’s what that means:

Introvert or Extrovert

Do you need to be alone to recharge, or does being with other people make you feel energized? “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?” (source) Although people have a preference one way or the other, people are usually a mix of the two. For example, I’m an introvert, but I really love people and don’t like to be alone for endless amounts of time. I need to be alone to recharge, and get super grumpy and overstimulated if I don’t get enough alone time, but if I’m alone for a whole day, I actually start getting depressed and feel very out of balance. Ben, on the other hand, is an extrovert, but says he would have no problem being alone for a couple of days. We are opposite in how we prefer to recharge, but because I’m an extroverted introvert, and he’s more of an introverted extrovert, we’ve found it pretty easy to find balance in this area.

Sensing or Intuition

Sensors are very present in the world around them. They take in information with their five senses and are very aware of their environment. They are focused on facts and experiences as they actually happened, while intuitives are all about reading between the lines and picking up on undercurrents. Their thoughts leap all over the place, they love new ideas, and they are more abstract. Ben and I are both intuitives, so our conversations go deep and wide, with lots of new thoughts to explore. Both of us use metaphors a lot to explain things. I find that most of my friends are intuitives, but I have great appreciation for the sensors in my life. My mom is a sensor, and there is no one like her when it comes to throwing a party. Sensors are all about holidays and traditions, and when I look back on my childhood, I can see how consistent she was with traditions that meant and still mean a lot to me. Unfortunately, I have a lot of trouble with repeating the same practice for my own family. I used to feel a lot of guilt about this – being a “good mom” meant being like my mom, but I just didn’t have the energy to do a lot of things she did. It’s been very freeing to discover this past year that a “good mom” can actually look many different ways, and when we spent Canada Day at the cabin with my parents,  I was delighted to let her decorate and make the whole thing beautiful and festive so we could enjoy the tradition without me needing to do all the work. I’m absolutely not lazy, like I used to worry about – I just have different priorities, and get excited, energetic, and motivated by different things.

Thinking or Feeling

When making decisions, Thinkers focus on facts, logic, and effectiveness, while Feelers focus more on people’s emotions, and think more about keeping everybody feeling happy, understood, and cared for. Thinkers still have feelings, and Feelers still think, but it’s their preferred way of processing. Ben and I are both Feelers, so things in our home are very focused on the deep conversations to get everybody connected. Anika may very well be a Thinker, though, because sometimes she’ll suddenly say, “Okay, I get it, can we stop talking about this now?” I used to think she was being totally disrespectful, and while I still think tone makes a huge difference, I’ve come to recognize that she reaches her limit for conversation on certain topics. Sometimes I’d feel a little shut down when she’d say it, but now I can understand that my efficient daughter is just ready to move on to the next thing, and I choose not to take it personally.

It seems that many times, hurt feelings come about because of these differences. Feelers tend to share thoughts and emotions which Thinkers don’t always connect with. Thinkers are more straightforward, and think all the fluff and emotions Feelers use to communicate are unnecessary and maybe even a waste of time. These are vastly different styles of communication, and I’ve seen (and felt!) these opposite approaches bring about misunderstanding and hurt where it was never intended. As a Feeler, I find it very helpful to have another point of view to examine when someone doesn’t respond to me in the way I expected and anticipated.

Judging or Perceiving

The easiest way for me to differentiate between these last two preferences is to figure out if someone has a “work before play” mentality, or if they just love to have fun anytime, throwing in a bit of work here and there, wherever it fits in best. Or make the work fun! I use judging, and it’s all work. I don’t want to even think about having fun until the to-do list is done, and then I can move on to the fun part feeling guilt-free and ready to enjoy myself. But Ben is the fun one in our home, and he’s all about turning on the music while we work, and thinking up ways to make it more enjoyable. Life with him has definitely made me learn to be less intense. Sometimes there’s a bit of frustration because I have a list and I’m on a mission, which is not his style at all, but it’s pretty much the only area where we have to work on things in our relationship. I read an article recently about what it’s like for an INFJ and ENFP to be in relationship, and it said we’re the perfect match, comparing us to levitating unicorns, which sounds quite magical to me. Our relationship is not perfect, but it’s pretty great! I’m very happy with my unicorn.:)

So all of that is only the beginning of the 16 personality types, and it can go in a million different directions. In the last year, I’ve used it to deepen my understanding of myself, my relationship with Ben, in parenting, extended family relationships, friendships, pretty much anywhere I interact with people. It’s been eye-opening and sometimes slightly uncomfortable, but mostly fantastic. Interestingly, not all personality types like personality typing! Some types see no use for it, while other types are drawn strongly to it. Ben’s type doesn’t like to put people in a box, but he sees some value in the tool. My type finds it a huge relief, because I finally feel understood and like I’m not completely weird in the way I respond to stuff!

