And in this corner….

My kids argue with each other. A lot. Loudly. ( I’m sure most parents say this.) Siblings, it seems, are meant to argue.  They argue while they do everything: playing outside or inside, bike riding, swimming, playing minecraft, cleaning their rooms, doing dishes, watching a movie. You name the activity, they argue during it.

Eventually, the noise of the arguments reaches the level that either Dave or I has to utter a curt “Hey!” as our way of getting their attention. They have learned that this is their warning signal to keep down the volume. We rarely intervene in arguments, because really, what’s the point. They don’t believe that we know the correct answer to their argument any more than they believe their sibling does. There are times, when we’re possibly getting to pre-hair pulling or scratching, that we have to wield the ipad, armed with Google, to settle a dispute. Even then – since they’ve learned that not everything on the internet is true – they will scrutinize the source before conceding defeat on a point.

Why do I let them argue? Won’t they hate each other when they grow up? My kids’ arguments are not malicious in any way. They truly love each other and express affection towards one another, congratulating one another on their accomplishments. Plus, they are not very competitive individuals. A is the only one who still competes in any sport – flag football; H and E prefer to exercise individually at the rec center, and even A dropped swim team so he could swim laps on his own with Dave. We are able to sit down for our dinner at night and discuss the day, laughing, without arguing. So I don’t find it interferes with family time.

So, why do they argue so much? I think they have found someone comfortable to try things out with. They need to attempt to assert themselves, or make a point, all with someone who has to accept them at the end of the day. It helps that they are doing this with someone who can understand the argument, retort back with a counterpoint that makes sense, and continue the argument, volley for volley, with them. I’ve come to think of arguing as mental sparring for them. A way to try it out, try it on, and see how it fits, without getting hurt. If they’re wrong, they haven’t lost anything other than an argument to a sibling, or lost their cool. Easy enough to pick up, dust yourself off, and go again. No permanent damage done.

Why do I  let them argue? Besides just conceding the futile, arguing is actually quite a good adult skill to have.  Being able to effectively and calmly argue a point as an adult has gotten me further in life than most of my education. I’d rather have them try it, time and time again, with their siblings, before they have to perform this task expecting real results. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice – patiently managing a discussion, steering it towards its conclusion, without losing your cool.

So-Dave and I have learned to tune out the arguments (we call them “discussions”) and get on with our day, until the volume gets to fever pitch. Then we help them bring it down and cool it off, taking it to their corner until they are ready for the next round. Tellingly, they all seem to head back in with a smile.

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