We have been having this on going issue at our house. The issue is the little boys seem to not want to share with each other. We have so much, but yet the kids cling to EVERYTHING like they have nothing. By the end of the day I am at my wits end. Somewhere along the way the giving and caring seem to have gotten lost. I feel like I am raising a bunch of selfish hooligans. They will fight over ONE Lego piece (when we have about 10,000) or over a Playmobil guy because they all seem to want this one guy (it changes everyday, it just seems that who ever picks the first guy, that is the guy they all seem to NEED to have). They won't share snacks or treats with each other, or help each other willingly, it doesn't matter how much it is modeled to them, they just seem to not be getting it.
This evening in a fit of anger I started yelling at everyone. Not a very great mommy moment I must admit. No one wants to listen when they are being yelled at by a crazy mother, they all sort of shut down and get freaked out. Mike nicely pulled me aside and informed me of this fact. Which then I let him have it... "What am I doing wrong? What am I not doing? How can we have created these kids who would rather fight for 20 minutes over ONE STINKING LEGO BLOCK, than share it with their brother? I just don't get it." Then I got a bit weepy. I hate that I yelled, I hate feeling like I am screwing them up. Like I will have these kids who won't share with anyone ever. I had a bit of a "light bulb" moment... Do you think they just aren't getting enough bucket filling? Mike agreed. Maybe they just don't get enough positive attention and so they have nothing to give. They don't have enough overflowing to want to give to each other. They cling to every little thing that brings them even the littlest bit of happiness because they are empty buckets (or mostly empty buckets.)
So what can we do? It can be challenging to give all the kids in a large family all the attention they need. But it isn't impossible, it just takes focus. It takes Mike and I not thinking so much about our own needs and spending a bit of extra energy on the kids. It just takes us making sure to focus when the kids are talking to us, you know, look them in the eye, nod, acknowledge their words. (That can be a challenge when you have a talky kid.) Give hugs and tickles and tell jokes. Slip them a little love note occasionally. Turn off the TV and computer and sit them in your lap (or at least have them sit around you) and read a book. Ask them about their day. Smile as much as possible.
Recently I read "A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family" She talks about the challenges of dealing with a large brood. How important it is to make each child feel special. One of the things she suggested is at bed time sitting at the foot of their bed and spending just a couple minutes finding out what the best thing about their day was, or singing them a bedtime song, or laying next to them for just a couple minutes and giving them that extra cuddle.
I can attest to it being hard to give and give when you feel like your bucket is empty. At Mike's work his boss handed out "How Full is Your Bucket?" (This book is more business place oriented, but it can easily be applied to the home front.) It talked about how hard it is to deal with everyday issues when you just aren't getting enough positive feed back and affirmations. I know that I am critical and that I tend to be easily frustrated when the kids can't seem to get along. But still, in the end it comes back to me, to us (Mike and I) being present, having realistic expectations and focusing more on the positives than the negatives, picking our battles, and setting goals for the family. It also takes Mike and I filling each others buckets so that we have enough extra to give and give to the kids so they in turn can give to each other also. So in the end it won't be just Mike and I doing all the giving, in the end, the end goal as I see it, is that all of us are filling each others buckets and when we are all over flowing it spills out into the world.