Friday, October 22, 2010

Rearin' Its Ugly Head

I was sitting in the health unit the other day with the kids - waiting the customary 15 minutes after another round of immunizations - and I noticed the parenting pamphlets all along the wall. I was feeling a little smug as I glanced at the titles - potty training, starting solid foods, developmental milestones of the first year - thinking of the more "inexperienced" parents who might find that sort of information helpful; thinking, I've got 3 kids, people. I'm wa-a-ay beyond all that.

Then I glanced at a title that read "Sibling Rivalry" and my pride was squashed.

Yep, I grabbed it and read it hungrily - looking to glean any tidbits of wisdom that would help me decrease the amount of yelling and hitting and teasing and time-outs and loss of privileges, etc. that goes on in our house on an hourly basis.


Some of it was not surprising - the fact that each child needs our attention and unconditional love. It went on to say that competition for my attention is at the root of a lot of the problems. OK, this makes sense - but I try to give them individual attention (of course, I can always improve on giving more focused attention to each one every day). But, it went on to give examples of how we often compare our kids to each other, like:

"Micah, why can't you learn to eat tomatoes like Keziah?" or "Micah stays in his bed so well at night, why can't you do that too, Keziah?"

Those are more obvious negative comparisons - and I admit we say things like this at times. But telling them to be more like their sibling is probably not the healthiest form of motivation.


Then there are the less obvious comparison comments, like these:

"You're so great at colouring, Micah. Keziah can't even stay in the lines yet!" or "Keziah, you're so much braver than Micah at trying new things."

We mean to compliment our kids, but really we're just reinforcing the sense that we, as parents, are measuring our children against each other.


And how about those frequent comparison comments - made to other adults, but within earshot of our kids:

"When Micah was 4, he could already print his name, but Keziah hardly knows any of her letters yet."

Yep. Guilty, as charged.


So, Erik and I have been much more aware of our language these days. As well as being more intentional about spending time with each child and encouraging their individual interests.

All of this is easier said than done. Comparing our kids is a natural part of being a parent. But even though we know that their differences don't affect the amount we love and value them, our kids may not understand.



We haven't seen any major changes in our house yet. There's still a lot of fighting. And teasing. And threatening to "hate each other for the rest of the day", or better yet, put the other in prison (still not sure why they haven't figured out that their sibling does not have the legal authority to actually do this). The pamphlet did not contain a miracle cure (despite my high hopes...) BUT, it did help me see some small changes we can make that will - hopefully - help decrease the frequency of fighting in the long run.

And as much as I sometimes think we are the only home in the world that endures this much fighting among siblings, I know I must be wrong...

Right?

10 comments:

rachel joy said...

oh my, you are NOT the only family with this! I've been thinking of reading up on it too and making some changes, and I know I'll need more than just a few tips on a pamphlet.

kelly ens said...

ok, i LOVE the way you wrote about this. very entertaining.
and very true. i know we talked about it at ballet last week, but it still rings true now and I'm reminded after a VERY l.o.n.g. week with just TWO kids that I need to be very aware about my words AND actions with them (and tone and volume of my voice). my goodness. i think i may benefit from a night away from them tomorrow night (and them from me!). clear start again on Sunday when they come back...

Tara V said...

wonderful post! Thanks for sharing. You are not at all the only home dealing with this. Dax tells me often he doesn't love me anymore :( I hold the hope that one day it will get better and hold close those days that contain less yelling/fighting/crying. Have a great day!

teresia benedicta&johanna anna said...

you are certainly not alone with that!
i realised recently that lots of my girls' fighting is about "i can't have what she got".so i try to show them that they can play with something else which is equally nice or that they can build something (many fights are about lego and blocks) just as nice as well....
but to deal with a fight at the very end of a long day....oh well...not that easy...

Bonnie said...

Maybe it didn't give you "the" answers, but I found this to be an incredibly insightful post Jamie. I would have never thought about the comparisons thing. Not that I have more than 1 yet, but definitely good stuff to remember for future use. Thanks for sharing this. Hope things continue to improve between your kids!

patti said...

very enlightening.

Kim said...

Great post Jamie. Sibling rivalry is huge here at our house (the yelling, fighting, teasing and jail thing too). I'd like to say it gets easier, but it really only gets different as they get older! That said, I think, as parents we can always learn something (from pamphlets or other parents) that will help us guide and mold our children (and ourselves) into better people

Elissa said...

Dear Jamie, please figure out how to solve the issue of sibling rivalry in the next 6 months and teach me your ways. BTW... I think you're a pro...

Trev and Rebekah said...

You are awesome. Thanks for being so honest and admitting some things you wish to change.

I for one often felt compared to my sister in almost every way. You are right, parents love each child the same but I didn't feel that I it took me years to really let go of some of those type of comments spoken over or against me.

You are doing a great job at trying to kick all this in the butt. I am proud of you! Let's hang out soon

Rick and Sandy said...

...and then they leave home and it's quiet and as parents we sometimes wish there was some noise even if it might be "fighting"; maybe not :)