Drama! It’s often unavoidable, especially between siblings and more than one child. When you start adding in play dates for your kids, conflict will definitely erupt at some point.
Children cannot get along all the time. They cannot just play happily, quietly in the sandbox together. Sooner or later, someone is throwing sand in another one’s eye or wanting to use the same pail and shovel while one kid won’t share.
Are you sitting on edge, worrying over those disagreeing moments? I used to be that way but now I don’t fret as much anymore. This is a part of life. Now my attitude is that arguments are a great teaching tool, for both parents and kids. Here are a few ways you can delay, redirect or diffuse conflict.
Delay a reaction We have a natural reaction to jump in and settle a disagreement among kids who are arguing. Good parents want to be stewards and offer a solution right away. If you are dealing with toddlers or younger age children, this may still be the best option. But if you have children at the preschool age and above, let it play out for awhile. Do not intervene so quickly. Listen and watch from a safe distance. Often kids figure out how to work it out for themselves. Even if they don’t, young boys and girls deserve a chance to communicate feelings of frustration and disappointment. This is how they learn, grow and adapt. If different ages are together, an older kid may surprise you by taking up for a younger child or vice versa. During play dates at other’s houses, I notice my daughters get along and take up for each other a lot better than how they behave at home.
Redirect emotions If the delay did not work and children still need parent intervention, then now is the time to remove the child or children from the situation. Enforce the time out method or find a place where meltdowns can continue more privately, if possible. My children become embarrassed when they are upset. I find that they calm down more quickly if they are alone in their rooms or a private area where they can let loose. Sometimes we parents cannot do much except wait for our kids’ emotions to wear down or change. The film “Inside Out” is a great example of how children have feelings that often seem irrational to us but perfectly normal to them. Children will go from joy to anger to sadness with fear and disgust mixed in between. Acknowledge your kid’s feelings and help them move back to a state of normalcy or contentment. After I recognize my girls, I try to be silly and make them laugh if the confrontation wasn’t too serious. I may dance or put on music. Whatever I can do to distract the kids for awhile and help them return to fun, I will try it.
Diffuse the incident After everyone is composed again, I spend time talking rationally to my kids or their play mates. I let each individual know that feeling distressed, not sharing and disagreeing is common. I also discuss with them how despite those thoughts, they have to find ways to move past the emotions, get along and be respectful. My kids need hugs to have that closure and let them know I’m not mad and they can go back to playing. I’m quick to point out how moods affect others and how saying the right words can make a positive difference. I ask my children to be more thoughtful and to behave better next time. Sometimes they can achieve this. Other times, we are back at square one repeating our same discussion. I remind my daughters to be grateful for the good moments in each day instead of focusing on what did not go right. If other kids are the problem, I don’t shy away from talking to their parents about the children’s actions or behaviors. I will say something like, “Tina had a few rough minutes during the play date and I’ll explain what happened and how I handled it.” I want the child’s guardian to know that although we had some setbacks, we faced them and corrected them right away. I tell anyone who watches my children to treat them like their own and be firm with them if they act inappropriately. I want to hear when my kids misbehave so I can address any concerns.
Resolve Kids cannot learn how to deal with conflict unless it happens. The same goes for parents teaching their children. Some arguments, outbursts and whining are normal and a way for families to experience conflict resolution skills. Try these methods of delaying a reaction, redirection and diffusion to bring back fun times.
Mandy B. Fernandez is a writer living in Pensacola, Florida with her husband and two children. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in Technical Writing. She writes on topics such as business, education, creative arts, health, family life, parenting and natural foods. In addition she loves sharing humorous stories, poetry and essays about womanhood and motherhood. Her first children’s book, Kazoo Makes The Team, was just released. Visit her at www.writtenbymandy.com.