That’s why I love it whenever my kiddo gets into a scuffle and the other kid’s mom or dad doesn’t interrupt and solve the issue. Parents usually will force their kid to share, relinquish a toy that he had taken from my son, or ushering and distracting their kid without much explanation of what just transpired.
For instance, when another boy approached LO wanting to play with the shovel in his hand, During these situations, I help my kid navigate through this difficult scenario by:
- Describing the situation. Since young kids aren’t the most verbal of the bunch, describing the situation as well as acknowledging their feelings are often great ways to start. Hearing words being used to describe the situation helps them label their emotions and realize that the situation is normal, despite any strange feelings they may have inside. So I might say, “Looks like you both want to play with the shovel.”
- Explaining that certain behaviors aren’t appropriate. If my son had done something that wasn’t appropriate—for instance, grabbing a toy—I’ll use this moment to clarify why we don’t behave that way. Thankfully I’ve yet to experience a situation where either my kid or the other misbehaved, but when he does, I want to ensure that he knows this particular behavior isn’t the right way to act.
- Offering potential solutions. Since my toddler is still young, I take it upon myself to offer potential solutions (once he’s older, I’ll likely ask him and the other kid, “What can we do to solve this?”). For instance, I asked my son if he would be willing to take turns playing with the shovel.
- Honoring their choices. Had my son preferred not to share the shovel, I would have accepted that and simply address both the kids, “Looks like he’s not ready to share the shovel yet. Maybe later.” I wouldn’t force my kid to share nor feel bad that the other kid would walk away empty-handed. I have to honor my kid’s wishes to continue playing alone with his shovel, just as I would have respected another kid’s wish not to share with mine.
- Discussing the situation at a later time. What may seem like a simple scuffle between two kids can often be quite a confusing moment for kids. Think back to “petty” elementary school drama you had and how little fights among you and your friends often caused you so much pain and anguish (never mind that the next day everyone’s BFFs again). Kids may not be able to brush aside situations as easily as adults, and especially for younger kids who may still be grappling with their emotions, they need extra help and reassurance to let them sort through what just happened. Discussing the situation will also help them better identify emotions as well as have a better idea of what to do next, even initiating the solutions on their own without adults’ intervention.
I can understand why parents are quick to jump in and solve our kids’ social conflicts. We want to protect our kids, or keep them from hurting others. We’re embarrassed. We don’t want to seem like we don’t know how to handle our own kids. It’s easier to swoop in and nip it in the bud. And sometimes the situation calls for it.
Yet each social conflict shouldn’t be seen as yet another mess to clean up, yet another antic our kids have gotten themselves into. They’re still learning about our world and the ways we conduct ourselves among others. When we can teach them at an early age how to acknowledge their emotions, how to handle other kids and difficult situations, they’ll hopefully be better able to adjust as they grow into adults.
What sorts of social conflicts have you handled with your kids and other kids?