Spoiled walls – bickering and sibling conflict

Bickering and nitpicking between siblings – it wears me down and spoils my day. I know they love each other, but some days the love is just not shining through. We all need long-term strategies that seek to address the underlying character issues in our children and must be constantly working on relationship building, loving God and each other and following the biblical mandates regarding speech, tone, building each other up and the like. There are times though, that a well-directed consequence is called for. I need consequences that I can consistently apply whether I am busy or not, repeat over and over, don’t require a heap of supervision and most of all, are effective in addressing the issue.

I recently sat the children down and had a little chat about the unkind speech that was being heard between them. We discussed how that made them feel, what we wanted our family to be like, read some relevant bible verses and then I made up my own little mini metaphor. I asked them to picture a freshly painted wall. How nice and crisp and fresh it looked and how pleasing it was to look at. I then asked them to picture the same wall with dirty fingerprints and food splashes all over it. We talked about how the dirt spoiled the wall in the same way that the unkind words spoiled their friendships.

I let that sink in for a moment or two before informing them that from now on, at the first sign of unkind speech or bickering, the offending child would be given a spray bottle and cleaning cloth to wash down a section of wall. As they cleaned, they can think about “washing” the dirt out of their relationship by replacing their unkind words with words that build others up.

It’s an instant consequence and is easy to enforce. The bickering siblings are separated for a while (which usually helps in itself) and something useful is getting done at the same time. I love it! The only problem is that the clean wall sections make the rest of the wall look even worse… Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty more occasions that wall cleaning is called for.

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Outdoor activities: more water play ideas

How do you keep little ones entertained and playing happily outdoors for extended lengths of time? Opening the back door and simply sending several young children out is not always a very successful method. Without direction to their play it is very likely that you will be dealing with bickering, squabbles and otherwise less than useful use of their time.

Spending 5 minutes getting them started on an absorbing and appropriate activity very often makes for a harmonious time as they happily go about their play in a focussed way. This 5 minutes at the start of playtime often saves me many minutes umpiring disputes and redirecting poor choices. More ideas will follow under the heading of outdoor activities, but today it’s more water based ideas.

In the warmer weather I find it so much easier as all my children from the youngest to the oldest love water and sand based play. All water based activities require some supervision so I choose tasks to do that allow me to oversee what is going on either from a distance or close by depending on the activity. Our water table is a favourite, as are the following:

Water painting

  • Buy a couple of different sized house painting brushes from a hardware (the cheap sets are fine) and a small bucket. Fill the bucket with water, give some directions as to which outdoor areas; furniture, fences, paths, walls etc. can be painted with water and let them at it! My children, especially the younger ones, love water painting, particularly if I occasionally admire the lovely new “colours” they have painted everything.
Sprinklers
  • I know it doesn’t fit into the water saving category but if it is your watering day, set up a sprinkler on the lawn and let everyone run about in it. Old as the hills, so easy and great exercise.
Paddle Pools/sandpit shell halves
  • I’ve mentioned this before, but an inch of water or even a couple of pots and pans full of water for scooping, tipping and pouring while sitting in half of a plastic sandpit clam shell or paddle pool is good fun. Combine it with a little sand and it becomes great fun.
Sandpit
  • Point the hose into the sandpit and turn it on just a little so a trickle comes out. That’s it! Provide cars, boats or whatever else you have in your sandpit toys.
Puddle Kingdom
  • Sometimes we empty out our outdoor storage containers and put a bunch of them together on the grass. We then fill each one with a little water and again, free play! Jumping from one to another, making “houses” or whatever they fancy makes this an interesting pastime.
Water trampolining
  • We occasionally set up the sprinkler underneath or near  the trampoline for wet bouncing fun. This isn’t so good for the younger children though as it does get quite slippery. The 3 year old and up are steady enough on their feet to make this loads of wet fun.
Water slides
  • If your backyard has a slope, then a long sheet of black plastic with a little detergent and lots of water is a wonderful slide and wears those energetic youngsters out.
Water Chasey
  • Not quite our usual outdoor activity as this involves me, but when it is really hot we play water chasey with the hose. Simply put, the kids run around like crazy and I spray them with the hose, watering the garden in between.

Paddle pools and slide

  • Another one that requires adult supervision is the paddle pool properly filled up or with a small amount of water and the slide from our little plastic castle into it for the children to climb up and slide into the pool. When they’ve had enough sliding we bring the sandpit toys over and everyone sits down for a play.