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Behavior Makeover: Fighting

Five Steps To Reducing Conflicts
Use the following steps as a guide to help your kid minimize fighting and learn to solve problems peacefully. Each letter in the acronym STAND represents one of the five steps in conflict resolution and helps kids recall the process.

Step 1. S = Stop and Calm Down
The first step to conflict resolution is teaching kids to calm down and tune into their feelings. The reason is simple: it's impossible to think about how to solve a problem if you're upset. Once in control, you can begin to rationally figure out why you're upset and then find an answer to your dilemma. So teach your kid to take a slow, deep breath to calm down or walk away until he's calm. If emotions are high between the two kids, do intervene: "I see two angry kids who need to calm down so they can figure out how to solve their problem." You might need to separate the kids until their anger is under control.

Step 2. T = Take Turns Telling What the Problem Is
The important thing here is to enforce these critical rules:

  • No put-downs or name-calling.
  • Listen to each other respectfully.
  • Do not interrupt. Each person gets a chance to talk.
You might ask each kid to say what happened, summarize each view, and then end with, "What can you do now to solve this problem?" Make suggestions only when the kids really seem stuck.

Tell kids to start their explanations with the word I instead of you and then describe the problem and how they want it resolved. This helps the speaker focus on the conflict without putting the other child down – for instance, "I'm ticked because you never give me a turn. I want to use the computer too." If emotions are high, give kids the option of writing or drawing their view of the problem instead of saying it to each other. This is particularly helpful for younger or less verbal children. The goal should be to help each child try to feel what it's like to be in the other kid's shoes. One way to do this is to have each youngster put into words what the other child has said.

Step 3. A = List the Alternatives to Resolving It
Kids need to think of alternatives so they have ways to find a resolution. Whether your child is a preschooler or an adolescent, the basic rules of thinking of solutions are the same:

  1. Say the first thing that comes into your mind.
  2. Don't put down anyone else's ideas.
  3. Change or add onto anyone's idea.
  4. Try to come up with ideas that work mutually for both sides.
Don't offer help unless they really seem stuck! To keep kids focused, say they must come up with five solutions before you return. Then leave for a few minutes. Stretch the time depending on the children's age and problem-solving skills.

Step 4. N = Narrow the Choices
Narrow the options to a few choices. Here are two rules to help kids get closer to resolving the problem:

  1. Eliminate any solutions that are unacceptable to either child because they don't satisfy their needs.
  2. Eliminate any solutions that aren't safe or wise.
Step 5. D = Decide the Best Choice and Do It!

This final step helps kids learn how to make the best decision by thinking through the consequences of their choices. You can teach children to think about the consequence of their remaining choices by asking, "What might happen if you tried that?" Another way to help kids decide on the best choice is by helping them weigh the pros and cons of each remaining possibility: "What are all the good and bad things that might happen if we chose that?" "What is the one last change that would make this work better for both of us?" Once they decide, the two kids shake on the agreement or take turns saying, "I agree."


From No More Misbehavin' by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2003 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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