Friday, June 15, 2007

To Intervene, Or Not To Intervene, That Is The Question

Ever since I read that children today aren't developing functional conflict resolution skills because parents tend to intervene at the first signs of a fight, I've been trying to let the kids work things out for themselves. But what if - as is always the case - one party has a sizeable advantage? Aaron, for example, has decided that the only toys he wants to play with are the ones Gretchen is holding in her fat little hands. So he crawls over, and takes them away, and she cries. Since she can't really crawl herself, she can't even go after him to retrieve them. Sometimes I let Aaron get away with this and try to distract Gretchen with a new toy, but as soon as she has something different, Aaron immediately loses interest in whatever he has and the cycle repeats, over and over.

It isn't always a physical advantage. Recently, I walked past the family room, where Erika, Hilary and Declan were playing with a plastic train/teeter totter riding toy. Because there were three of them and only two seats on the train, Erika reasonably announced they would take turns. However, it turned out that what she meant by this was that Hilary and Declan would take turns, and she would ride the entire time. I considered poking my head into the room and saying, "Taking turns means you too, Erika." After all, Erika will probably have the psychological edge over those two for the better part of the next decade, and there's something to be said about protecting those who are not as big or as savvy from what amounts to constant exploitation. But I just kept going, and said nothing. The younger children in our house may grow up to be hoarders, unwilling to voluntarily get rid of anything, or they may grow up to be paranoid misanthropes, sure everyone is out to take advantage of them. But they will have great conflict resolution skills.

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