Suzanne Tobias

Kids now teach each other as much as parents do

Back when I used to casually videotape my kids – before pointing a camera in their general direction began prompting comments like “What are you doing?” or “Do not post that!” – I captured a brief snippet of sibling rivalry on our living room floor.

Hannah had received a Sit ’n Spin toy as a birthday present and was testing it out for the first time. She straddled the toy and tried to turn it, but it stubbornly stayed put.

Jack, about 2 at the time, toddled over, pushed his sister off the toy, hurriedly sat on it and started spinning.

“Like dis!” Jack shouted gleefully. “Like dis! Like dis!”

Hannah erupted, and I kept filming.

“Jack! That was mean!” she shouted. “You don’t have to tell me every single thing I need to know. My parents teach me, not you!”

I recall the exact script of this conversation because over the years it has become something of a family joke. Hannah, who loves to watch those old family videos (since converted to DVD), repeats the lines anytime her brother tries to tell her what to do – which is often.

Just the other day we were talking about some higher-level math concept – and by “we” I mean “they,” because I barely remember how to figure percentage change – and Hannah launched into the time-worn line:

“Jack! You don’t have to tell me every single thing I need to know! …”

From my spot loading the dishwasher, I joined in on cue: “My parents teach me, not you!”

Now I chuckle at the absurdity of it, because these days they teach each other – and me – as much as or more than I teach them.

Including how to work my camera phone. Hashtag: irony.

Want, Need, Wear, Read

Undoubtedly, many of you have started or even finished your holiday shopping already, so it’s time for my annual reminder of a gift-giving strategy that keeps me sane:

Want. Need. Wear. Read.

My husband and I adopted the strategy two years ago as a way to rein in holiday excess and overspending. We limit our kids to four gifts apiece – still excessive, actually – by getting each child one item from each of four categories: one thing they want, one thing they need, something to wear and something to read. (Plus one new family board game, because that’s my favorite part.)

The past two years, the plan has worked out better than expected. After I wrote about it the first time, I heard from several parents and grandparents who said they planned to try the “want, need, wear, read” strategy as well.

So here’s this year’s reminder to consider scaling back, even just a bit, to make your holiday shopping lower-key, slower-paced, more thoughtful and enjoyable.

It works for us.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.