Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dealing with Rivalry Graciously

Since our two kids are not only small, but fairly close in age, we haven't had to deal with the rivalry issue too much in the past few months. Just when I thought that perhaps, by some magic gift, we had skipped the rivalry stage altogether, here it is, staring us square in the face. Our little baby has started crawling, meaning that she no longer gives our toddler much space... and that has tipped us out of balance. In one late night parent strategy session, Ben and I decided to just lay out a plan and stick to it, and see how it goes.

1. Try to keep problems from cropping up
*Give each child ample play space by setting them up separately from time to time
*Increase one on one time with each child while rivalry seems intense: this has been surprisingly effective in our household! I never imagined that a date with mommy would lead to a pleasant disposition all of the next day.
*Set expectations at the beginning of trips and play times (I'm setting Lily up with this toy so she can play with it by herself, etc)
*Give children plenty of opportunities for exercise, artistic expression, and adult interaction. Make sure that immediate needs, like hunger, thirst, and warmth are met. Seems obvious but I must admit I often forget the basics myself!

2. Deal with problems graciously but firmly when they arise
*Use child's temperament to guide reaction: for example, our 2 year old feels things very strongly and is quite likely to respond to empathy if we give an explanation. A more physical child may need something like physical separation.
*Have zero tolerance for physical aggression, but give the child some outlet for their emotions: "I can tell you're feeling angry. Do you want to show me how that feels on this pillow?"
*Acknowledge the emotion that is leading to an action without encouraging the behavior.
*Take a deep breath, give thanks for one wonderful thing your child has done in that day, say a prayer, and wait for a better day.

One week into our experiment things feel like they're leveling out. Parenthood seems to be a delicate mix of chance, grace, and effort, so who knows exactly what has pulled us back into equilibrium. But I do have more peace knowing that I have a plan of action to help deal with the problem-- a plan that is gracious and loving, yet addresses our family's issues.

Okay, experienced mamas and papas out there, how do you deal with rivalry? I'm taking notes!

Completed in 18 minutes.

This blog is a part of Steady Mom's 30-minute blog challenge. Less time blogging, more time for parenthood. Amen to that.


Kim & Dave said...

Great tips! We are right in the thick of this stage-a three year old & a two year old!

se7en said...

Hay there, Great 30 minute post!!! I am with you rivalry only really begins when the "baby" begins to crawl and get into the older ones life!!! But it is also the time that the "baby" becomes so much fun to play with!!! I think often we so focus on the rivalry that we forget that most of each day they get along just great and are actually best friends. Here is one of my sibling rivalry posts, if you want to take a look:

Adele said...

Thank you, that is a wonderful post with so much to think about! But why am I surprised? You have eight kids and lots of experience!

Adele said...

And also, great advice on the reframe... you're right, focusing on rivalry takes the attention away from the vast majority of the time that there's equilibrium and joy.

Lauren Oliver said...

1) Lily is crawling?!!! That's wonderful!

2) You should write a book on parenting. It sounds like you know what you're doing (at least from my classroom and book learning about child development, etc.).