May
30

When child’s play becomes an adult argument

Posted in Mom Stuff
by Lorain County Moms

By Nicole Paitsel, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Madison Voirol, 14, sends text messages to her best friend every day. Madison recently moved to Yorktown, Va., with her family, which includes an Army-employed dad, so the girls now live states apart. But their friendship is staying strong, and Madison’s mom, Erin, has a theory to explain it.

“It’s been very good for our girls to see us argue and remain friends,” Erin says about her relationship with Madison’s playmate’s parents. “The girls have also argued. It is important to know that you’re not always going to get along with somebody, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t care for each other.”

Conflicts between parents of young playmates are common because there can be so many contributing factors, says Jason Hart, who has a doctorate in psychology and teaches at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.

If handled properly, the conflicts can be a teaching moment for the children.

“You have to go with your gut instinct,” Erin says. “You have to decide what is more important: do you want to prove that you are right, or do you want to save the friendship and maybe teach your child something in the process?”

In many cases — and in Erin’s case — the majority of these conflicts arise during the elementary school years.

“During those years, they’re playing on their own with their friends, and the moms are no longer right on top of the kids all of the time,” Erin says. “You get into more arguments based on what the kids tell you.”

That is one of the top reasons for conflict, Hart says.

Conflicts also arise over invasions of personal space, exclusion from peer activities and competition over resources — toys, for example. Parents often can disagree about the nature of the problem (who started it) and how to resolve it.

Feelings of anger and jealousy also can occur, Hart says, if parents overstate their child’s achievements or if one set of parents sees a situation as unjust.

“Consider a case in which children from both sets of parents are equally qualified to gain acceptance into the gifted program at school,” Hart says. “The children from one set of parents are accepted into the program, but the children from the other set of parents are denied. Jealously, anger, and/or resentment are common reactions. These negative emotions may be the stage for subsequent conflicts.”

For the most part, Erin has been able to resolve all of the disagreements between herself and the parents of her children’s friends. But, once in a while, there is a conflict that only can be resolved by terminating the friendship.

“As much as we like to support each other and want to support each other, there’s still a little competitiveness among parents,” she says. “Your child is No. 1.”

Preventing conflict between children

Jason Hart, a psychology professor at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., gives these tips.

Don’t intervene every time. Through conflict, children often learn to manage their emotions, to adopt the perspectives of others, and to strengthen their conflict resolution and problem solving skills.

Model appropriate behavior. If the parents do not handle conflict well, the children will often follow their bad example.

Encourage and support pro-social behaviors (e.g., sharing of toys). Do not ignore opportunities to inform your children that they are doing a good job. Praise is one effective method for reinforcing positive behaviors in children.

Preventing conflicts between parents

Take the other parents’ perspective. For example, if your friend’s child forcefully snatches a toy from your child, think how you would feel if the situation were reversed. Allow the other parent the opportunity to handle the situation. A pet peeve of many parents is having others reprimand their children before they are given the chance to respond.

Pick your battles. Conflicts range from minor to major. If a parent is motivated to win every minor battle, the resulting war will often lead to the termination of the relationship.

Remember that you don’t have to be friends. There is no rule that says that you must be best friends with the parents of the other child.
Conversely, the children are under no obligation to be best friends just because the parents share a tight bond. You should not put pressure on your children to be friends with your friends’ children.

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. User agreement and discussion guidelines.