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I Gambled on a Solution to My Kids' Bickering -- and Won

02/26/2015 12:43 pm ET | Updated Apr 28, 2015
Robyn Passante

It's no coincidence that the word "mother" is embedded in the saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Mothers are constantly inventing tactics and tricks to get their kids to do stuff that has to get done.

Moms come up with catchy little "clean up" songs to make picking up a roomful of toys sound like a carnival game. Moms allow their kids to dip every imaginable fruit, vegetable and source of protein in gobs of ketchup just so the important nutrients make it to their little tummies. Moms -- and dads, too -- are constantly inventing new ways to get and keep kids fed, dressed, bathed, helpful and happy. It starts long before the first time we turn a spoonful of baby food into an airplane, and it never stops.

Last week, I had just such a moment of invention -- one that is continuing to reap benefits for me, and should for at least three more days, when my sons will surely tire of it (or lose it). I call it The Decider Coin.

My boys are great pals and playmates, but they've hit that point of no return in siblinghood where everything ends up being about Who Goes First, or Who Picks First or Who Picked First Last Time. Seriously, we cannot accomplish anything -- anything -- without a great debate about who's first.

Usually it's because neither of them wants to do the task at hand -- putting on shoes, getting dressed, washing hands, clearing their plates -- so they jockey for who has to go first. That is, unless the subject being debated involves their ladybug night light. Then both of them demand to go first.

Oh, how I loathe that ladybug night light.

The little plush-and-plastic ladybug has stars and a crescent moon on its back that get projected onto the bedroom ceiling at night. It's a great little night light, and the boys love it, as I knew they would when I bought it. The problem is that the darn thing can shine its stars in three different colors, and my sons have yet to agree on one color. Ever.

This is made far worse by the fact that I can never remember who got to pick the ladybug's color the previous night. It's a serious mental block, and one that gets me in trouble every night. How can they effectively take turns when they're both telling me the other one picked the color last night, and I don't know which one of them is lying?

So the ladybug had become the bane of my existence. It was no longer a sweet bedtime ritual; it was a power struggle that almost always ended in a tackle and a wrestling match, and often tears. Sometimes they cried, too.

Last week, they were in the throes of whining over whose turn it was when a lightbulb went on in my head. Maybe I didn't need to remember who picked the color the previous night! Maybe we didn't need to agree on a color! Maybe we didn't have to resort to Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe! (My 3-year-old has already figured out how to start that one so that it ends in his favor anyway.)

I marched downstairs into the playroom and grabbed a poker chip from the stack they'd been playing with earlier. Then I rummaged through their craft supplies until I found some stickers with letters on them. I stuck a big green "E" on one side of the coin, and a big blue "K" on the other, marched upstairs and showed them my new Instrument of Peace and Harmony.

"This is The Decider Coin," I said. "I'm going to throw it up in the air and we will all watch to see it land. If we see a 'K' for Kostyn, then Kostyn gets to pick. If we see an 'E' for Evan, then it's Evan's turn to pick."

They loved the idea. I threw the coin. It bounced once and landed: "K" for Kostyn. Kostyn jumped and beamed, and Evan did, too, excited about this new game. Peace and Harmony, and red stars on the ceiling.

And it's been working wonders ever since. Nobody wants to be first to put their shoes on? Let's try The Decider Coin. You can't agree on whose book Mommy should read first? Grab The Decider Coin. Can't remember who got out of the tub first last time? Throw The Decider Coin in the air.

I love this thing. I grew up with two sisters, so we lived by "majority rules." But I'm tellin' ya, parents of two kids, The Decider Coin is the perfect solution to sibling bickering. Stop throwing your hands up in the air; throw The Decider Coin instead.

This post was originally published on Holding the Strings. If you liked it, follow Robyn Passante on Facebook.

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