What to do about 'spoiled' nephew?
Adapted from a recent online discussion. Dear Carolyn: So my nephew, 7, is unquestionably spoiled. Sadly, I think he's taking after my sister, who has always been an I-want-I-want type.
With a gift occasion coming around, I honestly feel like getting him squat. He has so many toys, he doesn't appreciate them. I asked him to stop throwing his toys in the bin, they'll break, and he said, "Who cares, I'll just buy more." I bought him a spontaneous gift once. He asked me to return it; he wanted something else. Between this and crying whenever he doesn't win, he's getting harder to be around.
Sad thing is he gets so excited to see me. My nephew has a twin who is a complete angel, never wants anything, does everything he's asked, and so it makes his brother look more like a monster to me.
How do I deal with him, and explain there are kids in the world who would appreciate all he has?
-- Spoiled Nephew If possible, please get each of the brothers an experience gift -- tickets, day trips to a 7-year-old-friendly place, like a children's museum, or out to a "fancy" dinner -- and make it clear the outing will be one on one. That reinforces your relationship with each, bypasses materialism, and gives you an extra shot at teaching manners in a memorable format.
Plus, if you make a habit of this, you could do some good work against the possible underlying problem here of competition between your nephews. There's no downside to developing your own relationship with each, independent of the other. This isn't just a twin thing, either, but applies to all sibling configurations.
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Your comment about alone time between siblings intrigued me. My husband and I have two kids, 18 months apart (3 and 2). We both work full time, and on the weekends we tend to do everything all together. Is this a bad idea?
-- Anonymous Your time together as a unit is extremely important, since deep familiarity and shared memories are what will keep you close to your kids -- and your kids close to each other -- when they're grown. It can also be really helpful logistically when they're small, since it's always easier when two adults are on duty.
It's just that family time is not above the laws of too-much-of-a-good-thing. You do want to develop individual bonds with your kids just as you want to keep those bonds strong with your spouse. Occasionally taking one child to the store with you while your husband stays home (or goes on a different errand) with the other is a small, relatively easy way to see and encourage sides of each child that might be suppressed in the group outings.
You don't even have to force it now, if you're happy with the way you're doing things. As the kids get older, you'll get plenty of natural chances to see each of them alone -- like when they have separate activities and it's just you in the car/train/bus with one or the other. That's priceless time. Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.