“Give me that, it’s mine! I’m telling mom! I hate you! Bam….”

Many parents believe that children shouldn’t fight, and because they believe that children shouldn’t fight, they interject themselves in the fighting. What if that belief is an old, hand-me down belief? What if we were to discover that what we are truly bothered by when our children are fighting has nothing to do with the fighting itself? What if we were to discover that the true disturbance in those moments is the emotion and feelings that are triggered inside of us by that event?

I was recently at a park with a group of parents and children. A little girl wanted to go up the ladder to a slide. A boy jumped in front of her by pushing her aside. In response to that, the little girl hit his leg. The boy immediately turned his attention to his mom as if to say “Please do something about this, she just hit me.” The mom then walked up to the girl and asked her politely to not touch her son again.

What did that boy learn for himself in that event?

Did he learn that he can’t or isn’t responsible for his own battles? Did he learn to call upon others to help him out of situations instead of learning something about them for himself? Yes, and I would like to make something clear. I’m not saying that intervention is not necessary in some circumstances.

Here is another experience that sheds a different light on things.

I was at a children’s museum with a three-year old girl. We went into the “coloring/craft room”. At the long tables in that room sat many parents with their children in their laps, as well as individual children sitting by themselves. On the tables were containers of crayons and markers.

The three-year old girl I was caring for, walked up to the tables and proceeded to take all four of the containers of crayons/markers off the table and held them in her arms. The parents were in an uproar, all with glaring eyes at me as if to say “You need to control your child. You need do something about this”.  I didn’t. I wanted to see how it played out. The parents started barking angry comments at me. Some of the children looked at their parents for intervention. But what happened next was amazing to me.

One girl got up off her parent’s lap and walked over to the three-year old that was holding all the markers and proceeded to ask her “May I please have some markers?”  The three-year old then gave her a container of the markers. Then another child did the same thing. She came up and asked for the markers and was given them as well. Two more children did the same thing and just like that, all four of the containers were back on the tables.

A couple of questions that arose in me at that time were these:

  1. Do we all play roles in our lives that we may know nothing about but are intended to learn from?
  2. If we left children alone to learn how to work with their own circumstances, would “learning for themselves” have a deeper impact vs. simply being told “it’s not ok to do that”?

If you watch children play and don’t interject, they don’t hold grudges like we do. They move on. The moment comes and goes and is not carried forward. They learn to carry things forward FROM US, and we from our parents.

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t intervene like parents do these days. They allowed us work things out for ourselves. When did we stop allowing our children to work things out for themselves?

What if we were to understand and then share with our child that the only reason that the desire to fight with another comes up inside us, is because we feel the other person is not giving us or doing what WE want, or the other person is not being what WE need them to be in the moment. We basically fight because what another person is doing or saying doesn’t “match-up” to what WE believe they should be doing or saying.

So if that is true, are we really fighting with them, or are we actually fighting with ourselves and just don’t know it? And if we are really fighting with ourselves, can there ever be a winner in such a fight?

Terri Knuth (a/k/a Terri Poppins) started an on-call nanny business in 2009 after a 31-year career as a paralegal because she felt a certain calling to work with children. She has cared for well over 100 families with children of all ages, including doing respite care for special needs children. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, and attending classes at the Life of Learning Foundation, a center for self-study. You can find more information on her site: www.terri-poppins.com.

Image courtesy of Charlein Gracia.