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Parenting Skills for a More Peaceful Home

Jul 31, 2011 | By Harvey Craft

Child arguing with parent

All children have attitude problems and all disagree with parents occasionally. The good news is that parents can do much to reduce conflict and bring peace to the home.

There comes a time in personality development that people are pretty much who they are going to be and changing becomes difficult. It is not possible to be precise about when it's too late to change a child - people can make difficult changes at any age with sufficient motivation and reason, but the effects of parenting up to ages five or six years are critical.

Start the Peace Process Early

When children begin to attend school, their contacts with others - especially adults - increases dramatically. The influence of others in a child's development becomes increasingly important, although parents with good parenting skills can be the chief authorities for years to come.

Decreasing conflict between children and between parents and children is more successful when parents present their best faces to their children. Children typically model parental behavior, and they tend to repeat behaviors that are tolerated by parents. Therefore, children need boundaries -  limits on what they can and cannot do. Boundaries should be reasonable for the age of the child and adjusted as children grow older.

Some boundaries should address things that virtually all children do that cause noise and conflict. For example, if children are allowed to run full speed through a home and crawl over furniture, noise will result and increase when other children are present. A reasonable boundary for noise reduction is "no running in the house." Parents need to calmly tell children why running is not allowed in the house - noise, safety, danger of breakage are examples of good reasons.

Child on a "time out"Children will need to be reminded, and consequences invoked. Timeout is an effective consequence for children up to first grade, more or less. Be sure time out is boring - don't banish a child to his room where he can find entertainment. Find a location where he is isolated from stimulation and can be safely monitored. Timeout for five or ten minutes generally works well. It's not just the consequence that works for parents, but also the fact that a calm, precise action was taken that communicates disapproval. Children - and their behaviors - thrive on approval.

Be a Friend but Don't Lose Arguments

Be friends with children. Friendship develops from playing games, going places together, and joking around. Friendship requires conversation and good feelings. Friendship also involves sharing and sharing helps reduce a source of conflict. There are times to be a parent, but as children get older they need to learn how to be good friends so they can apply what they learn to resolve conflict.

Don't lose arguments. There will be disagreements, and parents should win fairly. It is important for preschoolers to understand that parents are wise and fair. When children choose to argue, beg, whine, etc. and they are being unreasonable, parents should stand their ground. If a child is presenting a good case, parents might choose to let him know that they will think it over, let him wait a while and announce their unified decision in favor of the child. When children know parents are in charge they are far less likely to continue to argue.

Teach siblings to negotiate. If children are less than three or four years apart, sit them down together and talk about negotiating with each other. Present real life example of disagreements between children and ask them to solve the problem. Guide them through the proper procedure of compromise. Let them discuss why compromise is important.

Children resolving their issues with each other

Practice Conflict Resolution

Give children a problem to practice on by themselves so that they can report their decision. Assess their solution and give feedback. Work on negotiating skills regularly, and offer positive recognition for good choices. When arguments develop despite parental efforts, parents should intervene and engage the children in a discussion about how the event might have been solved without causing anger. Show respect for the points of view of the children, but another timeout might be needed.

There are only a few important factors to keep in mind when teaching children solve disputes and practice self-control:

  • Be a good role model.
  • Be fair. 
  • Set boundaries. 
  • Win arguments fairly. 
  • Teach negotiation skills. 
  • Call attention to the successes of kids when they can compromise. 
  • Be consistent. 
  • Don't be manipulated by guilt, and
  • Let there be no doubt that children are loved.

Conflict is a normal part of growing up, but parents can minimize it and reduce stress and noise in the home. Parents need to be aware of the importance of modeling good behavior and the power of teaching children skills needed for compromising.

Source: Borba, Michele, Ed.D. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : parenting, children, child, kids, discipline, conflict, argument, behavior, management

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