When I arrived at after-school care yesterday to retrieve my children, M was in the bathroom. J seemed happy enough to see me and gave me a great hug before biting her lip.
J: Mumble mumble trouble mumble mumble kick M mumble mumble jacket mumble mumble meatball.
Sadia: You got in trouble because you kicked M for calling your jacket a meatball?!
J: Of course not!
Sadia: I thought I must have misunderstood that.
J: Look at this bruise! M kicked me!
Sadia: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Start at the beginning. What happened?
J: I told M yesterday not to call my jacket a meatball. Today she called it a meatball again! So I pretended to kick her. Except I really kicked her by mistake. But I didn’t mean to! And then she kicked me.
Sadia: Did you get in trouble?
J: Yeah, we had to sit out and not participate.
Sadia: J, this is completely unacceptable.
J: I didn’t mean to.
Sadia: I understand that. The fact is, though, that in just pretending to hurt your sister, you actually hurt your sister. I’ve told you before to use your words. Do not use your body to solve arguments, even if you’re just pretending. What’s going on with you guys? Have you apologized?
At this point, M returned from the bathroom.
Sadia: Hey Buggy! How’s it going?
Sadia: I love you.
M: Me too.
Sadia: Is there something we need to talk about?
M: J calls her jacket a fuzzy purple meatball so I called it a fuzzy purple meatball too but she told me not to do that so I called it a meatball because I thought she meant, “Don’t call it a fuzzy purple meatball,” so I called it just a meatball and she kicked me.
Sadia: And then?
M: I kicked her back. We got in trouble.
Sadia: I think you owe each other apologies.
J: I’m sorry, M
M: I already apologized.
Sadia: This is so unlike you guys. We do not hit, throw or kick in this family. We do not pretend to hit, throw or kick in this family. If you’re feeling frustrated, take a break! Find an adult! Is this because you’re together all day?
M: We don’t do this in class.
Sadia: I’m glad to hear that, but you need to figure out better ways to solve your problems, right now. Are you in the same group at the Y?
J: Yes. Mommy, please don’t change our groups.
M: I’m okay with that. There are two 2nd grade groups.
J: No! I get scared without my sister!
Sadia: Hold on just a second. You’re okay with being apart at night.
J: That’s different. I know everyone in our house.
Sadia: But M gets scared by herself at night and that didn’t seem to bother you when you moved into the other room.
J only moved back for one night, then returned to the guest room last night.
J: But you were with her.
Sadia: Only because she needed me because you decided to sleep elsewhere.
At this point, we had arrived home. The girls ran off to put their schoolbags away while I unloaded my laptop and purse.
Sadia: Girls! Want some water?
J: Mom, can M and I work things out privately?
Sadia: Sure. Of course.
The children went into their, I mean M’s, room and closed the door. I got busy with laundry. They emerged 30 minutes later.
M: We’ve decided to stay in the same group at the Y and J is going to sleep in our room again.
Sadia: Okay. What about the hitting and kicking?
J: We can use our words. We worked it out.
I think that the lesson here is that if you’re a really terrible negotiator it forces your children to learn effective conflict resolution skills.
What’s the most ridiculous thing your children have argued about?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.