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#1 of 39 Old 12-03-2012, 07:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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In this thread, I was asked if I could come up with another hypothetical situation to discuss, so here it is.  I tried to think of one that might highlight differences between no-punishment philosophies like Unconditional Parenting and philosophies based on coming up with appropriate consequences.

 

Imagine this scenario:

 

Your 6 year old wants his 9 year old sister to play with him, but she doesn't want to right now.  She's busy making a paper basket.  When the 6 year old keeps pestering her, she gets angry and tells him to leave her alone.  The 6 year old gets angry, grabs her half-completed basket and tears it.  When the 9 year old tells you what he did, the 6 year old hits her (but not very hard) and calls her stupid.

 

What is your response?  Is any punishment or consequence needed?  If this kind of thing has been happening a lot, is there anything you might try to make it happen less?

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#2 of 39 Old 12-03-2012, 12:13 PM
 
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I am very much a CL, NVC, sometimes playful parenting (depends on the kiddo I'm dealing with as one of mine loves this approach while the other hates it); so I personally haven't ever found punishments/consequences to be necessary.

 

On to the situation, if I had heard one child pestering another child to play and one party wasn't interested I would have stepped in and offered to play. Both kiddo's have valid needs, one has a need to play while the other has a need to be creative and alone, and I'm also seeing a need for respecting others property, and being considerate of others feelings; these kids are still at a age where they may need parental intervention should a certain situation get too heated. I am not trying to lay blame on the parent here, but I do feel it is very important for a parent/guardian to be aware of what's going on so certain situations don't escalate to a level where the child thinks actions like destroying others property, or physically harming another person are necessary. I'm speaking mainly about the 6yo in the last sentence, I have one kiddo just like that and I have had to learn to stick right by him when he's playing with certain kids because he has a tendency to get violent when he feels he's not being respected. Ok, that's the end of my spiel about prevention, I promise.

 

Ok, assuming the parent/guardian did not get there on time for whatever reason, I always seperate the kids if possible and go to the hurting child first. This is not a punishment, it gives the offender a chance to let off steam safely so I can make sure the hurting child is ok. After I'm done with the hurt child I go to the offender, and I listen to him and validate him. Later on that day I would talk to both kids about what happened and we would problem solve together so hopefully this doesn't happen again.


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#3 of 39 Old 12-03-2012, 04:11 PM
 
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My response would be like Mittsy's.

 

1. Step in and offer to play with the 6 year old myself, or arrange for a playdate, or help him find something else to do and play independently if he is willing.

 

2. Talk with the 6 year about how he can "make it right" since he destroyed his sister's basket. I wouldn't force him to apologize, but let him come up with his own ideas about how he can make it right. If he refused, I would apologize on his behalf to the older sister, and try again later when he is in a better space about how he can make it right. If he still refused to address it, I would let it go.

 

If this happens quite a bit, I'd try to figure out how both children could get what they want: the 6 year old a playmate, and the 9 year old time and space to do what she wants.

 

I really prefer intervening ahead of time and setting up an environment for harmony and success than trying to apply consequences afterwards.

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#4 of 39 Old 12-03-2012, 06:08 PM
 
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Assuming I was able to (other children or household tasks needing immediate attention) I would sit there while the six year old either helps the older child fix it or does something else to make amends. I they're unwilling I would help the older child myself, if wanted, then allow that child to lock their door and do what they want undisturbed.

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#5 of 39 Old 12-04-2012, 01:03 AM
 
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Immediately, I would send the six year old to time out. After his six minutes was up, I would explain to him that sometimes people want to play alone and that him sitting dd and calling her stupid was unacceptable behavior and is not allowed in our family. I would also explain that when he is mean to dd, he is less likely to get what he wants, that people do not want to play with him when he's unkind. I would ask that he apoligize to dd. Then I would ask him (if dd still didn't want to play with him) if he wanted me to read him a book or play a game together.


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#6 of 39 Old 12-04-2012, 02:56 AM
 
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I'm assuming I can't step in to stop it escalating because I'm too busy or something. 

I would remind the 6 year old that, pestering others to play with you when they clearly don't want to hasn't produced the sought after results and that taking out your anger on others is wrong and lazy.
9yr old is not feeling very playful after their craft has been destroyed.
6yr is not getting a play buddy anytime soon.
Surprise surprise.
I'm disappointed in 6yr olds poor behavior & expect better.
I would remind 6yr old that you cannot force someone to do anything and suggest 6yr old brush up on their negotiation skills or ask someone else to play with them or think of a way to entertain themselves or ask for suggestions from others.
 
I would remind them that destroying other peoples things is unkind & you wouldn't like the same done to you and it only increases the hostility between you and DD & reduces the likelihood of 9yr old ever playing with them ever again because they cannot trust them not to hurt them. To think before doing things in anger.
 
And then finally after that lecture. lol
I apologize to 9 yr old and ask how they feel, praise them if they say their okay or sympathize with them if not, say I'm sorry they got hurt and offer to make it up to them myself by helping fix up the craft with them at a later time and maybe attempt a reconciliation.
Then I would give the six year old supervised suggestions for ways to spend his time. Not playing with him because I would remind him I don't want to play when I'm in a bad mood but either helping me with whatever I'm doing or remind him of a chore he has to complete or suggest some quiet time by himself and specifically remind him not to badger DD.
 
