Like every other parent, I want my kids to get along. I mean, who wants to listen to kids argue, tease, and fight all day? It’s tiresome, annoying, and just plain unpleasant to listen to that!
But I want my kids to get along with each other not just for my own peace & quiet — I deeply desire to see my children to grow up to be best friends, to be each other’s cheerleaders, and to have a meaningful relationship long after they’ve grown up and left our family home.
Some of my favourite moments as a mother have been when I have come upon my children playing or working together and found them to be smiling, speaking kindly, laughing, or showing affection to one another. It fills this mama’s heart to the brim!
Except that sometimes, things don’t end up looking very much that way around here at all. Little sisters pester big sisters. Big sisters boss little sisters. Bickering, fighting, name calling. Sometimes it even gets physical.
And lately, it’s been looking more like that second picture than the first.
What’s a mama to do?
I’ve read all the advice too. Siblings should share rooms. All toys should be communal. Minimize separate activities and interests.
I say poppycock!
Sure, your kids may love sharing a room, and it may teach them to get along and share their space. Or maybe not. Maybe it will teach them that they can be messy and sloppy all they want because their older sister who loves neatness would rather clean up after them than look at their mess. Or maybe it results in a sibling who feels she has no place to go to escape her pestering sister, who tolerates or ignores a behaviour until she reaches the breaking point and then lashes out at the offender.
We have had our oldest girls sharing a room now for several years, and were noticing the above scenario playing out over and over again. While in the beginning they shared out of necessity, we decided to continue the arrangement because we thought it would be good for them. It didn’t seem to be working out that way though.
So in the interest of preserving sibling relationships and of fostering peace in our home, we decided to look at our kids (whom we know and love more than any internet expert or mommy blogger) and to try something new.
This past weekend, we did a major reorganization of bedrooms, painting walls and furniture (and purged some toys… shhhhh!) while my girls were staying at Grandma’s. Big Sister got Baby Sister’s bedroom, Little Sister was moved to the guest room, and Baby Sister got the great big room that her older sisters’ had been sharing.
Maybe having separate rooms will foster respect for the space and property of others. Maybe it will teach cleaning up after one’s self. Maybe it will give the opportunity for my children to develop an appreciation for each other’s company, and create an actual desire to be together.
I’m reminded of what we have long considered to be our parenting motto: We do what works, as long as it works, and then we do something else.
This motto has taken us far over the years! We applied it to our babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-agers. We have used it when making decisions regarding sleeping, eating, traveling, and extended family relationships.
The internet is full of experts. Childrearing experts. Parenting experts. Homeschooling experts. Nutritional experts. Safety experts. By all means, glean helpful advice and information from them. Try their suggestions. But know that they don’t know your children, don’t live in your house, and don’t love your family the way that you do.
When it comes to your kids, you are the expert. Do what works, and ditch what doesn’t.
And as for all those people who think children shouldn’t have any things of their own and should share everything except toothbrushes — well, I’m going over to their house later today so I can borrow our communal car. We’ll see how that goes over.