Human Stories

Mediating children

This story is written by our Connecting2life trainer Marije Roos:

I am a mother of two girls: Zaya 8 years old, and Ronja 6 years old. They play together, and they fight…

When they fight, I notice it’s so habitual and deeply ingrained in me to judge, to take sides, to say who is wrong and who should apologize to whom… I see it all around me, and it’s exactly how I was raised. Yet, my children teach me so clearly how deeply painful it is to receive the message that what they do is wrong, and which can so easily turn into the belief: ‘I am wrong.’

Here are 2 examples from our home recently:

Zaya and Ronja were playing at an audible distance from where I was sitting, and I overheard the oldest, Zaya, saying things to the youngest, Ronja, such as: “You’re so pathetic with your girly things….You always play such boring things… You really don’t know how to do it.” The youngest said: “Stop it!” Then the oldest imitated her: “S t o p  it!” with a whining voice. A moment later, I saw her pushing her, and the youngest fell down. Before I knew I yelled: “Now it’s enough, Zaya, I overheard everything. You are bullying your sister.” I immediately regretted my words, yet my body couldn’t make the shift to empathize with Zaya. I was so angry!…  Silently I listened to my judgments:

“She is so unkind to her sister, she is always bossing her around. And she is doing it to other kids too. This has to stop; she will not have friends if she keeps being so bossy; no one would want to play with her… OOOF…. I feel worried. I want her to be liked by others, to have friend. I care so much for her well-being.” I looked at Zaya and saw her crying and looking angry.

I had to think back to a mediation I did with a couple. When the woman tried to express her pain in the relationship and her longings, her partner received it as criticism, as if he did something wrong. This triggered so much anger in him. We slowed down and welcomed his anger, and slowly slowly uncovered that when he hears his girlfriend’s pain, he hears it as if he is wrong, which triggers a deep old pain from his childhood where he was the one blamed because he was the oldest and the one who got punished whenever he had a fight with his little brother. He was not being heard and  seen.

My heart softened. I went to Zaya. She told me to go away. My intuition told me to stay. My experience is that when she is angry, she wants to push me away, yet all she wants is to be held and loved. I told her my intention: “I want to hear what was going on for you. I am not going to say anything unless you want me to speak. I just want to hear you. You can also sit on my lap, and we can be silent together.’ I made a guess: ‘Was it really painful what I said?” To which she immediately replied: “Yes! Ronja always starts crying first, and then I get the blame; it’s not fair.”

“Is it that you are fed up sometimes with your sister? Especially now when we are on holidays, and there are no other kids here to play with?” She replied: “Yes” and started to explain to me that she doesn’t want to hurt her little sister. She cannot control herself, and sometimes she really doesn’t like having a sister, and then she just wants to hurt her. After that, she regrets it, but then it’s too late. It’s painful for her that all the attention then goes to her sister while she also wants attention, and she also has pain.

It is so touching to me, when I manage to take the time to slow down and see her, then she shares with me, then I love her. Yet, I don’t always manage…
While writing this newsletter to you, I had a beautiful example to practice with: 

When I came back home with my oldest, my youngest was screaming very loudly: “NOOOOOOOO!!!” when Zaya entered the door, followed by: “GO AWAY!!!!!” She was playing with their mutual friend and obviously didn’t want Zaya to join them. Zaya got angry, and she hit her sister and ran out of the room sobbing in tears. I sat with Zaya and acknowledged her pain by saying: “So painful, huh?” She was nodding and crying. Then she said: “I also want to play with them! It always happens when I come later that these two are already in a play and they don’t want me to join. it’s not fair!!!!” Then she sighed and said: “The same happens for Ronja… Sometimes I am playing with our friend, and Ronja is sad because we don’t want her to join.” She stood up, not sad at all anymore (children can mourn so fast when their pain is welcomed!!!), she went to Ronja and tried to give her a hug. Ronja was still angry and pushed her away. I sat with Ronja who was also sobbing in tears. I stayed in silence with her for a while until she started to express: ‘I hate Zaya! I want to play alone with our friend. Zaya is so bossy. I guessed: “So difficult to have a big sister sometimes, huh?”. “YEEES!” She cried… “Do you also want to decide what to play and how the play will go?” “YEEEES!.” Then their friend said: “How about we play mermaids like we did last time with the three of us, and Ronja can decide who is the oldest?”. They all liked it!

I am amazed when I step out of the role of judging, correcting and fixing how quickly children mourn and (often) find a new solution that works for everyone effortlessly.

With much hope for seeing, hearing and trusting humans,