Discipline: When There are Two or More Children Involved

Lately, there have been a number of thoughts on discipline running around in my head. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it all so I’m just going to throw it out there and invite some discussion. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

The first issue involves the complication of the second child. I’m sure it gets more complicated when there are more but the addition of a second child clearly muddies the water significantly and makes it harder to figure out what to do. You cannot watch the kids 24/7 and invariably there will be fights, disputes and arguments happening when your back is turned. And though you might think you know who the culprit is, nothing is ever quite as it appears and it pays to remember that when disciplining our children especially when one party can’t give his side of the story (in our case – Hercules). I had my own realisation recently when I caught Aristotle red-handed…

Unlike Aristotle, Hercules has been a biter, a hitter, and a thrower. Lately, our biggest issue has been the hitting. Although I’m sure he does it mainly for “fun” (his idea of humour is slapstick) we make it a point to let him know we disapprove of hitting. Having a high tolerance for pain, Hercules’ hitting often goes beyond playful mock hitting and causes pain to his older brother who has a very low threshold for pain. At any rate, Hercules has been told time and again that hitting is a no-no. Despite the broken record, he still does it from time to time and gets disciplined for it.

Recently, I realised that Hercules may not have been entirely to blame for the hitting. Yes, he hit his brother and hitting is not nice, but he had been goaded into it by a rather sly and cunning older brother. Often I do not see the provocation, but I witness the hitting so my disciplinary action is largely directed at Hercules. Since I caught Aristotle in the act of aggravating his brother, I’ve come to realise that a large part of my difficulties in correcting Hercules’ hitting habit might actually be due to Aristotle’s devious interference. Especially since Hercules cannot make a defense for  himself, a large part of adjudication depends on me reading the situation correctly.

A friend of mine once said that when he and his sister fought as children, his mother would punish both of them regardless of who was in the right and who was in the wrong. The fact that they were both fighting meant they were both in the wrong. It seemed a good way to discourage fighting between siblings and I’ve been wondering lately if I should be adopting this point of view.

How do you adjudicate when you didn’t see what happened? How do you decide who’s right or wrong when you cannot hear the story from both sides? Would you do as my friend’s mother did and punish both sides just for fighting in the first place regardless of the issue and who was right or wrong?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Discipline: When There are Two or More Children Involved

  1. Hi Shenli,
    i have 2 boys too. similar in age with your Aristotle and Hercules. I used to face the same problem as what you described above.
    We access first if the situation requires intervention. (no one seriously injured, no one in danger). If it’s a hit on the head or a bite, and the elder boy requests intervention (since he can articulate his thoughts better than his younger brother), we tell him firmly to speak to his brother directly and tell his brother firmly that he does not like what just happened. THIS, requires some coaching. But is observed to be highly effective as one feels the responsibility instilled in him as an older brother and the younger is more willing to listen because it is coming from his “hero”. yes, all younger siblings look up to older ones in one way or another.

    I hope this helps.

    * the above only applies to mild, non-dangerous situations. not applicable to situations for example when the kids are pushing each other on the stairs so something like that which requires immediate intervention



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