Doesn't feel like the best answer but I hate forced insincere apologizes.
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#7 of 39 Old 12-04-2012, 03:58 PM
 
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#8 of 39 Old 12-04-2012, 05:20 PM
 
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Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post

 If he still refused to address it, I would let it go.

 

I don't know what any of these alphabet soup of theories are, and I have one kid who is only 1 1/2, so I don't have a lot of constructive solutions on this situation--I'm mostly just reading and learning here. I would be concerned in this instance, though, about how the 9 yo is going to view it if her brother badgers her to play, destroys her stuff, hits her, doesn't apologize, and then has Mom just let him off the hook when he refuses to talk about it. This might be gentle to the 6 yo but doesn't really demonstrate that mom has the older child's back as well. jmho. 

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#9 of 39 Old 12-04-2012, 06:29 PM
 
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I'm not ready to put my thoughts together but I did as DC (who is 11). She said she would ask the 6 year old to go to her room while she helped the 9 year old fix the project. When I asked what to do if the 6 year old was upset in her room she suggested a game or activity for the 6 year old to do by herself. 


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#10 of 39 Old 12-04-2012, 06:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by erigeron View Post

I don't know what any of these alphabet soup of theories are, and I have one kid who is only 1 1/2, so I don't have a lot of constructive solutions on this situation--I'm mostly just reading and learning here. I would be concerned in this instance, though, about how the 9 yo is going to view it if her brother badgers her to play, destroys her stuff, hits her, doesn't apologize, and then has Mom just let him off the hook when he refuses to talk about it. This might be gentle to the 6 yo but doesn't really demonstrate that mom has the older child's back as well. jmho. 

The parent apologizes on behalf of the child, and makes amends for the child who is unwilling, so the 9 year old can see that was happened to her was not okay, and that her needs are important.

 

Its similar to a child who throws his baseball through the neighbor's window. Does that neighbor need the child to experience a consequence, or does the neighbor need acknowledgement that what happened to him was not okay, and that his window will be repaired? The parent is responsible, ultimately, for making things right.

 

You bring up a very important philosphical issue that goes far beyond conflict between siblings, and is very relevant to our culture. The question is: Does a victim need to have their needs met, or does a victim need to see that the offender is punished? It seems in our culture, that many victims do not feel satisfied or able to move beyond their wounds until the victim is properly punished. Our criminal justice system is set up to focus on punishment rather than restitution.  For instance, many victims are not happy when their offender only gets life in prison and not the death penalty - I've seen victims' families cheer when the judge announced the death penalty. From the victims' perspective, how can it really make a difference - they are not at risk of being hurt again by this person. But something about a public acknowledgement that what this person did was so bad that we have to put him to death is satisfying to the victim, and I believe that is not an innate need in humans (to see their offender punished) but is a twisted, sad, culturally maladaptive displacement of their real needs - the real needs being to feel safe again, to heal, to be able to love and feel joy and go about their lives without fear. 

 

A 9 year old does not need to see the other child punished to get her needs met. The focus should be on healing and making it right again.

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#11 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 06:02 AM
 
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Originally Posted by erigeron View Post

I don't know what any of these alphabet soup of theories are, and I have one kid who is only 1 1/2, so I don't have a lot of constructive solutions on this situation--I'm mostly just reading and learning here. I would be concerned in this instance, though, about how the 9 yo is going to view it if her brother badgers her to play, destroys her stuff, hits her, doesn't apologize, and then has Mom just let him off the hook when he refuses to talk about it. This might be gentle to the 6 yo but doesn't really demonstrate that mom has the older child's back as well. jmho. 


That's why after everyone has cooled down, and can think rationally, you have a family meeting and make a plan to hopefully ensure this won't happen again. I can't give any concrete answers because I am not a part of that family, and I personally would be wary of any one size fits all disciplinary action. I think it would be important to remind both children that if things get heated they can walk away from the situation, go get a parent/caregiver, move their activity to a different location, or possibly suggest a activity for the 6yo to do.

 

I really disagree with the whole "punish the one child so the other will feel validated" viewpoint. We can show the 9yo we are there for her by going to her first, by deeply listening to her and validating her feelings, and see if she has any ideas that may help her feel better or even help to re-build her project, if that's what she wants. We should teach the 9yo (and the 6yo too!)  how to take care of her own needs to make herself feel better, she is/will be responsible for getting her feelings and needs met when she gets older, nobody else.


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#12 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 06:51 AM
 
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Maybe I didn't express myself well, but I'm not talking about punishment at all. In the post i was responding to, there was the basic idea that if the younger child didn't feel like discussing what happened with the parent, he would just be off the hook for it. I don't feel that getting off the hook for wronging his sibling sends the right message to either child. There needs to be some sort of sequela--whether it's the parent talking it over with the child or with both children or whether it's a previously agreed-upon consequence (if you hit your sister you lose an hour of TV time) or something else. I don't think the bit about punishment for criminals really plays in here because we are talking about the ability for a family to coexist in the wake of a comparatively minor infraction (compared to murder, that is), not the ability for one person to tolerate the existence in society of someone who killed their loved one.

