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When you’re feeling overwhelmed by yet another disagreement with your child, or you overhear raised voices from the other room and you wish you had the magic words to change the atmosphere from sour to sweet, there is something you can try…

Another one of those days…

When we have one of those days in our house, it seems like the children could bicker about literally ANYTHING. Last week, I heard one of them taunt the other by chanting “I have a fork, and you have a spoon!” (Both children had forks! There was nothing for them to argue about, but both children were quite invested in having that discussion!)

sibling rivalry

I knew we had to try something new, because my gentle reminders (and complaints) were getting us nowhere. Little arguments were breaking out over so many minor details, and it was hard to get through our usual routines, like eating dinner or (shudder) getting pyjamas on.

The start of something new

I remembered that I had suggested a little challenge to my husband to help him add more positivity to his relationship with the kids: his goal was to do “something loving” ten times, and I asked the children to help him count. The challenge worked to remind my husband to add more positivity and it highlighted his efforts so the children would appreciate them. I wondered if we could somehow use it to help the children too.

The next morning, I crept into my son’s bedroom, stroked his hair, and before his feet even hit the floor, I asked him: “Would you like to play the same game as Daddy? Can you do ten loving things for points?” He happily agreed, and started his day on a mission to be as kind as possible.

Here’s what amazed me: he remembered! He was spontaneously hugging his brother, cheering him on, and even responding with self-control when his sibling (who had not received the memo) started harassing him. We loved having a chance to congratulate him (instead of reminding, cautioning, reasoning, or arguing!)

Finding a way to add kindness and appreciation

If your child is impulsive, high-energy or sensitive, you might find that your difficult interactions start crowding out the positive ones. If you are tired of hearing yourself say things like “PLEASE JUST BE NICE!” then this game is for you!

Here’s how to play “Count the Love”:

The rules are very simple.

  • To get a point, you must do something loving.
  • Your family members will help you count the points.
  • When you get to ten points, you celebrate!

To get started, pick a grown-up (for best results, choose whoever has been stuck in the most conflict lately.)

Then, talk with your family about what “something loving” might mean. How will you know it when you see it? If you need some ideas, I’ve created a simple list of 16 ideas for “something loving” that anyone can do. I’ll send it to you to download and print, so everyone has a cute reminder.

say something sweet

Next, get those points! Everyone else in the family can help to “count the love” so shout it out when you see it! If you want to count the points on your fingers, feel free, or you can use this print-out to just colour in the hearts (join the FB group to pick up this printable.)

kindness game

Once a grown-up has a chance to play, give a child a chance to try. Most children will love the chance to be the hero, and to be in the spotlight as everyone else counts the points.

Here’s why it works:

  • Positivity replaces negativity. When you and your family are planning and expecting kindness, you’ll naturally spend less time bickering and struggling.
  • Positivity multiplies. When one person is focused on being patient, generous and thoughtful, everyone else has a chance to respond in a positive way.
  • Positivity is powerful. Research shows that positive feedback creates behaviour change that is much more effective and long-lasting than punishment.

So grab the game, including 16 simple ways for both adults and children to show more love, available only in our Facebook community and find out what it looks like when you “Count the Love” together. When you are finished, post in the group and tell us how it went!