Tag Archives: sibling rivalry

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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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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Should Siblings Be Without Rivalry?

For Months I’ve heard people recommend this book, “Siblings Without Rivalry”, yet I’ve refrained from reading it. I’ve read pretty much every other parenting book out there, even when the person recommending it parents completely opposite of us. My reason for reading all of them is that even a book or a person I disagree with can help me along my journey to becoming a better parent. When I see someone do something that goes against my parenting philosophy it solidifies in my mind why I parent the way I do. It also allows me a chance to see better ways to approach something similar in my own family.

So why did I balk at reading “Siblings Without Rivalry”? A book recommended by many people who parent in a similar manner? Easy. The title scared me.

Siblings without rivalry. The words indicate that it’s both possible and desirable to have no rivalry in a home. That initial reaction left me feeling inadequate. My children fight. A lot. Some days I have no idea what to do. Ella chases Agatha around the house while Agatha screams and cries. Agatha follows Ella everywhere, even when Ella’s asking for space so she can calm down – then Ella loses it and hits Agatha. My girls love each other deeply, but they fight – sometimes they’re downright mean to each other. I didn’t want to read a book that indicated my children shouldn’t be fighting – that would mean I was doing something terribly wrong.

Put the camera down, and rescue me!

Not only do I think I’m doing a pretty good job, but I think rivalry is a necessary part of growing up.

I don’t mean parents should create it – far from it. But I think rivalry helps children learn how to navigate social interactions. Though it only provides learning if parents facilitate the learning in the beginning. When they’re little parents need to model ‘fair fighting’. Parents also need to help their toddlers and preschoolers work through disagreements so everyone comes away feeling respected and safe. A toddler won’t know how to ask for a toy he wants and another toddler won’t know what to do when someone takes her toy. As parents we can help them learn how to ask. And how to stand up for themselves without hurting anyone.

However, as children get older it’s important for parents to step back and let them disagree, let them yell at each other. Let them learn what happens when they say X, Y, or Z. they’ll find out what happens when they ruin a siblings prized possession.

Those were my thoughts. And they haven’t changed after reading the book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but wanted to keep an open mind.  First, I think many of the ideas presented in the book are very similar to their other book “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen…”. Second I was pleasantly surprised. They didn’t suggest siblings shouldn’t fight, or even that it was possible to prevent fighting. They did provide ideas on how to support each child so when fights occur children will be able to feel respected and safe. The book also highlight things many parents do that creates further tension between children and greater levels of rivalry.

For the most part we already use many of their techniques, but it’s always great to have a reminder. There are also new ideas presented that we’ll try out over the next few weeks to see how things go.

I’m going to make a point over the next week to pay closer attention to the girls disagreements and how they resolve. Do they need help, how do I react, was everyone able to feel safe and respected?

 

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