“I had it first… it’s mine!”
“I want the green one… you can have the blue one.”
“No the green one is bigger… you always get the biggest one.”
“You always get your way… it’s my turn to go first.”
Sound familiar? Last night I was teaching a parent class at a local elementary school and after the class a father came up to me and asked me what to do about his kids arguing. He says that his kids just pick on each other all the time and it really gets on his wife’s nerves. I totally sympathize. After all, I can remember when my daughters were younger and I just wanted everyone to get along! Why do kids have to argue all the time?
Here are my suggestions for solving those annoying arguments that get on your last nerve…
- Check your emotions and look at the situation objectively: Kids provide enough drama for any argument, make sure that you aren’t adding to it. I know it’s difficult because kids seem to fuss and argue when they are tired and irritable which is probably the same time that you are tired and irritable. However, if you can remain calm and objective it will greatly help the overall situation. Adding your own emotions into the mix will only cause things to escalate.
- Change your perspective-instead of seeing arguments as something to be avoided, re-frame them as an opportunity for learning and teaching. I used to tell my kids when they argued that I was glad to see that they were learning how to get along with difficult people because it sure would come in handy when they got to be adults. I know it sounds crazy, but it is true. Disagreements with siblings are great training grounds for how to handle disagreements later in life with adults.
- Use the opportunity to teach children how to solve problems, not avoid them– When we tell kids to knock it off, stop fussing or else, separate and go to your room until you can get along and any one of a number of other ultimatums, we might be eliminating the problem for the moment but are we really teaching kids what to do when they disagree with someone? Do those options work well for you as an adult when you have a disagreement with a co-worker or spouse? Instead help kids determine exactly what the problem is and then identify the options that they have for solving it. For example: You both want the green one and there is only one green one. You could:
- Take turns, I get the green one now while you get it at another specified time
- Use chance to determine who gets it; roll the dice, pick a number between 1-10 etc.
- Use some outside factor to decide: I get the green one because I’m older, I earned it by doing extra chores, it matches my eyes, I get to decide on even days and you get to pick on odd days.
- You get the idea…
- Encourage a dialogue- Help kids learn to talk to each other in ways that identifies the problem and works on solving it rather than name calling, blaming or relying on adults to solve disagreements-
- “Sally what do you need to say to George that could make the situation better?”
- “George what can you say or do that would show that you are trying to solve the problem?
- Establish a system for problem solving- Remind kids what they did the last time that solved a similar problem. Focus on solutions not problems.
- “Suzy, I remember last week you had a disagreement over who got to go first. Do you remember how you solved that problem? Would that work this time?”
Keep in mind that even negative situations are opportunities for all of us to grow and learn. When you approach disagreements as something that can be resolved rather than something that needs to be eliminated, you will find that children will take on a similar perspective. While arguments may not disappear, children will instead have the tools necessary to resolve conflicts. This is a lesson that will serve them well through out their lives.
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation
Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.