“Frustrated” writes: My husband and I watch our grandchildren a couple Saturdays each month. We disagree on how to handle the situation when my grandson, age 5, hits out at his sister, age 3. It is usually because she has picked up a toy, often one he’s not even playing with. I think it is not unusual behavior and needs to be handled gently, and my husband thinks the 5 year-old should be punished in some way.
Dear Frustrated: Jealousy at that age is “normal.” I say to worried mothers, “How would you feel if your husband brought home another wife a couple years after you two were married?” While each child holds a special place in their family (i.e., the boy is a boy and is the first-born; the girl is a girl and is the “baby.”), they don’t have the perspective to see that. And the older child probably doesn’t have a good feeling about his reaction, either. Shaming him won’t help him to feel more generous.
I would stay close by physically when they are playing, which helps when safety is endangered and intervention is called for– and to help children feel reassured by an adult’s presence.
When my children were young, I had a stash of toys that were mine. When young friends came over, those were the toys that came out, and no one had to “share.”
I would also establish a rule that whoever is playing with a toy gets to play with it until he or she is done, then make it clear that when the child has decided their turn is over, it is over—no going back. (When that toy belongs to the child, maybe it can be put away when he or she is finished with it.)
For minor squabbles, it is best to stay out of the way. Even a 3 year-old can defend herself against a 5 year-old brother when allowed to. And other feelings of liking to play together can surface once the dispute has been gotten over. (And it is also best not to take sides, but intervene with both if necessary, letting them say how they feel and/or giving them the words to use to express themselves.)
Are the children in need of some new distraction, stimulation, or physical exercise? They are so active at those ages. Maybe your husband (or yourself, of course) can take the older child out for a walk or to a nearby playground, for example.
In the long run, a child’s positive sense of self is the best prevention to the kind of jealousies that siblings inevitably can crop up, even later, with friends, and even as adults, with partners, co-workers. I found that enjoying time with each child one-on-one on a regular basis strengthens the relationship and builds those positive feelings in a child that they are worthy and special in their own right.
And, are we good role models in how we handle conflict? Talking about negative feelings in constructive ways is a good thing.
(I recommend also: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/sibling_rivalry.html)
It is the time of year, for me, of reflection and giving thanks. I have the privilege of having a dear father, age 102, who is also grandfather of my children, and great-grandfather of my grandchildren! This is the letter I sent to my “pop” this week:
Dear Pop, I have decided to let the people in my life know how much I cherish them. You get to be first! I recently pinpointed on a map all the places I’ve lived, and you were a supportive caring constant in my life all the while I was growing up.
– I cherish the memories of our visits to the farm, with cousins and animals and visits to the school your dad helped build, I think, and where our brother’s kids attended,
– my first school experience (kindergarten, where I waited and waited for the teacher to come visit, not knowing she wasn’t coming until the following week!),
– sneaking my cat into bed in Ann Arbor,
– and even that fateful climb up the steps to apologize to the neighbor in the upstairs apartment for eating her delicious canned peaches–that I couldn’t wait to show you when you came home that day!
– The cards and letters with X’s and O’s when you were away in the Army, Continue reading →
Happy Valentine’s Day! PS: Does your relationships need a boost? I’ve just read an article about ”the happy couple*,’ and am passing on the findings by the author, just in time for Valentine’s Day! The research reported there found that not only does coping together in hard times build a relationship, but also accentuating the positive events in the good times (reminds me of a song), including enjoying each other’s successes, also brings people closer together. When was the last time your partner shared good news with you? Were you happy and supportive and interested? GOOD. Do you feel understood, validated, cared for—and vice versa? GOOD. Do you each maintain your own identity, hobbies, preferences? Yes? GOOD. (*Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, Scientific American/Mind/Summer, 2012)
TR writes: My grandson (age 7) and granddaughter (age 5) stay with us after school 3 days a week until their dad picks them up after supper. I insist that they eat some of their vegetables, and sometimes my grandson refuses, the children get into verbal fighs with each other, I raise my voice, and my grandson stalking off. While I don’t go with the idea of “experts” who know better than we do, I feel bad about the situation getting out of control and don’t want my grandchildren to not want to be with us.
