Arguments and conflict are part of the territory of being in a family. The trick is finding healthy ways to manage family squabbles and differences of opinion. If kids can learn to do this in the home they are likely to cope with conflict in a far better way outside the home.
Whatever you do the kids are likely to copy – whether it is good or bad. So shouting, smacking and getting fired up is not the way forward when children are squabbling or fighting amongst themselves.
Showing emotional strength, self-discipline and consistency are much more powerful ways to manage conflict and family arguments whether it is between siblings or you with the children and will yield far better results.
The old adages lose your temper and you have lost the fight is a good motto to recount to yourself and teach your children.
It is easy to jump to the same conclusion whenever a family argument starts. Whether it is amongst siblings over toys, TV or some other miscellaneous issue. And quite often the culprit may always be the same one.
However listening to their and others point of view may take the heat out of situation and lead to a better understanding of any underlying issues which prompted the family argument in the first place.
It may also be an excellent idea to hold regular family meetings where you can also take the opportunity to discuss the family arguments when everyone is less upset.
Children are masters at seeking attention
It is important to remember that sometimes bad behaviour that causes an family argument is to seek attention. Perhaps you do need to make time to sit and read a story, or play a game with your child.
That does not mean you do not need to chastise them for their bad behaviour. It just means you need to think whether your child may need a little more mum or dad time. And remember some children need more attention than others.
Hard on the issue soft on the person
Be soft on the child and hard on the issue. Criticise the behaviour not the child. For example if your child has thrown his toys (or insert your own object here), screaming “you naughty boy” at the top of your voice is criticising him. You need to specifically tell him off for throwing his toys. If you want to use the word naughty you need to re-frame it into this being “very naughty behaviour”.
Think before you speak
Remember you have two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Listen first and think before you speak. Don’t say anything in anger that you do not mean or is hurtful. Remember words are very powerful.
Ignore bad behaviour – when appropriate
When a family argument has been prompted by a child’s bad behaviour then it might seem alarming to ignore bad behaviour. Of course this has to be in the context of keeping a child that is playing up safe. If they are climbing onto the work surfaces next to a hot kettle, of course you need to take action.
But most kids (and adults), really hate being ignored. And consistently, ignoring or not reacting, to unreasonable behaviour, the caveat being when it is safe and not disturbing others, can be very effective in combating negative attention seeking behaviour.
The trick is then to reward and praise them when they do behave and acknowledge that you are proud of them doing that. It will also help if you acknowledge they may have had to sacrifice something which they deem is important, for example leaving the park or a friends house before they want to.
Try a star chart
If children are intent on squabbling amongst themselves, why not use a star chart. Incentivise the children to sort out their differences by rewarding them with a gold star each morning, afternoon or day that they do not argue or fight.
Even older kids who you may think are far too old for star charts may respond to this. Especially if there is an incentive.