Monday, May 18, 2009

Responsibility and Your Second Child

Being a mommy to many often has it's struggles. Once you get over one hurdle, it seems there is another because our children and families are always growing and changing. One particular problem I have had for some time is my eldest son. He's my second child and never seems to be satisfied with his lot in life. It seems that he's forever angry or unhappy. Am I encouraging this behavior? Am I making it worse?

The light bulb came on for me recently. I was helping a S.T.A.R.S trainer during a class she held for child care center directors (mostly just handing out papers, etc. so I was able to sit in on the class). Many of these women can't provide much for their employees in the way of raises or prestige, this field is often characterized by their minimum wages and lack of education, hence the mandated STARS training in the first place. Anyway, one thing that the teacher mentioned, I realized that it was just what I can do at home. She said that when you don't have more money to offer an employee, make places for them to move up to within your employee structure. You know, add more prestigious sounding titles and a little more responsibility to the toddler teacher's work load. Call her the "Playground Safety Specialist" and make her responsible for the upkeep of equipment and first aid supplies in all outdoor areas of your center. Have her stand before the rest of the staff and give reports during staff meetings on the state of the playground.

Sound a little manipulative? Sound slightly see through and cheesy? You'd be surprised at how a mediocre employee will rise to the occasion and take a leadership roll, finding dignity and fulfillment in such a position.

So how does that apply to the mommy at home with several children? I've struggled with some time with allowing my eldest daughter to be my right hand girl. She's the one I count on if I need something done. How do you think that my #2 child has responded to that? Many shouts of "She's your favorite!" or "She's spoiled!" have come out in anger. Deep down, he wants to have the honor that his sister receives as the extension of my own arms.

If need be, my daughter is my babysitter. I do pay her when it isn't a necessary leave of absence on my part i.e. an emergency room trip (many people balk at paying your own children but my opinion is that this is far over and above regular chores and "a workman is worthy of his wages" 1 Timothy 5:18)

So I tried a little something. My son has often asked if he'll ever be able to babysit like Sissy. In my mind, I've always thought he was too immature and, quite possibly, never be able to do it. I took a chance, in a controlled situation that is (I haven't totally lost my mind!) After talking with my husband and then Sissy before presenting the idea to Macho Man, I gave it a go. The idea was that he would be in charge of Speed Racer during the time I was away. Sissy would still ultimately be in charge and call the shots in an emergency but he would be responsible to entertain Speed Racer and would receive the cash incentive that Sissy would normally receive for this child. Sissy would still be with the other children.

Because I was still a little hesitant, I dropped back by home in between errands. I was pleasantly surprised to find Macho man playing cars on the floor with his little brother and generally being a WONDERFUL babysitter. All reports were positive, including from the babysittee!

So, here is a little bit of responsibility and prestige for my up and coming big boy. He has risen to the occasion, now more than once. He continues to find value and importance within the family.

My mind reels at the possibilities here. How can I use this idea for child #3? They already have regular chores, and this child is the one who does the recycling and helps his younger brother with the compost chores... how can I add a good title and a little glamor to his job? The possibilities are endless.


Carrie said...


I am so glad that this has been valuable in your family...we are working through similar issues...I will email you about that in a bit...

Becki said...

You know I may only have two, but I see this in my family too. Thanks for sharing.

Missi said...

Sounds like a great plan. I'll have to think that through for our situation also.

mama-aya said...

Just what I needed to read! I've been struggling with bedtimes when Papa's not home, and adjusted your idea to fit my boy; give him some Papa-in-training responsibility. What a lovely, quiet evening at our house, and how nice to enjoy a chance to see my husband without a pile of over-tired over-cranky boys in the mix. Lovely and timely advice. Thank you!

A House FULL of Grace said...

Thanks for this great insight. I, too, have been dealing with an attitude of discontent and grumbling in child #2 and I'm thanking the Lord that He led me to your blog to read this today! I'm off to try it...