“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 →
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 →
“To spank or not to spank” can elicit heated discussion, but is that the wrong question? It depends on what you want to achieve. Maybe the question is: How can we be in charge and discipline so that children learn and eventually do what is expected of them—and grow up to be happy, healthy, responsible, productive members of society?
Guidelines from the Positive Discipline Parenting and Classroom Management Model (www.positivediscipline.com) articulate some specific objectives of discipline they find consistent with helping children to grow to become responsible adults: Continue reading →