I've thought a lot about what this coach was doing for those kids since then. He was encouraging them to cheer for each other and interact with each other, when they might not have done so on their own. And I've thought even more about how I can do this for my own kids. One of the things that makes me the very happiest is to see my kids getting along, loving each other, playing well together and laughing together. And I want to encourage that behavior as much as possible. My kids definitely have their moments of fighting, screaming, teasing, name-calling and hitting. Daily. But overall, I feel like they really do love each other.
Here are a few things I have done to try to encourage the love:
* Telling each other "bye" and "hi." Maybe some kids do this on their own, but mine didn't. And I noticed it when John started going to school. John would just walk out the door to wait for the bus without saying anything to his brothers, and Dan and Joe would just continue playing. Sometimes Joe would come outside to see the bus, but still nothing would be said between the two of them when John left. So I started saying things like, "John, say goodbye to your brothers!" or "Dan and Joe, say goodbye to John!" or "Look who's home! Say hi to John!" And sure enough, they are starting to catch on. It made my heart leap for joy the first time I saw Joe running down the driveway when John got off the bus yelling excitedly, "Hi, John! Hi John!"
* Helping the kids serve each other. One really easy way I do this is to have the kids share treats or snacks that I give them with each other. For example, if we're having cookies for an afternoon snack I can call Dan over and say, "Go give one of these to John and one to Joe." Then even though it's me who got the cookies for them, Dan gets to feel like he's serving his brothers, and John and Joe think Dan's being really nice to share those cookies.
* Helping the kids feel like they have some ownership of their baby brother. My babies have never been off limits to their older brothers. I think I would go crazy trying to keep little hands off of the babies. Rather, I have tried to encourage gentle touch (I guess this may not work for all children... you may have to set some boundaries). When Will is awake and at his happiest I'll ask the kids if anyone wants to hold him. Dan especially loves to hold his baby brother, and will sit on the couch with him for up to 15 minutes sometimes. Just talking to him and looking at him. Will isn't just mine. He's all of ours.
*Having the older kids help the younger kids. This is win win win. The older child gets to show that they know how to do something, the younger kid gets helped by his older brother, and I don't have to help :) Putting on shoes or socks, getting some water, opening a door, cleaning up a spill, getting out a toy, or putting a binkie in a mouth, to name a few.
* Teaching by example. Probably the most important. Yet sometimes the hardest. All the time I find the kids talking exactly like me. And that's not always a good thing. My hugs and kisses, tone of voice, service, patience or the lack thereof does not go unnoticed. Kids truly learn by example.
* Saying "I love you." I think we first encouraged the kids to say "I love you" to each other before going to bed one night. It's not a routine thing, but every once in a while those sweet words will be said before going to bed or at any time of the day. A little while back, John and Dan were coloring next to each other, and out of no where Dan said, "I love you, John." And John said back, "I love you, Dan." Music to my ears.
Do you have things you do to help encourage the love?