I stumbled upon a new technique to use when my older two kids fight. I was somewhat inspired by this hilarious photo:
My first thought was, “at least I will be laughing so hard that I won’t yell.” My second thought was, “that will never work with my kids…they’ll just keep fighting like a giant shirt cage match until they tear the thing apart.”
Musing on the idea of enforcing physical closeness on fighting kids, I realized that the issue is more emotional than physical. Usually there is a barrage of misunderstandings and insults, then the yelling, before anything escalates to a physical conflict.
Of course, we encourage the kids to still express themselves using “I statements” (I feel frustrated/angry/ignored when you take my things/won’t play the game I want to play/interrupt me). And also I understand that there are root causes to sibling rivalry and individual behaviors that need to be addressed…I get that. Sometimes I also just need them to stop yelling at each other for five minutes without everyone feeling worse.
So, I also instituted a new policy of having the kids compliment each other whenever they insult one another. My theory is that this will first help stop the increasingly hurtful, and absurd, words (what is a “meanie-bo-beanie,” anyway?), force the kids to think about what they do like about one another, and generate good feelings as those positives are expressed. Just like smiling when you are sad helps you actually feel better and makes others react more positively towards you, complimenting your pest of a little brother who is really often very generous to you can generate a batch of the warm fuzzies.
See? Sometimes they aren’t fighting–at least long enough for me to snap a picture! They are even sitting close and laughing!
Hey, look, another one! Okay, they were totally hitting each other with those reeds one minute later but I have proof that they weren’t fighting for at least a few seconds!
In general, I think the best way to fight negativity is with positivity. It isn’t going to work 100% of the time and could certainly be overused…but it is another tool in my toolbox.