The Funny Business of Parenting: Finagling Family Feuds
“Yes! No! Yes! No!...”
The children were having an online fight. Apparently, it’s possible to have a heated hullabaloo in a remote setting, quite possibly while enjoying a pizza during language arts class.
Luckily, virtual mayhem is neat and clean and doesn’t involve Lego hurling or any other possibly painful interactions, except for the grownup in the room, who may or may not be pulling out her own hair.
The easy solution for such a tele-tussle, of course, is to pull the plug and send the child outside to run around and blow off steam. Or the frazzled teacher who now looks like the face in The Screampainting may have to temporarily mute certain little monsters.
Sending offending parties into virtual waiting rooms is another option, much like sending kids to their bedrooms when scuffles get too loud and ear plugs popped in for sanity purposes aren’t working.
A little too much family togetherness can certainly bring on bickering, even in the happiest of homes. This is why backyards were created – so that squabbling kids can duke it out in the fresh outdoors.
The problem with that option is they will return, most likely fighting over a pinecone. The key is to stay calm and avoid the temptation to invite neighbors to attend a boxing match or kangaroo court trial to determine the guilty party. Though these activities are great fun, they might not help the situation.
Forcing children to hug it out or sing to put them in better spirits may also backfire, but having them tackle a disliked (by you) household chore together can break it up long enough to result in at least partially clean toilets or windows.
When all parties are calm, it’s time to discuss why biting does not improve human relations. Ask kids to share their feelings about the situation, find common ground and role play problem-solving techniques that don’t involve the first aid kit.
In the old days, parents may have tolerated a good deal of roughhousing, unless there was a bone broken or the hollering and sobbing interrupted a grownup’s nap. After all, settling disagreements teaches kids how to resolve conflicts in the future. But a little guidance early on can go a long way toward future peaceful relations and some peace and quiet.
A subtle approach is to bicker at a high decibel while they’re watching TV and see how they like it. If that doesn’t make an impact, model the correct way to have disagreements; for example, it should not involve flying food. Plan ahead and let them know the dire consequences of hostile behavior so they’ll be too afraid to do any real fighting. Clap like hell when they are getting along and make sure they know how lucky they are to have each other.
If all else fails, call snack time. Don’t serve anything green or leafy. Kids can’t fight when they’re eating.
Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or pamjhecht.com.