Turn Arguing into Play

A little moment from my life:

The kids (5 and 4) ran to get in the car. They began arguing:

Apollo: I got here first!
Summer: No, I got here first!
Apollo: No, I got here first!
Summer: No, I got here first!

I was a solid 45 seconds behind either of them. As I got up to the car I said, copying their tones of voice, “Noooo, *I* got here first!” (Clearly, obviously, wrong.)

They both looked at me, confused. Summer said, “You didn’t get here first, you’re too slow at the house! See?”

“Ohhhh,” I said. “I got confused. I meant to say that Grandma got here first!”

Both of them looked at me with even more confusion. Summer said, “Mom!!! Grandma’s at his house!! Grandma didn’t get here first!”

I said, “Ohhhhhh. I meant to say, Mamaw got here first!”

Now Apollo was starting to get the joke. “Nooooo,” he said, giggling. Summer was still trying to explain to me in earnest. “Mom, Mamaw’s at his house! Mamaw didn’t get here first!”

I buckled them both into their carseats, repeating the joke script over and over. “I meant to say that Grandpa got here first. I meant to say that Alex got here first. I meant to say that Sarah got here first,” I said, naming some friends of our family. By the end of it they were laughing at their absurd mom and protesting over and over with delight.

And…they were on the same team. I was the silly, wrong one. Their argument was playful, and it was directed at me, and it was with a “wink, wink,” type of, “you’re in on the joke” attitude, instead of being real actual frustrating conflict.

I want to also point out that there are plenty of times where I don’t intervene in their verbal conflicts. Like I was just talking about, kids learn to manage conflict by practicing conflict.

The reason I chose to step in in this specific circumstance was because we were getting into the car, and I know from experience that when people are in a frustrated, furious, grumpy, misunderstood, or irritated mood, then they don’t take well to restraint by car seat buckles. Plus, when they’re fighting in the car, if it escalates to physical fighting, I can’t intervene like I can when they’re fighting in the house or anywhere else. For these reasons I chose to deflect the verbal conflict and turn it into a game rather than let them flex their negotiation and discussion skills. 🙂