I love summer, but the long days and nights can be ruined by one frustrating on-going problem… the kids fighting. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s enough to make me want to flee the country and get a one way ticket to an unknown island in the tropics! White sand, turquoise waters.. a hammock and a cocktail!
Okay, sorry about that, back to reality. I’m a very practical person so I’m going to try to solve this problem in my own house, and if it works we will all be happier. If it doesn’t work I’ll see you at the airport!
Here is what we are working on:
- Living through your heart: I heard this phrase recently and I can’t remember where it was but it stuck with me. I’ve used it on the summer camps to explain to children how to make decisions based on the kind person that you are inside. Live through your heart – using love and kindness to guide you. I’m trying to teach my kids to respond to each other with kindness – kind words and actions. Even if someone is annoying you, upsetting you.. you can make the choice to do the right thing. To ask a question or explain your point of view without automatically using an aggressive, sarcastic or a harsh tone.
- Fairness: When children argue over ‘who started it’ – it drives me mad. I actually don’t care who started it I just want them both to end it! So take the ‘who started it’ out of the equation. You can’t be there to see and hear everything. So punish both kids for continuing on the argument or fight. I think its very important to be fair and not jump the gun and assume one child caused the problem – this can sometimes be a clever manipulation of the ‘good’ child. I’ve had children admit this to me in coaching sessions that they know how to get their siblings into trouble.
- How to end an argument: We work on this during our summer camps and the kids realize that they get into the same arguments over and over again, its a cycle, so how do we teach our kids to end an argument. There are a few options and it depends on the situation – we can just ignore the person and walk away (we teach them water off a duck’s back), we can speak up for ourselves and say: ‘Don’t speak to me like that’ or ‘Don’t do that to me’ or, we may take some other proactive action such as having a truce, deal or agreement about the topic of the argument (This has to be done at a calm time not in the middle of the argument). Another useful phrase to stop arguments is teach your kids the term ‘We have to agree to disagree’. Agree the rules of when the issue should be brought to the parents/adults attention – but more often than not, we need to help them to work it out themselves.
- Positive Enforcement: – I always use bribery with my kids, so we for the last few summers we’ve used a reward chart – they get ticks or happy faces on the days they show kindness to each other, and do chores (this can be as simple as getting dressed, making your breakfast and bushing your teeth). I give my kids pocket money at the end of the week (or accumulated at the end of summer) for things they really want depending on how many ticks or smiley faces they have – yes it can be costly but there is no price for peace and co-operation in a family- especially when you’re trying to get out in the morning, or to bed at night. I try to include some element of team work in some of the chores if things are going well.. for example get them to hang out washing together or clean up after dinner.
- Boredom and Tiredness: – Boredom can definitely lead to more arguments. It’s good for the kids to be kept busy with activities, days out, games and fun; but it’s also nice to have some down time and relaxation too. Try to strike the right balance. Tiredness in the summer can be a big part of the ‘fighting’ problem too – as it leads to irritability. It’s a vicious cycle – the nights are bright and its hard to get the kids to sleep and then we’re often up for camps or childminding arrangements. Seagulls along the coast are not helping the sleep deprivation of adults and children! (Blackout blinds are the best invention ever) My daughter Sienna, a bookworm, suggested that at 8 O’Clock we should ‘drop everything and read’. For a lot of children wind down is essential to a good sleep especially for those with an active mind.
- A Goal that you all agree on: The summer can be long so it’s good to have a goal – for yourself or the kids or both.This year we really wanted to go camping again – we hadn’t camped last summer due to the hectic summer camp schedule and we really missed it. This year we’ve been a couple of times already. What has this got to do with kids fighting? well here is the good news, if you haven’t tried it yet – the kids are generally very happy, playing outdoors, having fun and out of your hair. They fall into bed and sleep all night and they’re gone off playing before you can say ‘brush your teeth’! It’s magic. The kids have to do some of the work too – like help put the tent up and get their beds organised. They also have to pack their own bags and keep their bags with them – I’m trying to get away from doing everything myself and teaching them independence. Here are some other ideas for goals: painting the house (I had my 8 year old touch up /paint some walls recently she did a neater job than me), we also hung wallpaper together – it wasn’t easy but we did a good job, learning a new craft or sport, doing a 5k fun run. It all depends on the age of your kids and whats important to you. Most importantly have fun.
Caoimhe O’Grady Tegart : Child & Teen Life Coach
The Confidence Clinic : Empowering Children and Teens