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(Today’s post is a continuation of three posts. If you are joining us for the first time this week please go back to post 1, “Sibling Rivalry Debunked: How is YOUR example?” followed by post 2, “Be Present”, then come back and continue with us with today’s post.)
If you are dealing with sibling rivalry, please heed the information from the first two posts. Being a good example yourself (post 1), as well as choosing to be present (post 2) will have a tremendous impact on how your children treat on another.
However, if you are a single parent, it is the example you are in front of your children with those around you. Are you respectful to authority, kind to strangers, loving to those in need? Our children are smarter than we think. They know when we lie. If we teach them with our words to “be kind and loving” but yet we are rude and disrespectful to others either to their face or behind their backs, they can see that there is something off with that logic. So, practice what you preach, children smell hypocrites a mile away.
Being present and available is time worth spending. When we choose to make our children a priority they know it and feel it. It puts a spring in their step. It gives them confidence. It gives them trust in you. And as they get older they will still desire to spend time with you. As well as they will listen to your wise words a little longer. I do realize for you amazing parents who raise children and work outside the home, being present can be difficult. You don’t have much time in your day to allow for distractions. You need to be even more diligent and purposeful in your quality time with your children. I would encourage you to really sit down and figure out your free time. You may need to make some tough decisions about what you do with that time. You may need to cut something “good” out of your week so that you are not running around from here to there. Yeah, playing t-ball can be good for your child. But all that time might be better spent taking walks to the park, reading a book together, or making cookies with their daddy. There will be plenty of time for baseball as they get older. It will be a challenge. Time is always a challenge. But I guarantee you that no one lays on their death bed and regrets spending too much time with their loved ones.
Practically speaking there is really one EASY way to help train your children when dealing with sibling rivalry:
TAKING TURNS- training your children to take turns and encouraging/praising them when they do.
I know, simple right? Yet here is what we adults say to them instead: “You need to SHARE.”
Young children don’t have a difficult time understanding “sharing” in the truest sense of the word. Sharing is to divide and distribute. It’s giving something up to someone else. Nowhere in its definition does it say it will be returned to the other person or it will be given back. Children get that, and because of their lack of empathy and immature cognitive development they don’t want to give something up. They are egocentric and selfish. Being willing to give something up is a trait/learned behavior that needs to be trained and shown as examples over and over again.
When us adults say to a four year old, “Joe, you need to share” WE mean let them play with it for a little while and they will give it back. But that is not the definition of sharing. THAT is taking turns. So let us first retrain our own words we use as we are training our children. Rather, let’s train them instead to “take turns”.
Being present and nearby will help facilitate this. You need to be on the floor with little ones, nearby when siblings have the potential to argue or snatch something from someone else. When my boys were younger, here is an example of what I did. I had one sitting across from me and the younger sitting in front of me, I would say,
“It’s mommy’s turn” and I would roll the ball to my son. Then I would say, “It’s Nathan’s turn, Nathan roll the ball to your brother. Great job Nathan! You are giving Joe a turn!”
And so on and so on. Unfortunately they are 12 and 13 and we still need to remind them to take turns with each other when they want “shot-gun” in the car! But it’s training, training, training! Even as teenagers.
Taking turns training can happen in many contexts: when I give my children snacks, when we are at the park, when we are getting in or out of the car, when we walk through doors, when we take baths, when we are getting ready for bed or brushing are teeth etc. Think about when training can happen for you then start doing it.
Surprisingly, there are many things you are helping your child learn when talking about taking turns rather than sharing. When you are training in taking turns, waiting, allowing others to go before you, being patient, self-control. All those traits we want for our children can be taught through taking turns rather than sharing.
Now I am not advocating to not talk about or train in the act of “sharing”. But speaking developmentally, sharing requires the ability to have empathy as well as to understand someone else’s point of view. This major milestone in cognitive development, at the earliest, begins around 5 years of age. So don’t be surprised, frustrated or angry when your three year old doesn’t “share”. They really don’t have the ability to! Instead do what we have talked about all week.
Be a good example yourself.
Be present and nearby to intervene and train.
Lastly train in taking turns, even your teenagers.
We hope this week, you were challenged in something you haven’t thought about before or need to start up again in your parenting. Let us know how we helped this week. And as always, share our blog with others you feel could use the encouragement in this thing we call parenting. Have a great week!