Monday, April 16, 2012

"Mommy, It's Not Fair!!" Is it Bad Behavior or Just Human Nature?

A Solution to Sibling Fights: A New Outlook and New Expectations
sibling fights, toddlers, preschoolers, human nature, it's not fair syndrome

This morning I almost lost my cool in a very bad way.  See this toy?  Munchkin Girl has played with this approximately once in four years.  I really should have gotten rid of it by now, but I keep thinking they might get some educational value from it so I can't bring myself to pitch it.

For whatever reason, she chose to play with it today.  Little Buddy immediately started demanding that she turn it over to him, even though he's never touched it either.  Of course that wasn't fair.  Munchkin Girl had it first so I told him to find something else to play with, which began a cycle of screaming, kicking, crying, and all around mayhem.  Sometimes they work it out themselves, so I left the room briefly to see what would happen.  I came back to find them hitting each other and crying, while playing tug of war with the stupid toy.  My maternal instinct was to scream at the top of my lungs, 


But I didn't.  Why?  Because I had an earth-shattering realization a few days ago.  Earlier in the week, I came across a study from the journal Current Biology, which found that even toddlers are susceptible to peer pressure.  When I saw this report, my first reaction was, "DUH."

At first I thought it was absurd that they were even reporting this.  Anyone with kids knows that if one toddler climbs on top of the toy car, they are all going to want to do it and will soon be yelling, MY TURN!!!! in a high-pitched squeal.

Then it came to me.  This is just human nature.  Even adults do this.  How many times have we complained that someone got a raise and we didn't and it's just not fair because we work harder?  I remember thinking it wasn't fair that my friends kept having babies who slept all night while mine were up every hour wanting to eat. I never thought in a million years that I would want a Coach bag.  Franky, I usually don't even like the designs all that much.  Yet, I found myself wanting one a few years ago when I saw all my friends with them because the truth is, it is human nature to want what your friends have and do what your friends are doing.  That's why brand names are so popular. I've even heard adult women lamenting that their Grandma or whoever didn't spend enough on wedding gifts compared to how much she spent on a different Grandchild and it wasn't fair.

The difference is, adults have grown to recognize this behavior and hopefully curb the desire to stomp our feet and scream and demand the purple Coach bag that our friend just got.  Frankly, this might be the entire reason that kids go through the "Terrible Twos".  They are smart enough to realize they want something, but haven't learned yet to control the behavior.  Even Munchkin Girl is three and a half, and it's clear how far she's come since she was two.

So, as parents, how can we curb this type of behavior and teach our children the right way to behave?  The way I see it, we can:

1.  Put away toys that we know are triggers.  There is always something that is really popular and guaranteed to cause issues.  Why not just put them away for a few months?
2.  If possible, try distraction.  I don't mean giving them another toy and trying to convince them it's better.  I mean changing the scenery.  Take them outside, in the basement, or even in the car.
3.  Feel free to tell them that if a specific toy is too frustrating, you will have to put it away.  Then make sure to follow through.  Just calmly take the toy, put it in the closet, and tell them it's because they couldn't share.  Make them wait for awhile before giving it back.  Next time they might think twice about fighting.

So, this morning after I found them hitting each other and crying hysterically, I realized that no matter how many timeouts and rational discussions we had, the situation was too far gone.  I really did want to scream at the top of my lungs.  Instead, I took a deep breath and said, "Who wants to go to Mimi and Papa's house?"

They both scampered down and ran to the car, at which point I threw the absurd toy in the basement, where it will remain. Yes, they should have behaved better, but it truly is just human nature, so I need to do a better job next time of preventing and molding the behavior before it gets to the point of no return. Of course, I'm only human too, so I can only do so much, but it's sort of a relief to know that my children aren't monsters.  It's just human nature.

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  1. Dude this is why I am happy that I only have one chitlin. And honey take it from a handbag expert step away from the Coach not a cute design at all. If everyone has one that means it is not cool

  2. I want to see a picture of that toy! ;) Glad you had that epiphany! I still only have one child, so I get to look forward to this parenting balance in a couple years or less.

  3. I have a 5 1/2 year old and a 2 1/2 year old so we get into toy squables sometimes too. More often than not, I end up explaining that because the "toy" isn't playing nice or taking turns, that it will need to take a time out. I then put it away for a while (maybe an hour) get them busy on something else fun and then come back to the trouble toy and model how to take turns or play together. It is hard for toddlers to understand and I hope by taking time to model the appropriate behavior my tot will learn what I expect =) I do wish we could go to Grandmas though!!! We live too far =(

  4. Wonderful advice! Hope you'll stop by and see me today, too. I have a great guest blog with some more amazing advice on how to raise our kids!

  5. Stopping by from the UBP to say "Aloha" again. I hope you'll come visit me at I'll pour a "mommy with selective memory" cup of something yummy and wait for ya under the nearest palm tree. ;)

    Happy Wednesday,

  6. I guess I'm lucky I have an only child! But it does get lonely for her at times...

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  11. Exploring the "Mommy, It's Not Fair!" dilemma delves into the realm of childhood behavior. Distinguishing between bad behavior and human nature adds depth to parenting insights. A thought-provoking exploration!
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