 

"to be able to love and feel joy and go about their lives without fear. " --well, if the older child knows that her brother is unrepentant for what he did to her and that the parent apologized on his behalf but 'let it go' when she wasn't able to get him to talk about it, how joyful & fearless is she going to be? She knows the same thing will probably happen again.  

 

If you favor the 'let it go if he won't talk about it' approach, how would you deal with this followup: The 9 yo comes to you later on and says:

 

9 yo: Mom, I don't get it. Owen was really mean to me and he's not even sorry. He didn't even get in any trouble at all. He's just going to do it again. What am I supposed to do?

 

I'm genuinely curious here! I'm open to being wrong. But I'd want to make sure both kids' needs were met, and in this scenario with the "let it go" as I quoted above, I don't think I'd feel I got treated fairly if I were the 9 yo. It might also depend on if this were a one-time occurrence or a repeat pattern. 

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#13 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 08:45 AM
 
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Maybe I didn't express myself well, but I'm not talking about punishment at all. In the post i was responding to, there was the basic idea that if the younger child didn't feel like discussing what happened with the parent, he would just be off the hook for it. I don't feel that getting off the hook for wronging his sibling sends the right message to either child. There needs to be some sort of sequela--whether it's the parent talking it over with the child or with both children or whether it's a previously agreed-upon consequence (if you hit your sister you lose an hour of TV time) or something else. I don't think the bit about punishment for criminals really plays in here because we are talking about the ability for a family to coexist in the wake of a comparatively minor infraction (compared to murder, that is), not the ability for one person to tolerate the existence in society of someone who killed their loved one.

 

"to be able to love and feel joy and go about their lives without fear. " --well, if the older child knows that her brother is unrepentant for what he did to her and that the parent apologized on his behalf but 'let it go' when she wasn't able to get him to talk about it, how joyful & fearless is she going to be? She knows the same thing will probably happen again.  

 

If you favor the 'let it go if he won't talk about it' approach, how would you deal with this followup: The 9 yo comes to you later on and says:

 

9 yo: Mom, I don't get it. Owen was really mean to me and he's not even sorry. He didn't even get in any trouble at all. He's just going to do it again. What am I supposed to do?

 

I'm genuinely curious here! I'm open to being wrong. But I'd want to make sure both kids' needs were met, and in this scenario with the "let it go" as I quoted above, I don't think I'd feel I got treated fairly if I were the 9 yo. It might also depend on if this were a one-time occurrence or a repeat pattern. 

 

 

I understand where you are coming from when you say there is there no comparison between a criminal doing something very wrong and a child just making a mistake with a sibling. There is a world of difference between those two things, of course. In no way is the 6 year old like an adult offender who has committed a terrible crime.

 

But the relevant similarity that I was trying to get at is not in either the child's behavior or the offender's behavior.  It is found in this statement: "He didn't even get in any trouble at all. He's just going to do it again.

 

The first assumption is that getting in trouble is what is needed when someone does something unkind or unfair or downright hurtful.

 

The second assumption is that if a person is not punished, they are going to do it again.

 

I am trying to challenge those assumptions, and also consider what a healthy thing it would be for the 9 year old to focus on what she needs (what will bring her peace about this issue, what will return things to how they were before, what can bring her back to the place of  happily making a paper basket) and NOT what happens to the other child. You see the difference? If we teach her that her happiness is dependent on how other people are treated, she is going to have a hard time creating her own happiness, because you can't control how other people are treated in life. Her focus needs to be on how to take care of herself, and not over there on how the other person is treated by mom.

 

I know you didn't think you were talking about punishment at all. It might just be that you have a different definition of punishment than I do. To me, "getting in trouble" is punishment. Forcing a child to deal with an issue that he is not ready or willing to deal with is punishment. When I use the word "punishment," I really do mean it in a neutral way, a consequence that is applied that is not desired or wanted. I don't attach harsh negative connotations to that word.

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#14 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 09:53 AM
 
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I don't feel that getting off the hook for wronging his sibling sends the right message to either child. There needs to be some sort of sequela--whether it's the parent talking it over with the child or with both children or whether it's a previously agreed-upon consequence (if you hit your sister you lose an hour of TV time) or something else.

 

I read erigeron as saying that kids need to see that the parent is addressing the problem, however it is that parents address it. I agree that kids need to know this. Sometimes, my kids express, explicitly or otherwise, a need to know or see that I'm addressing an issue, but they always have a need, on some level, to know it. So in this example, my 9 year old might really need to see not just that I take her needs seriously, but that I'm making an effort to teach the 6 year old to respect her needs. I can respect my 9 year olds needs all day long, and she knows that. What she needs to see/know is that I'm also teaching her siblings to respect her needs--because we do all live together, and knowing that parents are actively working to make sure everyone treats each other appropriately reduces the natural stress of living together. That's not about the 9 year old's desire to see her sibling punished or about her happiness depending on how the younger sibling is treated by mom. That's seeking reassurance that the adult in charge is handling things. I think this is particularly true when there's a problem that's ongoing, where one sibling frequently engages in behavior that's distressing to another. 

