I was recently trying to organise a pool party for one of my girls. When reviewing the list of invitees, my darling daughter gave me a heads-up that Sally and Stacy didn't get along. I was perplexed; I had no clue. After all, both girls (in my humble opinion) were great kids: nice manners, kind, and all around well behaved.
So, what gives? Is it Sally's sassy attitude or does Stacy have passive-aggressive tendencies? Why is there even a conflict between these two girls; they share the same interests, inner circle, and seemed so similar?
I sat there and wondered (and wondered) for a while. Who's right, who's wrong; which girl is the underlying problem here?
Then I came to this conclusion: whether your kid happens to be the most popular child in their classroom or they are someone who has a select few friends, the sad reality is, your kiddo won't always like and get along with everyone. That doesn't mean they are bad or the other kid is wrong. It's just a part of life.
It's normal and natural for parents to always see the best in their kids. After all, you made them, you've raised them, and your offspring are somewhat a reflection of you and your parenting.
Therefore, when a conflict arises with another kid, whether that be on the playground, in class, summer camp, or during an extracurricular, the natural reaction is: what's wrong with that other child? Especially when you are hearing only one amplified version of a story from your child.
As little humans themselves, children won't always get along with others. Some kids, like adults, are like oil and water... they just don't mix well. Much like adults, kids will challenge another's point of view, actions, and perhaps not agree with them.
Nothing Is Wrong
Guess what? In most situations, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the other kid in a conflict — or yours for that matter.
Spoiler alert, parents: sometimes two amazingly awesome kids will not get along. Not everyone sees eye-to-eye in this world, and a conflict between children doesn't make your kid an angel and the other one the spawn of Satan; even if their conflict gets ugly.
It just means they are both humans. It just means they are different. In fact, dare I say, conflict and conflict resolution can be a positive experience when it comes to parenting and children. Yup, I said it. When your kid goes through a conflict, this can be a good thing, because it helps set up a situation where they can experience and learn solid solutions to work through issues that they will stumble upon as adults.
As much as the school offers educational tools to prepare your child for the 'real world', the social dynamics within classrooms and recess can also help offer valuable lessons for children to discover.
The 'I'm Right, They Are Wrong' Misconception
When it comes to a conflict, child or adult, most people gear towards an "I'm Right" mentality. After all, in a world where we are constantly bombarded with good-versus-evil stories within the media when two people don't agree on something, someone has to be wrong and someone has to be right... right?
I don't support that concept. When a conflict arises, I do not believe that there is a "right or wrong" person or child: just differing points of view, values, and ideas — mixed in with some miscommunication and probably a ton of misunderstanding.
As little humans themselves, children won't always get along with others. Some kids, like adults, are like oil and water... they just don't mix well. Much like adults, kids will challenge another's point of view, actions, and perhaps not agree with them. Diversity and differing of opinions and the way we all conduct our lives in social and work interaction is what makes the world go around.
It distinguishes us and makes us unique. Our beliefs, family values, etc. are what shapes us and our children. Comparing kids, their lives, and their personalities; separating them into piles of "wrong" and "right" potentially 'good' and 'bad'; well, to me that is just placing unwarranted labels on them.
Things aren't always what they seem when it comes to the 'other child' in the conflict; no one knows what that kid is dealing with behind closed doors.
Understanding 'The Other Child's' Circumstances
This is a big miss that I feel some parents forget about, and I don't mean that in a judgmental way. The truth is, whenever my girls come to me about the conflict they have had in school or a child being harsh, I hear them out first, and then really assess the entire ordeal. I am not delusional in the idea that my children are perfect and that an argument hasn't arisen because of something they intentionally (or unintentionally) said to trigger the conflict.
Still, after I've heard them out, we talk about the other child; what really happened, and why they reacted the way they did. I often question: who is this kid and what are they all about? If they were mean, could a state have triggered something that is hurting in their heart right now? I try and tell my girls that a lot of times, children negatively react to a situation because of something outside of school. Perhaps they are looking for attention they are not receiving from a parent at home.
Maybe they are struggling with something going on outside of school that no one knows about. Could their classmate be dealing with underlying anxiety or stress from a change going on in their lives? Could other children in the mix (outside of the conflicting two) add an underlying or negative dynamic? I remind my girls that these are all things that can affect how others respond to them during recess play or in the classroom.
Things aren't always what they seem when it comes to the "other child" in the conflict; no one knows what that kid is dealing with behind closed doors. I remind my girls that kids "looking" for conflict or who seem "angry" all the time are the ones who need the most patience, kindness, and understanding.
There's also the underlying idea that maybe the other child is not struggling with anything, and they are simply a child that my child doesn't mesh well with. And that's okay too!
At the end of the day, there are two sides to every coin — perspective and how children see the world will only help them to develop compassion, understanding, and true problem-solving skills in the long run.