My kids have been fighting a lot lately. I blame it all on my mom, I’m pretty sure she’s been wishing fighting children on me since the days (years) I spent torturing my sister. Even if it isn’t actually my mom’s fault, it isn’t really any one kid’s fault either. Based on my observations, there are two typical scenarios.
One is when Clara tries to play with Katherine when Katherine doesn’t want to, usually because she is deeply involved in a complex, seven-year-old craft project. Upon being rejected, Clara starts teasing Katherine in a singsong voice: Katherine doesn’t like chocolate. Katherine, who LOVES chocolate and can’t bear the thought of anyone thinking otherwise about her, reacts in a loud screech: I DO love chocolate! Stop saying I don’t!! It just escalates from there, with the chocolate theme being quickly replaced by the poop theme, Katherine and Clara getting physical, and little Alexandra imitating all the bathroom words, delighted with the commotion.
The other scenario involves fighting over some common object, such as a stick. One kid wants the exact stick the other kid has. There is screaming, tugging, pushing, crying - over a stick that is exactly like the thousands of other sticks at their disposal. From my adult perspective, this is so ridiculous I almost can’t bear it. I have to remind myself that it is about the interaction, not the stick. They must really want, or even need, to fight. Maybe it is a developmental process they have to go through in order to learn the social skills they’ll need throughout life.
In the first scenario, I think my role is to help preserve Katherine’s space to do her own thing, by herself. After a full day of school, she needs some down time. Clara, who really wants to play with Katherine, needs a little redirecting. Perhaps an art project of her own.
In the second scenario, though, I think I should back off and not assume my role is to prevent the fighting, or try to impose my adult logic onto their developing kid logic. Besides, my logic seems to wash - unheard - right over them, (Me: “Kids! There are thousands of sticks right there! Why don’t you just find another one?” Them: blank look, followed by “No! I want that one! I had that one first!”)
So my new strategy is to step back and let the bickering run its course, staying just close enough to it to make sure no one is scared or getting hurt. Maybe if I give them space, they can find their way through and develop those social skills a little faster. Even if they don’t, it will probably be more pleasant for me to be on the sidelines rather than throwing myself into battle.
In addition to stepping back, I'm going to start focusing on the moments of harmony. It's easy to overlook how much fun they do have together. If I look at it objectively, I might find there really is a nice balance.
See? Two pictures of happy sisters right off the bat.