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Lego Warfare

 We were in Lego land, in the section where the kids can build their own race cars and then test them. A couple of the boys got it, but #1 and the twins were playing at the table that you could build a building and then push a button to test it's ability to withstand an earthquake.  #1 would run up and push the button to make the girls tower collapse. It was a game and they were getting a little crazy,

Then, Twin R walked up to a boy approximately the same age, and smacked the car out of his hand. The car fell to the ground and came apart. The kid was shocked and upset, the dad was shocked and angry, and I was saying "oh shit" in my head more times than I could count. The dad angrily said to me, "teach your kid some manners." Now any parent's reaction to a situation in which someone attacks their child, even if they are in the wrong, is to defend their kid. But, in the seconds following his accusation that I never taught my kids manners, I had to stop that dialogue and address the situation at hand; Twin R was very rude to that boy.

I said to the dad, "hey, you don't have to be like that, this is a teachable moment." I kneeled down to the boy and asked, "did she knock your car down?" He nodded.  I told him as I picked up the pieces to his car, "I'm really sorry she did that, that was very rude. I know you worked very hard to make that car". I then addressed Twin R and said, "You broke his car and that was very rude. Look how sad you made him. You need to apologize." At that point she was sobbing, but managed to say the words through a stream of tears and snot. I then sat her against the wall for a "time-out". The dad was still angry and stormed off, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mom. She had watched the entire exchange from the periphery and when I looked at her, she smiled at me. Was that a "thumbs-up" in crisis management?

I was used to diffusing situations that the boys had gotten themselves into. But with them, I always had the Autism excuse to diffuse or justify, to some extent, the severity of the act. I believed that there had to be some trigger, some external stimuli to cause the behavior.  However, with the neuro-typical girls, rude behavior was just plain rude. And, bad behavior is a publishable offense.  If any of my children had knocked the car out of their siblings hands, the behavior would have been dealt with the same way minus the implied shame from "not teaching your kids manners."

I am sure that Twin R didn't realize the severity of her actions until they were pointed out to her, which is identical to what I have encountered with the boys. They were free-willed entities acting impulsively and didn't realize their wrong-doing until they had to face the music.

Reflecting on that moment, I realized that all people are learning to navigate the universe, dealing with impulsiveness, and self-modulation while trying to figure out which behaviors work and which ones won't. Some people learn to do it better than others, but  they all learn how to as they grow. They learn through practice and guidance from their parents and teachers.

People will naturally act defensively when attacked, verbally or physically. We should keep that in mind when addressing someone who is obviously in the wrong, if we want to have a "teachable moment."  When that dad came at me, I had to work very hard not to get sucked into an argument with him. It quickly could have become a shit slinging match about bad parenting instead of addressing the cause.  Dealing with a parent more pragmatically, "hey, your kid just knocked the car out my kid's hand, how do you want to approach?", may be the way to go.  It may be awkward, and is no guarantee that the parent won't act defensively, but, taking judgement out of a situation, may be the first step.

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