Title: Sibling dynamics
Description: Part 2
Yehudis - October 3, 2010 04:09 AM (GMT)
So we've been homeschooling everyone for a year now. In the summer, the girls went to camp. A friend of ours was staying with us over yom tov, and she noticed that dd2, age 7, seemed much happier in the summer, when she was in camp, than now or last year. And that's true; I noticed that also.
I'm still struggling with the relationship between dd1, age 9, and dd2. Dd1 has a very strong personality and can get anyone to do things the way she'd like. Not by force, but by convincing them that it's the best way. Dd3, age 5, tends to follow her everywhere and do everything she says. Dd2 is the opposite of dd1 -- kind, gentle, soft-spoken. But she also likes to do things her way, and she gets upset when dd1 interferes and changes everything around. And dd1 and dd2 just keep clashing. Usually they basically fight over dd3 -- each of them are playing a game, and each of them wants dd3 to play with her and not with the other one. And usually dd1 wins, because dd3 just adores her. Although she is also perfectly happy to play with dd2, and they get along very well, especially if dd1 happens to be busy doing something else, like reading or drawing or playing piano.
I tried talking to dd1. She admitted that she's jealous of dd2, especially when dd3 is playing with dd2. But I'm not sure where to go from there. We've worked on the outwardly part -- I'm making sure they speak to each nicely, without fighting, name calling, saying things like, "I don't like your picture/dress/hairdo/etc." It's still work in progress. But I feel that I haven't made any progress in solving the main problem.
Getting back to summer camp -- I think she thrived there because the girls in her bunk were her peers, and their relationships were equal, as opposed to competing with an older sibling. She made a new best friend and some other friends. She is very social and loves being with other girls her age.
I'm wondering if I've been overdoing Neufeld's philosophy and perhaps not making enough effort to make playdates for dd2. How much time with friends is healthy for a social seven year old? Because often what happens at home is that dd1 and dd2 play together and dd2 is left to play all by herself, and she doesn't like that. She can't wait for the baby to get a little older, but I'm not sure if that would solve the problem.
I'd appreciate advice and insights!
LearningFromExperience - October 3, 2010 07:22 AM (GMT)
She says she needs more time with non-competitive peers, you agree. So arrange it. How much time? You'll see.
People need community. Family is the first community, but that is not enough.
In addition, I have found that it is important for each kid to have some area of their life where other kids in their family can't compete with them. Something she can do that no one else can.
Does she go to any after-school clubs?
Zephyr - October 3, 2010 12:01 PM (GMT)
Is there anyone in the girls' lives who compares them out load? This one is x, but that one is y? That sort of thing? Who is cuter, who is smarter, who is prettier, who is kinder, who is quieter? Is there a parent or a grandparent or some other figure in their lives who does this?
Another question-- are you or your dh competitive people? The reason I ask these questions is because from your description, it does not sound like dd2 is the owner of the problem. It sounds like the problem of competitiveness is in dd1, who doesn't seam to want to give her sister an inch. Other things you've said suggest that this is just a symptom of something systemic, and there's a good chance that dd1 doesn't own the problem, either-- she is just expressing something already in the environment. Could this be?
Yehudis - October 3, 2010 04:08 PM (GMT)
There is a grandparent who always says that dd2 is an angel and dd1 is... can't think of a similar English word ("protivnaya" -- mean?). But they see this grandparent at most twice a year, if not less. Do you think it could really make a difference?
Neither dh nor I compare kids out loud or say things like, "why can't you be like your sister," something both of us heard as children and never ever want to repeat. Do we do this subconsciously? Not sure.
Zephyr - October 3, 2010 08:52 PM (GMT)
In general, the motivation behind sibling competitiveness is scarcity. I know that some will disagree with me and claim that sibling competitiveness is natural, but I know enough families without this dynamic that it's pretty clear that something else is going on. So when kids are competitive, it's often because of either scarcity or the need to prove something, but either way, it's almost always about insecurity.