 

Sometimes that's tricky, because maybe the 6 year old gets embarrassed if I speak to her about her inappropriate behavior in front of her sister and I respect that need for privacy. I have found that, at least as kids get older, any sort of reprimand in front of siblings tends to create more tension and rivalry. If it were me in this example, I would probably send the 6 year old to sit down and cool off. Then I'd talk to the 9 year old, hug and listen, and, if needed, let her know I'll be talking to the 6 year old. Then I'd talk to the 6 year old (privately), explain why what they did was inappropriate, suggest (or, better, ask them to suggest) another way to handle the situation, and suggest (strongly) that they apologize. 

 

 
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I also think that sometimes kids demand to see their sibling "get in trouble" for other reasons. I have one who, any time I call her out on her behavior, lists all the times her siblings did that too, or all of the things they did to make her do whatever she did. It's her way, I think, of saving face. Doesn't matter how gently I approach her, this is her go-to. Other times, my kids have expressed a desire to see their sibling get in trouble too because, I think, I've been a little too involved in mediating their squabbles. So, my policy (ideally) around sibling fighting is to separate them (they're 9-13 years old now) rather than mediate. I rarely address one child specifically unless someone has become (or threatened to become) physically aggressive, damaged/thrown property, or engaged in name-calling (or a pattern of distressing-to-siblings behavior has begun to develop). This seems to reduce tension/rivalry and fighting. I don't think it would have worked as well when they were 5/6 and under. 

 
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#15 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 10:15 AM
 
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My two sons, now 23 and almost 20, were very concerned about how I followed up with the perpetrator.  In hindsight, what taught them that I was addressing troubling behavior by their sibling is that I addressed troubling behavior with them.  I've been known to say something along the lines of "I've said the same sort of thing to your brother the same way."  Or, "You seem comfortable with the way I'm trying to follow up on this . . . that's how I talked to brother's-name when he did such-and-such.  It takes a lot longer -- a lifetime -- to sink in, but it's more respectful to both of you."

 

For the above situation, I'd have attended to the wounded 9 y.o. in whatever way seemed called for -- help with repairs, empathy, hearing out a rant, also an apology from me and a concrete suggestion of what can be done next time -- by older sib, especially by me, and hopefully by younger sib.

 

I'd also tend to the wounded 6 y.o. (because, face it, they're both feeling wounded), convey ideas for next time s/he wants to join older sib, and underscore my availability so younger sib -- either of them, really -- could come to me as an option.  I would also take this opportunity to say that it's important for anyone to determine with whom they spend time and when, the younger child as well as the older, and that I'd step in to protect that for both of them.  It's a "no" thing, and I'd want to teach them how to use it to protect themselves as opposed to excluding someone.
 

I have no idea what formal method, if any, covers this sort of approach. 


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#16 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 10:45 AM
 
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 I've been known to say something along the lines of "I've said the same sort of thing to your brother the same way."  Or, "You seem comfortable with the way I'm trying to follow up on this . . . that's how I talked to brother's-name when he did such-and-such."

 

 
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I do this too. Speaking to a child about their behavior privately prevents embarrassment and keeps things more calm, and private discussions aren't seen/heard by other siblings (ideally). When discussions about behavior are private, it can help to let kids know that I've said the same thing to their siblings. I don't think there's one right way to handle sibling squabbles, but I do think that it's very important to kids that they know, somehow, that the parent is addressing troubling behavior. I don't think that necessarily means they need to watch you interact with the sibling whose behavior was distressing, but that through their interactions with you and through watching you in general, they know you're going to address it. 

 
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Quote:
I would also take this opportunity to say that it's important for anyone to determine with whom they spend time and when, the younger child as well as the older, and that I'd step in to protect that for both of them.  It's a "no" thing, and I'd want to teach them how to use it to protect themselves as opposed to excluding someone.

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#17 of 39 Old 12-05-2012, 12:25 PM
 
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I understand where you are coming from when you say there is there no comparison between a criminal doing something very wrong and a child just making a mistake with a sibling. There is a world of difference between those two things, of course. In no way is the 6 year old like an adult offender who has committed a terrible crime.

 

But the relevant similarity that I was trying to get at is not in either the child's behavior or the offender's behavior.  It is found in this statement: "He didn't even get in any trouble at all. He's just going to do it again.

 

The first assumption is that getting in trouble is what is needed when someone does something unkind or unfair or downright hurtful.

 

The second assumption is that if a person is not punished, they are going to do it again.

 

Coming at it from the point of view of this 9 year old, she may feel that if her brother's behavior hasn't been addressed with him at all, he's likely to repeat it. Same from my point of view as an adult, if the behavior isn't addressed with him, he's likely to repeat it. It's one thing to try to talk about it with him, he resists, say something like "I can see you're upset and we don't need to discuss it right now, but later on I do think it's important we talk about showing respect for your sister". It's another thing to "let it go" and essentially give the message that there wasn't any problem with what he did to his sister. 

 

I am trying to challenge those assumptions, and also consider what a healthy thing it would be for the 9 year old to focus on what she needs (what will bring her peace about this issue, what will return things to how they were before, what can bring her back to the place of  happily making a paper basket) and NOT what happens to the other child. You see the difference? If we teach her that her happiness is dependent on how other people are treated, she is going to have a hard time creating her own happiness, because you can't control how other people are treated in life. Her focus needs to be on how to take care of herself, and not over there on how the other person is treated by mom.

