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Peacekeeping and Parenting - A Lesson from Chickens and a Dog

By Catherine Sim - 18th May 2011

I once had a dog that loved to tease my three chickens. She teased and she teased until the chickens died from that teasing. This went down in local folklore as the “Great Redmond St chook massacre of 2002”. Prior to that deadly day, there was a long and idiotic time where I, hugely pregnant with child number four, had employed a very complex routine of chickens out- dog in, dog out - chickens in. This worked fairly well until pregnancy brain took over and while chickens out - dog in, worked a treat, chickens out - dog out was a disaster.

It was not an unusual sight in those days, to see me running around the yard in various stages of undress, with a chicken under one arm and a large barking dog under the other.

Looking back, it was excellent preparation for having four children, some of whom also try to tease their siblings to death. Teasing ranges from mild, quiet, and almost friendly sledging such as, “You have an enormous head and a stupid face” to more serious standover tactics like “If you don’t give me that, you retread, I will kill you slowly”.
I am constantly amazed at how four, relatively nice kids, who mostly seem to quite like each other, can be so mean. I can truly say that I have not been modelling this behaviour, either with my partner, “Here’s your dinner cake boy and don’t ask for seconds”. Or my friends “Sure I'll pick them up for soccer…your arms being painted on”.
Or the kids, “ Na honey..can't help you there. You'll just have to use your own tiny ineffectual brain on that one”

No, they have come up with this behaviour all on their own, Clever things.

In an attempt to broker a peace arrangement, I have come to a chicken arrangement .
Son number 1 in bedroom, son number 3 in lounge. Daughter in kitchen, Son number 1 in bedroom. Son number 1 at soccer, everyone has the run of the house. (Note: son number 2 is not on this schedule because he's being very well behaved and respectful to everyone which means he is up to something.)

It's more complicated choreography than Dancing with the Stars. But it is making the house a more convivial place even if some of the kids are forgetting what the others look like; I heard my daughter say to son number 2 the other day, “Gosh, you’ve had a growth spurt. She was speaking to son number 1.

I suppose they're practising for real life and using their new-found powers in a safe and forgiving environment because when anyone outside the family decides they'll have a go, they do still become a united force, and that is reassuring.

So I'll continue to maintain my peacekeeping role until the day they stop sledging each other and discover that they have quite a lot in common, being brothers and sisters and all!

Must go now and give my brother a hard time about his midlife crisis motorbike.
 

image freedigitalphotos.net Simon Howden

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