My youngest two children, aged 5 and 6, get on really well.
They also do, however, quite regularly, argue. It’s typically something like Eve has grabbed a toy off Jenny, or Jenny is sitting in the seat that Eve was in.
As a grown up who’s in the middle of cooking dinner or putting shopping away, my gut instinct is to want to tell them to hush, at least for that moment. To me, who has the worries of an adult, an argument about who should be using the brown felt-tip is trivial beyond belief.
But I’ve learnt that that approach is wrong. It’s not good for a child to have an issue dismissed when they’re clearly so passionate or upset about it. While it may seem like such a petty thing to argue about, to that child at that time, it’s the most important thing in the world.
One thing we all hate is a sense of injustice – that something is clearly wrong but that it’s being allowed to stand. When you couple this with an inability to have your voice heard, it’s only natural to become upset or angry.
It may be the case that these squabbles happen at the most inopportune of moments, but that’s life. As with many things involved with parenting, the appropriate first response should be to take a deep breath!
We have to put aside our view that what they’re upset about is a small issue. If we want our child to progress, then they at least should be heard in full. When we let them speak and tell us what’s upset them, then we’re halfway to dealing with the problem. At least they don’t have the frustration of being unheard that an “oi you – stop it” may generate.
As with all arguments, there may well be someone unhappy at the end of it. You’re the parent, but you’re also going to have to be arbitrator, referee and judge. If a child at least perceives that you’ve been fair in listening to them, it may make it easier for them to accept something that they wouldn’t want to hear.
As the wise Take That once said, “it only takes a minute”. You’ll end up with less frustrated children, and also kids who learn about the importance of reasoning and listening.