Image source: CNN
Would you ever encourage one of your children to hit another, as a form of behavior modification?
Over the long holiday weekend, one of the stops my family made was a local playground. This particular one is set up in such a way that there’s plenty of seating for parents right near the action. I’ve noticed that this layout tends to encourage parents to take a seat, dig out their phones, and kind of checkout, creating an environment with a little less supervision than some might like (ahem, me).
While A was busy mastering the rock climbing wall, I watched two brother, about 4 and 7 years old, who were playing a game of swords that started to get a little too aggressive. Eventually, little brother made the mistake of flat out whacking big brother, who ran off to report the incident to dad.
Dad’s exact response was:
You know, you can hit him back if he does that. That’ll make him stop real fast.
As soon as I heard these words, I, too, pulled out my phone to quickly type them up, just knowing they were the basis of a post I couldn’t resist writing. (Thanks for the content, dude!)
Wow! A parent openly advocating an eye for an eye. He didn’t encourage his boys to stop fighting, which may have been what big brother was hoping for; he encouraged them to make things even.
You probably know that this isn’t the way I would have approached the situation; I think it sends a strange message about wrongdoing to young kids. But it got me thinking about how differently we may all handle sibling rivalry within our families.
We’ve been confronting the first signs of rivalry between A and Baby J recently. Sure, A was a little bent out of shape when the baby arrived, and she vied for our attention by acting out, but I never saw her take her anger out on the baby.
Now, the “baby” is getting to be more of an active, opinionated toddler, so we’re seeing the girls steal each other’s toys, sippy cups, and even seats on mom and dad’s laps.
The other day, I even saw Baby J get so frustrated with her big sister that she began to hit her. I responded in the same way I did when A was that age: I held the hand-turned-weapon, told Baby J that we don’t hit each other, and showed her how to touch A gently, gently.
I also had to explain to A that she did the same thing when she was a baby—hitting me or her father out of frustration—and that we have to teach her sister not to express her frustration by hitting people.
Thankfully, big sister is patient, and baby sister is learning fast. But would some people advocate hitting Baby J back, to teach her a different type of lesson?
Maybe not, because she’s just too young at 13 months old. Is it an age thing?
Or maybe it’s a gender thing? Would you allow two sons to work things out physically but not two daughters? Do fathers and mothers handle these situations differently (what would the mother of those two boys at the playground have said about the hitting?)
Does the way you handle sibling rivalry reflect your world view: that things can always be worked out peacefully, or that some circumstances necessitate force?
I’m so curious, what you do in your household?