I watched as a little 6 year old boy punched his 4 year old sister in the stomach. The little girl started to cry. The little boy crossed his arms over his stomach and stood in a pout. The mother walked over and squatted next to the little boy and asked, ” You must be feeling very angry or upset that you had to punch your sister.” He said, ” She wasn’t being nice and IM ANGRY!” The mom said, ” It’s ok to be angry but it isn’t ok to punch your sister.” She then turned to the little girl and said, ” What happened that made your brother feel like he had to hit you?” You may assume the little girl may have done something violent herself. She had not. I watched the entire scene play out. She was reading a book when he walked over and punched her out of the blue.
Let me point out EVERYHTING that is wrong with the scenario.
1. At that very moment, the feelings of the little boy did not take precedence over the little girl who had been punched.
2. The little girl should have been attended to immediately. She should have been hugged. She should have been asked if she was ok. Then she should have heard her mother tell her brother that NEVER, EVER, would he EVER lay a hand on her again.
3. The little girl was blamed. She was asked what she could have done wrong to make her brother punch her. Nothing she did wrong should have resulted in her being punched so the point is moot.
4. After the little girl was taken care of, THEN and only THEN should the little boy be taken aside and the situation completely addressed from feelings to consequences.
I saw that same little boy punch his mother and scream, ” I HATE you!” She had simply told him it was time to come in and eat now. Her reply, ” You seem very upset now, so give mommy a hug and tell her you are sorry and tell me why you feel so angry.” There was never, ” It is NOT ok for you to hit mommy.” Her response told him that his behavior was acceptable.
This concept of mom trying to be therapist in her “I hear you feeling angry ,” and “It sounds like you are upset,” are misplaced, misguided, and quite frankly bad parenting. There is a place for those phrases. Yes, your child needs to have his or her feelings heard. Yes, your child needs to be able to express those feelings. But violence should never be followed by caressing words. Ever. If your child has aggression, get a punching bag. If your child wants to scream, they can go in their room and scream into a pillow. Then feelings need to be discussed. He may not know why he hit his sister. He may not have the adult words in his child mind to explain them. He needs to know what he did was not ok but time does need to be spent getting to the root cause of that kind of anger especially if it is a repeated and consistent behavior.
It is not abnormal for a child to hit his friend. It is not abnormal for a brother and sister to get into a fight. It IS abnormal for the parents to teach the child that this behavior is ok. Even if it is age appropriate, children need to be taught that violence is not ok. Ever. Just as swiftly as they choose to be impulsive, the parent needs to be equally swift in their reaction. The puncher can have his time to be heard and it does need to be talked through, but only after the punched gets the attention first. Negative attention is still attention and if you punch and get addressed first then you are being rewarded with attention even if it for something bad.
When I was a teenager, my mom took me to watch my friend play in a basketball game. During the game my mom walked close to the edge of the court. One of the players from the other team grabbed and threw her under a table and I had this immediate must protect my mother moment as I leapt out of the bleachers and landed on the player and screamed at him for hurting my mother. (Apparently when I am in protection mode I have a voice…It is rarely seen but has come out in protection of my daughter as well.) My mom was really inured. I had to protect her. The shock of seeing her head hit and the rage he had in his eyes scared me for her immensely. After I landed on the boy, I was immediately punched in the jaw by another player and fell flat on my face on the court. Then the entire team, at the sight of seeing two ladies attacked, got into fist fights with each other. The boy that injured my mother, and the other one that punched me were completely and utterly barbaric. I can assure you that no one ever taught them that under no circumstances are you to punch an innocent person. THAT boy didn’t need to be asked how we was feeling or if he was angry because it was pretty obvious that he had rage issues that were never addressed. Little boys grow up to be very strong teenagers. A 6 year old punch does not feel like an 18 year olds punch. To be fair and completely unbiased, I have seen little girls hit their brothers, and teenage girls hit other teenage girls. It is not gender specific. It is simply a behavior that needs to be taught is not okay.
In my opinion…