Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How should I respond when my children fight?

When your children are fighting and bickering, as a parent your instinct is to run and fix the problem or separate them. This is your first reaction because you believe that it is your job to teach them not to fight with people. This is a noble and proper goal, but fixing the problem does not teach your children to get along. It teaches them that fighting with each other gets them attention. Generally the loudest yeller gets heard the most. This means that you are also teaching your children to scream loud and tattle on their siblings.

The best thing you can do for your own sanity and for your children when they are fighting is to step back and let them work it out. As a parent and nanny I know this is next to impossible. It is hard to listen to the yelling and often times your children ask you to get involved. However, if you want your children to learn to not fight, you need to let them work it out on their own whenever you possibly can.

The exception to this rule is in the event of physical violence. When things get physical, respond the way you would if one of your children hit another child outside of the family. Let them know that it is okay to use your words to get a point across to someone else but that hitting, punching, biting or pushing is not acceptable.

One or both of your children may try to drag you into the argument. When this tattling happens tell them both “I know you and your sister can work out the problem together. I believe you can do it”. This statement helps in a few ways. One, it allows you to respond to their request but does not involve you in the situation. Two, it empowers them to come up with a solution. By saying “I believe you can work it out” you are expressing the confidence you have in their abilities and giving them the little push they need to be creative and come up with a resolution.

If the child that started the argument is the one that attempts to drag you into it, there is a good chance it is because that child is feeling disconnected from you. It may be time to have a little “special” time with him or her. I have stated in the blog post “How can I stop Sibling Rivalry” that often times siblings fighting with each other is a sign they need time to connect with their parents or caregivers. When you notice an increase in the bickering make note of how much personal attention you have given each of your children. It may be time to spend a little extra time with that child.

Constantly separating your children from each other will never teach them how to work together. Working with other people is such an important lesson to learn. It will help them in school, playing with others and eventually help them into adult hood. If your children argue and always have someone come and mediate the situation, they will not learn how to compromise and get along on their own.

This is tough and there will always be times that you use your best judgment as a loving parent and intervene during your children’s quarrel. However, taking a step back and allowing them to attempt to work things out is going to be the best thing for them in the end.

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