Parenting: Teaching two sides of conflict

Conflict between Primo and Segundo usually leads to one of them starting to scream their displeasure. It’s a smack from the blunt instrument of violent noise and I mostly just want them to stop. But when I think about this teachable moment there are usually two contradicting lesson that I would like to teach. Let’s take the latest example of Primo coming through and kicking the lineup of cars that Segundo has painstakingly laid out along the edge of the carpet and the tile floor. Primo is being a bully and I want to correct that behavior. I want to tell him that it is not OK to be a bully and that he needs to think about other people and the way they feel, not just about himself and how much fun it is to hear his little brother lose his shit over something so stupid. On the other hand I want to teach Segundo that life isn’t fair and that terrible things happen all the time. He needs to learn how to deal with adversity on his own and not be a victim all the time. I know this is big, not necessarily age appropriate lesson but I still want to start the conversation.

Having more than one kid means that conflict does not have a simple solution. There isn’t one response that will solve the issue or convey the  the lesson that I would like both boys to learn. The busier I am with my own tasks and projects the more likely I am to search out the simple response of stopping the screaming. Segundo gets in trouble for screaming and the boys get separated for a while so I can go back to what ever it was I was doing with out the noise pollution. At my best I share the story of kind of boys I hope we raise and talk about the ways we get there together. Being a bully is not acceptable, wether they are the bullies or they see bullies, and dealing with adversity is key lesson to learn. These are heady concepts for the boys at 5 and 3 but I still think there is value in bringing them up. The same way we use vocabulary around the boys that they don’t quite understand. They eventually learn the words and build the skill of finding the right words for the right situations.

Continually going back to the picture of the type of kids I want to raise is important for me. That future person with all those idealistic features helps frame my response to these smaller issues. If I want my boys to be self assured and confident then what does that mean today in the way that I raise them. How do encourage strong problem solving skills in kids when you swoop in and try to solve all their problems for them. All this to say that parenting is complex and hard and it doesn’t get any easier as the kids get bigger. I want to continually rise to meet that challenge.

  4 comments for “Parenting: Teaching two sides of conflict

  1. 08/06/2011 at 5:06 pm

    This is complicated shit, ain’t it? I love your approach, or the idealistic approach anyway, of trying to convey dual lesson to multiple children when conflicts appear. By the way, I agree 100% with the vocab tip. Speak above them and they’ll rise up to meet you…the opposite of course is also true.

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  2. 08/07/2011 at 3:55 am

    Totally agree that solving conflict is not simple with multiple kids. I learned that when my older 2 were preschoolers, that I was trying to parent them the same way. But they have unique personalities, struggles, and needs.

    Even more than dealing with the behaviors, we have to try to reach their hearts. We have to help them realize their motivations for their behaviors, whether it’s pride, selfishness, or thoughtlessness. It’s the heart that controls behavior.

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  3. 08/09/2011 at 9:54 am

    So hard to teach any of this stuff. I always wonder how to bring what seem like difficult concepts down to their mode of understanding at young ages. My boys (almost 3) and daughter (4 1/2) do this stuff to each other all the time! It’s maddening to hear them explode on each other, so I always figure I have a lesson too: How to not lose my mind and maintain some patience in the midst of the aural onslaught. Then maybe I can teach them something–or at least try.

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