Let the Children Fight

Despite my personal belief that it's better to let the kids have a chance to work it out, I've done my fair share of stepping in. Because I'm just too afraid of getting The Look.
03/05/2013 06:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

You know what would be nice? If my 2-year-old daughter could have one five-minute interaction with another child that wasn't interrupted by an adult.

This is how it usually goes: We're in some kind of communal play space and Adeline is playing with a toy. Another child comes over and starts playing with another toy. They eye each other, checking out their mutual toys. Within about ten seconds, they've sized each other up, and one of them goes for the other kid's toy. Let's just say it's the other kid trying to grab Adeline's toy. This is promptly followed by Adeline grabbing it back and proclaiming, "It's mine!" And then...

Well, I never get to see what would happen next. Because before they can work it out, the other parent inevitably swoops in and tells her little charge to "Share, Leo. She was playing with that toy first." Adeline watches, curious and content to have her toy back. About half the time, she gives the kid the toy, anyway.

This is usually followed by the other parent glaring at me, clearly implying that I should have told Adeline to share long before it could come to any kind of disagreement between our two precious children.

And god forbid Adeline is the one who goes for the toy and I don't step in. You haven't seen a death stare until you've seen the stare of a parent who can't believe you didn't immediately step in to be sure her child's toy wasn't taken away.

Come on, people.

Can we please, for the love of god, just let our children work it out themselves?


I get it. Maybe that other mother actually feels the same way, but she's too afraid of getting The Look. She's been so heavily influenced by our culture that she immediately jumps in before I can get mad at her. She doesn't know how I feel about it, so better be on the safe side. And now she's been doing it so long that giving me The Look for not upholding my end of the bargain is just second nature.

I get that because I've been there. Despite my personal belief that it's better to let the kids have a chance to work it out, I've done my fair share of stepping in. Because I'm just too afraid of getting The Look. But I cross my heart: I've never intentionally given another parent The Look. I usually try to smile the beleaguered smile of a parent who just wants to get home and have a secret cookie while her daughter plays in the other room.

So if that's what most other parents are going through, I totally get it.

On the other hand, maybe some parents really believe that forcing teaching our kids to share is more important than allowing them to learn how to interact with others.

Our children will grow up faster than we can imagine. And pretty soon, they'll be having all kinds of interactions with other kids without us around. Do we really want to teach them that there will always be an adult around to solve their problems? Wouldn't it be better to let them learn now, when the stakes are low, how to deal with interpersonal conflict on their own?

So I'm going on record here: I'm going to let my daughter solve her own problems. I'm not going to step in when there's a brewing disagreement over sharing toys. But of course, if I'm the only one doing it I'm just going to get The Look a lot and Adeline isn't going to get any practice. So who's with me?

Can we all agree to let our kids fight -- at least a little -- when they're playing with other kids?