When there’s a fight among my children, I step in. These are the steps I take:
I issue a summons for everyone involved to go to Kids’ Court. If they do not appear, they are punished as if they were guilty of whatever the other person says. I love to use legal terminology to teach about law simultaneously. We already have the context to learn these new words and concepts so I use it.
We start with one person to tell the story. Sometimes I am strategic about who I choose. I get a notebook and I write what happened from that person’s point of view. The second person doesn’t get to talk until the first is finished. They are never allowed to talk to each other. When they are done, I amend the narrative on paper based on the second testimony. I use the word “allegedly” if there’s no consensus. Then I ask what each person felt during key moments. I write that on the side to validate their feelings. Here’s expert mode: ask one person what the other person felt, instead. This is the point of all of this: to get good at recognizing emotions and emotional causes and effects in themselves and others. This is worth the time.
Then everyone does 10 push-ups. Prosecutor, defendant, victim, judge, even bystanders. This is not a punishment, this is the cure. Push-ups make everyone stronger, which can strengthen the victim long term. Also it fills up kids’ proprioception needs, which probably caused the agression in the first place.
Then we watch a funny video. Usually two studio C episodes on YouTube. Then I make a judgement about what consequences need to be meted out. I also have the kids DO something about the situation, like submit an idea for the Idea Box or do community service or clean up the problem toy or start another activity or have a snack or go to their rooms or play outside.
To reduce contention in the first place, we implement Property Rights and Auctions.
In the real world, people keep things that belong to them. No one takes them. We adapt that for our family to mean that you keep something until you are done with it. We know a child is done with something when they walk away from it. The exception is when they leave to do something for Mom, like go potty.
A bad situation is when the parent doesn’t see who had it first, and both kids maintain it was them. It’s possible that someone had it a long time ago, and didn’t mean to walk away, and someone else picked it up who didn’t know it was in use. I don’t know what to do in this situation. I play it by ear. But I like the phrases, “Go get her a Tempting Toy.” or “If he is playing with that, then every single other toy in the house is available.”
When someone gets a gift for their birthday or Christmas, they control it’s usage for that day. People have to ask the owner if they can use it. The next day, it becomes family property.
Some items need to be controlled by one person indefinitely, to avoid damage. Of all kinds. This is negotiated separately, with everyone having a Thing.
In the real world, we solve scarcity problems with money. That way, the person who wants it most can have it. In my home, I can make sure everyone has a fair amount of money to start with. I wish I could in the real world, too.
So when there’s just one more homemade biscuit left, or one bar stool left, I say in an auctioneer’s voice, ten cents, who will give me ten cents… Austin! Twenty cents, twenty cents, going once, going twice, sold to Austin.
Then I debit his account of twenty cents. I keep track of their accounts in old check book balancing registers, the ones with the leather covers. So if you have extra you should give them to me.