Do you have a striped shirt? I know I do… if not literally then figuratively. You know, the striped shirts worn by those men with the whistles… the ones that make the funny hand signals at the football game? Yeah… referees! I know after all of the arguments, disagreements, and even the “not so football” tackles that I’ve interrupted I’ve earned my stripes. Kids – especially siblings – are prone to… well, let’s just call it like it is… FIGHT. I don’t know about you, but it makes me a bit sad. I try to teach my kids how to peacefully negotiate, to talk through their anger, and to simply count to ten or say nothing at all. Yet, still… the ref shirt comes on…daily!
Well, on a homeschooling level I wish there were less arguments so that each of them could help each other more. I know there are times that I’ve taught a concept, but it hasn’t really gotten across. At those times, I think that the other children could probably “speak kid” better than I and help to get the concept across. How can we stop the fighting and get them helping one another?
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve pulled together a few ways to help teach the foundational aspects needed to dwell peaceably and actually move to the positive aspect of helping one another.
- Respect – No I’m not reciting a line from an old song… it’s important to teach siblings to respect one another. If there are times that a disagreement has caused them to flat out disrespect one another, incorporate some measure of discipline. One method I like is to make them spend and entire day apart. No speaking, eating together, playing together, or even doing school together. Often, by the next day they really miss one another and will be ready to be respectful. Respect is a foundational idea behind helping one another.
- Don’t ignore bad behavior. Sure, I know the common opinion of our day. Ignore it – it’ll go away. I’ve been a teacher for many years, and I must admit that the concept of ignoring the behavior so that it will go away – just doesn’t work. Children learn in every instance. If they commit bad behavior and don’t receive their just rewards, that teaches them that the behavior really isn’t so bad. Instead of eliminating it, we inadvertently encourage more of it.
- Teach children how to work through anger and disagreement. This isn’t just something they face as children. This is a life skill and something that must be taught and encouraged for successful living. Help them identify the emotions that they are feeling, and encourage them to talk through it with one another. Helping them to understand the root cause of their emotion (anger, jealousy, irritation) will help them to understand how to work through it.
- Teach them to appreciate one another. This is definitely difficult. However, regularly pointing out things that each of your children do for you or each other and praising that good behavior is a step in the right direction. Ask them questions about their siblings such as, “Has your sister been helpful today?” or “Didn’t you enjoy it when sister helped you find your spelling book?”
- Help your children develop friendships with one another. Again, another foundation principle for teaching children how to be helpful. No one wants to help someone that they are enemies with. Developing friendships among your children isn’t impossible, but it requires us to be intentional. Often we’ll go around the dinner table and take turns saying something kind or positive about one another. Sometimes, I’ll give them a special responsibility they have to share. In this, encourage planning, preparing, and carrying out the task together. Extra credit if it’s something fun. I also like to encourage my kiddos to think about the future. Friends come and go, but family lasts a lifetime.