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Specific ProblemsSiblings Situations

Don't worry about "alone" time with your toddler. If you emphasize the need to be "alone with mom",  your toddler will expect it, and be jealous if he doesn't get it.  But if you focus on togetherness, then your toddler will easily accept and enjoy that instead. I think this is one of the main reasons that we have never had any problems in our family with jealousy or sibling rivalry, even though we've gone through the "new baby" experience so many times.

Sibling problems:

My 3 daughters share a bedroom. I can't get them to stop talking and go to sleep at night. Their bedtime is 8pm but they are still awake until 10pm or 11pm. I finally started putting the 8 month old out in the living room in her play yard so they wouldn't keep waking her up. I argue, yell, spank (sometimes numerous times) and nothing works. They just start playing again a few minutes later.  I am at my wits end with trying to figure out what to do. We can't afford a bigger place with separate rooms.

Answer: We are VERY flexible around here (which is why it is so funny to hear some people accuse me of being "regimented"). I need a lot of sleep and my husband only needs a little and rarely goes to bed before midnight and I stay up with him. So, if I put the kids to bed at 8pm they'd be up way earlier than I'd like to be, and I'd be exhausted. Sooooooooooo, I just let them all stay up almost as late as me! Really.  I put the babies to bed earlier, and the toddlers a bit later, but the older ones go to bed when we do. Then we all (except for Dad) sleep in late so that we still get a good night's sleep. Since we homeschool, this is not a problem. There is no reason we have to be up at any certain time. Dad apparently needs less sleep so he just gets up whenever he needs to for work.

But let me try to help you a little. First, do your kids really have to go to bed that early? Maybe they just don't really need that much sleep. Try letting them stay up for another hour. THEN, put one to bed at a time and don't put the next one to bed until the first one is asleep.

That's what I do with my youngest ones. We have a very large house, but still we let the youngest 3 or 4 sleep in our room if they want to. Our room is very large and has an attached sitting room. The baby sleeps in a crib near the foot of our bed and I usually put him to bed first. He is soon asleep, so then I put the 3 year old to bed. He likes to sleep on the couch in our master sitting room. When he is asleep I send the 4 year old to bed (if he wants to sleep in our room). He sleeps on a bed on the floor (or in his own bed in the boys' bedroom). This particular 4 year old is very pleasant  and quiet by nature, and I know he won't wake the others up. By that time I am usually ready for bed, but there is still one more of the younger children up. That's my 2 year old. Now this little 2 year old is the troublemaker of the younger bunch (he's still in training). I can't send him to bed with the others or else he will keep fooling around with them and won't settle down and won't stay in bed.  So I keep him up with me until I go to bed. I bed him down on a nice makeshift bed on the floor right next to my bed where I can keep an eye on him, and once I turn the light out he is asleep in a few minutes (which means that Mom and Dad have all the privacy they want).  Since he stays up late, he sleeps in late, so that gives me a break in the morning, which is okay with me. If he is too rowdy in the evening, I just have him sit next to me on the couch or play on the floor by my computer desk. If he is playing nicely I let him be, but I rarely try to send him to bed before me, unless I have the time to go up to the room and play policeman until he is asleep.

Note: I also play Bible tapes when the kids go to bed, and they listen to those instead of fooling around as much.

The younger obeying the older:

The rule at our house is that the younger ones must obey the older ones when mom's not there. That sounds simple enough, but I've noticed that the minute an older child gets his first chance at a little authority, he immediately abuses it, so I proceed with caution. When the toddlers are very little, I just don't tell them about the rule. I do not leave them in each other's authority either. Sure, they must obey a teen sibling, but they really don't think of a teen as another child, so they tend to obey them as they would obey me without me having to say anything. As long as I've taught them to obey me, they will generally obey their teen siblings. 

Now when they get a little older, like about 3 or 4 years old, I start occasionally reminding any younger siblings that they must obey their "older" siblings. Right away, as I said, the older ones take advantage. That's when I step in and teach them the second part of the rule, that the older ones must not abuse their authority. They are the boss, but they must always be a good and kind boss. This is a hard lesson to learn and it takes awhile, so therefore I still never actually leave them unsupervised in each other's authority. I might say, for example, "Timmy, go play with Tommy, and you obey him", but I do this in the same room with me, so I can step in and instruct as needed. 

As they get a little older yet, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I start leaving the younger ones under their authority now and then (while I am still home of course, but perhaps out of the room). That's when I remind the older ones again, that they must never abuse their authority, and I also explain that if they do, I will discipline them severely. I tell the younger ones that they are to obey the older ones, and if they think the older ones are being unfair, they are to obey anyway, then tell me about it when they see me next (at which point I will discipline the older ones). 

This is further explained and enforced as they all get older, and I have less and less trouble as we go along. I do not to leave a child in charge whom I can not trust to at least try very hard to be a good authority. If I see they are having a problem with this, I take it very seriously and work on their character in that area. Some are ready to accept this responsibility earlier than others.

I do not permit an older child (younger than the late teens at least) to spank a younger child - they are to bring the matter to me later, and I will do whatever spanking is needed. Also, as they get old enough to understand, I am careful to explain that all rules may be broken in case of an emergency. For example, yes, they may tackle a child who is running into the street, although I would not normally allow tackling.  This type of information is not explained to a toddler however, as they do not have the wisdom and discernment to apply it correctly, but will be tempted to try it anyway.

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.