Thursday, August 20, 2009

Q&A: Teaching Children (Including Boys!) to Love and Respect Each Other

From Amy:
I have six boys and often times seem to live in such a different world than you. I am such an oddity where I live, people actually know me as the mother of the six boys. It is in Mass. which gives a bit of a clue. Anyway, I wonder how you get your children to appreciate each other? I live in a community where material things and activities are so overvalued, however I find myself feeling so overwhelmed just to help my boys to fit in. I have no daughters in our family so I often feel like it is harder to help them to respect and cherish each other.
Well, Amy, the reason you think we live in a different world is that very likely we do! =) I'm not a native of Utah -- I always claim Idaho as my real home -- but families are valued here and even though I'm a bit of an anomaly because of how many and how close in age my kids are, people are generally positive about my family. I recognize that I am blessed to live in such an environment. Even though I still get looks and comments, most people understand why I value and love children. I really admire you for the way you're loving and raising your family in a place where things aren't as positive.

The other major difference, as you noted, is that I have five girls and two boys, while you live in a world of all boys. I have some suggestions for helping children get along, which I'll post in another post, but because of your unique situation, I decided to ask Jacki and Allison to chime in with their perspective. Jacki is a mother of five boys who lives in Oregon. Allison has lived in many places, including Chicago and Massachusetts, with her five boys. They recently added a daughter to their family (see, Jacki, there is hope! =P)

First, here's Jacki:
I get looks too- I can’t go anywhere without someone saying I have my hands full and watching their jaw drop as they see that not only do I have 5 young children, but that they are all boys…

I heard the comment once to say “My heart too” after someone says “Your hands are full!” Now I need a comment for what to say when someone asks me if I’m done having children… or am I still trying for the girl! I don’t mind those conversations with a friend, but the grocery cashier, or the lady in the elevator and anyone else who gets a second to take us all in doesn’t need to know! And I’m tired of my boys hearing it all the time! I asked them what they thought of those comments and my 8 year old said “it’s kinda fun- like we’re famous or something.” So I guess they don’t think it’s bad.

Reading some of Christina’s posts have made me wonder if my boys love and appreciate each other. They don’t do the sweet things that Christina’s often do. But thinking about it I realized they have their own way of showing their love for each other…
* Teaching even a 1 year old how to use the Star Wars “force”
* Light saber duels
* Collaborative mischief
* Pokémon card talk and battles
* Helping each other build Lego creations
* Making silly faces and chasing the 3 year old to cheer him up.
* Playing peek a boo with the 1 year old
* Reading a book to the 3 year old
* Pillow fights
* Running in circles with each other
* Making silly faces or body movements to say sorry or cheer someone up
* Hugs that turn into tackles

I thought most of these things were kind of annoying until I realized it’s their way of showing they care about each other.

I do think there are ways to promote caring for each other, here’s a few of my ideas- I’d love more!

* Sharing a room- My children that share a room have a stronger, more personal relationship.

* Book time/quiet time- we have an hour of Book Time each summer day where they read upstairs while the younger kids nap. It often turns into quiet sneaking into each other’s rooms to read and hang out together. They seem to get along better in this time as they know they aren’t allowed to be loud or come talk to me.

* Helping them value each other’s personality- they truly are each unique and sometimes we think they have a flaw or are annoying, but it’s just a different way of being. I try not to let them say mean things. I often remind them “Kind words- kind voices!”

* Gotchas- We print out slips of paper that say “Gotcha!”. They get one when they are kind or obedient. When we have earned 100 collectively, we have a Pizza/Movie night and read all the nice things they’ve done.

* Love bear- a stuffed bear that we pass around. One person has it and they do a secret kindness for someone else and leave it on their pillow.

* I’ve wondered about sibling outings where one parent can take 2 kids and do something fun..but I haven’t thought out all the “make it fair” logistics. But, I think it would be fun to have 2 interact alone.

