Not all of my parenting choices are typical. I have done a few things over the years that seemed to have worked out but are definitely not common. Today I’m sharing a few of those controversial choices I have made.
I really wanted my kids to see themselves as a team. I wanted them to have a bond and work together.
I don’t just mean that I wanted them to be friends or get along. I wanted that, sure, but I want more than that. I wanted them to build a solid foundation for knowing they could get through anything by working together. I wanted them to know they could always count on each other. And to do that I needed to create the opportunities for my three kids to become the team I wanted them to be.
I think a lot of people assume that siblings will automatically grow up with this kind of bond, and I know siblings who have. But I know others who really didn’t. So, what are some things that I intentionally did to help make them see themselves as a team?
First, I gave them opportunities to work together on shared goals. I gave them group challenges such as, “If everyone can get ready by 1 o’clock, we will go to the park.” They had to find all their shoes and jackets and pack some snacks. Then they got the reward of getting to go to the park. I was never hard on them about not being ready right at one, but there were times they failed to get ready before I had to start dinner, and thus didn’t get a trip to the park.
I loved this method because it took the prep work and stress off of me, and also didn’t put the blame on one child. I was not constantly blaming one child for not getting ready as asked. Instead, the “team” had not met the challenge of getting ready. And you may wonder if this means all the work fell on the oldest. No, it didn’t. With three kids, they usually did divide the work. The baby of the family found shoes and jackets, the middle child packed snacks, and the oldest made water bottles. As I said, they weren’t always successful, but they were capable of success.
I am not a high-energy person, so having my kids learn to get us ready for an outing or field trip meant we could do more as a family. If I didn’t have to burn all my energy hunting for shoes or making snacks, I could do more fun things with my kids.
I also chose sometimes to make myself the bad guy. Sometimes, when my kids had behavior that wasn’t acceptable, or we had a big mess to clean up, I gave everyone consequences together. The best way to create a team is to give them someone to work against, a common villain, so to speak. This strategy made them less likely to feel I was playing favorites when dealing with a challenging situation.
I think that in far too many families, we ask the eldest sibling to “watch” younger siblings, and they get in trouble when the younger ones break the rules. I don’t think that is fair. It puts too much on the oldest. However, ignoring that your siblings are finger painting on the walls with Cool-Whip while mom takes a shower, is not okay either.
So, when a big mess happened, like the Cool-Whip Incident, they all had to work together to help clean it up. Yes, even if you weren’t the one with your fingers in the gooey stuff.
Fighting in front of the TV, while a show was on, meant the TV went off for the day for all of them. As I was a parent who limited TV, this had the desired effect. If I turned on a show, my kids sat and watched it quietly and didn’t fight over what to watch. If they disagreed about a show, they asked me to referee. We worked out a turn-taking method that they all agreed was fair. Group consequences greatly reduced the number of fights they hard, or at least the ones I knew about.
Letting them be Sneaky
Occasionally, my little angels used their teamwork to get away with something. One distracted me while another grabbed cookies that they all snuck off to eat in secret. Or other kid-sized shinanigans. Did I call them on it? No, not most of the time. Remember how I wanted them to be a team? That meant that I had to let their team be successful, even if the goal was to eat cookies instead of lunch.
I hope that this kind of teamwork means that they can work together to meet bigger goals in life.
Did It work?
My kids are now 12, 14, and 19, and I think my methods have been fairly successful. They rarely fight, though our house isn’t argument-free. They are now great at getting ready to go somewhere. In the fall we took a trip to a skate park for the 12 and 14-year-old, and I was amazed at how well they got ready to go without issues. Gathering their helmets, skateboards and pads went smoothly and we got out the door on time.
Sometimes, they are all awake during the night, after I’ve gone to bed. I wake up to learn they’ve worked together to make a big midnight snack or spent the night hanging out and debating the finer points of some hypothetical situation. I love that. I love that they are friends and becoming capable people who look after each other.
So, I have no regrets. These parenting choices have worked out for us.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.