1. Let children have their feelings and help them to label them. When kids are rescued from feeling sad, mad, disappointed, they learn that they can’t trust themselves with painful emotions. Instead of trying to fix it with suggestions or action plans, try listening and reflecting back their feelings. For example, you were disappointed and sad when Mary won the spelling bee and you didn’t. (Don’t worry if you guess wrong, your child will correct you!)
2. Label your own feelings and how you are going to manage them. For example, I am mad so I am going to take a deep breath or I am sad so I am going to take a bath.
3. Coaching instead of telling kids how to solve their problems. Children need guidance in identifying the problem, choices in dealing with the problem, pros and cons of each choice, and creating a plan. This is done by asking questions instead of making statements or coming up with our own solutions. For example, what would you like to do about this? How would this choice work? What would not work about this choice? What is your plan?
4. Let siblings resolve their own conflict. When kids have to work it out on their own, they are gaining social skills. When parents get involved, they not only lose the ability to gain experience, but now they are in competition for their parent’s approval. My favorite response, when one comes to tattle is “Are you bleeding?” No. “Good, I am so glad you are not hurt.” Then, I go back to what I was doing.