How to stop a primary school kids fight turning into a grown-up fight
First of all I need to issue a disclaimer, contrary to the traditional one that states that all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I am drawing on my own experiences, those of friends and friends of friends. Some are in London, some are in Hertfordshire, some are in New York. Some are parents of boys, some girls. The common ground is that we are all parents and all kids fight.
We need to develop coping mechanisms for ourselves and our children to resolve these issues and in particular try to stop fights escalating from children to parents.
I have witnessed a full on fist fight in the primary school playground between two 40-year-old Dad’s, only broken up by the arrival of the police and latterly a court date for one of the warring parties. This fight was in fact started by two six-year-olds arguing over whose toy stunt car had fatter wheels.
Obviously this is an extreme example, but it is all too easy for children’s disagreements, especially when left to rumble on, to lead to confrontation amongst parents. So nip it in the bud.
Even two intelligent, normal people came become impassioned on the subject of their children, especially if they feel that the character of their offspring or their parenting skills are being questioned.
For this reason the overriding opinion of experience is to make the class teacher your first port of call for help resolving issues
There are many reasons that this is a good idea, not least the virtual certainty that whatever behaviour you are hearing about or witnessing the likelihood is that it originated and carries on in school.
A class teacher is perfectly positioned to arbitrate disputes in an emotionally detached fashion. This can be vital in taking the heat out of the situation.
They are also the person best able to see and understand both sides of the story, and there will always be at least two versions. Your little darling will be saying one thing, another little darling will be saying quite another. Like most arguments there will likely be some truth on both sides.
Teachers are professionals trained to understand and manage children. A class teacher at a primary school probably knows more about how your kids interact in a group scenario, their friendship groups and dynamics than you do. After all for most children the majority of their socialising takes place in the classroom and the playground.
Just as much as maths and phonics are learnt at school it is also a time where these little people are working out how to be a social animal, how to interact in groups and how to build and maintain friendships.
If you telephone or meet a teacher and explain the situation they will be able to monitor and manage the children involved. They may speak to the children independently and/or also the class as a whole to explain what levels of behaviour are expected.
If the situation is not fixed immediately don’t hesitate to follow up and ask teachers for more help. For many reasons a one-shot wonder may not work but if the teacher is clear and firm on the message that they are giving, and this is reinforced at home, most children will sort themselves out.
In addition to help from a teacher, you can also try talking to the other parents about the problem between your children. A one-on-one supervised playdate can help forge better relations between kids. You probably have a good idea if this would work depending on whether or not you have an existing friendship or if they have a personality likely to be receptive to this type of suggestion. The consensus is that it helps if you remember to criticise behaviour or actions but not the personality of a child. The latter just naturally results in defensive and probably more aggressive chat.
And keep faith in your child. Say you think or discover that they have been behaving badly its not a disaster or an end point. Childhood, and let’s face it life in general, is a learning curve and we are all entitled to some blips. With love and help you just put them back on track.
Couple of quick other tips for mediating kids fights.
If you see a child misbehaving in a playground, in the park or on a playdate it is absolutely fine to politely tell them that their action is not acceptable. If they persist in bad behaviour telling them you are going to have to speak to their parent or carer is generally very effective in pulling them up short. And do go and speak to them if you need to.
In these scenarios, including a playdate, the general gist is that you probably deliver the reprimand in a more moderate tone than the one you reserve for your own offspring. But it is important to have consistency in the message your children receive from you. So if their friend decides to upend every toy box in the house or set fire to the family dog- tell them NO.
PS I am still learning but apparently when boys are play fighting the time to intervene is when someone starts crying. Up until then they are just playing an imaginary game of wooden club and wooly mammoth. Note they may not get this out of their system until their late thirties, if ever.