Living with Children,  Parenting

When things get physical

This morning, the kids got into an altercation that ended with the oldest storming off and the youngest in tears. I saw what led to the heightened emotional reactions and wanted to press pause about two seconds before it went down, but alas, real life is in real time.

My children are polar opposites in so many ways. One enjoys quiet time, down time, personal space. This one rarely seeks out attention in any form and shies away from loud, gregarious, or impulsive types. He “reads” people and has little patience for wild behavior or injustices. He knows I’m a sucker for babies and is the first to point one out wherever we go. He’s been called ‘the old soul’. My other child is talkative, wiggly, always moving, singing, dancing. She breaks stuff, spills things, and is bruised up from tumbles and wipeouts. She goes at life head on and hasn’t quite learned the art of ‘backing down’—especially when it comes to her brother. She sometimes wails, “He doesn’t love me.” Or “He should love me more than his friends, I’m his sister!” Her heart is big, loving, and explosive.

Suffice it to say their personalities clash—and sometimes that clashing is physical. But why does this happen? Why is it that children who have never been hit, never been punished strike one another? Even more perplexing is that they have never been in pre- school or school, daycare of any sort and did not grow up with other children who punched or hit. So what gives?

Have you ever watched bear cubs? Have you ever watched a roomful of puppies or kittens? They wrestle, bite, scratch, and chase. They communicate through physical acts. Our children actually aren’t much different than those bear cubs or kittens. They are jockeying for position, establishing their place, and communicating. Is it the communication of choice we parents want? Most likely not. But I think it is important to recognize that our children get physical with each other—even the ones who have been raised in a nurturing, loving, peaceful home—and it is natural, innate even, and not something to beat yourself up about.

So after their brief battle this morning, I listened to their perspectives. I did not take sides, I did not point fingers. I just made the observation that neither seems to enjoy being hit. I reminded them that they have the luxury of using their words and walking away if they don’t feel heard. They both agreed that is what they will do next time, but I have a sinking feeling my little cubs won’t remember this conversation at all.

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