Why do some children fight more than others? Why is it that some kids seem to work out their little squabbles, yet others don’t resolve their conflicts until after a physical fiasco and/or a crying meltdown?
I wondered the same and decided to find out. Initially, I observed a class of four year-old kindergarten girls. After I noted an interesting pattern among these children, I decided to observe a small group of boys between the ages of six and ten years of age. The same pattern emerged among the children with healthy social skills. Truth is, even adults need to use the same skills!
Well, this is what I discovered. Children who avoided squabbles and fights had a certain set of skills that they utilized to negotiate problems. The skills were as follows:
- split the item
- split the time
- let’s play together
- let’s take turns
- let’s trade
- one minute for me and then you can keep it
- give in
The children who consistently got into fights only had two primary skills: fight and flight. ‘Fight’ manifested itself in – grabbing, biting, screaming, snatching, pinching, kicking, sneaking, and so forth. ‘Flight’ manifested itself by the child retreating, withdrawing, sulking or crying.
Sarah and Leah, both in kindergarten, wanted the same cozy coupe. Since they both have better social skills, they took turns playing with it. Sarah drove the coupe while Leah pushed it from behind, and then they switched off; Leah drove the coupe while Sarah pushed from behind. They also made a deal in which they decided on two minutes per person to drive and then switch. The teacher did not need to intervene with this negotiation; they figured it out for themselves.
At some point, Sarah and Leah decided to play with Legos. Each of them wanted the entire bucket for themselves. Ultimately, they decided to play simultaneously together with it. This way they both had the bucket the entire time. However, there was only one little puppy among the Lego pieces. Both Sarah and Leah wanted to walk the puppy. Leah asked if she could have it for one minute, and thereafter Sarah could keep it. They both agreed and continued playing. At some point, Sarah wanted the fence that Leah had in her pile next to her. Leah said “If you let me have your tree, I’ll let you have my fence.” This compromise prevented another potential eruption