He made me do it!

There’s a battle going on and by the time you get to the next room something is broken and two kids are angry. After a bit of detective work you figure out who did what. The problem is that the usual suspect is blaming bis brother for his own bad behavior. . .again!

He made me do it!
He made me mad!

Sigh. . .

So, you worry about whether he is going to end up a hardened criminal always blaming someone else for his problems and never taking responsibility.

Why does my child do that?
The truth is that often when a child is in an emotionally charged state whether it is a happy, sad or angry his ability to problem solve will go out the window. You can subtract 3 to 6 years off of his age instantly. (for some children even more!)

Suddenly your very smart 9 year old is throwing a toy across the room because he is angry that his brother touched his special model. He will be convinced in the heat of that moment that his brother is the problem so he will react rather than logically realize that his behavior is going to get him into trouble. If he would have come to you for help first, then his brother would have been the one in trouble and not him.

So What now?
During the heat of the moment is not the time to work on this skill. Once the strong emotions are flying around there is very little ability to reason or learn, so save your breath and separate the two parties to calm down before you intervene or better yet try to intervene before things escalate this far.

The Pre-emptive Strike
The key is to try to intervene before the melt down is in full gear. Obviously, you will not be able to do this all the time, but when you can it can be a highly effective way to help your chil to learn how to problem solve before trouble strikes.

Here’s the steps:

1. Stop the action – “Whoa, hold on a minute, let’s talk about what’s happening right now.”
2. Help the parties to describe their concerns. “Okay, one at time. Joey tell me your side first and Johnny will get a turn in a minute.”
3. Ask clarifying questions and help him to restate his position as a concern and not as a solution. “Joey needs to share with me!” is a solution. The concern might be “I would like to play with the toy too!”
4. Then put both concerns on the table and ask both parties to come up with a solution that addresses both concerns. “So Joey wants to play with the toy, and Johnny is worried that Joey will break it and not put it away when he is done playing with it. What can we do here?”

Children are fairly self focused beings, so don’t expect your children to be able to do this perfectly the first time. But with some coaching from you, your children will be able to come up with some very creative ideas to address their concerns as well as your concern that they not beat each other to a pulp or trash the house when they disagree.

Give it a try and let me know how it went!

Author's Bio: 

Karen DeBolt, MA is a parent coach and family therapist in Hillsboro, oregon. Karen has a master's degree in counseling psychology and three master teachers--her children. All these ideas have been road tested on her own family so they will work for you too. Sign up for the twice monthly newsletter for more parenting support at http://www.counselingformoms.com and receive my free report: Conquering Bad Behavior Without Stress.