Just like that, we have wrapped up our first trip through 2cd grade. It felt like such a pivotal year…I sent my son in as little boy and he came back to me a full-blown big kid. The BIG IDEAS that come out of this child amaze me and the glimpses of adult-like maturity catch me off guard every time. We also saw a lot of change in peer-to-peer relationships this year. For the first time, my son really cared what his classmates thought of him and any conflicts that arose were personal. Gone are the days of 30 second brawls that are forgotten with the blink of an eye. Now, we have fights and silent treatments and “I’m not going to be your friend any more”‘s and rallying teams against your opponent. ::sigh:: Whoever said that boys have less drama than girls LIED.
I am a negotiator by trade. Basically, my job is all about resolving conflict among people…granted, I typically solve these issues by writing a check, but still, conflict is something I am very comfortable with and tend to approach it in a calm, logical manner. So, I should be able to handle all this kid-drama that my son drags home with him with ease.
Except, no. Especially when it involves my kid and his BFF from a few doors down. In that instance, there was no logical and definitely no calm. In fact, I wanted to run from the drama like a wild banshee. Holy uncomfortable batman. Half stories flying around, jealousy, bruised feelings, and now you are throwing the relationship with our neighbor in the balance. Do you know how hard it is to speak to another mom about what their kid is doing to your kid (and your kid is doing to theirs)?!
After sleeping on the issue for a couple of nights (more like tossing and turning on it…), I came up with a plan to help my son and his friend get back on the right track. I’m happy to report that it worked and they are back to their usual fights about the rules of the latest made-up game and the best way to fend off Minecraft enemy invaders.
Stumbling my way through what I’m sure will be the first of plenty kid-friend-drama in my future, I found the following tips helpful:
– Help the child put feelings into context. One disagreement does not end a strong friendship. I could see that it was healing to my son when I reminded him that friends fight, forgive, and move on. This is part of life and no matter how big the fight feels in the moment, resolution is possible.
– Get everyone face-to-face. Don’t even get me started with the games of telephone and “creative” interpretations of a situation that can come out of 8 year olds. I needed to cut that off at the knees, and teach my son that the way we solve a problem is head-on. Communication is always clearest when we can all sit down at the table (or around the Lego bin).
– Keep it simple and focused on resolution. We all know how kids can go on and on selling their story and professing their innocence, but that rarely gets us to a place of resolution. At the same time, I feel it is important for children to be able to let someone know when they have done something that crossed the line. So, we went with a 2 tiered approach. Step 1 was an exercise in standing up for yourself and sharing your feelings. Step 2 was taking responsibility for your wrongdoings.
– Fight fair. Keep the argument between the involved parties (and an adult mediator). Respect the other person by really listening to what they have to say and offer a safe place for sharing without fear of retribution.
– End on a positive note. A handshake, a hug, a plan for a future play date, perhaps? Bringing clear closure to the argument makes sure it stays where it belongs – in the past!
Have your kids entered this stage yet? Do you have any tips to add to my list?