We choose our friends based on our likes, hence we get along. We don’t get to choose our families, hence we ought to learn to get along.
Can you guess whose quote this is? If you started thinking about some philosopher then you have definitely taken the wrong exit. It is a quote from the cartoon series “Anne of Green Gables”. Who knew that cartoons can impart such wisdom. But it is such a profound statement that got me thinking of what it meant to the family, how it applied to our kids.
I have 2 kids who get along with each other extremely well. But I would be lying if I said, everyday is Pleasantville. There are days when I feel like I am a referee in the middle of a baseball brawl. I am constantly separating them from going at each other or stop tearing a toy apart. Over the years, I have learned and employed a few tricks that have worked well for me. Some of these tricks have been adopted by my friends as well. Here goes.
- Remove the obstacle – When my kids fight over toys, I watch. I give them time to resolve their differences amicably. If the conflict goes on for a long time, I simply step in and take the toy away. I did this a lot when they were younger and when I was trying to teach them sharing and co-operation. Taking the toy away meant that neither of them got to play with it and that was really hard for them. Slowly as they grew older, we taught them how to share playing time with the toy by giving them a set amount of time before they had to hand the toy over to the sibling. This helped them learn how to tell time very quickly and also a little bit of patience.
- Clean up or lose them – One of the major problems I have is when the kids take all the toys out strew them all over the house (and especially during a play date) and at the end of the day, go to bed blissfully leaving the mess behind. I am not a super-clean freak, but I do like things to be put back in their place when not in use. So we have a rule in our house, 10 minutes before dinner is clean up time. Just gather up all toys and place them in a basket or on the shelf. A few times I have had kids refusing to do that. So I decided, I am not going to be the one to tidy up. After a warning that went unheeded, I took a fresh trash bag, and gathered up all the toys that were strewn around and pretended to throw then away. That was the last day, I had to remind them to clean up or they knew their toys would be cleaned out.
- Divide and Conquer – A few weeks ago after a long day of separating 2 fierce kids getting on each others nerves, I decided to teach them the lesson of solitude. I separated them, sent each to a different room and forbade them from playing together for almost half a day. They are so used to having a companion in each other to play that, just being forced to sit apart, forced them to re-evaluate the joys of having a sibling to play with. After the “time-out” was over, I was happy to see them play well without conflicts for the rest of the weekend. I have used this tactic well since then. I just have to warn them that if I see them fighting, they will be separated for the rest of the day. This forces them into good behavior. I am sure, child psychologists and other savvy moms will reprimand me for forcing my children into good behavior. But I think, just like adults, children need some time to think over what is important for them. Once they figure that out, they will make the right choice.
- Birds of a feather flock together – A friend of mine took a different approach. While I found it hilarious, as she narrated it, she has had success with her approach. When her kids started fighting with each other over every single thing – from TV program to where to sit etc., she decided to teach them how to get along. She basically left them in the same room all to themselves. They were not allowed to get out till they figured out a way to get along with each other. It took them a day to come to an understanding, but eventually they realized with a little negotiation, they can be civil to each and accomplish what they want without any skirmishes. This method is great if the children are a little older and can use words respectfully to achieve the goal.
What do you guys think? Curious to know how other parents deal with similar situations. Share your thoughts through comments.