So there I was, standing outside my car, as the rain poured down… 

My two children were huddled up on one side of the car, arguing loudly about which of them was allowed to sit in one of two identical booster seats. Honestly, I can’t even tell you which side they were arguing about, because the “favourite” side switched every so often. The important thing to know is this: there was only ONE good side to be on, and both kids NEEDED to have it, so we were all going to stand in the rain until this crucial issue was resolved. Our home was only two blocks away, so by this point, the argument had lasted longer than the trip we were about to take.

Everyday life had plenty of opportunities to go to war. Want to play a board game? Oh, wait, someone is shouting: “ME FIRST! IT’S MY TURN! I NEED TO GO FIRST!” It wasn’t just board games either. So many family activities were going up in smoke before they even got started, because of this one little phrase. 
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First, we tried taking turns, but no one could agree on who had gone last. Next, we tried “randomizing” the turns with a roll of a dice, but as soon as the results were in, the “loser” would loudly demand a re-roll. I kept hoping that my children would realize how much this argument was costing them. I was encouraging them to be gracious and flexible with each other, but the “prize” of being first was so irresistible that it was apparently worth any amount of shoving, standing in the rain, or not playing the game at all.
 
But wait, I’m not just here to complain! We actually found a solution for our family. Of course, we will keep working on building skills like kindness, generosity, and patience for the rest of our lives, but meanwhile, this simple strategy gave us the chance to enjoy family activities (and get in the car) without so much needless aggravation. 
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How it all began…

The answer to the “ME FIRST” question arrived in the mail, gift-wrapped: it was a brand new LEGO holiday advent calendar. Every day, the children were leaping out of bed, excited to see what was behind the next door. We needed a system to make sure each child opened the right door, so we assigned one child to “odd” days and one to “even” days. 

 The turn-taking solution that helped my kids stop fighting about ME FIRST

So, that’s how it started. Each child had a day to open the advent calendar, and then it hit me: how about a “GO FIRST” day for each sibling? I suggested this solution to the kids, and they agreed to try it. On the even days, one child could claim FIRST on anything at all. On the odd days, the other child wielded that privilege. 

For the rest of the month, every squabble was quickly solved by one question: WHOSE DAY IS IT? 

There was one hiccup right at the end of the month; can you guess what it was? Yep, on December 31st, we came to the dreadful realization that we would be facing two “GO FIRST” days in a row for the same child. The kids decided that it would be fair to switch between the odds and evens in that case, so we went on using that solution.

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Then, the strangest thing happened…

We used our turn-taking solution all month long, and started a new month with a new agreement. However, as I sit down to write this, I realize: it’s been ages since I’ve even asked the question “Whose day is it?”

I’m not sure exactly why we aren’t even having to debate about who goes first anymore, but I have a few theories:

1) As the weeks went by and our daily routine changed, the children picked new favourite activities, and we haven’t been playing as many group activities.

2) The “ME FIRST” argument was part of a bigger worry about whether life is “fair” and the kids have lost interest in trying to prove their superiority in this way.

 

Here’s what I learned:

  • Fairness is impossible (but try telling that to a four- and six-year old.)
  • Even if we love our kids equally and immeasurably, it still matters to them that we stand up for their interests.
  • A plan made an advance is ALWAYS better than a brilliant ethical argument in the heat of the moment.

How about you? Are your kids passionately fighting for their rights?

What kind of solutions have you tried? What has worked for you?

Do you need some arbitration or support when it comes to helping your kids get along and treat each other fairly?

 If you want me to jump in the trenches with you and negotiate some peace, I’m only a phone call away, and you can click here to book a chat for free: http://ameliabehaviour.as.me/intro

 

 

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