The school supplies are back in the stores, it feels like the time on summer is winding down. Before long we'll be packing lunches and backpacks, rushing out the door. I try not to mention this too much as we wish it could stay summer forever over here.
Are you ready for summer to be done at your house? Have you started the earlier bedtimes yet? Or do you soak in every last minute?
If school is on your brain, check out this awesome guide to all things about going to school. It's especially great if you have a first timer.
I'm writing from Kigali, Rwanda where there is no shortage of ten year old girls who are happy to tell me their stories and show me their strength--in their academics, their home life and their dreams for the future. One of the things that strikes me about children in Africa is how independent and self-sufficient they are. Your average ten year old can navigate the bus system, go to the market to buy food, care for a younger sibling, wash clothes by hand and walk a good mile or two to carry water home for the entire family.
It begs the question: are we spoiling our children by making sure they are cared for, entertained or watched over every second? or are we truly giving them the protection that they need from legitimate dangers that exist in our society? What do you think? Can you imagine raising a ten year old to be capable of handling much more responsibility?
I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
We are at that point in the summer where everyone has been together nonstop and we are going a little nutty. Everything feels annoying from everyone to everyone. Throw a little heat in the mix and it's pretty much a recipe for miserable living. This is the moment for intervention, or maybe not, whatever your personal solution might be to one of the biggest parenting struggles, sibling rivalry.
It's been pretty bad over here so I came up with a few strategies. Don't know if they will work for you but maybe it's worth a shot?
1. Give Them Something To Do. Many a conflict start out from being bored. Bothering your sister is something to do when you have run out of all other ideas. Sometimes a project can bring them back together, other times doing the same project in separate spaces is called for. Pull out small art kits and other special things might be in order.
2. Stop And Spend Time Together. The last thing I want to do is spend time with fighting children but it is often the very thing most needed. I find when I disengage and enter their world for just awhile it diffuses the angst floating around. Reading a book to them in bed, watching a movie together, playing a game of tag makes them forget they can't stand each other for a bit.
3. Do An Intervention Dance. Sometimes, doing very little or nothing at all is the answer. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote the best book on sibling relationships called Siblings Without Rivalry. They talk about a strategy of how to help kids navigate their own conflicts by "stepping in so you can step out". Helping kids identify their feelings in the moment (stepping in) and then allowing kids to work out (stepping out) how they are going to deal with them.
There are times when children can navigate their own conflict but it might take longer than we prefer, other times they need us to set up the navigation just a bit. I find it helps to have the kids face each other at eye level, allow each other to say what is bothering them and then ask each child if they have any ideas for solutions. After a few times, kids can actually do this themselves. If no one is ready or willing, I let them go to their own spaces until they we can come together for another try. It can be a bit of a dance figuring out which is needed when.
4. Get Some Playdate Parties Going. Everyone needs a little time away once in awhile. Now is the time to call your best friend and ask to trade various kids for the day. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? fingers crossed.
5. Forget Fair. "It's not fair!" Have you heard this? Can I get an amen from the middle child in the house? Switch verbage to needs. Things are not always fair and never will be but we can do our best to meet each others needs. When we are deep into the "mine isn't as big, she got more, etc..", the need question helps loads. "Is there something you are worried about or need?" More about this in the book mentioned above.
6. Put Everyone In Time Out. Start with yourself. When things are bad and you are spent from screeching and yelling, hide for awhile. I used to lock myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes (making sure all was safe first if you have littles) or run errands when my husband got home at night. Even being in the car by myself in silence felt like a luxury. If I could re-group, I could help the kids too.
When we were kids, my mom banished us to our rooms to "work it out". We hated it and I don't know if it always worked but somewhere in that time we decided to gang up against her. We came out annoyed with her but somehow fine with each other.
7. Start An Acts of Kindness List. See how documenting kindness can change the vibe in your family.
Got any other good tips for sibling relationships? Please, please share them. This is definitely a topic where two heads are better than one.
First off, I would like to say that I get it. If you are thinking that I am unable to see the look of terror that is constantly on my youngest's face when I post pictures, I want you to know that I see it. Not only do I see it, I spend every single day protecting him from the savages that are his brothers. In the defense of his brothers, I seem to be unable to catch a shot of the baby when he is laughing in sheer delight and joy at some silly thing a brother is doing to capture his attention.
But back to our regularly scheduled topic of Friendship Day. Which was actually yesterday. I was talking to Ethan about friendships and we discussed his friend Harrison. Then I mentioned that his brother Nate was his friend too. He quickly corrected me to say that his brother is his BROTHER, not his friend. I laughed because he and his brother Nathan play as well together as he does with his friend Harrison. Lately I have discovered that everything is very clear-cut when you are four. You are either one thing or another. You feel one thing or another. There is no middle ground at four. So I am here to tell you that Nate is NOT HIS FRIEND but is his brother. I didn't even bother to ask about the little one.
While Jen is off to her Rwandan home away from home collecting stories for Picture Hope, I've been left to pass on the Supersister Weekend Roundups.
So here are my favorite things from this week:
All things Julie Andrews lead me to this lovely version of the ever popular song.
Moms that know how to say sorry to kids. It is the kind of stellar parenting that I take notes on.
Playing the emoticon game with my kids.
Blueberry picking which leads to a variety of baking, including to die for blueberry muffins. Enjoy!
Anything that involves hula hoops and fitness.
Tell me your favorite things in the comments. Links or no links, we'd love to read them.