9 Ways to end the summer fighting in your home


Create activity bins

To minimize conflicts (and those “there’s nothing to do” complaints), create a few “activity bins” (baskets, boxes or plastic bins) stocked with a few toys and age-appropriate activities. Contents for younger kids might include: Legos, Play-Doh, clay and cookie cutters, bubble blowers, toy cars or dolls. Older kids’ bins can have art supplies and paper, a craft set and a pack of cards. These are great to help kids unwind or give them quieter play moments even away from one another. You might also want to have tucked away for those “just-in-case, when all else fails” parental sanity-savers such as a brand new video, coloring books or comic books. Plop the kids down, hand them a comic book and give yourself a five-minute breather.


Call for time outs

Even a few seconds can be enough to stop a big quarrel, so help your child come up with a few things he can say to back off from an argument ready to blow. “You know I’m too mad to talk right now.” “Give me a minute to cool off,” “I need to take a walk” or “Let’s go shoot some hoops.” Then help him practice the phrase so he can use it with friends.


Forget odd numbers

There’s truth to that old saying, “Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.” An even number of kids playing together usually is better than an odd number, simply because there’s less likelihood that one kid will be left out. So if bickering continues with certain kid combinations, set a rule for “pairs” only — and refrain from a threesome.


Teach conflict-solving

Of course, the best way to stop kids from arguing is to teach them how to solve problems themselves. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming your kids know how to do so.

Here are the four steps to conflict-solving you can teach your child:

  1. Stop and calm down. You’ll never solve a problem when you’re upset, so take a time out until you’re in control.
  2. Take turns saying what’s bugging you. No interrupting, name-calling or blaming.
  3. Brainstorm solutions, then agree to a fair solution that feels best to both of you.
  4. Do it.

Now just keep reviewing those four steps over and over with your child until he can do them alone.


Keep out of it

If you hear an argument brewing, stay within earshot. Jump in only when emotions are too high, but before an argument escalates. A gentle reminder might be called for, such as a private, previously agreed-on signal (like tugging on your ear). With younger kids you might say, “I see two angry kids who need to cool down. You go to the other room, and you to the kitchen until the two of you can talk calmly and work things out.” Too much adult interference not only makes kids depend on you to solve their problems, but can actually escalate the squabble.

Of course, if all else fails and there’s still no peace, buy yourself a traffic light and put it in your window. It’s exactly what one mom told me she finally resorted to doing to try to buy herself a few hours of peace. Her house had become “Grand Central Station” one summer, though she wasn’t complaining. She loved that her kids’ friends were always at her home. It’s just that she didn’t appreciate kids showing up at the crack of dawn or three hours after the sun went down. Her solution: She set the traffic light in her front window and every kid in town knew the signal. If the red light was on, it meant one thing: “We’re tucked in for the night and we’ll see you tomorrow.” The signal worked like a charm (and the mom swore that the green light was turned on most of the time).

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