Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Real Answer to "My Kids Are Hitting Each Other"

To Anonymous Mom, Chandler AZ ...

When our children are fighting, it affects us as well as it does them - perhaps moreso.  However, the most important thing we can do is allow them to settle disputes between themselves, without intervening or being pulled in to referee.  Yes, we are the parents, and it's our job to keep our children safe.  However, if you have a child that is an instigator trying to bait a sibling for a fight, the instigator needs to learn there are consequences to "pushing someone's buttons."  That's real life!  Here are some guidelines:

1)  Intervene if life or limb are in danger; no bloodshed allowed.  Otherwise, your children should understand that you expect them to resolve it themselves.  Of course, the ages of the kids should be considered.  Kids in the early childhood years are still learning what is and isn't appropriate.  Using the "Uh Oh Song" and strategic time- outs should be helpful at this stage once you are certain your child knows what he or she is doing or has done.  As kids get older, they need to understand that even when one adult hits another, there is a consequence (legal, physical, or both). 

As for tattling ... When there's a dispute, and one child come to you to tattle on the other, you can ask "Why are you telling me?" or "What do you think should happen because you told me?"  This is a good opportunity to help a child learn to take responsibility for his or her own actions by asking questions that promote discussion about the tattler's behavior instead of the sibling's. 

If you see them fighting (verbally or otherwise), you can say (calmly), "Please settle this somewhere else where I don't have to see it or hear it."  Of course, you're going to keep your ears tuned to make sure no one gets seriously hurt.  But remember, no one hits or provokes without expecting a response; even a kid.  This is not promoting violence.  We shouldn't hit one another.  However, some of us don't learn that lesson until we hit the wrong person.

2)  If your children are fighting, they may need help identifying their feelings.  This is your opportunity to teach and train.  Teach them how to identify feelings, and then they can learn different ways to handle those feelings. 

3) Always use "I- or Me-Messages."  When our children learn from our example of how to take care of themselves, there is less resentment towards us because we are ordering them around less.  It's difficult for them to process our intervention when we say, "It's for your own good," when they had their own ideas about how they wanted to react.  You can say, "Fights make me antsy," or "Hey guys, this stuff makes my eyeballs ache, "  or "Fighting hassles my eardrums."  Whenever you can inject some dry humor, do so as you're not being sarcastic.

4) Try making a contract that the family agrees to, with consequences for those who break the agreement.  Contractual agreements exist in the real world, and when adults are in breach of a contract, there are consequences.  This is the point where restitution applies.  The agreement can simply state that fighting drains evergy out of the family.  When someone drains energy by fighting, there are specific chores (list them somewhere) to put energy back into the family.  These chores should be challenging and benefit the family, like scrubbing walls, organizing the garage, cleaning the grout in the kitchen ... you get the point.  After a couple of instances where a child had to "put energy back into the family" all a parent might have to say is, "Kylie, I feel an energy drain coming," and Kylie will adjust her behavior immediately.  Does that count as a warning (Love and Logic parents don't warn or threaten)?  Not really, because sometimes when we're wrapped up in our own thoughts and actions, we're unaware of how we're affecting others.  This statement is simply meant to draw the kid's attention to the fact they don't live in a vacuum.  Yelling "Stop fighting!" rarely, if ever, works.

Thanks for asking.

Ruth, Keeping It Real

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I never thought of having a contract with my kids. Good idea. Thanks