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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[OCT. 19, 2005]  Q: Our two kids fight all the time. I'm afraid that one day one of them is really going to hurt the other. We've always been clear that violent behavior is not acceptable, but sometimes these minor disagreements escalate into full-blown fights. Where do we go from here?

A: Whether it's a fight with a sibling, a friend, a run-in with a teacher or an argument with parents
-- all children experience conflict in their everyday lives. From minor misunderstandings to major disagreements, even adults don't always see eye-to-eye.

Siblings often tease each other. They accuse each other of doing things they didn't do. They bicker about which TV show to watch. Conflict can produce stress, create tension in families, and disrupt school and learning. But it doesn't have to. You can teach your children to manage conflict. They can learn to express their feelings in ways that lead to better decisions.

Continue to be firm. Don't overlook or excuse your children's fighting. Teach them that they have choices in dealing with conflict. Talk about how to resolve conflicts peacefully. Here are some ideas that focus on solutions instead of blame:

  • Start by trying to find something, no matter how small, that they can agree on.

  • Encourage your children to find a way to say they're sorry. Even something like, "I'm sorry we can't agree on this," is an opening for reaching agreement.

  • Suggest that they talk softly. There's something about speaking softly that lowers the level of anger.

  • Have them try "splitting the difference" -- seeking a middle-ground solution that partially satisfies each one. It's good for fast decision-making on minor disagreements.

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  • Try role-playing. The next time your kids are fighting about which TV show to watch or whose turn it is to use a toy, have them try this tip:

For five minutes have the two fighters switch roles. Each has to present the other person's point of view as convincingly as possible. Only one person can talk at a time. And the only thing they're allowed to do is present the other person's argument. Role-playing helps each side understand the other's argument. And they're likely to come up with a compromise they both like. Odds are they'll soon start laughing and make up!

Conflicts are a normal part of life. Help your children discuss their problems, but explain that you won't resolve their conflicts for them. As you encourage the skills and attitudes they need to resolve their conflicts, you will also be teaching your children to reach their goals.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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