I know it couldn’t possibly be this simple and easy. It’s only been a week, but right now it is working.
We’ve been experiencing some typical sibling quarrels (that’s such a gentle word for it) and sibling competition around this house lately. I was getting pretty tired of hearing the mean voices all the time and the "I won. Me First" attitudes.
For example, when I bring in a drink of water to the girls at bedtime, each calls out, "me first!!" And if I happen to pass the glass to the other sibling, the one that is now having to wait a dehydrating twelve seconds for her drink of water, collapses into a heap of sorrow and torment on the bed.
I knew things were getting out of hand when I found myself carrying two cups of water in the room and doing my best to hand them off at the exact same moment.
Another example? The green cup, green bowl, green spoon issue. We have the set from IKEA that I’m sure most of you have. It comes in four different colors but for some reason each morning my children fight over the green. I don’t even think they know why they want the green ones, it’s just the fight that they like. It was to the point that the other morning when they started fighting over who got green, I walked over to the cupboard, pulled out the green cup, green bowl and green spoon and threw them all in the trash.
That’s one way to solve the problem, I suppose….
I’m usually not one to keep up with charts and graphs and reward systems when it comes to my children, but I decided to reach back into my elementary school teacher artillery and come up with a simple system.
I got myself a big bucket of non-interlocking centimeter cubes (they’ll come in handy for homeschooling, too) and an empty glass jar. In our family, the Bible is important to how we live and behave so we talked briefly about the "fruits of the Spirit"–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And when I see these behaviours of kindness they get to put a cube in the jar. When they reach 50 cubes, they’ll get to pick something out of my bag of treasures.
They were very enthusiastic and it started out quite comically. I heard about ten random, "I love you, my sister"’s every few minutes. And I gave them cubes because I figured it was a place to start and better than the alternative. And now, I think, this kindness is becoming a bit of a habit. Mary still asks for cubes because she ate a good breakfast, but she’s slowly getting the idea.
And I’m seeing it overflow into other parts of their lives besides just their relationship with each other–yesterday they picked up sticks and put them on the burn pile (not burning at the time) to be helpful to my grandmother, without anyone asking. And Emma has been finding little ways to be helpful and kind to me, too.
So the simple system is working at the moment. Who knows how long it will last. We’ve got 34 cubes right now and marching towards fifty, so we’re getting there.
But it’s not perfect. In the course of writing this post–which sometimes takes me hours to complete–the girls went for a morning walk together (awww, so nice). And Mary came back crying and soaking wet head to toe because Emma filled a bucket with water from the hose and threw it on her. (oh, not so nice) But hey, they’re still kids being kids. Every child needs a bucket of water thrown on them now and then….or something like that….and if this doesn’t work, I might be getting in on that action myself.