So, when I went to write Part 3 of this sibling thing, I got
a little crazy and kind of wrote a book. Not
literally, but it was much too
long for a blog post. So I split it up and here you go – Part 1 of Part 3. Today I thought I’d focus on the positive
stuff and tomorrow’s post will be about how we handle those crazy sibling spats – the ones I’m afraid my neighbors across the street can hear.
positive relationship between my boys and not let sibling rivalry, which is
inevitable, turn into sibling warfare. This
has meant trying to always make sure the boys know that they don’t need to
compete with each other for what they want most – love and attention and
acceptance from mom and dad – and that they will both be treated fairly.
This is one of those things that, like so many aspects of parenting, is much
easier in theory than in reality. But I’ve seen far too many sibling
relationships that are characterized by jealousy and resentment and hostility,
and I definitely don’t want that for my boys.
1. We try hard to make sure both boys get alone time with us.
think this is just important now as it was when the Bee was a baby. Without
that 1:1 time, I suspect it could easily turn into competition between the boys
for parental attention or jealousy manifested as anger at each other.
As Zippy becomes more and more
self-sufficient (he’s five now), it’s easy to leave him to do things without immediate supervision
– get dressed, make his bed, brush his teeth – while I help Bee. Because I
usually put Bee to bed so he can be nursed, and my husband usually gets Zippy
up and puts him to bed, some days I’ll realize I’ve barely had any time with
Zippy at all.
This is all to say, I really have to make a point of making sure
we get some Momma-Zippy time. It might be a special breakfast date or outing,
but more often it means taking him along with me to run errands (maybe stopping
for a treat on the way home) or just slipping into his room for an extra story
after Daddy has tucked him in.
If I ask Zippy the hardest part of having a little brother, his answer always includes some variant of “Sharing the attention” – which I think highlights just how essential this 1:1 time is, at least for us.
2. I try hard to make sure both boys get their needs met and to
not take sides.
This can be really challenging and I
just hope I succeed at this more often than not, because I think it will help
the boys have a better relationship with each other if they aren’t competing to
be the one who is “right” or who gets to be “first” (which I suspect is often
equated in kids’ minds with being “more important” or “more loved”).
When they both want my attention, I try to have
a first come-first serve policy, promise the other kiddo he’ll have his turn
next, and maybe offer an alternative for what he can do in the meantime. For
instance, if Zippy comes to Bee’s room while I’m reading a story and wants to
sit on my lap too, I’ll suggest he stand next to the chair while I read to them
both and promise he can have a snuggle after the story is done. Sometimes Bee
has to wait and that means a mini-tantrum, but I know that Zippy needs his
Momma just as much and it would hurt him terribly to always be set aside to
keep his baby brother happy. I hope that this approach gives them the sense
that they are both important. And when
they have to wait, they will hopefully learn to realize that other people have
important needs too.
than a 2-year-old. (Surprising? It is probably because I expect more from my
5-year-old). I find myself trying to watch my tone with Zippy and also making
sure he sees that I do get frustrated with Bee sometimes, too – so that Zippy
doesn’t feel like he’s the only one who gets in trouble.
3. Make being “a good brother” part of how they see themselves and highlight the positives of siblinghood.
Children live up to the expectations we have for them and
the image we reflect back to them of what kind of person they are. So we really
try to help the boys see each other as brothers who are kind, loving, and helpful
to each other.
We point out the great parts of their relationship – how Bee shares
with his big brother, how Zippy can be so nurturing – so that they see each
other as “good” brothers. I try to find opportunities for them to be “good” to
each other, like asking Zippy if he can help Bee with something if I’m busy (but
not berating him if he says no) or encouraging Bee to share a toy that he’s
not particularly possessive of. More and
more, Zippy wants to take Bee under his wing, and teach him the ways of the
4. Lastly, we try to create lots of opportunities for the boys to
have fun together.
focused on having fun, the less likely they are to end up in a kiddie-crisis.
Plus those positive moments create memories for them of having a good time together,
so that hopefully their relationship will be one they associate with feelings of happiness, belonging, and love.
1 and Part
2, which share ideas for preparing your older child for baby’s arrival and helping your child adjust once the baby is home.)