Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Sibling Talk

One of my more specific goals that falls under several of my aforementioned overall goals is that my children grow up with good relationships between themselves. From the moment I knew I was having a girl for the second time, I started fretting over this. I immediately read the Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman, which I highly recommend. (I am a worrier and a plan ahead kind of girl. I have to have something to be "worried" about and try to learn about it and "fix it" all the time it seems. Motherhood is a perfect place for that!) Anyway, since those pregnant days when this was all just theory I have had many opportunities to encourage the girls to love each other and be the best of friends. The dynamic between the two of them is very similar to my sister and me as we grew up. I was the bossy, my way or the highway one, like Hannah, and my sister was the laid back, whatever you want as long as you'll play with me one, like Genna, until ages 7 and 5 that is. At 5 years of age, my sister got a mind of her own and friends of her own at school, and let's just say, I was history. The days of my manipulations came to a screeching halt, and she turned on me! For the next 20 years (give or take) I paid for every mistake I made in those early years. I am desperate to avoid history repeating itself with my own little girls.

Some of the things I do as a sort of preemptive strike are listed here, because as I mentioned before I L-O-V-E lists!

1. Never have them compete for anything against each other. Don't get me wrong, I am a competitive girl and love competition as much as the next gal, but here in this family we are all on the same team. We help each other in running "with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1.)

2. I brainwash them with the mantra, "You are best friends!" This may sound like a joke, but I am as serious as a heart attack. To kids this age, especially girls, being best friends is what it's all about. They make a best friend in about 5 seconds at the park without even learning the other kid's name. So, I figure if I say it enough, they will accept it and believe it. I guess we'll see. I constantly remind them that their siblings are the playmates that get to move with them where ever we go. Our lifestyle consists of all too many sad Good-byes to dear friends, but their sister is someone we will always pack up and take with us. :) A friend for life!

3. Explain constantly about how to love each other, why we love, where that love should come from, and what it means to love. Another mantra of ours when they have done something unloving to each other is, "We don't____ our sister, we love our sister." They have been finishing this sentence for me since they could talk. This is obviously something we are all commanded to do to everyone, but all these valuable lessons start in the home!

4. Encourage sharing and discourage the word "mine." Since they are so close in age, they play with pretty much the same stuff. There are a few things that are precious to them that I allow them to keep to themselves if they choose, but mostly everything is shared and nothing belongs to any particular child. Hannah has a harder time with this than Genna, but it is usually a momentary thing that passes. When faced with a "Mine," I usually just say that none of the toys are actually own by them and everything under the sun belongs to God anyway. If it belongs to God then what would God want you to do with it? Share it! Plus, don't forget the ever important timer. Five minutes for you and then five minutes for you! If none of this works then I throw my hands in the air and put the item on top of the fridge until the next day or whenever I notice it up there again.

5. Apologies followed up with a physical sign of regret and forgiveness, like a hug, kiss, high five, a tickle are required around here. I have noticed that if they are required to kiss or tickle each other after a disagreement that the mood is lightened and many times all is forgotten amidst the giggles.

I have to admit that I do get involved in their disagreements instead of letting them "work it out on their own" as many have recommended. The reason for this is what actually prompted this post in the first place. Hannah manipulates Genna so that Hannah ends up with exactly what she wants every time. She is so good at this, in fact, that if I then step in and state how the solution they came up with is unfair to Genna, Genna insists that it is fair and that she is happy with the new plan. Wow! Mom, was I that good too? Here is an example.

They were fighting over a doll. I thought I would try this whole work it out on their own thing and sent them off to do just that. They come back and tell me that the plan is that Hannah will play with the doll for 31 minutes and then Genna can have it for 3 minutes ("Three cuz I'm 3, Mom, "Genna insists.) I say no that's not fair lets just do our regular timer thing for 5 minutes. Hannah and Genna insist that they have a better plan AND they forgot to mention that Genna wants Hannah to tell when her 31 minutes is up. Well, what do you do then? Genna is suddenly not interested in the doll and wouldn't have taken it if I had tried to force her to do so. Another way this goes down is that Hannah just simply says, "Well, then I don't want to play with you," and Genna instantly backs down at the thought of losing her playmate.

Well, bless her heart, Genna doesn't have a clue here! This is the kind of thing that I am afraid will lead to a rebellion once she gets older and gets a mind of her own and friends of her own.

Here's another scenario that bothers me. Hannah sends Genna on errands for her and Genna happily complies. Just last week, Hannah forgot her backpack as we were getting in the car and I told her to go back and get it. What does she do? Snaps her fingers and Genna brings it right to her before I can even stop her. I explained the whole thing about how Genna won't always be like this and that one day she may even be angry with Hannah for manipulating her. I even busted out stories from my childhood, like the time I ate the top half of the cupcake when my mom told me to eat half and give my sister half or the time I didn't want to play with her so I put her in time out during our pretend play so I could play dolls in my room alone. After all this Hannah turns to Genna and asks her if she will be mad at her one day like my sister was, and Genna says,"No, I won't Hannah." Hannah turns to me and says, "She said she won't, Mom" with a shrug of her shoulders. (Sigh.) It's just like looking in a mirror.

If anyone has anything to add to being involved in the disagreements versus letting them work it out, please, lay it on me!

All that said, there is nothing sweeter than when they show love to each other! I wouldn't trade it for anything! My favorite loving moments will have to wait since this post is entirely too long already. Perhaps, I will make Sunday Sibling Talk a regular occurrence!

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