When you have multiple children, your younger ones look up to the older ones. They tend to emulate their older brother or sister, which is not always a good thing.
I am constantly telling my older boys that they are role models for my two year old. That means their little brother’s behavior reflects their behavior. Sure every child has a different personality and I can’t blame every incident on them, but I highly doubt the term “butt pie” is in a two year old’s vocabulary. Yesterday he told me, “Mommy, you a penis pie” at the supermarket. Yes, it’s a little (ok, a lot) funny and yes, it’s cute to hear little ones say words and expressions they are not supposed to, but we can’t let them know that! I would be mortified if my son called his teacher a butt, penis or any other type of foul pie and taught other kids at school this bad language.
We tend to push the idea of the older children demonstrating good behavior for the younger siblings to learn from, but what about a learning lesson from the bad behavior? I will give you an example. A few days back, my two year old snatched a Lego toy out of my six year old’s hand. The reaction from my six year old was predictable and typical. He snatched it right back after screaming, “stop it…that’s MY Lego…bad boy”. They were both in tears and I had a choice to make as to my reaction and my next move.
Why was it not okay according to my six year old, for his little brother to snatch the toy from him, but okay for my six year old to snatch it back? It was a moment that was perfect for teaching everyone involved.
Here’s how it went down:
Me: “Julian, I know you’re upset and you have every right to be. However, you didn’t like it when Spencer took your toy away so why are you snatching it back and doing the same thing? Isn’t there a better way to handle this situation? What a great opportunity to teach Spencer? How is he going to learn if we don’t teach him? Instead of yelling at him, explain in a calm manner that next time, he should ask nicely if he can use your toy. Tell him at the moment you are using it but if he asks politely, uses “please”, and doesn’t take your toy away without permission, you will let him see it for a bit. If you want your brother to have manners, I need you to teach him with me and use your manners as an example. Help me help him be a good boy.”
Me: “Spencer, listen to what Julian is going to tell you and then I would like you to tell him that you’re sorry and give him a hug. We don’t grab things out of people’s hands and you didn’t like it when he did it back to you. Thank you…that’s a good boy.”
This method not only validates Julian’s feelings that his brother did something wrong to him, but allows Julian to calm down, be a helper and act like a big kid. It also makes a connection and a correlation between his behavior and the effect it has on his little brother. When he makes the rights choices, it’s not only going to keep him out of trouble but it will cause his brother, who is watching his every move, learn the right way to handle different circumstances and emotions.
You may not realize this but there are great teaching opportunities all around you and your children to choose from throughout the day. Whether it’s a positive or negative act, whether it’s being committed by your child, another child, or even an adult, they are there. It’s easy to miss these moments, get mad and think about punishment and scolding instead, but with a little practice, we can create teachers out of our children!
TOGETHER WE CAN MASTER MOTHERHOOD!™