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'I'm Tired of Hearing My Kids Fight!'

Dear Catherine,

I used to get so frustrated as a kid when my brother and I would fight and my mom would just tell us to be quiet rather than side with me. You know, since I was always in the right and my brother was in the wrong. But now I find myself doing the same thing when I hear my kids fight. I honestly just don't want to hear the whining and I don't care who started it. I really don't. Is this wrong? Do French kids not fight? So many questions.


Turning Into My Mother

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Dear TIMM,

Your mother sounds like a clever lady—or at least a little bit French.

I think many of our parents were similar, and as a kid I remember getting in as much trouble for fighting and telling on my siblings as I did for committing actual kid crimes. The trend nowadays, however, is to talk it out. Communicate. Use your words. (Blech!)

Although this sounds lovely, and it’s clearly preferable to kids beating on each other, it’s exhausting. I have mom friends, even a few dads, who spend about 50 percent of their days mediating inane squabbles. I still get riled up at the memory of being made to wait in the living room of a friend for 30 minutes while she helped her children work through an argument. Her daughter was distraught because her brother “had looked at her meanly.” Deliver me. I know I wouldn’t have dared waste my mom’s time with a grievance so petty. And as for my dad, this is the guy who liked to bellow: “Don’t think! I’ll do the thinking for both of us!”

But I’m not one to judge (although I do), as not long ago, if I was mid-dinner party, my kids would think nothing of storming in on the adults while shouting, stomping, and/or screaming that they had been wronged.

If there is no blood, don’t get up.

During my experiment of trying to rein in chaos on the home front by importing a few French childrearing techniques, I developed the strength to demand a little respect. I love my kids to pieces, but that’s no reason for me to have to sit through endless negotiations about dumb stuff that they can—and should—work out on their own. I imagine that French kids fight as much as any others—they’re humans, after all, not Oompa Loompas—but their parents don’t have to hear about it because they refuse to. That simple.

Lately, my 7-year-old seems to cry over everything, and my 9-year-old is convinced she’s the family fall guy (or girl, really). Occasionally, we’ll sit and have chats about protecting and respecting each other’s feelings, or about fairness—but that’s not the norm. When my girls come to me with some petty argument over who took the bigger cookie or about how someone cheated in Uno, I turn them around and point to their room. Often, the thought of having to resolve their spat on their own is enough to end the drama.

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I have many older siblings, and I remember well feeling invisible and wronged, so I do try to keep tabs on the dynamics between my kids. If we need to talk about something, we will. However, I’ve got a life, and I’ve been trying to teach my children to respect my time. I don’t want to spend most of it negotiating or listening to discord. That’s no fun.

Take back the airwaves, TIMM. I’m on your side!


P.S. This seems as good a time as any to repeat my favorite advice offered by a French mom: “If there is no blood, don’t get up.”

Have a French (or any nationality) parenting question for Catherine? Email her at mommecs@bermanbraun.com.

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