The boys are fighting. Again. Probably over a Lego minifigure, if history is any guide.
Part of me thinks, This time I’m going to stay out of it. I’m going to have them work it out themselves.
And then my youngest begins to shriek and I can’t stand it. My gut tells me I need to intervene.
I swoop in and try to determine who “owns” it and when they can’t stop yelling at each other long enough to even hear me I impound it, adding it to the bin of other impounded toys.
Did that solve anything?
They are still yelling – at me, now.
They are still angry.
They still haven’t learned anything. (Except possibly that the youngest’s shriek will send me running into the room.)
A lot of parenting is going with your gut. Does this feel right? Does this fit in with how I function as a human being? Does this fit in with my vision of how I want my children to act and behave?
Most of the time my gut is right. I have a strong sense of self and well-honed instinct. If my gut told me to go and comfort my crying baby I did it. If my gut told me they were fussy because they were hungry I gave them a snack. When my instinct told me to back off and let my second grader struggle with that math problem a little longer I listened.
And most of the time it worked out.
Sometimes, however that gut instinct was actually me being triggered. That shriek that sounded off like an alarm bell in the middle of the boys’ argument? It turns out that is a huge trigger. That isn’t me following my instinct. That is one of my buttons being pushed and me responding like a well-trained dog.
Okay, I am not actually a well-trained dog. It turns out there is a ton of scientific research out there that has been done on parenting. Thousands of websites, research papers, and books have been researched and written on parenting and child development.
There are numerous experts out there who can tell you, in obsessive detail, about how the brains of children develop and how our parenting choices effect that development. There are also experts that can help me learn how to recognize how my own brain works and how to disarm those trigger buttons of mine.
Any of that research could have been helpful to me during the argument between my two boys. Let’s break down that argument and my response using just four researchers and their theories.