This is it. This is what you've been looking for: the definitive secret to a happy household full of happy kids. I am sharing it after we had it confirmed last weekend. So far, so good.
The theory: children want to love their mama, and siblings will fight for the pieces of mom-love just as surely as puppies fight over table scraps. My home is happier if my children see themselves as being on the same team. For that to happen, they must see me as being on a different team. (Ouch! This is painful.) Therefore, when given the choice to pit the kids against each other or united against me, I choose to unite them.
An example: The kids are bickering over something, and one comes tattling to me. BAM! You all are fighting--everyone is in trouble. Not spankings, just a "go to your room, no TV tonight" kind of punished. Ideally, sending them to their room sends them to the SAME room. My boys share a room, and my girls. More than once I've overheard, "Mom sure is mean." "Yeah. I can't believe blah blah blah..." There might be some "Why did you..." but surprisingly little! They have found common ground, their anger with me. So now they are on the same side. And after a little while, they are hanging out, playing, reading, but spending time together. And after the time away is over, they really aren't even mad at me for long. Remember, their natural tendency is to love their mama.
This is how we've raised our kids. I'm not sure when I came up with this, but with four kids under six I had to figure something out pretty quick. I have to say that we have four of the most fun kids you would ever want to see. They get along great, which makes everything from dinners out to chores to travel a breeze. Yes, they fight and argue once in a while, but they also genuinely love each other and are best friends.
This even works to their advantage, more than they know!
Here's what happened last weekend. DS1 had a bad weekend, losing some things but then also lying about them! Terrible. We were disappointed and lowered as many booms as we could grab, including NO TRICK-OR-TREATING. Wow--he was devastated, but took the punishment without complaint. A couple of days later we heard crying coming from upstairs. It wasn't DS1, though; it was his younger brother absolutely distraught that his best bud wouldn't be going out on the biggest night of the year. The girls were also indignant at us that we would levy such a punishment. Those three kids surrounded their brother with love and lobbied us HARD on his behalf. To DS1's great credit, he didn't argue with us, but the other kids sure did! They even "threatened" to stay home in solidarity with their brother.
Well, we changed our minds. I was secretly so proud of my sweet kids, sticking together like they did. His punishment is ongoing, but we relented and he brought home his requisite six pounds of candy. And I feel just a little vindicated in my approach. It isn't always fun to be the heavy but it was certainly worth seeing them stick together like that, knowing that they love each other not only in the fun easy times but through trouble, too. I am really proud of those sweet guys.