Meanwhile, can a grandparent calling a grandchild "nasty" or "unpleasant" twice a year have an impact? Absolutely. My mother once said something about my then 2 yo dd that was so clearly false as to be ridiculous, but don't think it didn't have an effect on the way I saw her. It did. And that was when I KNEW my mother was completely off base-- but I can still tell you what happened. I can still tell you what my mother's allegation was, five years later. And my memory isn't normally that good. So even if that grandmother's words don't have an effect on the way your dd sees herself, it might have an effect on the way you or your dh see her-- especially something so global as "prativnaya" (nasty/unpleasant/spoiled).
Either way, it sounds like your oldest dd is insecure about something, and taking it out on her younger sister, which is making the younger sister unhappy. Playdates might be a good idea for the younger sister, we have guests on a fairly regular basis and enjoy it, especially for shabbat meals. But that's symptomatic and won't get to the root of the problem. The root of the problem lies in the older dd's insecurity. How it got there I don't know, but it's worth talking about with her, just to see what's happening for her. It might go back so long that she doesn't even really know, but it's worth exploring anyway. Just my $0.02...
chavs - October 3, 2010 09:42 PM (GMT)
I think that there might be a few different factors.
First of all it sounds like dd2 needs something thats hers, that she can take pride in and enjoy, thats hers. Secondly I do think its important that she gets a chance to make friends with someone. Making a friend independently might help her self esteem and help take the pressure of the tug of war with dd3of. Perhaps an interest where she can meet other kids with similar interests to her where she can do something that will also stimulate her.
Secondly, I would try to find an activity that involves teamwork between dd1 and dd2 that they will enjoy together. I cant think of anything of the top of my head but something that will bring them closer in a non competitive way, with no loosers or winners, but something that will bring them closer and will build their relationship, something fun.
Yehudis - October 4, 2010 03:20 AM (GMT)
Zephyr, I think you're right. I don't think my attention is scarce; if anything, dd1 has always had more of it than dd2, just because she's much more demanding. But it could be that she is insecure and threatened by dd2, who at times just seems so sweet and so perfect.
When dd1 was around 2 years old, around the time when dd2 was born, she drove me absolutely crazy. She had the worst case of terrible twos -- she said "No!!!" to just about anything I said. I must have read all the parenting books on the planet and must have done everything wrong anyway. Then, all of a sudden, she just grew out of it. I'm hoping that my homeschooling will prevent it from happenning again when she's a teenager. But I wonder if that stage of her life, and the birth of her first sibling, had anything to do with this insecurity.
Yehudis - October 4, 2010 03:25 AM (GMT)
Also, dd2 doesn't really have anything that's just hers. She is taking a gymnastics class, together with her new best friend from camp, just because they wanted to do something together, and she's enjoying it, but dd1 is much more advanced than her in gymnastics and is taking a more advanced class at the same place. I wanted her to continue ballet, but she dropped out of it and doesn't want to go back. Drama would be good for her, but I suspect dd1 would be good at it too. We might put on a play with other homeschoolers, but then dd1 would also participate. She's good at music, but so is dd1. I don't know, I'm running out of ideas.
Happy Mom - October 4, 2010 04:47 AM (GMT)
So give dd2 something of her own; why can't she do a class that her older sister isn't doing? Our ds7 was child no. 6, and with four older siblings that were taking piano, he took violin - as a younger sibling of many competent older siblings, it was great for him to have something that only he knew how to do and was special.
Don't think so much about what happened so many years ago that may have made a difference - it's not productive. What is productive is thinking about what is going on right now with her that she's so threatened by her sister, and then addressing that root issue if you can. It might help if you can not only see but feel the beauty inside your older daughter; it's kind of non-tangible, but kids can sense how we're seeing them, and what you reflect back to her will affect how she sees herself.
(This is the statement that made me think about what you might be projecting about your oldest: "Dd2 is the opposite of dd1 -- kind, gentle, soft-spoken". So what is dd1 - obnoxious, rough, and aggressive??)
About playdates: I don't think there are any hard or fast rules, but I don't see a problem with a seven year old playing with a friend (assuming she's a good kid for your daughter to spend time with) daily for an hour or even more. The idea isn't to totally keep them kids from anyone who isn't family as much as it is to make your parental attachment her emotional compass point.
