The girls had a fight last night. I was sitting reading, and they were playing on the living room floor. They both wanted a truck that Delphine had made out of Lego; Cordelia wanted it to play with, Delphine wanted to use the pieces for something else. The disagreement soon escalated to snatching and hitting, so I intervened.
The Democrative Parenting people suggest that this is a splendid opportunity to show your children how to resolve difficulties. Could Delphine get other, identical pieces out of the Lego box? No. Could Cordelia play with some other Lego or a different truck? No. Could Delphine make Cordelia another, identical truck so Cordelia could play with that and Delphine could have the pieces of this truck? No? No.
So you have no interest in actually resolving this, you actually don't care about the truck or the Lego at all, in fact you're just being little assholes and fighting for the sake of it, then?
It was at this point that I got hollerin' mad. I was mad at them for being contentious jerks, but also at the parenting advice people who are all, "Help your children learn to communicate and resolve disagreements," ignoring the fact that they are not always tiny little adults who just want to get along. I'm no Skinnerian but sometimes you have to treat them like animals, because sometimes they behave like animals.
So I manged to lose my temper not only at the kids but also at an entire philosophy of parenting. Hooray!
After I was done hollering at them I went upstairs to my room, and then they worked it out for themselves.
Alyson Schäfer would say that they were fighting to get my attention, and my first mistake was intervening when it got physical—that is, rewarding them for fighting by giving them the attention they sought. The facts of the case certainly support that theory: I was ignoring them (by reading), they fought, I paid attention to them, they kept my attention by refusing to resolve their fight. They only stopped fighting when I took my attention out of the picture by leaving the room. Which is what I should have done as soon as the fighting started.
(Of course that's easier said than done when you have a tiny house with only one really good reading spot. Parenting is hard.)