My girls are not even 3 and 1 yet, but it’s probably no surprise they already express their differences and have disagreements with each other – one verbally and one, well, loudly but not yet with words. We are barely at the beginning of our days of sibling rivalry and some days, I already feel strung out and at a loss for how to help them get along.
Last Friday, after a busy week and a morning filled with whines and screams, I was counting down the hours until the weekend as I read to them before rest time. Even as I read, Beach Girl kept hugging Beach Baby too hard and they each kept shrieking as one took a toy from the other.
I myself felt like shrieking, but tried to continue reading Big Cats, although each page was interjected with mom quotes like: “She had that. You may have a turn in two minutes” or “I will continue reading when you are ready to stop jumping so close to your sister.”
Then, I read the section on tigers entitled “Skills for life”: “These cubs may be playing a fun game, but play fights will teach them vital skills. When they are older they will have to fend for themselves, and protect their own territories and cubs.”
And, I remembered. Siblings fight. They always will. My job is not to stop them from fighting; it’s to teach them how to fight well and to love well. One of the main advantages of siblings is that they are a safe place to practice and learn conflict resolution. With each other, they can learn how to be a friend, how to listen when they don’t want to, how to share a toy they really want for themselves, how to express anger or hurt… all while stumbling through how to also demonstrate love for the other person.
Rather than just ear-piercing shrieks or annoyances to me, these are opportunities for my girls to learn how to love someone else. As I guide them through taking turns with the Cozy Coupe and touching each other gently, I am helping to prepare each of my girls to speak her mind kindly, to share even when she doesn’t want to, and to love someone more than herself. I am teaching each of my daughters how to be a friend.
These disputes that are so exhausting to me are hopefully preparing each of them to navigate through future disputes and individual differences in order to love others well throughout their lives. In the meantime, if anyone has good tips on how to help a toddler stop hugging her baby sister so hard, I’d love to hear them!