I often get asked, “Do your kids ever fight?”
My answer is, “Yes!”, in fact I just helped my two oldest handle a little squabble about 20 minutes ago.
I will also be honest and tell you that our children fighting is not a daily occurrence; and has become quite rare.
For the most part, our kids stick up for one another rather then stand against one another.
In fact, just minutes after helping them work out their problem, Tess came inside saying, “Jex and Stella won’t play soccer with me.”
I asked Jex politely to include Tess.
I looked out the window just a few minutes later, and this is what I saw:
(taken with iphone)
I was touched to see that Jex found a way to include his littlest sister.
This little example shows that Jex respects and loves Tess.
So how do you ask, have we kept our kids on the same team?
We are team Swenson; it is not every man for himself in this house.
We do not allow it.
(photo taken by Krysta Moes)
We work as a team. We play as a team. We laugh as a team.
Here are my top eight suggestions to help your kids learn to love being together.
1. Set aside habitual family time. Our family always has: family dinner, family prayer and family scripture study. This is something we do EVERYDAY. These are times that we are to be pleasant and kind to one another. They happen around the same time every day. We encourage each other to pray for one another, and ask each other about their day. Genuine concern shows respect and love for the other person. These simple activities have taught our children to value one another as a person.
2. Carve out time to have fun together. We often take our kids to dinner at a fun restaurant. This gives us the opportunity to teach them about manners and talking to one another. We do not allow electronics at the table when we are together as a family. We feel it is important that they learn how to be respectful at the table and not rely on something to entertain them. They should entertain each other with some polite conversation.
Just last week we took our kids to dinner. Jonathan and I sat at our own table, and the kids sat together. Our table was right across from them, but this gave them the opportunity to talk with one another. It also showed them that we trusted them enough to be on their own. A nice woman even asked us how we get our kids to sit so nicely. I believe it has to do with respect and expectations.
We have always told our children what we expect before we go anywhere and then ask that they respect our wishes. We always compliment them and often reward their respectful behavior.
There are other times that we don’t go out; often times we stay in. I remember our first movie night after Tess was born. She was just eight days old. Our family looked much like it does in this picture above. I remember thinking this is so surreal. All our children are here; and we are together as a family. All of us. We have family movie night or family game night often, still, and almost every week. We enjoy spending time with each other and try to make it fun. We look forward to this time together. The kids will always ask what are we doing tonight? I love that they expect that we will be hanging out together.
3. Make your kids play together, just your kids and no other friends. I truly believe that friends can get in the way of our own children forging friendships. Now, I am not saying that your kids shouldn’t have friends. Friends are important also, I love having friends. I want my kids to have friends. What I am saying is, that you should set aside time when you don’t have friends over. Time for your kids to learn to play just with one another.
Our family has had so many wonderful opportunities to move all over the country. There have been times we have moved in to a new neighborhood and not known a single soul. Our kids have had to rely on each other for a few weeks until friendships have been made. I love that they have had each other to rely on. I love watching my kids put their arms around each other, as if to say, “hey, you are my best friend,” It is ok to make your kids be friends and playmates.
4. It is ok for your kids to share a room. I promise. No one will die or resent you because they didn’t have their own room. Our children have shared rooms from the time they were born. YES. I put newborns in with my other children. WHY? out of necessity. Was it the best thing that ever happened to our family? YES. Night times when my kids were put in a room to go to sleep together is when the friendships were made.
As they got older, we allowed our kids to spend time with each other before they fell asleep. We would put them to bed, but we didn’t enforce not talking or playing. This is the time our kids would laugh, be creative, and make up games that used every inch of their imagination. Did I care that they weren’t going to sleep right away? NO. As long as they stayed in their room, with no fighting, they could play until their little eyes couldn’t stay open any longer. They always laid down when they were ready and couldn’t stay awake any any more.
(photo taken by Jill Burton)
Were there times they got in fights? YES. When they did they were punished with going to bed, without making a peep. They learned to not do that, because then they missed out on time with each other. They also learned that if there was a disagreement that they should work it out on their own. If they came to me I would just say, “I don’t want to hear about it; if you can’t work it out it’s lights out and no more fun.” This solved so many problems in our home.
Were there times they came out of their room? YES. and that was also an automatic lights out no talking bedtime. Even if it was only one of them who got out of bed. They soon learned to encourage one another not to do that. See how they are working together? We even had our oldest boy share with our oldest girl for a while; when they were younger.(as in above pic) I believe that is why they get along so well.
(photo taken by Jill Burton)
We will now be moving in to a home that is big enough for each kid to have their own room. Guess what; they are still going to share. They want to share. In fact, every weekend our kids are sleeping in the same room and having their very own slumber party; per their request. With out friends; a brother and sister sleepover. It is not a punishment to share a room. It is a blessing.
5. There is nothing better for teamwork than working together on a job. Our kids are often paired up to work together. The older kids have to help the younger kids, and other times they are all working together.
They have learned that many hands make light work. When they work together the job gets done faster. When they don’t; they don’t move on to whatever it is they want to do. A common goal can bring a family together faster than anything else.
6. Teach your kids that friends will come and go, but family is forever. I have friends all over the world, I love them and they are an important part of my life. However; my husband and my children are who I rely on the most. I also rely on my sisters and my parents. My sisters are some of my dearest friends. I remind my kids about this often.
With this in mind, they are not allowed to hit, kick, or inflict pain on one another ever. It is never ok to hurt someone. I have asked my kids if they would punch their friend for what ever upset them. If they wouldn’t punch their friend from school, then it is certainly not ok to punch their forever friend; their sibling. When feelings are hurt or problems arise, they are expected to work them out and apologize. Each apology ends with a hug and an “I love you.”
7. Traditions. Need I say more.
Traditions are the glue to keeping our family strong.
8. Respect for one another in the home begins with mom and dad. If Jonathan and I are not respectful to one another and our kids we can’t expect them to do the same with each other.
I am not writing this because we are perfect. Believe me; we have plenty of problems, trials and arguments. Every situation is different. These are just a few things that work for our family. They may not work for you. However, we have tried to help our kids form great relationships, and I do feel like we have made great progress. Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will help you in your own family.
Families are important. They are forever. Family is where our security, trust, and love lie.
I hope to continue encouraging our children to form those forever bonds.