"You can't come to my birthday party!"
"You're not my friend!"
However your little ones express themselves during a struggle with their friends or siblings—whether it's one of the older preschool friendship-ending fiats or one of the younger set's yelps and hits—as soon as something is voiced, it has become your problem too. Convene a little session of the Parent U.N. because you've got some diplomacy to do. Instead of the shape of the table, you may be navigating the struggles of the size of the cookie. But the stakes feel just as high in your house.
So, what do you do? When you find yourself witnessing a showdown, what exactly do you do? Do you let them work it out themselves? When can they start that? Do you address the older one first? The guest? When do you distract, and when do you draw the line?
There are, of course, no easy answers, and your answers will evolve during the course of your child's little person-hood (and sometimes during the course of the day!). But here are some touchstones we try to keep in mind:
"Conflict resolution techniques only work when both children are able to articulate their story and their feelings." (Betsy Brown Braun)
"A mother or teacher can often solve any momentary tangle by humorous verbalization, by shifting the scene of play, or merely suggesting some interesting elaboration of any current activity." (Louise Bates Ames)
"And if we want our discipline to be effective, we need to know what a two year old is like, what possibilities he has for control of impulse, and what a five year old is like and what equipment he has for cooperating with our discipline." (Selma H. Fraiberg)
"Preschoolers may be capable of generating some of their own solutions. You can encourage this by saying, 'It looks like you're both still holding on to that shovel. You both really want it. Can either of you think of a way to solve this problem?'" (Laura Davis and Janis Keyser)
And you, what helps keep the peace in your house?
"Mabel, Mabel, if you're able, keep your elbows off the table." That was the chant in my house when we were growing up, the reminder that it wasn't okay to put your elbows on the table. Nor was it okay to use your sleeve to wipe your face, burp out l... read more
Every few years we read yet another study confirming how important it is to eat dinner together as a family as often as you can. It renews connections; it enlivens verbal and communication skills; it makes a happy home. But no one—repeat, no on... read more