Fighting can be good for children’s health

Helena Rodriguez

My two nieces, Anisha, 11, and Stephanie, 8, were involved in a heated argument about to turn physical when I said to my sister, “Don’t stop them! Fighting is good for them!”
Julie looked at me like I was insane.
“That’s right!” I said. “Fighting is good for children.”
I read it in a story recently about some kind of new research study. I didn’t pay particular attention to the important details, like who did the study, but it sounded good to me and made sense.
The gist of the study was that fighting can be good for siblings, granted they don’t kill each other, and granted they go through some kind of conflict resolution in the process.
But what do I know about kids fighting? Julie pointed out to me that I only have one child, a 13-year-old going on 21, while she has three young ones, including a toddler.
I still think fighting is good for kids and not just because I don’t have to put up with it half as much as Julie. Besides, having only one child presents problems of its own, particularly if you’re a single mom like me. Only children become like miniature adults, sitting around drinking cappachinos, watching HGTV and being asked for advice from us single moms like, “Should I refinance the car?” or “What should I write my graduate thesis on?” But that’s a whole other column.
Now, why is it great for siblings to fight? It teaches them they will win some and lose some. It teaches, them, hopefully, alternatives to violence. After all, they have to live under the same roof. What about when they go off to the world of work someday? There are many horror stories of workplace violence. It leads me to believe many people were not taught as children to resolve conflicts.
When kids fight, they sometimes have to resort to creative ways to resolve their differences, like my older sister Becky and I.
In high school, Becky got to where she wanted to sleep with the radio on. Well me, being the eccentric child that I was, and still am, preferred quiet. I asked her to turn off the radio. Becky said no. Unable to sleep, I got up, turned on the light and began typing on my little Sears typewriter.
Becky was outraged. Can you imagine the nerve? Someone making noise while she tried to sleep.
Becky insisted I turn off the typewriter. Being more stubborn minded than ever, I said no, unless she turned off the radio. She refused. A heated argument ensued. It was about to turn physical, too, when Dad came stomping into the room and asked what was the problem.
“Helen won’t turn off the typewriter and I can’t sleep!” Becky said.
“Becky won’t turn off the radio and I can’t sleep!” I cried.
“Just shut off the #$&! radio and typewriter and both of you get to bed now!” Dad ordered.
We obeyed.
That may not be a good example of conflict resolution, but it worked for me and I’ve got a nice big technical term for it: “Getting my way!” Psychologist may not recommend it, but I did enjoy a peaceful night of sleep.
It’s not such a bad idea for children to share bedrooms too, if they are the same sex. At a church retreat I attended last year in Abilene, Texas, a priest said something to the effect that children having their own bedrooms, could, in fact, experience some loneliness.
Becky, Julie and I shared a bedroom growing up, and besides the music issue, we did manage to work out a system of sharing, from taking turns sleeping on the top bunk to having our own shelves. We even came up with a dishwashing schedule, taking turns washing, rinsing and drying.
So when your children fight, it can be constructive. Especially if they learn, like me, how to get their way.
Just kidding.

Helena Rodriguez is a staff writer for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com