"It's not fair!"
"But Payton got to sit the front seat yesterday!"
"I hate watching baby movies!"
How many times has one of your children shouted something similar at you in response to a decision you've made? The battles can be exhausting: who gets to sit in the front seat, who gets to select the movie, who has to do which household chore, who gets to stay up the latest. The list of "injustices" is never-ending, especially in the eyes of a child who is sandwiched among siblings.
As a mom of three kids, a toddler, a preschooler, and a first grader, I've faced my fair-share of battles. The who-gets-what-and-when-and-how was a constant war in our household, creating unnecessary sibling rivalry, jealousy, anger, and a strong dose of bad attitude that could last for hours after one of our incidents.
One of the most basic things parents teach their children is that sharing and taking-turns is important to help maintain order and preserve feelings. After all, what's more fair than taking turns? After mediating multiple battles between my children, it dawned on me one day that there was a simple solution to the constant bickering, tattle-telling, and complaining that comes with parenting three little ones.
Starting two years ago, we began to give each of our children a "day." Meaning, for that entire day, one child would get to make all decisions in terms of some of the choices the kids made. These would be things like which television episode we would watch, who got to get into the van first (I know, seriously), who would select the game we would play and the bedtime story we would read. The next day, a new child would be the decision maker. We alternate days between the three kids.
For a few reasons, this parenting trick works really well:
1: Each child gets to have some leadership responsibilities. Usually the oldest child bears the brunt of having to make decisions and lead the other children, whether the other children like it or not. But with assigned days, each child gets to make choices which instill a sense of pride and confidence in the child. The kids are great about keeping track of who is assigned which day, further establishing pride in being responsible.
2: Each child has opportunities to be generous and selfless. Sometimes the day's selected child elects to choose a movie that another sibling would surely enjoy. Sometimes they huddle up as a group and make a decision together, at the request of that day's child.
3: Each child gets to feel special and important. Being the decision-maker is a task that comes with responsibility and opportunity; therefore, it allows experience some of the positive outcomes of making choices.
4: Each child learns patience and respect. When the other two kids are awaiting their day, they learn to be patient, especially since we are very firm that the decisions rest with the designated child. The other two children also learn to respect the decisions and leadership of the designated sibling.
Of course, one of the main perks is that my kids are very well versed in our routine and have adhered to it, thus making my parenting a more peaceful task. With fewer arguments and hard feelings to deal with, I can better enjoy my children, and they have learned to better enjoy one another.