The scene you see above was totally unscripted. I didn’t go and order my children to act like best friends so I could post the picture on my blog. This moment was completely spontaneous. What is it that influences children who thirty minutes ago were fighting like cats and dogs to transform into loving buddies? Let me share with you some of my observations.
First, the basic rules I apply to parenting.
When children know what it is that they should be doing, though they may not always do it, the groundwork has been laid. Because they understand why they should do something, they will more willingly comply, because what you’re asking of them makes sense.
When they refuse to comply, there must be consequences. Consistency is key. Fairness is also important. Children have a very sensitive meter for justness. And we parents must not do one thing ourselves, while we’re warning them not to do the very same thing.
There must also be rewards when they do things right. And even when they don’t do things right, depending on the situation, overlooking their mistakes and saying, “It’s okay. You’ll do better next time,” shows them that our love for them doesn’t depend on their performance. Lots and lots of hugs, kisses, cuddles, squeezes, pats, smiles and jokes.
Those are my three general guidelines as a mother. Now, I will share with you what I believe factors into the “being good buddies” equation.
Yes, alone time. Children, just like all of us, need some time to themselves, to think their own thoughts without the intrusion and distraction of other people’s voices and noise. They need to have a space to themselves without being wrestled with and climbed upon by younger siblings. Every day, without fail, all of my children have QUIET TIME. For the little ones, this means nap time. I allow the older children to read books quietly. The baby sleeps in her crib. This is my opportunity to either take a nap too, if I’m feeling tired, or to read a book, or to work on this blog. Our quiet time lasts for about three hours, from one in the afternoon, till four. I make it last this long because most of the time, the little ones take at least thirty minutes to fall asleep, and I want to give those who are reading plenty of time to read their books, maybe finish up some school work they didn’t complete in the morning, then have time to rest a little before they have to get up.
We eat all our meals together, with the whole family seated around the table. No one is allowed to get up without permission. No one is allowed to bring toys. No one is allowed to play around. Meal time is a special portion of our day set aside to focus on our closeness and unity as a family. We do not watch TV or movies. We eat. And we talk. We usually conclude our meal by reading a selection from the Bible. Sometimes I will read another book out loud to them after we’re all finished and everybody is still seated. And let’s not forget that we always pray and thank God for His goodness, and ask His blessing over our meal before we begin. My children very rarely misbehave in a restaurant because they have had plenty of practice with table manners at home.
In our house, we have shelves and shelves of books. These books are written at a variety of reading levels. Some are fiction, while others are nonfiction. My children have a rich assortment to choose from, and they take advantage of it. My children love to read! Before we began home educating our two oldest children, they didn’t have much time for it. Every day was the same: go to school, get back from school, eat a snack, do homework, do chores, eat dinner, get ready for bed, read a little bit, go to sleep, start it all over again the next day. Now that we’re home all day, my children have lots of time to read. Homeschooling has been a beautiful gift to our family. They read books on their own, and I read books out loud to them. This greatly contributes to our unity as a family. We are constantly devouring good literature. I believe in a literature-based education, and I was very happy to find a curriculum company called Sonlight. We are in our second year using what they call “Cores,” and we are very pleased. The reading schedule is already worked out, so there is minimal planning on my part. I usually just glance at the guide, and read the books on the schedule for that day. So easy. Also, the Cores are comprised not of textbooks, but of “real” books, which are much more interesting! There are about thirty books to read in one year. No tests, either. I ask my children questions to gauge comprehension. Very often, they will spontaneously remind me of something that we have read together in one of our books. Because their imaginations are stimulated, they don’t forget easily!
Sonlight Curriculum for this year (my two older children): Core C, Intro to World History, Year 2 (this package comes with Grade 2 readers, but we have Grade 3 and Grade 4/5 readers, as well)
We are also using this Sonlight Preschool Full-Grade Package (my preschool age children)
Meal Time and Book Time facilitate Together Time, which happens A LOT at our house. We are a (mostly–ha, ha) harmonious family, which has learned, and is learning, how to be friends with each other. Yes, siblings CAN be best friends.
(We are reading this book together. It is very good, and I recommend it to all.)