It drives me crazy when my kids fight. I’ve struggled with this one for a long time, and I’ve written about it before, but I’ve never really felt as though there was significant improvement in this area.
I’m tired of being told, “Kids just fight.”
I’m also tired of hearing that “Kids should work out their own problems.”
I can’t live with all the fighting, and I can’t just leave them alone to work things out. Maybe that works for some people, but with an age difference of five and a half years between our girls, “working things out” generally goes the same way each time: Anika talks circles around Kaylia, using manipulation and vocabulary far beyond what Kaylia knows how to deal with, Kaylia gets so mad and frustrated she ends up biting Anika or pulling her hair, and then there’s lots of screaming and tattling, and me losing my sanity well before it’s even lunch time.
I refuse to believe this is what I have to accept as “normal”.
A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a very wonderful, wise lady whose children are all grown up and awesome. She gave me some advise that has completely changed the way I think about fighting between siblings, the role of a parent, and what we need to accept as normal.
She said that when her kids were small, she never listened to music – she just listened to her children. All day long, she always kept an ear open to what was going on.
She claimed that a mom can always tell when things are starting to go in a bad direction, and she said the very best way to deal with fighting is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.
Brilliant, right?! Prevention is always best! It reminds me of how we can get so focused on healing a sickness, when really, it’s much easier to stay healthy than trying to get back your health once you’ve lost it! But it requires staying on top of things, and being very vigilant and intentional.
So, how do you prevent fighting? This wise mom said her mom had always used distraction.
Announce that it’s time for everybody to go outside for 15 minutes.
Set the timer for three minutes, and see how much everybody can clean up before the time is up.
Play a game.
Do anything to change the atmosphere, and get the situation going in a completely different direction.
I asked her if her kids ever resisted her suggestions, because they wanted to keep doing whatever they were in the middle of. She said no, because by the time things were heading towards a fight, no one was having fun anymore, and they were ready for a change. She also said her children had absolutely no idea how often she had used distraction to prevent a fight.
At first I thought, “Isn’t that cheating?! Don’t I need to let them pick fights so they will learn how to resolve them??”
But then I realized there are lots of things we do to prevent bad moods and behaviour. How much we sleep, what we eat, how much down-time we get, etc, all contribute to our moods and our ability to interact with others in a positive way. As my massage therapist would say, these are all “tools in our tool belt”!
I’m sure there will still be plenty of opportunities to help my girls learn how to positively work through conflict (I wrote about some of our techniques in this post), but I’m completely fascinated with the challenge of redirecting and distracting as we pursue peace and harmony.
I haven’t been trying this technique for very long, but it’s been working beautifully, so far. The wise mom is right – I can always tell when it’s time to shake things up. I’m spending more time being aware of what’s going on in our home, and thinking more intentionally about how to guide and direct my girls.
Keeping kids busy keeps them out of trouble. And when we see trouble coming, it makes sense to steer clear of it!
Any ideas you use for distraction?!