Tuesday

Can't We All Just Get Along?


What else can we do to keep arguments and rivalries at bay?

Well... as parents we can butt out. Yep that's right. The more involved you are getting with your children's arguments, the more they will argue. Kids need to figure out how to solve their own fights. If you are going to get involved, do it before the argument gets heated. In fact, it is great to look for ways to keep the arguments from happening, but once they do, allow some space and let your kids handle it.

If you have to get involved because the conflict is too escalated, be fair. Don't take sides. Take the middle ground and only share your opinion when your kids can't figure out a resolution.

Spend alone time with each of your children. A few minutes every day is the best, but at least once a week your child needs just you. Make this alone time special. Do what the child wants to do. Listen, praise, love, enjoy one another's company. Grab an ice cream, pick out a new book, see a movie. Families are busy so the best way to do this is to evaluate how your family time is spent. I spend one on one time with our daughter when our youngest is sleeping and our son is at school. Alone time with our son is spent each night after our girls go to bed. Most of our alone time is at home. Every few weeks we schedule something special to do with each of them away from home.

Distract. Parents can tell when their children are about to loose it. We know when arguments are escalating, when fights are going to break out, and when buttons are being pushed. When you see tempers are rising, distract and separate. I used this today. There was some frustration over a water gun. We only have one. That is the first problem. I knew what was about to happen so I grabbed our daughter and brought her in for some apples and a drink. We started talking about other things and avoided what would have been a major argument.  We used this a couple times over Father's Day weekend. Cousins were in town. All the kids get along great for the first three days, and then as everyone gets tired and the excitement wears off, we know what is coming. Tears and arguments. The first time this happened (a few years ago) it caught me off guard. Not any more. I can see it coming and I make sure that our kids have time away from their cousins. I don't make a big deal about it. I just take them with me to the store, or read them a quick book upstairs. Anything to make space between them and their cousins. It has been great. No more cousin breakdowns or arguments.

When there has been a fight or argument, let each child tell their side of the story. Children need to know they are being heard. Give each child equal time to talk and explain. As one child talks the other child or children should be expected to listen and not interrupt. When they are done, repeat what they have said so it is clear that you have heard them. Once you have heard all the versions, ask "What can we do to solve the problem?". Don't ask "who started it," or "what happened." This won't help the situation or future situations.

For the Future:
Help your children develop friendships outside their siblings. Don't let friends take over your family, but kids need sibling AND friends. When one of your children has friends coming over, give them space from other siblings. Especially as your children get older.

Remember when we talked about teaching children to see other's view points?  We talked about asking our children the".... how would you feel if....?" questions? This is important when you are trying to minimize arguments also. Help your children see other points of view. We used this one today also. Again with the water gun. After eating apples with our daughter I talked to our son. I asked him how he would feel if he didn't have a water gun and his sister wouldn't share hers? His eyes changed as he looked down and mumbled "I would feel bad." In that moment he saw things from his sister's side and I knew there had been some realization.

As families, if we don't help our kids deal with their feelings they will keep them inside and start to resent their siblings. So why not hold family meetings. A time when everyone can sit down and work through things that "aren't fair", or that are frustrating. We have a family meeting once a month. The kids talk about all the things that are bugging them. It is controlled, casual and treats always follow. There is laughing and negotiation. Both are necessary in families. We start the meeting by saying nice things first. At the end everyone gives everyone else a hug. Another way to set these meetings up is one on one with a parent. My husband sits down with our kids once a month also. It is amazing what they tell him. They are honest and open and it provides a lot of insight into what we can do better as parents. Both of these situations allow our kids to express how they feel and to be heard.

Encourage children to solve their own problems.
-To do this, teach children to be respectful. That means no name calling, and take turns listening and being respectful while the other person talks. Everyone gets a turn to talk.
-Teach children to talk about how they are feeling, not blame others. "I get angry when you take my toy." "I get hurt feelings when you say mean things to me."
-Teach your children to only state the facts.
-Teach your children to solve the problem. In our house we tease that we don't want to hear about the problem unless there is blood. :) When they come running to us, we encourage them to go back to the "scene of the crime" and work things out. Funny how they take care of things themselves nearly every time. With some practice they will feel much more confident taking care of their own issues.

Lastly...
Here are some quick tips. Be consistent with them and you will see changes in your children's behavior.

  • Don't tolerate name calling, hitting or hurtful behavior in your home. Make consequences for these behaviors before hand and ENFORCE them. Enforce them every time.
  • No tattle telling. When my kids come tattling I always stop them and say, "unless this is something nice that will keep your brother or sister out of trouble, I don't want to hear it." 
  • I try not to get involved. Unless I was there and saw what happened, I really try to stay out of it.
  • No yelling. Again, yelling has consequences. Enforce them. 
  • In our home we also have a rule that you can't take someone else's things unless you ask. This has taken care of a lot of our sibling arguments.
If there is a lot of arguing and name calling in your home, start by enforcing the new rules. Then patiently wait while changes occur. Kids are learning to live in this great big world with everyone else. It takes time.

WHAT CONSEQUENCES DO YOU ENFORCE WHEN YOUR CHILDREN NAME CALL OR HIT?

3 comments:

  1. I was just going to ask you that very question! What are some consequences that would work?
    Hopefully someone has answers because I got nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Andrea,
    That is a good question. It is different for each child, why don't I share some thoughts next week.

    ReplyDelete
  3. One thing I learned was to make the consequences "natural and logical". I find that works in all areas of discipline, including sibling rivalry. One specific tip I've heard (and liked, but my kids are too young to use yet) is to allow the one who has been hit to decide how the other can "make it right". A friend of mine said that usually her kids pick something like "give me a hug" or "draw me a picture" rather than punishments. With my kids (who are 3 and 1), if someone hits the other, it's usually with an object and then that object is taken away (or if it's over a specific toy, the hitter is not allowed to use that toy for the rest of the day).

    ReplyDelete

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