“I had it first!”
“No, I did!”
“You did not! Give it to me!”
What would you do at this point? Yell? Throw your hands up in despair? Crawl into your closet and not come out? I think for most of us, we would simply send all of the guilty parties to their rooms.
And, why not? It seems like a reasonable response to send bickering children to their rooms to cool down. Often when they come out, they are calmer and things are better. At least for a while. Until . . . “I had it first!” “No you didn’t!”
There certainly are a lot of benefits to sending arguing children to their rooms. Here are a few:
- Your blood pressure returns to normal.
- You can get back to what you were doing.
You feel better because you have “solved” the problem. But have you? You may have quickly righted your derailed train, but have you set your kids on the right track? Probably not. Here’s why:
- They have not learned any new skills.
- The scenario that caused the bickering will likely return with the same outcome next time.
- They learn that avoidance can “resolve” conflict.
- They are not in their rooms thinking about what they could do better next time.
What are your alternatives? Well, the alternatives are going to be more work and more disruptive for you. In parenting, you can pretty much be assured that if the solution is quick and easy, it is more likely for your benefit, not your kids. Here are some options you have to address these types of stale-mate arguments.
- Let it run its course. If you are the type that is quick to jump in, try waiting a few minutes. You may find that your children have more conflict resolution skills than you thought. They might just have a noisy way of doing it. However, if you hear that one child is bullying or dominating the other, you will need to step in. Verbal and physical abuse require a zero tolerance policy.
- Intervene. Walk to where they are and instruct them to do some jumping jacks or some other physical activity. They will probably wonder if you have lost your mind, but there is a reason behind the madness. Conflict creates physical tension. Tension can be released by yelling, hitting, or better yet, jumping jacks. You want your children to expel some of that tension before you go any further. Our S.T.A.L.L. program of conflict resolution is a great option to use at this point. It emphasizes showing love to others rather than uncovering any injustices.
- Separate them, but briefly. If their emotions are still running high, you may want to separate them for a specified period of time. Don’t forget about them! Your work is not done. Once re-united, you can follow the steps in the S.T.A.L.L. program to work through the conflict. Be sure to have them focus on what they could have done differently to prevent the incident from escalating. Simply allowing them to re-hash what happened will likely only re-ignite the smoldering ashes.
Children are going to bicker – no matter how consistent or clever you are. Setting realistic expectations will help you to keep it all in perspective. Focus on teaching them skills rather than elimination and you will see progress.
Photo credit: kakisky from morguefile.com