Written By Hanley Foundation Prevention Specialist Lorrie van Voorthuijsen
When I was growing up, kids would decide things by arm wrestling. For example, if
there was only one orange popsicle and two kids wanted it, one of the two would say,
“I’ll arm wrestle you for it!” The two would find a table, stand opposite each other, two
arms bent at the elbows would go up on that table, hands would clasp, and the pushing
and grunting would begin! Eventually one arm would fall onto the table and the
triumphal arm would rise in the air with the orange popsicle in hand!
Imagine if we could solve all our family problems that way. After five minutes of pushing
and grunting, problem solved and everyone accepting of the solution. No one dodging
responsibility, dishing out punishment, complaining about the outcome, lecturing, or
What? This proposal doesn’t sound fair to you? Is it because parents are generally
bigger than their kids or younger kids are generally weaker than their older siblings, so
the bigger, more powerful person will win?
Actually, I’m not proposing families do authentic hand-to-hand combat, but the physics
behind the activity does apply to sound parenting. According to Mr. Tally’s physics blog
Every Arm Wrestling Match is a Tie, Mr. Tally concludes that “at the point of contact —
where the two hands meet — the force in either direction is exactly the same.”
And how does that law of physics apply to parenting?
A big part of parenting is teaching responsibility through discipline. To do this well, there
is a “give and take” (of mostly equal forces) quite similar to that in arm wrestling. During
Session Three, in both Active Parenting 4 th Edition and Active Parenting of Teens,
parents will discuss and discover ways to do just that – to “give and take” with their
children. Both parent and child will find solutions using the equal “forces” of respect,
responsibility, and communication.
Care to arm-wrestle?