Scratching my head.


I’m entering into this phase of mothering where I really don’t have any idea what I’m doing. When the kids were infants, I knew what to do based mostly on instinct and a little bit of experience with other babies. But now, I have a toddler and a 3-year-old (does the 3-year-old still count as a toddler?! Please say yes!) with totally different preferences for play and social interaction. My brain is slowly learning to keep up, but I keep finding myself sitting on the couch with my mouth hanging slightly. There may or may not be confused grunting sounds involved.

And, you know, just when I think I’ve got it down, they change it up on me and I’m scratching my head again.

Anyway, most often, my biggest issue rears its head during their playtime. Ever since they’ve begun to play together, I’ve closely monitored their interaction and most of the time, I am instructing Jack to Give that toy back to Forrest right now! or We don’t rip things out of people’s hands! or No, we don’t push! or If you want that toy, you need to ask nicely! or Jack, you are going to have to have a time-out if you keep hurting your brother! It’s not that Jack isn’t a gentle boy in general, but when it comes to toys, he’s going through a very possessive phase in his development. I am trying to be gentle and understanding as I teach him the proper way to respond, but sometimes it clashes with my desire to protect my younger son.

I second-guess myself a lot in these situations because like I said, part of me wants to protect Forrest and teach Jack the way he needs to behave, but the other part of me wonders, Should I just let them work it out and intervene only when I know Forrest might get hurt? Now, to be fair, Forrest is a little stinker and sometimes he takes a toy from Jack’s hands, but I do take the opportunity to correct him in those situations, too.

I guess, ultimately, I’d love some feedback from any of you parents of 2 or more out there in the blogosphere. How do you monitor your young children’s interactions? Do you intervene? If so, why? Do you step back and allow them a little room to work it out? If so, why?



Filed under on being a mama

6 responses to “Scratching my head.

  1. Linds

    Being the Mom of 2 boys almost the exact age as yours…I totally understand where you are. WE ARE THERE TOO. Noah is a bit older than Forrest but we have kind of let he and Eli have a little room to figure it out and if they aren’t beating each other with golf clubs (it has so happened) then I will sit back and suggest to them what the right thing to do is and *thankfully* most of the time they are sweet to each other. I am trying to work with them on expressing their feelings/emotions in ways other than being aggressive…”Noah, you hurt my feelings when you took the toy/hit me/drank my water…” And then Noah will say “Sawwy.” They hug it out and it’s done. That is what happens most of the time. Other times (gosh this is turning into a novel) they are just in a knock down drag out fight-Noah can officially grab Eli by the shirt and yank him to the ground…we are very on top of this though-we spank them when they physically hurt one another-and give time out too. I don’t know, I think it’s just a learning process…I’m STILL trying to figure it out as well…but you know what works with your boys and what doesn’t. Noah mostly will play with ALL the same toys that Eli plays with…when they dress up in their costumes (bears, Blue’s Clue dog, Buzz Lightyear (even though they haven’t seen the movie)…noah will throw himself on his face lay completely prostrate and scream and kick and say, “Mines, Mines…I want that. Mines tun.” So, I don’t think any of this helped but know that I am a few hundred miles South of you dealing with the same stuff-learning processes for all involved!

  2. krista

    I have a four year old, two year old, and twin 8 month olds :). The four-year-old and two-year-old have been playing together for quite some time now. I think it’s important to try to let them figure things out for themselves, how to renconcile diffrences on their own without my imput every two minutes (which they could still use!) Tori (4) still takes toys and is bossy, Alice (2) still uses a physical reaction, when Tori takes something she might hit, kick, or spit. I intervene when the situation calls for it, but I like them to find a dynamic that works for their imginative play. They decide who is going to play “Mom” and who is going to play “daughter”, if both want to play one role I simply tell them to figure it out themselves, and they do. I hope that helps you. Much love in this crazy time of yours.

  3. amy

    With 6 kids, I would hope I could give you some answers, but really, there are no answers. All kids are different, and all kids respond differently to different things. I tend to think of how God parents us. Due to our differences, He gives different things to each one of us. Bob might respond well to something that absolutely destroys Sally. I guess what I’m trying to say is, we learn our children. We learn what helps them and what hurts them. And we continue with what helps them. A few constants in my home are…

    let them try to work things out themselves. Have times to teach the kids right from wrong, kind and loving from mean and selfish. Then, when they are in the middle of conflict, give them time to draw from these resources you have taught them. Sometimes they will. Sometimes they won’t and mama needs to step in, compassionately with a reminder of the right behavior.

    In regards to sharing, we don’t force our kids to share. We show them why they should share. We read the Bible about sharing, and show them how it is when others share with us and when they don’t. Usually they make the right choice because there are natural consequences when they don’t share… no one to play with, no one who shares with them.

    Lastly, I always try to remember that my children will constantly fail, just as I constantly fail. Usually they will fail in the same ways over and over again, just as I do. So I remember to be compassionate, and just to press on teaching them the same things. The biggest thing in parenting, in my opinion, is compassion and love. When you have those things, the rest falls into place.

    Love your boys. Learn your boys. You are doing great!

  4. My girls (Suzi, 3 and Ivey, almost one) sometimes fight, too. I think it’s a good idea to let them work it out on their own at first, but not if one child is being hurt or bullied. Suzi can get whatever she wants from Ivey. It’d get worked out. She’d take the toy from Ivey and Ivey would cry for a while and then find something else to play with. I do not let this play out, though. My husband Jordan’s parents took a hands-off approach when he and his older brother fought, and it was hurtful to him. After a while he stopped standing up for himself because he wasn’t used to his parents paying much attention to his problems, and they let his brother have the first choice of most everything just because he was older (and more insistent). Knowing Jordan’s story, I’ve tried to be careful to treat our girls equally and stand up for both of them when needed–even when Ivey doesn’t seem to care too much that Suzi snatched a toy from her. I don’t want Suzi to think she can take what Ivey has if it’s something she likes just because Ivey’s little. (Well, this is usually the way it goes. However, the other day Ivey bit Suzi really hard with those sharp little baby teeth of hers. The fight was over a remote control; Ivey got to keep the remote until I stepped in. Poor little Suzi.)

  5. Deanna

    Right there with you, and I wouldn’t presume to offer advice since we’re actually a few months behind and just getting into this. I struggle with knowing how much to let them work out themselves and how much to intervene. I think what I’ve landed on is trying to guide Ian as often as I’m able (and Eli when he’s the instigator), but only if I’m right there. If they’re playing in another room and I hear Eli starting to cry I’ll go rescue him, but otherwise I try to let them learn how to live with each other. As they get older and more able to understand logic and empathy, etc. I imagine I’ll try to talk with them more to see when it’s a heart issue and when it’s a boys needing to wrestle issue. Let me know if you come to any great epiphanies!

  6. Stephanie

    I know this style won’t be for everyone, but I think this family has really tried to take a very Biblical approach to this and I thought this article was really great and I’ve been trying to implement this same way of working things out.

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