When to step in to toddler arguments

It’s natural to want to come to Baby’s defense when you hear him arguing with another child, or for you to want to intervene when he starts squabbling with his siblings. After all, you want him to get along with his peers, and to make friends, and arguments seem to go against that goal. However, before you jump in and start to play referee, it’s important to remember that arguments actually play an important part in his social development.

The pros of arguments

  • Problem-solving: Arguments start with a disagreement, and there’s no avoiding the fact that at some point, Baby is going to have an issue with his playmates. Maybe he wants a toy that another child won’t share, or another child tells him that he can’t join in a game at the park. While this is no fun to watch, watching from the sidelines for a bit to see how he responds gives him the chance to try to figure out a solution to the problem on his own. Where there is a problem, there is also a solution. Giving him time to work through a disagreement helps him learn that problems can be solved peacefully.
  • Compromise: Life isn’t always going to go the way Baby wants, or the way he plans, and it’s a lesson he’s going to learn over and over again in a hundred little ways as he grows up. When you step in during a conflict, siding either with Baby or the opposing party, you’re reaching the compromise for him. By letting him work on negotiating on his own, you’re helping him learn important skills like taking turns, waiting, the fact that compromising with others can mean they keep wanting to play with you, and other lessons that can help out down the road.
  • Emotional intelligence: Working through tricky situations with peers helps Baby learn to express his feelings. As he gets better at this, he will also grow more comfortable with expressing themselves. Give him the chance to stand his ground, and soon enough, he won’t need you to rush to the rescue!

Working through problems with other children can teach Baby some great skills for the school years and beyond, if you resist the urge to come right to his defense when he disagrees with his peers. If the argument is getting out of hand, grows physical, or seems like a case of bullying, it’s still your role to step in to break up the situation, but the rest of the time, it can be helpful to give him some time to work things out on his own – and you may be surprised as how well he handles these early confrontations.

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