Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're all in the same boat, it seems.

Thanks to all my mom friends who commented and offered suggestions - and empathy - for the sibling wars being waged at our house. Thanks also to my cousin Kim who works with Head Start kids and offered some suggestions via facebook. I am thankful that so many of us are having the same experience, especially all of you that I admire for your creativity, calm demeanor, and great attitudes. It helps me not feel like the battles are all my lack of parenting skill - because you clearly have skills, and your kids are battling too.

What I mostly get is that there are no quick and easy answers here. After writing yesterday's post, I tried really hard to make things better today, and incorporated some of the suggestions offered. Here are my thoughts:

- I paid attention as much as I could. I am prone to wander away with my thoughts (or just mealtime preparations), and ignored children seem to fight more to get my attention (I feel dumb for mentioning this).

- We moved our bodies in (somewhat) constructive ways. Blue had a rec center class today, and we also spent a good deal of time racing around the house. When I thought we might descend into chaos, we took a walk, even though it was hot, threatening thunderstorms, and I had other things to do.

- I tried to get a few quality minutes in with each kid so that they felt like I was paying attention. For Pink, this was during Blue's class, and for Blue, during Pink's nap. I didn't do any special projects today or any significant meal prep so that freed up some time.

- I tried really hard not to raise my voice. I'm kind of a loud person, so my "inside voice" is already at increased decibels, and I tend to shout up the stairs rather than walk up and talk to whoever's attention I'm looking for.

- I checked out the site from Vanderbilt University recommended by Kim. Certainly a lot of good information there about how to help little ones build pro-social behaviors.

Thanks to everyone for offering support and similar stories. I believe we are all trying our very hardest to raise our kids to be happy, healthy, functioning members of society, and I appreciate all the moms who offer a listening (blogging?) ear when I become the unhappy, unhealthy, totally non-functioning person who can't get her kids to behave.

This, too, shall pass - and one day, they'll have kids of their own, and we can snicker...


  1. Here are the replies I got from my fb friends - some teachers, children's ministers, most of them expe'd. mothers:

    Cathy-In my child-development classes years ago they were labeled terrible2s and out of bounds 4s. Both age groups are generally rebelling for more independence, autonomy, and are very self-centered. Put the two together and they are bound to fight. She probably shouldn't even expect them to share at those ages. They still play in isolation or at best parallel to each other. Give them each their own defined space at meals, play, etc. Sit between them. Give them their own individual one on one time and respect their need to have their own toys, etc. Label toy baskets, cups, and anything else with their names. They are learning to have their own identiy. The Bible says to "Love your neighbor as yourself." They are learning to love self so that they can love neighbor as self.

    Cathy-Best way to teach sharing and caring now is to model it herself and verbalize what she is doing so it is obvious to them. Pray this stage won't last long and quote Ann's scripture. "This too will pass."

    Dana-Her 4-yr-old needs some ways to feel respected. He is displaying the ability to be in charge and make decisions that affect others. When little sis overthrows that with her toddler behavior, he reverts to her more immature backlash methods to control her. That's normal, so he needs some opportunities to control things and made decisions elsewhere to feed his mental growth. Then he can build up his tolerance for dealing with a toddler who does not want to understand.

    Also, try changing your language with your toddler--say "take turns" instead of share. Sharing implies we both get to touch it and its equal, and this is bad news for self-involved toddlers. Taking turns implies we each get to do what we want and exert some control ourselves. Reward the older child with special experiences or points to add up to cash in for a special experience that's all for him. This makes holding back that sibling annoyance worth the effort he's putting into it. In our house, we sometimes allowed biting back once or twice just to clearly illustrate the point, too.

    Jan-My Gosh such brilliant minds. You go girls.

    Kathy-I recommend reading any and everything by John Rosemond - he is fabulous and will be able to more than answer her questions - good luck!

    Lee-when verbal ability lags behind emotional need there is always a problem. Giving the right words to the feelings can help. Making sure both kids know that hurting someone is never the right way to share feelings. Making sure that the 4yr old gets respected when he shares his feelings appropriately. the 2 yr old also needs words or sign language ways to communicate and then needs to have supervision at all times when playing with sibling. It is a hard age indeed!

    Evelyn-I would give them "the look" and tell them if they couldn't get along that they would each go to their room and stay (without any toys) until they could get along. Then I would follow through! Every time they didn't get along I would send them to separate rooms (without any toys) and each time they would stay longer. I still use "the look" and it still works BECAUSE they know that I will follow through with what I tell them!

    Sandi-boxing gloves?


    Becki-I agree w/all the above. What worked for us (believe it or not) separating them. They weren't allowed to be in the same room, at all. And no t.v., so they have no one to play with. Oddly enough, after about 4-5 hours, they realized it was more fun to get along & be together than be alone & apart. And now my kids are teenagers so the story is ever changing.

  2. I really enjoyed the comments concerning a problem that we all go through with children...and especially those of us who have more than one child. Blue and Pink are now developing skills that will help them through the rest of their lives. Honestly, haven't you had a co-worker that you'd rather push or bite than to deal with in a kind manner? This is the beginning of their ability to deal with all kinds of people. The first trial of this is with your siblings. You can decide what manner of basic decency you want to legislate in your home, but this interplay will happen no matter what kind of parent you are.

    My most basic parenting rule (in the way I govern myself and try to deal with them) is to be fair and consistant. If I decide to enforce something then I (as the parent) MUST win that battle and be where the discussion ends. If it takes 100 time outs calmly and firmly enacted then I do it. I try not to interfere with a situation that they can work out themselves. If they can't work it out themselves then I try to give them the tools - words, discussions, enforcement of human decency - to help them. The hardest thing in the world is to stand back and let them struggle through it. Eventually though, you have to do it.

    If all else fails you can use the distraction method that I makes the kids unite in fear that Mom has actually lost her mind:

    I burst out in a church hymn or happy song and sing it with all my might ignoring anything they say or do! I go about my business like a maniacal mother and that usually makes their mouths drop open and their eyes open wide. I sing three or four verses if I must. It is at that point that I actually try to get them off to a better start playing again.

  3. I have nothing intelligent to add. However, I am completely amazed at how much information and assistance can be received through blogging and Facebook in a few days. Here we have all the benefits of a support and/or focus group from across multiple backgrounds and locations. Nobody had to travel, sit in uncomfortable folding chairs, and eat stale donuts while some well-meaning facilitator tries to get a group of people to talk to each other. I continue to be amazed at the power of social internet media.

  4. No matter what the tool...women are always social beings. (insert emoticon here)