Friday, October 8, 2010

When Is It Ok to Fight?

Matt and I somewhat disagree on how our boys should handle disagreements and physical altercations with other kids.  Matt is pretty decided that if someone is rough with you or your brother, you get rough back.  I, as the mother (and the one who is likely there when it happens and actually has to defend my methods against the other kid and mother involved), have slightly different ideas as to how it should go down.  Actually, to be honest, I don't really have a good idea how it should be handled.  I'm still working on it.

I had better start working a bit harder on figuring out a game plan on this whole issue though.  Today, we had a bit of a fight at the park.  One of Ben's friends was upset at Ben so tried to turn Mitchell against him.  Ben, not used to Mitchell not wanting to play with him and choosing someone else over him, was beside himself.  He finally got to the point where he was physically holding Mitchell, with both arms around him, trying to keep him from following this other boy.  He just could not believe that Mitchell would pick someone else over him and leave him out.  His hurt feeling toward Mitchell over this turned to anger toward the other boy and I could see his anger brewing as he followed after the boys, telling Mitchell he was making poor decisions.  

I stepped in before things got any worse and actually left the park altogether, as I felt the boys and I needed the peace and quiet of our own  backyard, uninterrupted by any other kids or their moms to talk over what was happening.  Ben really was upset that he couldn't "win" Mitchell in this game of tug-of-war with his friend.  I reminded them both that, while they were allowed to have their own friends and didn't always have to play together, that they also were each other's best friends and they should always stick up for each other and not let any other kid come between them or make one of them upset like this.  

What would I have done if the fight had gotten more physical with the other boy - if Ben had decided he didn't want his little brother to be drug away from him and then told not to play with him anymore and started shoving or punching?  To be honest, I would have been happy to see Ben fighting for his brother in such a way and proud that he was brave enough to stand up to the other boy in this way, but also would have cringed at the sight of my little boy hitting someone.  Where does one draw the line?  What is OK to teach our little boys about standing up for oneself and one's brother?  Certainly, at some point, a little boy needs to be able to defend himself.  On the other hand, I don't encourage violence in any way.  

This incident has not helped me in any way.  I still have no game plan here.  I am still uncertain as to how to deal with the toughness training of little boys.  I am still working on it.

The good thing that came from today's skirmish is that the boys are in agreement as to how to handle this specific situation again.  They "talked it out" and decided that they will never play with another kid who is purposely trying to upset the other.  As soon as we got home, they were best friends again.  No harm done.  They had a taste of being pulled in opposite directions and didn't like it.  Oh, to be a young child again and not have any desire to form or inability to let go of a grudge.  I hope you two boys (and Jack someday too) remain able to "work things out" like this and always remain the best of friends.  Stand up for yourselves, stand up for each other, and we will figure out the specifics of what that actually means as we need to.  

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