If it’s something that interests you, the best place to start learning is by taking a free personality test here. I love the podcasts by Personality Hacker, which you can find here. The profile descriptions at this site are very informative, and to get a better understanding of what the difference is between Extravert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuition, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving, I really like the list format provided at this site.

The best book I’ve read this year is MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths (affiliate link). A lot of things started making sense to me when I read this book, like why I parent the way I do, my relationship with each of my kids, why I was the way I was as a kid, and our family dynamics. I’m just finishing it up now, and I’m eager to see how it will positively impact things in our home.

Earlier this year, I was searching for a book that would help me figure out how to survive as an introvert parent when I’m with my kids all day. I love them like crazy, but I was feeling overwhelmed because of never having enough alone time. I’d feel guilty when I took alone time because I felt I needed to be with them to be a loving, attentive mom! I couldn’t find a single book for introvert parents, which made me feel very frustrated, but then a friend mentioned this book to me, and it’s been so much more helpful than I was even hoping for! Because it covers all 16 personality types, as well as the different personalities our spouse and children bring to the home, it is very informative and useful for absolutely anybody interested in learning more about Myers Briggs. Such a great resource.

And a big favourite around here is the Myers Briggs Disney princess site, because it’s become vitally important to understand which princess everyone is most like, and it makes me Elsa, so it’s a big topic of discussion around here.

Are you a fan of the Myers Briggs tool? Bonus points to anyone who takes the test and comes back to tell me what you are! 🙂

 

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When I’m Parenting a Rutabaga Instead of a Pumpkin

A few years ago, I was at a conference and heard a speaker say something I still think about regularly. He was talking about parenting, and said,

“We don’t get to choose the seeds we grow. God gives us the seed, and it’s up to us to water it, make sure it gets the sunlight it needs, and care for it in every way we can, but we don’t get to control what kind of plant it grows up to be. If God has given you a rutabaga seed, but you want to grow a pumpkin, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you will never get a pumpkin to grow from that rutabaga seed.”

I love my rutabagas very much, but there are still times when I have to fight back the pumpkin urges. Sometimes I think about what an awesome parent I would be if everything were perfectly organized and under control, with my three perfect little pumpkins all in a row. But I’m raising children, not pumpkins, and life gets crazy and wild, and how I react in the heat of the moment is more important than it’s ever been.

kidsI feel like parenting is a magnifying glass for all of my strengths and weaknesses – it provides a glaringly obvious look at my spiritual, emotional, and social health. Things which might be a bit of an issue for me with other people is going to come up with my kids, multiplied times ten. I can be socially acceptable in public for short periods of time, but you stick me at home with three kids, in the midst of homeschooling, housework, busy schedules, tantrums, lack of sleep, whatever else, and suddenly those pesky little personality flaws become crystal clear.

I have my own ideas of how a situation should be handled, and they have theirs, and suddenly I’m feeling the tension of a rutabaga. They are each their own little person, and I don’t get to control how they react or think. The only thing I have control over is how I react. It would be so much more convenient if I could change them instead of myself!

But I keep remembering this quote I shared a few weeks ago:

quoteI was thinking about it in relation to people in general, but Ben and I have been talking lately about how it applies to raising kids. Ben says we still have the responsibility to try our best as parents – the Bible tells us to train our children in the way they should go. But who gets to determine that way? We can guide our children, but how much can we really change them?

Ben has told me stories about his horrible temper when he was younger, and I find it almost impossible to believe, because Ben never loses his temper now. And although I am sure his parents did many awesome things in raising him, there was only so much they could do. It took maturity and deep conviction on Ben’s part to finally make a life change when he was in college.

This reminds me of a few truths to hang on to:

  1. God has a beautiful plan for my rutabagas.
  2. I need to be faithful as a parent, but also trust the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Between trying to change myself, and learning to entrust my kids to the Holy Spirit, I have plenty to keep me busy without trying to control my children.
  4. I’ve never tried rutabagas, but they could be fabulous, and I might like them better than pumpkins.

As I just reread that list, I mentally changed it from parenting to relationships in general, and they all apply! I am never “just” a stay-at-home mom – I’m learning, growing, and being challenged every single day, as are my sweet kids.

