I finally got a chance to do some organizing around the house. When I say organizing, I don’t mean some major organizing. I mean that I am just putting toys away. For some reason, this seems really hard to do on a daily basis. Anyways, as I’m going around the house picking up items, I hear my almost 3-year-old daughter screaming at my almost 1-year-old son. “NO! NO! NO! Stop it!” I try not to let it bother me. She is always flipping out when he touches anything of hers. So I keep doing my thing. Finally, after several minutes it finally registers that the screaming will not stop unless I intervene.
I go in search of the source of the screaming and there he is in the bathroom playing with the toilet water. Yes, I should have listened to her screams earlier. She knew she shouldn’t push him off the toilet or else he could get hurt but she knew something was seriously wrong with this picture. It was horrifying and yet hilarious to me. She was having a temper tantrum for a very legitimate event. I mean, it could have been a disaster. Luckily, I came before he fell in the toilet and luckily, I had just cleaned the toilet about 15 minutes earlier…not sure if that makes it that much better, but it makes me feel a bit better. Good job to myself.
As a parent of more than one child, I long for peace between my children. My daughter is 2 years older than her brother and God forbid that he should touch any of her toys. When hubby is not home I can barely get anything done because I am just constantly moderating the two of my children. I can only imagine what is was like for my mom to have four children within a 6-year span.
When I was younger we would get in trouble for telling on our siblings. “Mom! Ruth hit me!” So my mom would go to Ruth and say, “Ruth, why did you hit your sister? Would you be happy if someone hit you?” and the whole lecture about not hitting people would then commence. Then, my mom would turn to me and say, “Maria, why are you telling on your sister? Do you enjoy seeing her in trouble? Would it make you happy if I spanked her and she cried? Do you like to see her cry? What kind of sister is that? You are supposed to be standing up for each other,”…etc. etc. So we quickly learned to handle all our issues internally. A traditional Korean punishment is to kneel on the ground and raise your arms straight up in the air for several minutes. This should be called “The Ultimate Timeout.” Yeah, we would much rather handle our own problems than bring mom into the picture.
One of my best friends comes from a family of six children. She is the only daughter. Her brothers were all wrestlers in high school and most of them did some professional fighting after graduation. I’m sure the fights in that home got intense. She told me once how her mom wouldn’t tell the boys to stop fighting, but instead would say, “Go deal with it outside.” So the boys would go outside. Her mom would stand in the doorway and watch them on the lawn as they circled around each other getting ready for the first big contact. “When are you boys going to stop dancing around and actually hit each other?!” she’d yell from her viewpoint. For some reason I think that’s super awesome.
I have friends who are twin sisters. Their fights get pretty nasty even as adults, but they are the best of friends and don’t want to live far from each other. They have learned to express themselves and still forgive when hasty words are spoken.
As parents we are always trying to find the right balance in our parenting and in our interventions in our children’s behavior. We don’t want to raise bullies and we don’t want to raise wimps. We want to teach them to learn to communicate without getting physical and verbally abusive. These are all real skills that we need to teach our children. These are also skills they learn when they are fighting, especially when they are fighting with their siblings.
Although it’s not comprehensive, here is a list of skills and values that children learn when fighting. Of course, they don’t learn all these things on their own. They learn these things when parents try to make the most of these inevitable fights.
- Children learn to forgive. Especially among siblings, children learn to eventually get over whatever they were upset about. It might take a few minutes, it might take days, but eventually they do. I think children forgive more easily than adults.
- Children learn when to let things go and “lose” a fight. Sometimes it’s not worth the frustration and anger. I watch my daughter and sometimes she just lets things go, except when it’s her brother. Sigh. Hopefully, as they get older, that will change.
- Children learn when to stand their ground. I have three older sisters. My grandpa once told me that I needed to stand up for myself and sometimes say, “No,” to them. He perceived me as a pushover. Maybe I was, but as adults my sisters have told me that when I say, “No,” they know that I mean it.
- Children learn not to say things they don’t mean and say the things they do (this one is for parents to emphasize). In the heat of anger it’s easy to say words that aren’t meant. As children fight with their siblings, it’s so important for parents to make sure they learn that words are not to be taken lightly. When we were younger we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
- Children can learn how to navigate the very complex social field and get what they want with the least amount of friction. Not all kids learn this, but some do- like my sister Hanna. Hanna has a way of dealing with everyone in our family in the most politically correct way and I have watched this skill be extended in her workplace. I tend to lean more on the other extreme. If it weren’t for my sisters who really told me whenever I was being annoying or something, I have no idea what my personality would be like, because sometimes I find myself annoying.
- This isn’t really a lesson, but one positive outcome of fights are some really funny stories later on down the road. Some of the more funny conversations we have with people are about the fights we have had as children. Great conversation topics.
So before you dismiss all fights as bad, think about how you can turn something very inevitable into something good. Think of the life skills you can teach your children through their fights. Now, I’m going to just be happy that my kids aren’t fighting at this moment.