I’ve mentioned a few times on Twitter about our recent banging-our-heads-against-the-wall frustrations with Maggie. Now, she’s not a bad kid, overall. She’s good for everyone else. She’s good at school. She’s even good when we take her places. But at home, lately… things have been less than stellar, let’s just put it that way.
And it’s not like she’s lighting the house on fire or playing with knives. It’s mostly normal kid stuff- not cleaning up toys, not eating her dinner (OMG. THE FOOD BATTLES IN THIS HOUSE.), talking back with major attitude (where I swear my mother would have slapped the taste right out of my mouth if I had EVER talked to her like that!), having major fits over tiny little things, lying about having POOP in her UNDERPANTS even though a) she’s been potty trained for months and b) um, we’re TOTALLY GOING TO FIND OUT, YOU KNOW.
So yeah. It’s been awesome.
I know that it’s partly her age (THREE YEARS OLD CAN BITE ME.) and partly the new baby in the house. That’s obvious. She sees me drop everything for Audrey multiple times a day and I tend to make Maggie wait for things (which- judge if you must, but she’s old enough to wait 3.4 seconds for her graham crackers while I finish peeing or wiping her sister’s butt or cleaning up the mess in the kitchen or switching a load of laundry or… the list goes on.) As you moms of multiple children know- it’s just really, really hard to take on more than one kid at a time. It just IS. Especially when one of those children is a needy, helpless newborn baby.
And of course at age three, that’s hard for her to understand. I get that.
(Dan has actually had quiet, rational conversations with her about all of this. About how it’s hard for Mommy when the baby is fussing and needs fed a lot, and how it’s Maggie’s job to help Mommy by just being a good girl. And are you upset about your baby sister being here? [No, she says, I love her!] but of course, you know there is some stuff going on there. I don’t blame her, really. I’d be mad, too.)
A few weeks ago I decided to try a behavior chart, and after a few modifications and trying a few different variations on the theme, we’ve come to the conclusion that our daughter just does NOT respond to positive rewards. It didn’t work for potty training and it’s not working now. Like, it’s cool for 5 minutes, but then she’s over the present or whatever it was she got as a reward and she starts being a little shit all over again.
Sorry. But it’s true.
Her behavior is all very classic ‘I’m looking for attention any way I can get it’ type stuff. So I have tried to make a conscious effort in the past week to NOT make her wait for every little thing. Paying more positive attention to her, trying to make more of my attention towards her positive instead of reprimanding or telling her to do something for eleventy-billionth time. I’ve tried to play more games and do more active things with her during the day, especially now that the baby is getting a little bit easier during the day and I have more time to play Pretty Pretty Princess for the 7,298th time since breakfast. I even go so far as to stand there, baby in the swing, and say ‘Maggie! What would you like to do right now? ANYTHING YOU WANT! Let’s play!’
For example: on Tuesday, we watched The Wizard of Oz after breakfast, at her request. Then we played the Wii together (which consists mostly of her watching me play, but she LOVES watching me jump around like a lunatic on the balance board, so whatever. Exercise for Mom!) Then we had some lunch, and she helped me hang wreaths on the windows (I know that sounds boring to a kid, but trust me, she was alllll over it. She had fun playing with the string. She’s like a cat.) Then we made a paper chain as a countdown to Christmas. Then we played Chutes and Ladders and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember.
Then it was dinner time and the roof nearly flew off the house. Basically… I was trying to make dinner and she was watching Tinkerbell and I asked her to NOT drag her plastic table and chairs into the living room while her sister was on her playmat (out of SAFETY, for goodness sake) and she said no and after repeating myself five times, I finally moved the table for her and she YELLED AT ME. AND POINTED HER FINGER AT ME. She said “LEAVE THAT THERE! BRING THAT BACK RIGHT NOW!”
I’m sorry, but no. No way, kid. I am your MOTHER.
I sent her to her room and then the baby threw up all over herself and started crying and I may have slammed a drawer and screamed in frustration and then mercifully I heard the garage door and knew Dan was home and ZOMGMYHERO.
The rest of the night was a disaster and ended with me eating chocolate on the couch and Maggie being sent to bed without books and her dress up clothes hidden away (that was because of ANOTHER bathroom incident.)
The next night, I made lasagna for dinner- which she LOVES! YAY! Something besides mac ‘n cheese! Except you would have thought we were asking her to eat dead rat or toenails or something because she was making SUCH a big deal out of eating every bite. And yes- I know some people think that you should never force kids to eat things they don’t want and we should just let her eat yogurt or cake or ice cream or potato chips for every meal. But I’m so tired of it. Seriously. She’s almost 4 and I think it’s time for her to start eating normal food. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I won’t make her eat everything we eat every night, but come on. LASAGNA. Something with NUTRITION, for the LOVE.
It got to the point where Dan was counting down the minutes she had to eat the little pile I separated out, and if it wasn’t gone, she was going to her room for a timeout, and that night for bedtime there would be no books and no watching The Grinch (she’d been really excited about that all day). She had a chunk on her fork and was LICKING IT like a lollipop and turning around in her seat and making a huge mess and basically doing anything but what we were asking her to do. (She also has a bad habit of completely ignoring us and not looking at us when we’re trying to explain what we want her to do. SO. ANNOYING.) Finally time ran out. Dan scooped her up (calmly!) and carried her upstairs. She started shrieking and crying and…
DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE SAID??!?!?
“NOOOO! I’M HUUUUUNGRY!!!!”
You are KIDDING me with this, right? AM I BEING PUNK’D?
These are just some anecdotes to paint a bit of a picture… I’m sure you can fill in the rest.
Really, I’m not looking for advice (or assvice, especially. ha) We have tried just about everything except for electroshock therapy (for me. not her.) We’ve done the time outs (FAIL.), the positive reinforcement, the stickers, the toy rewards, the yelling, the calm explanatory conversations about how to behave, the taking away of toys for a few days. Nothing really works for more than a couple of days. And I think it’s mostly because she’s so smart and figures it out and is all PSSSSHT, BITCH, I’M IN CHARGE HERE.
That’s not good, you guys.
And look- she’s three. I know that. There are going to be tantrums and fights and DAYS. We don’t AT ALL expect her to be 100% perfect robot-child all the time. In fact, I think a little testing of boundaries is good for kids to do- it shows that she’s smart and trying to figure out where things stand. But this recent insanity is just not her. I KNOW my kid. She’s not acting like herself and it makes me really sad because we used to have so much fun together, back when she was two (aaah, Age Two. How I miss you!) Lately she just exhausts me and I find myself looking forward to her days at school WAY too much and I don’t like that. I don’t want to wish away my kid, you know? And I know she can behave- she does it at school! We get raving reviews on how well she eats and plays and shares and follows the rules. But at home, it’s like a freaking frat house. With more princesses, of course.
So we’re on a mission. To find what makes her tick. To find her currency. To figure out what exactly it is that will teach her the habits of respectfulness and listening and just being a nice person, dang it. I don’t know how long it will take to figure it out, and how many times I’ll cry in frustration over my kid being MEAN TO ME (how pathetic is that, you guys?) but we will get there. Yesterday was a good day, until she decided NOT to go on the potty again and lied about it. (She had her dress up clothes back for 30 minutes. Back on the shelf they go.) And dinner was a minor battle, but nobody had an all-out tantrum (myself included) so we’ll count that as a win.
My currency in the meantime? CHOCOLATE. Lots and lots of freaking chocolate.
Or maybe that’s called a coping mechanism. Whatever.