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In the middle of our weekly Family Meeting while we were doing an Encouragement Festival where we state to each other "What I love about (Name) is ...", our youngest daughter began to cry about the amount of statements made to her older sister in relation to how many were actually stated about her. She cried and said that mom and dad love the older sister more than her. She then got up and left the meeting and went to her room to cry for quite sometime (about a half and hour) My wife and I as well as our older daughter followed after about 20 minutes to be of support to her and seek to give caresses and other physical contact. She continue to comment how mommy and daddy do not love her as much as her older sister. It hurt me to hear these comments and not be able to comfort her at that time. How can we assure her that she is loved and belogs to this loving family so that we may diminishe the amount of these reactions. One way we were planning to address this was to only offer 1 one Encouragement per family member so it is equal amongs all family members during our Family Meeting. Suggestions, comments, and feedback are welcome!
Such feelings are quite common among children. Being the youngest sibling is hard for some kids, as they feel they will never be able to complete with older siblings, who know more, have more privileges, and quite probably more accomplishments under their belts. Her reaction, though, seems excessive and I suspect she has some underlying feelings and concerns. Does she have more trouble with schoolwork, or is less athletic, or has fewer friends compared to her sister? Rather than reassure her, ask more questions to try to get at the root of the problem and then use reflective listening to let her know that you understand how upsetting this is to her. Some examples: How long have you felt this way? Do you always feel this way? Does it feel to you that we give your sister more attention? Is there anything else that is bothering you that you would like to tell us? Trying to be more equal in these encouragements, as well as giving her more praise for daily accomplishments might be helpful. A good book on this issue is Siblings Without Rivalry. See below.
Posted On 2008-07-16 23:35:33
I acknowledge your family for having family meetings and including â€˜Encouragement Festivals' as part of them. We all receive so many discouraging messages throughout the course of one day that to have positive reinforcement included in your family values is remarkable. Congratulations. Keep it up! I am going to offer a few suggestions. Our children are all unique and our parenting styles are all unique as well.
First and I also believe foremost, in order to be the most effective as a person and a parent when someone is offering us a complaint (in your question, "the amount of statements made to her older sister in relation to how many were actually stated about her") is to see where the complaint is actually true. I believe taking this step first will ALWAYS enable us to be the most empathetic and compassionate about any situation and therefore enable the most learning for all concerned. In this situation, it may not be her older sister actually receives more â€˜encouraging statements' than she does but more likely where is the â€˜feeling' the older sister is loved more coming from. One possibility may be the older sister is getting more of mom and dad's time, and more of mom and dad's time may equal love to her. See your daughter's complaint through her eyes. See where it is true. Then, decide what you do/do not want to adjust about it. Keep in mind, your daughter's perspective may not seem or be true from your perspective. Her perspective may not even seem logical but our feelings often are not logical and yet they do seem to identify what is true for each of us.
Next, my background comes from the philosophy that when a child is misbehaving or acting inappropriately it is because they have lost the ability to communicate with us. So, what I'll recommend is to look at what it is your daughter is NOT saying, instead of what is â€˜happening.' Notice that when the family came to offer her the support she â€˜seemed' to be asking for "she continued to comment how mommy and daddy do not love her as much as her older sister" and your response was "it hurt me to hear these comments and not be able to comfort her." It also appears her behavior did not stop or change. When your response isn't reciprocated by a change in behavior, this would let us know she has a mistaken goal - that she lost her ability to communicate her needs.
If you are feeling hurt by her response she is probably feeling hurt too and her mistaken goal may be to get even for how she is feeling. To redirect this behavior:
1 - Validate her feelings ("I can see you are feeling sad that your sister is getting more encouragement than you.")
2 - Admit you are wrong ("I shouldn't be giving her more encouragement than you." - notice the way this is said is not confessing that what she is saying is true it is agreeing with what she believes to be true. The number of comments may or may not be the same however, she FEELS as though they are not. To try to tell her they are the same would probably only engage a power struggle.)
3 - Empathize with her ("I bet it's discouraging to see your sister getting more encouragement than you.")
As mentioned above, if she believes getting more of mommy and daddy's time equals love, she may be seeking your time AND attention inappropriately to â€˜feel loved'. This can often be identified in two ways; if you are feeling annoyed by her behavior, and/or the behavior continues when you engage with her and doesn't change. Both would identify a mistaken goal of attention. It is also very possible that you would originally feel hurt by her leaving and then get annoyed when you can't help her feel better.
If this is the case:
1 - Stop eye contact and the use of words.
2 - Move in close to your child (not by pulling them to you) and make them feel loved, non-verbally.
All of these techniques can be found in the book "Redirecting Children's Behavior" by: Kathryn Kvols and are trained in the workshop by the same title. You can learn more about them and this organization at www.INCAF.com (International Network of Children and Families).
Finally, I want to suggest that you not balance your daughter's request by minimizing what you are doing in your family meetings. By that I mean limiting the encouraging statements to one per person/ per meeting. That will send another message. Instead, perhaps change it up some. When your meeting has a full agenda or is limited on time perhaps one per person is appropriate. When the agenda is light or has more time and includes a family snack or outing, 3 - 5 statements may be appropriate. However, keeping it the same number for all may be a good idea for a while.
Posted On 2008-07-15 11:24:30