Saturday, October 17, 2009

Help Your Children to Get Along

Whether there are two children or a dozen in a home, there will always be times when arguments break out to destroy the peace. As parents, we want to look for ways to minimize the squabbling and help our children not only get along with each other, but maybe to even like each other! While avoiding all trouble is impossible, there are things you can do to ward off fussing.

One of the main things that children will argue over is their possessions. You can help them get along by allowing ownership, and making the children respect each others things. After all, you yourself would not like it if your neighbor were to come over and take your car whenever they felt like it, and the police told you were being selfish and should share it with your neighbor.
If you let everything have an ownership by someone, then you can begin to encourage sharing. But if the owner of the toy does not want to share, then that should be his privilege. Let him learn the rule of cause and effect: if he doesn’t share with others, others may not want to share with him. But at least you won’t be constantly running interference between the children. Simply tell them, I’m sorry your brother (or sister) won’t share with you. Maybe they will feel more like it later. You need to go play with your own things until then.
If a possession can’t really have one owner, then let the children have a special time to play with it, or have first choice, like one child before noon, and the other after noon. Or they could have separate days when they have possession of the object.

Another source of contention between children is name calling. In our family, among my ten children, I learned a quick solution to that. If a child called another child a name, they had to give that child a dollar as a fine. This quickly took the angry pleasure out of calling a sister or brother a name, because the other child, rather than be offended, would get excited since they knew they would get a dollar. They would grin and hold out their hand, and I enforced the rule. If the name calling child did not have a dollar, then the child who had been called a name would get the other child’s treat the next time we went to the store. Or the name calling child had to do a chore to earn the dollar to pay the offended child. Some of my children learned that lesson the hard way, and got poorer, while the ones who were normally the target for this got richer.

If a child says an unkind thing about brother or sister, require them to say three nice things about that child. If they aren’t quick enough responding, make it four. This usually brings much laughter because of the things they will find to say something nice about. It will break the tension.

Sometimes children will call each other liars. This is especially upsetting, as lying is a pretty bad offense. Sit your children down and explain to them that most of the time, if someone says something false, they are not doing it intentionally, and they are just mistaken about what they said. Therefore, rather than call them a liar, have the children say, in a formal and very polite voice, “Excuse me, but I think you are mistaken about that.” Tell them it must be in those words. Then they are allowed to tell the other person exactly why they think they are mistaken about what they just said. Now, that is a hard thing to say with a straight face. This is another thing that can defuse tension, and usually ends up bringing laughter. One time, when I was teasing one of my children, they told me “Mom, that’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever told!” It was pretty funny!

These things won’t stop all the arguments and disagreements in your household, but it will take care of quite a bit of it. If you can get your children to laugh instead of being mad, your home will be a much happier place!

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