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Playdate Power Struggles

Is your child bickering with friends more often? It can be troubling, but he's just becoming more independent and better able to fight for what he believes in. "Kids also start to imitate the ways they see problems being resolved at home," says Laurie LeComer, author of A Parent's Guide to Developmental Delays and a mom of three. "So one might try to come up with new ideas, while the other might yell."

One way to handle a flare-up is to set ground rules, LeComer says. Tell them, "You can play with the Wii, but if I hear fighting, I'll turn it off." Then try not to jump in at the first sign of trouble. Letting kids handle minor disagreements is a good way for them to learn how to speak up for themselves.

But if things get aggressive or one kid comes tattling to you, here's what you can do:

Give them a gentle reminder. Just telling kids to keep their voices down can sometimes defuse tensions.

Sit them down. Tell them they need to work out a plan for playing nicely.

Distract them. They may be bored or hungry, so let them come up with a project they can work on together. Or offer a snack -- food usually helps.

Run 'em around. If they're antsy -- and the weather allows -- send them outside to blow off that extra energy.

If the squabble turns into a brawl, separate the kids, says LeComer. Don't blame anyone. Once they're calm, suggest they talk it out.