I observed an exchange between a young mom and a grandma. The younger mom’s kids were getting along and happily playing together. The grandma commented to the young mom: “it’s obvious you’ve taught your children to love each other.”
Her comment wasn’t directed at me at all; she didn’t even know I would hear it. But somehow it felt personal and it stung a bit.
I was immediately defensive and wondered about her logic. I went into a mental rant.
So, what? Parents that have kids that don’t get along have taught them to hate each other — to be rude? It is my fault my kids fight and her “fault” they get along? You don’t think we haven’t racked our brains on what we can do to stop their fighting.
Are you kidding me? I’ve done many a Family Night lesson on being kind to your siblings. We’ve read stories and scriptures and watched videos. I’ve yelled; I’ve pleaded; I’ve grounded. I have even crinkled a paper heart and done an object lesson. I have tried to teach my children to love each other and they just don’t!!!!
(I am only this reactional and defensive certain times of the month.)
After my mental rant, I calmed down and honestly looked at my parenting. I asked myself, “How was I doing right now in the fight against fighting?” “What part did I play in the contention?” I realized that maybe I’d sort of given up lately.
There was just too much disharmony to keep up with it all. I would lose track of who said what, who did what, whose fault it was. Sometimes I just had the attitude “go at it– beat each other up- work it out yourselves.” I was too tired to constantly police their interactions and had let many things go.
I wondered if maybe because I wasn’t really holding any one accountable, my kids thought I accepted the poor treatment. My lack of direct punishment gave them unstated permission to keep being rude to each other.
I know it is hard to image this 4 cuties being rude to each other, but they are.
I decided to take a stand and more formally and consistently show my disapproval for how they treat their siblings. I had tried to tackle contention in general before and that didn’t work. So this time I confronted just name calling. Unlike teasing and agitating, name calling was something I could easily quantify, recognize, and hear and then address.
Idiot, stupid, immature, baby, dork, doofus, jerk, etc. are pretty hard to miss, especially since the words are often yelled.
I decided on a consistent punishment. Every. time. someone called someone else a name the offender would have to serve the offendee.
I figured ‘we love those we serve‘ so maybe they will learn to love each other as they serve each other.
Since I started my no tolerance name-calling policy we have seen lots of service around our house.
Child A made Child B a sack lunch for school
Child A read Child B a book
Child A put away Child B’s laundry
Child A put away Child B’s coat, backpack and homework
Child A did Child B’s job on dishes
Child A made Child B’s bed
Child A did Child B’s daily chore
Just last night, Locke, my youngest, had to clear everyone’s plate because he had called everyone a name. It had been a rough day for him.
Sometimes it is difficult to think of a service in the heat of the moment. So finally after my mind being blank too many times, I brainstormed a list of potential services and posted them on the fridge. I wanted to have a steady go-to list that I could reference when the name-calling occurred and when the emotions were high.
In addition to the services mentioned above, here are some more services I added to my list:
dust their room
vacuum their room
write them a nice note with 3 things that you like about them
paint her fingernails (mostly if Elle calls Croft a name; Elle would never let Crew or Croft near her fingernails)
play with them (catch or dolls or whatever the offendee wants to do)
put away their pile (junk I collect at the end of each day)
Sometimes if two kids go at it and both call each other names, I have them work together and serve me. I hope as they work side by side, they can learn to get along. If not, at least I get some energy back for the energy that they took fighting.
My “serve your sibling” method may or may not be working. I don’t know. I still hear name calling. Maybe a little less than before or maybe it will take months to see a difference. But at least they know mom does not approve or accept them calling their siblings names. By giving consistent consequences, I am in, one way, teaching them to love their siblings.