I don’t know how to teach my children not to fight but I think I do know how to teach them to fight fair.

They fight over my dead body. When I hear an argument, I will walk to the room and lay on the floor. (This shows I’m not a participant, I’m just there to give suggestions, hold kids to the rules, make sure they are understanding each other.)

Here are the rules:

  1. No ad hominem attacks. If an argument is over a spot on the couch, comments about the person’s intelligence or looks are not valid
  2. You must use a even calm voice.
  3. No past offenses
    Nothing older than a week.
  4. You may not use the word “always” or “never.”
    Nobody “always” does anything. Sometimes they sleep.
  5. No interrupting
  6. No touching

Ever since they were toddlers I have been telling them what to say, “Say, Hi Grandma!” and now I say, “John, say, ‘David, why were you so mad you wanted to hit me?’” (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.) I can see what they should say and I’m happy they are in the habit of saying what I tell them. If they really think it’s the wrong thing for them to say, they don’t say it and that’s usually okay.

The “Over My Dead Body” tactic works before things have become too physical. If an altercation has occured and many offenses have been committed, I summon them to Kids’ Court. If they don’t come I punish them without hearing their side and the thought of that usually makes them come running.

I get a notebook and write down one person’s story. (Start almost halfway down the page because they almost never include what started it all.) No one is allowed to interrupt, and I read it back for clarity. Then I get the story from the other person’s perspective, adding in details. I write “allegedly” when opinions are contradictory.

Then in the margins I write down the name of the feelings and I marvel at how big they are. I ask questions like, what did this part make you feel? What did he feel after you did this? What feeling led to this action?

This is so much effort but I think it’s worth it because I want my children to be able to notice their feelings and describe them to others. I want them to understand the cause and effect of emotions. At very least I want them to realize that other people have feelings too.

Then we all do as many pushups as we can, and then we watch a funny video. (Usually about 3 Studio C episodes.) Then we decide what to do about the problem. Solutions in the past have included:

  • creating a new rule for future situations
  • putting a special toy up high
  • punishing everyone involved
  • finding a new game
  • absolutely nothing because nothing was wrong, they just had energy they needed to get out through pushups.