Friday, August 23, 2013

Getting involved in aggression that isn't actually harming the victim

Yesterday, Jack (age 3) was spitting water in the pool at Aharon (age 2).  Aharon called me to come help him.  My first instinct was to tell Jack to stop.  Then I remembered the golden rule in bullies2buddies that bothering or teasing that doesn't physically hurt the victim doesn't necessarily need to be stopped.  Instead of focusing on the aggressor (Jack), I spoke to Aharon about his experience, his feelings, and his plans to deal with it.

"Jack spit water at you?" "Yeah.."  "You don't like that?"  "Yeah.." "What do you want to do?" Aharon heads over towards Jack to smack him, as I've discussed, but the water is too deep and he backs up into where he can stand.  He has no water wings.  Jack comes over again and Aharon pops him one.  Jack laughs and backs off, and spits water at him again.  Aharon laughs.  Jack laughs.  

As I mentioned, I've been watching how often the fighting escalates quickly, and then deescalates quickly.  I think they even seem to be getting more skilled at dancing with each other and navigating through their conflicts.  (In response to what someone said: "I can see it works for your children, but that's just them!" --to that I say: 1) Try it out for yourself and 2) Make sure to also give them lots of time, attention, and love so that their conflicts are not also imbued with a feeling that their "emotional cups" aren't full of the love and affection they need from their parents.)

Today I watched the boys in the pool again, and there was a father watching his older two children "mitchering"* the youngest.  He kept telling them to stop.  As far as parenting go, the kids were not overly bothering their sibling, the father wasn't being strident or aggressive or abusive or getting more and more irritated.  I'm not criticizing his parenting.  I hope we all can stay calm and reasonable like that.

However, I do think that the way the kids were bothering their brother could be handled by non-interference.  The "victim" surely can tolerate the small bothering his siblings were dishing out, and it's useful in life to have that skill.

***please do not think that I advocate allowing abuse.  I mentioned many times that if the aggressor does not back off of the victim in a case of blood or great hurt or extreme distress and does not demonstrate empathy, then you should separate them***

It seems to me that as a society (or perhaps my small niche of it), we want to obliterate aggressive feelings even before they escalate into actual blood and broken bones and viciousness.  But accepting that there is a distinction and learning to distinguish between the two is the difference between getting involved every few seconds, vs. relaxing at the pool while they learn important life lessons, all by themselves.

*Mutcheh: (rhyme with "butcher") bother, annoy, harass, needle, pick on. "He mutches me night and day. The man won't let me live!" When my nephew was little, I used to tickle and rough-house with him. My mother would say, "Stop mutchering him, already!!" but the instant she'd walk away he whisper to me, "Come on! Mutcher me some more!" Obviously, HE didn't consider it mutchering!  

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