Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thoughts on Motherhood : Sibling Harmony

When we came home from the hospital with Koen we did just about everything that the parenting books suggested to make Griffin feel secure about the new addition to our family.

His little brother arrived with a "gift" in his tiny little lap, a peace offering of sorts to make big brother feel special.  I also made him my little helper whenever I could, asking him to fetch much needed diapers and burp cloths. We carved out one on one time together everyday where he had my undivided attention, all in the hopes that it would be a smooth transition.

Much to our chagrin, the transition from being a family of three to a family of four was a bumpy one. I wear many hats around my home but it seemed that as the boys grew older, I wore the hat of referee the most often.

There were many sibling squabbles and spats. I found myself stepping in to pull apart my boys who lunged at each other like competing tigers cubs. My voice raised and finger wagged as I separated them. Their sibling rivalry was intense from the start and often ended in fisticuffs.

At the first sound of battle, I would intervene. After all, my oldest is four years older than my youngest and I had to make sure that no one got hurt in their intertwined wrestling and shouting matches. It was an obvious challenge for our family as frustration levels often rose.

One day, I decided that they were getting old enough to manage their disagreements themselves, I had grown tired at fussing at them for fussing. I made the decision to no longer listen for the situation to get loud but to only step in if it sounded like someone was going to get hurt.

From the kitchen, I heard them arguing over a chair that they both wanted to sit in in the living room. We have a mirror strategically placed in the dining room that gives me a full view of what they're up to in the other room.

In the reflection I watched as they shouted and pushed each other off of the chair. There was tears and name calling. It escalated and I wanted to step in but I hung back instead.

Then something amazing happened, they worked it out together. A compromise was reached and as they both sat down in different chairs to draw, I heard Koen apologize. "I'm sorry that I pushed you."  "It's okay" Griffin said "I shouldn't have pushed you back."

Just like that it was over and they got along great the rest of the day. It was then that I truly learned that often kids just need some space to figure out their little worlds on their own. By my intervening all the time, they weren't gaining the social skills to handle conflicts. Sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves and other times it's important to practice the art of negotiation.

They still have wrestling matches and fisticuffs but it doesn't escalate like it once did. By me letting them argue, they're learning how to solve the problem themselves.

Sibling harmony is taking root in our once wild little home.

Do you have more then one child? Do they get along? How does your family manage sibling rivalry?


Linda D. said...

Nice post, Leigh. My kids are grown up now but when they were young it was sibling rivalry between an older and stronger brother with a smaller sister. I felt the need to intervene for obvious reasons.... in the car, both were relegated to looking out of their own windows when even a glance from one or the other would set off nerves. Over the years, their rivalry took the form of "words" and not "grappling or hitting". And then an amazing thing happened as they grew into young adulthood... they became friends and confidants. Sibling rivalry does indeed transform into sibling appreciation! Patience!

Sue said...

We had four kids, and they got along pretty well.

My method was that if their fights got too intrusive to the peace of the household, I would send them to their rooms until they could work it out. For the most part, they were great friends and still are.


Me said...

Can I just make them wear this?

:-) L i n h