“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)
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 →
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 →
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 →
LG, Oregon, writes: I was hoping when my grandson went to preschool, he would be interested in art activities, but he wants to spend most of his time playing outside.
Sometimes the very thing we want our children to be interested in is just the thing they avoid! That may come from the child’s responding negatively to a pressure they feel from the adult. This is especially true in creative areas, as creativity needs space, room, opportunity–with time to explore in a non-judgmental atmosphere. “Process” Continue reading →
KN, CA, writes that when her grandchildren stay over, they don’t seem to eat well at dinnertime.
This is a common complaint with young children, whose appetites vary day-by-day and time of day. They may fuss over your favorite meals, or ”aren’t hungry” by the time dinner is served. If you can’t adjust the meals or the times of the meals to work for the children, preparing healthy snacks for them will give them the day’s nutrients they need.
Low-fat, low-sugar, and added veges, fruits, and protein foods can be accomplished with a little planning ahead. For meals, a rule of thumb is to have a protein, and fruit or vege, and a carbo (bread, cracker, grain, noodle, etc.). Continue reading →
LM, San Francisco, writes: My husband loves having our grandchildren visit, but he doesn’t really get down to their level and do things with them. They are 6 and 9. He’s retired now, and I’d like to encourage him to be more active with them.
Have you spoken with him about the subject? Children used to be women’s domain, and men’s and women’s roles were assumed—but many men are now very active with their children. Your grandchildren are at wonderful ages—before the teen years bring new preoccupations. Assuming “granddad” is interested in being more actively involved with them, suggest some things Continue reading →
Grandparents have a unique opportunity to help their grandchildren in ways that busy parents may not be able to do. We often see an overview of family dynamics and can see the effects of the media overload, instant-gratification, but not-enough-attention, that plagues our families. Visits to “grandma’s house,” where we can take time for 2-way communication with the children, can be a rejuvenating experience that will help children as they interact with the world.
Goldie Hawn’s Foundation’s program, MindUP (www.thehawnfoundation.org/curriculum), addresses the onslaught of media, the effects of parents working and being away from home many hours of the day, and the resulting lack of ability and opportunity to focus on inner growth and self awareness. Continue reading →
Jean from NC writes: My husband and I watch my grandson after school until his parents pick him up after work. He brings homework that my son expects him to finish at our house, but he just wants to run around with the dog and a ball.
To begin, why homework at six? And how regimented is his school day? “Running around” may be the best thing for him, physically and emotionally. I like the Waldorf School approach (Wikipedia), where learning is through play until about 7, where “reading and writing” are introducted, Continue reading →