Guest post by Jenny Reyes
Note from Anne: Whether or not you have toddlers, this is an excellent read.
I’ll tell you why.
It goes without saying that the tips are incredibly insightful, but the examples of sisterly love are inspiring and heart-warming!
It’s amazing how a mom can teach little tots to have big hearts.
Be ready to come let a couple of “Aww’s” out.
As a mom of two girls that are close in age, I am on a mission to ensure they grow up to have a solid, harmonious, loving, and loyal relationship with one another.
We parents do our best and yet there is no secret recipe to guarantee such an outcome.
Nonetheless we need to try anyway.
I have only been at this “harmonious relationship” business for the last thirteen months. So far so good: the girls still have most of the hair on their heads and my eardrums are still intact.
How do I manage to keep things amicable?
Here are 6 guiding principles I follow to build and reinforce a strong bond between my girls:
1. Rules are rules, regardless of age (and capacity to understand)
Every child in the household, no matter what age, must abide by the same set of rules.
Because it is confusing to the older siblings when the younger ones “get away” with certain things.
The explanation, “It’s okay she’s only a baby,” doesn’t fly. Neither is it fair to them (the older children). So even if packing away is a concept beyond the realm of your 4-month old’s understanding, teach it nonetheless.
In our home, Sam could see that 6-month old Jamie was also told to take turns and to share – even if I physically did the actions for her.
What was important was that by saying it out loud, I showed Sam that what applied to her applied to Jamie as well.
2. Acknowledge that each child goes at their own pace
Avoid comparing or pitting the siblings against one another even if the intention is to motivate or encourage.
“Look at so-and-so… she finished her food. See? Now you should too,” can also cause disgruntlement, and imply favoritism (which I know, is not the case!).
This was done to me a lot when I was growing up.
Because I was “not at par” with the rest of the kids, I felt inadequate. As such I’ve consciously avoided doing it with my kids.
I motivate them individually and praise publicly. If the other one chooses to follow suit she gets praised equally.
The process is much harder, but at the same time it’s one less venue that instigates unnecessary comparisons.
3. Let them figure it out on their own
As parents our primary instinct is to referee all disagreements.
However if you take a step back or wait a few seconds before jumping in (as long as there is no physical harm inflicted on either party), letting them settle things on their own terms is also a good life lesson to learn.
The outcome may not be the fairest all the time, but hey, isn’t that what life is like?
4. Sometimes, it’s okay NOT to share
We all have possessions in our lives we don’t want to share with the world. Even if kids need to learn to share, why can’t they also keep some toys to themselves?
Sam has some dolls that she treasures and refuses to let Jamie slobber all over.
So the rule is, Sam has to keep her favorite toys and only play with these items while Jamie naps or is busy in the other room. Otherwise, the “sharing” rule applies and all toys are fair game.
5. Talk in “We” and “Us”, not just “Me”
Act as a family unit, and operate as a team – children included. When siblings are born into a family, they are not just “yours” as parents, they are your other kids’ babies too.
Saying “We need to comfort her because she’s crying,” makes the older siblings feel involved and responsible instead of making him/her feel you’re trading time with them, for time with the other.
So even if it’s really just “me” who needs to pick Sam up from school I tell Jamie that “we” need to go.
Similarly, when “I” need to get Jamie from her nap, I tell Sam that Jamie is looking for “us”.
I feel this tactic has helped Sam has taken her sibling role quite seriously.
She immediately gets up from her chair and runs ahead of me to give her sister a hug. “Let’s go mom! Jamie’s awake!” She’ll call out.
6. Allot one-on-one quality time with each child
Give each child your undivided attention every now and then. Show them it’s standard treatment for every sibling in the household. After all, individual quality bonding time with mom is just as important as family time together.
Both need to happen on a regular basis.
In the end all that you do as parents to your kids and for them is work-in-progress. It will eventually be up to them to carry through and to build upon.
As for my girls, I can only pray that what I’m doing will set them on the right path towards a long-term amicable sisterhood. I wish the same for your efforts as well.
Would you have suggestions on how you try to build harmonious relationships amongst your kids? I’d love to hear them!
Author bio:Jenny Reyes pens the blog, My Mommyology which is our featured blog of the month. She currently lives in Chapel Hill North Carolina, where she is a full-time student of the science of motherhood, with her two little girls as her prime teachers. She also moonlights as one of the partners in the marketing consultancy firm called Your Brand Story. Among other things, Jenny enjoys reading, traveling and scuba-diving.