“Mommy, she did this.” “no I didn’t she did this first”. “well, you snatched it” “but you wouldn’t give it and it was my turn” I couldn’t decide which was worse, the constant complaining or the whiny irritating tone of voice that accompanied it. This was the case when visiting someone whose kids are similar in ages to mine. What I thought was going to be a relaxing night with friends turned out in me wanting to run home, get in my favorite washed out pair of jammies and play candy crush.
…And as I sat there, barely able to conduct a conversation without interruptions every 10 seconds, I knew what the problem was: this parent was refereeing her children’s problems so much so that the child lacked the basic ability to ask, talk and compromise with someone her own age, plus or minus a few months.
I can only imagine that she thought I was equally poor of a parent when my only words were “figure it out”. That’s how I deal with minor situations at home and it’s how I choose to deal with them outside of home. Of course, if I notice my children struggling to form compromises and unwilling to be pleasant, or if I see bad choices being made, I ask them to fix their attitudes and try again but rarely do I step in the way and make decisions concerning play, especially if it involves an inanimate object on a floor somewhere. I want them to be able to objectify and analyze situations and come to their own conclusions and solutions…. And yes, those are all large terms but I believe the ability to make constructive decisions independently is a learned habit.
Of course, I don’t expect my 5 month old to compromise with you, if you ask her to stop pulling your hair, you’ll have to forgive her when she doesn’t but if you ask my 5 year old to share a toy or activity, I fully expect her to.
So, this is what I have concluded about why the “deal with it, figure it out yourself” method works:
1) In the midst of problems, when children complain, they aren’t looking for you to make a decision because there’s a high chance they will disagree with the decision you make. What children are seeking is for you to actively take one side, for you to call out “the bad guy”…and since there’s usually more than one person who contributes to the problem; you let them “deal with it”.
2) Eventually children realize that things are just better when they get along. I overheard one of my children telling the other “stop acting that way, you’re just wasting our play time” and that’s when I decided to write about it because in that moment, I knew that after all these days, months and years of me saying it, they had learnt how to “figure it out” themselves.