Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roaring Good Sibling Times, Exasperated Mommy

I recently recalled a conversation I had with my sister back when Timmy, my second, was still a baby. Her two boys were older than mine - old enough to have a real sibling give-and-take relationship. She was lamenting about how often she found herself yelling at them, out of frustration at their failure to follow directions in a timely manner. Getting them to brush their teeth, get their pajamas on, get dressed in the morning, clean up, etc. was very draining; they seemed to require constant reminders to get back on task. She was exasperated at the number of times she had to repeat herself.

I am ashamed to admit that, at the time, I was kind of patting myself on the back for not being a yeller. Perhaps, I reasoned, I'm not a yeller due to my experience as a teacher. Having to "ride herd" on 20 t0 30 six-year-olds can teach you a thing or two.

Now, my boys are 6 and 4 and they have a strongly cemented, lively sibling relationship. In short, they're best friends. Being opposites, they each find balance in the other. They challenge each other, delight each other, and have a roaring good time.

I've had a humbling wake up call. Now, I do yell. It is usually at times similar to those my sister found most challenging. Getting quick results on directions like getting dressed, undressed, coming for dinner, for bath, for teeth brushing, into the van, out of the van... What changed in me? I've asked myself that a lot lately.

Today, the answer came to me. It's not that we don't give consequences. It's not that we're inconsistent. It's not that our directions aren't clear and concise enough. It's not about us.

I assure you what I'm about to reveal is not a cop out. I have given it a lot of consideration and observation. The real reason they find it so hard to follow through on these types of tasks, is because they get distracted so easily by their sibling relationship. They are engaged and giggling too hard for the direction, and its urgency, to really register. They are in their own little world of friendship, fantasy, made-up games - hard core playing, basically. Shifting gears and ignoring each other long enough to follow through quickly on the boring task at hand, is more of a challenge for them than I can fathom.

Furthermore, enduring a consequence for not following directions quickly enough is not a deterrent that carries over to the next time they are intensely engaged with one another, only to be interrupted by a parental request or order.

The answer that will help me kiss my exasperated yelling days goodbye? My hunch is that I must separate them first, then give the direction, and keep them separated until the mundane tasks have been accomplished. They have a natural incentive this way - to get quickly reunited with their beloved sibling.

I hope it works. I think it will. Regardless, I need to remind myself what a blessing siblings are to one another. They are the greatest gift we can give - or that God gives - short of our parental love, devotion, and steadfastness.

1 comment:

Mama P said...

"Furthermore, enduring a consequence for not following directions quickly enough is not a deterrent that carries over to the next time they are intensely engaged with one another, only to be interrupted by a parental request or order." I think you nailed it. I went through a month of major frustration until I came to similar conclusions. It's like getting me to listen at a thriftstore. No way, no how. I'm so happy and delighted to be out and about, I don't concentrate well on anything else. Grabbing their attention one on one seems huge. And to not forget that while they aren't listening, they are loving one another. And that's more than so many siblings have.