Everybody has conflicts, even kids. Teach how to resolve conflicts instead of just mindlessly interfering in children's fights.
People have conflicts. We rub each other the wrong way, pass hurtful remarks, and don’t always agree with each other. And you know what? Kids do too.
They face disagreements, feel wronged, and want reaffirmation. But, they don’t always know how to go about it. Notice the way your child sometimes looks at you when another kid hits her? She’s looking and waiting for the appropriate action to do. At that young age, they don’t always possess the right language to handle conflict or disagreements.
Some children attempt to justify things, others rationalise it away, some turn inward, and others lash out in anger. While such occurrence can understandably be unnerving for us parents, it’s timely to note that unlike them, we have the language for a resolution.
There is a way to handle conflicts amicably. And though unnerving, we need to recognise that sometimes shouting and kicking and lashing out is their way of discovering that language for themselves. Our job is merely to nudge them in the right direction.
So should you intervene in fights?
There are moments when your child meets a fight he can’t resolve. Even more, he appears to be bullied into accepting the short end of the stick. If this happens, it’s important to step in, as you want to discourage any instance of familial bullying as much as possible. This sort of trauma and bottled-up emotions could yield more serious effects down the line.
But don’t merely turn the attention to you. Guide them in bringing to light all sides so each party can learn to see and understand where the other is coming from. The place of empathy is what you’re aiming for.
There are moments where sitting back and playing the observer is a more appropriate move. Most children have proven to be able to resolve conflicts and fights if given enough space and time to do so.
Stepping into the fray turns the attention unnecessarily to you. By assuming the role of a judge or mediator, they will constantly be looking to you to pass the judgment and punishment. The focus on learning and discovering how to resolve that difference on their own is lost.
Worse still, if children are unwillingly forced to stop the fight without proper resolution of the underlying issues, it may brew deep-seated resentment that fuels future outbursts and conflicts.
What should you do then?
First, recognise that conflicts are actually a good thing for your children. It teaches them to work things out with other people and acquaints them with fairness, cooperation, empathy, and communication.
Studies have shown that keeping a level head when your children are arguing is crucial. When their emotions are in turmoil, they need the knowledge that there remains a safe haven they can turn to.. Be that haven. When they start to see that you can remain calm despite the noise and screaming, they’ll slowly learn to imitate your behaviour.
Don't worry about who started the fight
Abstain from playing judge here; that is not your goal. Instead, treat each child in the same exact manner. Do not allow either one to use your response to guilt trip or gain an upper hand over the other. Neutrality will make them see that arguing about who’s right or wrong is not what they should be focusing on.
Teach them how to negotiate
Share how each one felt. Listen to the other. Share. Listen again. Help them come to a place to share their feelings openly with each other and then empathise when the other is sharing. It won’t be easy at first. You’ll likely get a lot of “but he did that first” blame comments. Don’t let it faze you. If you hold your ground and keep to share and listen, they’ll eventually learn the pattern and start following you.
Separate them if argument is too heated
It’s very possible that some conflicts can get really heated, rendering an immediate sit down almost impossible. In those instances, give them both time to cool off separately. In those times, speak to each separately and hear them out. Chiding them is not the goal here, but helping them open up to their emotions is key. It can take minutes, even hours. Give them the time, but keep the discussion open.
Bring them back together to listen
When they appear more open to each other, have them sit down together. Then go through the negotiation technique again. Some kids may grow impatient and want to instantly write off the conflict and go off playing with each other or elsewhere. Don’t let that happen. It does little for them to write off a conflict before reaching proper a resolution and communicating how they felt. Stay with them, and then guide them to share their feelings about the conflict that transpired.
All children fight. Those who claim they never do should worry you. The good news is that there can be a proper way to work it out. With your help, your child will learn to pick up the appropriate language and skills needed. Over time, you may even start to see them talk and work out their own conflicts themselves.
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