Since writing about my reluctant role as argument mediator between my sons, I have made a point of not intervening and watched these tiffs devolve into physical violence.
Since I wrote the post about my reluctant role as argument mediator between my sons, I have made a change.
I have not intervened. I have not broken things up. I have not separated them, forced them to share, urged them to come to a compromise or solved any conflicts.
To give you an idea what this looks like, I offer a transcription of: Who Has the Rights to the Anakin Skywalker Lego Figure.
Maxon: That's my Anakin.
Ezra: You gave it to me.
Maxon: No I didn't.
Ezra: Yes you did. You built him and gave it to me.
Maxon: No I didn't!
Ezra: Yes you did!
Maxon: NO I DIDN'T!
Ezra: YES YOU DID!
Maxon: You're not getting it.
Ezra: Yes I am.
Maxon: No you're not!
Ezra: Yes I AM!
Maxon: NO YOU'RE NOT!
Ezra: YES I AM!
Maxon: DAD! Ezra is trying to steal my Legos!
Dad: Handle it.
Maxon: What should I do? He keeps taking my Legos!
Dad: It's your problem to solve.
Solution: Maxon strikes Ezra with a Nerf gun.
Physical violence is how most of these arguments have ended, including: Close the Backseat Window (pinching and hand twisting), It's a Calendar/No It's Not, (elbow to the face), That's My Red Lego Light Saber (another elbow, to the chest) and The Green Light Saber Is Mine/No, It's Mine, Yours Is the Blue One (whacking on the head with the light saber, which is probably against the Jedi code).
Now, of course I don't want our boys to hurt each other. But I am also not a stranger to sibling-on-sibing violence. I have three sisters ranging in age from 21 to 41. My 41-year-old sister and I smacked each other around pretty good, and we're super tight. I am fortunate that my 33-year-old sister has forgiven me for being a constant torment to her. There's a part of me that thinks that Ezra's got to learn how far he can push his brother before the claws (or the elbows/Nerf guns/light sabers) come out, and Maxon has to learn when to walk away and cool off.
I think my experiement in not intervening has proven one point: I still need to intervene. Not as quickly, not as frequently, but my boys don't seem to know how to resolve an argument beyond some dead end volley of "No I didn't/Yes you did." They aren't able to create solutions or compromise (such as, "Let's look for another red light saber/Anakin figure together").
When talking to Ezra about the "Close the Backseat Window" argument, he said, "I spent the whole day at school inside and I wanted fresh air."
"That makes sense," I said. "You could have used that as part of your argument. You could have compromised to have the window down just a little. Would that have been O.K. for you?" He nodded.
I think I can do a better job of teaching them how to resolve conflict, but it will take some extra work on my part. My next tactic: enforcing a cool-off period, then bringing them together when they are calm and asking them to think of solutions.
I will not always be in the mood to do this. Their arguments will interrupt my work time, my cocktail hour, grocery shopping and dinner preparation. But I will teach these boys to problem solve without me. May The Force be with me.