Avoiding Arguments – One Conga Line at a Time

This week, some good research was reported on, showing a link between preschoolers swinging in unison and their later cooperation in other activities. The article also mentions how music has been shown to improve cooperation.

In our home, when the bickering starts we’ve been making a concerted effort to find a shared group activity that brings us back together. 

Some of our favorite activities include

  • Singing silly songs with movement together (ring around the rosy!)
  • Conga lines 
  • Pretending to be a train that needs everyone on board to go to the next station
  • Playing tree tag (everyone runs to the tree and tags it, not a person, and you take turns choosing the tree)

The key with all these activities is that they only work when we all participate, and there are no winners or losers.

The same premise works when a child is being obstinate or oppositional. Similar to the philosophy of positive discipline, which encourages parents to “connect then correct”, we try to re-orient behavior through shared experience. Some of our favorites include

  • Walking on my feet
  • Skipping together
  • Wheelbarrow rides
  • Spinning until we’re dizzy 
  • Pattycake

One of my educator heroes was a 3rd grade teacher at an international school in Germany. The kids didn’t all even speak the same language at the beginning of the school year, but she taught them all the recorder. Every day, the students would come in, and the first item on the agenda, as they were unpacking, was playing the recorder. Their first job of the day was to play together, in unison, the simple melodies they were learning.

We get so caught up in what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours, keep your hands to yourselves, that we lose fail to teach our kids the joy of working together. 

Families can build these patterns too, of seeing the sum as well as the parts. So the next time the kids are fighting, lead a conga line through the kitchen a couple times, and see if their attitudes don’t change on the other side.

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