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This recent question was hard to answer because I feel so strongly about unrestrained bullying and physical violence.
“I need your opinion/advice regarding my grandsons age 6 and 8. Since he was 2 or 3 years old, the youngest boy “picks” on the oldest usually by hitting. The oldest boy is not a fighter and usually runs away from him. Recently the father told him don’t be a “wuss,” stand up for yourself, fight back. The oldest did fight back hitting his brother in the face and giving him a bloody nose. The background is, in my opinion, that the mother is a bully who picks on the father and that the boys are repeating the dynamics of what they see. Plus they have different dispositions. What would you advise to help the boys from fighting? Any suggestions on how to address the behavior of the young bully instead of hitting back?”
As a grandma you already suspect there is not much you can do. Nor can you change the personality of the grandkids or their parents. But we live in a world of violence and we have a bullying problem in schools and neighborhoods. Let me tell you how much I deplore parents encouraging fighting, let alone permitting it.
Hurting people or property is a red line for me. It should never be permitted and it should be treated by both parents as an act that will always evoke consequences.
Of course all siblings squabble and most fight. But the most important “rule” of parenting is to protect your children whether they are wusses or not.
What do parents do when a child is aggressive toward his siblings? They teach the child who hits that aggressive behavior is not acceptable today, tomorrow, or ever.
You do this by being firm and consistent. You act promptly with stern firmness to remove the child from those that have been attacked or injured. You do this every time the child hits or kicks or bites. This is a non-negotiable matter. The lesson to teach: when you hurt people, you can’t be around people.
As I say on my website, sibling squabbling can be minimized by telling kids they must alternate play-together time with play-alone time. Savvy parents have anti-boredom ideas up their sleeves as boredom leads to picking on each other which can lead to fights.
Also, assign blame as sparingly as possible especially if the kids are playing in another room and you didn’t see what led up to the mayhem. Sometimes a child is obviously out of line and needs to be dealt with, but the best thing a parent can do is let children resolve their own disputes. Listen to what each child says is the problem but don’t come up with the solution yourself. Rather, rephrase the problem as you heard it (“Jeff wants to study and Nancy is playing her stereo too loud. How can you kids settle this? It’s been a problem ever since Nancy got her new stereo.”).
Remember if you tell the kids how to settle it, you create a winner and a loser. If they settle things themselves it’s a negotiated settlement. This is an important life lesson to teach your children.
Too bad one of the parents did not write to me so they could read what I have to say about fighting. The grandmother should decide whether sending them my answer will help or hinder. I reminded her when the boys are with her she can and should have a no-fighting rule in her house and enforce it.
Grandparents can, even in difficult situations, be positive role models. If a grandparent’s values differ from the parents’ values there is only one way to handle this: honestly. “I don’t believe in hitting so, even though your parents allow it in their home, I don’t allow hitting in my house.” The trick is to get your point of view across without putting the parents down.
To my way of thinking aggression and violence can be correlated with place and environment. If you want a peaceful home, reduce clutter and noise levels. Loud repetitive, rhythmic sounds (drums) were used to arouse tribal warriors. A lullaby sung softly has the opposite effect.
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