Does your job description of mom also involve the role of a referee? Knowing when to step in to your child’s conflicts is key to keep you calm and teach effective negotiation skills to your child. Picking your battles to intervene will improve your stance as an objective outlet and foster independence and direct communication for your children.
3 Tips for Intervening in Your Child’s Relationships:
1. Stay out of it.
If your child and a sibling are in a constant argument over everything, whether it be deciding what games to play, where they sit at the kitchen table, or who gets the best spot on the couch, don’t involve yourself in all situations. If you have prior knowledge that your children are frequently at odds, prevent any future upsets by setting clear expectations at the beginning of the day or the beginning of the week to prevent any conflictual situations. For example, creating a chart or system to prescribe turn taking may prove helpful. Setting up specific days for dinner table placement or free reign of the main couch and TV may prevent future arguments. If arguing does arise, keep calm and let them work it out.
2. Be strategic about stepping in.
Place your involvement in a series of steps each child can take if other compromise, negotiation, and communication skills fail.
For example, first set up with your child the ability to compromise and negotiate (If Claire isn’t honoring Sophie’s day for the prime couch seat, encourage her to communicate her thoughts and needs in a calm tone). If this doesn’t get Claire up, Sophie can then compromise and see if her and Sophie can switch days. If nothing works, then Sophie can get mom’s attention to enforce the schedule. Having the schedule already set up takes the emotionality and subjective nature out of the argument and mom can then reinforce what was already agreed upon.
3. Don’t let it get violent.
Another time when it would be helpful for the parent to intervene in sibling relationships is if violence and physicality ensues. Create a zero tolerance policy for hitting, kicking, and other acts of behavioral outbursts that negatively impact others so as to reduce these types of reactions to non-preferable outcomes. If these behaviors should occur, creating an objective stance towards consequences reduces any emotional reactions you may have and aligns with the overall family expectations regarding this type of conflict. Intervening reinforces that this mode of communicating and behavior is not acceptable and standard responses ensue.
When to intervene with friends:
When it comes to inflexible thinking and stress between a child and their friend, when should you intervene with wise solutions to problems, separation, and termination of plans? Keep an ear out for arguing, inflexible thinking, and any stress or tension but don’t move a muscle. Intervene when your child involves you. This allows your child and their peer to work through their stressor and communicate their own thoughts and feelings accordingly. What would they do if they were not in your presence? We need to help encourage autonomous problem solving/conflict resolution skills.
Pre-arranging with your child their boundaries and what they think they can and can’t handle during a playdate will outline effective strategies they can utilize and when your involvement may be necessary. This will take some of the guess work as to when you should intervene as your child will be aware of when it is necessary to include you. Processing appropriate conflict resolution and problem solving skills prior to a playdate will arm your child with coping mechanism to prevent or troubleshoot challenges if they should arise.