Friday, January 13, 2006

Knock down drag outs with blood and flying hair are probably on the way

I’m trying to find a way to get my four year old to be nicer to my two year old. I don’t know why I’m fighting this uphill battle, but I am. I’ve been given some feedback from friends and family. One said, “Hate to tell ya, but I didn't start being nice to my little sisters until my 20s.” Oh, great. That would pretty much describe my sister and me. We still have to bite our tongues at times. My father had this to say, “I do think that your girls are smart, genetically bossy, inspired to be independent; the more I think about it, knock down drag outs with blood and flying hair are probably on the way.”

So, I wrote my pediatrician for some sources. One book I already have. I’ll have to read that chapter again. It obviously didn’t sink into my brain. The other source was the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Brazelton’s Touchpoints. I’ve read Brazelton’s book before, and while I see the value, it doesn’t fit me. As Phill says, I’m only half “earth mother”. However, this book is highly lauded by many, many people. I just tired of reading it. (At least I checked it out from the library. That’s the best hint to give a parent. Check the book that you think you may want to by from the library first. You’ll know pretty soon if it is for you.) That left me with the AAP website and online publications. The AAP keeps a pretty extensive website. It’s chock full of information on lots of topics. I also accessed some information from the University of Michigan Pediatrics website. Here is what I learned.

What causes sibling rivalry?
There are many factors that contribute to sibling rivalry:
  • Children are competing to define who they are as an individual.  As they discover who they are, they try to find their own talents, activities, and interests.  They want to show that they are separate from their siblings.

  • Children feel they are getting unequal amounts of your attention, discipline, and responsiveness.

  • Children may feel their relationship with their parents is threatened by the arrival of a new baby. 

  • Your children’s developmental stages affect how well they can share your attention and get along with one another. 

  • Children who are hungry, bored or tired are more likely to start fights.

  • Children may not know positive ways to get attention from their brother or sister, so they pick fights. 

  • Family dynamics play a role. For example, one child may remind a parent of a relative who was particularly difficult, and this may subconsciously influence how the parent treats that child. 

  • Children will fight more with each other in families where there is no understanding that fighting is not an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. 

  • Families that don’t share enjoyable times together will probably have more conflict.

  • Stress in the parent’s lives can decrease the amount of attention parents give the children and increase sibling rivalry. 

  • Stress in your children’s lives can shorten their fuses, and create more conflict.

  • How parents treat their kids and react to conflict can make a big difference in how well siblings get along. 
Phill is the master at controlling his temper. I am not. I know that is why Inwe will yell at Larien. I try very hard not to resort to yelling, but there are times that is the last weapon in my arsenal. When the kids are tired or hungry, we know to keep them apart. We find separate things for them to do, so we are hip on that point. And, I am very, very sure that Larien wants Inwe’s attention and the only way she can get it is to take a toy from her or climb on her. That’s when the real yelling begins. At least Inwe is over the hitting stage. I just have to get Larien over the hitting stage.

So, once the kids get into a conflict, how do I manage it? This is what the AAP recommends.

  1. Allow your older child to help care for the younger one. Helping to feed a baby or change a diaper can strengthen the relationship between siblings. Encourage your child to be proud to be a big brother or big sister.

  2. Don't compare your children in front of them. Avoid pointing out your children's differences in front of them. Your child might interpret comparison as criticism and may think that he's not as good or as loved as his sibling.

  3. Stay out of your children's arguments. You may have to step in and settle a spat between toddlers or preschoolers, but older children will probably settle an argument themselves if left alone. If your children try to involve you, explain that they're both responsible for creating the problem and for ending it. Don't take sides.

  4. Let your children know that violence is unacceptable. Make sure your children are made aware that you will not stand for any violence between them. Praise your children when they solve their arguments peacefully.

  5. Don't punish one child in front of the other. When it's necessary to punish or scold your child, do it alone in a quite, private place. Scolding him in front of another child can lead to his being teased.

  6. Set aside areas for each child. Give your children -- especially the older one -- her own space. Keep each child's own personal things apart from shared ones.

On these items we do very well. The University of Michigan goes into more detail as to how to get siblings to get along better.

  • Never compare your children. 

  • Don’t typecast. 

  • Don’t play favorites.

  • Set your kids up to cooperate rather than compete.  For example, have them race the clock to pick up toys, instead of racing each other.

  • Pay attention to the time of day and other patterns in when conflicts usually occur.  Perhaps a change in the routine, an earlier meal or snack, or a well-planned activity when the kids are at loose ends could help avert your kids’ conflicts.

  • Teach your kids positive ways to get attention from each other.  Show them how to approach another child and ask them to play.

  • Being fair is very important, but it is not the same as being equal.  Your children need to learn that you will do your best to meet each of their unique needs.  Even if you are able to do everything totally equally, your children will still feel as if they’re not getting a fair share of attention, discipline, or responsiveness from you.

  • Plan family activities that are fun for everyone.  If your kids have good experiences together, it acts as a buffer when they come into conflict.  It’s easier to work it out with someone you share warm memories with.

  • Make sure each child has enough time and space of their own.  Kids need chances to do their own thing, play with their own friends without their sibling, and they need to have their space and property protected.
I put the topic in bold that we need to address. We, as parents, need to show the girls how to get attention from each other positively. Perhaps if we work on this we’ll see a reduction in the amount of spats. And, I have banned the saying, “That’s not fair” from my household. I cannot stand that saying.
Perhaps this quest for siblings (the sisters especially) to interact better is just tilting at windmills, but I am going to attempt it. I have to do something before they gang up on Finwe when he is two. Or he’ll be like my dad was as a kid and terrorize them both. They’ll need the coping mechanisms.

The verse for today is inspirational. (Oh, I sound like a preacher. Be healed!)

Be Strong

By Maltbie Davenport Babcock

     Be strong!
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift;
Shun not the struggle—face it; ‘tis God’s gift.

     Be strong!
Say not, “The days are evil. Who’s to blame?”
And fold the hands and acquiesce—oh shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.

     Be strong!
It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day how long;
Faint not—fight on! To-morrow comes the song.


Maverick said...

Well of course they are on the way. Let me remind you of a few things: Hitting head with baseball bat; stuffing into washing machine; dumping baby powder all over the little baby girl. And those are some of the nice things!

Sarabeth said...

I am in no way saying I was a saint. And, it was in the back, not the head. And it was the dryer.

And, please do not leave out the fact that my favorite blanket was snipped into pieces.

Kell said...

If I'm ever a parent - I'm going to tape these to my fridge.