How do you make sure your toddler and older kid play nice? These peacekeepers (a.k.a. parents) have figured out ways to help.
Hug it out. "I say, ‘Give a hug and a kiss,’ instead of ‘No, don’t do that,’ when my kids fight or misbehave. Both kids end up laughing and forgetting about what made them so upset in the first place. Sometimes the hugging leads to both boys on their backs wrestling and one child upset, but we just hug that out, too!"
—Lauren Margulies, mom of two, Raleigh, North Carolina
Let them have their turf. "I give each of my kids a ‘No Share Bucket’ that they can fill with a select number of toys that they don’t have to share that day. If there is any bickering over an item, they each lose a toy from their coveted bucket."
—Meredith Walt, mom of two, Coconut Creek, Florida
Always apologize. "When my three girls hit or hurt each other, I give them a timeout and have them apologize and say why what they did wasn’t nice. Then I explain how our feelings can get hurt, in addition to our bodies. After several months, we are starting to see our efforts paying off. Our girls respect each other more, and if they don’t, they know there will be consequences."
—Amy Shoaff, mom of three, Westchester, California
Bribe them (gasp)! "Sometimes, I separate the kids or find a distraction. In an emergency, I resort to bribery. Recently, I had to drive three-plus hours with the kids, without my husband, to a lake weekend at a friend’s cabin. We were in a rental car that put them in one row together, and they were used to being spread apart in a minivan. That alone was causing me stress. Before things got really bad, I decided to offer them each a quarter for every half-hour they behaved themselves. They earned it, with the exception of one half hour. It was the best road trip I’ve ever had with my kids!"
—Brigitte Malone, mom of three, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Do time-outs for two. "I've recently started to implement the dual timeout: one for the kid who did the wrong, and one for the kid who tattled. I decided to try this when I realized that the one who hit or acted out wasn't always the one at fault; someone else was the instigator. This method is encouraging my kids to work things out on their own. Meanwhile, while they’re in timeout, I get to have a couple gulps of my coffee. If I'm lucky, it’s only lukewarm and not cold!"
—Sue Gilmor, mom of two, San Diego, California