Dealing with sibling rivalry is a parenting issue all parents who have more than one child must face at one time or another. As a child, I’m sure I gave my parents plenty of headaches over sibling rivalry, arguments about who was more loved, jealousy and competition with my brothers and sisters. After the birth of my second child, I received the payback parents always warn their children about when they’re being disciplined. You know, the speech that goes something like this: “Some day, you’re going to have a child exactly like you. Then you’ll understand.”
My older daughter was 3 ½ years old when our new baby was born. She was accustomed to being the only child and garnering mommy’s full attention. Of course, with a new baby joining the family that all changed and the inevitable sibling rivalry soon began.
When the green-eyed monster of jealousy entered our home, my “big girl” soon reverted to acting like a baby. All of a sudden, the child who had been mobile since 10 months was insisting on being carried like a baby. She no longer wanted to sit at the table and eat like a big kid. Instead, she wanted to be held in my lap, which was usually occupied. Now, please don’t get me wrong. My older daughter was thrilled to have a little sister. She was simply a typical child and longed to be the focus of our attention. Of course, little babies require more attention and she quickly picked up on this fact. So, she decided if she were a baby again everything would be great.
Instead of getting upset with her, I got creative and found my own playful approach to deal with the sibling rivalry. It’s a parenting experiment I affectionately dubbed as Codename: Operation Baby for the Day. The next morning, I announced to my older daughter that she would, in fact, become a baby for the day. At first, she was excited. In her mind, this meant no picking up toys or eating yucky vegetables. It also meant being carried by mommy and daddy everywhere she went. For the first hour or two, my amused child thought this was a lot of fun. After a few hours of sitting around and watching everybody else play, however, my daughter decided being a baby wasn’t perfect either. When lunchtime came around and her typical peanut butter sandwich was replaced with a big jar of mushy, green baby food, she was grateful to see the experiment come to an end. It was then that she realized how many things her baby sister couldn’t do that she, as the big sister, could do. My child learned that small babies don’t get to eat pizza, dance around the house, or help mommy and daddy do special projects. Instead, they have to take naps, lay around and watch everyone else have fun, and eat disgusting, concoctions of smashed meats and vegetables.
So what was the result of this fun parenting experiment? My daughter received a quick, memorable lesson in life. She realized that while it’s nice to be the baby and be coddled to sometimes, it’s also nice to be a “big girl” and receive the privileges that go along with it. Although each of the children received attention in different ways, they are equally important to and loved by mommy and daddy. While it definitely wasn’t the last experience in dealing with sibling rivalry, it has served as a fun reminder to simply be happy being who she is instead of being jealous of her sister or anyone else.