“How are the older kids adjusting to the baby?”
This has been a common question lately.
The answer: “They have adjusted quite well to Littlest Man, it’s with each other where the trouble lies.”
Of course since this has been a hurdle for the last 6 months it has very little to do with ‘the baby’ and much more to do with them. For most of the day our home operates more like a boxing ring (without the boxing). On one side there is an extremely strong-willed, very independent, only child wanna-be 4 year old (almost 5 year old). On the other there is an almost as extremely strong-willed, also very independent, wanna do everything my brother does, 2 year old. I am not sure which one gets the upper hand throughout the day but I do know who gets the short end of the stick; ME!
Most situations carry out as the following:
Big Man doesn’t like what Pretty Girl does and Pretty Girl only wants to do what Big Man does. All of what she does, of course is what she has learned from him. Big Man loses every bit of the small amount of patience that he possess and throws a fit. Pretty Girl, hurt by Big Man’s reaction, also throws a fit. With a newborn, you can imagine that there is also most likely a hungry, wailing infant in the background. In these situations, there is not much that I am not still learning but I have learned that 5 year olds have absolutely no concept of “Just ignore your sister and she will stop” and 2 year olds have no concept of…well…just plain “Stop”.
I know, I know. I did grow up as an only child myself but I am not completely naive. Sibling rivalry is common…it’s part of life…it’s what brothers and sisters do, HOWEVER, I do wish to teach my kids that while there are times you are frustrated by the other there should be more times that you are not. Each one of us has a role to play in this family and we can best show our love to each other by living up to the role effectively. This means teaching Big Man how to love and protect his younger sister, teaching him that girls have different needs than boys, and teaching him that being mean is just not an option. It also means teaching Pretty Girl that she can trust and depend on her older brother, that boys are rough and tough (so they think) and that people have boundaries.
I have tried to handle the conflict with conversation and consequences. I have also handed it over to Daddy and asked him to take on the responsibility of disciplining when the heart became an issue. Progress is being made but I realized that for Big Man, the important part is for him to see that Mommy and Daddy are on the same page with this and that we are working together as a family.
As a result we have started a new dinner time routine. It now includes a family devotion time. While scoring the internet I came across a resource from Focus on the Family (Canada) called KIDS of INTEGRITY. The lessons are family geared and last about a week. Each night a bible story is read and questions are asked geared around that week’s topic of discussion. Several hands-on activities are also included as well as memory verses and prayer examples. Creative discipline ideas are also listed. Do you want to guess what the theme for this week includes?
So this week each of us, Mommy and Daddy included, worked together to make kindness flags. As each day progresses we are each on the lookout for acts of kindness performed by the other. If an act is spotted then that person’s flag is put into the jar. The goal: Everybody has their flag in the jar by the end of the night. I just wonder what kinds of acts I will need to do to constitute having my flag put into the jar.