Meet and Beat the Get-Along Crabbie!
"Anything's Right That Makes'em Fight!"
The Get-Along Crabbie is the Crabbie that we use to summarize a variety of ways that kids have problems getting along with other kids or adults.
There are many familiar phrases that you’ll hear when Get-Along is on the scene:
“You can’t come to my birthday.”
A prime example of when Get-Along appears is in the car. Everybody is in a cramped space. It just seems to invite frequent bickering back and forth. Shouts from behind the driver’s seat plead with you to intervene, but your attention needs to be on the road. You know that by the time you reach the driveway, you’re going to be fed up with hearing, “Joey’s touching me!” and “Olivia stuck her tongue out!”
When kids are arguing with each other, not sharing, physically picking on one another, or calling each other names, we recognize that as the Get-Along Crabbies. When kids are having difficulty cooperating with parents or other adults, we also see that as the Get-Along Crabbies.
Kids who are able to beat the Get-Along Crabbies are able to build successful relationships with their peers, siblings, parents, teachers, and others. Positive social development is also associated with academic achievement, self-esteem, and overall levels of happiness. In other words, kids who can get along well with others tend to do better in school, feel better about themselves, and are happier.
It is important to recognize that Get-Along is one of the secondary Crabbies. A key characteristic of secondary Crabbies is that they are harder to beat if one of the primary Crabbies is in the picture. So, the first step is to call it out if you believe that Too-Tired, Hungry, Junk-Food or Achy has joined forces with Get-Along.
If you notice that one of the primary Crabbies is often or always in play, step back and put your focus on beating the primary Crabbie. I have very often seen that hitting or pushing or yelling completely stops when kids develop good sleep and eating habits.
The ultimate goal of beating the Get-Along Crabbies is for children to be able to work things out when they have problems with others. In order to reach this ultimate goal, children need to develop social skills and self-control. There are many skills that would fall under these categories.
Social skills and self-control skills that children can learn when they beat Get-Along include:
- Being nice
- Thinking before you speak
- Choosing to not say mean things instead of blurting out what comes to mind
- Not hitting when angry
- Being fair
- Negotiating with others
- Solving problems together
- Talking through things rather than arguing
- Learning to walk away
- Learning to get help from an adult without “tattle-tailing” (more on this below)
- Complimenting others
- Being kind and understanding
- Not retaliating when somebody does something hurtful to you
- Being assertive
- Standing up for oneself while being respectful of others
- Forgiving others and admitting your own mistakes
- Saying “I’m sorry”
- Asking for what you need
- Telling others how you feel
These skills will take time to develop and they can be built upon as your child grows. We all need social skills and self-control to effectively meet our needs and face relationship challenges. You can take simple steps at your child’s early age to start laying a long-term foundation.
As with beating all the Crabbies the key is to eliminate shame that will cause defensiveness by talking in terms of working together to beat Get-Along.
First, start out by saying, “Let’s beat the Get-Along Crabbie!” to get them excited about the idea. A great way to introduce Get-Along is to do a role-play. Kids get a big kick out of adults saying the words of a Get-Along Crabbie! Demonstrate to them in a humorous, over-the-top example of a squabble, using words like, "You can't come to my birthday party!" They’ll probably start giggling and then you’ll have their attention when you explain that it is important that they learn to get along well with others.
Second, use your own words to give them some ideas of the “do’s” and “don’ts” while playing or interacting with other kids. Some tips to get started include:
“No grabbing toys away from someone else.”
Soon enough, they will start adding their own ideas to the list:
“No pulling hair!”
Then you can add things like:
"Do take turns!"
"Do say you’re sorry if you make a mistake."
Note: Let them be dramatic...this works great for getting it to sink in! Before long you’ll all be laughing about ways to beat Get-Along!
Next, explain that if there is a problem they are having with each other, they need to try to “work it out.” Sometimes they won’t be able to work it out on their own – especially early on. Explain that when they can’t work it out alone, the best thing to do is to come to an adult to help them work it out. After helping them work things out you can use what just happened as a good example of how to solve problems so that next time they will be able to handle it themselves.
Be sure to explain the difference between getting help to work things out and tattle-tailing. Tell them that when they can’t work things out on their own, they need to say something like, “We need help.” It is not okay to yell, “I’m telling!” and then run to you crying, “Johnny’s not sharing!” A key difference between appropriately involving an adult for help and tattle-tailing lies in the motives. In appropriate help seeking, the motive is to work things out or to avoid problems getting worse. In tattle-tailing, the motive is to get the other person in trouble.
When a child involves you for help in working things out, it is important to ask everyone involved what happened. Try to come into the situation with a neutral attitude. If your tone leads them to think you’re going to be mad, they might have a hard time being honest. If you are curious and come into the situation from a standpoint that you are there to understand what happened and give them some suggestions for how to work things through, they are much more likely to use this as a learning opportunity. Also, you will often learn that what happened was either innocent or a misunderstanding.
Your manner of handling the situation can provide good modeling to them for how they can conduct themselves when difficulties arise.
One more tip is to remind children that hands are for helping, not hurting. Many kids like this saying. Teach them to interact in a friendly and positive way. We talk about things in terms of ‘warm fuzzies,’ NOT ‘cold pricklies.’ Warm fuzzies are nice, but cold pricklies are mean! Sharing is a warm fuzzy. Grabbing a toy from someone else is a cold prickly. “I like your coloring” is a warm fuzzy. “YOU SCRIBBLE!” is a cold prickly. (Doing an internet search on ‘warm fuzzies’ will yield stories you may want to share with your kids.)
Celebrating kindness goes a long way toward beating Get-Along. On occasion I have had kids who have to work extra hard on not being reactive. For those kids it may require that you have some sort of a reward connected with beating Get-Along. Little prizes, baking a cake, having lunch and a movie are examples of things I have used to reward kids for their accomplishment of beating Get-Along.
Make it a great day!