Monday, September 3, 2012

Brothers and sisters

During the week of the PSLE oral exams, Lesley-Anne had an event that kept her late in school everyday. By the time she reached home, it would be way past Andre's bedtime, so the two of them hardly saw each other.

The night before Andre's oral exam, Lesley-Anne called home from school at 8.45pm and asked to speak to him. She gave him some tips, assured him that he would be fine and said that she was praying for him. After the call, I could tell that Andre was very comforted and much more at ease.

I thought it was a lovely gesture. Lesley-Anne is definitely a better big sister than I ever was and it reflected the close relationship between the siblings. When Lesley-Anne went on a one-week OBS trip earlier this year, Andre moped around like a lost puppy and was terribly upset if he missed her call at night.

There's just something very special about sibling relationships. There are few people you will count on more or share the most private secrets with than a close sibling. With my kids, I made a conscious decision very early on that I would try and help them achieve this bond. It doesn't come naturally (in fact, sibling rivalry is probably more intuitive), it's a deliberate effort. I won't pretend to be an expert but common sense tells me that there are a few things you can do, like treat all your kids fairly, praise them for efforts to help each other and never pit one against another.

One of the statements I made a point of never telling Lesley-Anne is, "Give in to him, he's younger." I used to resent that as a child, I had to give in to my younger sister simply based on something as random as birth order and it created a lot of disharmony (happily, my sister and I are great friends now). Likewise, don't tell your younger child something like, "Korkor gets to choose first because he's older." Where's the logic in that? Much better to say, "This time he gets to choose first, next time is your turn." For most kids, fairness is very important.

Don't be misled into thinking that my kids never fight. Of course they do, I've not met any siblings who don't. Some of their arguments get so heated that they degenerate into physical brawls. I have learned to tune out the "Mummy, she hit me!" "No, he hit me first!" allegations. My philosophy is, if you start the fight, you end it. Don't involve me. If you do, there's a likelihood that everybody will get punished for disrupting my computer time.

Fights between the two of them are inevitable, considering they're so different in almost every way possible. However, I have come to realise that their differences are a blessing in disguise as they actually reduce sibling rivalry. If you notice, sibling rivalry tends to be strongest among same-sex children close in age with similar preferences or abilities. It's natural cos it's you tend to compare kids who are similar. And as parenting book author Elizabeth Fishel said, "Comparison is a death knell to sibling harmony."

Basically, we need to show our kids that we love each of them equally for who they are and accept that every child has his or her own talents. Correct mistakes without making them feel like they don't match up to a sibling. When kids feel secure and unthreatened by others, they will naturally be more open to sharing their space and more willing to celebrate their siblings' successes.

We tell our kids to support each other in their endeavours and we follow this up by bringing Andre to Lesley-Anne's concerts, and Lesley-Anne to Andre's badminton matches. They cheer each other on and are genuinely happy for the other person's achievements.

If you want more tips on how to promote sibling affection, there are many online articles available. Here's one (the first article in the link) which I quite like - it's succinct and practical.

"There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother... Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too." - Anna Quindlan


Anonymous said...

Hi Mon,
I have chanced upon your blog a few weeks ago and has been hooked on it since. I am reading your past posts and they are really funny and educational.
I am currently a mother of a 2.5 year old girl. We are expecting another baby in the family in November, a boy :)

I love reading about the funny things that your boy said or did. He is really cute.

This blog has also got me to start worrying about the education of my daughter. The only thing that she enjoys doing now is play. How did you get Lesley-Anne to be so interested in books? I do not wish to stress her too much now but we have to start somewhere. I am an avid reader myself but my daughter does not seem to inherit this genes. Gosh! :p


monlim said...

Michelle: Congrats on your impending new arrival!

2.5 years is really too early to be worrying about your child's education. In fact, if at 2.5 years, your daughter enjoys anything other than play, I would be worried! Playing at that age is perfectly natural and even desirable (didn't you hear PM's NDR? :D)

I'm not sure if this will make you feel any better but I totally neglected L-A's pre-school education, I just let her play and I read to her. No enrichment classes, she even learnt how to read on her own, that's how lax I was! I really do feel that if you let kids develop at their own pace, they will blossom in their own time :)

Thanks for reading!

Rachel said...

Well written!

Anonymous said...

Mon, thanks for this article - such a timely reminder of the close ties between siblings and the importance of not telling the older or younger one to give in cos s/he is the older/younger lah!


NYMacMom w 3 said...

Lovely reminder and yes, seeing the interaction of my three, yes even the little 16yo monster..

He mops around whole day until the 'lights' of his world returns from the school bus. And I soon quickly dissapear off his radar until he's had his fill of 'telling the girls' everything..

And when my no 1 girl (motherly and every bit a BIG sister) comes home, she rushes by me and gives the little man kisses hugs and carries him while lugging her own lunch bag, school bag and files..

Yes, when encouraged to love one another, sibling love is a sight to behold!

monlim said...

Sarah: That sounds absolutely lovely, when your kids love each other, there's nothing better in the world :)

aliendoc said...

I have two boys, both in college now. When the hormones started raging (I called it "Testosterone rage"!), man, the sibling rivalry was intense, both verbal & physical. I would tell them that they are, in actuality, best's just that they don't know it yet.
Now, they are 21 & 19 yo, and yes, they are the best of friends!

Interesting blog, by the way...just stumbled upon it...

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