“I’ve had it with these kids!”
It’s not usually something that prospective parents anticipate occurring when they decide to have multiple children, but sibling squabbles are a common occurrence. From a petty squabble over who gets to sit next to mommy at dinner to a fist-throwing fracas because someone doesn’t want to share a favorite toy, the constant bickering between brothers and sisters can eventually take its toll upon the parents.
It certainly did in my household. My nine year old daughter Amy had developed a habit of putting down her 6 year old sister Laura. No matter what Laura did, Amy found fault in it and seemed to relish pointing it out. After many unsuccessful attempts to restore harmony to my daughters’ relationship, I realized that my reactions were becoming as out of control as my children. I needed to do something different. I had to find some way to change Amy’s heart.
My opportunity came one afternoon as I was out with Amy running some errands for my wife. As we were singing along to “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” inspiration hit me. I began with a leading Disney knowledge question: Why is it called “Walt Disney World” and not just “Disney World,” especially since Walt died before they even began building it?
What followed was my opportunity to passionately relate the story of Roy Disney’s visit to Walt’s hospital bed where he lay dying of lung cancer, of Roy’s commitment to Walt that he would see that the Florida project through to completion, of how Roy put off his own retirement to honor that commitment, and of how Roy decided to change the name to Walt Disney World in honor of his brother. I explained to her how this was typical of Roy Disney. He was always there to support his brother Walt, and Walt knew that he could always count on his brother, even to the end. That’s when I closed in for the kill.
“Amy, do you think that we’d have Disney World today if Roy had treated his younger brother Walt like you’ve been treating your sister Laura?”
The look on Amy’s face told me clearly that my analogy had made a tremendous impact. After nearly 20 seconds of heavy silence came Amy’s whispered response. “No.”
The results of our little discussion were amazing. Amy simply stopped being obstructive to her sister’s efforts, and even began offering words of encouragement with frequency. While she still has the occasional argument over some minor issue, the berating attitude towards Laura has disappeared.
Even more importantly, I came to a realization of my own. It seems that in my attempts to correct Amy’s behavior, I was merely reacting to the circumstance. Her actions were upsetting my image of myself as a good parent, and I became frustrated and angry. My actions taken with that attitude were not helpful. But when I took the time to create an emotional moment with my daughter, I made discipline into a learning experience for her.
Will I be able to repeat my success when other disciplining issues arise? I’m confident that I can, because I know there’s always a Disney story to help create an emotional moment.
Contributed by: James D. (NDD#152). James is our resident relationship expert and creator of Mouse Planning.