Raising multiple children is not much different from raising one child. After all, you are only dealing with one child at a time. In fact, the one thing that many people don’t understand about large families is that a family is a group of individuals, not just a group.
Each child is uniquely different from their other siblings. Each one has certain personality traits, gifts, abilities, and challenges. When parents understand that the key to raising multiple children is to treat each of them as individuals life gets much smoother.
In twenty -eight years of marriage my husband, Marc, and I have had eight children.
- Yes, they are all ours. Together.
- No, none of them are twins.
- Yes, we do know what causes that.
- Yes, we do own a t.v.
- I am glad it is me and not you, too.
Sibling Rivalry, the Myth
Sibling rivalry is apparently quite a popular problem. It happens when a new baby comes into the house and the older child feels slighted, left out, and unloved. Normal? Not necessarily.
Generally, when a new baby is on the way parents begin talking about the new baby, planning for the new baby, and all of a sudden, from Junior’s point of view, he is out, the new baby is in and he wants his special place back. Easy to understand why he would feel that way, isn’t it?
When a child is allowed to be part of the preparations he is more likely to be accepting of the addition. If he doesn’t wish to be a part then he should not be coaxed but allowed to participate as much or as little as he likes without it being a big deal.
Once the new baby is in residence it should not have the entire attention of the household. If you are reading Junior a story and baby wakes up and fusses, continue on with the story, finishing it if you can. If the baby is very fussy, then excuse yourself, get the little one, and calmly finish the story while you are nursing the baby.
Too often the new baby becomes the head of the house, requiring all the attention. Junior hears things like, “Well, he is just a baby but you are a big boy!” and “Go play, I need to take care of the baby now.”
It is really no wonder that sibling rivalry develops at that point.
As children grow, and more children are added to the family certain personalities will clash. It is normal. It doesn’t need a title. As long as each child is respected for his gifts and abilities, and treated fairly there will be little sibling rivalry.
Generally, the best way to handle the small outbreaks of rivalry is to ignore it. It is, after all, a ploy to get attention and to see which child will get the preferential treatment. If you look up and quietly say, “Please take this to another room, I am busy” then neither will have won and the argument will soon wind down.
Responsibility, Teach It Early and Well
Responsibility is important. When children have chores and things to be responsible for it makes them feel secure, a part of the family, and useful. Responsibilities carried out successfully create children who are self-confident, resourceful and think outside the box.
- A one-year-old can pick up his toys with help.
- A two-year-old can get mom’s glasses from the other room, or grab a clean diaper for the new baby.
- A three-year-old can clear a dishwasher, except the sharp things.
- A four-year-old can set the table or make a salad. He can get the wastebaskets from the rooms to be emptied.
- A five-year-old can make a bed, entertain a fussy baby, or match socks (math and reading skills!)
- A six-year-old can make sandwiches, clear the table, load a dishwasher, dust furniture.
- A seven-year-old can clean a bathroom with non-toxic cleaners.
- An eight-year-old can do his own laundry, rock a fussy baby, or clean the kitchen.
- A nine-year-old can run the vacuum, make muffins for breakfast, or help with dinner.
- A ten-year-old can make yeast bread, cakes, cookies, read a book to a sibling, or entertain the little ones while mom gets a quick nap.
- By age 12 a child should be able to make any simple meal, clean, and babysit as needed.
Large families understand that everyone is working toward a common goal. Chores are a necessary part of every day and no one, least of all a weary mom, can do it all alone. By pitching in they know that they are contributing to the household and are important.
Sense of Humor Required
When there are many children in a family the house will not normally look like a page torn from Better Homes and Gardens.
You need a sense of humor to deal with all of the irritations that come up throughout the day. You need to have the ability to let certain things go and know what your priorities are.
Having a joyful spirit, wearing a smile, and speaking gently will allow your children to be relaxed. Children learn to treat others as they have been treated. If you have one child that is calling the others stupid morons more than likely he is getting that treatment from somewhere. Be sure it isn’t you.
When you make a mistake, lose your temper, or act badly then be quick to admit that you are wrong and apologize. Parents are an example to their children.
Mom and Dad Come First
Sometimes, especially when you have a lot of children, it can be difficult to spend time together as husband and wife. Yet, unity in the marital relationship will keep the rest of the family dynamics running smoothly.
Teach your children to respect your time together as a couple. Allow them to see that you value your relationship with your spouse. Make time for each other, even if it is only a weekly coffee date.
Children find security when their parents have strong marriages. Make your relationship a priority.
A large family is a group of individuals working together toward a common goal. When children are raised with this understanding they learn to work together, to encourage each other, and to help each other out. In large families, there is no time for selfishness or self-involvement.
If you have many children or plan to, keep your expectations attainable but high. Children will become what they believe they are. By instilling in them a belief that they are important, secure, intelligent, compassionate, a gifted they will become those things to the best of their ability.
There are some things you learn in large families that can’t be learned any other way. It is a wonderful experience.