The Four Upsides to Sibling Rivalry

Often times people who see my munchkins interact will comment, “They get along well, don’t they?” to which I will reply, “When they do, they do, but when they don’t …” This last part always ends in an ominous tone and is accompanied by an expression much like this one:

Image courtesy of danitiny2013/deviantart.com

Image courtesy of danitiny2013/deviantart.com

I hate sibling rivalry with a passion (especially after witnessing lots of it over the summer), but I have to admit I do appreciate the many teaching moments it provides (which I can peacefully and quietly reflect upon now that school is back in session). 🙂

Here are four upsides to sibling rivalry:

1. Learning to express yourself. Both E and C know how to speak their mind and express their emotions when they get annoyed, frustrated and impatient with each other. I consider this a plus because they aren’t afraid of conflict and they don’t stuff their feelings or opinions inside. They have a voice and they know how to use it.

2. Developing a thick skin. With all the name-calling and insults thrown around, E and C have learned to not take what the other says about them too personally. They have also learned to stand up for themselves.

3. Calling out bullying behavior. These positive aspects of sibling rivalry only come through when there’s a referee (aka. parent) overseeing the “battle”. E and C have learned from me and hubby what things are okay to say or do and when they cross the line into bullying (which are good lessons they can apply at school).

4. Learning how to make up. Getting the bickering between siblings to stop is only half the battle. The other, more important part, is teaching them how to make up. E and C understand the benefits of apologizing, forgiving, cooperating and trying again, and they practice them often (which is something we all need to know how to do).

So for all the times that my two munchkins drive each other crazy, I remind myself of the many times that they get along well. Such as last weekend when the two of them offered to pluck my white hair. Five minutes into the ordeal, I heard E say to C, “How about I find them and you pull them?” to which she heartily agreed, “Okay!” Five more minutes later, they had freed 19 white hairs from my head and put a smile on my face.

So yes, they not only fight well, they work together well, too. 😀

Side note: Eyebrow pluckers work great for pulling white hair!

Speaking of making-up, here’s Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds”. It’s probably not the happiest song to pick for this post, but it’s one of my favorites.

Apologizing, forgiving and cooperating – which of these do you want to do better at?

True Colors

I used to think I was a pretty patient person… of course this was before I had kids and became a stay at home mom.  I based this belief on the fact that I usually don’t mind waiting in lines, even “black Friday” type of lines, but truthfully speaking, this probably just means I’m a tenacious shopper.

My true colors came out though when I became a parent and my capacity for “long-suffering” (as patience is defined) was really put to the test.  I can truly say that parenting brings out the best – and worst – in you.  Emotionally and mentally, I’ve been stretched and pushed to the limit so many times that I no longer pray for patience for fear that I’ll find myself in a situation where I’ll need to be patient (I’m only half-joking about this).

I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns, one time during which my mom found me with my head in my hands and both kids crying their heads off in our bedroom closet waiting for back-up to arrive.  That was surely one of my less glamorous moments as a mom!It seems like an almost next to impossible task to try to stay calm, cool and collected when you come face to face (quite literally) with people half your size, who are twice as loud as you are, and are inconsolable with a capital I!

The thought occurred to me that maybe the only way you can remain patient with kids is to become like a robot.  Being a robot means there are no emotions involved because robots operate solely on facts.  Bottom line, I would no longer feel frustrated, angry or impatient regardless of what ridiculous situation I found myself in with the kids!

Image courtesy of supakitmod/freedigitalphotos.net

I actually tried this robot method once during one of E’s cows – we were driving in the car and for some reason he had taken off his socks and shoes and was demanding that I put them back on for him RIGHT NOW!  I like to think I’m Supermom, but unless I had two heads and four hands, there was no way I could accomplish this feat.  And believe me, I tried explaining this to E, who promptly started screaming and kicking my seat as soon as he heard the word “wait”.  So I went robot style – I turned off my feelings, bit my tongue and concentrated on the kid’s song playing at the moment (quite appropriately, I might add!), “Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care”, all the while trying to ignore the back massage I was receiving.  You would think his little bare feet would have been sore after that twenty minute ride, but obviously I had given birth to a son with feet of steel.

Somehow we made it home in one piece, me with tense shoulders up to my ears and poor C with some ringing in her ears (but to be fair, E’s had to put up with her tantrums, too).  After E calmed down a bit, I put his socks and shoes back on, though all the while scowling and growling under my breath.  Looking back, had I succeeded at being patient in that situation?  Um,not really.  Sure, I hadn’t yelled out loud, but inside I was like a bull ready to charge!

So I’ve been thinking, what is the real secret to being patient with kids?  I finally realized it’s about being empathic and putting yourself in their little shoes (assuming they have taken them off – ha!) and understanding that they’re like little aliens who were dropped off into this strange world and are learning to cope with their many limitations and often overwhelming feelings of frustration and anxiety.  And once we understand where kids are coming from, we can exercise humility, which is at the core of patience.  It’s this humility that gives us the capacity to put aside the demands and expectations that revolve around us (perhaps for our kids to behave like mature adults so we don’t have to?) and make it about someone else.  That’s when the true colors of love really come out and everyone and everything is better because of it.

No one ever said long suffering would be easy (hence the word suffering!), but for the sake of loving our kids, it’s worth the effort.  I’m definitely going to try this method, instead of the robot one, the next time I (gulp!) need to be patient. Sigh, being a parent really does bring out the worst – and best – in you, doesn’t it?

One of my favorite passages from 1 Corinthians 13 that talks about patience: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Speaking of our true colors, here’s the perfect song for this post – Phil Collin’s version of “True Colors“.

What circumstances have brought out your true colors?