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Why Letting My Kids Hit Each Other Is An Effective Form Of Conflict Resolution

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What controversial advice have you given to your children?

With regards to physical violence, I have always taken the stance that they shouldn’t hit or fight with anyone unless they were protecting their life or the life of someone else.

That being said, I have 3 boys who have just 3 years between them, and they are constantly in battle. At the last well-check for the 4 kids (their birthdays are all June/July, so we do one giant well-check), I was telling our pediatrician about how I’m failing at hammering this lesson home and how they’re always hitting and I have to stop them from retaliating, and he smiled. He and his wife (also a pediatrician who runs the practice we take the kids to) have 4 sons. He looked at them, then at me, and said calmly and firmly, “Let them hit back.”

I think I gaped at him. I know the kids gaped at him.

He said, “Trust me, it will only take a few times before they decide to work on other means. And then it’ll just be the threats or bullying. Let them learn how to negotiate it and deal with the consequences.”

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I still sometimes — out of instinct — step in, but I’ve tried to let it resolve. Lots of times it ends in 2 sets of tears. However, I have noticed a gradual decrease in instances (and yes, I have noticed an increase in the beginnings of verbal negotiation/threats/etc). I let them do that to each other, too, but of course keep my omnipotence handy to add my oh-so-wise (haha) pointed remarks later, like, “You threatened him into going along with the game you wanted, but now he’s mad and you guys aren’t having as much fun. Wouldn’t it have been better if you’d tried to see if he’d do this game with you and you could do his choice after, then you both would have been in good moods?”

Now I see more of that.

But it began with letting them hit back (within reason, obviously).

I absolutely understand the controversy in this, and you really don’t want to encourage the idea that it’s okay to retaliate, but at a child’s level, they should also learn that sometimes the law (or mom and dad, etc) won’t always be around, and if they do something, it’s very likely there will be retaliation, and it’ll be worse. Now if I can catch them before the first one hits, I will ask him if he really wants to do that, and, hey, guess what? He doesn’t!

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When it happens in front of me, they still won’t “hit back” without looking at me first, and I always say, “Hey man, you could hit him back, but, you could also let him ask you for forgiveness and move on and play together, because hitting isn’t great, and then maybe the next time you forget and hit him first, he’ll remember and let you go with a ‘sorry,’ too.”

When I suggest that, they always opt for mercy (or bargain for their way or an extra turn with this or that). So it isn’t just always black eyes and mad kids around here (we’ve actually never, knock wood, had black eyes!). It’s not one-size-fits-all, of course, but it was something I never thought to try, and just having them know that the other could hit back … it gives them pause many times.

Alecia is an accomplished writer who has been published by Forbes, the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, and more. See more of her Quora posts here: