I know of a family with seven children, four of whom I give piano lessons to. The oldest daughter, is in college, and the youngest child is almost 2 year old. The Mom homeschools her children, the boys are active in scouts, some of the children play two instruments, and well, they live a busy life—especially the mom!
As I was talking to the mom this week, she mentioned something she has started doing that I wished I would have done when I was raising my children. She has paired up two of the older children to help her teach their younger siblings. For example, the 12 year son, who plays the piano very well, is helping his 8 year old brother practice the piano and the 10 year old son is helping his 6 year old sister with her reading. She is finding that not only does the younger sibling benefit, but the two older ones do too. As they teach, they are reinforcing skills and knowledge of things they already know, but are now really internalizing that knowledge for themselves. She said she had to be careful who she paired up, because, as we all know, some age groups and children don’t work well with each other. If she paired up her 10 and 8 year old sons together—sparks would fly.
This is an example of one of the benefits of having a large family. The older children can help their younger brothers and sisters and relieve the mom of some heavy stress.
So let’s brainstorm some other ways parents can pair up children to help each other. What about cleaning? If you asked your 6 year old to help the 3 year old put away the dishes from the dishwasher, you are helping your 6 year old learn leadership skills, giving her bonding time with her brother and getting a chore done all in one. Now if you asked them to clean the bathroom---you may end up with a bigger mess than you want. So you might need to think through what job you want done and who to pair up.
Okay, now let’s think about getting ready for bed. I don’t like competition, but what if you paired up two sets of your children to get dressed for bed (with teeth brushed and whatever else you add), and the set who got ready first could pick which story to read and the set who finished second could pick the song to sing.
Wow, I’m really getting into this. It almost makes me want to go back and parent my children again when they were younger. Almost.