Friday, December 14, 2007

Lessons of forgiveness -- toddler style

One of the hardest parts of parenting our girls right now is the fact that they are sisters. First, I didn't have any siblings until I was practically an adult. I was used to playing alone and having everything to myself. And, Dan's one of three boys who all got along very well.

Some of the tougher situations right now involve two little girls who want the same thing -- even if another is available. The result for the longest time was the younger girl, the softer one, the more easy-going one gave up easily when her sister bullied her.

But, now she is fighting back. With a vengeance, too.

The other challenge is that when they get mad they do not have words to use to fight. Only little fists, heads and, much to my dismay, objects. I used to think the head-butting was awful, that the punching was a sign of my bad mothering. I've stressed about how to handle these situations since they began around a year, not wanting to make a bad decision.

But this week has brought all of this to a new level.

A simple toy that was just that -- a toy -- for two weeks became a weapon. A metal tin with Santa Claus on the lid. They had been innocently putting little fuzzy craft balls into it, and putting on the lid. They had been banging the two pieces together as a drum or musical instrument.

I left them alone, which I try to do once or twice a day, in their playroom. But when I heard the bang and then heard the cry, I knew somebody had gotten hurt. Evidence points to the metal tin being the weapon. A cut and a bump were left behind on one very upset little girl.

And yet the assaulter in this case just laughed at my attempts to show her the urgency of the situation. Take the toy away -- OK, she'll pick up another. Go to the corner, OK, she'll stand there quietly and then come out laughing. Say your sorry, gladly. She knows it's a boo-boo and she knows what did it, too.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that in all three incidents this week -- the assaulter is trying to defend her goods from the sister who, until now, always got what she wanted.

My goal, I have to keep remembering, is that hitting of any kind will not be tolerated, no matter how frustrated you get. And, when it does happen, they have to make up with a hug, eventually.

All of this is hard to communicate with two almost 2-year-olds who are just learning about the powers they have.

Despite all of this, they teach me the biggest lesson of all by saying they are sorry -- in sign language -- and moving on a minute later as if what just happened wasn't the worst thing ever.

Now I have to cope with the decision to stop leaving them alone, which has been a great relief for my sanity a couple times a day and good for their sisterly bonding as well, or realize that sibling rivalry is a part of life and they have to learn to deal with it.

Thank you for visiting today.

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LauraC said...

Please let us know what you decide to do! We struggle with this all the time. The serious fighting started with the LeapFrog learning band walker at 10 months. The fighting got so bad and my nerves were so shot that I gave the walker to a friend.

Then the big transition out of cribs means leaving them alone in a room unsupervised for hours! We've had to break up so many really bad fights at naptime and bedtime, but they've become so much closer being forced to learn to deal with each other.

I'm just as torn. I want to prevent them from hurting each other but they need to work things out sometimes on their own. This has been my biggest parenting dilemma.

InTheFastLane said...

I am still a referee and my two boys are 5 years apart! My kids are so spaced out and with my older two being girl, then my middle being a boy, it seems that my middle child never learned that he might have to share with anyone else in our house. Now that his little brother is 2 it can be complete chaos. I can only imagine if I had two Jack Jack's...Yikes!

bella said...

No advice or wisdom here. Leo is an only, which means when he hits, which he does, it is me. And supposedly, being the adult, I'm supposed to know how it to handle it.
But I'm with you on the zero tolerance of hitting, that it is simply not acceptable be behavior.
The image of them signing I'm sorry to each other melted me.
Hang in there and let us know how this continues to evolve.

Shannon said...

This is the switch I was telling you about-the easy going one suddenly standing up for themselves with a vengence. I can't turn my back on my boys for a second. Of course, the weapon of choice in my house is teeth. They also make this noise at each other that I swear sounds like a growl if either one gets within two feet of the other...which turns into a scream right before the mad dog biting begins. The doc says when they are three we can start letting them work it out on their own. Like if they're fighting over a toy, tell them they have 2 minutes to figure out how to share, and if not the toy gets put away for the day. Right now, they just can't control their emotional responses. I told him right now I have a hard time controlling mine, too.
Nothing but love & comraderie for ya!

Anonymous said...

I am the least expert. But I've often wondered if the saving grace of siblings if that you can fight (torment and hate one another) and still love. It's quite the durable lesson. Nothing is either/or.

RocketMom said...

Perhaps sibling rivalry is a part of life and you have to learn to deal with it.

It sure is hard not to intervene when I hear arguments between the boys going in the next room. I try to stick to the rule you articulated, that hitting (or pushing, pulling, strangling, etc.) is not acceptable under any circumstances. When it happens and I'm not there, someone gets a bump or a scratch, but then we talk about it, and kiss and make up and they heal.

writermeeg said...

From all I know about child development (now learning from real-life, not books!) our girls are still at an age where they don't have the ability to "work it out on their own," at least in any way that resembles what they'll be able to do in a year or so. Not to say it's not just fine if you choose to leave them alone to duke it out, just saying that if you choose to step back into playtime for a while, it's perfectly appropriate.

Swing by my blog if you can -- you'll see, I think we're at exactly the same week with the sharing lesson exploding in our faces! (Of course, I only have one -- there's no break for you!! Hang in there!)

Shelli said...

Oh my. I have no advice to offer. But I send lots of sympathy. My 15 month old is hitting ME. I don't know what to do about that!

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

My husband is practically an only (much older siblings) and I have a younger brother close in age. My husband has a much harder time dealing with the kids hitting each other than I do, because I remember fighting with my brother -- and getting over it and surviving to be loving adults.

It gets better as they get older -- when they don't have language skills or self-control, it's hard to work things out. My goal is to teach the kids how to prevent having the situation escalate to violence. When mine were younger, I just physically separated them when things looked bad. Now I try to point out when things are nearing the boiling point and ask how else they might handle it.

Moanna said...

Reading this, I instantly sympathized with the softer younger sister.

I know just how she feels 'cause I frequently get the urge to hit my older sister with something, a bat or tinker toys perhaps. She's 61 years old and still thinks she's the boss of me. Geesh. Perhaps if I'd hit her with a Santa Claus tin when she was younger, she'd have learned to be nice to me.

Hahaha. Don't you love the way I've cheered you up?? I hope things get easier for your daughters. And I hope Santa sells your house for you.