Is there such a thing as conflict resolution when it comes to the arguments between children? My six-year-old loves to play tag, except when she has to be “it”. Therefore the whole point of the game can make her equal parts irritating and terrifying during backyard play dates. My son has been known to yell at his bike or scooter whenever he falls off of them while riding; he also directs a lot of blame at me or one of his sisters because we were on the same sidewalk and therefore contributed to the fall. I typically ignore irrational conflicts or just give flippant responses, because nothing I say or do is going to resolve them correctly. These minor disputes often do not lead to blood shed or endless tears, so I find sitting back is the best course of action.
Another entanglement that usually has me on the bench is when my younger kiddos bother my oldest while she is content and reading. A relentless peppering of questions often leads to her having to come out of her book coma and actually acknowledge her sister and brother. Sometimes she is friendly and calm when she explains that she is too busy reading and cannot play cops and robbers. Other times she speaks harshly and grunts in frustration. Both techniques make it clear that she would like to be left alone, and I often do not have to intervene.
Of course there are bigger issues and bigger arguments that do require some parental intervention, or at the very least, a mediator. My son is a three-year-old, with typical three-year-old problems. He cannot always keep up with the bigger kids; he does not understand the intricate rules of the role-playing games that get created by his big sisters; and he also has selective hearing when it comes to listening to others. My girls get frustrated with him and act out, and pretty soon things can go from sidewalk chalk rainbows of harmony to picnic table flipping moments of anger.
When I have to get involved, my conflict resolution techniques are time-outs and talking it out with all parties. I will be honest and also say that my knee jerk reaction is to yell and lecture. I cringe about the yelling, but unfortunately was not bestowed with the unique calming genetic that lets one’s patience go on forever (as is often found in preschool and kindergarten teachers…God Bless Them!).
If a sibling fight or neighborhood quarrel breaks out among my kiddos, I try to remove them from the situation swiftly. My older girls are at the age where missing out on the action (even if just for five minutes) and being called out for bad behavior gets their attention pretty quick. They may do an eye roll or huffy breath, but they also ultimately change their attitude and start playing nicer.
Toddlers are harder because they are less rational. My son will fight for his right to bicker, and he thinks he is correct in every single situation. Time-outs work sometimes for him, because he does not like to be left out of the fun. When he is being extremely ornery, my husband and I will up our discipline game and take away toys and/or privileges. My son’s most prized possessions have been known to get their very own 24-hour time-out on top of our refrigerator when he is being naughty. I have had many house guests visit and see the top of our fridge cluttered with stuffed animals, plastic toys, and my son’s favorite batman blanket. It is equal parts embarrassing and therapeutic for me as a parent to explain why the toys are there in the first place.
I am blessed with great kids. However, even great kids fight and in certain instances need parental help to resolve conflicts. I would almost be worried if they got along with everyone all of the time because then I would think they were too busy being followers rather than asserting themselves when necessary. Some days I intervene a lot and other times I go with the flow and hope they can work out their anger issues on their own and make peace without needing to be grounded.
It is hard to discipline the ones we love, but it is even harder to watch them be crazy hyenas all in the name of who gets to be first down the slide at the park. Therefore, conflict resolution via parenting is something that will always be a major bullet point on my resume.
How do you handle conflict when it comes to sibling fights? Let us know by leaving a comment or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org