If it wasn't so boring and so expensive, I'd tell every Mom to go to Law School. There is no better training ground to learn how to talk reasonably to people who wildly disagree with you. After 13 years in the trenches, I think one fo the definitions of 'good parenting' is to maintain a calm and friendly demeanor while my kid is expressing her innate Constitutional Right to strongly disagree with me.
This morning I found my 5 year old standing on her 3 year old's sister's bed while she pulled a new teeshirt over her head. Now this situation was semi-understandable given the dynamics of a large Catholic family living in a small 1950s house. I have currently a 'nursery' room that contains a small IKEA bed for the 5 year old, a small IKEA bed for the 3 year old, and a full size crib for the 1 year old all in an 8 by 10 space room. (My youngest son will eventually join the 4th bedroom of his much older brother once he's passed the choking hazard stage.) My 5 year old's decision to stand on her unmade sister's bed to get dressed was a little understandable considering the small room size and the proximity to their joint closet.
I looked at this situation while I was working in my kitchen and I knew that my kid's behavior would eventually create a problem. Because we are a large family, living in a small space, we have to be extra vocal about "property rights." I asked my 5 year old to get off her 3 year old sister's bed because it was "her bed."
My five year old said "What do you mean?"
Then at breakfast we had a good 10 minute talk about "property rights" in language that a preschool set could understand. I describe that each person's bed was "their private space" and that a sibling couldn't use it without asking. I gave them the legal jargon of "express permission" in simple terms. My little kids really got that concept. Then excitedly each claimed a favorite stuffed animal as "theirs."
To solidify their understanding I used a contrast situation. (Which is a technique I used all the time to explain the law to clients). I told them the living room chairs were property held in common or "everyone's chairs." My kids don't have to ask permission to sit on those chairs. Yet a stranger is not allowed to open the door and sit in our living room chairs without permission. These chairs are common property only for members of our family. Everyone else needs to get an invitation to come inside our house and sit on our chairs.
My daughters eyes light up when I talk to them like adults. I like to explain the "why" behind rules for our house. I like to take their needs inside consideration whenever possible. For example, today they asked to add the "private property" label to their favorite stuff animal as well as their beds.
It's one of those situations where having 2 daughters only 18 months apart with radically different personalities share a bedroom seems more difficult. Yet that pressure makes me be more deliberate and more careful in my parenting. I'm grateful for that constant practice to be a good peacemaker inside my own family.
In 48 hours, I'm going to my local City Hall and requesting that they reorganize a public access right to clean water in honor of Flint, Michigan and the Elk River Chemical Spill. I'm nervous. My experiences lawyering today while in my bathrobe while I waited for my coffee to brew gave me a boost of confidence. Inside the heart of every decent Mother, grows an expert skill set in peacemaking that could make a UN Delegate proud.