 

That makes sense, but at the same time, what if what she needs is to feel some confidence that she isn't going to continue to have the same problem with her brother? This approach seems to leave space for her brother to run roughshod over her and, when she complains to Mom, get put off by "well, you need to learn how to make your own happiness", which essentially amounts to "Suck it up". 

 

I know you didn't think you were talking about punishment at all. It might just be that you have a different definition of punishment than I do. To me, "getting in trouble" is punishment. Forcing a child to deal with an issue that he is not ready or willing to deal with is punishment. When I use the word "punishment," I really do mean it in a neutral way, a consequence that is applied that is not desired or wanted. I don't attach harsh negative connotations to that word.

 

No, we have the same definition. Thanks for clarifying though. 

 

 

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I read erigeron as saying that kids need to see that the parent is addressing the problem, however it is that parents address it. I agree that kids need to know this. Sometimes, my kids express, explicitly or otherwise, a need to know or see that I'm addressing an issue, but they always have a need, on some level, to know it. So in this example, my 9 year old might really need to see not just that I take her needs seriously, but that I'm making an effort to teach the 6 year old to respect her needs. I can respect my 9 year olds needs all day long, and she knows that. What she needs to see/know is that I'm also teaching her siblings to respect her needs--because we do all live together, and knowing that parents are actively working to make sure everyone treats each other appropriately reduces the natural stress of living together. That's not about the 9 year old's desire to see her sibling punished or about her happiness depending on how the younger sibling is treated by mom. That's seeking reassurance that the adult in charge is handling things. I think this is particularly true when there's a problem that's ongoing, where one sibling frequently engages in behavior that's distressing to another. 

Yeah, this is what I was getting at. 

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I also wouldn't want my daughter (or my son, but particularly my daughter) to absorb the message that she's the only one in charge of making herself happy and that nobody else has any obligation to treat her nicely. Working on the happiness coming from self thing, sure, but I also want to raise her to expect decent treatment from people who she is in close contact with, and to be able to speak up and assert her needs when she's not getting it. 

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I also wouldn't want my daughter (or my son, but particularly my daughter) to absorb the message that she's the only one in charge of making herself happy and that nobody else has any obligation to treat her nicely. Working on the happiness coming from self thing, sure, but I also want to raise her to expect decent treatment from people who she is in close contact with, and to be able to speak up and assert her needs when she's not getting it. 

 

yes, definitely, I totally agree.

 

The only thing I am trying to say is that she doesn't NEED to see her brother PUNISHED ("He didn't even get in any trouble at all. He's just going to do it again."). That specific outcome isn't necessary to help her get what she needs.

 

Clearly stating how you feel to another person, asking for what you need, learning how to set boundaries, learning to negotiate and compromise... all good skills to have.  But ultimately, the ability to get your needs met and to be happy cannot be dependent on another, specific person. People in general, yes (surrounding yourself with a loving support system, good friends, etc are a part of taking care of yourself and your needs).

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Coming at it from the point of view of this 9 year old, she may feel that if her brother's behavior hasn't been addressed with him at all, he's likely to repeat it. Same from my point of view as an adult, if the behavior isn't addressed with him, he's likely to repeat it. It's one thing to try to talk about it with him, he resists, say something like "I can see you're upset and we don't need to discuss it right now, but later on I do think it's important we talk about showing respect for your sister". It's another thing to "let it go" and essentially give the message that there wasn't any problem with what he did to his sister.

Coming at it from the point of view of this 9 year old, she may feel that if her brother's behavior hasn't been addressed with him at all, he's likely to repeat it. Same from my point of view as an adult, if the behavior isn't addressed with him, he's likely to repeat it. It's one thing to try to talk about it with him, he resists, say something like "I can see you're upset and we don't need to discuss it right now, but later on I do think it's important we talk about showing respect for your sister". It's another thing to "let it go" and essentially give the message that there wasn't any problem with what he did to his sister.

 

 

 

What happens between the 6 year old and the parent is really a private thing. What matters is that the issue is addressed and things change for the 9 year old. She may feel that the parent's interaction with the 6 year wasn't what she wanted to see happen, but that is not her choice, she is not the parent. What she does have the right to expect is that things WILL change for her. And that change can be the parent setting up playdates for the 6 year old, the parent playing with the 6 year old when he is lonely and his older sibling doesn't want to play, learning to play independently, learning how to join in with his sister in something they both will enjoy... the possibilities are numerous, and they don't have to involve getting in trouble. Does that make sense? I am certainly not advocating that nothing be done. I am saying that I would choose to let go of trying to get the 6 year old to make amends if he is not willing to do so, and make the amends myself.

 

I might try again later. It might be that through modeling how to make amends myself, that gets through to the 6 year old. It might be that in my choosing to value his autonomy in not making amends, at least not at that time, it frees him up to choose when and how he wants to make amends.

 

In working with challenges like the 6 year old's behavior towards his sister, I like to think:

 

1. What would I like the 6 year old to do instead?

 

2. What do I want his reasons for doing it to be?

 

Then I try to figure out if my intervention is going to result in the reasons for doing so that I would like him to have. Getting in trouble is not likely to result in him choosing to respect his older sibling's request for space and independent activity out of a sincere empathy and caring for her desires. Its more likely to result in choosing to not bother his sister out of fear that he will get in trouble. I would rather he not do things out of fear, but out of empathy and respect. Its hard work to cultivate that in a child and takes more effort on the parent's part, but in the long run it is so much better for everyone. 

