The payoff would come later. In Japan, parents and teachers take on a similarly lax approach to fighting, seeing it as a natural rite of passage for children. A study compared American and Japanese fourth- and fifth-graders and their thoughts on fighting, hitting and related acts. When asked why they shouldn’t do these things, 92 percent of American kids talked about not wanting to get in trouble. External forces shaped their actions. The vast majority of Japanese kids, on the other hand, did not mention punishment and explained that they shouldn’t fight or hit because it hurts others. They gained the wisdom and maturity that can only come from lived experiences.

Zaske’s daughter learned some powerful lessons that year in kindergarten. “By the time she made it to elementary school, she was known as a peacemaker,” explains Zaske, who wrote a new book called Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children“To this day, she rarely has an issue with a ‘mean girl,’ either as a victim or being one herself.”

It can be more difficult to hang back and observe emotional situations than to try to solve problems for your kids on the spot. But what they need is consistent guidance, a place to explore their feelings, a model of kindness. What they probably don’t need is a referee monitoring every single play.

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