a bossy big sister

It has happened more than once in our house as the girls go to bed in their shared bedroom.  Jujubee bounces around on her bed and makes noise, so her big sister tells her to be quiet and lie down.  Jujubee does not like it when her big sister tells her what to do, and she begins to throw a conniption fit: “No!  You NOT tell me to be quiet!  YOU be quiet and lie down!”

You can only imagine how efficiently this system works.

But let me back up.  Jujubee continues – and has increased – her tendency to imitate Lyd in, well, pretty much everything.  It doesn’t matter if she understands what Lyd is saying or doing (and many times she doesn’t); Jujubee has to copy it.

Lyd makes a funny comment at supper?  Jujubee repeats what Lyd just said.

Lyd makes a non-funny comment at supper?  Jujubee repeats what Lyd said.

Lyd puts her napkin on her head at supper?  Jujubee puts her napkin on her head.

Lyd chooses to do a particular activity?  Jujubee needs a turn so she can do it, too.

Lyd wants to wear a dress today?  Jujubee has to wear a dress today, too.

Lyd wants to play alone with A, her best friend?  Jujubee wants to play with Lyd and A, too.

It amazes me, the new heights which Jujubee has discovered in which she can copy her big sister.  She literally imitates just about everything her big sister does.

Even … the bossiness.

It must be a big sister thing, but like most big sisters, Lyd has an innate desire to tell her little sister what to do.  And Jujubee does. not. like. that.  If Lyd starts bossing her little sister around, that is a sure sign that a fight will begin, because Jujubee will turn right around and – you guessed it – imitate Lyd by telling HER what to do.  Lyd doesn’t like being told what to do, and neither does Jujubee, so chaos quickly ensues.

Once upon a time, a long time ago (you know, about a month ago ;)) I was a bossy big sister.  I am almost five years older than my “little” brother (who’s now bigger than me), and I’m 7.5 years older than my littlest brother (who is now the biggest in the family).  I definitely filled the role of the bossy big sister as I was growing up.  Of course, I usually felt like I knew more about the situation that was occuring (and, being at least five years older, I probably did), and I took it upon myself to make sure that things were done correctly (aka. the way I wanted things done).  In hindsight, I don’t think that fostered the healthiest relationship between my brothers and myself.  Even now, I still want to tell my brothers what to do (and I still think I’m right!), but I have (mostly!) learned to accept the fact that everyone needs the opportunity to make their own choices — and mistakes.  It’s a well-known fact that one learns more from mistakes than from doing something correctly, but I have this innate desire (which isn’t necessarily bad, in and of itself) to protect those I love from what I see as harm.

Lyd loves Jujubee, and Jujubee loves Lyd.  However, I’ve decided to take the parenting approach of NOT letting them boss each other around, even when the one doing the bossing is technically correct.  I’ve put a stop to many sisterly squabbles by saying, “You’re not the Momma.  I am the Momma, and if there’s a problem, you need to come and talk to me.”  My fear with this approach is that my girls won’t learn how to solve problems on their own, but I try to mitigate that by facilitating the girls’ peace-making strategies (usually mostly with Lyd) into coming up with their own methods for solving squabbles.  Sometimes it’s as simple as recognizing fair and unfair behaviors (something both girls still need to work on), and sometimes the problem is solved by separating the girls for a time and giving them each a bit of their own space.

If someone’s sin was part of the squabble, I have the offending girl apologize to the offended sister, then offended sister has to accept the apology and forgive the other, and finally I ask the sisters to give each other a hug.  It usually works very well, and once the hug is over, they’re almost always back to playing together in a non-inflammatory way.  They really do love each other.

I also make a point to remind Lyd that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery;” or, in other words, I remind her that Jujubee isn’t yet able to use her words well enough to tell Lyd, “I love you.”  So, J’s way of saying “I love you” is to do exactly what Lyd is doing.  Lyd doesn’t always like that, but it does reframe the problem in a way that Lyd can (at least intellectually) understand why Jujubee does what she does.

Jujubee does not allow Lyd to be a bossy big sister, but neither is Jujubee allowed to be a bossy little sister.  For the sake of their future friendship, that’s probably a good thing.  In all honesty, I’d rather have them conspiring together against me than conspiring against each other.  🙂

I always try to be conscious that I’m raising these two girls up to be best friends.  I think they’re well on their way.