When we see kittens nip, bite and roll on top of each other it’s cute and natural. We don’t worry about it often saying “oh, that’s just what kittens do”. But when it’s my kids quarreling nipping, biting and rolling on top of each other, that cute natural reaction is not what comes to mind. Ok, well my daughters don’t nip or bite, although my three-year old will make snapping motions with her mouth at her 5-year-old sister just to get a reaction, but they do roll over each other and they do bicker, scream and quarrel. It is far from cute!! But unfortunately it is just as normal 🙂
I hear the quarreling start and I want to jump in, be the referee, make it a teachable moment, but… what I need to do is see it for what it is. They are trying to establish their relationship boundaries, grow socially and quite possibly are vying for my attention. Positive Discipline for Preschoolers (by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D, Cheryl Erwin, M.A and Roslyn Ann Duffy) offers these three possible solutions for when children argue.
- Beat it: Leave the area. Your children may stop if they don’t have an audience or they may follow you. Go into a room such as a bathroom and lock the door. (See my post The Bathroom, My Mommy Sanctuary)
- Bear it: This one is hard because you stay in the same room but don’t say anything. don’t try to fix it. Don’t referee, don’t try to fix it. Let it go out on its own.
- End the bout or boot ’em out: If it’s too intense or you are worried someone may get hurt you can sent both children to cool off or go outside. Or they can end the bout. An option that is available at any time!
They do offer one other option: A Big hug! Yes, just go up to both arguing children wrap your arms around them and squeeze. A reward for fighting? Nope, just they may be wanting your attention so fighting is how they seem to get it. Instead of giving them the ‘don’t argue talk’, hug them and say something to the effect of “You may both want my attention, next time use your words to me instead of hurting each other”. Don’t be a judge or a jury worrying about who started it. Just let them know that hurting anyone is not ok.
We are also big on apologizing in a meaningful way. See A 4 Step Apology to see our favorite way to do this 🙂
Offer children a cool-off spot where they can take a break. When they are ready is the time to talk about feelings, trying to identify them, giving feelings a name (angry, frustrated, sad, jealous…etc.) and discuss positive solutions for next time. When we leap in, rescue, blame or lose our own tempers we are not helping. (But these are easy to do!! I am guilty of all at one point or another).
*If kids are hitting or pulling hair they should be separated and told that it’s not okay to hurt anyone. After the cool off/calm down time then a discussion about other ways to act when they feel frustrated or angry should be initiated. *
Here are some ways for a child to work out their frustration or anger.
- Go lay down. Breathe deep calming breaths. Count to 10.
- Go to your room and scream into a pillow.
- Talk it out.
- Get creative. Draw or paint about their feelings.
- Get active. Run around outside or do jumping jacks.
- Do a quiet independent activity like a puzzle or reading.
Teaching our children about emotions and how to express their feelings is a huge job. It’s hard especially when their feelings seem to react with ours so often. Reading about feelings/emotions is a great way to do this. Here is a list of some we have at home:
- Everybody Feels Sad, by Jane Bingham
- When I Feel Angry, by Cornelia Maude Spelman
- The Feel Good Book, by Todd Parr
- Happy Hippo, Angry Duck a book of moods, by Sandra Boynton
It is hard to remember that these sweet little beings who can so quickly turn into screaming little monsters need us to teach them positive ways to deal with their feelings without rescuing them. Just like most things it takes time, repitition and diligence. A plan and a set of skills to draw from. These are just a few that work for us.
What books and tips have you found to help ease the quarreling between children and teach emotional intelligence?