I have a threenager and a seven year old, both boys. They fight – A LOT. They’re also sweet and loving at times, they share toys most days, and they protect each other. Did I mention they fight a lot, though?
Most days find me hollering at one of the boys, or both. Especially over winter break. Their constant bickering can feel overwhelming, exhausting, and defeating. No matter how much we try to wear them out with outside activities or inside projects, they persist. I suppose that is life with young boys.
I usually intervene often and swiftly in their disagreements. My seven year old is twice the size of his younger brother, and the little guy’s scream will make me come running to ensure his safety for this reason.
I read an article this week that discusses the benefits of not intervening as often, and letting the siblings work things out on their own. This article does not say neglect your children or never intervene when necessary. Rather, it argues that when encountering small scuffles or disagreements that letting kids work it out between themselves generates independence, promotes social skills, and increases the understanding of natural consequences. This sounded right up my alley and my interest was peaked.
This morning when we all woke up, the kids had breakfast and started playing as per the usual during our winter break. Eventually I heard the beginning murmurs of early disagreements.
“No, Ben! Don’t do it like that! I tell you how to play!” (HA! Like mother like son.)
“No YaYa, I do it myself. I do MYSELF!”
“Give it to me now! You aren’t playing right!”
“NO YA YAAAAAA, I do it MYSELF! You not the boss of me!” Eyebrows arched I am sure, voice louder.
I stood outside the door to the room and peeked inside. Shit was about to go DOWN.
I paused purposefully.
“BEN I TOLD YOU TO PUT IT DOWN! THAT IS NOT HOW YOU PLAY!” Ryan reached for Ben’s arm and his toy.
Ben, like a lion growling… “Ya… Ya… I… SAID… NOOOOOOO!”
As I peeked through the door, I watched my three year old pull back and sock my seven year old. Square. In. The. Schnoz.
Now, we are not a family that promotes violence. But.
My first thought was incredulous shock, Oh my goodness is Ryan ok?! My second thought was, MOM MUST INTERVENE AND DISCIPLINE LITTLE ONE AND BIG ONE. My third thought was, Holy crap that kid has a nice right hook! Fourth thought, what teaches big brother not to mess with little brother better than the fact that he is now starting to stand up for himself? Not me yapping at him all day err day.
Of course, I separated the two, we talked it out, gave the appropriate guidance, yada yada. But I must say, it was semi-entertaining to see the little guy begin to stand up for himself. It shocked his big brother and myself. While I do not think hitting his brother was a good thing, I think it was a good experience for big brother to realize that his actions do have consequences. And sometimes those consequences are not going to be pleasant when you have not heeded several warnings from mom, little brother, friends, other authority figures, etc.
While it is not the answer for our family to ignore most arguments (I just CANNOT listen to constant whining and screaming, not my bag baby), there is the lesson to be learned in that kids are capable of figuring out SOME things on their own. I do really feel it promotes autonomy and teaches great lessons in social etiquette that lecturing just won’t accomplish. In this case, it unfortunately ended in a sore nose for my oldest.
Maybe I should be looking into boxing for the little one. That right hook, though!