Stir-Crazy Kids: How to Referee Fighting


Hello, hello!

Like many moms along the Eastern Seaboard today, I’m home with the kids for the fourth day in a row.  I certainly cannot complain since we’re safe and we have power and water, but I do have to admit that my patience is running thin.  What wears me down more than the cooking and cleaning and laundry is the fighting… the incessant fighting. For Halloween today I should be dressing up as a referee since all I’m doing is breaking up my kids fighting, it seems!

Stir-Crazy Kids: How to Referee FightingPin for later!

My kids do go on adventures together around the house and come up with fun games to play, but more often than not, after some period of time  — a half hour, an hour if I’m lucky — a raised voice beckons out.  “That’s not fair!” “I’m telling Mommy!” And they’re off, running towards me like a pack of howling wolves.  Within seconds, I’m peeling one child off another and figuring out my next move.

What’s hard about these moments, for me, is that I have to always mediate these disputes, make a decision, and know what to do. Sometimes I’d rather run off myself! But I know the best thing to do is to stay calm and collected, and to work it out in the most productive way with my little ones.

Here is what has been working for me, your official “Referee for Free” handbook for all the other mommy (and daddy) referees out there:

What tools are in your toolbox when it comes to siblings fighting? Comment below and tell me because I need more tricks up my sleeve!

1) I Don’t Take Sides.  If I didn’t see the genesis of the argument, I can’t decide who is right and who wrong.   I learned in a parenting seminar by one of my favorites Julie Ross that always assuming one child is the wrongdoer and another one is the victim can make sibling rivalry worse.  So although I might have my suspicions, I try not to do any condemning.

2) Try to Get A Discussion Going. Rather than just saying “cut it out,” I try to get the two warring factions to talk about what happened. Then, I try (doesn’t always work) to get them to accept a peace plan … Taking shifts, turns, sharing, whatever.

3) Stay Calm. When I stay calm, my chances of successful referring are about 150 percent better. The calmer I am, the more quickly my kids are back playing together.

4) When All Else Fails, Draw Up New Territories. I sometimes have to physically separate my kids and put them in different rooms of my house to keep the peace.  I might have two boys doing Legos in the boys’ room, the girls doing stickers in the kitchen, and my oldest reading in my bed.  We all need a break from each other, and in my house, sometimes mommy has to enforce a partition.

5) Change The Name Of The Game. When everyone is upset, my best technique is to forget about resolving a fight and just redirect. I turn on music, something they love (our current favorite is the musical “Oliver”), bring out a new toy from the back of the toy closet, or come up with something to bake. I basically just pull stuff out of my hat…. It amazes me how quickly my kids forget about a heated feud and move on.

Can’t say these techniques always work but they do help me get through.

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