herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Peacekeepers needed to tackle kids' rows

HERE we are, halfway through the school summer holidays already. The amazing weather has made the time fly, with the kids busily playing outside slathered in SPF and scuffing knees in shorts that rarely saw the light of day last summer.

Playing outdoors is so much better than being cooped up inside, and the kids enjoy a lovely sense of freedom. Even if it's just a walk to the shops, a scoot in the park or a trip to the playground, summer should be all about breathing fresh air and getting up off the sofa.

Of course, there's another reason parents are so delighted with all this good weather. We're able to avoid the inevitable cabin fever that sets in when kids are stuck indoors. After months of routine at school and Montessori, some find it tricky to adapt to all this time on their hands.

Imagination

In my house there's no TV allowed during the day, save for special circumstances. (Special circumstances might include all-day rain, exhaustion from an activity they've returned from doing, a sick child or, sometimes, simply, my need to keep them preoccupied while I get dinner finished.)

Occasionally they'll chance their arms, saying they're bored, and ask if they can watch a movie, but I believe that kids only become bored if you let them. Offering the TV remote as a salve to listlessness is akin to saying, "You never need to use your imagination; just hit this button and you can avoid making any efforts to stimulate yourself."

Lego, board games, dolls, train sets, dress-up, tea sets, car races and colouring are brilliant for all ages, and encourage kids to play together and develop their imaginations. But with team play comes team negotiations, and not all little people are as skilled at diplomacy as we might like.

As a Leaving Cert student I toyed with the idea of doing Peace Studies at university. Attracted to the idea of contributing to society, I fancied studying conflict resolution, politics and ethics.

Squabbling

As a mum of three small kids I can't help but wonder if this qualification would have proved itself useful in the parenting department. While my kids love each other and, for the most part, play well together, there are times when I seem to spend my days intercepting their silly fights.

Three- and four-year-olds haven't worked out play etiquette yet, and think it's fine to swoop into the middle of their big brother's game and walk off with key components. Or sometimes big brother finds the younger two playing a fun game and decides to join in. Before long one of them is crying/shouting about being squashed/upset at their game being "wrecked".

It's a thankless job policing this squabbling, trying to keep calm and be fair. Some days I can't even figure out who is to blame and end up frazzled as they shout over each other to explain.

Peace resolution is one tricky business, and one that's very much part of parenting. At this rate, I'm certain I'll be graduating with top marks by the time they hit their teens.

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