How to Keep Your Kids from Fighting this Summer (and Beyond) in Just Two Days
June 9, 2018
It’s Summer, y’all! You know what that means!...Pajama days...sleeping late...taking a break from routines...and...being a REFEREE! Yup, this summer you are going to try your best to keep your kids from killing each other, which is going to drive you crazy. I can't wait to share with you how our children turned how they treated each other around in just TWO DAYS.
I think you will be able to relate to our home in this. My kiddos are close in age. They don’t remember life without each other. When Ainsley was a toddler and Braxton was a newborn, I would tote him from room to room wherever Ainsley and me were playing. Braxton learned to crawl at 5 months, because he wanted to follow his sister around. He pulled up at 6 months because he wanted to see what we were doing. Once he started walking at 10 months, he was attached to Ainsley’s hip. They have always been inseparable! Yes, they would do the normal sibling--fussing-thing, but nothing that wasn’t manageable. Until about a year ago when they were around 9 and 11. Simple little fussing turned into full on insults, rudeness, and actual physical altercations. It seemed like we couldn’t ride in the car without someone hitting the other. (“Are you serious? Why would you kick him like that?!”) They couldn’t enjoy a game of basketball outside without ending up yelling at each other as if it was the NBA Championship. (Oh my gosh, what possessed you to call her that?!”) And they MIGHT last ten minutes in the house before an insult or selfish remark was thrown out to their sibling. (“You have got to be kidding me! I cannot believe you said that to him!”) Not to mention actually SERVING each other...Forget it! (How many times have you heard, “Go get your OWN water!”)
Honestly, they were treating each other worse than they would treat their worst enemy. The things they would say to each other cut deep. If you have a sibling, you know how it goes--You know just what to say or do to get to them. Moments of peace seemed to dwindle away. Our sweet, harmonious, family life as we knew it was fading further into the past as my husband and I were constantly refereeing our kids.
It became exhausting.
Social media displayed pictures of smiling and happy siblings, and I thought to myself, “What have I done wrong as a parent?”...“Is this just the way it is going to be?”...”Are the days of sweet sibling love in the past?”...”Are they even going to like each other by the time they are adults?”...
I tried everything to help them get along. Take away privileges. Separate them from each other. Good ole inspiring lectures that tugged at their heartstrings. Threats. You name it, we tried it. These tactics worked, temporarily, but they would always resort back to fighting.
Friends and acquaintances in the community assured me it’s just a stage that every home goes through. I tried to just grit my teeth and be ok with this new stage of life, looking forward to the day it passes. But this new life felt very status quo. And I knew I didn’t have much more time with them left.
It didn’t take long before I realized I couldn’t exist in this status quo way of life any longer. I missed the harmony in our home. Time goes by so fast, and I knew every moment with our children in our home was precious. They will be 18 and on their own before we know it. I didn’t want any more time to go by accepting the status quo, the rut of siblings not getting along. I had to find a way to get out of the rut!
I knew the way they treated each other and learned to resolve conflict with each other would help to train them and teach them how to one day live with a spouse. I knew the more I focused on training them to love and serve each other now, the more trust they would build for each other. Their focus on nurturing their relationship now would lead them to be secure and solid in their relationship in the future when they left our home.
It dawned on me that this was not as much a heart issue, but a training issue. My children aren’t mean people. They have character. They care for others. They love their family. They want to do what is right. The reason why they treated each other so badly is because they were comfortable to do so. They were complacent in doing so. They were thoughtless in doing so. They were content with the status quo. They knew they didn’t like the way it made them feel to call their sister names. They knew they made things harder on themselves when they hit their brother. But they kept doing it because they were STUCK. In a rut. Of status quo.
I knew I needed to help them be conscious about their behaviors towards each other and start to create good habits in the way they treated each other. But how? All of the other things I had tried didn’t work.
Somehow I needed to help them create positive habits towards each other, which I knew needed to come from tangible reinforcement and reward. Over time, this would help them to THINK before they spoke or acted and recognize how much better things were when they got along, thus creating a lifestyle of love and respect towards each other because they recognized love wins.
Love wins. I knew they would see this if I could help them be aware of their behavior towards each other. I knew they would choose love.
So we created the MARBLE JAR. And my children’s relationship improved overnight and has only gotten better since! We purchased two glass jars of the same size and a package of marbles. We put all of the marbles in one of the jars. This jar was the one they wanted to empty. The other jar was the jar they wanted to fill. Every time they exhibited positive behavior, such as compromising in conflict, putting the other first, complimenting, encouraging, showing affection, or serving their sibling, they earned a marble, which meant we took a marble out of the jar and put it in the other jar. Every time they exhibited negative behavior, such as physical contact, insults, putting self first, or discouraging their sibling, we took the marble out of the jar they were trying to fill and put it in the jar they were trying to empty. When they accomplished emptying the jar and filling all the marbles in the other jar, they earned a reward. They voted on their reward, which should involve something they can do or enjoy together. My kids opted to go to their favorite place of fun, Sky Zone, when they emptied their first jar.
It is important to note that the marble jar CANNOT turn into a random behavior jar. We got such great laughs as my husband was quick to say, “Take out a marble!” about all things bad. Didn’t obey daddy...Take out a marble! Didn’t respond respectfully to mommy...Take out a marble! While this might be tempting, the marble jar can only be connected to the relationship and behaviors between siblings.
It literally took two days, and we were seeing improvement! There were less instances where I had to referee, and there were more instances of love and respect displayed to each other.
Most recently, my children were away from us out of state for a few days visiting grandparents and cousins. The minute we were reunited with them in the airport, the first thing they said (with smiles) was, “We earned like 20 marbles! We got along so well and treated each other perfectly. There was only one time we treated each other bad, and we went into the other room on our own and hugged and apologized.” I felt such joy knowing my kids have learned how to treat each other when I’m not even around. They have grown in love and respect for each other. They are proud to be each other’s sibling. And they are figuring out that love is the way. There is nothing status quo about that!
I reclaimed the love, respect, and harmony between my children, all with marbles and two glass jars!
I hope you will implement the marble jar in your home with your children! You will see an improvement within two days! Within a week, you will marvel at how much better your children are getting along!
This works for all ages, toddlers up to teens. Please share this with friends, so they can also get out of the referee role. Also, please comment about the success you experience after implementing the marble jar. And if you have any other ways to help siblings get along, please share!
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