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.
Can you almost hear the whining in the picture? I am calling all parenting experts on this one as the whining is about to do me in.
I tell her I can't quite understand her whining voice.
I model the phrase and tone, she repeats with no problem.
I occasionally ignore or I ask her to try again.
I ask her how I can help and invite her to start over.
While she responds to all of this, it doesn't seem to stop or cut down the mind numbing voice. I'm stumped.
Any ideas superpeople? Do you have any whiners at your house? Give it to me.
Chances are the kid that makes you the most crazy will turn out to be the president of the United States, or at least this is what I keep telling myself. Spirited children are challenging, smart, funny, strong, tender and well sometimes, hard.
Here's what I've learned so far after many mistakes and triumphs:
Everybody knows but you. Well meaning friends always know what you should do to help the struggles you have with hard kids. Sometimes they are right and have a perspective you can't see because you are so "in it." Other times, not so much. It's okay to blow off or spend less time with the expert parents, grandparents, friends every now and then.
You are tired. This is an understatement. Parenting is hard and parenting harder kids is exhausting. I would even venture to say you need more breaks and time away than the average to be the parent you want and need to be to this child. Take the time, ask even if it feels hard to, you'll be glad you did.
The world expects children to be little adults. We are only 50 years from the "children should be seen and not heard" way of thinking. Our society is often unaware of behaviour that is purely developmental. The expectations are high and we often set our kids up for failure. Read up on your kid's development, it might help.
The great push. The truth is, these kids push us to be better parents. We have to aquire skills to make it work and to meet their needs. They can teach us loads about ourselves if we hang in there and keep trying.
So the comment section is open to your thoughts on extreme parenting, vent, send us tips, tell us your stories. Or at least weigh in telling us you are in the same boat, we'll throw you a life vest.
I'm convinced children are the masters at communicating and connecting in our world. Why we don't take notes and classes is a total mystery to me. A code has been created in our house during the last few weeks. It is what we like to call The Cricket Code.
I'm not sure how she came up with it but Lucy has been tagging "cricket" to our names during certain conversations. When we picked up that it was a kind of code we all started using it.
"We are the girls together! Right mama cricket?" Lucy said.
"We are Lucy cricket!" I replied.
The code usually means one of four things.
I want to connect.
I love you.
I need you.
In tense moments, I see her try the code to invite me to meet her in the middle. Other times it makes space for us to melt into a celebration of our shared goodness. Sometimes you just need a way to convey a thought or a feeling with out actually using the words. I am in awe when my children find ways to make our relationship better. In some ways I feel like I understand her in a way I never have before.
Do you have any codes or connecting games at your house? My friend Gina and her son Yates do this funny face game which ends in a tight hug and lots of giggling.
Are you looking for more help with this topic? I know I always am. Check out this guide for more connecting goodness.
Mom, look what I found!
I don't want to tell you how high up this nest is or how my mind started racing to think of what she was doing out here to notice it anyway, but she found it and now here I am teetering precariously on a stool turned ladder, trying to get the shot so we can preserve this moment forever.
Here Mom, give it to me.
I pass her the camera and wish for another so I could shoot her shooting the nest. Her expert eye, her determination to get in close, her willingness to climb, to risk, to hold still in midair so that what she sees can be seen by everyone else she loves who couldn't be there.
That's my girl, and for all my complaints about how she procrastinates or argues or refuses to comply with my made up rules, she also has this part, too--the wild girl with so much magic, so much wonder, so much appreciation for beauty.
Treasures are waiting to be discovered--even in that kid in your family who you hate to admit sometimes punches your buttons. Especially in that kid who reminds you over and over again the rules don't always apply.
Can you see your "difficult" child as a treasure hunter bringing you back to the forgotten parts of yourself? Here's hoping you can claim your bounty today--in the form of an egg or a nest or a girl who happens to be a lot like you.
When I first discovered Mccabe Russell online, I knew this dancing mermaid would be just the person to encourage supersisters (and superdads) who want to see their girls grow creative and strong. McCabe is a self-taught artist who has dedicated her work to helping young girls feel good about themselves through art and creative play. In her mermaid camps, girls of all ages weave affirmations and poetry into art journaling, mixed media. homemade candles, and fairy jars to name a few. I asked Mccabe to tell us more about her mermaid warrior classes and what she knows now after fifteen years of creating safe space for girls to explore themselves while also learning the power of supporting others.
