Every mother dreams of her children being best friends. Annnnd... every mother bangs her head on a wall when she hears her lovely off-spring screaming at one another over whose turn it is to lick the mixing spoon or pick a movie to watch. It's been this way for centuries.
Well, maybe they used to argue over whose turn it was to hoop roll.
One of the things I've learned in my short stint as a mother is that the happy, smiling children scenario is not the scene for every moment of the day. It boils down to selfishness and a sin nature. Now there's something you don't have to teach them. It's just a by-product of breathing.
At some point, it occurred to me that while I couldn't totally oust the sibling rivalry, I could do things to encourage companionship amongst my youngsters. There are ways to help children cooperate and cheer each other on. To do this, though, you have to be intentional. You can't just say, 'Hey you guys, start loving each other the way Christ wants you to and quit being monkey-butts!"
Or you know, however you would relay that particular idea in your family. We like the phrase 'monkey-butt', despite how not very far it goes in our quest of lady-like girls and gentlemanly boys.
With that in mind, there are several little things that I have incorporated into our days. Board games are a necessary part of our school week. Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Bingo, Hi-Ho Cherry O!, Racko, Sorry, Trouble, Uno, and Hungry Hungry Hippos are some of our favorites.
These games challenge them to more than just learn strategy. They learn honesty and integrity (don't change the rules to suit your situation). They learn to take a loss with grace (okay, so they aren't always graceful, but it's about progress, not perfection). They learn not to gloat when they are ahead or when they win (amazingly, they are pretty good at this part). They encourage one another. And they cooperate. Usually.
Another area that I have had to let loose the reigns a bit is with my girls. They are girls, they like to do girlie things. Even when I want to shout a great big fat "NO!" I am learning to graciously say "Sure, that sounds like fun!"
Like today when Elizabeth wanted to paint her toenails. What I saw was hot pink nail polish on my furniture, walls, and floor. What she saw was feminine, fun toes like Mommy. I suggested that she and Sarah Grace take turns and paint each others toes. Then I threw down a towel and had Elizabeth strip down to her underwear so as to save her pretty dress from irremovable stains. Cause I can only loosen up so much.
Once the nails were all dry, the girls brushed each others hair until is was soft and shiny. And then they chased me down and begged to be allowed to put make up on. We have blue eye-shadow especially for ballet recitals and our church's Fall Festival. I chanted to myself to "be calm and carry on" as I handed over the compact of blue. They diligently sat down and made over their eyes.
There has yet to be a disagreement that escalates into a full blown argument between those two today. I won't say that this was the golden ticket of peace, but it certainly didn't hurt to be aiding them in their development of loving, sisterly bonds.
One of our favorite tricks (and oh yes, this is a trick) is the Peace Prize. Several weeks ago, I was nearing the end of my rope and lecturing the kids for the umpteenth time that day about promoting peace and not stirring up strife. Out of my mouth came the phrase, "At the end of the week, I will pick the person who has promoted the most peace for my Peace Prize".
I hadn't thought about this at all. It just tumbled out. It's been the best idea in ages. I don't pick a winner every week, and I don't always tell them I am on the look out for a winner. And the prizes are good. Ice cream dates, miniature golf dates, helping Mommy bake their choice of sweet treats, a purchase from the craft store, an extra movie selection at the library. Groupon and Living Social are great places to snag cheap passes for things to use as rewards.
These are just a few things we do to try to keep the peace in a house full of little people. I know that we will have to stay on our toes and make changes to our Parenting Plots to Promote Peace, but this is where we are today. I would love to hear what you do in your family to encourage friendship between your kidlets.