There is a difference between wanting to know the limits of another person’s acceptance and of having another person set a limit on one’s self. The difference is where the power lies. If we enforce our own limits, we exhibit self-control and encourage and enable our children to do the same. When we attempt to limit another person, we are attempting to control them; that in itself is both impossible and unhealthy.
A coworker was relegating to my husband at work about an incident he had experienced with his teenage daughter the night before. He had been yelling at her for something when she said something he felt was in a disrepectful tone – backtalk, at which point he slapped her across the face hard. I can only imagine what my husband’s face looked like at that revelation. His coworker went on to explain that he hated to do it but that it had to be done. My husband made a sarcastic comment about training daughters for how they should be treated by men and then said he wanted better for his daughter.
Children come into this world unknowing of the world or its inhabitants. They haven’t yet learned of social graces or how to interact with others. They learn these things by watching us. How we treat others, especially the ones we love, has a lasting effect. It shapes not only how our children treat others but also how they allow others to treat them.
A strong, confident, loved woman doesn’t suddenly allow a man to hit her and accept that that is the way of life. Abused women, and those who abuse them, have learned somewhere along the way that it is acceptable or that they are an undeserving exception. Most fathers would protect their daughters from some other man hitting them, and yet many of these same men are teaching their daughters that being hit, being belittled and degraded, by a man is acceptable.
The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows everyone to work together in order to find mutually agreed upon solutions which work for everyone.
First, you must set the stage for how the no-lose method will work:
- Begin by telling your child clearly and concisely that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
- Make it understood that you wish to work with your child in order to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
- Agree on a time to work on the problem when there won’t be distractions.
There are six steps to the no-lose method:
- Identify and define the problem. During this time, the needs of everyone should be stated. Many times the true problem is different from what we originally perceive it to be. Parents should be conscious not to give solutions instead of defining needs. You should tell your child clearly and as strongly as you feel exactly what feelings you have and what needs of yours are not being met or what is bothering you. I-messages are useful in order to avoid put down messages or blame. Active listening is a useful tool for distinguishing between needs and possible solutions and to make certain you understand your child’s needs. State the conflict or problem so that everyone agrees what the true issue is.
- Generate possible alternative solutions. This is where brainstorming comes in. Everyone is welcome to offer possible solutions. In fact, parents should encourage their children to offer soultions first. Children are very insightful and may offer solutions that parents had not even considered. Avoid evaluating and showing preference for any solution. At this point in time, you are only brainstorming possibilities.
- Evaluate alternative solutions. Figure out what each person is willing to do. Narrow down solutions to one or two best possibilities. Be honest with one another about how you feel regarding each possible solution.
- Decide on best acceptable solution. By this point in the process, one solution may clearly stand out from all of the others and be accepted by all involved parties. If not, verbally test out some of the other solutions and see if they would work for everyone. remember that solutions are not final. Life isn’t static. If the tried solution doesn’t work for everyone, reevaluate and change. Multi-part solutions may need to be written down in order to help everyone remember. It should be clear to everyone that they are making a commitment to try the solution.
- Work out ways to implement the solution. Discuss the details needed in order to implement the solution and gather any necessary tools.
- Follow up to evaluate if the solution worked. Don’t forget to check back with everyone to see if the solution is working. If not, reeveluate and find something that works better for all those involved.
The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows parents to discover what is really going on with the child. When you use your power to enforce your own solutions, you don’t unveil the true underlying feelings and needs. In order to deal with an issue, you have to know what the real problem is first. Once you have worked with your child to discover the cause of conflict, solutions generally become apparent.
Aspects of the no-lose method of conflict resolution:
- Both parties possess equal or near equal power. Neither holds power over the other.
- The solution must be acceptable to both parties. This is method for finding solutions which work for everyone. This may look completely different in different families or with different individuals.
- Involves the principle of participation. Individuals are more motivated to carry out decisions when they are involved in the decision making process. Less enforcement is required in order to implement the proposed plan because all parties are vested in the plan and the outcome.
- Encourages and requires each involved party to think.
- Results in less hostility from everyone because both parties are agreeing on a mutually acceptable solution. Both parties leave the situation feeling good because the conflict has been taken cre of and no party has lost, ultimately bringing them closer together.
- Eliminates the need for power. Both parties are working together toward a solution. There is no need to grapple for power and no need for coping mechanisms to deal with another person’s power. Allows each party to respect themself and the other person, allowing everyone to win.
The no-lose approach to conflict resolution treats children like people. Parents are able to communicate to their children that the children’s needs are important and that the children can also be trusted to be considerate of the parent’s needs.
Two days after the birth of my fourth child, I sat in a chair in the living room, crying. When my husband asked me what was wrong, I exclaimed that I was fat. It could be said that I as hormonal. It could be said that my body was still recovering from having a human being growing inside of me. However, I felt fat.
Society tells us that we should be skinny. Our bodies should be perfect. If we don’t measure up to the airbrushed, computer-enhanced versions of anoxeric super models, we are unworthy. While we are surrounded by this attitude of unattainable perfection, I want my children to grow up with healthy body images.
