My friends and I all have four year olds, and this is what a typical play date consists of:
Us: Chatting, in the middle of conversation
A Little One: MOM! She took my (fill in blank)
After resolving the conflict, a few minutes later, another Little One scampers over: MOM! He took my (fill in the blank)
We resolve that conflict and then, well, you guessed it, a few moments later another Little One creeps up upon us and tattles yet again.
It must be the age, I’m sure. One of those stages that you hear about. You know, they go through them all of the time, and just when you think you are about to hit the wall in madness the stage ends, only to be replaced by a new one.
The difficulty of being a mom, though, is understanding how to deal with these stages. It is in dealing with these stages that we teach our children how to resolve the issues that they need to learn to resolve. In some ways, I believe that these stages are simply children learning how to do X, Y, or Z. In one stage they hit because they can’t talk, and so they have to learn to explain their issues without resorting to violence. In another stage a child refuses to go to sleep for nap, because he hopes to gain something from this refusal. We have to learn to deal with that refusal in a way that will teach the child a valuable lesson while not driving us mad.
With this tattling stage, new thoughts have emerged in my circle of friends. For one thing, we understand that the way we teach our children to handle conflicts and the way that we show them how to resolve conflicts through our own actions is the way that they will most likely resolve conflicts in the future.
How often have you heard this statement: My parents never fought in front of us so I don’t know how to resolve conflicts.
Or this one: My parents fought in front of us a lot so I’ve learned to be afraid of conflicts.
Perhaps you have even uttered one of those phrases at some time in life.
So I feel this is an important lesson to teach my daughters, as do the other parents in our small group of friends. Work it out is a great statement, but does a four year old understand what working it out entails?
Perhaps they do, to an extent. Take this example: A friend of mine and I were talking about this tattling phase the other day. She goes to a playgroup in which a new mother had joined. She described this mother as more ‘earthy’ than the other mothers (I love this term!) and said that when a daughter of another parent came up and tattled about something that the ‘earthy’ mother’s daughter had done, the earthy mother turned to the young girl and said, “We don’t tattle in our house. We work it out. So, go now and work it out with her.”
According to my friend, the other mothers were a little amazed, perplexed and surprised by this response. However, do I even have to tell you what the girls did? They worked it out.
So this got my friend and I wondering whether by continually becoming involved in our kids’ conflicts if we are in fact not giving them the tools necessary to work out their differences on their own. Perhaps by saying, “Okay, Little One, it is not nice to take that toy. Please give it back and we will take turns. I’ll time it,” the child learns that someone else will handle his or her conflict.
So now we have begun an experiment of sorts, and since I know that many mothers read this board and have wonderful tips to share, we would like to read them.
Our experiment: Use non-tattling moments to teach conflict resolution and then have the children direct how a conflict gets resolved the next time something happens.
So here may be our new scenario: Before playdate we play some Barbies. Barbie 1 takes something from Barbie 2. Then we begin a discussion with our children outside of the situation so that the child can give ideas of how this problem can be resolved.
During playgroup, when Little One comes up to tattle about a conflict, we discuss some of the role playing we have done and then ask the child to figure out a way to resolve it, and send the child back into the conflict to practice a resolution.
As we know it is critically important from all social aspects-family, marriage, children, work, business-to learn how to deal with conflict and resolve what it is that is wrong. We need these skills in business as well, if we want to retain both employees and customers. How frustrating is it when we meet someone with whom we disagree and that person gets so angry he can barely speak, or curses at us because things are not going her way. Just the other day I was in a Target store. The customer became irrate with the clerk, who must have been all of 19 and about to cry, and told her that she should never have this type of job.
Perhaps she should do some role playing with Barbie?!
If you have used conflict resolution with your children, and it has worked, please feel free to post some ideas! Not only is this an issue with young children, but considering the fact that as children get older they become more physical and use this physicality to settle disputes, I’m guessing that we are only at the beginning of teaching our kids this invaluable lesson.
And I’m betting that a teenager is not going to go for the old Barbie role playing game!
Have a great week, working parents!