Yes, My Kid Kicked Yours in the Face; I Won’t Make Her Apologize

With two sides to every story, there should never be a rush to judgement. Even when one kid has a footprint on his face.

My daughter kicked another kid in the face, on purpose, and I didn’t make her apologize.

Let me explain why.

I brought my four kids to Let’s Jump, one of those places moms go in the summer when their kids are on their last shred of nerve and all they want is to sit in cool air conditioning, rocking back and forth with a paper cup of coffee and pretending they don’t know their screaming womb fruit.

I chatted to a friend while our kids went full animal. Then an angry-looking mom stomped up, dragging her son by the arm.

Excuse me,” she said. “I just want you to know that your daughter kicked my son in the face.”

I looked at the boy, who did have a pinkish mark on his face consistent with kicking. “Which daughter? Can you point her out? I have three here.” I said calmly. The woman pointed at Sophie, my six-year-old.

“That one. It was her.”

I looked again at her son. He was at least 10-years-old and my six-year-old didn’t even go up to his shoulder, so it was hard to see how she’d kicked his face. Maybe he had been lying on the bounce house ground. Maybe Sophie had developed awesome martial arts skills.

“Okay, I’ll be right back,” I said.

You might be wondering why I didn’t apologize immediately for my child’s violence. It’s because I have experience with the Wild Animal Kingdoms of McDonalds, Let’s Jump, and the playground. I don’t just accept the word of the other kid or the other mom. Why should I? Are our children an exception to the innocent until proven guilty rule?

I assure you, if I detect injustice, a smack down will be put upon that shit. There will be an apology forthcoming to your child and a consequence and one-on-one talk coming to mine. If I detect injustice.

I pulled Sophie aside to ask her what happened. I could see the other mom watching me from across the room, the way I used to watch my parents fuss my sister for a wrong done to me. The mom watched for the same reasons I watched: to make sure things got fair again, that justice was done.

First I asked if it was true that she had kicked that boy in the face. Yes, she said. Then I meted out justice! I snatched her hand and dragged her to the boy and forced her to apologize.

Nah.

Then I asked what had happened. She was carefully climbing up the ladder of the large inflatable slide, the one where you have to hold tightly onto ropes attached to the sides of the inflatable ladder corridor. The boy wanted to run up and slide as quickly as possible and repeatedly, and this six-year-old girl was climbing too slowly for his liking. He tried to squeeze into the small space left beside her hips and legs but he was too large. So he simply clasped onto her small body and moved her out of his way. Well, he tried to.

My little Sophie is small-framed and delicate, but surprisingly strong. As the third of four children, she has always had to stand up for herself. If she didn’t, her baby brother would snatch choice toys from her hand and her older sisters would change the channel from her Dora show before it was over.

She was not going to have a big strange boy put his hands on her. She was not going to allow him to remove her from her rightful spot, the one she earned by waiting in line. She held onto the ropes and kicked him away from her.  He fell back, holding his face and went to his mom with his side of the story. Playground Justice was indeed meted out that day — although the boy was physically larger — because Sophie had the vantage point of the ladder.

I smiled at her fierce little face as her story poured out. Her blue eyes alternately narrowed and rounded with the outrage of it all. I asked if she had tried using her words first, asking him to stop. Yes, she said, but he wouldn’t listen to me. I told her I was happy she didn’t allow herself to be pushed around. I told her we were going to walk over and tell the boy’s mother her side of the story. I took her hand and we walked united over to the glaring side of the room.

Sophie didn’t issue any apologies for that incident, but she received one. I graciously hoped aloud that the pinkish mark would go away quickly.

I think parents often choose a side too quickly without hearing the whole story; I’m including myself here. I’m busy too, and these stories are often frustratingly drawn out. But sometimes the kid with the visible mark of violence wasn’t the one most wronged. Give both your kid and the other kid the benefit of innocence. Don’t demonize either one. Find out what happened.

Often it will be harder to figure out than this incidence was. Siblings are especially hard; the truth is hidden somewhere in their very similar DNA, clouded by the many wrongs committed daily that have never been rectified. Countless past incidents are brought up with passion and yelling.

This is a higher level of justice-judging that I haven’t mastered yet. Sometimes I still have to resort to saying, “You were both wrong and you should both apologize and go play outside because Mommy has a headache now.” But I’m trying.

Sometimes one of my kids still accuses me of favoritism because I didn’t choose her particular side, but I hope when they grow up they can see how convoluted the whole story often is, and that I did try to untangle the threads of unfairness.

We Are That Family

We are that loud, shameless, spectacle of a family who seems to bring attention—for better or for worse—to every location we occupy.

As I drove away from my house one evening last week, my daughter sloppily rode her bike with her mud boots on as her knees hit her chin.

It was her first bike ride of the spring. Her urgency to ride undermined her patience for letting me adjust the seat for the several inches she grew since the fall.

One of my toddler twin boys was crying and screaming because my partner wasn’t walking on the ‘correct’ part of the sidewalk as he peddled behind his big sister. And the other twin was somewhere in the garage, off of his bike, but still wearing his helmet while he hit himself in the head with a broom.

I drove away and thought we are that family.

We are that family, the family with two moms, twin toddlers, and a fivenager, all of whom have strong personalities willing to equally compete with or complement each other in the loudest ways possible—usually both within a 60 second time span.

