Every time I feel smug about my children’s kindness to each other, a scene like this ensues:
Scarcely a day goes by that we don’t have some sort of dispute over crucial, life-threatening matters like “That’s my Lego wheel!” “He’s cheating at Monopoly.” “Who ate the last Cadbury egg?” (note: add Cadbury mini-eggs to shopping list) With 48 relationships in our household, one of them is bound to be shaky at any given time. But we do work on being kind. We work hard.
My first goal in parenting– before I ever had children– was to teach them to love each other. In high school, I knew two brothers who treated each other with absolute kindness and respect; I watched them, considered their actions, searched for the source of their benevolence. As babies entered my life (one after the other!), I studied the exemplary mothers and families around me and took note:
every child is the favorite– this is crucial. If parents compare or pit their children against each other, siblings begin to see each other as enemies.
focus on solutions, not blame
fighting isn’t allowed (unless it’s a really fab photo-op)
your good is my good– Kids are almost interchangeable in other people eyes. If your siblings succeed you’ll look exceptional too.
creativity spawns cooperation (and a lot of mess, but it’s worth it)
sometimes it’s better to quit the team– I know this sounds positively anti-American, but it’s worth it to walk away from coaches and teammates who are excessively aggressive. We have quite enough testosterone at home already, thank you.
patience– brotherly/sisterly love takes a long, long time.
Still, despite all our best efforts, some days are filled with petty fights, cruel words, slammed doors. I yell (and sometimes swear) and put everyone to bed early and angrily. And I want to run away (to Paris!), to give up on this impossible task of mothering…
But I don’t. Because kindness, as elusive at it may be, is a goal worth fighting for.