What is a mermaid warrior?
A mermaid warrior is a girl who is not afraid to be herself. She also supports her mermaid sister-friends~its all about encouraging each other through art and friendship.
What are your little mermaid friends telling you about what little girls need these days? Any tips for moms who are having trouble connecting?
What I hear most from my little mermaid students is that they need to feel understood. I think as adults we sometimes rush to find a solution or teach the lesson. These things are important and have a place, but it is equally important to just listen to what they are saying. When a tender issue arises, try to give them your undivided attention so that they know their feelings are valued. I have also found that even when a child is not ready to share, a simple, "I know it feels hard right now" can do wonders. Feel WITH them. We all want to feel normal and connected even in our hardest emotions.
Why do you think little girls are so drawn to the princess thing?
I think Disney plays a big part in that! I think it seems exciting and glamorous to them with all the pink tooling and handsome prince bouncing on a white horse. Being a princess seems to equal a happy ending. A part of me cringes when I hear a little girl say she wants to be a "princess when she grows up." I love fairy tales, but they often don't tell the whole story. I want girls to feel like they are beautiful without the costumes and drama...that they are perfect and enough in their everyday self.
We're all about ages and stages here on the supersister blog. In your experience, is there any difference between what a five year old or a ten year old mermaid needs?
The five year old mermaids (at first) need to be assured that they are doing it "right." They feel safe in knowing that their artwork and presence is approved by others. At the same time, they thrive in independence and love the opportunity to do so. I feel it is important to teach them the joy of doing art for yourself, whether it gets put up on the fridge or not. When asked my opinion on a piece of artwork I love to ask, "Do YOU like it?" Once they start school they begin comparing their art to other kids, and a piece of the magic gets lost. At the same time five year olds are very free and not afraid to ask questions or give new ideas.
Ten year old mermaids need to feel their uniqueness is honored and valued. Many of them are torn between wanting to establish their own individuality, and yet not feeling brave enough to be themselves. It is a tough pull, so 9 and 10 year old girls need extra encouragement and love in this area. This topic might not be regular dialogue between their peers, so getting them together to talk about these things is powerful and healing. They are so relieved when they discover they are not alone in their feelings.
One more. What drew you to this work?
I had a really hard time as a kid, especially around the age of twelve. So much was happening and I did not have anyone to talk to about it. It makes me sad that i carried all that shame around for all those years, and yet it is my superpower to help others in this special way. In my early twenties, I found an art healing class, and began the long journey back to myself. I kept thinking how great it would have been to have a class like that at twelve. Over time i discovered that my passion was being the person I needed as a child to other girls. It is empowering for everyone. Our pain has great power if used correctly.
Thanks, Mccabe! Supersisters, leave a comment telling us the thing you love the most about raising girls. We'll send a special mermaid surprise to one lucky commenter.
Lucy inherited these very fashionable shoes from her older cousin Madeleine. They were singing karaoke together and Mada very kindly let Lucy try them on. It helps to have the right outfit on when you are rockin' your best song. Lucy was so in love with the shoes that Madeleine decided to let her keep them when she left. It's true love when a your girl gives you the shoes off of her feet.
This fashion forward toddler has worn them every single day since. Did I mention it was winter? We have had many a drama about why high heel flip flops (3 sizes too big) might not be the best choice for pretty much any public outing. But ever since these shoes entered our house, I have felt a little crack in my uptight fashion parenting. They make her so happy. I started to ask myself why I even care so much. Is matching really a must? I'll admit, for me sometimes it is, but today maybe not so much.
This morning she came out in a striped turquoise 12-18 month sized cap sleeve shirt she found in a hand-me-down box (which made for a bare midriff), along with a mini skirt and brown and pink striped tights underneath. The sparkly flower sandals graced her feet. She was delighted and completely proud of her fashion ensemble.
I looked her up and down. "Well Luce, you might want to grab a jacket so you aren't cold." I said. I believe this was a matter of choosing my battles. She squealed with excitement and ran to grab her coat. She walked a little taller all day while I admired all her joy.
