Friday, August 17, 2012

bullies2buddies and sibling rivalry

For the first 11 years that I was a parent, I had two children 5.5 years apart.  It wasn't no effort to raise them, but I did not deal with the classic "sibling rivalry."  People talked about their kids fighting, and I had no experience.  Periodically they argued or fought or annoyed each other, but it was basically nothing.  Then I was blessed with 3 children in under 4 years.  I still haven't had that much sibling rivalry to deal with until now.  Part of it may have to do with the fact that the older two did tandem nursing, which people say helps cut down the sibling rivalry.  A huge piece of it is the personality of my middle son, who by nature is peaceful and obliging.

So I read Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish.  And I've been using Playful Parenting techniques by Larry Cohen, which I am sorry I didn't know about when the girls were little.  When I see aggression brewing, I sweep the aggressor into wrestling or some type of fighting play, and it works miracles.

But as far as an ideology regarding sibling rivalry, I've been thinking for a while about bullies2buddies principles.  I read about it a couple of years ago, before I had 3 children close in age, so it was still pretty theoretical.  Some of the concepts (from my faulty memory) include:

  • Hitting that doesn't draw blood or leave a mark is not really "hurting" between two people of about equal power.  It is actually a pretty effective way for them to navigate conflicts.
  • Children don't usually want to badly hurt each other, and if left to their own devices, the majority of the time they will respond fairly quickly to a cry of true distress and back off immediately.  On the contrary, when adults get involved, it leads to children ignoring each other's signals and focusing more on the authority's cues and getting parental attention.
  • It is useful to distinguish between bothering and annoying and hurting
Overall, he urges a policy of general non-involvement, on the theory that the great majority of what is going on is not true hurting that leaves marks or does damage, and on the theory that siblings generally love each other and will be responsive to a true cry of distress and will back off, and on the theory that they will thunk each other a few times and that is an acceptable way for them to work out their conflict.

I find this extremely logical.  There are a few points that cause me great discomfort:

  1. What if it isn't quite so benign and one sibling is torturing the other.  Shouldn't that be stopped?  Isn't that damaging to the psyche of the one being tortured?  
  2. Is encouraging/not stopping hitting and other mild forms of aggression something we want to teach our children?  Isn't growing up a lot about being able to control impulses, especially aggressive impulses?  Is this counter chinuch?  Do I really want to imply by my non-involvement that it's OK to hit?
Despite these hesitations, I am very intrigued by the theory and I have been eager to test it out.  The trouble with testing it out is that if i sometimes get involved and sometimes don't get involved, I am not sure if I am exacerbating the situation.

My next post will describe some situations where I tried it out.

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