Kids fight. Knowing when to get involved is a dilemma all parents eventually face. Whether the little bruisers are siblings, friends, teammates or neighbors, fights can break out due to boredom, perceived injustice, to get attention, establish the pecking order or just to release pent up energy.
Use creative methods to diffuse the tension and restore order in your home. The following strategies have all been field tested and approved; my four children have had their moments over the years, but thankfully, we have all survived.
Stop right there. When you hear fighting, take a moment to inhale deeply. Slowly exhale and prepare yourself to meet the issue as calmly as possible. Even if the fight seems ridiculous and you are aggravated with the problem, controlling your emotions is a good way to model the right behavior.
I Can’t Hear You. Small squabbles can often be resolved without any intervention. If no one is getting hurt, let the little conflicts go without stepping in. Many fights start and end like a flash of light. Ignoring isn’t bad parenting; you are simply delegating the responsibility back to your children. Of course, if the argument escalates, rather than subsides, you may need to step in.
Have I Got a Lesson For You. Use arguments as a teachable moment. Dramatically explain, lecture, tell antidotes and turn a small fight into an annoying lesson plan. In general, annoy the kids so that they may think twice about staging silly fights.
I Want to Hold Your Hand. When my kids were preschoolers, I would make them sit on the bottom step and hold hands. They didn’t like it, but after a few minutes whatever they were fighting about would be forgotten and giggles would ensue. Instead of holding hands, you can make them look each other directly in the eyes, or stand back to back for several minutes. The close proximity and no speaking rule creates an uncomfortable situation that forces the little ones to refocus.
Play the Middleman. Play a role to break up arguments. Put on your calmest, most professional voice and get between the fighters. Ask one of the children their side of the story, and then calmly repeat it to the offending child. Do the same with the other child. Go back and forth until everyone tires of this. Hearing their own words repeated over and over, forces the child to see how silly the fight really is.
Be the Referee. Go ahead, slip on a whistle. Blow it to break up a fight complete with an official call; yellow card, red card, unnecessary roughness, holding, or unsportsmanlike-like conduct. Even without a whistle, the humorous “calls” can make a sports-loving family take pause.
Handling arguments creatively, gives children a great start at life. After many ‘stair-sitting-hand-holding” sessions, my two oldest children became better friends. In fact, they began to look at each other more like partners in crime, rather than someone to compete against. This cosmic shift causes it’s own problems, but being close will serve them better in the long run.