Friday, April 26, 2013

Sibling Rivalry

Siblings...I have a feeling this is going to be Part One of many, many posts about sibling rivalry, disagreements, etc. as my children grow.  Now I know my baby is only 11 months old and can't talk yet, and I still have a toddler, but the, 'It's Mine!' has already started. 

There is only so much you can do during this baby stage.  For those with slightly older kids and needing help with sibling issues, I love the book Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by the same women (Faber and Mazlish) who wrote my fave, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen.  Stay tuned for more on this book later.

But for now, I am dealing with a toddler, soon to be preschooler, in the egocentric stage where everything is centered around her.  Psychologist Piaget said that kids at this ego centric stage (ages 2-7) can only see things from their point of view.  AND they imagine that everyone shares their point of view too, because of course their view is the only possible view that exists, right?  So basically it means they are almost incapable of sharing.

We can try to teach them to share, which I started at like 6 months of age by modeling sharing, but that's all we can do, model and hope that they eventually will get it.  But for the most part, they just aren't there yet.  For modeling, I am always sharing things such as giving her bites of my dinner and letting her know I am 'sharing' (because she never wants to share her food with me ;)  And I model sharing with things we play with, like play dough, or taking turns with her Legos.

But we have hit a rough patch lately with her baby sister where everything is "Mine!" as our 11 month old is crawling and getting into everything, which of course is causing complete meltdowns by our toddler. 

It looks something like this:

-Baby crawling into toddler's Princess Castle and taking Cinderella and Snow White characters and eating them.
- Toddler crying, "Mommy, she's getting my castle, it's mine!"  "Get her, get her!"

I first typically try to acknowledge the toddler's feelings:, "Oh I can see how much it upsets you to see your sister playing with your toy, and you don't like sharing with her."

And then say some variations of the following:

"But babies don't know how to share and they love to explore toys"


"She wants to be just like her big sister and play with her and her fun toys!"


"I know it's hard to share, but your sister shares her toys with you and we have to take turns."  Which of course she hates to hear.

AND I also try to tell the baby how to share, and say, "We take turns when we play, and we share when we play," even though she doesn't get it, at least my toddler is hearing me say it to her younger sister too.

BUT, now I have a new strategy that I came up with to use with my two youngins.  It's called:  NO-SHARE TIME!

That's right, a special play time when they don't have to share.  Just like when I conduct play therapy groups with kids, I don't make the children share, because as a play therapist, I want them to lead the session and it's the only time that they have to truly and freely express themselves.

So I told my girls the other day that for 15 minutes of playtime, we were going to have a new NON-SHARE playtime together!  My toddler was smiling from ear to ear and dancing around the room in excitement.

Needless to say, it was beyond easy for my toddler to jump at this chance and play!  But as for the baby, not so much.  I had to explain to the baby that during that time, the toys were not for sharing (and telling her this more for my toddler to hear because of course she doesn't quite get it), and then basically had to redirect the baby onto a new toy.

At the end of the session, I could tell they both had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it.  I think it's going to be a new requested playtime in our house!  And I think it reinforces what sharing really is all about.

By giving them these brief playtimes where they can lead the play session, it will give them a sense of power and control and a feeling of being understood.  And I am hoping that if their needs are getting met during this time, it will decrease future disagreements and temper tantrums!



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