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When Kids Fight--and How to Stay Calm.
Kids fighting can drive a parent insane
If you are the parent of an only child you will not understand this article, however once that second one comes along and learns to utter that first word you may be find yourself playing the role of arbitrator or referee more often than that of a loving parent. I can recall my dad shouting to the back seat of the car, "if you don't stop that fighting I am going to let you out to walk!." Then he would stop the car, pull over and we would all become silent while we waited to see who would get the first whipping with the belt. This fear would hold over for just a while, but we would always start up again the next time or even on the same trip. There are a few reasons why spankings do not work on most kids. One, the affect is temporary and doesn't really teach anything of lasting value. Secondly, when a child sees an adult get angry or raise their voice, they either think it's quite entertaining and worth "trying for" again or they feel they must wield a great deal of power to be able to make an adult lose control. Lastly, it can make a child think that violence is the way to solve all problems.
There are many ways of getting children to stop their bickering, but if you are like me, it is hard to think straight in the heat of the moment and you resort to shouting at them, which of course is extremely ineffective. One of the ways I have found that works with my kids (especially if they are tattling on each other) goes like this: "Mommy, she stuck out her tongue out at me". I answer, "well, who's problem is it?". They will usually say with ease, "her problem". Then I will add, "are you going to make it your problem too or leave it her problem?" Any of them at that point will usually (and I say usually because this doesn't always work) say, "I'm going to leave it her problem". At that point they not only have a momentary "cease fire", but have learned a valuable lesson that can be carried on into adult hood and that is this: Our reactions or lack thereof can have a profound affect on the further actions or moods of others. Also, they have learned about ownership of a problem. Too often parents take ownership of the problem away from their children and try to solve it for them. This was expanded upon further in a parenting class I took with my husband called Love and Logic. (Parenting with Love and Logic: Foster Cline and Jim Fay).
There is a lot more I could write about Love and Logic parenting, but in this article I will stick to tips on how to minimize arguing in kids. When the arguing happens at the most inopportune times, like in the car, it can be a challenge for even the most poised parents. One way to handle this is to pull off to the side of the road and say something like, "I will be happy to start up this car when my ears are not being bothered". Notice how rather than directing accusations at the children, the focus is redirected to the parent by saying "my ears are being bothered", hereby removing the opportunity for power struggles. This is all fine if you do not have any time constraints and arrive at your destination at your leisure. However, for those times (which are most of the time for me) when your arrival time is critical than you will need another method of calming the storm in the back seat. One way you could handle this would be just to shake your head and say "oh, this so sad". That's all you have to say for the moment and it will get their little ears perked up and their brains wondering what in the world is up with mom or dad. This is known by Love and Logic as delaying the consequence. You don't even have to know what you are planning when you say it, but some time later that day or even the next you go through the drive through at McDonalds and buy yourself an ice-cream. As you slowly savor it in front of your now very quiet children you can comment, "I buy treats for kids that are kind to each other" or "that are quiet while I drive", etc.
Another idea that I have found works very well on occasion is to wait until they want something, either a treat, a special toy, or in the case of older kids for you to drive them somewhere. Then you say, "wow, I sure don't have any energy left after listening to all that arguing. I guess I won't be able to get you that (treat, toy, etc).... or drive you to your friend's house(or the mall, etc)....this is so sad." Then you make sure you are empathetic when you say it. That is another Love and Logic bit of advice and they really stress the importance of locking in the empathy.
There are other things you do(besides giving them boxing gloves), you could ignore them (as long as no one gets hurt) or send them to their rooms to work it out a war breaks out at home. These ideas will not all work every time, but if you are consistent they will work some of the time. Just one word of caution, your own words may come back to haunt you here. My husband and I were disagreeing about something and one of my daughters pipes up, "Mommy are you going to leave that Daddy's problem or make it your problem?" I guess I had that one coming to me.
For more information on Love and Logic parenting please see the following website:
- Love and Logic - Helping Parents and Teachers Raise Responsible Kids
Love and Logic provides simple and practical techniques to help parents and teachers have less stress and more fun while raising responsible kids.