How Should I Handle My Children When They Fight With Each Other?
I get so exhausted dealing with my kids fighting all the time! What can I do?
Mommy Zen Says: A certain amount of competition and irritations are normal among kids. However, it’s important to teach children certain life skills such as respect, working through emotions in a productive manner, and healthy conflict resolution.
What better place to teach these skills than in the home, where the tests are the greatest; and so are the rewards?
Here are a few tips that may help you:
(1) Teach your children that there are no unacceptable feelings … just unacceptable behaviors
Teach your kids that there are no unacceptable feelings, just unacceptable behaviors. When their arguments start to escalate, show them some physical ways that they can safely release their feelings of anger, frustration, etc. For example:
- They can run to release their feelings,
- They can draw pictures,
- They can jump on a trampoline,
- They can write about their feelings,
- They can scream into a pillow or pound a pillow.
Children, like adults, need to learn to identify what they are feeling and then communicate their feelings appropriately. So, do not shut them down but offer them acceptable alternatives for expressing their feelings.
(2) Help your children talk it out
After your children have calmed down, encourage them to look at their siblings, face to face and apologize and talk it out if necessary. You can model good eye contact. It is very validating.
Help them identify the problem. “Davey won’t share his water pistol with me.” Then help them talk through a solution. Help them put words to it. “Susan wants to play with the water pistol; Davey’s playing with it now. Davey, when will you be through playing with your water pistol so Susan can have a turn? Susan what can you do in the meantime til he’s finished?”
Make the absolute rules and consequences very clear. (For example, physical violence is never acceptable of allowed.) Not too many rules, but rules that really count and which, if broken, will trigger real and unpleasant consequences and enforcement on your part.
Offer positive experiences as a reward if they get through the rest of the day without screaming at each other, such as a family bike ride, a trip to the park, or an outing for ice cream to encourage positive family experiences as something to anticipate with joy.
(3) Model healthy behavior
Make sure you are modeling these healthy behaviors yourself, so you are practicing what you preach, because all in all more behavior is caught than taught.
And of course, just breathe.
Marianne Clyde is a licensed marriage and family therapist, specializing in anxiety, depression, relationship issues and eating disorders. Happily married with a combined family of 8 children and 10 grandchildren, her office is located at 20 Ashby Street in Warrenton, Virginia. For more information, visit: MarianneClyde.com or call 540-347-3797.