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In order to make a big family work, I realize that older kids have to take responsibility for younger kids. I remember you talking about how your sons are responsible for buckling each other in the car. When I tried this in my family we ran into a roadblock. While my oldest (7) is happy to help, my middle (3) is not interested in her helping him. He insists that I do things for him and not his sister. How can I get him to accept her help?
Melissa, in PA
This is such a common problem in so many families. Melissa, I’ve heard about siblings, fathers, grandparents, nannies, babysitters, teachers – who have heard that phrase never delivered at less than 100 decibels: “No! Mommy do it!”
There are a few solutions, but first let’s take a (quick) look at this from your preschooler’s point of view. He wants (what he always wants):
1. Your attention.
3. Your attention.
He asks you for help, you give that job to someone else and he gets none of the things he wants. So of course he is going to try to change the situation. Also, if he’s paying attention at all, he knows that this is going to be a pattern – you doing less for him. That is great for him, but probably not at all OK with him!
So, how can we get younger kids to accept assistance from Not Mommy?
1. Notice what he gets from you along with the help.
Do you normally give a kiss or a squeeze after the buckle clicks? Does he just want your eyes on him and him alone, even if it’s only for 10 seconds?
2. Make it clear that you are asking for HIS help.
“It’s time for Team Work! Can you help me by working with your sister to get your buckle on?” Or, if you can’t give him an option, talk ahead of time about Team Work and when an outing or situation will require it. Explain that sometimes he can choose who helps him (like who reads a story at bedtime, or pours his milk) and sometimes he needs to work with whomever is available and help them assist him. This is a great way to praise his efforts and what a big boy he is! The baby clearly can’t help anyone do anything yet.
3. Even if you don’t give the help, do give the affection.
Back to your attention, show him that you value that connecting time as well (even if it’s really short) and see if you can have twice as much time together as he is missing out on by letting someone else help. This can be as simple as:
• A full minute hug (he lets go first) when you reach your destination…
• An extra cuddle at bedtime…
• As soon as the car starts moving he gets to tell you 2 stories and a joke…
• Be creative or ask him!
4. Praise his efforts.
Remember that he is taking one for the team here, and praise his team work (or even his attempts). He doesn’t want to give you, or his autonomy, up for a second! Ask him to thank the person who worked with him on the task, especially if it’s a sibling. That will reinforce his great behavior for both of them.
How have you overcome the “No – Mommy do it!” hurdles at your house?