I’m thankful to be a mom and for the joys of having boys.
And now Allison's ideas:
Having all boys and also having lived in MA, I can totally relate to both of Amy's issues. People would look at me like I had 3 heads when I had all of my boys with me (which was all the time). What saved us from people being totally horrified was that boys #3 and #4 are twins. Our first two were boys, so in other's minds it was okay to 'try for a girl'. Then we got twin boys, but it was okay since we got a 2 for 1 deal. :-) I'm glad I didn't have to explain our decision to have our fifth child, also a boy [since we moved before he was born]! There is no way people could comprehend WANTING another child after 4! Quite honestly, what saved me during our 5 years in MA was church. Having people around me, at least some of the time, who also might have a larger family, or who at least understood my desire to have a larger family, was a lifesaver. I can't imagine how alone I would have felt without those friends. Somehow, going out with another mom who had 4 little ones made me feel much less alone - even though the shocked looks and comments were even more prevalent. I don't know if Amy has friends who have larger families, but seeking some out would probably help a lot! I know lots of great LDS families in Belmont......... :-) As for having boys who appreciate and love one another, that's a bit harder with boys, I think. My problem is that I look at families with little girls and think/hope that my boys are going to respond to each other in that way. The truth is, that's not the way boys are wired. What looks like fighting to me, can actually be bonding for them! My husband helps me to understand this dynamic. Boys are going to be very physical, lots of wrestling, jumping, running, and yelling. I can't understand it, but I'm trying harder to see it for what it is - the way my boys show each other they like to be around one another. We do have a few rules at our house that help keep the noise and fighting to a dull roar! First, we emphasize 'watching out for one another'. I encourage my boys to stand up for one another when they're playing with friends, and tell them they have a responsibility to help protect their brother's. Not that they are in any huge fights or anything, just that I want them to feel a responsibility towards one another - especially when I'm not there. Second, if boys are playing with friends, their brothers are always invited to play, as well. The one time I make an exception is if a younger brother is being extremely whiny/crying. Then I'll take the younger brother and separate him for awhile. I don't like my boys to exclude one another, so as long as everyone is behaving, it's a rule that no one can be excluded. Of course there are times when an older brother is going somewhere or doing something where younger brother's aren't invited. But for 99% of the time that they're just hanging out playing, they are not allowed to exclude their brothers. Boys are tricky. I read a great book called "Bringing up Boys" by Dobson that really helped clarify the type of boys I want to raise. I'm not usually a Dobson fan - I think he's way too harsh and I don't spank. But this book struck a chord with me. It discusses the 'feminizing' of our boys in everything from school, to expectations about the way they will play with one another. Boys need a bit of an edge, a competitive streak, in order to find the inner strength to stand up for what they believe in. I try to balance allowing this strength/edge to develop, with keeping them grounded and emphasizing what is important - the gospel of Jesus Christ, making good decisions even when it's difficult, working hard (WORK FIRST is a family motto), being kind, especially to those who are weaker then themselves. These are lessons I want to emphasize because I think they help boys develop into the type of men I want to raise. Keeping these ultimate goals in mind, help me to look past the daily challenges of raising boys!


Christensen Kids said...

I couldn't help comment on this one just a little :-) As I have 5 boys myself. Even in Utah, I get "looks" and "comments" and I also feel the need to fit in. Having said that. I think that there is a certain amount of boys being boys. I love all the suggestions and will try a few of them out. I have found my boys are rough and tough at home and we don't have a day where there isn't a fight or two or three, well you get the idea.
But in school and away from home I find watching them, and other's comments, that they are well behaved and stick up for one another and very rarely are the ones to pick a fight. I find some comfort in this and when some one says "You have such good boys" I usually give them eyebrow and say "really?" But I believe there is hope for us, if we can keep them in a gospel centered home, reward them for the good behavior and show them how much we love them! So here's to all the mom's of boys out there!
Thanks for letting me comment. I enjoy reading your blog and enjoy it!

Christensen Kids said...

the last part was supposed to say enjoy the advice...sorry :-)

amywilson said...

Christina, Jacki and Allison,
I cannot thank you enough for responding to my question. It was funny because after I had sent the question to Christina, I immeditaley went into this reflective place and just started to pray daily that I would find some peace with all of us. I am trying to be so thankful for all the amazing people we have met and disregard the ones who are not so positive. It is so funny because poeple alwys give us this look and then when they get to know our boys they find them infectious. They are so well behaved and create so much fun wherever they go! I love my boys so much and they truly are the most kindest good souls. Actually that is what I say to them all the time. I think I needed to cherish them more and stop stessing so much about how they are with each other because when it comes down to it they always are there for each other and they truly do love each other. Whether it be a hug when no one is looking or cheering for each other at a game, or most importantly watching out for each other especially when we leave the house, my boys are learning that family and God is all they need to have a good life. As we say money would help but but we are all ready rich, just rich in love and that is more important. I also belive you are totally correct in looking towars church, howver that is where I fell I am struggling the most. I grew up loving the church we belonged to but do not treally feel like we fit into the church we have been going to. We have a very large parich in this towne but my kids are very turned off by it. They say it is just so big and not very warm. I keep praying that I find that place where I feel like I belong. I always say six boys is a busy day but I couldn't imagine it any other way. And to all the people who ask me if I am trying for that girl, I always I say I would take 10 boys, I truly love boys!
Thanks again,

alligood said...

Amy, I love my boys, too! I hated the 'oh, you are trying for a girl!' comments I received frequently during my last two pregnancies. I always made sure my boys heard me tell people how I really would love more boys! There is something really spectacular about having all of one gender - it's such an interesting dynamic that develops. I don't know where in MA you are, but I have a very good friend who lives in Belmont who also has 5 boys all under the age of 9. You're not completely alone! :-)

swedemom said...

I thought the advice from other mothers of many boys was great. I would echo it. My husband has two brothers and one sister. When they get together, his brothers start wrestling their dad. It's so funny to watch these grown men roll around on the ground. But the truth is, they seem some way to express their affection and love for one another in a physical way. Wrestling seems to fit the bill for them. Our culture doesn't have a really acceptable way for boys and men to express physical affection for one another. So that is one reason why you'll see boys wrestles with one another. I see this pattern with my boys as well. Growing up with 8 girls in my family, I didn't understand how my boys do show love and affection and kindness to one another. But I do see it in a myriad of ways.


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