As I sat there crying, telling my husband how fat and unworthy I was, I heard my 5 1/2 year old coming down the hallway. I immediately clammed up. I have body issues, but I don’t want to pass those on to my children. My own body issues stem from others. My grandmother, in her fear of being unacceptable, routinely told me how fat as I was as a little child. By the time I was four years old, I understood how unworthy my appearance was, though I wouldn’t even hit the 40 pound mark until I was 7 years old. While I can’t recall my mother ever specifically saying she was fat, I do remember the diets. It was clear that she was unhappy about her appearance.
So, as I struggle with my postpartum self and feelings of unworth, at the forefront of my mind are the four little children who look up to me and watch how I model myself. My words and actions will set up how they decide to view their own body image. For them, I am focusing on getting back in shape and wording my sentences to emphasize being healthy – eating healthy foods in moderation and exercising. I won’t voice, and therefore burden them with, the thoughts that run through my head about myself.
My children self-regulate their food intake. They play hard, exercising strong muscles. They are happy with their bodies, not realizing that according to society, they shouldn’t be, or even that they should be questioning it. i wat them to stay that way.
The warming temperatures and lure of sprinklers and pools had us out shopping for swimsuits earlier this month. Finding swimsuits for boys isn’t very difficult, even if like me, you prefer not to buy anything with commercial characters or branded names on it. While colors and designs differ, they are all basically the same and the selection is decent wherever you go. Girls’ swimsuits are an entirely different story.
As my older daughter grows, we find fewer of the character themed swimsuits but find the search for a suitable swimsuit is even more difficult. Instead of dealing with princesses who wait around to be rescued by their prince, definitely not something I want to impress upon my daughters, swimsuits seem to be centered around sexuality. Sexual swimsuits for little girls? Sad, but true. We checked out no less than six stores, and every swimsuit inside each store, before we found an accpetable one.
Skimpy bikinis are one thing for college coeds. While we my cringe at the sexualization of women and the societal pressure to have a perfect body, at least there is a biological purpose for showing off one’s body: to attract a member of the opposite species in order to procreate and protect the continuation of our species. Alternatively, it could be said that flaunting one’s body is to attract a suitable partner (regardless of gender) in order to have a rewarding realtionship and/or sexual encounter. Both are valid, if a little far-reaching, in order to explain a bathing suit.
However, my 5 year old has no need to attract a partner. I wouldn’t want anyone attracted to my daughter in a bikini anywhere near her. However, that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from making skimpy bikinis so little girls can emulate older girls and women. In fact, it’s getting quite hard to find a little girl swimsuit anymore. After numerous stores, I was about to cave and suggest a two piece that at least met in the midrif. My daughter’s sense of style and innocence wouldn’t allow it. I have to smile just a bit at that.
We forged on to yet another store where, after thumbing through countless siwmsuits, we found this year’s swimsuit: a rainbow striped one piece with ruffled straps. It was worth it, as I watch my daughter delightedly, and age-approriately, race through the sprinklers on hot summer days.
As a small child, I was dragged to dance lessons by my grandmother, decked out in head to toe pink. I hadn’t asked for dance lessons. My grandmother was always trying to turn me into something else, and apparently I wasn’t girly enough for her tastes. Since she was paying, she could dictate the pink. I don’t remember a lot about dance lessons. I didn’t particularly enjoy any of it: the pink, the emphasis on performing for others (always big with my grandmother), or ballet. When a new teacher started and had us doing more tap and jazz, which I enjoyed much more, my grandmother yanked me out and switched me to a different dance school. I do, however, remember being forced to sing and dance to a song I felt was horrible even then.
I’m a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle, and here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up, here me shout,
“Tip me over and pour me out.”
After learning this in class, I was forced to perform the rendition for my grandmother’s friends, decked out in pink, naturally – the perfect, demure little girl. At the time, the entire ordeal bothered me, although I hadn’t yet connected what it was teaching young girls. Wear pink – be sweet, innocent, and demure; do what others tell you to. Be the teapot – small and dependable, always there for her husband. Don’t show emotion; hold it inside, where it will inevitably build up. Offer your handle and allow others to use you.
That may be a little extreme for some, but you can’t deny that emotion is discouraged in our society. Women, while sometimes allowed to show fear or to cry, should never be angry about anything. That wouldn’t be sweet, innocent, and demure.
I spent my chilhood like that, pretending that nothing bothered me. I carried that into my relationships when I began dating, letting boyfriends walk over me and pretending that it didn’t bother me. I ended up marrying a great man, but even then, I didn’t show that I was bothered by anything. I stored the little things that bothered me until I was so full it erupted. When that happened, we would argue and I would spout a list of things that had been bothering me for months.
We went through that cycle until I learned to air my grievances as they happened. It was okay for me to have emotion and by acknowledging my emotions as they came, they didn’t turn to anger, festering until they erupted. It took me a long time to learn that. It’s something I hope to help my children know from the beginning. Emotions are good and acceptable, no matter what they are. They are the litmus as to whether or not our needs are being met. They are part of our humanity. I hope my daughters have a healthier view of relationships than I started with. I won’t be teaching them to sing, I’m a Little Teapot.