A mother asks if she should stand next to her son (4) in quarrels on the playground. Sabine König, who accompanies parents in their practice in child-rearing issues, gives advice.
The four-year-old gives up. The older girl does not let him play on the playground, so he finds another place to play. But the others do not fall into good soil either. She follows, wants to shoot the little one away and then the sentence falls: “If you do not go, I will pierce you with a stick.” The little one’s mother is horrified and shoots the girl away. Afterwards, she wonders if she reacted correctly? Would it have been better if her son had defended himself? Sabine König from practice for education and relationship issues explains when parents should not intervene in such a situation.
Mrs König, how would you have reacted in such a situation?
Sabine Koenig Much of this behavior irritates me. First of all, that the girl has such a strong image in her head. She must have an idea about this: piercing with a stick – it is not good. But this is a primary school child. That would be my first reaction. “How did you come up with this idea?” So I would try to contact her in a completely different way. And that would take the situation in a completely different direction. The second point would be – and thus I also protect my child – I say: “But it’s a stupid idea. What for you to believe that? Where did you get it from anyway? ”
The second thing is: The minor had left the sphere of activity of the elder. What reason did she have to hunt for it again. You can ask a question like, “You play over there, don’t you? Tell me, what do you want here?” Even then, I stand in front of my child again. But what irritates me most is that the little one says it in the presence of an adult. This is a topic that we encounter more often today. That the children no longer distinguish who is listening .
Should one have waited to see if the smaller child would fight back?
It depends a lot on the situation and on whether the two are on the same level: I mean spatially: one child is sitting, one is standing. But it is also about development, age, character, temperament or personality. Another point would be: do the children know each other. Do the children have anything to do with each other? Do you know each other from the nursery? Are they siblings? If they know each other, they know how to rate each other, they have a negotiated hierarchy.
What role does this hierarchy play?
It is actually the case that children think and act hierarchically among themselves. It then goes in the direction of: “You can play” or “You have a special role in the game” or “I have to tell you where you are going”. We adults should not interfere too much in this. For our children also act in adult-free spaces and must develop tools to interact with each other there. Peers make up the group where our children learn a lot: social behavior, impulse control, frustration tolerance.
So should I stay out of it for now?
If, as a mom or dad, I protect my child or support them in case of problems, it’s totally okay in the first place. At the same time, however, I take the opportunity for him to grow, come up with his own solution ideas, persevere something, be the loser. There’s a huge range in there. If I always wrap my child in cotton wool, I risk not preparing him enough for life.
But it’s hard to weigh up in the heat of the moment, is it not?
As an adult, it is important that I develop a sense of when I need to intervene. If the kids are the same size, then I can easily see a “knock-on” once in a while. But I need to be able to acknowledge that it stops when a child shouts “no” or becomes inferior. If that does not stop then I’m ready to signal that play child. “Now it’s good, it said ‘no’, it said ‘stop’. It does not want more. It is too much.” I can say the same to a stranger’s child. In fact, it is often the case that children are more likely to accept advice from strangers than from their own parents.
But it can be difficult, especially with very young children, to sit back and relax when the “cloths are flying”.
The basic idea would be to accompany the conflict. So let’s see: do they get it baked? This is often seen in young children under the age of two. They sit next to each other in the sandbox and hit each other over the head with a shovel. But whoever gets the shovel just looks. Or if the other takes his mold, he says to himself: “Oh, where did it go now?” And takes another. The children are busy acting side by side and fixating on things and materials. And often we act too fast. Too quick to scold, too quick to judge and too quick to: “Now you have to apologize!”
And if the children actively ask for clarification – that is, shout: “He took it from me?”
Then it’s about questions: “Have you already told him that it bothers you? How should I support you? ” We actually need to pick up the task from the child. Otherwise, we get into the situation that we are being used as an instrument that takes the action out of the hands of the child. It’s better the other way around. What does the child want? OK, it’s crying. “Then come to me.” “Tell me.” “What happened?” “Oh, that’s really ugly.” “Didn’t he even ask?” “What do we do now?” Have you tried it on your own? “What do mom / dad need now?” “Okay, well then we’ll go there.” And then, of course, it can happen that the other child says: “No!”. And do not give up the shovel. This is obviously a checkmate situation.
If I now go and pick the shovel from the other child’s hand, then the children learn: “Oh look, the strongest winner.” This means that my arbitration conduct must always be solution-oriented. Simply taking the toy away from child A is not a solution. Instead, it is about compromises. How do I interest the child in other solutions. It costs time and nerves.
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If that does not work, there is an alternative: not authoritarian, but authoritarian. I say, “Now it’s good. Mom / Dad will now take the shovel and put it away.” It has the advantage that the children now have a common front, namely the adults.He is stupid now because he took the object of our desire from us and then the children start looking for alternatives.
Let’s take the situation, one child throws sand, the other shouts. Every mother and father gives way and will intervene immediately.
So if one child cries, it makes sense to get that child out of the direction of the sandcastle and make the other child aware of what to do. The moment I say to a toddler under the age of three, “Do not throw sand,” the thought remains, “Throw sand.” Because the child does not understand the negation. This means that I have to say to the child: “The sand belongs in the mold and on the floor.” I must give instructions and not forbid it.
Another situation: one child pushes the others on the stairs in front of the roller coaster because it wants to pass.
I must also distinguish here: There is this body check. This is a form of contact. This is often a popular means of making contact among boys. We may need to take the steam out a bit. Otherwise, if there really is a “little fight” that bumps into it and goes up the stairs and maybe puts the younger kids in danger, then it gets taken off the roller coaster. But it can really cause problems with the other parents.
Isn’t it better to talk to the other parents right away?
If the danger is imminent, you can not talk to any parents. But if you stand right next to it and say “Be careful! The other kids are falling down the ladder!” You can take them down and say, “Stand like everyone else.”
Have parents done anything wrong if children do not defend themselves?
none This is often due to the child’s development and personality. There is an observation that children only start taking things away or pushing for them when they are about one and a quarter years old. And then of course there are also basic characters who are not necessarily physically active. When the parents then say, “You have to defend yourself,” it is difficult for the child because it does not suit their character at all.
Do boys and girls fight differently?
We can observe a tendency that when girls quarrel, they attack more verbally. “You are not my boyfriend anymore.” “I do not invite you to my birthday.” “You have a stupid t-shirt.” Etc. As a result, they become really angry with each other and do not play with each other for a while. For the most part, boys become more physical, often get along faster afterwards, and also seem to return to playing together faster.
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But nowadays, boys are more discouraged from fighting. Does it cause problems?
We create problems for our boys. On the one hand, because a physical confrontation is often accompanied by prohibition, but no alternative course of action is shown. Secondly, because the dynamics that the children want to live are seen negatively, and especially the boys also get a negative image of themselves. But the biggest problem is that the boys are not given a code of conduct, how are you allowed to argue. And then there are later attacks, which are questionable because no one was there before, which accompanied the “fair fight” among themselves. When fighting with each other, this physical confrontation must be learned. This honored what is okay, what is not okay. Boys (and also girls) need opportunities not to suffocate this physical activity in the bud.
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Sabine König (62) has been involved in parenting and counseling in Stuttgart for many decades. In the 1990s, the social worker and systems therapist was one of the first to offer Pekip groups for mothers and children and set up a crib counseling. Today, in her practice in Stuttgart, she advises mothers and fathers on relationships and child rearing and can be booked for lectures. For many years she was also on the road on behalf of the youth care and worked with single parents and foster families. Sabine König is the mother of two grown sons.