Guest Post by Andrea Gibbs
We all remember a struggle as a child to figure out how to deal with conflicts with friends. But, as an adult, you can’t just tell them “it’ll work itself out” because they’re not the only ones who put their feelings on the line. And you don’t want your children or other kids in your life to have to go through that alone.
Understanding why Children Fight with their friends
One of the reasons children fight with their friends is because they worry that their friends don’t like them. But not all fights are caused by a lack of liking. Like those between siblings or between someone who is and isn’t close to the other child, other types of arguments might also cause feelings of insecurity and tension in the young person.
However, even if one child dislikes another, the children mustn’t talk about their dislike out loud or put it on paper. It might sound harsh, especially if they’re being harassed. But it’s better to let the bullies know they are not succeeding in hurting your child by putting the feelings into words and complaining about them than to go out of your way to hurt their feelings.
10 Tips to Help Children Handle Fights With Friends Positively
When you are either dealing with conflict between your child and a friend or helping your child deal with competition from peers, there are a few things you need to know:
1. It’s okay if it’s not you. It can be easy for parents to expect that they always need to be the one who handles all of the relationships. But really, there is nothing wrong with letting children learn how to take problems on their own without giving them advice or getting in their way.
2. Give them some time alone when they need it. You can’t solve every problem, nor should you try to. Sometimes issues should be left to work themselves out on their own.
3. Talk about feelings and give them the chance to express their negative ones too. You may want to describe how your child feels during a fight so they can see that sometimes it’s not right to act like an animal or hurt someone just for the sake of being mean or angry.
4. When a friend is acting mean, it can make your child feel bad and want to avoid them. Even if your child doesn’t want to cooperate with the friendship, you need them to get past that anger to see how much better it would be for everyone if they do.
5. If you think a friend needs some time away from each other, let them know that you understand how important it is for them to be friends.
6. Try not to take sides when two kids are fighting, and understand that the result might be that they’re never going to be friends again. It is a good thing if you’ve tried everything else, and the relationship doesn’t seem to be improving.
7. Sometimes, your child might have a friend who is especially mean or who always seems to start fights with others, so you’ll need to talk with them about how best to deal with that situation.
8. Help your child see that you can be a good friend even if your friend is mean to other people. Talk about how you can still be nice to them and help in different ways, like finding ways to encourage them to stop being so mean.
9. Let your child know that nobody is perfect, and they need to learn that even their friends need help sometimes. Once they understand this, they’ll be able to accept any friend who needs it for use.
10. There are probably other things that you need to know about friendships, and maybe it would be a good idea for you to read our book on this topic, “Friendships.” It gives further information about how to handle confrontations between kids.
How to Talk to Your Child after He has Had a Fight with a Friend
When your child feels angry with a friend and wants to talk about what happened, you will probably need to find out more about how they think before discussing the situation helpfully.
1. You might want to try taking your child aside and talking to him in a friendly way. Look at his eyes and at how he is sitting.
2. Try not to ask questions that can be answered with one word like, “Why?” “How?” or “Feel?” Use your best listening skills to help him talk.
3. As you listen and try to understand the situation, you may want to use phrases like, “I’m sorry you’re upset.” or “I hear that you’re mad about what happened, and that makes me sad because I like both of you so much.”
4. After your child has talked about what happened at school or in his life, you’ll likely need to help him understand how anger can leave them feeling hurt and worried about things that happened. Look for examples of times when he’s been angry before, and talk with him about those times too. It’ll probably help to have an outcome or plan for how he could have acted in the situation differently.
5. You may also want to bring up the idea of forgiving a friend even if he did something to upset you. The idea is that although he might have done wrong, your child needs to remember that not everything is always about him.
It is always good to speak with your child about the difference between being mean and acting in a friendly way. You can do this whether he’s upset with you, his favorite teacher, or his best friend. Of course, there will always be fights and arguments about things that happen in school or at home, but they can turn into something more when they’re allowed to stay unresolved.
You may notice that anger can make your child feel sad or hurt for a while, as it did for you. Maybe this can help you to understand your child better when they get upset with someone. You might also want to talk about your own past experiences and how far you have come since those times.
It may help if you tell your child that you know that he can be friendly or happy no matter what happens. Even if he’s mad at someone, he can find a way to be kind and helpful to them too.
If you have other recommendations on how we can better help our kids handle fights with friends, please let me know in the comment section below.
Find More About the Author Andrea Gibbs at New York Baby Steps