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That makes more sense, thanks for the clarification. 

 

In my example of the "what would you say to the 9 yo", it's easy for me to imagine the child wanting to know what the parent is going to do to ensure their sibling doesn't repeat the behavior. "He didn't even get in trouble, and he's not even sorry, so he's probably just going to do it again" is my attempt at getting inside the head of the 9 yo. The question is what do you tell her to make her confident that you have the situation in hand and are looking out for her.

 

I could easily see telling her that you know she's upset and that you are going to bear her feelings in mind and address the way her brother is acting. After all, that's all she really wants in this scenario--to know something is being done to lessen the chances of this happening to her again. 

 

I couldn't so easily see telling her "I don't want to punish him, so I just let it go. You need to learn to make yourself happy and not rely on other people to do it for you." 

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#22 of 39 Old 12-06-2012, 09:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been wanting to add my comments to this thread, but haven't had time until now.

 

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If you favor the 'let it go if he won't talk about it' approach, how would you deal with this followup: The 9 yo comes to you later on and says:

 

9 yo: Mom, I don't get it. Owen was really mean to me and he's not even sorry. He didn't even get in any trouble at all. He's just going to do it again. What am I supposed to do?

 

I'm genuinely curious here! I'm open to being wrong. But I'd want to make sure both kids' needs were met, and in this scenario with the "let it go" as I quoted above, I don't think I'd feel I got treated fairly if I were the 9 yo. It might also depend on if this were a one-time occurrence or a repeat pattern. 

 

Well, I can tell you that my 9 year old sometimes does feel just like this - that her brother was mean and that not enough was done to punish him for it or to prevent it from happening again.  She has told me more than once that she thinks I ought to punish her brother when he misbehaves.  (Like most of the people who responded on this thread, I try to stay away from punishment.)

 

The thing is, if the kid is punished he's still probably just going to do it again.  My 6 year old sometimes loses his temper and yells or pushes people or throws things because he's a little kid who can't always control his emotions.  (Though he does usually have enough self-control to avoid destroying other people's things; he wouldn't normally go as far as the kid in my hypothetical example.)  Punishing him won't magically give him the self-control of an older kid.  And punishment definitely won't address the "he's not even sorry" part.  The threat of punishment or being forced to apologize or make amends might make a kid act sorry (though even that isn't guaranteed), but I don't think it does anything to encourage real remorse; in fact, it probably makes it less likely. 

 

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What happens between the 6 year old and the parent is really a private thing. What matters is that the issue is addressed and things change for the 9 year old. She may feel that the parent's interaction with the 6 year wasn't what she wanted to see happen, but that is not her choice, she is not the parent. What she does have the right to expect is that things WILL change for her.

 

I like this way of looking at it - that what's important is that the 9 year old feels that the problem is being addressed.  I think I could probably work harder to help my DD feel that way in the future.  But the truth is (and my 9 year old and I both know it) that no matter how I address it, the 6 year old is probably just going to do it again.  Because he's only 6 and even if he understands intellectually, when he's calm, that yelling at people doesn't make them likely to want to play with him and that hitting is not okay no matter how angry you are, he's still going to get too upset sometimes to act in accordance with that knowledge.  I'm not quite sure what I think about the idea that the 9 year old has the right to expect that things will change.  Parents don't always have the ability to easily change things for the better.  If the 9 year were really being made miserable, I guess I'd agree that the parents ought to work hard to make some kind of change.  But a certain amount of sibling strife just seems to be inevitable, and I'm not sure kids have the right to expect that their parents will somehow be able to make it go away. 

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#23 of 39 Old 12-06-2012, 10:57 PM
 
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This sort of thing is largely why we moved homes. The kids needed their own spaces to do as they like. We have a rule now that if you want to do something without anyone bugging you, you need to do it in your own room. (People can share small spaces and still get alone time and space, as I well know, from living in 600 square feet with 4 people for 5 years, but... there are limits to it.) So first off, to ward off this happening in the future, DD would be directed to do such work in her room, and DS isn't allowed in her room without her permission. Also, DD would be free to say that she doesn't want to play with him for a day or a week or however long she doesn't want to play with him, depending on how big a deal what she was working on was. 

 

For the immediate term, DS would have a time out, away from his sister and from me both. He'd have to stay in his room until he could control his temper. He can rant and rave and throw stuff around in his own room as he likes, but it will have to be picked back up and put right when it's clean up time the next morning, and he can't mess with anyone else's property in the process. If DS is wandering around looking for a playmate, I'm already occupied with something or he wouldn't be bugging DD, frankly. If I'm doing a work project while both kids are home and awake, it has to be crucial. If I'm making dinner or doing something else, I'm not available to play. So I wouldn't do any of the "clearly DS needs more attention at that moment, so play with him" solutions, because sometimes one of the kids may really want, or even need something, but it is just not possible at that moment and they have to wait. I don't think "wait until after I make dinner" is unreasonable for a 6 year old, even though they may not like it.