We can all be rutabagas together. Pumpkins are so overrated!

 

The Story in My Head

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I just finished reading Rising Strong this last week. It’s the first book I’ve read by Brene Brown, and I loved it, which is evidenced by how many page corners I folded down to remind me where my favorite passages were…
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The whole book is amazing, full of many different ideas which I will be mentally chewing on for some time, but the one which impacted me the most was the idea of “the stories we tell ourselves”. She writes about the tendency we have to fill in missing details in our effort to understand ourselves, as well as other people.

“Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we’re in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn’t have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn’t like me. Our stories are also about self-protection. I told myself Steve was blaming me so I could be mad instead of admitting that I was vulnerable or afraid of feeling inadequate. I could disengage from the tougher stuff. That’s what human beings tend to do: When we’re under threat, we run. If we feel exposed or hurt, we find someone to blame, or blame ourselves before anyone else can, or pretend we don’t care.”  (source)

I love to analyze, and I spend a lot of time in my own head, trying to figure things out. This can lead to some nasty storytelling, which I’ve been aware of for a long time, but it wasn’t until I read this book that it became clear to me while I was in the process of doing it.

It was one of those long, bumpier than normal kind of days, and I had already helped our sweet children through a long list of complaints, negative attitudes, and many other parenting challenges by the time Ben got home from work. While he was still by the door, yet another behaviour issue exploded, and I reached my limit. Ben could tell I was done for the day, and any parenting after that point could get a bit scary, so he, in an effort to be helpful, said, “Why don’t you go into the other room and let me handle this?”

Because of the frustration of the moment, I misunderstood his intent – Ben was trying to be helpful, but I thought he was telling me to go to the other room because I couldn’t keep calm while dealing with the situation. Instead of getting mad at our kid, I got mad at Ben. I held it in until I got to our bedroom, but I was furious with him, and feeling extremely justified. How dare he suggest that I was not capable of parenting our children in an appropriate manner? How could he make such a comment in front of our kids, criticizing my self-control and ability to handle the situation? “Somehow,” I thought to myself, “I manage to care for all three children every single day, all day long, while he is off relaxing in his office at work without any tantrums, screaming, or bad attitudes exploding in his face repeatedly!” (Like all he does all day is relax, but in the moment, I was not entirely reasonable!)

As these very heated thoughts blazed their way through my mind, Brene Brown’s question popped up: “What story am I making up in my head?” Immediately, I started to get curious. Why was I responding this way? What was making me so mad? What was going on behind all this anger?

The realization struck me – I was taking Ben’s words and interpreting them in a way which fueled insecurities about my parenting, rather than hearing what he was actually saying. He was offering me a break after a long day, but I was taking it as criticism of my parenting, and responding with anger on the surface, when deep down, I was actually feeling hurt and insecure in my parenting. I was ashamed that I couldn’t keep things under control, and disappointed with myself for how the day had gone.

It’s a lot harder to be honest about insecurity than about anger, but it makes for a much calmer, less explosive conversation. Because my issue was not even about anger, we would have gotten nowhere trying to work out what was making me “mad”, until I could recognize what was truly going on underneath. Once our kids were in bed, we had time to talk it over, and I couldn’t believe how much harder it was to tell him I was feeling shame and inadequacy as a parent, as well as hurt because I misunderstood his offer to help as a subtle sign of judgement.

I wanted to be mad, because it was easier, but admitting to the messier stuff underneath brought things to the surface which I needed to work through on my own, and had nothing to do with Ben.

Brene Brown Quotesource

It is really tempting to deny responsibility, or deny the messy, ugly truth deep down inside us. But that incident with Ben, which really had nothing to do with Ben, made me feel so much better when I could identify what was truly going on, and face the messy stuff. I still have a lot more internal housecleaning to do, but it makes a big difference already to be aware of these feelings of insecurity or inadequacy I have as a parent, and the lies they’re telling me.

All of this makes me curious about what else is lurking down there. I think I have a lot more stories to explore, and some brave new endings to write!

Adults Choose Their Work, and So Should Kids!

This is a follow-up post to The Box That Cleans My House – collecting kids’ items left lying around into a box, and having them do a chore to “buy” back their stuff. As I’ve read the comments on Facebook, I realized there was more to say on the topic….

A few months ago, I read this post about “paying” your children to do extra chores around the house, pointing out that adults choose to work for money, so why shouldn’t kids? Ben and I talked about the idea, but felt it didn’t fit with what we choose to do in our family – our kids get an allowance because they’re part of our family, and we work together because we’re a team.

