Miriam Levi's When Children Fight is an excellent
handbook for parents and teachers in dealing with parent-
child relationships and how to build and improve them.
Specifically, it focuses on how parents can foster peaceful
relations between siblings and other children.
Mrs. Levi makes unique and vital points in her book. For
instance, she debunks the position of "Anger is acceptable so
long as you express it civilly," taken by so many
contemporary secular psychologists and authors. Instead, she
reminds us of what we've all read in our mussar works
that short-temper is a destructive character trait. According
to her, anger should not be controlled but prevented
from happening altogether. And she shows us how to do this by
teaching us to identify and change the thought patterns that
lead us to anger.
This, in turn, helps us to deal calmly and constructively
with the fights and squabbles that inevitably arise between
siblings. Naturally, if we remain calm, the children are much
more likely to, as well.
A look at the Table of Contents guides us in "When and (When
Not) to Intervene", what to do about "Insults and Teasing"
and "Teaching Middos that Contribute to Peace," just to name
a few aspects of non- anger.
Many adults will benefit from the extremely level-headed and
mature attitudes expressed in this book, whether or not
children are involved. Thus, in Chapter Six on
"Facilitating," we learn not even to vilify the perpetrator
of a fight.
"Your nine-year-old daughter is crying because her older
sister hit her. In a very compassionate tone of voice, say,
`Oh! Look how she's crying! I know you didn't mean to hurt
her like that.' This gives the sister who did the hitting the
message that we see her basically as a good girl -- who made
a mistake." What a healthy and Torah-true approach that can
just as easily be applied to interactions between adults!
Another pearl of advice is, "Hypersensitive children
generally suffer from negative judgment of others. Help your
child get over such hypersensitivity by pointing out that if
others insult him, they are doing something wrong. He does
not have to feel bad because of their mistake." Again, this
beautiful thought can benefit children and adults alike.
One reservation -- in Chapter Five, the author suggests
taping a child's mouth shut with adhesive tape if he has
bitten another child -- after having been calmly warned not
to. This seems a bit too medieval for me, and I prefer Mrs.
Levi's other suggestion: For biters -- to hold the child's
mouth closed briefly. Alternately, there's always time-out,
removal of privileges etc.
In summary, if you have time for only one book this year,
make it When Children Fight. Even if you are not the
parent/teacher of squabbling young ones, you will benefit in
your own relations with people through a serious reading and
application of this book.