It's a familiar cry in most households with more than one child: "It's not fair!" This phrase is usually accompanied by, "He always gets his way" and "I never get to..." (fill in the blank with anything from "drink from the Elmo cup" to "sit by the window").
In our home, it's no different. In the beginning, when there was just me, my husband, Tim, and our daughter, Mary Leigh, things were relatively manageable. When our son Kevin arrived two years after Mary Leigh, that made two kids and two adults: we were evenly matched. Then came baby number three, Brian, just a year and a half later? and suddenly Tim and I found ourselves outnumbered.
And so our struggles began. On atypical day, I would have just gotten the baby to sleep when an argument would break out over a toy. Eager to quell any disturbance, I'd turn to Mary Leigh and say, "Please just give the toy to Kevin, he's little and doesn't understand how to share yet. You're a big girl." This tactic worked for a while, but eventually the "big girl" line grew old, and that's when the "it's not fair" business began. Of course, the logical part of my brain knew that a 3-year-old wasn't capable of understanding why she should have to give in more. But I had three kids under age four, and the logical part of my brain was often nowhere to be found.
Bribery was an effective strategy until I realized I was creating mini monsters: little Kevin expected to get what he wanted on demand, and Mary Leigh expected to be paid off for her cooperation.
I knew that something had to change. Once we got past the first few months of survival mode (do whatever it takes not to wake the baby), I tried to teach the older two the concept of taking turns. Most of the time they did pretty well, but as with all things parenting, consistency was key. Success was highly dependent on mood, hunger, and level of exhaustion (both the kids' and mine). As Brian turned into a toddler and another baby was on the way, I decided that I needed some new tools in my arsenal.