Whether you are a traditional family, a blended family or single parent, a day will come when family members aren't getting along. Setting some ground rules for fair fighting cuts down on the collateral damage and creates a framework for solving problems. You still might suffer some hurt feelings, but you have a better chance of coming out intact when people use polite consideration when they disagree.
Kafhooty looks like a crazy mixed-up word, but if you have school age children, they might have heard it. It stands for Keep All Feet, Hands and Other Objects to Yourself. A kid that is practicing kafhooty is less likely to bruise or otherwise damage other children or adults in the household. This covers everything from covert pinching or poking to conking a sibling with a metal toy. Physical interaction when you are angry just is not acceptable.
Use Polite, Kind Words
Offensive language, name-calling and profanity are not allowed. You hope your preschooler hasn't heard swear words, but if you child attends day care, he might have. Making those words off-limits during an argument cuts down on hurt feelings that are hard to fix later. Words such as stupid and dumb go on this list, too. This is asking a lot of an upset child, but if you model it, they will learn.
Send 'I' Messages
An "I" message is a statement of how you feel when something happens. It doesn't assign blame, it doesn't accuse. An example of an "I" message might be, "Grandma's vase is broken. I love that vase because it reminds me of when we picked flowers together. I am very sad that the vase is broken." A child might say, "I wanted to play with the doll. I'm sad because I don't have it to play with."
Listen to the Other Person
This is a tough one for kids, and for big people, too. It is hard to listen when you are angry. Nothing gets solved if everyone is talking -- no one hears the message. That means that you, the parent, must listen to what the child is saying. You model for the children how to listen and how to respond to what is said. It can be vital to solving problems to hear all parts of what is going on.
Focus on the Problem at Hand
Stay with the problem that is in front of you. It is tempting to drag in events from the past six months when dealing with a current circumstance, but it doesn't help solve the situation. Children won't have as much history to draw upon, but they can still bring up matters that have nothing to do with what is under discussion. Encourage children, instead, to think of ways to change the circumstances and make it better.
Sentences that start out with "How would you like it if I ..." or "How would you feel if ..." have no part in fair fighting. You have probably heard parents say something along the lines of, "Maybe I should just go break your toys. How would you feel then?" Even if no one has any intention of carrying out these threats, they scare and they hurt. Words might not set a concrete course, but they do plant seeds of ideas.
Find a Positive Solution
Some things cannot be fixed once they are broken, but something can usually be done to make people feel better. "I'm sorry," isn't a cure-all, but it is a start. Finding a way to fix the problem, such as cleaning up the spill, gluing the vase back together or using it as part of a commemorative art project is more to the point than punishment. Sometimes, all that is really needed is time for everyone to cool off.
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