Age and Responsibility
With age comes responsibility, and at this time you should expect your 9-year-old to set the table, empty the garbage, feed the dog, tidy his bedroom, and complete homework assignments. Your 2-year-old, on the other hand, is just learning household rules. You need to reinforce them with him. So you tell him, "No food in the living room. No hitting the dog!" You show him how to brush his teeth before bed and where to put his toys when he's finished playing. But you can't expect him to maintain a similar level of tidiness as his brother. At this age he only likes to help others complete household chores and he's just beginning to learn to put his toys away.
Age also means different privileges. Your older child might have privileges like using the computer, going to a friend's house to spend the night, participating in after school activities, riding his bicycle around the neighborhood, and staying up until 9:00. However, little brother goes with mom to play group, rides his tricycle in the backyard, isn't allowed to touch the computer, and is in bed at 8:00 each night. Taking away privileges and assigning more responsibilities (read chores) as a means of discipline is appropriate for your older child, but not for the toddler.
Keep in mind too that once your toddler moves into preschool, your older son will be entering the beginning stages of adolescence. Again, they'll be at completely different levels of development; and again, you'll be required -- as a responsible, loving parent -- to adjust your approach and expectations accordingly.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.
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