I have six children at our house. My 17-month old is sleeping, so that leaves my four and six, my neighbors almost five and seven and my other neighbor’s four-and-a-half-year old. The kids spend a lot of time together and are used to playing together. They are circling each other, feeling each other out to see what their activity will be.
The seven -year old girl announces that she’s going to build a fort. Everyone agrees this is a great plan and they get to work. They pull my dining room chairs into the living room, take the blankets from the closet that are stacked for this purpose, and they get to work.
Suddenly, my four-year old son announces that he is the boss and as the boss, he doesn’t have to help build the fort, he can just rest inside of it. The seven-year old girl, who is almost always the ring leader in this group, takes issue with this proclamation; a) it was implied that she was the boss since the fort building was her idea, b) she’s the oldest so she should be the boss and c) he doesn’t get to rest while the others work.
She and my son battle it out verbally for a few rounds until she announces,“Fine, if you’re the boss, I quit and I won’t help build the fort!” There is a pause and all activity halts.
The two four-year old girls quietly state that they agree, the boy doesn’t need to help because he is the boss. My six-year old girl sides with her b.f.f. and refuses to build.
The youngers need the olders to get the fort built. I need them all to get along and not wake my toddler.
I think of my options:
- I can try and facilitate a conversation between them with better listening and statement of needs and possible solutions.
- I could lay down a law as the grown-up in charge and tell them what to do.
- A lightbulb goes off in my head and a new idea comes to me.
I run into the family schoolroom and grab the children’s encyclopedia. I skim the appendix and it has what I’m looking for!
I return to the living room and excitedly tell the children to gather round. The seven-year old and my son mildly protest but my jubilation is contagious and they form a semi-circle around me. I open the book and ask them if they know what a revolution is?
I open the book to Revolutions and there is a painting of Stalin. We start to talk about bosses and what kind of boss would you feel motivated to work for? I give a dramatic example of yelling at an employee. My daughter says she would like to work for a boss who gives lollypops to the workers who sell a lot of product. I say, “Incentives!” We continue with our roundhouse discussion of what kind of boss you would want to be to motivate your workers.
And the end I ask them to say what they’ve learned from our little chat one at a time. It is heartwarming. Then I get up, return the encyclopedia and go back to my organizing at the dining room table.
The kids stand up, face the half-built fort and in some sort of domino effect decide to “all be the boss.” They build their fort, they lounge on pillows inside, the four-year olds then leave to discover the side yard, the six and seven enjoy their respite, and then the baby awakes and tosses a full deck of cards on the roof of the fort. The game of life.
About Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today's progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine’s All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor’s offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss. “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet. “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald.