With Christmas quickly approaching, I’ve had presents on the brain. Making lists and thinking of things my kids would like to see under the tree.
The other not-so-nice thing I’ve been thinking about?
Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a smack down over a toy garbage truck.
But there is hope! Your Boxing Day brunch doesn’t have to be ruined by a bunch of kids screaming “Mine! MINE! MIIIIINNNNNEE!!!!!!!”
Here are some ways I plan to survive all the sharing squabbles that are bound to erupt this holiday season:
1. Manage Expectations
I’m not sure when it started, but somewhere in the era of modern parenting the expectation has developed that kids should share everything. Always. No questions asked.
This drives me a little bonkers.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t feel like sharing that extra special Christmas gift with all my cousins the second after I opened it, so why should I expect my kids to?!
Let’s drop the crazy expectations and be a little bit more realistic. Let’s give our kids some control over their belongings.
Here’s what we do: We let our 2.5 year old decide which toys he’d like to share when we’re expecting company. All toys in the playroom are open for sharing and special toys are put aside in his bedroom.
No fights over his brand new tractor because the brand new tractor is put away. When he’s ready to share, it will come out to the playroom. Until then, it’s put away for safekeeping and he can play with it on his own in his room.
2. Stop Being the Boss
As long as we’re the ones settling disputes between our kids, our kids are going to come to us to solve their problems.
We don’t want this for two reasons:
- We are making our kids more dependent on us
- It creates animosity between the kids
So besides the obvious problem of constantly being interrupted to settle disputes when you’re trying to enjoy that Christmas cocktail, the bigger issue is that when we take on the role of deciding who is right or wrong or whose turn it is, we’re taking sides. Plain and simple. And taking sides is a surefire way to spark up some major conflict at the kids’ table.
Kids are incredibly capable of solving their disputes – they just need us to give them the chance to sort things out on their own. Sometimes we are so concerned with keeping things ‘fair’ that we’re too quick to jump in. Next time, try sitting back for a few minutes. You might be surprised at what your kids can work out on their own.
3. If You Need to Intervene, Hand it Back to the Kids As Soon As Possible
My first course of action when dealing with sharing disputes is to stay out of it, but sometimes this isn’t possible. In cases where I need to intervene, I always try to focus on bringing the kids back to working out their problems on their own.
Some little tricks I use:
- Say what you see
This has saved my sanity so many times!
Instead of barging in saying things like, “Whose turn is it?!” or “Ok, that’s enough, hand it over!” I’ll simply describe EXACTLY what I see in front of me.
For example: “I see one truck and two boys who want to play with it.”
This then opens the door to come up with solutions to the problem. I leave this to the kids – I may give some direction by asking questions like, “What should happen now?” or “What’s the best way to share it?”, but that’s it. I leave my ‘boss’ hat in storage and let them work it out on their own.
- If both parties are happy with the solution, LEAVE THEM BE
I struggle with this one a lot as sometimes I’m not satisfied with the solutions my children work out between themselves. Since my kids are still very young, my oldest (2.5) is the one doing most of the problem solving. His solutions usually involve him picking whatever toy was being fought over and giving my youngest (1) a different toy to play with.
As I’m watching scenes like this unfold, I can’t help but think “That’s not fair!” or “He’s always giving in!” Whenever this happens I try to look objectively at the situation. If both kids are happy with the outcome, then I hold back whatever objections I may have and let them be. Even if my oldest picks the shiny new sports car for himself and gives the ratty old toy cow to his younger brother, if both children are happy, I leave them alone.
After all – it was their dispute and they found a way to work it out cooperatively. I’m just happy there’s no more fighting and leave it at that. No need to stick my nose in their business, creating more problems when they were happily playing on their own.
Sharing can be the cause of some major headaches, but I’ve found that by managing my expectations, staying out of minor squabbles and helping problem solve solutions to larger problems, I spend less and less time dealing with fighting. It’s definitely a work in progress, but we’re headed in the right direction.
Do you think any of these suggestions would work for you? Anything I didn’t cover you’d like to know my take on? You can let me know in the comments section below or leave a note on my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!
Image Credit: C!…