- Create physical space. The best approach for immediate results from the physical fighting and or the dreaded “She’s looking at me!” complaint. Just like sending boxers to opposite corners, separating your fighters gives you some time to sort out what set things off and how to put an end to the conflict.
- Teach them how to compromise. Compromise is something we all need to learn, and still often struggle with as adults (e.g., our politicians in both Springfield and Washington, D.C.). It’s easy for someone to know what they want, but much harder, especially for children, to understand what someone else wants. Help your children see the conflict from the other’s point of view and how both of them giving up some of what they want to the other makes life run smoother for everyone.
- Emphasize turn-taking. Waiting for your turn to do something is a critical skill for a child to develop, and when a conflict arises, taking turns can be a solution. Put the kitchen timer to use if necessary to help keep track of how long each turn lasts. If the conflict is over a video game (“But, Mom, I can’t stop right now!”), consider allowing a five minute grace period enforced by the timer to wrap things up. Just don’t let it become a snooze button that’s hit over and over. If taking turns continues to be a struggle for your children, consider playing some board games together as a family to help reinforce the idea.
- Learn to live with “No Fair.” Kids have very sensitive injustice detectors, and part of growing up is learning that sometimes life is just not fair. These are the times to sit down with our child, let them vent, and empathize with their plight. Let them know how hard it is to accept something that seems unfair to them. Consider sharing one of your experiences when you were upset at life being unfair, and how you moved past your disappointment. Let them know that they are not alone in the way that they are feeling.
Be sure to check out the iMom article to see how one family implements these four ideas.