If you have more than one child, you know what that sinking feeling means when you hear “Mom!!!” screamed at the top of their lungs–they’re fighting again. Why can’t they just get along? Why are they constantly competing with each other for love, affection, toys, Cheetos . . . ? Maybe you have siblings and remember this competition between yourself and your brothers and sisters, but for the many people who are the parents of multiples after being an only child, the raucous fighting can be very jarring. You’ve always heard that having a brother or a sister is the closest bond people can have, so why can’t they just cooperate and get along? Here are some tips to help them get aligned.
Ties That Bind
Create opportunities for your kids to work together collaboratively by giving them a task bigger than they can accomplish on their own. An example might be an indoor fort that requires them to hold one end of a sheet while the other attaches it to the chair (eek!) or building an obstacle course together that they can then run out some energy in.
Everyone needs time alone, even children. Certain personality types really thrive on alone time, and giving kids a break from each other allows them time to miss the other one and explore activities that may be personal to them, such as reading or playing an instrument. That way, when they’re back together they will have something to share!
Just Back Off
It may be the hardest thing you can do as a parent, but sometimes you just have to let them fight it out. Letting kids learn to negotiate with each other without your interference is how they become self-sufficient and high-functioning adults. Resist the temptation to step in and “make it better” by advocating for one child or another. Obviously, this doesn’t hold true when there’s blood involved–and there is a point when children are getting physical with one another that you need to step in. However, for standard squabbles, it really helps them learn to work together in the long run if you just let them be.
Team Up for Chores
First of all, having chores for your children is completely underrated. No matter how little time your kids have at home because of all their extracurricular activities, chores are an important part of growing up and learning about becoming a productive member of society. Giving kids a small measure of responsibility helps them understand the transition to grown-up just a little bit better. Try giving your kids chores that they have to work together on, such as cooking for the older kids or cleaning out the dishwasher and drying dishes for older ones. Raking leaves can be a fun task in the fall and when kids work together the tasks will go quicker. Who knows, they may even learn to harmonize while they’re doing it!
Helping your little ones understand the spirit of cooperation instead of competition does more than making your home life quieter and more serene, it also helps set them up for lifelong success with serious life skills.