We are that loud, shameless, spectacle of a family who seems to bring attention—for better or for worse—to every location we occupy.

We are the family with parents who yell too quickly, too loud and too often with kids who yell too quickly, too loud and too often.

We are the family with the almost naked or naked kids running around in the front yard, no matter what the season.

We are the family with the kids who wear all of their favorite clothes at once, achieving the fashion sense of gypsies.

We are the family with the kid who poops on the porch with the dog who then eats it.

We are the family at the playground with the seemingly mean parents who refuse to help their kids climb or play on a piece of equipment, because if they can’t do it on their own then they probably shouldn’t be doing it.

We are the family with the kids who throw tantrums in public while the parents hold their ground but die inside from frustration and sideways glances from onlookers.

We are the family with parents who tell other parents what assholes our kids can be.

We are the family with the mom who throws toys off of the front porch because the sound of three kids fighting over it is too much to take.

We are the family with the mom who then uses the broken toy as an example to their kids that they should never throw things because they could break.

We are the family with the kid who projectile vomits in a restaurant.

We are the family with one parent constantly looking like she is being held hostage.

We are the family at the park with the dog who jumps on top of picnic tables to greet strangers.

We are the family with confident, headstrong kids who would rather wear flip flops in the winter than be bothered with boots, with the parents who let them because they are trying to teach natural consequences but mostly because they are too exhausted to argue with their children.

We are the family with the parents who let their kids eat food off of the ground, floor, or out of deep recesses of the minivan.

We are that family, I told myself. But as I drove away from my family for a couple of hours to catch up with friends, I unapologetically owned it. Because with all of this, we are also the family who cheers quickly, loudly, and often for our kids’ successes.

We are the family who happily invites the neighborhood kids to join in on whatever shenanigans are happening in the front yard.

We are the family who will host a dinner party for all of the other parents willing to accept the fact that their kids can be assholes too. We host the parents in denial too.

We are the family who does not hide anger, joy, sadness, or gratitude.

We are the family who is thankful for the amount of laughter and friendship in our lives.

We are the family who goes on adventures that don’t go according to plan, but end up being special.

We are the family who always eats dessert.

We are the family who dances and sings like no one is watching, knowing full well everyone probably is.

We are the family who, for better or worse—usually for the better—lives and loves out loud.

We are that family.

Be nice to your brother*: the fine print

I understand that rules are most effective when they’re objective and specific. Being nice to your brother does not include (but is not limited to not including) the following**:

Yes, Sweet Child O’ Mine, I understand that rules are most effective when they’re objective and specific. Yes, I now realize that “Be Nice To Your Brother*” does not fit either of those criteria. And since, my dear, you seem to enjoy playing in the gray space that I consider to be at odds with the simple request for the brotherly kindness, I will happily spell out the fine print.

Being nice to your brother does not include (but is not limited to not including) the following**:

  1. Hitting your brother.
  2. Pinching your brother.
  3. Kicking your brother.
  4. Nudging your brother.
  5. Talking about hitting/pinching/kicking/nudging your brother.
  6. Pretending you’re going to hit/pinch/kick/nudge your brother.
  7. Saying “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah” loudly over whatever your brother is trying to say every time he attempts to talk.
  8. Repeating everything your brother says—in a voice that makes him want to hit/pinch/kick/nudge you.
  9. Racing past your brother and shoving him out of the way so you can sit in front of the heating vent that just turned on.
  10. Touching your feet to your brother’s feet after you tells you not to.
  11. Pretending to touch your feet to your brother’s feet.
  12. Touching any part of your brother without his explicit permission.
  13. Grabbing the marker your brother was reaching for.
  14. Grabbing the LEGOs with which your brother is building.
  15. Grabbing anything that your brother appears to be playing with or eating or touching.
  16. Comparing the size of your cookie to his cookie.
  17. Comparing the size of your anything to his anything.
  18. Taking all of the wiffle balls.
  19. Hitting all of the wiffle balls into the compost pile.
  20. Imposing compost-y wiffle balls onto your brother who doesn’t want them.
  21. Forcing compost-covered anything onto your brother at any time.
  22. Dropping a spider on your brother’s leg.
  23. Dangling a spider over your brother’s leg.
  24. Threatening to find a leech to stick on your brother’s leg so that it will suck out all of his blood.

* Or sister/sisterly. This is obviously a hypothetical list, applicable to any child with a sibling.
**Last updated: 6/3/2015

3 simple tips to end sibling fighting

Here are three simple tweaks that can break a cycle of sibling arguing and fighting. They’re the necessary first steps to creating more peace, harmony, and enjoyment in your home. In the next post, I’ll expand on these with seven more tips to end sibling fighting. But this is where you begin. 

1. If you’re still trying to make your children get along, the solution is simple: STOP. But first, I want you to observe their fighting and stop getting involved.

2. Because kids usually fight for their parents, the solution is just to watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice. Walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. 

When my kids were little, I walked around with headphones and pretended to listen to music. This drove them nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped, and we could move on with our day.

In either case, the fighting stopped, and we could move on with our day.

3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their lives.

By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you’ll begin to notice that everyone is in a new relationship with each other. No one will seem all that interested in fighting with each other.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.