Tag Archives: discipline

Sibling Bonding

Everywhere I turn I hear parents lamenting sibling rivalry. I hear them asking how to get one child to leave the other alone. I hear them saying they don’t want the four year old to touch the baby, but then in two years they get upset when the six year old doesn’t want the two year old around.

When Agatha was born, we had our fair share of ‘problems’ as we navigated from one child to two. Our poor little Agatha was bumped and bruised, cut and scraped so many times. But she was so in love with her big sister (when she wasn’t afraid). We eventually figured things out and the relationship improved.

Now that Cordelia’s here things could be very difficult, but instead we find things even better than before. Our two big girls are so excited to help and share, and Cordelia is so in love with her sisters. She can’t get enough of them. There is no fear, there are no cuts or bruises, just love.

How did this happen?

First, the girls were involved with the pregnancy. They came to appointments, they helped us choose names, they touched my belly, they talked to the baby, they hugged and kissed her while she was still inside. They were present at her birth, and were invited to hold her as soon as I was willing to let my baby out of my arms for the first time.

When Cordelia came home with us, we encouraged the girls to hold her as much as they wanted. We’d sit them at the couch and hover. After all a newborn baby is rather floppy. As Cordelia became stronger, we hovered less. Now Agatha holds Cordelia on her own all the time, Ella carries Cordelia around the house. Whenever they want to do something with each other, or the baby, we try to find a way to help them play together, to accomplish their goals.

Some ways we do that include: playing tag with the girls, and tackle games. I carry Cordelia and chase the girls around the house. I’m sure to give all of them plenty of chance to see each others faces. In the beginning, I’d point out the huge smile, the look of intense pleasure, on Cordelia’s face, now we just play. They all have so much fun together. They all get a chance to be on an even playing field. As Cordelia gets bigger I’ll add in soccer. I carry her (when she’s bigger I’ll hold her hands) while she runs and kicks the ball, and the big girls try to get the ball away, or Cordelia tries to get the ball from them. They aren’t competition games because there is no win or lose. The whole entire point is to have fun. It doesn’t matter who has the ball because everyone’s playing together. As they get older these games could translate into competition, but for now it’s bonding.

During the day I spend a lot of time interpreting for the big girls. They rush over and pick Cordelia up and she whimpers. I point out the sounds, and let them know she doesn’t like that. I then offer a suggestion for what they could do that’d she’d likely enjoy. As she gets bigger, I’ll also help her figure out words to use so she can let them know on her own that she’s unhappy with a particular turn of events.

Right now it seems as though the most important part of having a positive experience with their sisters is me helping them figure out what the other means. They don’t have the knowledge base to figure out on their own that certain faces or sounds mean someone else isn’t having fun. They also don’t have the ability to put someone else’s needs or desires above their own. It’s my job to advocate for each of my children.

It doesn’t matter, for the most part, what happened, who started it, why someone’s crying, or anything else that divides the children. What matters is figuring out how to find a solution that preserves respect. It matters that they learn new methods of communicating, and playing together.

One day they won’t need me to step in as often as I do, one day they won’t need me to point out when someone else cries. One day they’ll take these skills and use them on their own, in the ‘real’ world. But for now they’re little girls playing together, loving each other, and loving life.

Is there something your family did – or does – that helps promote bonding between children, particularly children of vastly different ages and abilities?

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The Genius of Max & Ruby

I’ve yet to meet a parent that likes the show Max & Ruby. In fact I’m probably the only parent that actually finds the show cute and funny. Of course I’ve talked to the girls and they see it the same as I do, so I’m not concerned.

Two little bunnies, Max and big sister Ruby. Live (seemingly) alone. There’s a grandmother close as well as friends, and some adult bunnies. The beginning of the show Max wants to do something, but Ruby wants to do something else. Inevitably Ruby either doesn’t understand Max, or ignores him. At the end of the show Ruby figures out what Max tried to convey and everyone’s happy.

Most parents don’t like how bossy Ruby is, they also don’t like how she puts her wants over Max’s, they don’t like how she ignores him while she pursues her own desires. They don’t like that the majority of the program shows Ruby being mean and only the last few moments show a better way to meet everyone’s needs.

Ella and Agatha think it’s funny that Max knows what’s going on, that he tries to tell Ruby, but she doesn’t stop to listen and gets into one problem after another because of it, but if she just listened to the younger, smaller Max, then everything would’ve been okay from the start.

I suspect many parents don’t like the show because subconsciously they’re aware that the show mirrors their own actions and words. Max wakes up and Ruby’s eating yummy strawberries for breakfast. Max wants them, but Ruby has an egg for Max. He refuses. She threatens “No strawberries until your plate is empty”. She eats the strawberries in front of him, “Oh these are yummy, if you just ate your egg, you could have some too.”

