Featured Picture Book
SUKI & MIRABELLA by Carmela and Steven D’Amico (Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.) In SUKI & MIRABELLA, we meet two bunnies both trying to be the center of attention and in charge of their world. Suki opens the story complaining that her “court” wasn’t bowing enough. Then, she became even less the center of attention when her cousin Mirabella arrived and started directing all the games. Suki refused to play with one word, “’Boring.’” What she wanted to do instead was win competitions – any competition she could get Mirabella to participate in. “’I bet I can go faster than you,’ Suki challenged.” In turn, Mirabella bragged, “’I can hop higher than any other animal on the farm . . . ‘“ Finally, the competitions ended when both bunnies got stuck in the thicket. Then, cooperation became the name of the game. It took quite a bit of effort, but eventually they beat the thicket instead of each other and as a result, a friendship was born.
Dr. Mom: Overindulgence can be many things. It can be too much stuff or too many gifts. But, it also can be too much attention, too much control, or too many things done for you that you should be able to do for yourself. I’m going to guess that you haven’t thought as much about those things as signs of overindulgence. Is your child making decisions for the whole family – where each person will sit, what to watch on TV, what to eat for dinner? Does your child know and respect that there are things that are for adults only? Do they adjust to other caretakers or expect you to be with them all the time? Do they interrupt adult conversations and expect to be part of all the adult activities? These are all things that can signal overindulgence.
Darling Daughter: Guilty as charged. We tend to let Ezzy choose the restaurant when we go out, and in the rare case when Dad wants to eat at a certain place, we usually get some complaining and resistance from her. To his credit, Dad doesn’t give in and E.’s protest doesn’t last long. I think we ended up in this situation because neither grown-up wanted to make the decision. “Where do you want to eat?” “I don’t know; doesn’t matter; you pick.” “I don’t know either.” It was just easier to let someone else (Ezzy) pick – and she enjoyed it. I guess we need to work on our own decision-making.
Dr. Mom: I suggest a plan to gradually ease her into more adult control in the household – a few decisions at a time. If she has been in charge a lot, it may be too much to go cold turkey – pardon the Thanksgiving pun. For example, each of you could have a turn deciding on the restaurant. Thus, she will only be deciding every third time, and she will see her parents taking more control. Then, you can check out other areas where she might be making the family decisions and take a similar weaning approach.
You may be thinking, “But decision-making is good for kids.” Yes it is, but only if they are making decisions that fit their age and aren’t attempts to control the adults in the family. When children are allowed or expected to decide things for everybody in the family, they begin to see themselves as the center of their family – the center of their universe. They begin to expect to have all the attention and to have what they want when they want it. As they get older, however, they learn that they are not the center of the world they live in. They begin to feel the resentment caused by their pushy and demanding behavior. Overindulgence that seems like “the good life” when they are young actually puts them at a serious disadvantage as they grow older and the reality of the grown up world sets in – where they need to earn their way and be able to take care of themselves.
Being Afraid to Lose
Suki and Mirabella were both afraid of losing their power over their playmates. They both had been in charge of their separate worlds, but now one of them was going to have to give up some of the attention. They believed there wasn’t enough power or attention for both of them. They were no doubt feeling jealousy – a feeling full of fear and insecurity. Have you seen jealous feelings in your children or in children you care about? You can help children with jealousy. You can teach them how to use their personal power in acceptable ways to get what they want. You can learn more about how kids learn to use power at Kids and Sharing part 1 and part 2. When they believe they are capable, they are less insecure and likely to feel jealous. You can show them they are loved. You can prove to them that they will get the attention and care they need. When they believe they are loveable, they are less insecure and afraid of losing, both of which lead to jealousy.
I often wonder whether an only child is more likely to be jealous. Is it an advantage to not have to compete for parents’ attention? Or, will an only child be more fearful and insecure about competing for attention when faced with it outside the family? I guess it comes down to the grown-ups and what messages we are sending to our kiddos.
