Beach Story (Using Time off to Reduce Tension at Home)

Beach Story (Using Time off to Reduce Tension at Home)

The parents of two young daughters were concerned about their eldest, 6 year old “Tamara”. She was refusing to do anything they asked and spent a lot of time being mean to her younger sister. They felt their relationship with “Tam” had turned into an almost constant battle and were worried.

I suggested that they set aside some time with Tamara that was relaxed and fun to get a break in the tension. They mentioned that their family would be taking a beach vacation the following week. Everyone was looking forward to it in part because the same trip had gone very well the year before.

As it sounded like an opportune time to try out new ideas to help Tam we came up with two proposals to reduce friction while they were away.

The first was to minimize the number of times the parents told Tamara “no”, making it easier for her to get out of her “battle gear” and listen to some of the things her parents were saying. To do this they would need to sort through which of their daughter’s behaviors were most troublesome and tackle one or two issues at a time.

To help set priorities I suggested that they pick the number of “nos” they might say each day. (Enough to have their challenge be neither too hard nor too easy) They decided to chose 10 “nos” a day and adjust the number as the week progressed if needed. (As they guessed that they were saying “no” at least 50 times a day it seemed like they would learn a lot in the process.).

I also suggested that when they said “no” that they would state their position calmly, clearly and if possible lovingly. It was also important to not be thrown off course (yelling at Tam or changing their mind) if and when Tam got upset with their idea. (Many people, especially 6 year olds, get upset when they are told they can’t do something they want to do.)

As both parents would be around the entire week they agreed to ask each other to take over if they thought they might “lose control”.

The parents were excited about the idea and hopeful that they might learn new tools to help Tam.

At the end of the week the parents visited me again looking proud and happy. They had managed to help each other pick their battles and not yell at their daughter for the entire time. “We want to keep doing this,” they said, “It was great and really helped everything go much better.” “I am so sorry,” I replied, “You can’t do this all the time. You wouldn’t be real people if you did, especially when you are no longer on vacation.”

We discussed how they had learned a lot of different things to try when Tam’s behaviors had them doing and saying things they would rather not be doing. We reviewed that Tam had learned a lot as well and that their younger daughter had been happy to see that it was possible for everyone to “get along” pretty well.

It had been a wonderful vacation for everyone, one that would be useful for a long time.