Health & Fitness

Teaching Children to Play in Harmony

Playtime with friends and siblings should be fun and enjoyable, not World War III. Learn ways to encourage your kids to have fun without the fights

Most parents are familiar with this situation: children are having fun playing together and all of a sudden the game turns into a fight. Although it is quite common that children argue with each other, it can drive parents crazy. How can you deal with this? And why do children fight with each other? Often, a quarrel arises when children get angry because the game doesn’t go their way. Because it is still too difficult for young children to express themselves appropriately, parents need to teach them. Sometimes a child starts teasing or hitting just to see what will happen. Besides, young children have the tendency to imitate behavior from others. That is how they learn. If they see others fight they may copy that. They can also become aggressive to get what they want, like a toy or simply the attention of their parents.

How do you teach children to play without fighting?

  • Make rules about sharing, taking turns and not using hands or feet. Make sure your child understands the rules and practice them by playing games together.
  • Give your child attention if he is playing in harmony; show interest in the game and give a compliment for his behavior.
  • If it seems like a fight is about to start, it is important to intervene. Teach them how to solve the problem by asking what the problem is about and what they both want.  

How do you solve a fight between children?

  • Make clear the kind of behavior that is not acceptable and explain the type of behavior you would like them to show instead.
  • If the fight continues, intervene with a measure that fits the situation. For instance, end the game or take away the toy they are fighting over.
  • In the case of aggressive behavior, give your child a time out by separating him from the game and discuss his behavior only when he has cooled down.
  • Stay calm and avoid an endless discussion.
  • When the fight is resolved, help the children to start playing again to give them the opportunity to show they can play in harmony.

Learning to resolve conflicts is an important social skill. That is why it is crucial to give children enough opportunities to play together.

Rosan Ouwerkerk is a Dutch registered psychotherapist and she runs a private practice in Playa del Carmen. If you think her help is required, you can contact her:

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