I took this picture a few days before Christmas. Pure sweetness. Brother and sister helping each other to decorate the tree.
What I don't have a picture of is the following evening. As I made dinner out in the kitchen, I heard squeals of delight. And because I'm a mother, I knew these weren't the "Here, darling sister, would you like to place this shiny ornament on the tree?" No. I know these particular squeals well. They send the hairs on the back of my neck on end.
These were the "I can't believe we're doing this!" squeals. And as I walked into the living room, I saw dozens of shiny ornaments in tiny pieces stuck into the carpet, their tops broken off like some sort of ritualistic beheading, and my children squealing away.
I checked for blood and cleaned up the mess. My kids spent the rest of the night trying to earn points. And like everything else, it became a competition.
"She knocked over her cup! That's bad. But I'm being good, Mommy."
"He hit my teddy bear! That's not nice. But I'm being nice, Mommy."
This is how children work. They make sense of the world by testing limits. By testing boundaries, and by testing if Mommy really doesn't want ornament shards for Christmas.
Competition, big or small, is important to kids. It gives them a chance to work out just what they're capable of. A chance to develop their potential. So throw in some healthy games for your kids. Where being the "good" one doesn't matter, but having a good spirit does.
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