However, I loved the idea of allowing kids to choose what work they want to do. There are days when I am suddenly motivated to do something in particular, which on any other day might have felt like too much work. I like to go with what motivates me. Also, Ben got to choose his job. He has to work, but nobody is forcing him to do the job he does.

So I sat down and made a list of every job I could possibly think of that the girls could do, and put the list on the fridge. We’re trying to have them do any two each day, but if they’re buying back items from the box, they do extra. These are in addition to the regular chores they have to do every day – make beds, clean up their bedroom, polish the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen/dining room floor, and set and clear the table.

laundry

I wanted to find easy, manageable jobs for them to accomplish quickly, because this isn’t supposed to feel like a punishment – I try to talk a lot about learning to enjoy work, or at least enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done.;)

Here’s the list:

  • Wash bathroom, entrance, or kitchen floor
  • Sweep bedrooms
  • Fold towels
  • Wipe bathroom cabinets
  • Dust baseboards
  • Dust piano
  • Dust bookshelves
  • Wash a window (inside)
  • Organize the Tupperware drawer
  • Organize shoes in the closet
  • Empty garbage
  • Collect garbage/random objects from inside the SUV
  • Water the garden

dishwasher

Sometimes I let them help in the kitchen or take care of Everett as a “chore” – depends on what needs doing each day.

What has been most interesting to me is seeing which jobs the girls choose. Kaylia chooses anything in the kitchen, or organizing things, and a shiny piano is her new pride and joy. Anika loves washing floors or sweeping.

Judging by that list, one would think my house is spotless all the time, but it’s not – things get busy, and I don’t always have the time or energy to make sure the girls are doing two extra chores every single day. But it’s a process – I loved this post: Why Teaching Your Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage. We’re thinking long term here – long term benefits for me and for them. I like to think about what kind of adults they will grow up to be if I can train them well!

So that’s the list of chore choices at the moment, but I’d love to hear your suggestions! Can you think of any quick chores I can add to the list?

Learning to Love Well

Ever done the whole “Love Language” thing? My main language is quality time, followed by acts of service. This means that if you want to show me love, you spend time with me. Or do something practical and nice for me.

It also means that when I’m trying to love somebody, I’m going to give them my time, and make them food or do their laundry. Most of the time, this means I feel like I’m being super loving to my family – I stay at home all day, and do stuff for them around the house. How much more could they be loved??!!

The only problem is that they have different love languages than I do. So I try to work on that, because saying “I love you” in French to someone who only understands English does not get you very far.

But something important clicked for me recently – Ben and I were talking about parenting, and I said something dramatic, like “I’m giving EVERYTHING for our girls!!”

As soon as I said it, something inside my head stopped me, and I thought, “Wait, no, I don’t. I don’t give EVERYTHING. I give most of my time, every day, but there are lots of other ways in which I could be less selfish, and love more.”

I’ve never thought about it before, but I think this may be one of the reasons why I homeschool. I’m giving our girls my best love by spending all this time with them. Why would I want them in school all day, and spend my time on something less important to me than them?

I think it’s a significant thing for me to realize, because it gives me permission to not be with them all the time. I can still be a loving mom, even if I do other things.

Kendra and Anika

Even more importantly, maybe I can hold time a little looser, and not see my love as being measured by how tightly I hang on to this time with them.

You know how people always tell you to enjoy every moment with your kids, because they grow up so quickly? This has always put a ton of stress on me, because of this whole “loving with time” thing. It’s as though I see the best part of my life as being with my children, and this precious time is slipping away, and I MUST HANG ON TO IT AND SOAK IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT!!! Because even random strangers tell me to do so.

But I read an amazing blog post this week:

There is a difference between having an awareness that time is fleeting and having anxiety that time is fleeting, and the latter is born out of the same fear of scarcity that makes women panicky for their opportunities in life. There are only so many chances–get it because another woman will. There are only so many baby days–soak them in because you’ll never feel this happiness again. Lies, lies, fear and lies.

The truth is, time is moving just as quickly as it moved 100 years ago–as quickly as it moved for our mothers and their mothers and their mother’s mothers–60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day.

Last year, after accepting that we were done having kids, cleaning the baby clothes out of the attic and tucking Lainey’s kindergarten projects in a safe place to save forever, I challenged myself on the language I use and the terminology that folds over and over in my mind and heart when reflecting on my kids’ childhood. They’ll never be this little again. Time is fleeting. We’re done with 6-9 months clothes. Toddler days are over, soak up the preschool ones! Never, fleeting, done, over. Scarcity much? I’ve worked hard to replace these words with powerful, progressive ones in my motherhood vocabulary–growing, moving, learning, blooming–and take great pride and pleasure in the opportunity of forward movement, the gift of time and more time.

