Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sibling Rivalry at Sara Rose’s House

At that moment, the kiddos liked each other.  That changed in less than 3 minutes.

To say my daughter has green eyed envy and the desire to be number one in everything, no matter what, is putting it mildly.  To say that the little brother delights in tormenting her is also true.  And as only children, both Nolan and I had a really idealistic image when we headed into Owen’s pregnancy.  We really thought our kids would bond immediately, that there wouldn’t be fighting or jealousy, and that they’d be best of friends!

Well, maybe someday that will happen.  As for right now, we deal with near daily screaming matches and taunting, jealous battles over toys, near constant whining, and other such nonsense that leave both Nolan and I exhausted and grateful that we only have two kids.  I can’t imagine adding more into the fray of craziness that our household can hold some days.

There are good days, don’t get me wrong.  Days where they share, laugh and play well together, don’t argue or scream about the other getting more attention.  (That last part is usually coming from my daughter, our son will just come bop us on the head with some toy if he feels he’s being neglected and yell nonsensical toddler babble at us.)

Times like these make me really grateful that my husband and I sat down at the beginning of our relationship. Granted, Eva was already in the picture, but at the time we had envisioned ourselves having 4 kids, total.  Yeah, that idea lasted.  About halfway through my second pregnancy, as I was sick, I announced “Unless we adopt, there are going to be NO MORE KIDS.  This is IT.”  Nolan was so beleaguered from my pregnancy insanity that he shook his head in rapturous agreement.

Back to us hammering out the ‘rules’ we’d have for our kids.  We didn’t get down to the nit picky things, because really, when parenting, how can you?  Kids are so individual and you really can’t pick and choose their personalities, nor can you always ‘make’ them get along.  So, we keep our rules basic and play each situation as it arises.

The Liebert Rules (aka how to get my kids to behave and be nice to each other)

1.  Share, and share alike.  Yes, my kids have some toys that are just ‘their own’.  It’s important for anyone to have things that are ‘just theirs’.  It teaches respect of private space and other people’s things.  Does Owen need to play with Eva’s itty bitty bajillions of Barbie accesories, toys, and dolls? NOPE.  Does Eva need every car, truck, or Megablok that Owen has?  Nope?  We put the toys that are specifically their own into their rooms.  But the toys out in the living room area are to be shared, and if they won’t share, take turns, or play nicely, the toy gets taken away.  Plain and simple.

2.  Fights may happen but physical fights are out of the question.  Even as an only child, I understand that kids argue, kids and parents argue, and that everybody fights.  But use your words, not your fists.  Learn to cool down before you say anything.  We use timeouts not so much as punishment but as a way to calm down and think rationally when a fight breaks out.  This usually applies to Nolan and I too, we’ve tried very hard to stop ourselves if we’re arguing and things get heated to learn to say “Let’s talk about this later after we’ve had time to think and cool down.”

3.  Everybody has bad days.  Redirect.  Sometimes anybody ca be grumpy, unhelpful, or irritating.  Learn to ignore it or be helpful in finding a way to make the situation better.  If you can’t do either, do your own thing.

4.  Tattling on every single thing doesn’t help.  Eva went through this phase where she would come running to us about every.single.thing Owen did. “Owen breathed weird and it bothered me!”  “Owen hurt my feelings by playing with a toy I never wanted to play with!” This went on for about two months until we finally told her “If it’s ACTUALLY hurting you, hurting your brother, putting someone in danger, then tell us.  Otherwise, let it go.  Tattle tales don’t win any brownie points here.”

5.  It is okay if everyone does always get along.  This has been the hardest lesson for me to accept as a parent.  Maybe even as a person.  I try hard not to go to bed angry, because as a general rule I usually wake up more irritable and irrationally angry.  So internalizing every little instance of them not getting along is not helpful.  At the end of the day, I can do my best to help them learn to get along, but they have to get there themselves.  Some siblings never end up liking each other and that doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom.

We finally learned to play things as they come but there is one thing we never waiver on.  We present a united front.  If the kids get in trouble from Nolan, then they don’t get to run to me to get out of trouble.  If either of us think the other parent is being unfair, we go talk about it privately, and decide things together.  We compromise, we make exceptions, we feel our way through this.  Is there any other way to parent?  You have to roll with the things that the day brings.  So far, those have been the best decisions and ideas we’ve come up with in getting our kids to get along.

There are, as I said, good days, filled with laughter, sharing, and happy memories.  We try our hardest to get that to happen daily but if it doesn’t, then there is always tomorrow.  We tell both our kids to count each other among their blessings, seeing as we both didn’t have that.  Eventually, things have a way of working themselves out and hopefully that rule will apply to my kiddos too.

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