“Divide and Conquer”
Alright, maybe the “battle cry” of “divide and conquer” is not especially nice when we’re talking about our children, but I’m quite sure that many of you have been “under siege” by your children in an “ambush” on more than one occasion. Sometimes when the children have not necessarily done anything wrong, a seasoned parent may have a strong sense that they are getting wild and are about to do something wrong, like Tom Cruise who served in the “pre-crime” division of the police force in the movie “Minority Report”. (Sure, Tom Cruise can be a little nutty, but it was a good movie and I’m sure that you, too, can start feeling a little nutty after a long day with the kids). Anyway, the technique of “Divide and Conquer” is an example of “good” avoidance (see “A.T.I.P. from the Manners Manger” in Chapters 14 and 15). “Divide and Conquer” simply involves separating the children (for short durations) to prevent problems. I can hear you now, screaming at the book, “But my kids won’t stay apart from each other!” Of course they won’t, given their druthers, but notice I did not advocate giving them their druthers. You see, this separation will very likely need to be “facilitated” with a physical boundary of some sort, like a gate or a locked door between rooms. Although the technique of “Divide and Conquer” is not a “punishment,” your children may perceive it as a punishment and strongly resist (at first). But “stick to your guns” and eventually (after a few weeks of these brief separations), they will come to accept them as opportunities to play independently (and with you, if you happen to have time to float in and out for a few minutes with each of them). You may choose to use “Divide and Conquer” during known “high-stress” times (e.g., you “divide and conquer” your 3 year old twins when you need to prepare dinner and simultaneously help your first grader with her homework). The nice thing about “Divide and Conquer,” is that you are not a “punishing ogre,” yet you are able to use (appropriate) strength to impose a useful boundary that no doubt will prevent conflict.