Inside: A fun way to encourage sibling kindness when they need extra reminders or more practice with an ice cream kindness challenge.
My eldest daughter is a very kind kid.
She is the first to help or volunteer or offer up a compliment.
To everyone except her siblings.
I don’t know what it is, but I often find myself saying: “You are so kind, but you forgot to be kind to your sister.”
But every reminder, reinforcement and mom look, wasn’t working.
I wasn’t getting through to her.
No matter what I said, it wasn’t sinking in.
Her sister pushed too many buttons.
And was just too annoying.
And touched too much of her stuff.
My eldest wasn’t able to see clearly or act with kindness when it came to her sister.
But something had to change and in a big way.
I needed to encourage my eldest to be kinder and sweeter to her younger siblings.
So I decided to do it with ice cream.
Why Raising Kind Siblings Matters
We are on purpose, intentionally raising our kids to be kind.
Of all the things we could choose to pick our battles on, I choose this.
I will stop everything when I see cruel actions.
Or when I hear mean, snarky, sarcastic comebacks.
Or when feelings get hurt on purpose.
Because my kids’ character matters.
And how they speak and act and react to other people matters.
I want them to be kind and act with kindness and speak with kindness.
Not only will being kind ensure they will lead happier, more generous, and meaningful lives, it also makes our home a calmer and more peaceful place to live.
I don’t want to spend time in a home where kids prank and exclude and name call.
Mean sarcasm, teasing and taunting don’t belong in a safe, loving home.
So we work hard to build and maintain a strong family identity. And that includes making sure my kids have a positive, healthy relationship with each other.
I want my kids to enjoy each other’s company.
And dare I hope it? I want them to like each other and be honest to goodness friends.
But that takes practice.
And it takes the strategies I’ve gathered in the Raising Kind Siblings ebook.
But sometimes, it also takes a little ice cream.
How to Use the Ice Cream Kindness Challenge:
So my eldest daughter needed something big to motivate her to change her behavior.
But did she need the proverbial “carrot or the stick?”
Positive reinforcement is always a more powerful approach and we aim for that with positive parenting strategies.
But for my daughter’s personality, I knew a small negative consequence would really sink in and motivate her in a super effective way.
So for this challenge, we’re using both positive and negative consequences with a sweet twist.
The positive consequence, the “carrot,” was ice cream.
I explained to my daughter that every time she was kind to her siblings, she would get to fill in an ice cream cone on this sheet.
(You can get the printable down at the bottom of this post. It also comes with an already colored in one your kids can cross off instead)
When the ice cream cones were all filled in, she would get to take her siblings out to get ice cream, my treat.
So with that, my daughter was in control of how fast or how slow those ice cream cones got filled in.
On the first day of the ice cream kindness challenge, as my younger two piled out of the car, my eldest said, “Goodbye, you guys. Have a great day and good luck on your spelling test.”
My jaw dropped.
Usually, my kids said goodbye to be me as they leave the car, but not to each other.
I looked at my daughter incredulously and she giggled at me. And then she asked: “Is that an ice cream cone?”
Yes, yes it is, sweetheart.
The next day my daughter made toast for herself. Before she put the bread away, she called out to her sister and brother, “I’m making toast. Do either of you want some? I’ll make it for you.”
Ice cream cone number two filled in.
It was amazing.
And each time she was kind, I asked her how it felt to be kind.
She beamed, colored in her ice cream cone, and admitted that it felt wonderful.
What to Do When the Ice Cream Kindness Challenge Doesn’t Work
But then there were other days that weren’t as pretty.
My daughter forgot to speak with kindness later on that same day.
Because things can spiral out of control. Quickly.
If my youngest took her pencil or sat on her bed or pushed past her to get into the car, all the goodwill was forgotten.
So I explained to my eldest, when she lashes out or says hurtful things or is mean to be mean to her siblings, she owes 50 cents.
Meanness costs 50 cents to the ice cream jar.
At the end of the ice cream challenge, we’ll take the money in the ice cream jar and put it towards paying for the ice cream, and I’ll pay the balance.
If she owes 50 cents to the jar often, my daughter will pay for all of the ice cream when she finishes filling out the ice cream sheet.
But, if she remembers to stay kind and doesn’t put any coins in the jar, then I’ll pay for all the ice cream.
So my daughter got to work filling in more ice cream cones. And she had to put some money in the jar.
And today, my daughter finished filling out her last ice cream cone on the challenge sheet. And we counted the money in the jar… there was $4 in there.
But all three of my kids were super excited as I drove them to get ice cream. Before dinner.
They giggled and shared licks and thanked my eldest profusely for “taking” them to get ice cream.
But the best news?
We’re starting the ice cream challenge again and my eldest daughter has set a goal to make me pay for every last scoop of ice cream.
And that will be money very well spent.
I don’t mind paying for a little bit of sweetness.