It hits a little close to home. Especially when the show makes it very plain that it doesn’t matter if he really eats his egg or not, it doesn’t matter if he gets dirty. It’s easier to clean him up, than get upset.

But it’s easy to say one child shouldn’t treat another in such a way. Adults are different. It’s okay for a parent to tell their child one day they can’t get muddy, they can’t play with a certain toy, they can’t do what they want, but the next day (when the parent wants to do something quietly) the parent encourages the child to do exactly what the parent says ‘no’ to the rest of the time. Then the parent gets mad when the child comes over to see what’s happening. The parent doesn’t need to find out why the child comes over, they’re the parent. But if one child treats another in such a manner, then it’s considered rude, impolite.

I find it amazing that parents expect children to learn to cooperate, to share, to listen to other’s views, yet as adults they don’t bother.

Don’t get me wrong, I know many parents who do. But I also know how difficult it is to spend the majority of your life with someone else as boss, and now that we’re no longer children with someone else dictating to us, it’s really difficult to let go of the little bit of power we have.

However, I believe it’s very important that we do. We need to model to children how to behave. Show them that all people deserve respectful treatment, including those smaller and weaker than ourselves.

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Permission Granted

Yesterday the girls cut their hair. Today they did it again. Ella more so than Agatha.

She had a great time cutting it. And I think it actually looks pretty good. There are a few patches that are a bit too close to her scalp and the back has a few cuts that are pretty obvious. But overall it suits her.

Ryan was really upset. When she first started cutting again he started to say ‘No.’ He wanted to tell her we’d go to a salon instead. He wanted to teach her when to stop, to know when enough was enough.

I stepped in. After all, saying No, really wouldn’t give her a reason to stop. But what was our reason? Because we didn’t like it so short.

I asked Ryan to consider a few points. If she were 16, would we tell her she couldn’t cut her own hair. He said maybe. But when I was 16, I cut my own hair; it turned out better than when my mom cut my hair. If she were 16, would it be our place to tell her how she can or can’t wear her hair? Would it be good for her if we did?

In the end she asked our opinion, and looked in the mirror. When it was all done, her smile faltered, it was too short. But it can grow again, and now she knows to look in the mirror, and keep her hair just the length she wants.

It really doesn’t matter what the girls want to do, if our knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘no’, then we need to stop and examine why. Is there a valid reason, or should we step back and allow, even assist them in reaching their objective?

Do we really know more about them and their bodies than they do? Maybe it’s time parents stepped back and allowed their children enough freedom to discover their own desires and limits.

Should Ella ask permission to cut her hair in the future? Does it really matter? I did tell her we have hair scissors, and if she wanted to cut her hair, she could ask for the proper scissors. But whether to actually cut her hair or not? No, I don’t think it’s my place to either deny or grant permission.

 

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My Secret Parenting Weapon

Every parent has one. Something that calms the savage child faster than anything else. My secret weapon is a God send. If only I remembered to use it more often.

This has been one tough week. Cordelia’s a tad distracted during the day, and so really doesn’t nurse. Which means she’s latched on pretty much all night. I find I don’t sleep near as well when someones biting me. I’m not sure why.

Agatha’s taken to waking up after roughly ten hours of sleep. Anything less than twelve usually results in massive tears within moments of opening her eyes. It also means she’s likely to attack her sisters over every little slight.

Ella’s growing. I’m not sure in what way yet, but each day presents us with a different personality. Most of them are happy, but a curve ball is still a curve ball, even if we manage a home run.

With roughly four hours of disjointed sleep per night, I’m trying to help my girls navigate a crazy world full of so many different opinions and ideas. By itself that’s pretty tough, but I’m not the most pleasant person when I’m tired.

The other day we were out with friends and Agatha took both hers and Ella’s babies for herself. And refused to give one to Ella. I tried pleading, cajoling, begging. But nothing worked. I was ready to force her to hand it over. Just in time, I remembered.

I said. “Agatha, we have a bit of a problem and need to find a solution. I really need your help.” A huge smile spread across her face at the word ‘solution’. I said, “I see two little girls, and two babies. But I see one little girl holding both babies while the other little girl cries. Can you help me find a solution?”

She instantly handed over the baby Ella wanted and said, “How about Ella hold this one, I hold the other one?” She handed it to Ella and asked Ella if it was okay. They both agreed.

