COLUMN: Daughter learns from older sibling

Monkey see, monkey do is certainly a concept that has caught on with my daughter and son for the past few weeks.

She is at the age where whatever her brother does; she wants to do as well. She tries to copy everything.

As a parent I think that it’s okay for her to learn from her brother, but when it comes to a behaviour that she shouldn’t be emulating, it can get a bit frustrating.

For example, some good things my two-year old daughter has learned from her brother is how to sit on a toilet, wash her hands, brush her teeth and do up her own coat.

She has learned how to sit at the table, use her utensils and a napkin for her hands. She can pick up her toys and put them away, help make a bed and put dirty dishes in the sink.

These are all great things to learn from an older sibling who has learned the meaning of responsibility.

However, where we fall down is when her almost five year old brother decides to get silly, rambunctious, or at times, refuses to listen when told to do something.

Suddenly, instead of one child not listening, I get two.

Instead of one child deciding that they don’t like dinner, I get two. She can actually have a carrot in her mouth and be eating it quite happily, but one word from my son about his dislike for carrots, and she will spit it out without hesitation.

And no coaxing from me will get her to put it back in. If he doesn’t like something, then she doesn’t either – it’s as simple as that.

If her brother is playing with a toy, then she must be playing with it as well.

Is he wearing his Superman cape today?

Then where is her cape?

On preschool days, she has to wear a back pack just like her older brother, and we must go through the motions of having to stay for a few extra minutes of class to give her the impression that she is part of it all too, before I am able to tear her away to reality.

Or the many times my son takes his jacket on in the car because he is just “too hot” – and the sudden urge my daughter will have to remove her coat as well.

I have tried to explain that he is the older brother and is setting an example for his sister.

“She is watching everything you do,” I told him seriously one morning, after a bath where he refused to get out of it because he was having too much fun.

Now guess who wants to stay in the bathtub for as long as possible?

He just smiled at me and nodded his head.

But I seriously doubted he heard me or understood the implications of his own behavior on his sister.

Then one afternoon my son came running in to the kitchen to tell me his sister wasn’t wearing any clothes in the next room.

I rushed in to the living room to discover she was buck naked – and her clothes were strewn across the room.

My son looked at me seriously and said “Mommy, I’ve never done anything like that, have I?”

“No,” I replied shaking my head and smiled at him. “She taught herself this one all by herself.”

It would appear some bad habits; we form all on our own.

And as I watched her run around us grinning from ear to ear, I realized that I had underestimated her originality after all.

Kelley Scarsbrook is a Stay at Home Mom who writes bi-weekly for Black Press. You can visit her websites at www.thestayathomemother.com and www.enterprisingmomsnetwork.com

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