Friday, March 14, 2014

Boys Will be Boys

Boys will be boys.  That is the advice I continually get as I seek to understand why my sweet and loving children insist on beating the crap out of each other.  It's usually a quick push or slap to get the unwanted brother away from some prized possession (like a McDonald's toy that they both have one of...).  But this week it reached a whole new level.

I was walking the dog with all three kids and a neighbor stopped to see the baby.  We were talking and the boys ran ahead.  They have heard enough about how cute their sister is and will often disappear as soon as the focus moves to her.  As we discussed whether she looked more like my husband or me, I heard, "DREW!  NO! NOOOOOO!"  I looked up to see my five year old pinned on the sidewalk by my two year old.  My toddler, Drew, had a firm grip on his brother's hair and he was not about to let go.  My neighbors' mouths dropped and they said, "I've never seen them like this!"  I told them they are welcome to babysit anytime if they want to see more action then trotted over to the boys.  I tried the trusty 123 Magic.  "That's three for both of you.  The walk is over.  We're going home now," I said in my best authoritative voice.  Figuring they had nothing left to lose, my oldest found his footing and shoved his little brother head over feet into the grass.

The explanations (read: excuses) spilled out of both of them through tears.  "Guke PUSH ME!" my youngest wailed.  "But that's because Drew ripped my hair right out of my head just because I wouldn't let him play with my skateboard!"  my oldest yelled above his brother's screaming.  "I'm not interested in any explanations.  Home.  Now," I told them.  I mostly said that because I had absolutely no idea how to handle them.  None.  

Thankfully, my husband had not yet left for work so I parked them in their time out spots and had a quick strategy session with my husband.  I relayed the story from what I could gather and got this unexpected response.  "Good for Luke!  It's time he stand up for himself!"  I have to admit I did feel like the push was justified.  But was that the way we should teach them to resolve conflict?  My husband had a great answer.  "Look, if you're being bullied, you should never put up with that.  Fighting is one thing, bullying is another," he said.  So we sat the boys down.

My husband walked them through a series of questions to get them to the point that they understood how they could better handle things.  Drew, for one, cannot pull hair, push or hit to get what he wants. he can simply ask for a turn.  If he gets rough, Luke has every right to defend himself.  Luke, however, should offer a chance to play with the coveted toy when he is done.  They nodded solemnly and gave each other hugs and apologies.

I don't expect it will be the last scuffle of this kind and I'm working hard to understand this boy mentality.  In the meantime, I'm going to watch "Say Yes to this Dress" and make a spa appointment.  These are things I understand.

How do you navigate the "boys will be boys" behavior? Do you let them fight it out, intervene or something in between?

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