When children are fighting, keep in mind that it is in the nature of the young, across species, to challenge each other in some kind of physical fashion. Although humans are more cognitively advanced, children will have that same instinct to explore and challenge their peers physically and verbally.

When a challenge is evenly matched, observe their problem-solving strategies by allowing children time to resolve it themselves. Listen to their words and watch their gestures. Like adults, children disagree, size one another up, want vindication, and engage in power struggles in search of what is “right” and “just”; they just lack sophisticated skills to do it eloquently, so they fight it out and argue. Adults intervening too quickly risks interrupting the development of social competency when being challenged. If it is mis-matched, and it is clear that a child is not going to fare well, step in. But, if they are able to hold their own, let them figure it out. Interject yourself when it is obvious that no resolution is in sight or that things are escalating.

If children are simply arguing, the question to ask is: Is this disrupting the environment?

In a public space, arguing can be embarrassing and disruptive to others. In a closed space, like the car, arguing can be very stressful, particularly for a driver. But if it’s a benign argument between two young people who are having a hard time seeing eye to eye, give them a minute to talk it out, even if they use language that might not be so nice such as “I don’t like you!” “You’re a jerk!” “You’re mean!” This is all part of building relationships. All relationships have good and bad parts that eventually can lead them to trust and comradery.

These social competencies are crucial to ultimately understand the perspective of others. Intervening too quickly can extend the egocentric stage where young children think the world only revolves around their own wants and needs. Cognition of alternative perspectives is a stepping stone toward empathy, problem-solving and self-esteem that primarily takes place through altercations and social challenges that require they “step up their game” to find balance.

Dr. Masek
VP of Education