Parents often come in pulling out their hair, asking me how exactly does one "do the sleep thing," "do the eating thing," "do the time out thing," "not kick one's teen out of the house." They often implore me to tell them the one thing (apologies for Curly's language...something tells me my readership, as it is, is not even close to under 21...) that makes it all easier. They might even express frustration that the one thing I tell them tastes like chocolate ice cream, when they swear the last guy gave them vanilla. I'm a mint chocolate chip guy, myself, but that's just me.
The other day, my curly-haired monster
did her curly-haired monster thing - she bulldozed her sister.
(The big one, not the wee one).
Why did she do it? Because that's what she does. Claire can impose herself on her waifish older sister because she's good at being physical; Charlotte is a speaker, not a fighter. She is, however, far from defenseless. Fast-forward to later in the day...
Charlotte: (no answer)
Charlotte: (clearly purposefully not answering her sister. This session could be a tape-recorded version of the umpteen-thousand times. Each iteration would pass a jeweler's examination - he'd be unable to discern the fake for the real).
Claire: (pulls her shrieky voice out of her bag) CHARRRRR. LOTTTTTTTTE!
Daddy/Mommy: (now, the answer here depends on whether or not we've figured out that Charlotte is baiting her sister, and whether or not we're just toast. Version 1 - stressed Daddy/Mommy) Claire, for the love of G-d, cut it out!!!
Yup. That's the bad version. That one never ends well.
Daddy/Mommy: (Version 2 - bon bon popping Daddy/Mommy, Shangri-La Daddy/Mommy, just insta-downloaded developmentally friendly parenting skills Mommy/Daddy) Charlotte, you know she gets frustrated when you ignore her. In this house, we answer each other when spoken to, hm? (This tag ending usually ends with Charlotte "paying attention" to Claire. She does this by nominally listening while gazing at something wondrous off to the side. Does she think she invented the pretend-listen? I mastered that long ago. Puh-lease. Anyway, we snip that one off, too...)
We've come to realize that, while both kids express themselves very well, Charlotte will take a pound of flesh outta Claire by frustrating her verbally. Why? Because both of them have different strengths. They're not clones, so why would they respond the same way? Why should we expect them to react similarly?
So, while time-outs and limit-setting clearly work for the two of them, their reactions are totally different. Charlotte will often grump about having to say she's sorry, but always articulates what she has done and why, and why she is so incensed over the slings and arrows raining down on her and her alone. Claire, on the hand, frustrates easily, and when flaming white hot, loses her considerable verbal skills. She has trouble discussing her feelings and during time outs will often forget what she's done. That's unfortunate for her, because until recently, a requirement for getting out of time-out is apologizing for exactly what the time-out-able offense was. Thus, Claire has collected dust and/or gotten moldy whilst in time-out, figuring it all out. The good news for her is that we've finally figured out that she's a different child than Charlotte, and we tell her what she's done.
Parents have sets of rules, and they often function differently for each kid. Whether the kids are like mine, or developmentally disabled, with medical issues, or not, it's useful to remember that each kid brings something different to the table. The same rules, the same mindset, the same tool cannot be used the same way with each kid, for any number of reasons.
Once upon a time, a bunch of grandparents observed as 2 young parents (Beth and me) chiseled "the rules of Charlotte" into granite slabs, hoisting them above for all to see. I wish I could have seen these same grandparents chuckling at us in their homes a few weeks later, after our "No, no...THESE are the rules." Even now, we continue to smash commandments, constantly editing, but as long as our kids continue to thrive, I'm happy to find some kind of eraser for stone slabs.
Claire is Claire, Charlotte is Charlotte, Corinne (the lovely baby) is Corinne.
19 hours ago