5 Boys "Working Things Out"


What is your opinion on letting kids "work things out" among themselves? I have five boys (two bio, three foster-to-adopt); the youngest is 1.5 years and the oldest will be four this week (they are spaced 6-9 months apart). Since the three foster boys joined our family 2.5 months ago, I've been trying to "referee" all squabbles about somebody taking a toy, somebody hitting someone else, etc., but this morning I decided to try something different and let the "victim" defend himself/his property a bit.

Partly I'm thinking maybe, even if it's a little counter-intuitive, letting them stand up for themselves (and knowing their brothers can't be pushed around and picked on just because I'm not in the room with them) will help them learn to respect each other's boundaries; partly I'm thinking maybe I'm just seeing one of the typical differences between boys and girls (I grew up with only sisters, and we were not very physical).

To clarify, the youngest (1.5 years) is only involved in this system insofar as I've told the other boys that if he is biting them, they can push him away - that's the main way he is involved in sibling conflict at this point.

In general, all five boys play pretty well together, and they definitely know when they're being nasty to one of their brothers; but even being as firm and consistent as I can be with time-outs for infractions, I haven't seen much progress, and we've wound up with a lot of "tattling" as the victim comes to me to complain about an offense.

Or am I at risk of raising a bunch of bullies who will resort to physical violence at the slightest provocation?

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