Siblings fight and bicker - fact! It is all part of growing up and as parents we are forever trying to play mediator. We try to find suitable punishments in the form of time outs or loss of privileges. I recently heard of one form of discipline that appealed to me greatly though. It was simplistic and endearing and probably more powerful than any time out could ever be. (At least that was my first reaction!) I took great pleasure in telling my sons that this was to be my chosen form of punishment from now on - sitting on a step together and HOLDING HANDS!
I only wish that I had a camera when I broke this news to them as their faces looked truly horrified that I would suggest such a thing. These horrified looks slowly turned to nervous giggles as they looked at me and said 'are you serious mum' with a little ray of hope that this was just a cruel joke. Honestly you would have thought that I had told them they were going to have to clean the bathroom and hoover the carpets for an entire week!
Given that my role as a mum also makes me chief mediator in brotherly disputes, I knew that it wouldn't be long before I was able to put my plan into action. Things didn't go as smoothly as planned however. The only way that I could have got my boys to sit next to each other and hold hands would have been to use some very strong superglue!
I like to think that I am in control but let's face it, my boys are starting to learn that they outnumber me. There is only so long that I can stand there asserting my authority to two of them before the other two start getting up to mischief to divert my attention.
Needless to say, my sons were not going to sit there holding hands for two seconds let alone two minutes! How I ever thought that they would astounds me. These aren't your text book, well behaved children who may have the odd falling out. Not a day passes without a fracas of some sort. They are boys!
So I have come up with my own little method. It is not based on punishment, it is based on reward. I could punish my boys until the cows come home for fighting and squabbling but that won't stop it. As I said, they are boys! It comes with the territory.
Instead, I am trying to instil in them the importance of being a good brother. They are the luckiest boys in the world to have three brothers each. That is three lots of brother to look out for you, to laugh with you, to have adventures with you. They won't appreciate it now but when they look back on these years when they have children of their own they will realise how special their time together growing up was.
So, how have I done this? Well it is simple - Good Brother Points. If they do something nice for each other, they get a good brother point. If they say something nice to each other, they get a good brother point. If they share their toys with each other (something that is a big, big struggle for one of my boys!), they get a good brother point. It is all about being kind and caring. When they have twenty good brother points they get to choose a chocolate bar or a packet of sweets from the treat box.
We have been doing this for a month now and I am pleased to say that a total of over a hundred good brother points have been totted up. They are even working together and helping each other to get good brother points too by suggesting one for their brother if I happen to miss the act of kindness.
Do they still fight? Yes! Do they still argue? Yes. But that is inevitable. They are four young boys spending hours upon hours together. The point is the 'good acts' are now outweighing the 'bad acts'. They may start off simply doing something nice for one another for the pure reward of getting the good brother point. In time though, the theory is that this will become natural behaviour. They will learn what it means to be a good brother and once that thought process has been established, hopefully it will be in place for good, not just in relation to each other but to everyone they encounter in life.