How to Handle Bickering

by Kaye Wilson on March 25, 2020

NOTE: This is one of a series of posts on how to help your family actually enjoy this period of open-ended quarantine rather than simply enduring it. I won’t always send out daily posts, and hope you’ll not feel bombarded by them. –Kaye

In this strange season of confinement due to the pandemic, we might all be enjoying a sense of reprieve; we’ve been given a completely unexpected break from our normal routine of work and school!

After the initial sense of freedom and holiday begins to wear off, however, we will probably begin to find ourselves bumping into each other, becoming irritated with people in our space and our face. Kids,even those who love to play together, tend to get into squabbles when faced with hours on end in close proximity.

In my last post I promised to help you get a handle on this, so here goes!

First, a rule for you, the parent: Do not intervene or try to figure out who “started” it. When you do, you set up winners and losers, which will only lead to more strife. Instead follow these steps, recommended by author John Rosemond and only slightly modified by yours truly:

  • You will need a whistle or bell, and a piece of paper for the sign you’re going to make and post in a prominent place.
  • At the top of the paper, write “Disturbing the Peace.” Underneath, write short bullet points, just two or three, describing the things you aren’t going to tolerate: for example, screaming, bickering, physical fighting; customize for your own family, but don’t have more than three behaviors. Under that draw three boxes, or attach three “tickets” (cut out three pieces of paper and write “Ticket” on each).
  • Explain to your kids that these three things are “against the law” and each time you hear one of them happening, you will cross off a box/take a ticket. NOTE: They must understand that each box or ticket belongs to everyone involved in the conflict, whether they “started it” or not, and explain the following:
    • When they break the “law” by doing one of the things you’ve listed you will blow the whistle to get their attention, remind them of the rules, and mark off a box/take a ticket.
    • When all three boxes are marked off/all three tickets taken, they will all be put “under arrest for disturbing the peace,” sent to their rooms for the rest of the day, AND put to bed right after dinner.

If it seems unfair to punish all of them, just remember that it takes two to tango–we’re talking about bickering here, not assault. You want to make it very clear that you will NOT tolerate this kind of nonsense, and it’s up to them to make sure it stops. Seem overly harsh? Don’t do this if you want your kids to continue to bicker and scream at each other, but if you really want to get a handle on this business, there is no more effective way to nip it in the bud.

You can never work out their squabbles, and it’s not your job to do so; simply explaining that they need to work things out won’t do a thing to help. But if you implement this very simple and harmless (but to them very unpleasant) thing, it won’t be long before these squabbles will be a thing of the past. Not only that, but you’ll have convinced them that you actually mean what you say!

Put the responsibility of keeping the peace on them, and spend your days of quarantine in peace and quiet.

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