A couple of issues here:
1. How to handle a situation when a grandchild refuses to do what you have asked;
2. How relevant are “experts” to our lives?
“Experts” do have suggestions for making situations better, and there is lots of “expert advice” now available through the internet and through books and magazine articles. But, as grandparents, we also have lots of experience Continue reading →
My grandson brought home a permission slip for participation in sex education in his 5th grade class at school. My son-in-law doesn’t think his son should participate. I think sexuality education is important, but I don’t know what to say to him about the subject.
Before your son-in-law says “no,” suggest that he ask the teacher to review with him the curriculum that will be used. He might be surprised at the content. In addition to human development, Continue reading →
Holidays: Want to, need to, do them differently this year?
Are your grandchildren out of school and visiting during the holidays? Do they say there’s nothing to do?
1. A most practical newsletter article (Dec 2012) comes from 123Magic Parenting website. The author suggests building some structure into each day. (I recall those crazy days when school recesses for a couple of weeks, Continue reading →
GW, TN, writes: Now that the election is over, I am wishing that I could have given my grandchild, who is now of voting age, a better understanding of the importance of civic duty, including why it is important to be informed of the issues and then voting. How might I do that now for the future? (My son and his wife don’t always agree on politics, so I don’t want to get in the middle.)
Contributing positively to society, including participation in political decision making, is important for a healthy world we live in, and it also enriches us. The phrase “enlightened self interest” comes to mind.
MS, IA, writes: “I worry about the “junk food” my grandchildren, ages 9 and 11, consume on a regular basis. I’m not sure how to approach the issue with my son and daughter-in-law. I know they don’t always have time to cook the most nutritious meals after they get home from work. And I try to provide good meals when the grandchildren are at our home, but they don’t always like what we serve.”
I would first concentrate on what I can do when the children are at my home. I’d ask their parents what foods the children like, from fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, and meats. I would simply say that we are planning to improve our diets Continue reading →
From Jean, IL: My children are grown and have moved on. I am a widow, and I am thinking of selling my home to downsize. Two of my children are making noises that things won’t be the same if their families can’t come to visit grandma on holidays. I think they wish they could visit their old neighborhood and their old rooms! Is it wrong of me to want to make this change?
Dear Jean, My opinion (and an opinion only): I think making a positive change that will allow you to live in comfort is a good thing! Aside from the financial savings and possible negative ramifications (selling the house may create a profit that can be taxed, even if you purchase a less expensive home–best to verify those issues with an expert), there are many other issues Continue reading →
LS, CA, asks: My grandson is in his last month of his sophomore year, and he has been assigned to research and write a paper on a complicated subject. He has one week to complete this assignment, and with other homework, sports, and a part-time job, he has asked me to help him with it. I’ve done a bit of writing papers in school and work. I’m not sure how much to help him. If I help him, will that be teaching him that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his own work?
Dear LS, By helping him, you can help him “learn how to do it.” He can complete his high school requirements and can learn some tools Continue reading →
Historical places are all around us, and we can bring the struggles and sacrifices, successes and failures, motivations and values, to life for our grandchildren. Today’s children could use a larger perspective of life, looking beyond their immediate lives, and an appreciation of the contributions of those who came before us. In spite of Garrison Keeler’s wise reminder to us older folks to stop whining about having to walk miles to school in snowstorms, or similar stories we may have, because the kids aren’t interested (New York Times, don’t remember the date!), they can be engaged in experiences Continue reading →
DW, wrote: My step-daughter who is 37 and her son who is 4 1/2 yrs old live with my husband and i. He has received a few ”notes to home” from the pre-school to address the issues about throwing a toy at school or taking a toy from one of the other kids and when the teacher asks him about it, he obviously tells her “it’s not me.” My daughter called him a liar. LIAR is such a harsh word to be called as a adult much less a 4 yr old child. I have asked her to stop calling him that, not dismissing the issue about telling the truth to mommy or grandma or teachers, but explaining in a less nasty way why he should tell the truth, and she is upset about itI think she is mad about my input as to her parenting techniques with this issue, rather then anything else but i am beginning to question myself on anything i say. Just trying to find some common ground with others who may be in the same situations. Any help would be appreciated. Worried Grandma
My response: Dear Worried Grandma, My heart goes out to you and your daughter in this situation. In the first place, the preschool staff have a responsibility to help children with any behavior problems that come up, Continue reading →