I didn't want to believe it was inevitable, but it seemed to be happening quite a bit between my kids in the first weeks of January.
Enter two items that really got me thinking:
1. I was part of a discussion in which several parents put forth the idea that bickering is largely just a manifestation of feelings of selfishness.
It seemed quite logical. When I'm focused on myself and my needs and wants it's easy to become discontented. In that case, I'm much less interested in what others need and want.
2. I read in the February issue of Family Fun Magazine about one family that celebrates Valentine's Day by giving gifts within the family. They secretly draw names and purchase small gifts for each other. At a special Valentine's day meal they reveal which name they drew.
Couldn't these ideas be combined?
After talking it over with dh, I announced to the kids that we would be celebrating the first 14 days in February in the loving spirit of Valentine's Day.
1. We would exchange names secretly.
2. We would think of non-monetary ways to show our love toward that person.
3. We would have a special Valentine's Day meal and reveal which person we had been secretly doing good for.
4. In order to "throw others off our trail" we could also do kind things for the others in our family, but we could not neglect the person we'd chosen.
The kids' immediate reaction:
2. "Why do we have to wait until February?"
Yes, why would we wait? Why not build on the excitement of the day (this was about halfway through January) and try the experiment early.
We exchanged names and spent the next two weeks thinking of nice things to do for the other people in our family. The kids began by giving out extra hugs all around. Eventually they added more concrete things to do for others. I had several offers to load the dishwasher and take out the trash when they weren't assigned. The kids were more likely to invite each other to a 2-player video game instead of playing 1-player more often. I found myself saying "yes" to more of the kids' requests for my time and attention. These are just a few examples.
When the two weeks were over, we tried to guess which person had been our secret do-gooder. We gave examples to support our theory, telling good things we had seen people doing.
One thing dh liked most about the experiment was that it made a person think not just about the person they had chosen. They also thought about what they could do for the others as well.
Ds8 was excited to tell people outside the household about the project. He hoped they would share it with their families and that "the tradition would go on".
Dd6 summed up her experience by saying that she was happy she drew Mom's name because she loves me and thought of ways to be nice to me.
Wouldn't that warm any heart?
Everyone agreed that they'd love to do the experiment again for the February days leading up to Valentine's Day. They're already thinking of new ways to do good. They're also dreaming of the mousse pie we'll have for our "big reveal" meal.