“Stop jumping on the couch.” I say to my son, as I nurse my two-week-old daughter from across the room. My husband, who is home for some time after the baby is born, is in the shower.
(He keeps jumping.)
“Stop jumping on the couch,” I say again.
(He stops jumping, backs up and then runs across the couch, slamming his face into the pillows.)
“That is not okay. No running or jumping on the couch. Sit down right now or you have to go in time-out.”
(He runs and body slams into the pillow again.)
“Get off the couch and go in time-out.” I raise my voice. I call for my husband.
“He’s not here…” my son says, smiles, and dive bombs into the couch again.
Are you kidding me???
“You’re going in time-out,” I say, hoping I can get him to listen without physically having to put him in time-out, since I’m nursing his sister and two weeks into my c-section recovery.
He ignores me. We go back and forth a few more times. Baby finishes nursing. He buries his face in the pillow. (If he can’t see me, I can’t see him, obviously.) I pick him up off the couch and tell him to sit in time-out. He does.
Now I’m in pain because I’m not supposed to lift him. I’m also terrified that this is my new life; watching my toddler test boundaries and having no way of controlling him.
And then the next day, we go to a friend’s house to play.
Maybe he just needs to get out of the house, I think.
The play date goes really well until it’s time to clean up. And then, my son decides he wants to scream in my face, tell me “no,” and after I put him in time-out, help clean up for ten seconds and then hide in his friend’s tent. I had to have my friend pull him out so we could go home…(where he sat in time-out again.)
There was NO way this could continue. I understood why he was acting out, but still…
My husband and I talked about it, and the more we talked, the more frustrated I got. This is my profession! When I was teaching, my principals always gave me the struggling kids. I could usually get them to do what they were supposed to do,
so why was my two-year-old winning here???
Here’s what we did.
- My son’s tv time became a privilege he had to earn, not a given. We put a chart in the kitchen. When he got three happy faces for good behavior, he got his tv time. If he got three sad faces for time-outs, no tv time that day.
- More physical contact with me. Obviously I wanted to do this from the beginning, but I made much more of an effort to snuggle, hug, and kiss him whenever possible. This has been much easier since my son’s cold/eye infection went away and my body started to feel better.
- Special play time. When my daughter went down for naps, I began to make a point to sit on the floor and give him 15-20 minutes of undivided attention each time, (you know, instead of emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry). When she nursed, I asked him to bring me toys so we could play tea party or bake pretend cookies.
- Involve him in her care, but only with things he was willing to do. My son loves to put a little lotion on his sister before I get her dressed. He wants to play with her on the floor, hold her and give her a hug when she’s crying. While we have rules (no touching the face, be gentle, ask mommy first), I love to see them interact.
And now, as we round the corner into one month, here’s what we’ve noticed:
- The chart quantified his behavior. He was proud to get the “happy face,” and understood that a “sad face” happened when he got a time-out. He lost tv time one day, and hasn’t again. The threat of a “sad face” was enough. We were able to stop this tactic after only a few days. Even if he didn’t totally understand the concept of the chart, reminders of “happy face” and “sad face” helped him to make better choices and be a better listener. After a few days, we stopped the chart. All we had to do was remind him that television was earned, and most of the time, he changed his behavior.
- The additional attention and physical contact has helped tremendously. He seems to listen better because he’s getting more time and positive attention.
- He loves to help with his sister.
- There was one he added himself. A few months ago, I bought him a Cabbage Patch baby doll. We “toilet trained” it before he started using the toilet, and we practiced changing her diaper and clothes before the baby came. But now, this baby has taken on a whole new role. He loves to tell me what his sister is doing and copy it with his doll. He sits on the couch and “nurses” his doll. He puts pajamas on her, puts her on the car seat and bouncy chair, and even pretends to cradle her. We talk a lot about his baby and what she needs. It amazes me what kids will do to ease themselves into new transitions.
We’ve had much fewer meltdowns. But it’s messy. I feel like I spend a lot of time saying, “no.” “No, don’t touch her face…no, be gentle, too rough…don’t climb on mommy, no, don’t wake up the baby, no, don’t touch her, she’s nursing…”
I do feel really bad about all the “no’s.” I imagine, that if I were two, I’d just want to hear “yes.” You know, like, “yes, you can hold her.” And, “yes, you’re being so gentle, good job!” And, “yes, I’ll sit on the floor and do a picnic with you.”
And so, I try to balance the “no’s.” I’m trying so hard to say “yes.” To catch him being good. To say, “you are doing a good job.” To say, “I’m proud of you” and to of course, say “I love you,” all the time.
But it’s hard, especially when my son insists on hugging his sister too hard, even when he’s been told three times to carefully touch her. It’s a process.
But when he lies down on the floor so he’s eye to eye with her and they stare at each other, I can see that strong sibling bond already. I know what a brother/sister relationship can be. And then the other night, as I walked out of his room after his bedtime routine, carrying her, I heard him say, “I love you, A.”
Already. So fast how love grows. I’m so proud of him. He’s doing such a good job.
You can read Part 1 of Sarahlynne’s series on Adding a Second here: “Emergency v. Planned C-section: My Experience“
And Part 2 here: “The First Two Weeks with Two“