This summer, school is out and squabbling is in. When my kids are all home and the temperatures are high, my house is not the relaxing refuge I’d like it be.
When he wanted his people to be united and at peace with each other, Jesus implored his Father, “That they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee ...” (KJV John 17:21) In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that we would be one in purpose just as he and his father are one in purpose.
My kids like each other sometimes, but they are often at each other’s throats. The sly insults, jabs and teasing build up until feelings are hurt and defenses are high. My husband and I talk to the kids collectively and individually. We dole out punishments and try to maintain our cool. But, sometimes, the kids seem to have their own agenda.
Here are some tips for increasing family unity.
Set family goals
If your kids aren’t getting along, sit down together to discuss the issues and find out what the conflicts are. Settle on some specific repercussions for fighting or name calling such as taking away favorite toys or electronics, or spending time in a corner or bedroom. Also, determine what items are to be shared (like a train set or a computer) and have your children decide their own guidelines for sharing these items.
When clear rules and guidelines are established, your kids should understand what is expected. The key is to maintain consistency with the consequences. Soon enough, your kids will catch on and remember not to call each other, “Idiot,” or hide each other’s toys.
Pair your kids up
If you have multiple children, assign an older child to help a younger one. Helping each other with homework, learning to tie shoes or to throw a football will foster a spirit of cooperation and unity — even if it is taken in baby steps. A 5 - 10 minute session of practicing a skill together can help your kids make headway in learning to respect each other and get along.
“The family that plays together, stays together.” Unify your family with work projects that involve everyone. Likewise, plan fun trips or activities that incorporate playing and together time.
Recently, my kids spent the day pestering each other at home. After such an aggravating day inside, we were all ready to do something active. My husband and I decided to organize a game of ultimate Frisbee. We made our way to an empty park, set up our end zones, divided into teams and began the game. To my delight, the kids had a blast. No arguing was heard. They all really got into the game and we found ourselves laughing and enjoying every minute of it.
Find a game or activity that the whole family can enjoy. Take a break from busy schedules and just play.
Become a family team
Teach your kids to be a team by standing up for one another, defending each other, sharing and cheering for each other. Watch a movie like Hoosiers or Forever Strong. Have your kids consider how a team works and note the ways teamwork is fostered. Not all the players like each other, but they work around their differences. They set aside their personal squabbles and put the team’s success first.
Also, point out that the role of the coach (you) is to instruct and guide. A good coach demands respect and obedience, and in turn leads with wisdom and instills confidence in his or her players.
Create a family motto or nickname to add to the theme of a family team. Perhaps your team could gain points with their good deeds (serving, helping, playing nicely together). Keep a scoreboard of their points and offer a reward for reaching a certain goal.
Even though my kids aren’t yet close to being truly unified, I feel that one day, they’ll be great friends. Hopefully, by implementing these ideas and staying consistent with consequences, they’ll eventually learn to get along better and "all be one."