The key to sibling harmony and family acceptance
Kings and queens never take kindly to being ousted from their thrones, and kids don’t like being ousted from theirs by a new baby sibling.
Perhaps your firstborn is about to be stripped of his or her title: the one and only, baby and child of the family.
Early sibling rivalry is a result of your firstborn losing his or her place that was perceived as an identity within the family. The new baby is sliding right into what used to be your older child’s spot, title, duty and position.
As a mom of four, I quickly realized I had to get this right in order to maintain peace, sanity and prevent a negative label from being placed on the newbie.
After my second was born, I soon found out that my two-year-old was not buying that she was still my “baby.” Luckily, I quickly found the key to sibling harmony. Acceptance came by creating and equipping my older children with a new identity or position in the family that was not just equally as good — but better than just being the baby.
I began teaching my firstborn that she was my big girl, my special helper and an important contributor to the family. I taught her how to get diapers and wipes, her sister’s swaddle blanket, and fold and wash clothes beside me. We also took special breaks away from her baby sister by doing big girl things that absolutely thrilled and motivated her. We had tea parties using beautiful and delicately patterned china, silver and crystal. This taught my big girl her table manners so we could start going to restaurants and teahouses for our breaks away from her little sister.
Kids don’t want to feel like they’re guests at a bed and breakfast. They want to feel like important contributors to the family, that they’re needed, wanted and worth teaching new skills to and investing in. Today we rarely give toddlers and preschoolers enough credit, or the kind of attention they are developmentally ready for. We baby them far longer than it is necessary or helpful to them…or to their potential siblings.
Of course it’s more convenient to make them happy all the time, bending over backwards to try and give them the same attention, response and treatment we gave them as babies. But we can only keep up this gig for so long before what used to work, no longer works, and the child is wiser to it and less and less satisfied. Most importantly, they can become delayed in their ability to be patient, self- controlled, and others-focused rather than self-focused. I believe these are critical and important character traits for toddlers and preschoolers to learn while they are still completely protected and under the primary influence of parents before heading off to school, where we begin to lose our influence.
It was to my delight and surprise that my children, almost without any resistance at all, embraced their important new roles and graduations within our family by loving and accepting their new siblings. It was such a positive experience, that I went on to have two more kiddos within six years and my passion for teaching them increased. These were by far the best years of my life! Now, I have four amazing, capable and happy young adults that are each other’s best friends.
You can do this…and so can your children!
Written by Jenni June Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, CLC and Mom of four amazing young adults!