Yehudis - October 4, 2010 05:34 AM (GMT)
lol No, dd1 is assertive, determined, knows exactly what she wants, and won't take no for an answer. And I do value these qualities. To some extent, I'm also like that. If someone tells me what to do, I always feel like doing the opposite ;). So I know exactly where she got that from.
I have to think about something special for dd2. Any ideas anyone?
Zephyr - October 4, 2010 06:13 AM (GMT)
I'd ask her. And I'd look outside the usual afterschool stuff and take a look at what homeschool co-ops in your area are doing.
To be honest, I think you are running into a troubled space here... when you are thinking about what can dd2 do that dd1 can't do, you are comparing them all over again. I would ask, what would dd2 do that she would enjoy so much that it wouldn't bother her when someone else, even her sister, also did well?
Zephyr - October 4, 2010 08:03 AM (GMT)
You weren't sure that you compare your daughters subconsciously... and then without even realizing it, you tell us,
dd1 is assertive, determined, knows exactly what she wants, and won't take no for an answer.
dd2, who at times just seems so sweet and so perfect.
I don't think there's really any question. It's not something that parents usually do with awareness, but it's also not unusual. Parents do this without realizing all the time.
But what I do know is that this is too much for both girls. On a guess, while some of this is really just an expression of personality or ability (the way one of my kids was doing cartwheels at three and the other tried once but didn't like the feeling of not having her legs on the ground, and still hasn't done one at age 5). But honestly? I don't think that's it, because quite frankly, the girls split between characteristics you find positive (younger dd) and characteristics you find negative (older dd). That just doesn't sound like a coincidence.
What follows is too pat and reductionist to be more than a small piece of the puzzle, but this is what I've been able to piece together:
Older dd has personal characteristics that are seen as negative, and she knows it. Especially when she sees how her family interact with her "perfect" little sister. On the other hand, she had the good fortune of being born into a good Russian Jewish family, where competence and skill are tremendously valued. So being an able person, she knows how to get at least recognition from her family. But that's not enough. She has to be better than the beloved younger, "angelic" dd, or the regard that she worked so hard to earn is rendered less valuable. So she's driven to succeed, and just as driven to make sure that whatever she does, it's "better" than her little sister. There's just no rest in a scenario like that. Every fight is a fight to the death.
Meanwhile, the younger dd also has a problem just as big. She's been cast in the role of "perfect angel", and that's an awful, terrible role to bear. It means that she can't actually be herself. She sees what will happen if she displays assertiveness, and that's going to keep her from succeeding in the long run-- who succeeds in our world without it? And on top of it, she's got an older sister that she loves that keeps squashing her down, and getting into her space any time she tries to assert the competence that is so valued by her family. It's exhausting, and there's no way out, because then she'd have to assert herself, which is exactly what she knows she should not do. She's trapped.
There's a good chance I've totally misread this-- this is just an internet forum, and identifying this sort of dynamic can be hard even when you know the family well IRL. So take this with a grain of salt.
However, if this is the underlying dynamic, then you can change it! Because by changing what you say-- even what you perceive-- you have the power to completely change all of this to something much healthier. It's hard, hard work, but it is in your hands.
Yehudis - October 4, 2010 03:42 PM (GMT)
Hmm... Have to think about this. But when did I say that I find dd1's characteristics negative? I find her persistence admirable. She's the kind of kid who spends hours on her pictures, erasing and starting all over again, until she gets what she likes. I never had that much patience as a child, and my other kids don't have it either. I don't perceive her in a negative light at all.
That grandparent is a whole different story. That grandparent generally divides people into good and bad, and of course, I'm a bad one, so I doubt that this grandparent's opinion has any influence of the way I perceive my kids.
LearningFromExperience - October 4, 2010 04:58 PM (GMT)
Zephyr's analysis could be accurate from their point of view, even without you being the one who perceives them this way.
