I’m sure this never happens in your house but in mine, it can be common enough.
- Kid 1 walks into the playroom where Kid 2 has been playing peacefully for 20 minutes. She kicks over the toys that were being played with and walks out and it feels like World War 3 has just broken out.
- The girls have been playing nicely taking turns with their favourite toy or sharing it. Then suddenly I hear screams, I rush to see what the problem is and they are both grabbing the same toy and pulling, claiming ‘You had it for longer than me’ ‘It’s my turn’.
In the past, I would have joined in the fight. My voice trying to be louder and heard over the other two screaming children. In the first scenario, I’d be cross with Kid 1 and trying hold back Kid 2 from physically hurting her sister or trying to wreck something Kid 1 loved, as revenge. In the second scenario, I’d be trying to figure out whose turn it actually was and who had the toy for longer. This usually failed and I’d remove the toy and neither would be able to enjoy it for the rest of the day. After dealing with several of these a day, I’d feel deflated by their bedtime.
Recently, I’ve become aware that the problem isn’t actually the problem and I’m trying to fix a problem that isn’t the root one. If I can get to the root and deal with it, I can teach my children skills that they can use to solve fights when I’m not around.
So, for example in the first scenario, I’d enter the room and see the following problems:
- a game with pieces all mixed up/a colouring page with a scribble on it/a lego tower knocked over
- a very cross kid who wants revenge.
My solution would have been:
- try to put all the pieces of the game back where they were/rub out the unwanted scribble/rebuild the tower
- at the same time, tell Kid 2 to stop shouting/attacking Kid 1
- and at the same time, give out to Kid 1, try and make her apologise (even though she wouldn’t mean it, which would make Kid 2 even angrier) and help with the fixing of the toys/game (which would anger Kid 2 even more as she didn’t want Kid 1 anywhere near her precious toy)
This rarely worked.
If I looked at the root of the problem it would be:
- Kid 1 was jealous that Kid 2 had found something to enjoy without her.
Now when I approach the argument/fight, I don’t ask Kid 1, ‘Why did you do that?’ because, at the moment, she is too young to fully know and usually answers ‘Because I wanted to’ or ‘I don’t know’. Instead, I name the root by saying something like, ‘I understand that you were jealous that your sister was having fun without out’. Usually, her automatic response is to deny it, however, within seconds she will realise it is the truth and then we can take it from there and look at ways to resolve the jealousy like:
- Seeing if Kid 2 will include her in what she was playing.
- Pointing out that she has nothing to be jealous of, as she can have fun without her sister and that game. They have so many other toys/games to play with, they don’t need to be jealous over one. My parents would have used the term ‘Count your blessings’. This means taking the focus off what you are jealous of and consider all you have instead
- Pointing out the root usually humbles Kid 1, which in turn causes Kid 2 to be a bit more understanding towards Kid 1.
- When Kid 1 does apologise, they aren’t just apologising for their action but for the reason they did it and the apology is usually received.
I have found that dealing with the root of the problem and not just what is obvious from first glance is much more satisfying as a parent and I feel less deflated by the end of the day.
Now, to try and figure out how to practice this in my marriage! LOL.