 

Oh, and I think this also does teach what I'd like them to learn, which is, you are responsible for your own actions. If you're angry, find a way to vent them that does not affect other people adversely. If they go into their rooms alone when they're angry until they've calmed down, I don't see this as a bad strategy. 

 

One of the reasons I am not unconditional parenting oriented is that frankly, I don't have time for it. I think DH might like to do it, as he's very much that way with parenting, and I don't mind if he does more negotiating and more talking about it, but I just don't have time for the endless talking on and on over and over and over. The radical unschoolers I know tend, honestly, to do 1/4 or less of the extra curricular activities we do, and/or they have 1 kid. I work, homeschool, and do twenty-million activities that the kids have chosen and love doing. Personally, I think all those activities we do are more important than learning social skills through exploration as in unconditional parenting style versus learning them through direct instruction as in my more authoritarian style, but YMMV. 

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You bring up a very important philosphical issue that goes far beyond conflict between siblings, and is very relevant to our culture. The question is: Does a victim need to have their needs met, or does a victim need to see that the offender is punished? It seems in our culture, that many victims do not feel satisfied or able to move beyond their wounds until the victim is properly punished. Our criminal justice system is set up to focus on punishment rather than restitution.  For instance, many victims are not happy when their offender only gets life in prison and not the death penalty - I've seen victims' families cheer when the judge announced the death penalty. From the victims' perspective, how can it really make a difference - they are not at risk of being hurt again by this person. But something about a public acknowledgement that what this person did was so bad that we have to put him to death is satisfying to the victim, and I believe that is not an innate need in humans (to see their offender punished) but is a twisted, sad, culturally maladaptive displacement of their real needs - the real needs being to feel safe again, to heal, to be able to love and feel joy and go about their lives without fear. 

 

 

In a death penalty kind of case though, I think it is often a need to know that the person can't come after one's family or oneself though. Life often means a certain number of years, and then the possibility of parole. The victims families are going to have to keep going to hearings to testify to keep the perpetrator from getting out on parole, and if a family member had been murdered or seriously injured and I'd testified against them, I would definitely worry that they might kill me when they were paroled. It's not always about punishment as opposed to safety in that situation. 


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#25 of 39 Old 12-07-2012, 09:49 AM
 
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In a death penalty kind of case though, I think it is often a need to know that the person can't come after one's family or oneself though. Life often means a certain number of years, and then the possibility of parole. The victims families are going to have to keep going to hearings to testify to keep the perpetrator from getting out on parole, and if a family member had been murdered or seriously injured and I'd testified against them, I would definitely worry that they might kill me when they were paroled. It's not always about punishment as opposed to safety in that situation. 

 

You might be right, although I do know that most families say afterwards that the automatic appeals when the death penalty is given are far more numerous and thus traumatic than the life in prison parole hearings, which in really bad crimes usually don't ever come up (since often in such cases the offender is given multiple life sentences with no hope of parole).  One of the arguments against the death penalty is that it is really hard on families because it takes so long to get to the actual death part. Decades, sometimes.

 

I can see how it would feel better to have your offender be dead and gone with no risk of ever coming back to get you. But I don't think either the death penalty or the life sentence in prison gives that reassurance, at least not for a long time. Well at least not in the USA. I know in some other countries the death can occur pretty quickly after the sentence and in that case, I think you are right about the relief the victim and victim's family must feel.  But I also think in those few countries, life in general is way more oppressive than it is here, so I'm not sure its a good tradeoff.

 

I think it is part of life that no child can ever be guaranteed that anything will never happen again. Somehow we need to teach resilience, so that its not about making bad things go away forever, but having the confidence that you can handle the bad things that come.

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Regarding the need for assuring that the offense wouldn't happen again, we had to tell our kids over the years that it would.  That we believe it takes years to learn how to treat ourselves and one another.  I made sure to explain it in terms of something each of them was battling (a short temper, needling, what have you), and often would have to throw in an explanation of something DH or I was still working on in our adult life.  The only assurance we felt able to give was that we'd stay on it as best we could and follow through to find something each child needed.

 

I have to tell you, though, I was relieved beyond reason when I was *finally* able to point out progress each one of them had made to his brother! 
 

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#27 of 39 Old 12-09-2012, 03:29 PM
 
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Chiming in to say that I (think) I would have handled it like some of the early PPs. I would address the child who had been hurt. For me, probably in front of the 6 year old. Perhaps asking them to help fetch something to help fix the situation. I'd pay close attention to whether the 6 year old was ramping back up or if her being there was bothering the 9 year old. If so, I'd ask the 6 year old to find something to do or, perhaps, go in another room with the 9 year old. I sometimes feel that dealing with problems can have the same desired effect as a punishment without so much perceived meanness. So, if breaking your sibling's project means that they are busy even longer repairing the project and now mom is busy too helping, that is a big deterrent. One doesn't need to "turn it into" a punishment. 

 

I also don't know how I would feel if the 9 year old needed to know the 6 year old had been punished. My kids are too far apart for us to have that issue yet. I suspect I would feel like that was a somewhat negative personality trait, and I think I would want to address that for my 9 year old in another way than by punishing the 6 year old for his benefit. Though, I think if the 9 year old was not punished he would not likely want to see the 6 year old punished. 

