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New Sibling Behavior
July 16, 2012 - Stacey Sacco
I expected a few bumps in the road when we added a baby to the family. Matthias is older and had done this once before, so I didn’t anticipate too many problems from him. Justus is still very young and I was prepared for jealousy and general unhappiness at having a yet smaller share of his parent’s attention.
There was some of that behavior, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. What I didn’t anticipate (but probably should have) was that my smart savvy boys would learn how to work this situation to their advantage. They quickly realized that I can’t always immediately react to their arguments, needs, or general bad behavior so they get away with more than they normally would.
I’ve tried to come up with solutions that will be easy to enforce (for me) and easy to comply with (for them). Somehow, all of my plans get rerouted. I'll be the first to admit that consistency is a problem. Sometimes I can quickly react and redirect the behavior. The next time, I may have Anelise in the bathtub and I can't play referee. Hopefully, they are at least learning to navigate sibling relationships.
The Problem: Toys scattered all over the floor.
My Solution: I set a kitchen timer every evening for ten minutes and ask them to spend that time picking up the toys. I’m not particular about them being super organized. I just don’t want to step on Matchbox cars and Lego pieces in the dark. After they go to bed, any toys that they don’t pick up become mine and they have to complete a chore in order to get them out of toy prison.
The Backfire: Matthias has now decided that he’ll only pick up the toys that he thinks he’ll want to play with in the near future. He regularly tells me “I picked up all the toys I want.” I end up cleaning up most of the toys again.
The Problem: Fighting between the boys always escalates when I’m busy with the nursling.
My Solution: I have activities for them to do while I’m nursing. Some of these activities are for them individually, some together, and some include all of us. I have books to read and puzzles to put together while I’m sitting.
The Backfire: Although they like some of the activities, wrecking cars, fire-breathing dragons destroying block castles, and sword fights are much more entertaining. Doubly so when mama can’t jump up to stop you from pinning your brother into a corner and threatening to steal all his toys. My calm activities just can’t keep their interest long enough.
The Problem: They sometimes are expected to sit and eat their meals at the table without an adult constantly by their side.
My Solution: I prepare both meals with the exact same foods and make sure they have enough so they aren’t screaming for more in a few minutes, but not so much that they are throwing food on the floor or wasting it.
The Backfire: Without an adult, it just becomes another play time. Complete fail in this department. The floor is always a disaster because Justus throws food or spits milk across the table. I constantly yell at Matthias to get back in his seat and eat. Then Justus eats all of Matthias’ food anyway and they are both complaining they are hungry as soon as I sit down to nurse Anelise again.
The Problem: General craziness of three little ones.
My Solution: Try to have structure and consistency. Use all those great parenting techniques I read about.
The Backfire: Our lovely routine as been lost. It seems like when one kid starts to get into the swing of a normal routine, another one changes his or hers. I’m always a few steps behind in adapting to the changes. Consistency seems to be a thing of the past since there are times I can enforce the rules and times that all I can do is yell until I’m sick of hearing my own voice. And worst of all, just to have a short period of time each day where they aren’t fighting or tearing apart the house, I let them watch TV- a reward for their poor behavior.
Although I’m not looking forward to the return to school in the fall, I’m hoping it will bring more structure to our days and help us develop a routine that actually works for everyone. Maybe then I’ll feel more capable of designing creative solutions to these problems.
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