- To stop annoying begging: Asked and Answered. This is a common phrase said by lawyers in courtrooms, usually as part of an objection. The idea is that if a question has been asked and answered, it should not be asked again. My kids ask me, “Mom, can we pleeease go to Target?” and I say, “Yes, but not today. We’ll have time tomorrow.” Then they say, “But pleeeease? I really want to get this new [fill in the blank]!” I say, “Asked and answered.” If they ask again, I just repeat it: asked and answered. They know it’s pointless to try to get me to give another answer.
- To settle fights: Mediate them with praise. Tommy: “Mom, she won’t give me a turn with the truck!”Caroline: “It’s my turn! You already played with it forever!”
Me: “Tommy, Caroline is really good at sharing. In fact, she’s one of the kindest, most giving children I know. And you’re really good at asking nicely for things. People just love how nicely you can ask for things. I’ll bet if you asked Caroline nicely, she’d be happy to share with you.”
Tommy: “Caroline, may I pretty please have a turn playing with the truck? I won’t keep it long, I promise.”
Caroline: “Of course, Tommy. Here you go.”
Kids are so flattered by your kind words (whether they’re true or not) that they’ll immediately want to live up to them.
- To get kids to settle their own fights: The fighting bench.When my kids start fighting, I put them on the “fighting bench”, or, in our case, the fireplace hearth. I tell them they can’t get up until they can tell me what their part was in the argument. They then have to apologize to the other child for what they did and come tell me when it’s all resolved. I love this method because it forces kids to take responsibility for their own actions. Also, they really hate having to sit there with each other, so they’re eager to admit their fault and get it over with already. It takes two to tango!
- Stop a fight before it starts.
Whenever you notice a pattern to fighting, whenever kids are always fighting over the same things, like where to sit in the car, or whose turn it is to shower first, or whatever- just lay down the law. On odd days, Mike gets to sit in the front seat; on even days Julie does. Period. Showers go youngest to oldest. Period. If you were the last one to use the item, you have to put it away, even if you didn’t get it out. Period. No discussion.When there’s no room for argument, nobody argues.
- Let kids be bored.Whenever I notice my kids spending just a little too much time on screens (and it making them a little too cranky) I schedule a screen-free day. Yes, everyone complains, and yes, it can be inconvenient, but it’s so good for them. The last time I did it, I found my son lying on the floor of the living room staring at the ceiling. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “Planning my next Lego project.” (He’s a TFoL- Teen Fan of Lego- he basically uses them to create art.) Then he jumped up very suddenly and exclaimed, “I’ve got it!” and ran upstairs to his room.I found my 8-year-old reading a book at the kitchen table. I found my 5-year-old on all fours in the foyer, wearing a swimsuit. When I asked her what she was up to, she said, “Practicing fire safety!” When I asked her about the swimsuit, she said, “I was practicing ballet!” Throughout all of this I could hear my oldest daughter playing her ukulele in her room, which is her favorite “I’m bored” pastime (which I love, because I really enjoy ukulele music- it’s so happy!) I love seeing the ways my kids use their creativity and develop their talents when they have “nothing to do.”
These are just a few of my favorites. I’m going to scan the rest of the answers to see what else I can pick up!