Opinion Saturday: avoiding that 3rd (4th, 5th?) parent syndrome

I am working through a list of your great suggestions for Opinion Saturday questions and am featuring one question a week for the next few weeks.

This week’s question is from Midsummernight

Lately during the week I have been watching my nephew who is 9. I have found that I have a big problem of trying to find a balance between giving him responsibilities and him trying to take over parenting my kids (3 years and 19 months). How do you balance giving the big kids responsibility without them stepping over into the parenting role?

You have until next Saturday to share your best tips for handling this situation. Come on, hit me with your best thought!

{ No Comments }

  1. My suggestion would be to give him responsibilities that focus on simple household chores like making sure the pillows on the couch are arranged properly, and his toys are picked up when he is done playing. If the responsibilities he is given focus on managing himself instead of the other children, he will learn without trying to “be the boss”. I have a 2 year old and she is just now starting to boss around my wife and I. I can only imagine it getting worse in a year, but we are teaching her to pick up after herself and clean up her own messes. It will be a long process, but better to start young…

  2. I give my kids small manageable jobs that fit their age range. For example, while emptying the dishwasher, the 5 year old puts the silverware away while an older child supervises and puts the rest of the dishes away.

    To keep them from going overboard (which my oldest is very good at) I tell them that I am the Mom, they are the kid. They have some responsiblities but the major responsiblities are mine. For example, If one child starts misbehaving while another one is in charge I tell them the first thing they should do is come get me. Discipline is a Mom job, not a kid job.

    It takes a few tries but at 11, 10, 8, 7, and 5 my kids have all pretty much figured it out. They come to me when they need to.

  3. I agree with the above. In our house, we all have responsibilities… that comes with being part of a family. Priveleges may be earned with age, but chores and such are spread around fairly evenly.

  4. Parenting and responsibility are not related. In my house there are only two parents. Some of my children don’t like that much, but I am the mother and I will do the disciplining. Under no circumstances should a child be disciplining another child. (They all know that if the baby gets loose they should stop him, but that is a safety issue, not discipline.)

    One of my nine year olds is in charge of the food pantry. On grocery day he puts everything away, makes sure things are rotated, and brings up food as I need it. The other nine year old empties the dishwasher every morning and dries and puts away all the dishes.

    Occasionally I will ask one of my children (ages 7-11) to babysit the three year old. That doesn’t involve parenting or discipline, just keeping an eye on him and letting me know if he is doing something unsafe.

    I would tell the nephew that YOU are the mother and make sure you don’t allow him to step into that role, but give him concrete things he can do to help. Make a list of things that he can do to help you out and have it ready so you can say, “Nephew, I’m the Mom and that’s my job, but if you want to fold these towels/get a puzzle out/put on a movie/set the table/etc…, that would be a huge help”

    Good luck.

  5. A common phrase in our house is “focus on what YOU are supposed to be doing.” When there is tattling and bossing, I remind my kids to worry about just what they are supposed to be doing – not anyone else (unless of course someone is doing something dangerous).

    I think it’s good for an older child to help with younger siblings (or in your case, younger family members), but I think I would avoid having them “in charge” of something. Perhaps a younger child could help the oldest with one of their tasks (like folding laundry or handing them items out of the dishwasher), or the oldest could help entertain or play a game with the younger children. Otherwise, I think you end up with bossiness and tattling 🙂

  6. I don’t have any advice, but I’d love to get some from the other moms! We have this problem with an teen age friend of the family, so I’ll be checking out the helpful ideas.

  7. charruff says:

    This topic has come up especially in the last few weeks as we just arrived home with our 2 new precious ones from Ethiopia (ages 6 and 8). Our oldest tends to act like a small adult even when we are right there, correcting the smaller ones. And a friend came over and was surprised that my kids are ‘reporters’ (tattlers). It’s a hard struggle because i need them to report and yet often it’s hard to tell the heart behind the reporting. Is it joy in seeing someone else get corrected? Or is it a safety issue? I know some families who do the older child correction well and the younger children respect that. I don’t feel like that is the tone in our home. And the younger kids resent being ‘bossed around’ by the 11 year old (going on 32). Tricky Tricky.