Why the “Get Along” Shirt Doesn’t Work {and What to Do Instead}

getalongshirt

Image by College Humor

This is a guest post by Jen Hume, licensed counselor.

Imagine: You’re at work, busy minding your own business. Your co-worker enters, interrupts your work, and you have a disagreement about a project you are working on. Your co-worker says some things that you feel really upset about, things that you think are unprofessional and just plain rude.

Your boss hears the two of you arguing, and yells from the next office over, “What’s going on?!” As you tell her the story, your eyes sting with tears and your face is hot with injustice. You’re hoping your boss can help you resolve the conflict, and at the very least you expect some understanding.

Instead, she sighs heavily and rolls her eyes. “Haven’t you figured out how to solve this yourself? I am so tired of hearing you argue over this stupid little project! Why can’t you just learn how to get along?”

She goes to her office and comes back with a piece of white cloth in her hand. She instructs you and your co-worker to stand side-by-side and forces an extra large t-shirt over your head that says: OUR GET ALONG SHIRT.

This doesn’t work

This wouldn’t work for an adult who, theoretically, has a more developed brain. Why would it work for children whose brains are still developing?

This act would be considered completely inappropriate and infringing on rights for adults, yet we somehow think it’s okay to do to children?

It’s not. It’s laced with shame, and shame-based punishments (all punishments, actually) have been shown by research to be correlated with a decrease in learning and brain functioning.

What to do instead?

Teach the skills you want the kids to learn. Many times; repetition is key.

When you see your child having a conflict with another child where they are gridlocked and not able to come up with solutions, help them.

Guide them to come up with their own ideas. These seemingly unimportant disagreements over Legos and crayons are the perfect opportunities for them to learn conflict resolution skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.

Realize that the part of heir brain that deals with problem-solving (the prefrontal cortex) develops well into the mid-20’s, in proportion to the amount of nurturing, responsive parenting the child receives. How you parent matters greatly.

Most of us were not taught peaceful ways of resolving conflict as kids, so it can be difficult to know how to teach our children tools. The Center for Non-Violent Communication and HeartMath are both helpful resources for parents.

Be wary of “parent trainers”, therapists, super-nannies, and any other person using methods which are shameful, manipulative, or coercive.

An effective therapist/parent educator will be knowledgeable about attachment theory and developmental neurobiology, and be able to offer parents relationship-based ideas about helping children learn to resolve conflicts with each other, should you need additional help.

How do you resolve conflict in your home?

Jen Hume, M.S., is a Licensed Counselor & Educator who specializes in children, parenting, and childhood healing. She offers private counseling, support groups, and workshops. Learn more at www.jenhume.com or facebook.com/prosperitypcs.

Nina Nelson

Nina Nelson is an unconventional mom determined to live a life of adventure and purpose. She does that alongside her husband, Ian, and their four crazy, adorable kids. She loves reading, snuggling and giggling at miniature horses.
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