My children have been arguing, bickering, yelling, and getting frustrated with each other more often recently. I am usually pretty good at predicting when a conflict might arise between them, like if they have been spending too much time together indoors or one (or both) are hungry or tired. This set of battles, however, has been different. All I could do is observe and reflect.
I was able to observe some very interesting things, most strikingly that my daughter (almost 7 year old) is trying to exert serious control over my son (almost 5 year old). While her trying to dictate his day or generally being the “bossy (leader!) older sister” isn’t new, this felt more urgent on her end and more frustrating on his end. She has also begun to baby him more than ever, doing things for him like snatching a jar out of his hands to open it for him to which he generally freaks out! She also likes to discipline her little brother. She is chiming in to offer her two cents when I or her dad redirects her little brother, which is so very, very frustrating for all involved.
This of course begs the question, why is she acting like this? A few deductions, my children are now on different planes, with different needs and we are still in an adjustment period. She wants to feel and act older to differentiate herself from her “little” brother and because he isn’t that much younger and is very capable she keeps trying to take his capability down a peg. Another thing that is happening is that she is now in a Lower Elementary classroom community where she is in the youngest group versus the year before being the oldest and therefore leader of her Children’s House classroom community. This fall from the top has been a hard adjustment for my gal.
So that leads us to the title of this post which I’m sure is very confusing at this point, I decided to give my daughter more responsibility and control over things that are not her brother. She came up with a list of things she wanted to “manage” like sweeping up after dinner or organizing the shelves in her room.
I recommended something that my mom started with me when I was about eight: planning, shopping, and preparing a meal once a month. The ground rules are that it can be whatever the child wants to make so they are excited about the cooking process, but the parents have the right to suggest additions or subtractions.
To say my daughter was excited about this process is an understatement. She immediately got to work planning and making a list and wanted to make her dinner the next day!
She decided with zero help from me that she wanted to make hamburgers (with a grilled cheese for little brother) and salad. I approved that relatively well-balanced plan. Next we looked up a simple hamburger recipe that only called for ground beef, salt, pepper, and butter. She then made a list and we checked off the items that we already had at home. The next day after school we went to the grocery store for the remaining ingredients.
I did not help her with making the salad at all, except for a refresher on how to use the pairing knife. We used the griddle to cook the burgers which she was familiar with from pancake making with dad. I like the electric griddle because there is no flame and the wide space allows for a child to have plenty of room to maneuver like when flipping. I just used words to guide her, but mostly observed. She did it all, truly. She was so stinking proud of herself! She did not need me to praise her, she was beaming!
Chopping, seasoning, flipping, serving, enjoying!
Little brother is now trying to get in on this action, but I want to protect this for her and keep it special for awhile.