Friday, August 17, 2012
Last post I described an intriguing theory to manage sibling rivalry and my concerns about it.
A few months ago, Jack was sitting on Aharon and beating him up, and Aharon was screaming (Jack 2, Aharon crawling). My usual policy when that happened was to merely lift Jack off of Aharon. Don't blame, don't expect self control, do separate.
Testing the theory that the boys love each other, and although Jack is clearly under the grip of aggressive desire, he doesn't truly want to hurt Aharon and will respond to his distress, I let the cries get worse and didn't move him.
Jack watched me, puzzled, sitting on Aharon, not getting off of him, and clearly wondering why I wasn't stopping him. Aharon cried.
I waited more. Jack didn't get off. Aharon cried louder. I couldn't take it and I moved Jack.
This week, Jack (2.5) started bothering Aharon (14mo). Jack pushed Aharon. Aharon cried. Jack kind of glanced at me, waiting for me to show some sort of disagreement with that decision or to comfort Aharon, which is what I would often do. I looked away (feeling kind of sick). Then Aharon went over and pushed Jack! Hoo, boy, I thought. Bad idea. Then Jack started crying. Then Jack pushed Aharon. And Aharon smacked Jack. And they were fighting and crying. I was pretty uncomfortable. The yelling was getting pretty loud. Then it hit a pretty intense point, and they both backed away from each other, crying pretty badly. I was profoundly uncomfortable. Then they stopped crying and started playing with each other. I blinked.
Elazar was on the beach, drawing a big circle with Xs in it for buried treasure. Jack kept on deliberately stepping into the circle and on the Xs. Elazar said, "Jack, stop." "Jack, stop." "Jack, stop!" "Jack, STOP!!" Jack was doing it on purpose to provoke him. My wont was to step in and move Jack away. Don't blame, don't expect self control, do separate.
This time I let it continue. Finally, Elazar, exasperated, gave Jack a *thunk* on the chest. "Jack, STOP!" Jack stopped immediately.
Aharon was playing duplo. Elazar started building a tower taller than himself. Ordinarily, my policy is that the child who is building builds in a location that is blocked off from the destroyer, so the destroyer has no access. Don't blame, don't expect self control, do separate. However, the destroyer was playing first, so it wouldn't be fair to pull him out of the room. Even with some legos, he'd still feel upset. Naturally, he went over and knocked down Elazar's tower. Elazar was upset. "Aharon knocked down my tower! I'm so angry at him! Aharon, I'm angry at you! I'm so angry!" Even all of this verbalization was not sufficient to cool his anger, and although I could see him striving to control himself, it burst out and he thumped Aharon on the chest: "Aharon!" *thunk* "Do NOT break my tower!" As soon as he hit him, justice was restored in his mind, and the anger drained out of him and he went to rebuild. Aharon began crying hard and came over to me, muttering and he hit me. (Either he was passing on the aggression or he was telling me what happened.) He muttered more and hit me again.
I was in a lot of conflict about this. Clearly Elazar tries verbal communication first. Clearly, Elazar feels better once he's hurt the person who has hurt him--but is that something I want to teach my children? The animalistic law of the jungle? If someone hurts you, then hurt him back? Then you'll feel better? I sat there, holding a crying Aharon, feeling conflicted.
Elazar looked up. He said, "Aharon!" and he did a silly jump and flip so that Aharon would laugh, which he did. He coaxed Aharon over and gave him a hug, and patted him, and said, "Don't break my tower, ok?" and Aharon said, "Ya."
So I think I will try to continue observing with this and see what happens. I'll keep you posted!
PS. As I was walking today, Jack and Aharon were in the umbrella stroller (Aharon sits and Jack stands behind him), and Jack started rat-a-tat-ing on Aharon's head, and Aharon started mildly complaining. According to the theory, am I supposed to just leave that alone? See if it gets bad, if Jack will back off? I opted for my usual: "Gentle, Jack, gentle." Jack started rubbing him gently, and I praised him. I don't know if I would have left it alone, if they would have ended up fine. But I also don't know how they would learn to be gentle if it isn't taught. Would it come naturally?