Friday, July 30, 2010

The Nice Game

I tried something new yesterday, and it worked.

You know those deepest moments of desperation that give birth to the greatest ideas? This new idea came from that place. It probably was also an inspiration from the Lord, since I had just breathed a prayer of, I don't know what to do here, please help.

You know summer has been a challenge for me since we returned from our road trip. I just don't feel up to taking the kids out every day, plus it usually costs money to go anywhere, plus I really have things like Facebook and blogging cleaning and laundry, yard work and dinner, that require my attentions at home. Not to mention it's just not worth the effort to herd bickering children who enjoy playing hide 'n' seek in the clothes racks. So we don't get out all that often.

About the only outings we have taken in the last six weeks are grocery trips, library visits, and doctor appointments. It's amazing how a doctor visit can take up an entire four hour radius.

And the big kids are getting squirrelly from being at home so much.

They seem to tirelessly run the bases between yelling about invasions of personal space, nagging about all the transgressions of the other, playing so well together I fear for the structural integrity of my house, and complaining of boredom.

Today at the end of the orthodontist appointment, something snapped inside me.

She was deliberately keeping him from getting in the car as I made the next appointment while holding a fussy baby on my hip. Apparently this was in reaction to him throwing things at her, which was in reaction to her telling him to shut up and leave her alone. Which was a general reaction to her sense that she should be the only star in the universe, which theory by his very existence he invalidates.

I've tried spanking.

I've tried timeouts.

I've tried lectures and consequences and calling it out every time it happens.

Yet it keeps happening. What's a mom to do? I feel like they are the ones that need to be expending some effort to improve the situation, as opposed to me yelling and them getting mad.

So today in the car, I told her she needed to think about three nice things she can say to him. When we got home, she wrote them down. Then she wrote them in a nice note and gave it to him. Then she read it to him.

"I'm sorry.
I can [play] video games with you.
I can have fun
and listen to the most annoying Tom and Jerry songs with you."

I then gave him a chance to say something nice about her.

"I forgive you."

And I told them to hug.

And they started giggling, and the anger in the room dissipated. Vanished like smoke.

Her final consequence was to do something nice for him before dinner. She pulled out the art bin, made a tiny box, filled it with sparkly perler beads, gave it to him, and before I knew it the two of them played happily for an hour.

Also to combat the boredom, I capitalized on the moment to transition into cleaning mode. I started giving instructions. As each child finished a task, I would give them another. Then I would turn to the other child and give that one another task. In short order, they had brought down laundry, cleaned the main floor bathroom, picked up and vacuumed the main floor, mopped the kitchen floor and cleaned off the table. They even emptied out trash. I am totally geeked at the success of this day.

Because I am not the master of diplomacy, this Nice approach does not come easily for me. I get so mad at the bickering I tend to want to break it out of them with brute force. But this momma with 8+ years hard experience learned a new trick today:

DEFUSE anger with kind words.

How hard is it to stay mad when you have to hug someone and the two of you can't figure out which one needs to turn so you can face each other? Or how to stand so one's nose is not in another's armpit?

I got to try The Nice Game three more times throughout the rest of the day, with varying degrees of success. I found out that not all the bickering can be strictly categorized under "unkind words" which makes it a bit weird to say, "Say something nice to your brother."

Yet I count my discovery a success.

I was getting tired of yelling all the time.


  1. What a hoot! Happy for you that the nice game is working ... I am sure there are variations to develop based upon the offense.

    (My comments don't seem to be coming through so I will try another way....)

  2. I absolutely LOVE this! :) Go, inspiration mama!


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