Guess what? I get to love my kids and give them my time, even when they are adults! And there are tons of ways to love my kids well, that don’t involve all this pressure on time. I need to know that.

I need permission to let the days flow through my fingers with pleasure, instead of tightly grabbing hold of every single moment. I need to know that when I look back, this time will have been good, and I gave a lot to them, in the ways that mattered most to me and to them.

Anika started randomly listing all the things she loves about me one day. I think she knew I was discouraged, and wanted to cheer me up, so this is what she said:

  • “You let us play Civilization on the computer.” (True love right there, hey?!)
  • “You homeschool us when you could send us away to school.” (Melt my heart – she’s speaking my language!)
  • “You believe in Jesus.”
  • “You’re a good cook.”
  • “You love us.” (Maybe they’re getting the important stuff??!)

Then Anika asked Kaylia, “Why do you love Mommy?”

Kaylia said, “Because.”

She was quiet for a bit, and I wasn’t expecting anything more from her, but suddenly she said, “She prayed for us before we were in her tummy.”

My sweet girls, I don’t love them as well as I should, but how wonderful to be reminded that sometimes I get it right, and they feel it! And we keep trying.

Kendra and Kayliaphoto credit: Morgan Braun

The Best Advise I’ve Ever Been Given About Fighting

It drives me crazy when my kids fight. I’ve struggled with this one for a long time, and I’ve written about it before, but I’ve never really felt as though there was significant improvement in this area.

I’m tired of being told, “Kids just fight.”

I’m also tired of hearing that “Kids should work out their own problems.”

I can’t live with all the fighting, and I can’t just leave them alone to work things out. Maybe that works for some people, but with an age difference of five and a half years between our girls, “working things out” generally goes the same way each time: Anika talks circles around Kaylia, using manipulation and vocabulary far beyond what Kaylia knows how to deal with, Kaylia gets so mad and frustrated she ends up biting Anika or pulling her hair, and then there’s lots of screaming and tattling, and me losing my sanity well before it’s even lunch time.

I refuse to believe this is what I have to accept as “normal”.

A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a very wonderful, wise lady whose children are all grown up and awesome. She gave me some advise that has completely changed the way I think about fighting between siblings, the role of a parent, and what we need to accept as normal.

She said that when her kids were small, she never listened to music – she just listened to her children. All day long, she always kept an ear open to what was going on.

She claimed that a mom can always tell when things are starting to go in a bad direction, and she said the very best way to deal with fighting is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.

Brilliant, right?! Prevention is always best! It reminds me of how we can get so focused on healing a sickness, when really, it’s much easier to stay healthy than trying to get back your health once you’ve lost it! But it requires staying on top of things, and being very vigilant and intentional.

So, how do you prevent fighting? This wise mom said her mom had always used distraction.

Announce that it’s time for everybody to go outside for 15 minutes.

Set the timer for three minutes, and see how much everybody can clean up before the time is up.

Play a game.

Do anything to change the atmosphere, and get the situation going in a completely different direction.

I asked her if her kids ever resisted her suggestions, because they wanted to keep doing whatever they were in the middle of. She said no, because by the time things were heading towards a fight, no one was having fun anymore, and they were ready for a change. She also said her children had absolutely no idea how often she had used distraction to prevent a fight.

At first I thought, “Isn’t that cheating?! Don’t I need to let them pick fights so they will learn how to resolve them??”

But then I realized there are lots of things we do to prevent bad moods and behaviour. How much we sleep, what we eat, how much down-time we get, etc, all contribute to our moods and our ability to interact with others in a positive way. As my massage therapist would say, these are all “tools in our tool belt”!

I’m sure there will still be plenty of opportunities to help my girls learn how to positively work through conflict (I wrote about some of our techniques in this post), but I’m completely fascinated with the challenge of redirecting and distracting as we pursue peace and harmony.

I haven’t been trying this technique for very long, but it’s been working beautifully, so far. The wise mom is right – I can always tell when it’s time to shake things up. I’m spending more time being aware of what’s going on in our home, and thinking more intentionally about how to guide and direct my girls.

washing dishes

Keeping kids busy keeps them out of trouble. And when we see trouble coming, it makes sense to steer clear of it!

Any ideas you use for distraction?!