Before our second baby was born, I was on pins and needles. Would the children play together? Would they be jealous? Would they fight? I wasnt sure what to expect. But after a year together (Anton turns one on Saturday!), weve thankfully figured out five things that have helped kickstart a sweet friendship…
Anton thinks Toby is a total rockstar. (Look at the way he gazes at him!) But, as the older child, Toby had a harder time adjusting to life with a sibling. So, to help things run more smoothly, we did some experimenting andafter some ups and downsfound five approaches that seemed to help:
1. Bring the baby alive for the older child. Needless to say, newborns dont make the most fun playmates, since all they do is cry, eat and sleepbooooring. So when Anton was first born, I tried to bring him alive for Toby. I would come into Tobys bedroom and say, Toby, Anton wants to know if he can come lie in the bed with you. And Toby would smile and say, Yes, he can. And Id look at Anton and say, Anton, Toby said yes! Lets get under the covers! I also try to help Toby see how much Anton loves and needs him. When Anton cries, I might say, You dont have to worry, Anton, Toby is right here. We also point out any funny things that Anton does. For example, if Anton starts chewing on toys, I might say, Oh, Anton! You cant eat toys for breakfast! and Toby will laugh and add, Anton, you cant eat the toys for breakfast or lunch, silly goose! and it seems like Anton is making this big funny joke for everyone and is fun to have around.
2. Treat them like a team. Instead of treating them like rivals, I try to treat them like a team. Are the brothers ready to go to the playground? or Lets take a brothers bath! or Do the brothers want to jump on the bed? Its human nature to want to belong to a group, and I try to make it sounds like a fun team to be part of. Brothers against the world!
3. Dont assign roles. This brilliant book advises not to assign roles to your children, such as the artist or the musician or the athleteand that includes bully and victim. So, if Toby pushes Anton, I try not to peg him as the mean attacker and Anton the weak victim. Ill say, Toby, thats too rough. You brothers have to be gentle with each other. Toby and Anton, does that make sense to you both? Remember to be gentle with each other.
4. Schedule alone time with each child. Before Anton was born, Toby and I had SO much alone time. Every evening, wed go to the playground together or take a bike ride. Once Anton was born, we hung out as a threesome. After a while, Toby started getting clingy during the day and then dragging out bedtime for aaaaaages, and it suddenly clicked that bedtime was the rare time that we were alone together and thats what he wanted more of. So we began scheduling outingsbike rides, the bookstore, dinnersfor just the two of us, while Anton stayed home with Alexand vice versa. (Alex takes Toby to an Indian restaurant on many Sunday nights and walks him to school every morning.) So each child gets alone time with each parent. Well plan the date ahead of time and talk it way up, so it feels like a very special event.
5. Dont ignore the older child when the baby is getting all the attention. When Anton was a newborn, he slept most of the time, but now that hes walking and babbling, people are noticing him much more. Strangers will often come up and coo, What a cutie! or How old is he? while ignoring four-year-old Toby. Thats completely understandable, of course, and children dont need 100% equal attention at all times, but Toby clearly feels hurt and will start singing loudly to get peoples attention. So I try to bring him into the conversation right away. If someone says, Oooh, how old is your baby? Ill answer, Hes almost a year, and his big brother just turned four. Or if someone says, Wow, hes such a cute walker! Ill say, Thanks! His older brother helped him learn. That way, Toby doesnt feel left out or irrelevant.
As I mentioned above, I also really, really loved the book Siblings Without Rivalry, which is filled with wise advice and funny comics to help your children live together so you can live, too. Its fantastic with so many great down-to-earth tips, and Id highly recommend it.
And overall its so rewarding to watch the boys play and goof around together…
Do you have multiple children? How do they get along? Any other things youve tried, or books youve liked? Do you remember anything from your own childhood that helped (or hurt) your sibling relationships? I would LOVE to hear! Were definitely still learning every day. xoxo
P.S. Toby meeting Anton for the very first time, and why French kids eat everything.