Happy New Year,
One of my most popular workshop titles has always been “Stop It, You Two!” Kids squabbling and quarreling drives us all nuts and after having them on holidays it seems it never ends. So to start the new year let’s take a look and why kids fight and what we can do about it.
Stop It, You Two!
Ever wonder why your children fight?
The most common question parents ask me about their children bickering, quarreling and fighting is, “Why can’t they get along?”
When children are quarreling we pull out all the tricks. There is the negotiator, the parent who tries to help the children reach a consensus through reasoned problem-solving. This approach creates real difficulties when the presenting problem is “Make her stop looking at me!”
There is the judicial approach; “Who started it?”. Many parents have gone gray trying to peel through the many layers of who did what to whom first. Of course, we all have times when we bribe, threaten and just plain yell.
Children are rarely fighting about the toy, the seat in the car or the television program. They are fighting because it gets our attention. Boy, does it get our attention. Whether we try to negotiate over the yelling and mindless roadblocks they put in our way or become the judge, jury, and executioner,; we often become quite unreasonable and our faces turn red and eyes bulge. We’re the best show in town.
We know that children’s fighting is for our attention because they invite us to join them They holler; “Mom, make her stop…….”. If they didn’t want us to interfere they certainly wouldn’t invite us to the fight. Then there are the fights that follow us. We’ve all spent a Saturday afternoon with unremitting squabbling going on at our ankles. No matter where we go, the fight is with us. Slightly older children call out provocative statements designed to bring us running; “Wait ’til Mom sees what you’ve done with her briefcase.”
Children’s arguments are most often silly and mindless but they do cause us to react. Ignoring their fighting is not the answer. For all of their lives to this point we’ve come running and they have a right to expect us to continue to do so. The trick is to wean them off our involvement. Do join them but refuse to get involved. Don’t negotiate, investigate or yell. For example, your children are fighting over a toy. In the past you may have tried to figure out who had the toy first, who owned the toy, offered many rejected suggestions on how they could share or simply thrown up your hands in exasperation. Now, you can ask them to hand you the toy, let them know that when they figure out a solution they can have it back and even offer to have them come with you and help cook dinner. Done calmly, this defuses the fight.
If you get involved in the “Who had the toy first?” investigation the children will have a wonderful time arguing over who had it first, who owns it, who promised they could have it after ten minutes (and it’s been at least an hour!!). What you want to do is remove the source of the conflict, by offering choices, stay calm and demonstrate your trust in their ability to cope.
At a later time you may wish to negotiate some rules and expectations about ongoing disputes, but not at the time of the fight. Often you’re rushed and their emotions are running high. After dinner, when everyone is still at the table and feeling calm you can start the conversation about toys, about sharing, taking turns. Listen to the children who may have some interesting and unique solutions that will work for them.
Often, you may find they have no interest in the discussion, proving that the argument had nothing to do with toys, and everything to do with getting your attention and watching you try to investigate, yell, or turn purple.
As you continue to demonstrate to your children that their fights are not going to cause you to react in strange and interesting ways, their fighting will reduce.
Vive la Différence
One thing we learn about kids is that every child is unique and different. My mini guide e-book , Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments addresses some of the temperaments we see in our kids.
I look at my two children who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a textbook example of different. Now I have three grandchildren, all the same age and the differences from their births has been striking.
The result is the e-parenting mini guide, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments. The guide is available on my website.
How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?
I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.
And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.