"When your son and daughter are fighting with
each other, you want them to learn to resolve their differences
successfully, but you may have never learned to successfully work
through conflicts yourself. Before you can teach your kids to listen,
identify the problem, express their feelings, generate solutions, and
find common ground, you have to learn those problem-solving skills
yourself"- Laura Davis & Janis Keyser
Should you intervene in a sibling fight? If they're working it out well themselves, No. And often, children do. They're endlessly creative. Conflict is actually good for them, because it teaches them how to work things out with other people. As Pamela Dugdale says, “Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.”
So remind yourself that a certain amount sibling squabbling is not only normal, but necessary. If "peace" depends on kids being forced to swallow their needs to accommodate siblings on a regular basis, it isn't good for either of them. Your children need to develop their voices, learn how to express their needs, try out strategies to meet their goals.
But they also need to learn to listen to each other, empathize, and regulate their anger rather than dumping on others. While our modeling helps with these skills, most kids need some targeted coaching to use them, at least when emotions are running hot. READ POST
"Dr. Laura....In your last post, you warned
parents against fighting in front of our kids. But as you always say,
we're not perfect, we're human! What are we supposed to do when we
disagree? And isn't it good for kids to see parents work out
disagreements, and make up? And isn't okay if spouses don't always agree
-- we can still love each other."
Yes, Yes, Yes! The nature of human relationships is that we will disagree. It's wonderful for children to see their parents model how to work out disagreements. It's important for them to know that we don't always agree, but we always love each other. And it's critical for kids to see us make up.
That doesn't mean it's okay to yell at each other in front of our kids. The research shows that a disagreement followed by working things through and making up can teach kids valuable lessons about working through conflicts constructively. But the research also shows that yelling always affects kids badly, even if you make up eventually. Yelling is not constructive conflict resolution, ever. It's a tantrum. (And no, it's not "authentic." What's authentic is the tears and fears under the yelling.)
So given that conflicts are inevitable, how can you best handle them when you live with kids?
1. When you or your partner start to get irritated, start by doing exactly what you would do (or hope to do!) if you were irritated with your child – Breathe! Notice your upset. Remind yourself that you love your partner and you can work this out.
2. If you can keep your equilibrium to discuss the issue, do so. Your kids will benefit from watching you: READ POST
"Yesterday my husband and I had an argument at dinner time in front of the kids. My four year old daughter yelled at us to ‘Be quiet!’ … My two year old had a tough time going to bed, which is unusual for him. Could that have had to do with mommy and daddy arguing?” READ POST
"I love your posts, but my husband is
afraid that if we allow our kids to get upset as you suggest, they'll
never learn to control their emotions. Don't we need to just say No
sometimes?" - Rachel
All of us worry about our kids learning to control their emotions. After all, it's emotions that so often get us off track and into trouble. And of course we need to just say No sometimes. Kids can't run into the street, throw their food at each other, or pee on their baby brother. But setting limits on children's behavior doesn't mean we need to set limits on what they feel. READ POST
“I was born perfect. The rest is just
beliefs that I picked up…I don’t believe them anymore. I choose to
believe that I am perfect and whole.” – Caron Goode
Ever wondered why some parents can keep a sense of humor in the face of their child's challenging behavior while another parent starts yelling? Why some parents plague themselves with criticism, worry and doubt while others seem more able to just relax and enjoy their children?
Yes, some children are more challenging than others. But whatever our child's behavior, we always have the choice of how to respond. And yes, it's our emotional response that determines our actions. But what creates that emotional response? READ POST
"Hey, Mom, Dad, I'm overwhelmed with
some big feelings here....I don't know what to do with them...They're
bubbling up inside me and I feel so scared and sad and mad...I'll do
anything to make these feelings go away, including hit someone...No,
don't you come close offering me hugs...that would send me right into
tears...I can't bear all that sadness...It must be your fault I'm
feeling all these bad feelings....I'll drive you away by any means
Don't you wish your child could just TELL you he's feeling this way, instead of screaming "I hate you, you're the worst mother in the world!"?
But when your child is acting out, it's because he CAN'T tell you about those feelings. So he "acts them out." It's his way of sending you an SOS. READ POST
"Dr. Laura -- You say that all emotion comes from
our thoughts, so that we can change our thoughts and therefore change
our emotions. But you’ve also written that we need to acknowledge our
emotions and "feel" them, rather than ignore or stuff them. I’m
confused." -- Corinne
The simple answer is that there's a difference between honoring our feelings -- and preventing them. Once we’re feeling an emotion, we have no choice except to breathe our way through it without taking action. That's how we release feelings and move beyond them. READ POST