While I'm sure all parents would like their children to co-exist in never ending peaceful harmony, the reality is that the home is the stomping ground of learning to negotiate ever-complex and often challenging human relationships. And with that comes.... yes, conflict! If even we as adults struggle to always peacefully exist alongside other people, it should be no surprise that our little humans may take time, encouragement, example and proactive teaching to learn to do the same. So yes, kids tend to squabble as they learn these skills and work out how to work things out. But I believe we can do more than simply leave them their own devices all throughout childhood, we can come alongside to encourage and 'skill them up' to find a better way to sort things out - both with their siblings and other relationships now and in the future!
Lately, the sibling squabbles between my kiddos (in particular the two who are still at home!) had been slowly rising to the point where I decided we needed a circuit breaker. Something to remind the kids how precious their relationship is and how much nicer it is for everyone (including Mama's ears, haha) when we choose words of kindness instead of words (and attitudes) of entitlement! So, I sat the little guys down and we had a chat. About respect and the power of kindness. About the blessing it is to have siblings who can also be best friends - and how best friends should treat each other! We love each other but we don't always remember to show it, right?? But things can change if we change our focus.
I realised that as well as working through 'conflict resolution' techniques with the kids (once again... yeah, it is never a one time thing!), that it would help them to have a more visual reminder of the cumulative effect of their words and actions. It was pretty early one morning when it was looking like 'one of those days', so I decided to grab a bunch of pom poms from the craft cupboard and a glass and a vase... I just grabbed whatever was close at hand! I told the kids that whenever they chose to show love and kindness to each other, we would transfer a pom pom from the little glass to the big vase. They loved the idea of course! It's not a ground breakingly original technique (I've seen variations floating around the net!) but at that moment, it felt like just what we needed.
It worked so effectively! There was no reward or prize needed at the end when the vase was filled. It was more about creating a visual example and reminder of the effects of kindness, a way to acknowledge kindness in a simple but concrete way. It highlighted the acts of sibling kindness between them and reminded them how good it feels to be kind and to think of others first. All of a sudden, they were looking for ways to be kind instead of looking for ways to drive their sibling crazy, haha. All of a sudden, they were remembering how much they loved each other and seeking ways to serve and bless. Woohoo!
It was really effective as a 'circuit breaker'! The boys were super keen to go OTT with acts of kindness and love to each other, haha!! I felt like this was really healing to their relationship, (as well as my ears and heart!). I have to be honest, it also felt refreshing and like a circuit breaker to me, to focus on the good, and be looking for all the moments of sweetness and kindness instead of just focusing on the negative and how the bickering was driving me rather batty. It changed the whole tone of our day! :) It helped us all as a family focus on seeking and acknowledging positive interactions!
And you know what? Kindness begets kindness, so since that little circuit breaker, there has been a lot more kindness (focusing on others) and a lot less squabbling (usually focusing on self!). Of course, issues still arise and we are still working on working through them (that's another post on how we approach that?!) but it's sure nice for all involved to be dealing with quite a few less. It's been helpful and refreshing to focus on spotting (and being!) the good rather than feeling so overwhelmed by the negative.
Since that day last week, we have left the containers out and while we don't always remember to transfer those pom poms for every single act of kindness, the kindness continues even when the pompoms are forgotten... though the kids remember more than me to gleefully exclaim that they spotted a kindness and so we transfer another pom pom!
You know what? Life isn't all pom poms, but when you focus on them a little more, it's amazing how many more there suddenly are :)