Or, it could be just about personality. Some people really are born competitive and some are not. I have a set of twins (boys) who refuse to compete with each other, and a set of twins (girls) for whom everything is a contest, and not only between themselves, but with the rest of the world as well. :shrug So it's not entirely about resources, because they have very similar claims on all family resources, and react very differently.
Let me tell you about something that worked out almost miraculously well for us. Of my twin girls, dd1 is a dancer and a gymnast, and succeeds in every sport she tries. DD2 is normal, but nothing noteworthy. Next to her twin sister, she looked clumsy. Similar to your girls, dd2 wanted to do gymnastics - I put her with younger kids. She wanted to do ballet, ditto. She did... ok. Finally we realized that she needs to do something different than dd1 - she did tap for a year. It was... fine.
Then it was time for their Bat Mitzvahs, which they planned for over a year. DD1 was working for months on a ballet dance that she would choreograph and perform for the women. But dd2 - her talents were in different areas. By then, she had shown herself to be an excellent cook and baker, and the most responsible person in the family, including 3 older brothers. But how do you show that off at a Bat Mitzvah? Her sister was dancing, everyone can see that. How do you show off trust?
B"H, we had serious Siyata DiShmaya: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrjgH45owps
She's almost 15 now, and she IS Super-Elisheva.
The tricky part has been to make sure that her sister can move a little bit into that space, so she doesn't grow up unable to boil water. :blush (She shapes the challa. They compete over who does a better job. I say, "it's not a contest". They say, "Of course it is" :rolleyes )
Anyway, besides showing off, why am I bothering to tell you this? Because it may take years for them to each define their own space and their own identity. Meanwhile, you can help - by setting each of them up with a bit of their own social circle, their own hobby (trial and error), and by appreciating their diversity.
I also think that there might be room for each of them to teach the other a little bit of their character, on a limited basis, and consciously. Like, you might suggest to dd1 that the quality of "vatranus" is something that she could emulate, and use not only an outside example (http://www.aish.com/sp/so/48910592.html) but also dd2. I'm not talking about comparing, I'm talking about appreciating the strengths of another person in the family. Not the same thing.
Yehudis - October 5, 2010 03:40 AM (GMT)
Thanks for sharing your experience, LFE.
Can you give an example of appreciating the strengths vs. comparing? Exact words, please. I'm getting nervous about subconsciously transmitting all those Soviet methods of child-raising that I've consciously tried so hard not to repeat.
Also, I realized that one area where dd2 excels is limmudei kodesh. She loves learning chumash, she loves parsha. She remembers all the details, and sometimes reminds me about something we learned together that I forgot myself. Dd1 is ahead of her with Hebrew skills, but it's because of the age difference. How do I build on that?
Zephyr - October 5, 2010 05:57 AM (GMT)
Whoa. I'd be careful here.
If you are trying to create something special for her, where the other can't really follow... do you want that space to be Torah learning?!
I'd guess that you want both girls to love learning. Perhaps one girl will have an easier time with one aspect, and the other with a different aspect... but it just doesn't fit with your values system to go in thi s direction. You want ALL your kids to love this. Not just one.
LearningFromExperience - October 5, 2010 11:51 AM (GMT)
You have to be careful.
Let's say you assign dd2 to prepare a Dvar Torah for the Shabbat table. The likely outcome is that dd1 will want to do it also. You wouldn't want to block that, would you?
Anyway, this is the one place that the Torah praises the trait of competitiveness - "kin'at sofrim". But here, too, you have to make sure that there is no way possible for anyone to say that dd2 was in any way inferior, especially dd2 herself. If dd1 wants to compete with her, fine, but let that keep it to herself, and neither you, nor dh, could participate in any way, or else you might spook dd2, or dd1 might become discouraged.
Do you have cooking or knitting classes for kids that age in your neighborhood?
|Can you give an example of appreciating the strengths vs. comparing? Exact words, please.|
The easiest? Compare to yourself instead. "Your sister has such an even temper, it takes so little to make her smile and so much to make her angry. That is such a rare trait. I wish I were like that also. I'm going to try to see if I can smile more, too".
Since there is normally no competition between parents and children, your statements will not be interpreted as competitive.