 

If this were a repeated thing, I think I would try to structure the family life to avoid. Maybe the 9 year old gets a special space to work in private. Maybe the 6 year old has more playdates, visitors and etc. I think I'd also try to find some activities the two kids could do together to meet the 6 year old's need to be close with the sibling. I'd invest a lot of energy in that, I think. 

 

Good hypothetical!  

 

Who wants to go next?? 

 

Did everyone check out Mittsy's NVC thread? It's great! 

 

http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1369377/non-violent-communication-and-parenting/20#post_17195998


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#28 of 39 Old 12-09-2012, 09:13 PM
 
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I also wouldn't want my daughter (or my son, but particularly my daughter) to absorb the message that she's the only one in charge of making herself happy and that nobody else has any obligation to treat her nicely. Working on the happiness coming from self thing, sure, but I also want to raise her to expect decent treatment from people who she is in close contact with, and to be able to speak up and assert her needs when she's not getting it. 

 

I apologize in advance for the digression from the thread, and again for totally nit-picking this comment, but I think I *do* want my kids to absorb the message that they're in charge of making themselves happy.  I'd like for them to understand that they cannot control other people's thoughts, emotions, or actions, and that if they are being mistreated in a situation, they can leave.  

 

I mean, I guess my take on it is that yes, you deserve to be treated decently, but no one is under an obligation to do so.  People in your life should want to treat you well, and if they aren't, you change it to the extent of your ability.  

 

Having no experience with kids this age, it's hard to say how I'd handle it, but I think that 6 and 9 are old enough to be contributing to the problem solving process.  I'd probably try to host and guide them in figuring it out, focusing on what we can do to move forward, not on the indiscretions.  Later, when the waters are calm again, I might try to re-hash what happened leading up to the conflict and try to give them the tools to avoid it in the future.  6 year old can get a lesson in respecting a desire to be left alone, come up with alternative activities when big sis is occupied and doesn't want to play (read a book with mom, etc).  Then older sis can remind her next time it happens, and taught to say something like, "Hey, I'm busy and would like to be left alone.  Why don't you read a book with mom until I'm finished."  If it's a recurring problem, maybe there can be a ground rule that if 9yo is in her room or sitting on her bed or in a specified location, she is to be left alone.  That way she can have a safe zone where she can go and know she isn't going to be pestered.  I would try to run interference and occupy the younger sibling during those times.




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#29 of 39 Old 12-09-2012, 10:35 PM
 
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I apologize in advance for the digression from the thread, and again for totally nit-picking this comment, but I think I *do* want my kids to absorb the message that they're in charge of making themselves happy.  I'd like for them to understand that they cannot control other people's thoughts, emotions, or actions, and that if they are being mistreated in a situation, they can leave.  

 

I mean, I guess my take on it is that yes, you deserve to be treated decently, but no one is under an obligation to do so.  People in your life should want to treat you well, and if they aren't, you change it to the extent of your ability.  

 

That sounds reasonable. I just would want to make sure that I meet the needs of both children, and I saw some things on this thread that seemed sort of dismissive of the older child and saying she just needed to deal with it and make herself happy. While I know that problems are going to occur within a family and it's unrealistic to think everything will always be fluffy bunnies, I think it benefits kids to know that their parents have an eye on the problems and are trying to improve the situation, and that they aren't left to twist in the wind and fix everything by themselves. 

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#30 of 39 Old 12-10-2012, 01:15 AM
 
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I don't know what any of these alphabet soup of theories are, and I have one kid who is only 1 1/2, so I don't have a lot of constructive solutions on this situation--I'm mostly just reading and learning here. I would be concerned in this instance, though, about how the 9 yo is going to view it if her brother badgers her to play, destroys her stuff, hits her, doesn't apologize, and then has Mom just let him off the hook when he refuses to talk about it. This might be gentle to the 6 yo but doesn't really demonstrate that mom has the older child's back as well. jmho. 


Exactly. My younger brother treated my this when we were young, and it just got worse as we got older. My parents' inaction allowed him to abuse me verbally and sometimes physically for years. He destroyed my belongings and invaded my privacy, and once, when I confided in him about a friend of mine, he turned around and told her all about it, just for the reaction. Now, as adults, he has stopped speaking to me over a something he believes I said but didn't, and no one in my family will stand up for me, even though they know I'm right because they fear his response.

 

From what I know of is marriage, he is very controlling and is likely verbally/ emotionally abusive to his wife. He is very intelligent and has a big ego, and doesn't like to be challenged. Most people who meet him don't realize that a lot of what he says is BS and manipulation. No one ever stopped him and just said outright "this is unacceptable" or "you cannot treat someone like that". Instead, they made excuses and praised his intelligence, and I always had to "compromise' because I was the older one, and I grew up to be a doormat.

 

My parents didn't punish, and it worked well for me. I became empathetic and understanding of natural consequences by always talking it out. But it didn't work for him.

 

I know this is extreme, and that there are a lot more factors involved, but I wanted to stress the importance of the child at the receiving end of these behaviors feeling like they are protected and learning what is not an acceptable way to be treated. For me, it is only in hindsight that a realize how bad and abnormal it was, and that I should have asked for outside help, and probably called the cops a couple times when we were teenagers, but I didn't know how to stand up for myself, or that I had reason to.

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