This last weekend we all went away to a nature reserve with my sister-in-law, her husband and their two kids. My youngest Lucy, and her eldest, Ben are 6 weeks apart and are at play-school together.
As Lucy cruises into her 3rd year of toddler hood, I have noticed she has entered a stage of intense possessiveness. She vehemently, clutches her belongings and is constantly pronouncing that things are hers. She is even possessive over her brother’s belongings and tirelessly proclaims to her poor cousin that this is Jack’s toy or Jack’s shirt or Jack’s lunchbox. It got a bit tedious at one point and when she pushed Ben to stop him from approaching her and getting to close to whatever item, I lost it. Well, I didn’t lose it but she lost the toy and went into to the naughty corner for 2 minutes.
I found myself recalling how Jack dealt with the problem of Lucy constantly claiming things for herself, snatching, pushing and even hitting. I noticed that when ever Lucy screamed for something she wanted that Jack had, he would just hand it to her, sometimes just after putting his hands over his ears. Anything to shut her up. I had a vision of my near-future household where my daughter need only scream to get whatever she desired and I went goose-flesh at the thought. It terrified me!
I decided to have a chat to Jack about how we were going to deal with Lucy’s mini-tantrums together. I didn’t want my strong-willed daughter walking all-over my gentle-hearted son. I explained to him exactly what my fears were and that we can’t teach Lucy that screaming is the way to get what she wants. I also told him that he was allowed to be a bit tougher with his little sister. He was allowed to say no to her and he if she snatched something from him, he was allowed to take it back. He understood me and welcomed the suggestion. This was confirmed in a little scuffle they had in the car about a month later. Lucy snatched Chris’s phone out of Jack’s hands in the car and so he took it right back. Shocked at her brother’s insolence, she made a move to take it back but before she could, he gave her a jolly good elbowing in the arm. Incredibly, she didn’t make a sound and decided to just watch what he was doing. This all took place in my review mirror and as I watch the scene take place, I felt comfortable in the knowledge that my son was finally taking a stand against his sister and that she was accepting it without question. I also knew that if I had intervened in any way that I would have ruined the equilibrium.
What I saw happening to their relationship over the few months that followed absolutely fascinated me and made me realize just how much I can still learn about the endless world of parenting.
I noticed Jack’s strong foot with Lucy was beginning to wane. With hindsight, it is easy to see why. Jack just isn’t that sort of kid. Jack is gentle, understanding, tolerant and giving and it is just not in his nature to behave in the same way his sister does at all. Instead, I found him giving in to Lucy’s high-pitched demands willingly but, he would ignore her directly afterwards. i.e
Jack is playing race-track race-track with his toy car, Lucy demands it, he ignores her. She screams, he gives it to her and immediately walks away from her. He removed himself from her entirely and totally ignores her. Lucy finds that the car isn’t that interesting now that Jack doesn’t want it and especially since he won’t take part in playing with her once she’s got it. You can see the expression on her face, “this is pointless?!”
What is so incredible about this is that Jack, all on his own, has devised an entirely new way of dealing with his sister’s unbearable tantrums. “Sure, you can have the toy, anything to shut you up. But I’m not playing with you when you behave like that.” Lucy has learnt that she will have to entertain herself if she is going to be horrible to Jack. I’m fascinated by this and also really proud of how Jack has solved this problem almost entirely on his own. I feel that if he knew the phrase he would have said to me, “two wrongs don’t make a right mum.”
So… on the same weekend that Ben and I struggle with Lucy, I also see the beginning of Jack and Lucy playing together peacefully as his method works its way through to her beautifully.
I’m fascinated to see how Ben gets through to Lucy. Maybe he’ll take a page out of Jack’s book and ignore her, maybe he’ll take my advice and retaliate, or maybe he’ll figure out an entirely new way of handling her. This time, I won’t be surprised and I am really looking forward to learning something new.
Kids are brilliant!