Our kids fight, because we are NORMAL, but the other day, their Sunday school teacher commented on how much they care for each other. This teacher told my husband that she hopes her kids will someday love each other as much as ours do. Her sweet words really got me thinking.
We are just your average family, with three kids, all close in age. They DO fight, but yes, on most days they really DO play together well. They are friends. They look after each other and even though my life feels crazy most of the time, I wouldn't have it any other way. I always hesitate to write posts like this because I never want to come across as having it all together. So, with the disclaimer that we are far, far, very, very, far from perfect, here are my Top 7 Things that Help Our Kids Get Along.
1. Be home together.
By far, this the biggest one for our family. Nothing makes my kids fight like being on the go too much and if you think about it, this makes sense. To be friends with someone, you need to spend time with them. Yes? You need to learn about them and understand who they are. The same thing is true for siblings. When our kids are home together, they learn to play together. I don't entertain them all day, or hardly at all for that matter, so it's up to them to learn to play well and be each other's friend. Good relationships take being together and when we're home together, we have time to build those relationships.
2. Encourage them to serve each other.
This is another huge one for our family. Service...Oh, I love this one. Once you start looking for ways to teach your kids to serve each other, you'll notice the opportunities everywhere. Every morning, I have the kids make their beds. Not perfect, but acceptable for how old they are. To serve one another, often Judah will make Paisley's bed and Paisley will make his. When they do this, I go crazy praising them for how kind it was! Think over the top praise---me jumping around and clapping (because they need that).
At lunch time, they serve each other lunch. After lunch, they can clean up the other person's spot at the table. They can help a younger sibling put on shoes. When we get somewhere, I have Judah unbuckle Paisley's car seat, since she isn't strong enough to push the buckle yet. At bedtime, they can get each other's toothbrush ready. All day long there are opportunities for serving one another and every time they help each other, I make a BIG fuss about what a nice brother or sister they are. This is constantly teaching them how good it feels to do something nice and it's also teaching the recipient how to show gratitude towards the person who's been kind.
3. Be okay with giving the older ones responsibilities with the younger ones.
One of the things I've loved about having kids close in age is the opportunity for the older ones (who at our house, are still very young) to learn how to care for the younger ones. Judah who is 5 can do simple things like hold Eliza for a moment, get her cup or bring her a toy. Often when I'm changing her diaper, I'll have Paisley sing her a song or bring me baby wipes. These little responsibilities show the kids that it feels good to help out and that the world isn't only about them.
4. Don't solve all their problems.
At our house, I've been really working with the kids on trying to work it out together first and then come and talk to me, if that doesn't work. I want them to be problem solvers and with practice, I believe they can. If we, as parents are always stepping in, then they don't have the opportunity to learn how to solve things on their own.
5. Let them know that they are part of a team.
When all else fails, I want our kids to know that they are part of a big team called Their Family. No matter what, they have a group of people who unconditionally have their back. These team members are Mom, Dad and their brother and sisters. When they play together, they're playing with a team mate. When they fight, they're fighting with a team mate. Lately, I've been inspired to emphasis that we need to be a strong team and strong teams are built with amazing members who build each other up.
6. Let them have their space.
Sometimes someone needs to play Legos alone or someone else needs to go have some time by herself. We all need quiet moments to recharge...at least I know I do! Space is good and it's good for a kid to be able to recognize when they need that quiet time alone. I think our job as parents is to help them be aware of those times when they need quiet play time and to encourage it, without making them feel like it's a punishment.
7. Teach them to support each other.
Nothing feels better than when someone you love cheers for you. When Eliza was learning how to walk, Judah and Paisley were over the moon excited for her and she just about bursted with pride when they'd clap for her. It's good to show our kids how fun it can be to support each other. Excitement is contagious and as the Mama, I've been convicted that I need to work more diligently on this one.
So, what about you, what would you add to this list?