The dumbest thing my kids ever fought over was a ray of light. I am not joking. We had arrived back from the store where they each bought a toy and within 10 minutes of being home they had abandoned their brand new play things to swat at a ray of light coming through the window. They ended up pushing and pulling each other out of the way like it was the holy Grail of things to play with.
My kids fight with each other almost 70-80% of the time they are interacting. Their personalities clash badly in some ways, so fights are almost inevitable. S always wants to help or teach or tell people how they should do things. I remember in a mini golf place and I turned to see where S had gotten to and there he was, standing next to a boy about 2 years his junior trying to teach him how to putt. The little boys father looked exasperated and just wanted to move on. I had to go in and pull S away from them to protests of “but he couldn’t do it, and I was trying to help him, I know I can teach him how mama”.
J on the other hand lives by then philosophy of. “I can do it myself” and “don’t help me!” and if she can’t do it herself God help whoever tries to help her. I have found that the best way to get her to do something is to tell her if she doesn’t do it I will do it for her.
So you can see where they would clash. I have tried maaaany different tactics to stop this. I have tried to sit them down and talk to them when they are not fighting. I have tried to make them face each other when fighting and talk. I have tried giving them time outs, taking away privileges and other punishments. I have even told them they are not allowed to play together ever again from this day forward (yes… They just ignored me on that one and I didn’t bring it up again). I tried praising them when they did play nicely together. But the only tactic I have found that works like magic is staying the hell out of it. I call it the “sort it out yourselves” method.
Here is an example of how the “sort it out yourself” method actually works:
J starts shouting at S for not letting her play the game on her own.
S shouts back at J: you don’t know how to do it and you are just losing and you will always lose till you are the biggest loser in the whole world
J: Ya Maaaaamaaaaaaaa S says I am the bigerest loser in the whole world
S: She doesn’t know what she’s doing and I can make her win
Mama: S,J, sort it out yourselves
Both S and J: But Maaamaaaaa it’s not fair etc etc etc
Mama: I am busy and your shouting is giving me a headache. Either leave the room and shout somewhere else and don’t come back till your done, or sort it out
S and J, looking confused, either have a conversation that goes like this:
J: Stop playing the game it’s my turn.
S: Can it be my turn next?
J: Yes, when my turn is over.
or more often leave the room and forget about the whole thing. Either way, fight resolved.
The moral of the story is: Parents, we screw things up more times then we fix them, I mean how many times have you been dragged into fights between kids where you are left exhausted and annoyed while they go off and play like nothing happened? Or worse yet, how many times have they come running to you to sort out something that happened out of eye sight and earshot, who is right then? Seriously people, let them sort it out themselves, it’s a good life skill they will thank you for in the future