When Christmas break started, I dreaded having my first grader at home all day. I enjoy spending time with her, but she and her next-youngest brother fight all day long. They also bicker, squabble, and scrap. They yell “No, it was my turn!” when playing board games. When it’s time to watch a movie, the child who is not holding the remote control glares at the other one and tries to snatch it from his or her hand. They argue about who gets to open the front door when it’s time to go outside and fight about who gets to go down the slide first.
I realized I would lose my mind if I had to listen to them fight for two solid weeks. So, I did what the modern mom does best: I Googled at night after my kids had gone to sleep. I searched “how to help siblings get along” and discovered a treasure trove of great ideas. I picked the Get Along Jar and explained the process to my kids the following morning.
“Okay, guys, here’s my plan to help you two get along better. This is our Get Along Jar,” I said. I held up a pint mason jar. “Every time I see you two playing together, helping each other, or being nice to each other, I will put a quarter in the jar. Every time I see you yelling at each other, hitting each other, or being mean to one another, I will take a quarter out. The day before school starts again I will take you to the store, and you can use all the money in the jar to pick out a toy, game, or treat together.”
“Or, how about I pick out one toy, and he picks out one toy?” my daughter countered.
“No, you’re missing the point,” I said. “You two can work together to pick out one reward together.”
The first day, they worked extra hard to earn quarters and counted their loot each time one more plinked into the Get Along Jar. They told each other “please” and “thank you.” They took turns on the slide. I heard my daughter tell her brother, “Hug me and let’s walk out into the living room so Mom will see us.” I turned my head so they wouldn’t see my smirk, but I added a quarter and praised them for getting along.
By the third day, the new had somewhat worn off and there was increased sibling squabbling. I counted their money for them and reminded them of their goal. They wanted to buy Toy Story Operation, which cost about $20. They had $5.50, so I told them they needed to work extra hard to get along and be friends.
Ultimately, that is a parenting goal for my kids: That they will be friends into adulthood. I hope that by proactively helping them learn to be friends as kids, they will form a strong bond and carry that habit forward. They are working together toward a common goal with a board game, but the long-term reward will hopefully reach into infinity and beyond.