It is a fact that the average family size in the Western world has been falling for some time…
The cliche of “2.4 children” was revised downwards to 1.8 some years ago. But it is still typical for a family with one child to add at least one more.
Any adult “only child” will tell you that growing up was a strange experience. Most of their friends had siblings, and as much as brothers and sisters can annoy you…they are nice to have around!
Of course, kids being kids, they will spend more time teasing and arguing with one another than they do telling each other they love each other. Thankfully, this goes away with age – although the barbs and jokes never do – as we become more comfortable with showing affection.
Being a parent of siblings certainly poses its challenges: you need to be a short order chef, a referee, an accountant and an encyclopaedia – all at once!
It is advised that we let our kids find their own way, discover their tastes and develop their interests.
The advantage of this is that they develop an identity all of their own. The disadvantage is that it often means you cannot pass on the things one child was interested in down to another.
And you will need to spend a lot of time meditating in the little squabbles that arise. When you have more than one little ball of energy rattling around, you can be sure there will be squabbles.
1 ~ TV Time
If you have more than one child they will usually be at least two different ages and if you have a son and a daughter, then they are different in another way.
Although there is a trend developing to take the idea of gender out of kids’ toys and entertainment, those differences can still bubble up. When it comes to time in front of the TV, this can lead to some disagreements.
It’s important to limit TV time for kids in any case, because too much TV isn’t good for them, but it is also essential to not let anyone dominate the choice of show. A six-year-old will have different preferences from a nine-year-old. A girl might want to watch something with a few less aliens than what a boy wants to watch.
Letting your kids know that they have to compromise is an important lesson; this is not a bad place to start!
2 ~ Sport
Every sporty parent’s dream is that they will raise a set of children who follow the same team.
The more ambitious dreams will feature those children playing for that team, but it’s usually a pipe dream. And it’s sometimes worse than that. When you are raising a group of children, sometimes they will have differing interests. If one kid grows up supporting United and the other supporting City, then match day can be stressful.
You can’t force your kids to follow your sporting allegiances. They might not even be interested in sport at all. Or you might be a rugby devotee who somehow raises football fanatics. But if your kids have divided loyalties, make it clear to them from an early stage that it’s only a game.
It’s bad enough when rival football fans go on the attack at a match; you don’t want it replayed in miniature in your home.
3 ~ Bedtime
Sleep is important. When adults watch children running around during the day and ask “Where do they get their energy from?”, there is an answer. They sleep more than adults do, which is why they have a bedtime and are expected to stick to it. When the time comes to go to bed, what you really want is something that is over quickly, and for them to settle down and get to sleep.
Bedtime can be a source of disagreement if you have kids sharing a room. What one kid has, another wants. This can develop when you buy bunk beds for kids, as no-one ever seems to want the bottom bunk. But the old classic rule generally applies here: The older kid has tenure of the top bunk. It’s safer that way. From time to time, you can reverse the roles as the kids get older.
Another issue around bedtime is that, for older kids, later bedtimes can become the norm. This may put the younger kid’s nose out of joint from time to time. It takes some diplomacy to make this work; if they share a bedroom, then it is best not to send one kid to bed just as the other is getting to sleep. Staggered bedtimes work better if the kids have separate rooms.
4 ~ Hand Me Downs
Anyone who is not an elder child or an only child will have memories about getting clothes that are no longer fitting their elder sibling.
It can feel undignified for someone to be given what they see as something that has been rejected and it take some effort on your part to get both children to see this as something that is in their interests.
You can stop your elder child jeering at the younger, and resentment coming in the opposite direction. It does take a bit of diplomacy, but have them remember some key points.
Explain that with them growing so quickly they’ll need, and get, a lot of more their own clothes. Mix the hand me downs with a few really good new items which are theirs alone. Point out, too, that the family bond is something special – and that this process means they’ll get that T-shirt they always envied.
When your kids are a lot older, they’ll talk about these little points of disagreement with a sense of humour – yes, honestly they will!
That may be hard to come by when they are younger. But the things they fight and argue about right now will seem insignificant as they grow up. Always make sure that they know they’ve got someone who will be in their corner come what may.
As a Mum of 4 it’s my experience that as children grow up they do eventually realise that having a sibling is pretty cool thing! .