Sibling rivalry is normal and essential! Fighting with your parents is also a normal developmental process. It’s through our close family relationships that we first begin to learn and understand how to manage conflict. Some of us are naturals and others are not and need mentoring. The skills development process is often hampered by well meaning parents trying to prevent or stop their teenagers fighting with each other or with us. Pick which parent type are you:
- Rigid – You must win at all costs and must be seen as right and having the power in the relationship.
- Chaos – You concede to their demands, anything to stop them from having a meltdown, you’re terrified of their anger, you resent their control over you and having to do/pay for things you don’t want to.
- Calm – You see their anger as a symptom of an underlying cause and can help them by identifying their emotions and calming them and then helping them to find solutions that work for them
Most of the time, I manage to stay as the calm parent, but sometimes I can slip into rigid or chaos parent. It actually takes awareness to remain a calm parent and recognition of who has the problem to begin with. For example, recently my son had a meltdown and held us all hostage with his misery and frustration. He was so far into it he refused to speak to me or tell me what was going on. All I could see was some furious texting and I assumed it had to do with his girlfriend. I had to escape to my room and calm myself down (by using EFT) and remind myself that his behaviour and words were not about me, he was obviously hurting and I needed to figure out a way of staying calm and present (aware of my own emotions) so I could be there for him. Once I had recovered I returned back into the house hold and continued going about my daily activities and gave him space. When he was ready to talk I could be there for him, comforting, empathising and helping him to find a solution that worked for him right at that moment. If I hadn’t have taken that time to calm myself down I would have blasted him with my anger at his words, his actions and totally ignited the emotional volcano that was boiling inside of him and me.
It’s so important that we remain calm. It’s when we are calm that we can activate the part of the brain that can see the issue clearly and work out a way forward. It’s when we are calm that we are more likely to seek first to understand before we take action. It’s only when we are calm that we can empathise.
When we are in chaos or rigidity we are in fear and in a part of our brain that responds to that threat by fighting back, running away or freezing up. We can’t think straight, we react from our own pent up anger and hurt and we say and do things we regret later.
If your siblings are fighting each other or having a go at you, then rather than yelling at them to stop, you could first identify what the emotion is behind the action. Identify that first, speak it out, name it for them. “Your angry”, “It’s frustrating when…” and so forth. You may want to get them on their own first and give them a bit more space to express what is going on for them without the pressure of having other witnesses. Once their emotional temperature has diminished (and it will if you successfully empathise), you can then redirect with your logic or ask for ways they could solve the issue. Once they are calm, they can access their own logic and reasoning. If they can’t, then keep empathising to reduce their emotional temperature more.
If you’re incapable of remaining calm, if you fall into the rigid or chaos type parent, you can come back later and do damage control! Just talk about what was going on for you and then go onto saying that you want to understand what’s going on for them… and at that point switch into calm parent and empathise! Neurologically we are geared to calm down when we feel understood. We become more flexible and calm and less rigid or chaotic when we feel understood. It’s calmness that changes the equation every time!