My Nana was so, so right. At least when it comes to our daughter. I feel that my parenting energy (not necessarily the same as my parenting time) is split thusly: 15% tending to Blaise's needs, 5% tending to Camilla's needs, 80% trying to summon patience with Camilla, and/or disciplining her.
But I do think it is working. Slowly, in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back type of way, but still. We're seeing progress.
(On a related note, you know how people sometimes say "one step forward, two steps back"? Do they really mean that they're going backward? Or are they just confused, like they are when they say "I could care less"? What do you think?)
One of my favorite techniques to ease frustration in my interactions with Camilla - and I didn't think of this, just adopted it to good effect - is the choices technique. She stomps her foot and yells, "But I want to go outside NOW!" and I get down on her level and say calmly, "Here are your choices: you can wait quietly and go outside in ten minutes when I am ready to take you, or you can keep throwing a fit and not get to go outside at all."
Most of the time, showing her that the situation with which she's unhappy could potentially be even worse is enough to convince her to shape up. Which: yay! Shaping up is always nice, especially when the alternative is headache-inducing amounts of whining and wailing.
I know I use the choices thing a lot, but I didn't realize just how much until one day recently when I was trying to get Blaise to cooperate for a diaper change. As a fourteen-month-old boy, he acts like it's his duty to resist diaper changes, but I am stronger and I can make them happen when necessary. I had chased him down and wrestled him into place when I realized that I'd forgotten to grab a diaper and a rag from the box, so I jumped up to get them. Blaise, naturally, began crawling away as fast as he could.
And as his chubby diapered bottom disappeared around the corner of the couch, his sister the vigilante said sternly, "Blaise! That is not one of your choices!"
We also talk often about the principles of kindness and generosity, which we've chosen as the buzzword virtues for this point in Camilla's life. We don't want to overload her, but asking her to be kind and generous seems reasonable.
She thinks so too, for the most part. But she does notice inconsistencies. For example: a couple weeks ago she had a toy Blaise wanted, and I asked her if she would consider being kind and generous and sharing with him. She handed it over willingly, but then she suddenly whipped her head around and stared at me.
It was like a light bulb went on in there.
"Mama," she said indignantly, "BLAISE is not kind and generous!" She pulled out her hand and stuck her fingers up one by one as she gave the laundry list of his sins. "He pinches, and bites, and pulls hair, and all that kind of stuff..." Her eyes bored into me as she waited for my explanation of this glaring injustice.
As the oldest of six kids myself, I can relate to her outrage. I didn't know what to tell her.
The best I could do was "sweetie, he's a baby" and some reminders of all the privileges she gets that he doesn't, but she seems to have made peace with the apparent double standard. And I must say, even though her little brother is not kind or generous by any means, and does indeed pinch, bite, and pull hair, she is remarkably loving toward him. Although she sometimes shrieks in pain, I've never once seen her retaliate.
Three is tough, but we're riding it out, and riding it out seems to be working. At least as much as we can expect.