Are You a Coach or a Referee?


It’s 9:00 on a Tuesday morning, and I hear a blood-curdling scream coming from my daughter’s room. My four-year-old keeps repeating, “NORAH. We do NOT bite. NORAH! WE. DO. NOT. BITE!” There are more screams, and a few tears, before I hear a heavy sigh and the four-year-old says, “Okay, Norah. You can just have the doll for now.” 

Fights like these have become a common occurrence ever since my youngest daughter turned one and became more interested in her big sister’s toys. But I haven’t always stood on the sidelines. I used to be the referee. Then one particularly exhausting day, I remembered something I had read on @busytoddler’s Instagram page. She said, “Siblings need a coach, not a referee.” So at that moment, I quit my job as referee and became a full-time coach instead. And I haven’t looked back since! 

Now, don’t get me wrong, being a coach doesn’t mean never interfering. Sometimes (like when I can tell blood will be drawn or the two of them will not come to a resolution on their own), I need to interfere. But I don’t just boss everyone around like a drill sergeant. I talk to my kids and help them come to a resolution together. 

This has helped in so many ways. For one thing, it shows my children that I love and respect them equally. It’s also taught them to have more love and empathy for one another. When one of them chooses to sacrifice for the other, I can honestly see their love strengthening right before my eyes and it’s just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!

In the same post I referenced before, @busytoddler wrote, “Remember, siblings didn’t choose each other. They don’t have problem-solving skills (until we teach them).” It can be so easy to feel frustrated when our kids aren’t getting along, but the truth is, they are just learning to love each other and it won’t always be pretty. The best thing we can do for them is to love them through the messy process!

It isn’t always easy, and there is still PLENTY of fighting going on at my house! But shifting from the role of referee to coach has made a world of difference for my family. 


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Emily is a stay-at-home mom of two girls living in Saint Anthony. She has been married to her best friend for four years and family is what brings her the most joy. When she’s not busy wrangling her 3 year old or feeding her newborn, she enjoys exercising, eating, baking, reading, and watching tv (mainly New Girl and The Office.) She loves being outside and has a love/hate relationship with cleaning. She also has an unhealthy obsession with chocolate milk and listening to true crime podcasts. She hopes to live on a large property with farm animals someday.


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