We innately crave the love of our mother’s very deeply. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have even realized that I still do things to this day in hopes of impressing her, or even winning MORE of that love. I recently read Siblings Without Rivalry, and I highly recommend it to all parents. Maybe your children get along great, but this book can still be very useful in navigating a healthy channel of communication and broadening the way you see yourself as a parent and the roles you may be boxing your children up in.
Sometimes in a family kids assume, “My sister is that, so I have to be this.” This can lead to the bully/victim roles or the good kid/bad kid roles or the responsible/goofy roles or the athletic/intellectual roles. Kids want our love and our attention, and when it comes down to the truth of it…they want to have MORE of it than their siblings. It is not something any of us probably consciously think or thought about, but it is true. It is so important that we do not box up our kids into these roles any more than they already do to themselves. It is exhausting to be the “good” kid and always try to be perfect, or the “bad” kid who is always making trouble just to get noticed, or the “funny” kid because your other siblings seem to be smarter and your parents seem so proud of their grades and your know you can get that same smile from them when you are making everyone laugh.
This subject really weighed on my heart. My littlest cries a lot over normal 18 month old things. Since he is my baby I have already started to help him see himself as the “victim” by picking him up, asking what happened, and fixing everything for him. I have noticed my older boy sometimes seems to bug his little brother just because he can. I am constantly asking, “What did you do to Bennett?” Sometimes I get so frustrated and mad at him when he hurts his little brother because I want so badly for them to be best buddies. Really, what I need to do is help to release them from the bully/victim roles. I need to show them that they both have my love no matter how good or bad they are. I need to empower them with a clear vision of how I see them and feel about them.
After reading the book and thinking a lot, I have begun doing three things to help them be released from the bully/victim fighting and feel the one thing they are both competing for more of, Mama’s love:
- When the littlest comes to me crying, I do not pick him up right away. I tell him, “Benny, you are big and you are strong. You are not a victim. Go tell Boston what you do or don’t like with your words.” He cannot talk very much, but I have taught him to put his hand up and say, “Stop.”
- When the older one is the culprit of the crying, or I see him trying to fight or bother his little brother I try to not get in the middle of it right away. Brothers will bug. Brothers will fight. It would be unnatural for perfect love all the time. I should stop giving so much of the “Saving” attention to the little one. If it gets to the point where someone will get hurt or I am seeing the younger brother try to communicate that he does not like it, I say to the older one, “You are nice and good. I am sure you can imagine how it would feel for someone to be bothering you like that. Listen to what Bennett is telling you.” The book taught me that helping the “bully” know that you have faith in them to imagine other’s feelings can give them a positive image of themselves. This will then encourage them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.** before I go on to # 3 let me say: This NEVER completely solves the problem. There is usually more crying and “but it is my toy so I can take it” and sometimes boys being separated. The goal of these sentences is not to FIX the moment….the goal is to fix how the boys see themselves. I want them to feel empowered by the statements of what I am saying they ARE…not how they are behaving.
- I have noticed my older boy will get in these terrible moods where one bad choice sets into motion hours of terrible choices and crying fits and tantrums. It seemed like once he decided to be bad once, he felt like he lost the ability to choose to be good afterward. After I read the book, I realized that maybe he truly started to believe he was bad in these moments. Maybe he saw how disappointed in him I was or how sad I felt that he hit me or how mad I was that he acted a certain way and knew that I would not be giving him the “loving” attention he is always deep down wanting, so he instead feels he has to keep going with the negative attention. So, I have started to grab those chubby little cheeks softly in my hands and tell him to look right at me. I stare into those big eyes full of anger and BIG emotions and alligator tears and find every tiny bit of love I have inside of me for that boy. Then I say, “Boston, I love you no matter what you do. There is nothing you could ever say or do that would make me think you are bad. I think you are such a good boy with a good heart. I do not like what you just did or said, but I ALWAYS love you…no matter what.” Oh…to watch the anger and frustration melt out of him is absolutely amazing. I know, I know. It probably sounds so corny. I have tried a lot of things in the crazy moments, and I have a kid that gets VERY emotional. I have never seen something work so fast on him. It is almost like he lets out a sigh of relief….he can let go of all those scary emotions making him act so strangely. His Mama loves him, and she loves him no matter what. That is some powerful knowledge.
Read the book, empower those babies. Give them that love.