The Decider Coin

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.

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 they 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--lately 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, whatever), unless they're talking about their ladybug night light. Then both of them demand to go first. Oh, how I loathe that ladybug night light.

The little plastic and plush 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. The problem is that the darn night light 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 single night, because 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?

Consequently, the ladybug had become the bane of my existence; the argument at bedtime over the color was getting out of hand. 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 even they cried, too.

So 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 had already figured out how to start that one so that it ended 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 it. 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 siblings, so we lived by "majority rules." But I'm tellin' ya, parents of two kids, The Decider Coin is the perfect tie-breaker. In fact, the other day Kostyn helped me make one with a "D" for Daddy on one side, and an "M" for Mommy on the other side. We have yet to use it. But rest assured, people, we will.


Anonymous said...

Please put a "T" on one side and an "S" on the other and send it our way. We have a DVR that is 78% full and seem to be at a stalemate.

-T. J.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are speaking my language with this post. I am constantly having to settle whiny arguments with my two boys (4 and 2), I will have to try this tip, thanks!
Terri E.