But OMG, I found myself in a tough spot this past week - did I mention they're almost 15 now? So we're walking to shul together, looking all gorgeous, and dd_b says to me, "is dd_a prettier than I am?"
Now, B"H they are both pretty girls. But, dd_a is 5'5'' and turned out to have an amazing figure, the kind that turns heads. dd_b is just over 5'', and has lovely curves, but of a different style altogether. If I say that no, you're both the same, it's so patently false that I would lose my credibility. So I told them that dd_a is "hot" while dd_b is "cute". I think they were both happy.
At least I only have the 2 of them, I have 1 relationship to manage. Those of you with 3 girls, that's 3 relationships.
With the boys, it's a lot easier. Video-games keep score.
Yehudis - October 5, 2010 03:50 PM (GMT)
Wow, that is a tough spot! That was a good answer!
Of course, I wouldn't want to block dd1 from preparing her own dvar Torah. So how do I encourage dd2 to give a dvar Torah, without creating all these problems?
Cooking won't work -- dd1 loves cooking. She makes breakfast sometimes. Knitting? Hmm... Have to look into that.
LearningFromExperience - October 6, 2010 02:46 PM (GMT)
|So how do I encourage dd2 to give a dvar Torah, without creating all these problems?|
Encourage her, just try to make sure that nothing happens to discourage her, and if it does, try to deal with it.
It's enough that you ask her to go first.
Happy Mom - October 7, 2010 04:06 AM (GMT)
Yehudis, at the risk of being very redundant, I'm going to quote myself again.
>>It might help if you can not only see but feel the beauty inside your older daughter; it's kind of non-tangible, but kids can sense how we're seeing them, and what you reflect back to her will affect how she sees herself.<<
I really feel like you're looking too much for techniques and not looking at the core issue. Even though you've said you think your oldest daughter is wonderful, I got a strong vibe that you're sending out a different message to her. This is the place to work on undoing what has been done, and when you change this, everything else will flow differently. Issues that you perceive to be a problem now will shift and it's very likely they won't be real issues once you deal with the core problem.
Yehudis - October 7, 2010 11:56 PM (GMT)
I don't know about different vibes. Both dds have their own beautiful qualities, and both have what to work on. But it is true that dd1 gets in trouble a lot more than dd2. This morning, I kept reminding her that she had to do her work, and every time I left room, to change a diaper, or to put the baby down for a nap, etc. I would come back and find her doing something totally different. Yes, she made an amazing castle out of a tissue box, an egg carton, and construction paper. But that was our learning time. She was supposed to be working on her grammar book, her Hebrew book, etc. I felt like every five minutes I had to tell her to get back to her work. I'm still frustrated. Maybe that's the kind of vibes that she gets. (Dd2, OTOH, did her work all by herself without complaining.)
LearningFromExperience - October 10, 2010 10:55 AM (GMT)
Now why did you feel the need to tell us that dd2 did her work?
Yehudis - October 10, 2010 06:15 PM (GMT)
To explain why I had more negative interactions with dd1 than with dd2. I've been watching for this in past couple of days, and I'm noticing this pattern -- that I have much more negative interactions with dd1 than with any of the other kids.
LearningFromExperience - October 10, 2010 07:45 PM (GMT)
That's probably a sign that she draws out whatever unresolved issues you have about yourself.
You're also the oldest, right?
In addition, Zephyr has a theory that whatever age you had difficulty with, you will find hardest in your children.
There may be some truth to that, because the hardest for me is 7-9. I'll take a 2 yo or a 3 yo any day over a 7 yo.
Yehudis - October 10, 2010 10:51 PM (GMT)
Yes, I am the oldest. Interesting. Have to think about that.
BTW, I don't think I said this explicitly, but I really appreciate everyone's comments on this thread. You've all given me a lot to think about. Thank you! And please keep them coming. :)
LearningFromExperience - October 11, 2010 01:52 PM (GMT)
If your family is at all typical, your nearest sibling is nowhere near you in age?
Do you tell them your stories, what it was like for you growing up?