This secret weapon didn’t work over night. We needed to use it several times before the girls trusted me enough to use it. They needed to know I’d listen to their ideas, without discounting them out of hand. They needed to know, that I wouldn’t force my own ideas. They needed to know I trusted them to find a solution, they also needed to trust themselves.

Over the past few days I’ve used this on several occasions. The words alone are enough to calm a tense situation. It’s such a wonderful tool. Everyone leaves the scene feeling loved and respected (though I don’t guarantee happy). All I need to do now, is use it whenever a conflict happens.

Tomorrow I have an appointment and want to go alone to make things fast and easy. Agatha wants to go with me. I’m going to explain my point of view, and ask her to help me find a solution. I wonder what she might come up with.

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Someone Broke Her Funny Bone

The girl’s discovered a new game – thanks to Daddy. For the past several nights we’ve had to play doctor. Before you get concerned, it’s not that kind of doctor. First someone must be injured in some way (pretend), then Mommy or Daddy give an ambulance ride on our back (Eoo, Eooo) around the house a few times. Then we diagnose the injury.

“Oh, no. Someone broke her funny bone. There’s only one cure…Tickles.”

We then proceed to tickle from head to toe, briefly. We stop and ask if they’re okay. They dissolve into fits of giggles and declare their funny bone’s still broken. This goes on until Ryan’s completely tired out and ready for bed. By then the girls’ve received enough love to allow daddy some space.

When it’s time for bed, everything runs smoothly. They ask for their story, they fall sleep. Easy. They’re secure in our love – and that makes all the difference.

We have many variations on this type of game. Another one we play quite often has been around since Agatha was about 6 months old. I’d hold baby in front of me, facing out, and we’d chase Ella around the house. When we caught her, baby would tackle Ella and we’d tickle her. Then it’d be Ella’s turn to chase us. I’d periodically turn so baby could see Ella, then with a squeal we’d turn and flee. This game helped the girls bond in such a wonderful way. It also wore them out in such a wonderful way. We now play this with Cordelia chasing the big girls. It helps put them all on even footing. It’s a game that allows everyone to play, and there’s no competition because everyone WANTS to get caught. After all, that’s the fun part.

We have many fights during our days.  “She took my toy.” “I want her toy.” “She’s sitting on me!” the list goes on. But ultimately those dissolve into nothing when faced with the many ways our girls do play together. They’ve both had moments where they don’t like the other – and that’s okay – because they overwhelmingly love each other.

If children can move beyond conflict by playing with each other, don’t you think parents can move past conflict by playing with their children?

 

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Gluten-free: A Fact of Life

Today we visited new friends at their home for the first time. Within five minutes of stepping through the door, Ella ate a cookie. With gluten in it. The second she found out it had gluten, she cried. She spit it out, hid her head, sobbed, pleaded with me to leave.

We didn’t leave. Partly because I felt bad to leave when we’d only just arrived. But also because I knew we had some time before a reaction occurred (and I didn’t really want the results in the van – I hoped it would happen outside).

I did, however, cuddle Ella, and talk to her about the gluten how she felt emotionally and physically. I also told her she didn’t need to play, we could find a quiet place for her to sit where she’d be free from other children. Though if she’d still insisted we leave, we would have.

She didn’t stay hidden for long, she joined everyone else picking berries, and racing through the yard.

She was upset, she’d asked if the cookie was gluten-free. She’d been told it was safe. Unfortunately she asked a three-year old. Ella sobbed, “I don’t want to throw-up. I don’t want to feel yucky.” She knew what was coming.

I could’ve prevented all this from happening. Part of me wishes to turn back the clock and erase all of my baby girl’s pain. But there’s another part of me that can see the lesson learned. Ella now knows to ask an adult, more importantly: Mommy or Daddy, to find out if something contains gluten. She is also more aware of how her body specifically reacts to the gluten. And so am I. We’ve discovered that it becomes painful a lot faster than we realized, but that she can prevent herself from throwing up long enough to find a safe space to do it (though apparently our van constitutes a safe space).

Also I want her to learn how to be safe at other people’s homes. I want her to know it is possible to visit others, and still be safe. I don’t want her friendships limited to the non-gluten eaters.

One book I read just after finding out about the celiac’s disease told parents to tell their children that gluten caused every little upset. If they fall and scrape their knee, it’s because they ate gluten. They catch a stomach bug and throw-up, gluten’s to blame. The point was to scare the child away from ever wanting to try gluten.

I have several problems with this. First it creates a very scary view of the world. Second, a parent should not lie to their child, third, the child will figure out what gluten does to their body, but they’ll figure it out faster with a parents guidance. Lying to the child will actually make the process take longer because the child will have to figure out which of the many upsets are really caused by gluten. Then have enough of them to realize what the results are.