I still call the shots on dressing over here with a free day (like the one today) every once in awhile. What are the dressing and fashion standards at your place? Is it I'm-just-glad-you-have-clothes-on kind of vibe or do your kids have coordinating matching outfits? Or do you find yourself somewhere in between? Let us know your family fashion facts in the comments.
photo by jen
Lucy was in the middle of "it's mine". There had already been about 1,000 statements claiming all that was hers. It was so bad that when a dear friend started to sing The Clean Up song she said, "NO! That's my song. My Mr. Jim (her teacher) sings that, it's MY school song." I shifted uncomfortably yet playfully stated that I was sure neither Lucy nor Mr. Jim owned the rights to that ever popular song. I suggested that maybe every parent and kid in the world shared it.
We all laughed and I tried not to feel embarrassed. I know this is normal and totally developmentally appropriate. I know her power is wonderful and she will possibly one day rule the world.
I know she is her own individual...and yet there are moments when I still cringe. We are such different people, besides the fact that she is 3 and I am 32.
While I am growing and learning as a parent, I still have moments of feeling the social pressure and wishing she were more polite because it is one of my own big personal values. I stack up my performance as a parent and wonder what those around me must be thinking. I view her as an extension of me which can be disastrous for us both.
In this process I'm finding she is teaching me to live a more authentic life. I am teaching her how to use her power in the most effective way. I imagine we are both and forever will be finding our way.
Do you ever have these moments? How do you find your way through?
This weekend roundup is dedicated to the three year old princesses I love. If you are enamored, struggling, enjoying (or trying not to strangle) the little diva in your house, this one is for you. Take a deep breath, sisters, the best is yet to come.
Take that queenly energy and give your pre-schooler a world (or word) to rule. I suggest words like request, insist, believe and recognize. This may sound like a mouthful, but I promise you this power vocabulary will give your wild girl something big to say when she decides it's time to get her point across. Word Girl is your friend in all things vocabulary related.
And speaking of superheroes, maybe your mini-dictator needs a cape to fulfill her rule and conquer fantasies. While Disney tries to mold the tired old princess into a woman for a new day, plain-old superheroes get to have all their power without the pomp and circumstance. This kit from Klutz is just the thing to transform diva into dynasty in all the best ways.
Worried your girl is too high on yourself? Harboring secret fantasies for a well-mannered, "nice" girl who won't make any waves? Do a ten year review and ask yourself this question: How many times would having the confidence to say "no" have served me better? How many times has saying "yes" and bringing myself in line with the status quo been my saving moment? Then go check in and see what spitfire Maggie Doyne is doing with all that spunk and spirit in Nepal. I promise it will give you the tiniest bit of courage to let this girl of yours marinate a little bit longer in her desire to self-determine.
Still not convinced? Raising Girls is your one stop destination for giving your wild girl all the confidence and courage she needs to be her best self. You won't be sorry you stretched yourself--of this much I feel confident!
What's your sticky point when your girl won't get with the program? Feel free to confess your most common hesitations in the comments below.
Good morning, Supersisters! I'm home from a very inspiring trip to New York City this week where I met with some amazing women who are doing their part to make this world a better place. (Special thanks to all those waitresses who kept pouring the coffee and didn't mind if we hogged the table for a couple of hours past our due!) This weekend's roundup has mothers (and dads) of young girls in mind. Enjoy!
Maggie Doyne is one of those young women that makes mothers like me want to track her mother down and find out what the secret formula is. When Maggie was eighteen years old, she decided to pack up her backpack and go on a trip around the world. Her adventures led her to a little village in Nepal where she found her heart's true calling--providing a loving home for orphaned boys and girls. With her life savings--$5000 she made from babysitting through her younger years--Maggie bought the land in the village that was calling to her heart, came home to form a non-profit called Blinknow.org and went back to Nepal to build the home her heart told her was required to make the world a more hopeful place for the lost children of her village. Don't miss this lovely story about everybody's daughter.
Emily McKhann is one of those mothers who is doing her part to make the world better for children by providing a place of connection, inspiration and meaning for their mothers. Kris and I first met Emily at a conference a few years ago and immediately adopted her into our circle of sisters. Since that meeting, Emily has done important work around making toys safe for kids, citizen journalism and continuing the reach of an important story about kindness and friendship. But what I love most about Emily is the way she is continuing to develop her heart and her soul so she can be the best mother possible to her own two little girls.
Looking for inspiration today in raising your own strong, brave girl? Check out these links:
If you are writing specifically about the experience of raising girls, please leave us your links in the comments below.