One of the advantages of having a larger family is I get to see some of the natural evolutions in the interrelationships of my children.
My family is a little reminiscent of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" on a much smaller scale. If you haven't read the book, it's basically about a bunch of boys stranded alone on an island who segregate into two tribes, the biguns and the littluns, and fail in attempting to govern themselves.
I enjoy watching my children decide how to handle situations on their own, and I intervene only when I need to. I don't cut treats into equal portions to keep them from fighting over the last one. I tell them to figure it out for themselves, and I watch to see what they do. It's very similar to the approach of having one child cut a piece of cake and letting the other child pick which one he wants.
When they have to take turns doing anything, they monitor themselves. If I have to get involved, then they have to quit. For example, if they are playing a single-player video game, they are very good about letting each other play for a certain number of minutes. All my children know when I hear, "Jerrod is hogging the Game Cube," it is time to put it away. The only real challenge I have is with RJ.
My oldest son, RJ, is 11 years older than our 8-year-old triplets, so he has all the characteristics of an only child except for the occasional shock of having to deal with four siblings. He is his own tribe. My four younger children are clearly the littluns. RJ grew up not having to share, so he just takes whatever he wants without regard for anyone else. When I bought small bags of chips for the younger children's lunches, RJ still ate several small bags instead of the large bag I bought for him because he felt like eating a variety in one sitting. He is not aware that anyone else might want something in our house. If one of the other children happened to eat something he is looking for, he stomps around and utters phrases of complete disbelief. "I cannot believe you would eat those doughnuts, Isaac. What were you thinking?" If he wants to play the Game Cube, he pushes his brother off the couch, grabs the controller and takes over. I always have to intervene.
My four younger children, on the other hand, are very cognizant of the possibility that they may not get what they want if they don't establish some sort of peaceful ownership. Recently, we went to the local doughnut shop, and I just watched how they each think so alike and yet differently. We ordered bagels and cream cheese and a dozen assorted doughnuts. I was pretty sure that the bagels would fill everyone up, but we can't go to a doughnut shop without ordering a few doughnuts. My children ate their bagels, but their eyes never left the open box of doughnuts. As with nearly every meal, we had a minor spill, so I had to get a few napkins. After I cleaned up, I noticed that a couple of the doughnuts had a single bite in them. I also saw that two of the sprinkle doughnuts had a big swipe out of the frosting. Jerrod, one of the triplets, finished eating his bagel and took two of his favorite doughnuts and put them in the bag that his bagel came in. I asked him if he was going to eat them. "Nope, I'm going to save them for later, but I finished my bagel." I asked the kids who took a bite out of two of the doughnuts. Maria, my 6-year-old only daughter, didn't even flinch when she said, "I did," while still eating her bagel. "Why did you do that? Other people might want those doughnuts." She matter of factly informed me that those were hers. "And you think that is going to keep me from eating them?" She replied, "I hope so."
I then asked about the sprinkle doughnuts. "Mine," said Isaac, one of the triplets. He licked them to claim ownership. "What about you, David?" I asked my last triplet. He told me that he was happy with whatever everyone left him, but let me know that he hoped RJ wouldn't get to them first because then he wouldn't get any. When we got home, RJ was ready to finish off all the doughnuts. Of course, he couldn't care less that he had brothers and a sister who might want some. However, I told him his siblings touched every one of them to ensure he lost interest.