When I was teaching overseas, I realized quite quickly that I had a problem. It felt like every time I turned around, a fight was breaking out among my students. Every 15 minutes or so, there would be a couple kids scuffling in the corner of my classroom.
At the beginning, I would stop teaching, break up the fight, get everyone seated again, and continue teaching. This, however, did not solve the problem. These kids did not speak English. I had no idea why they were fighting, so it was very difficult for me to help them solve the problem.
After a couple of months, I finally decided to minimize the disruption. Instead of stopping the fight, and letting the animosity build back up again, I decided to install some rules.
- Only one fight per week per student
- No hits below the belt or closed fist punches
- If your head is pinned to the floor for 3 seconds you lose, and you can’t fight again for a week
I got myself a whistle and I explained the rules to my students. I was actually kind of eager to see how this all worked out.
How the New Classroom Fighting Rules Worked
It didn’t take long for the first fight to break out. I cleared some space and watched carefully. Both students respected the rules. No closed fists, no below the belt punches. It was more of a wrestling match than anything else.
One student pinned the other one for 3 seconds and I blew my whistle. I raised the arm of the winner… and we all got back to work. It was a fair fight, and the students responded.
Ironically, by letting them fight, I reduced the amount of conflict in my classroom. They didn’t fight as much, but when they did it was quick and fair. Then we all got back to work. If I had allowed this in a “Western” classroom I would have been fired, but this was a different culture and I had to adapt to my current situation.
Lessons from Fighting in the Classroom
I decided I need to do the same thing with my own children. Too often, I found myself in the middle of a fight between my kids. Finally, it occurred to me that I needed to set some rules and let them work it out themselves. Here are the rules:
- No screaming. Problems can only be solved with a calm mind
- If there is screaming, you BOTH lose whatever it is that you are fighting about
- If there is physical violence, there will be an appropriate consequence
I’m happy to say that I have greatly reduced the amount of fighting in my home. If I hear things escalating, I remind them of the rules. They usually get quiet and start negotiating. It doesn’t work all the time, but I have greatly reduced the amount of fighting.
I am happy with the outcome. Sometimes they “whisper fight,” but that’s way better than the screaming. They usually find a way to work it out, and if they don’t, they come to me for suggestions. Much easier!
So, I guess what I’m saying is: let them fight!
We enjoy many things about the Ninja Dad life, but one thing we don’t like is repeating ourselves. Constantly. Especially when it has to do with manners, behavior, and general commonsense decorum.
So, rather than nag ourselves hoarse, we developed a genius reminder system to keep our kids in line. They’re called manners cards, and we swear, sometimes they actually work. Check them out here.