The post Priss had remembered was found by Joyce Fetteroll, who is a whiz at finding things, and I'm grateful that she has that skill and talent.
I've told kids from time to time when it was fast and severe that if they do
NOT learn to control their tempers they could end up in prison or dead.
Because just in brief, the natural consequences of being a violent adult are
often retaliatory violence or conviction of a crime.
For little kids at home, I separate them. A trick I learned as a Jr. High
teacher has served well. To break up a fight, grab the loser and remove
him. He WANTS to be saved. If you grab the winning participant, you
might get hurt. If you remove the underdog, they both save face. He can
think he wouldn't necessarily have lost. The winner still thinks he won.
I talk to the apparent victim first. Sometimes it turns out he wasn't such
a victim. But in our case at home, with my boys, that has usually been
Marty, who's younger by two and a half years. At the moment they're 16 and
14 and physical problems might be over. Kirby's learned enough karate that
he's developed the self control that ideally comes with being able to
seriously hurt someone. And they're both verbal, so physical isn't their
first thought. So what I'm going to tell is a summary of various things
over the years when they were younger, in various stages.
What has worked best is taking the one away and letting him tell me what
happened. While he's calming down and stating his case, I'm asking him what
he did to try to make things better. "Did you think of doing this?" "No,"
or "Yes, but it didn't work."
So partly it's a session in possibilities. Then that kid's calmer. But I
remind them that I'm responsible for seeing that BOTH of them are safe in
their own homes, and happy.
Then I go to the other kid (usually Kirby) who's calm by then too, and ask
for his side. He tells me the whole thing, and I ask him at the end (since
I'm wanting his whole story to compare to the other whole version) whether
he doesn't think he could have prevented it by this or that.
(Unfortunately in many of the scenarios, Marty had sneaked up close enough to
hear and jumped in with "I DID NOT!" so I have to go and deposit Marty
elsewhere and say later "That really didn't help me convince him, y'know.")
Then I say to Kirby, "Marty says you said/did this."
So Kirby tells me his version of the evils Marty contributed to the
I remind Kirby he's older and has a responsibility to show some maturity and
set an example (as appropriate, if appropriate). And I tell him yada yada,
Marty needs to be safe in his own home, and not feel like his life is ruined
because he has an older brother who's bullying him (if appropriate...)
Finally I'd go back to Marty and say "Why didn't you tell me this part?"
or "Kirby says you threw this/said this..." And I go through it again with
I know lots of people say to let kids work out their own stuff but I think
that's lazy at best and sadistic at worst. My parents raised two cousins of
mine and one was mean and violent and frustrated and hurt both me and my
sister. There should have been more active supervision and peacemaking and
I know some people believe each soul chose their family and they need to
learn to work out their own interactions. I think it's random, personally.
I don't think any one of my kids needs to be the material on which another
kid works out his karma unchecked anyway.
So in the interest of helping them develop a set of alternative responses
and social skills, and keeping them safe, I let each tell his story in
private instead of in front of the other. It cuts out arguments instead of
turning a little argument into a big one (Jerry-Springer-show-style, in
worst cases). And it lets each kid vent to me about his frustrations about
the other one. They NEED to express that. Better to me than to friends
outside the family, I think. Because in this case they have a lot of
mutual friends. It's to the benefit of lots of people for them to be
sociably at peace. And it lets me commiserate with them about the flaws of
the sibling and to tell them how hard it is to be a parent and to love both
kids but to see when one is being hurt without me saying in front of one
"Yeah, I know it can be a drag" in front of the other one.
That might not be clear. It's not that I'll say to Marty "Yeah, Kirby
sucks, doesn't he?" It's more like "Marty, I really did want to have you.
I LOVE you. And things would be different if you were the oldest. I'm
sorry it frustrates you. But I was an oldest and there are disadvantages
to that, too." It helps the relationship between me and each child for me
to be able to discuss the emotions and reactions in some depth with them.
On verbal abuse, one thing that has worked here is to remind them that it's
their own reputation and self/soul that they're hurting when they're mean.
If someone is cruel, it makes him a cruel person. It might hurt the other
kid too, but it immediately hurts the one who was mean for meanness' sake.
And it disturbs the peace of the others around them. If two kids are
fighting, the third kid isn't having peace either.