This was written shortly before my third child was born. If I thought it was difficult to parent inside the funnel with two children less than two years apart, I had no idea what I was in for with the three children, and I am sure as I sit now with a fourth child who is a newborn, I don't know the challenges I will face with children 7 years apart.
On Becoming Pretoddlerwise cautions against parenting outside the funnel, including with siblings. The authors, Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, point out that we don't want to allow 15 month olds 2 year old freedoms or two year olds 5 year old freedoms (see page 106). Why do we not want to allow children to do things that are not age-appropriate? On a physical level, children can get hurt, hurt others, and damage property.
You will also see the child is very disobedient. "If you start to see that you are constantly correcting, chasing after your pretoddler, if he throws a fit when you remove an object from his hands, or you find yourself repeatedly removing your child from the same unpleasant situations, these are realistic indicators that you are parenting 'outside the funnel' " (pages 106-107).
You certainly can (and will) find yourself parenting outside the funnel when you have just one child. It happens. As parents we are all learning on the job. I think we notice and correct it faster with just one child, though. With siblings, we easily fall into the mistake of allowing the child to do things that are not age appropriate for her. I think we need to make a conscious effort to avoid it--and I find that more true with more children.
On the flip side, always remember to give freedoms when the child is ready. If you withhold freedoms the child will be frustrated. I think this most often happens with an oldest child.
If you find you have been allowing too many freedoms and you are now trying to cut back, know that some children are tenacious enough to repeatedly try to hold on to that freedom for quite some time. Two of my children will respond pretty immediately to reigning in of freedoms, but my third little one can and often will hold on to trying to maintain that freedom well beyond the time frame that seems reasonable. Some of you may have similar personality types :)
Next week, we will talk about how to set boundaries and I will address doing so with siblings. Sure, with an oldest child you can keep toys that are too old for the child out of reach, but when you have a 7 year old and a 3 year old in the house, how do you keep the 3 year old from playing with toys meant for 7+? More on that next week. For now, learn more about the funnel and freedoms: