I am raising very *cough* passionate children. With their vigor and excitement, they bring strong personalities. Now, I’m hoping the elders in my life are correct when they tell me these strong personalities will benefit them and society in the future, but for now it often makes me a referee. I’ve mentioned before that my kids fit into their birth order nicely. My oldest likes to control things, my middle is the comedian and connector, and my youngest is a strong-willed thirty-something, trapped in a six-year-old body, with a lot of power. When the three of them fall into their positions like synchronized swimmers, life is grand, birds chirp loudly, and we are all content. But, in the very likely case that he or she is going to assert some kind of unexpected dominance, the harmony and atmosphere of anyone within a two block radius will be disrupted.
Conflict in our household is plentiful, and nine times out of ten it is harmless and mostly pointless. The battles where I have had to intervene are nothing that I could predict in my pre-kiddo existence. When my middle was a toddler, he would scream cry if one of us would look out of “his” window in the car. When my daughter was two years old and couldn’t wear the outfit she wanted, she refused to speak to my husband the whole way to daycare. My oldest has always been able to antagonize his brother so easily and have him sounding off like a tornado siren for looking at him wrong. Now, let me clarify: my children are amazing humans. They are loving, intelligent, and compassionate, but this does not change the fact that I’ve had to give them “time outs” in public places, ground them for a couple of days, or take away the toy of the moment for being so passionate about life that they couldn’t compromise with each other.
When it comes to conflict resolution, I’m way better in the aftermath of the conflict. I really dislike raised voices, scream crying, and he said/she said complaints. My instinct is to yell at them and send them to their rooms so the noise stops. Since I’ve been in my thirties, I have tried to be more purposeful about my conflict resolution practices. Don’t get me wrong, I still have hiccups, but I find as my kids age we can all see eye-to-eye with some logic. I just wish we wouldn’t have so many emotions before that period of time.
Leave them to resolve conflicts on their own
Many experts believe that letting kids work out their own conflicts is good for them. When parents step back and let street justice take its course, many parents are surprised by what their children come up with as compromises. In the article, Five Steps to Help Kids Resolve Conflicts, Sunshine Parenting recommends to, “Empower children to brainstorm solutions to their conflict. It’s so tempting as an all-knowing adult to generate solutions, but something the kids think up and agree upon on their own will more likely work.” When this isn’t possible, I try to step in as a referee, and I know many of my neighborhood mom friends do the same. However, the more we model effective resolution strategies, the better our children will become at figuring out problems on their own.
Teach them how to talk it out
I read somewhere that if you blame others for things, or tell others that he or she did this or that, nothing good can come from that. It’s an aggressive way to resolve problems. However, if we teach our children to use “I” statements, they can’t really be negated by the opposing party. Statements like, “I felt bad when you took my doll.” or “I feel like you don’t respect my opinion when you scream ‘You’re wrong!’ at me.” In addition, I find it works to ask my kids what they were thinking when they performed the naughty act. If they have to verbalize it, then the parent and child can talk through what a better approach would be if the situation should occur next time.
Explain to them what their actions get them in life
I’m not sure if this one is sticking with my children, but when we are discussing their actions/reactions, I try to discuss how the same behavior may impact them when they are older. For example, if my son is upset that his friends aren’t playing by the rules of a game, so he yells at them and runs home to tell me all of the tragic details, I remind him that he has to find a way to communicate without yelling because no one will listen to him while he’s yelling as a grown-up. I try to set up the scene for him as his future 28-year-old self. We usually giggle about that same scenario playing out 18 years later, and things smooth over.
Conflict is inevitable. Our children feel all of their feelings all at once. Helping them decide the best approach to resolving their issues isn’t easy. Before kids, I never thought I’d have to referee each day; I never thought I’d have to work out who gets the cheetah stuffed animal and for how long; and I certainly never thought I’d have to tell my two-year-old that giving daddy the silent treatment because of a wardrobe disagreement is not appropriate, but here we are. These are practice events that we can use as teachable moments to help them communicate their way through adulthood.
What are the most hilarious conflicts in your household? We’d love to hear them!