This weekend, I stumbled upon a way to help my kids stop bickering…

shelter island house

shelter island house

shelter island house

Toby, Anton and I were lucky enough to be able to borrow a friend’s house on the North Fork. How gorgeous is it??? She has an incredible eye for color and pattern.

bad mood

The “before” photo lol

When we arrived, however, both boys were in FOUL moods. To be fair, they’d had a very long week (field days, class trips, graduations, late nights, the long train ride) and were exhausted, but their bickering was driving me bananas. I sent them to different bedrooms to take breaks, and then instated a point system where they’d lose dessert if they kept arguing. Did either of these strategies work? No, dear reader, they did not.

Finally, at my wits’ end, I told them, “Guys, I’m not going to spend a weekend away listening to two kids fighting. What do I need to do to get you to stop?” Then I added, randomly, “Should I give you NICE points?”

They both paused and looked at me. “Yes?” Anton said. “What would that mean?” Toby asked. I told them that if they each got, say, 10 points for being demonstrably friendly and warm to each other, we could all go play baseball in the local school’s field. “Deal!!!” they agreed.

And, holy smokes, the effects were immediate. Right away, the boys began laughing and chatting. When Toby mused about starting a national whiffle ball league, Anton said, “Bro, you would actually be so good at that.” When Toby scored two brass rings at the town carousel, he gave one of them to Anton, so they could each get a free ride.

We made it to baseball!

The whole scenario reminded me of a family camping trip we took when I was in high school. My siblings and I weren’t getting along, and my dad was at his wits’ end. I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t want to fight anymore, but it felt too awkward and vulnerable to suddenly put myself out there and be sweet to my siblings at that point. Isn’t that funny? I was like, I guess we are stuck fighting; the train has left the station and none of us were getting off.

But with the “nice point” approach, they were encouraged not only to stop arguing, but to actually connect. And after our baseball game, they were on a roll, so they continued enjoying each other’s company — no point system required.

Our weekend ended on such a high note, so I figured I’d share. And I’d love to hear: How do you help your kids get along? What has worked? What has definitely not worked? Please weigh in, we are all in this together! xoxoxo

P.S. Five ways to lessen sibling rivalry, three words that changed how I parent, and 21 completely subjective rules for raising teenage boys and teenage girls.