Parents: does it matter which kid started the fight?

I have a brother, and as all kids do we fought now and then. As long as there was no blood or other obvious injury, we both got in trouble when we fought.

Oh, we’d try to explain that the other started the fight, but it was inevitably met with “It doesn’t matter who started it - it takes two people to have a fight. You stand in this corner, you stand in that corner, and don’t sit down.”

For the 15-30 minutes I faced the wall each time, I remember being rather indignant that we never were allowed to reason with them, because to me it was important how the fight started. Not only that, it seemed terribly unfair that we (okay, I. I didn’t really get his side) wasn’t supposed respond to being pestered…

Now I’m not so sure that how the fight started makes any difference if you’re not in the room to see it. I don’t have kids, though, so I ask you folks with real, non-hypothetical, parenting experience

Do you:
A. punish them both/all for arguing and hitting if you didn’t see what happened, regardless of their reporting of the situation? What if there are three or more kids and everyone else fingers one as the cultprit?

B. play detective to figure out who was at fault, and only punish the instigator if you’re reasonably certain that you worked out what had happened?

C. try to find out who was at fault to make that child’s punishment worse, but not spare the victim(s) because they shouldn’t have responded to escalate the problem?

I only had one child.

However, I think that it IS important to know which one started the fight, and why. Frequently all parties are at least a little bit guilty in a fight, but sometimes the provocation is just about irresistible. And sometimes the reaction is way over the top.

I think that NEVER investigating the cause of fights is just taking the easy way out, it’s a sign of a lazy parent, or a lazy school system. If one kid is in the habit of just throwing punches at another kid(s), then the instigator needs to be stopped somehow. I know that there were a few kids of my acquaintance who DID just pick fights for the fun of it.

When my boys fight, I do care who started it, but both of them get “in trouble” because if someone is starting a fight with you, the best response is not to engage in a physical fight. We do try to determine who started it and we talk about what each person should have done differently, but if you only ever punish the instigator, you’re going to have a lot of pointing fingers and lying, plus, you’re missing out on the lesson that everyone has control over his reactions - you can choose to talk it out, you can choose to get help from an authority, you can choose to walk away, or you can choose violence. If you choose violence, you’ll face the consequences, just like in “real life.”

ETA: I have two boys, 4 & 7.

If I’ve got the time, I’ll do some digging and try and determine who was the instigator, who escalated from verbal to physical, etc. Whoever got physical first usually gets the worst punishment.

If I’m cooking dinner, or doing some other job that doesn’t allow for an easy break, or I’m watching something on TV I really want to see, then everyone gets punished.

Yeah, from what I’ve seen, punishing both means the bigger/older one always gets to beat up the little one and pick on him and be cruel to him, and the parents never see he is only responding.

I am not a fan of this as you can see.

Maybe, but only punishing one oftentimes allows the younger / smaller kid to figuratively and literally poke sharp sticks at the older / bigger kid.

I’ve found that they know how to push each others buttons so well, it’s hard to say who really started the ball rolling. I tended to come down harder on the one with the extreme (loud) reaction but usually encouraged them to work out their differences without appealing to parental authority. If I wouldn’t intercede, they, in theory, would have less incentive to escalate.

Sometimes you get one purposefully building things up to a physical confrontation in order to get the other in trouble. I’ve caught students doing this to slower students especially. Verbally picking at them over knowing they’ll get a physical response which is much more likely to be noticed by the teacher. I tend to punish the verbal aggressor worse in those cases and try to teach the other student better ways to handle the situation.

Ha! More like the little one starts to play the whole “I’m not touching you game!” until the big one eventually ties said little one to a chair so the big one can go off and play without being pestered.

Yeah, this. Was it the kid who made the first physical move? Was it the kid who made the first verbal taunt? Was it the kid who tried to cheat to show up the sibling who had been winning? Was it the kid who suggested the game in the first place, knowing that the only way the sibling would win was by cheating?

You – over there! You, over there! I don’t care what he/she/they/you did. Stay there until dinner.

Rule #1 -no bothering each other just for the fun of it.

Rule #2 -zero tolerance for violence.

Rule #3 -nobody likes a narc.

I didn’t want them tattling on each other so I didn’t get into the whole who started it thing, but our house isn’t that big so I usually knew anyway.

I don’t always try to figure it out, but I do fairly often. It generally turns out that they’re about equally guilty. The little one likes to push buttons, the older one likes to tease, and they both want to be the boss. So I point out where each went wrong and they have to apologize to each other.

The other day, my older kid came running in, screeching “Mooooom! She licked my tongue! Ew ew ew! It was groooooss!” All I could think to reply was “What on earth was your tongue doing out where she could lick it?”

With two boys 10 and 14, I am now so tired of the whole thing that a) they get punished for the NOISE more than anything else, and b) if there’s no blood, I don’t want to know.

I am exhausted!

Not to mention if I do try to intervene they just then both gang up on me!

I don’t care. My words of advice to them: “I’m not fighting your battles for you. You work it out yourselves.”

The bolded part has usually been my school of thought when kid wrangling.

When my stepkids were growing up, I sometimes watched my cousin’s three kids on the weekends. There was about five years from the youngest to the oldest of the combined five kids.

D’s kids were used to doing the the pick-pick-pick-smack-tattle bit with their folks. I wasn’t buying that. They quickly learned that I would begin by asking them a series of questions, starting with Is it on fire?. If they couldn’t answer yes to at least one of the questions, everybody involved got a time out.

It wasn’t long before they actually made attempts to settle things among themselves before trying to be the first to rat out a sib. :smiley:

Not a parent, but as a child the few adults who would satisfy my sense of justice were those who punished us both but after investigating, so when I’m taking care of kids I try to follow their methods.

So I got punished for hitting my friend LA (which I shouldn’t have) but he got punished for hitting me first and for cheating (he hit me when I pointed out that he was “miscounting” on purpose; as you can see, I still remember the specific incident very clearly 33 years later). The punishment was the same, we got sent to separate rooms to have timeout until dinner time (we both had reading materials and loved to read), but it wasn’t because “I don’t give a shit who hit who or why” or because “I’m the adult and you’re both grounded”. His mom did give a shit and she gave individual warnings on specific behaviours; the part she couldn’t be bothered with unless something became a repeating problem was setting individual and specific punishments.

My parents punished me every time my brother got in trouble, just on principle. Apparently as his older sister his every move was my responsibility.

It’s not healthy. Even at this age I have a Cain-and-Abel complex.

“Because parents aren’t interested in justice, they want QUIET!” - Bill Cosby :smiley:

That, in a nutshell!

Which teaches children that justice isn’t important, the only thing that’s important is not being noticed.