Kids Fighting - Why Kids Fight and How to Help Them Stop
Kids Fighting - does it seem like your kids are always arguing? Does their constant antagonism toward each other affect the sense of well-being in your home? If so, you're not alone. In this article, we'll explore why kids hit and argue and how to help them start to develop the emotional intelligence skills that will help them make better choices and eventually, learn to resolve conflicts on their own.
Why Children Fight
- They're bored
- They have pent up energy that needs to be released
- To establish the pecking order
- To gain a feeling of power when feeling powerless
- To rectify a perceived injustice
- To make contact with a sibling
- To get attention from their parents
Kids fight. It's part of growing up. Knowing when to let them work it out on their own and when to intervene is the dilemma faced by every parent. If you are skillful, you can use kids fighting as an opportunity to help children learn to resolve conflicts skillfully, expressing needs and feelings and using carefully chosen words, rather than fists or cutting tongues.
Kids Fighting - Strategies for Parents
- When you hear your kids fighting, STOP and take a moment for yourself. Inhale and exhale slowly and consciously. Acknowledge your annoyance or exasperation, then make the choice to rise above it. Look at the big picture. This may be the chance to teach your child conflict resolution skills or if it's just a little squabble, let them discover that they can work things out on their own (provided no one is getting hurt emotionally or physically.)
- Recurring fights. If your kids have demonstrated that they can't resolve a problem, it's time to step in and help. Act as a guide, rather than a director, so children will learn the process of resolving a conflict. Rather than taking sides, be a facilitator and help each child understand the other's point of view.
For instance, here's a common scenario: in a family with two kids, the younger child often acts as an antagonist to the older child, even when the older child has made numerous requests for him to stop. Although the younger child may be trying to get his older brother's attention, he is doing so at the expense of the older child's peace of mind. Eventually, the older child gets frustrated and resorts to hitting, pushing and/or restraining his younger sibling.
If you let this situation escalate, the younger child will develop an identity as a pest and the older child will withdraw or become increasingly more violent in an effort to put an end to the harassment.
Although most mothers rush to the younger child's defense because that child is usually more vulnerable, realize that sometimes the younger child is the source of the problem.
Kids Fighting Call to Action
Let me give you an example of how to resolve a situation, in particular, the one I described above. First, call a family meeting. Start by saying, "We have a situation in our family that isn't working and I believe that together, we can find smart ways to resolve it. Ask each child to explain his feelings about the situation. Use the feelings expressed to help identify each child's deeper need, which the child doesn't have the means or development of consciousness to convey in a positive manner.
For instance, the younger child may crave attention and connection with the older sibling, but doesn't know how to get it in a positive way, so he resorts to bugging him. Since the older child is tired of his brother's ploys for negative attention, he shuts down when he sees his brother approach and immediately feels the need to have some space. Guide each child to explain how he feels about the situation in understandable terms, so they can begin to humanize the other and see that all this fighting may be more about their inability to express their needs. Then explain to your children that when there are conflicting needs, each person needs to give a little in order to satisfy the needs of both.
Ask your youngest child how he can express his need to be with his older brother in a positive way. Listen to his ideas. For instance, he could say, "I need some time with you. Would you play catch with me?" Ask the older child how this approach feels to him and if it would help him let go of his resistance with regard to the way his little brother has approached him in the past. Listen to what he says. If his response is positive, go through the same process with the older child. If not, work with your children, until the older child lets go of his resistance, even if it's just a little bit.
Now ask the older child how he can express his need for privacy and boundaries without alienating his younger brother. Listen to what he says. Ask the younger child how he would feel if he were responded to in such a way. For instance the older child can say, "I'll play catch with you for twenty minutes, but then I need some time alone."
Often, kids fighting physically reveals a deep need to connect. When I find my boys on the floor, wrestling each other, I chuckle and ask, "How about giving each other a hug instead?" They laugh back because even though they know I'm right, in the boy world, it's more acceptable to wrestle than to give hugs.
Although wrestling can turn into a fight, recognize wrestling for what it is and let your children engage in it because it could be serving a need for connection.
I hope this article will help to decrease fighting in your home and help everyone learn how to communicate their needs more effectively.
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Stop Kids Fighting Resources
In my book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting, I dedicate an entire chapter to conflict resolution and teach parents how to use the native "talking stick" to help children resolve problems, come to a consensus of opinion and develop diplomacy skills.
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Kids Fighting - Parenting
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