If you constantly hear cries of “she took my toy” and “he pulled my hair” from your children, don’t fret. Disagreements are bound to occur; however, you can teach your children conflict-resolution strategies to avoid constant bickering. “Parents and other adults need to teach children how to get what they need and want responsibly and respectfully without interfering with other people’s ability to get what they need and want,” says Nancy Buck, Denver-based psychologist and author of “Peaceful Parenting.” Help your child discover his wants and needs while appreciating the wants and needs of others, to avoid future arguments.
That coveted toy your toddler wants from his friend is often the culprit in your child’s mind. He wants it and thinks he needs it; therefore, when he takes it, he doesn't think it's his fault. “From the child’s perspective, his behavior is never his problem,” says Buck. “His problem is that there's something that he needs and wants and doesn’t know how else to get it without arguing, fighting and grabbing.” Teaching your child that he's responsible for his behavior is the first step in eliminating arguments. Show him that when he misbehaves, he is to blame – not the toy or his friend.
Even though, as a parent, you wish you could magically rid your home of arguments between your children, one magical question could minimize the disagreements. According to Buck, a parent can ask each child, “What do you want that you are trying to get by arguing?” Once the children figure out what they want or need, you can offer suggestions to compromise. Buck suggests saying something like this: “We need to figure out a way for you each to get what you want without hurting each other or the object you're arguing over. Do you have any ideas how?”
Avoiding Vague Questions
In the heat of the moment, your children may not even know what they are arguing about. It’s very important not to ask, “Why are you two arguing?” says Buck. “The universal answers from all children to this question is the same. Children say ‘I don’t know’ while shrugging their shoulders or ‘It’s his fault,’” says Buck. Instead, focus on how your children are reacting and responding. Push the blame game to the side and reiterate what type of behavior is acceptable and what isn't.
Especially when your children are young, they look to you to solve each and every problem they have. When your child is old enough to argue, she is old enough to begin resolving her conflicts. “It’s very important that the adult not solve the problem for the children,” says Buck. “Instead, the adult needs to teach children how to resolve their own conflicts by working together.” Encourage your children to take turns expressing their feelings and concerns in a calm manner. Establish rules and guidelines for acceptable ways to speak to each other and let them begin resolving their own conflicts. Not only will they gain more understanding of each other, your children will also build confidence in their abilities to act responsibly.