I was working on helping my 11yo make an omelette when I hear my 4yo niece say something, in a very agitated tone: "No, K, I don't want to go upstairs!"
I go see what has happened. K, my 7yo niece, is sitting on the sofa in the family room (a few stairs down from the kitchen) and J, the 4yo, is sitting on a sofa chair with a book in her hands. K is looking very "poor me" and J is looking very irritated. "What's going on?" I say.
K is upset because J gave her a papercut and didn't say sorry and something else I didn't catch. Words designed, in any case, for me to feel sorry for her and to show the error of her sister's ways. I, however, was perplexed.
"How did J give you a papercut? People don't give papercuts; paper does."
The first explanation was that J had swiped at her with the book. I still reiterated that J did not give a papercut, people don't just try to give papercuts (well, not usually, but anyhow) and asked, "What, she just attacked you with the book?" The second explanation was that K "just wanted to see something" (something she does VERY often with people, but especially her 4yo sister, where she just expects to have immediate access to something and will get her hands involved, taking something away or flipping a page, etc., and be unhappy if someone doesn't let her and think she's justified in doing something to get her way) and J didn't want to let her see it because she was enjoying her time with he book and jerked the book or something (that detail was not made very clear) and cut K's finger.
Aha. I saw we had a complete difference in perspective of justice! In K's mind, J was at fault for the papercut and should have said sorry because it hurt her (and I should do something about it). I pointed out that J did not try to give her a papercut, but she reacted and K ended up getting a papercut. The book gave the papercut. I then asked, what started it all? K said J with the book. I said no, that it was when K tried to see something without J being okay with it, that J did not have to show K just because K wanted it right then and there, and that this is a frequent problem. I then said that J did not have to apologize because she didn't do anything wrong. And I left it at that. If J had wanted to apologize because she felt badly about K accidentally getting hurt, fine, but she was frankly too understandably frustrated and annoyed with her sister not only having tried to get her way with the book but then telling J she should go upstairs for what she'd done or some such. I could have told K that she was the one who should apologize because she yet again tried to barge her way into having something she wanted, but I didn't. That would have felt even more like lecturing and I realized I was on a fine line between giving information and lecturing. K did suffer from "poor me" for about 5 minutes (while squeezing her papercut to make as much blood come out as possible, I think) and then came upstairs for lunch and all was well.
Ah, it makes me think of a book I just requested on interlibrary loan earlier this morning:
Raising a Thinking Preteen: The "I Can Problem Solve" Program for 8- to 12- Year-Olds), but I have to admit to not having read it. I really ought to, especially since my younger child is nearly 12. :P In any case, if you have not read this book and often have little tiffs between kids, it is a very good book. It uses a variety of games to get children to use certain language and help them distinguish between things, like I might want something different than the person next to me sometimes, but might want the same thing other times. Very, very good program. I can't remember if it gets into the idea of "fair vs unfair", but it tackles so much, it really helps kids with their over-heightened sense of injustice! And it helps us know how to help them. :)