The kids are having fun together, laughing and playing. And then, just like that, they are not. Crying and yelling ensues with tattling soon to follow. How these situations are handled can determine how often they occur. Really.
Children often escalate a situation in order for a parent to get involved. One child blames, the other counters or denies, and you are left being the judge and the jury. We only “see” the end results. We don’t know all the subtle nuances of what led up to the final blowup: who nudged, bumped, teased, took, wrecked, interfered etc. There is a “starter” and a “finisher” to most situations and usually, that is not the same child. The finisher typically gets in trouble for retaliating leaving him/her angry and then the other child is left feeling smug and satisfied thereby reinforced for “starting”.
So what do you do?
When that yelling starts:
- Listen. Do this calmly in voice and body language. Be still and quiet until all are still and quiet.
- Allow each child to speak without interruption or no one to speak at all.
- “I hear you.” “How are you planning to solve this problem?” “What do you think we should do?”
**You might be surprised at the results.
- If they are unable to give an appropriate plan or continue to argue, calmly, yes calmly, act. Remove whatever they were arguing about: a toy, the TV, book, electronics, etc.: no one gets it.
Stop the activity even if it was fun. Head home. Calmly.
- Unless you are truly afraid that one will harm the other, have them take a time out together.
- Again calm. “Head into my bedroom and you can come out when you are both calm and have a plan to get along.” “Sit here on this bench until you are ready to let me know your plan.”
***Having a shared punishment bonds them together rather than being mad at each other, though they may be mad at you. Together. No problem!
Over time, they will learn that getting you involved doesn’t work out well for anyone. They will learn to figure things out so they can both win. No more judge or jury. Everyone wins!