Also the child will soon realize that mom and dad lied. They’ll no longer trust what mom and dad say about gluten. SO the child will be more likely to stray from a  gluten-free lifestyle.

At 4.5 Ella knows to avoid gluten. She knows to ask first, she knows exactly what it’ll do to her. We have never needed to scare her. Even at the stores when they have samples to taste she’ll sometimes ask for one. We can’t always tell how safe the item is. We let her know it MAY contain gluten or may have touched gluten. It MAY make her sick. We then let her decide what to do. Sometimes she tastes it, sometimes she doesn’t. If the item contains gluten, she says, “No thank you.”

By being truthful and open with her, she’s gained the knowledge and experience to begin to protect herself. As she gets older we’ll continue to assist her. We’ll show her what a gluten cookie looks like vs a gluten-free. The same with breads etc. Most of the time a single look is all it takes to tell the difference. If the look doesn’t give it away, then the smell will.

Yes at times the girls may taste something with gluten, and they may end up sick because of it. It won’t be fun. But the experiences provide new information. And that knowledge is what they need to protect themselves. One day they’ll be on their own no one will step between them and gluten.

We follow a special diet, but in no way should that limit our life in any other way. Gluten-free is a fact of life. But it does not define us or our life in any way.

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Pretty Maids All in a Row

The girls have been so excited to go to ‘camp’ this summer. Each girl has two – one week long camps. I thought they’d enjoy them – Groovy Girls, Fairytopia, Playpalooza, and Bike something or other.

Each day they’re so excited to show us what they’ve made. We smile and say something like “Oh such a pretty shade of green”. Despite the fact that apparently only one colour was available to begin with, since every leaf (that’s exactly the same shape) is exactly the same colour. We say “Oh I see you spaced the stones the same distance apart.” Only to be told that the ‘teacher’ helped. Yeah. We realized that. We know what our children can create. And we love what we see. But the items they bring home from camp – I don’t want to display those on my fridge. I don’t want to keep them. My children didn’t make them. I really despise it when someone tells the girls the ‘right way’ to create. Whether that’s telling them how to colour a colouring page, or how to hold a crayon or where to place their googily eyes. Sure give them information. If you blend those colours of paint together, it’ll become the same brown as your other picture, then we won’t see what colours you used. But don’t tell her the leaf can’t be an alien, and it can’t have eyes, or if eyes are allowed, don’t tell her they have to be placed in a certain spot.

If that was all, I might be able to relax, but it’s worse. From what I can tell the only purpose of these camps is to prepare children for jail school. In order to go to or from the playground the children needed to walk in a straight line. Three years old. Together wasn’t good enough. They had to walk in a single-file, ruler-straight line. You might wonder what the big deal is?

Well the big deal is that they spend fifteen minutes outside. Of those fifteen minutes I saw them take five minutes forcing the children into the line. One child was slightly off centre. Everyone stopped until he was directly behind the child in front of him. They paused, and made sure everyone was straight before they continued. Then they paused because one child left too much space between him and the person in front of him. Everyone had to stay straight, with eyes ahead, until the boy caught up. Then they paused to assess the line. One little girl was too far forward, and was almost beside the adult leader. The leader got down to the girl’s level and pointed out the error of getting out of line. The girl had to get back in the straight line, before they continued, every one had to repeat that they would “walk in a straight line”. What kind of line? “A straight line”. That’s right, the leader told them to repeat after her, then she asked the question and waited for the children to respond. Three year olds were being treated that way. I was tempted to go over and get Agatha right then and there. But there’s a rule about that.

When camp was over and the door to their rooms opend, the first parent stepped inside. Then the next, then me. Did any of the children come running over? Nope. They were such good little girls and boys (please note the derision – there’ll be a post about that horrible word soon). They remained laying face down on the carpet until their parent touched them. Until that moment they were not to get up. Even if they saw their parent.

I don’t want an automaton. I don’t want my child walking in a straight line just because someone told her to. There wasn’t a street to cross, sure there’s a lake and I can understand needing to be sure the children stay close. After all a group of twenty three year olds can be unpredictable. But there were at least five leaders there. It would’ve been okay if the children walked beside each other, even if they raced to see who’d make it to the sidewalk first. But apparently five adults can’t figure out a way to respectfully move children from point A to point B.

I wanted my children to have an opportunity to meet new children. I wanted them to have fun. But I can see fun is not the correct word. I’m not even sure what word to use. Everything was so structured I don’t think there was time for fun.

I’ll leave on the words of Robert Frost:

 TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,        10

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.        15

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.        20

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