It seems like the go-to thing to tell your kid when you’re in the middle of parenting one child, and another wants to throw in their two cents: “Kid, worry about yourself. I got this. I’m the parent, and you are not.”
But here’s why I’m trying to change that reaction and mindset. So I can better equip my children to help each other out with a healthy way to “worry” about others.
As a parent, I definitely know that the role of a child is not to parent another child. But where does that leave our children in those circumstances? I mean after we have essentially put them back in their place? It seems to set them up to think that they should just never say anything to their siblings or peers. That their parents specifically instructed them to worry about themselves.
Instead, I’ve been throwing around ideas of how to maintain my role as the parent while allowing my other children to involve themselves.
It is easy to relate sibling relationships with kids on a sports team. When you think about it on a sports team, you win and lose together. Another person’s actions have consequences for all on the team. When you don’t have passing grades, making you ineligible to play on the team—that doesn’t just affect you, but all who are a part of that team.
This brings me back to my point about telling our kids to worry only about themselves. If they did that on a team, the team wouldn’t be successful. You can’t have a team that has everyone looking out only for themselves.
Worry the Right Way
When my three year old tells her little brother to essentially “eat his dinner or else,” it’s a teaching moment. It’s an opportunity to show her how to encourage her brother instead of trying to parent him.
We explain to her how she can be of better help by telling him how great dinner tastes. And that when they finish, they may get those popsicles they’ve been begging for all day long. She can even be a little silly and pretend to excitedly eat her dinner, saying “NOM, NOM, NOM,” as she piles food into her mouth.
This, we explain, is the healthy way to worry about other people, rather than just about yourself. We are teaching our children the importance of encouraging one another when one is struggling. And you know what? It’s really incredible to experience when your children begin to do it without being prompted!
This can grow from so much more than just encouraging someone to actually eat their dinner. Finding ways to teach your kids how to speak up when someone isn’t doing what they should will be a valuable tool: as a family member, as a person in general and throughout life.
The bond that siblings share will only grow closer when they do care about what’s happening in each other’s lives, and feel that they can positively influence one another.
When they are older and are making more difficult decisions, they will feel comfortable holding each other accountable. They will be able to speak to each other with love and grace. They will be able to address the hard things.
I think that sometimes we are afraid to say the hard things to one another and keep them to ourselves. But that promotes the idea of everyone for themselves—the opposite of being on a team together.
Life is so much more enjoyable when you have people along side you and you know they truly care.