What is really going on between siblings: (Part One)
2-year-old Miko grabs 4-year-old Kaya’s book while she’s reading and runs away with it. Kaya yells at Miko and stomps to her parent’s room, “Miko took my book!” Her Mom goes to the living room and takes the book from Miko, telling him, “Don’t take Miko’s book, she was reading it.” She returns the book to Kaya.
Having 2 or more children is great because they can play with each other and have a special relationship and shared history. If you have siblings, you know how well they can enrich a childhood. But many parents fall in the trap of becoming a referee as siblings relate to each other and navigate growing up together.
Let’s look at Miko and Kaya’s exchanges above:
The younger Miko grabs his older sibling’s book and instead of Kaya talking to Miko about what he did, she runs to her mother to solve the problem. And as she has done what feels like hundreds of times, Mom takes the book from Miko and gives it back to Kaya. Miko lost the book and didn’t learn a lesson that could help him modify his behavior or learn why he shouldn’t take things from his sister. Let’s see what feelings happened in the scene that caused everyone to act the way they did.
Miko’s feelings or words if he could express them:
“Stop reading that book and play with me.”
“I want to do something too, maybe I’ll do what Kaya is always doing and read.”
“I’m going to do something for myself. I’ll try to read too.”
“Why is Miko taking my book? He doesn’t even know how to read.”
“He is always doing this - interrupting me and grabbing my things. I hate that!”
“I’ll get my mom to take the book back.”
“Oh no, again. Why can’t they get along?”
“Can’t Miko see that his sister is reading and he shouldn’t interrupt her?”
“Why is Kaya screaming at Miko all the time? She should be nicer. That’s her little brother.”
Wow, how are there so many feelings in a 5-minute scene? We’ll tell ya.
Because it is how everyone has been feeling for a long time every time something like this happens.
Because this scene is perfectly normal!
Brace yourself - two children with a close age gap will always have some sort of conflict with each other. Why? Because they are learning what it means:
play with each other
express their feelings
wait their turn
listen to each other and plenty more.
They actually aren’t not getting along, they are learning multiple skills. This development is actually a good thing. As adults when we learn new things, we need to do it over and over until we figure out what works. The same goes for sibling relationships.
And so Mom needs to let them go through those exchanges. It’s best that she:
Allow them to express their feelings in words. Have them talk to each other instead of solving the problem for them. She can help Miko understand and use the words:
“Can we play?”
“Can I borrow the book?”
“Can I have a turn?”
She can model for Kaya to show her how to explain her feelings:
“Please do not grab my things. They might break and I need them”.
“Give me 2 minutes to finish this book and I’ll play with you.”
“Sorry, I cannot play right now, but I will later.”
By giving them the words to express their feelings, she has taught them important skills. It might take three or four times to do it, but eventually, they will get it! These are basically instructions on how to live in the world. And the more we model it with each other, and to our children, the better they will learn it and apply it!