Bingo! It’s always about how the situation is handled. Adult messages shape the decisions children make about themselves and the world around them. In turn, the decisions we make as children stick with us forever. Then, we are faced as adults with figuring out whether those old decisions are helpful to us or not and whether to hold onto them or do the hard work of changing them.
Jealousy’s partner in crime is envy – wanting what others have. Children naturally want more than they have. The best way to deal with envy is to teach children how much is enough and to show them that adults will help them get enough of what they need. As part of learning about what it means to have enough, children must learn about the difference between needs and wants. To learn more about “enough,” at Kids and Sharing part 1 & part 2.
You know, I don’t think I ever knew that there is a difference between jealousy and envy! Jealousy is about fear of losing something you have and envy is about wanting what somebody else has. Huh, you learn something new every day … or hopefully when you read this blog!
Competition is another way that children try to get the attention they want and make themselves feel powerful. Competition can teach children many important things like how to cope with the ups and downs of winning and losing, the importance of never giving up, and that hard work is the way to succeed. However, competing can also invite kids to decide that to be on top means they have to put someone else down – that life is all about overpowering others. I wish more coaches and sports-parents would help their athletes focus on competing against their own best performances rather than beating up or beating down their competitors.
Oh boy! We had this exact situation crop up on E.’s volleyball team this past season. We were losing badly, and someone on our team started accusing the opponent of cheating. (And, they weren’t.) Man, did that spread like wildfire through the girls on our team! The coaches tried to stop the accusations and refocus the girls during the game, but they are 10-years-old and new to competitive sports. To turn things around it took some long heart-to-heart conversations among everyone involved – coaches, parents, and players. But to everyone’s credit, by the next game the girls were focused on themselves and playing their best. They eventually won the last two games of their season – and you could see for miles the pride they had in themselves.
My compliments to the coaches and parents for sending the right messages.
The Power of Problem-solving
Suki and Mirabella became friends as a result of a crisis. Stuck together in a thicket, they had to listen to each other, accept each other’s ideas, and be willing to accept a win-win rather than an I-win and you-lose outcome. I strongly encourage parents to find ways to face children with problem-solving situations when they are highly aggressive, competitive, and trying to overpower others. For example, when brothers and sisters are having a squabbling kind of day, think up a problem they have to solve in order to get something they both want and turn them lose. Let them struggle. Don’t jump in with a solution. They may squabble more at the beginning, but as they become more desperate for a solution, the more cooperative they will become.
I couldn’t help but think about gifted children, while reading about Suki’s claims of being bored. I actually think that in the story, her boredom was mostly about putting down Mirabella’s activities and trying to compete for attention. But, when children complain about boredom, I think we all need to be alert to whether they have exceptional abilities they are not being challenged to use. They may need playmates that they have more in common with, special instruction to further develop their talents, or more complex kinds of toys or activities. If you suspect that your child is not learning as much or as quickly as he is capable of, you can talk with your school about having the child tested for giftedness. Also, know that giftedness can be an explanation for why a child might be getting in trouble at school. Gifted learners are not always the “A” students. Oftentimes the student who is failing, getting in trouble or even dropping out of school is the one that is gifted and that needs more engaging, relevant and challenging work to do in school.
Been there; done that. Also be aware that your child may be gifted in a subject that is not supported by your school. Schools often only attend to English Language Arts and mathematics for gifted students. However, science, art, technology, etc. could also be gifted areas for your child. If so, it is even more difficult for parents to figure out how to keep their child interested in school and growing in their learning. Thankfully, there are many resources online regarding children and giftedness, and it certainly is worth the effort for parents to learn more about this. When children are challenged with interesting, complex work, they light up with energy and enthusiasm.
Anybody who has ideas for this let us know and we will share with others.
“Daily Parenting Tips” based on our featured book are posted daily. Come back each day for another good parenting decision and how to practice it.
SPECIAL NOTE: Mom’s Team is taking some time off for the holidays. Look for our next post on January 2, 2014. We can’t wait to spend another year with you thinking about how to be the best parents we can be. Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!
Read All About It
GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson
SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft
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- kids and competition
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