Not Their Friend

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Categories Balance, Behavior, Co-parenting, Discipline, Mommy Issues, Relationships, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , , , 7 Comments

We’ve been having some discipline issues around here recently. The girls have been talking back to me in a way that is not appropriate for 5-year-olds. Both M and J have had emotional outbursts that can be described only as tantrums. Age 4 and the first half of age 5 were nearly tantrum-free, so this flashback to age 3 was unexpected and unpleasant. I’d say something innocuous, and see one child or the other go rigid, rise on her toes, and clench her jaw before letting out a shriek. Despite my efforts not to, I would feel my own muscles tense and my blood pressure rise in response.

During the Reign of Tantrum Terror, also known as the Terrible Threes, I prided myself for being unflappable in the face of the girls’ outbursts, trying to show them how calm thought can work in one’s favour. I used to count slowly to 3, using both my speaking voice and my fingers, refusing the temptation to try to raise my voice over theirs. At 3, off the culprit went to time out, sitting on the floor facing a wall for a minute per year of their age. It didn’t matter if we were home or out in the world. If there wasn’t a wall available, a tree would serve just as well for a time out location.

I’ll confess that I had allowed the thick skin I developed during the Terrible Threes to melt away. At the same time, my children had learned to say, “No.” The first time that one of my daughters said “No,” when ordered to time out, I lost it. I yelled at her to go to time out, and this time she followed my instructions. I immediately knew that throwing a tantrum of my own wasn’t going to help things. All I was doing was validating the effectiveness of their unacceptable behaviour.

My relationships with both M and J became increasingly charged over a couple of months. My husband finally had to step in with some very constructive, but painful, criticism. He pointed out that the girls had learned that they could argue with me, and I was failing to rise above. I needed to remind them that “because Mom said so” carried weight.

He was right, of course.  I had been so enjoying the recent explosion of both girls’ critical thinking that I had been inviting them to offer their own opinions, and trying to show them, whenever I could, how I reached the conclusions and decisions that I did. In my attempts to encourage them to question the status quo, I had put myself in the position of their friend, not their mother.

I shed a few tears, and slept on it. Once I’d marshalled my thoughts, I sat M and J down at the dining table for a conversation. I told them that I appreciated their ideas, and loved our discussions, but I was the mother. When I asked them to do something, I meant that they should do it immediately. If they had questions about the why of things, they could ask them later, and I would decide whether or not they were open to discussion. I would also be the one to decide when they could be discussed. The girls would go to time out when I told them to, and they would listen to me. Period.

After a week of maintaining my icy calm, and an average of 3 time outs per child per day, we’ve settled back into solid mother-daughter relationships. Much as I hope to be a friend to M and J when they are grown, I am exclusively their mother in the here and now.

Do you find yourself becoming complacent and compromising your parental authority? How do you fix it?

Sadia is a Bangladeshi and British working mother of twins and American army wife living on the Texas-Mexico border. Her thoughts on matters of parenting, twins, and parenting twins can be found at Double the Fun.

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Categories Development, ToddlersTags , , , 15 Comments

Once, when my kids were under a year old, I had a complete stranger ask me “which is the good one?” I only wish I hadn’t been so shocked by the question that I might have come up with a witty and biting response to such an inappropriate question.

Among all of the crazy-ass things that people feel compelled to say to me when they find out my kids are twins, one of the most surprising is some people’s fixation on the “good twin/evil twin” thing.  Seriously?  People, that’s just a bad soap opera plot device. It’s not real.

Or, is it?

Sometimes, it’s a teensy weensy bit real.

Because, of course, one of the things about having two kids who are exactly the same age is that they will still hit some of the developmental milestones at slightly different times.  Some of those phases are less pleasant than others, and some kids will have a rougher time than others.

out for a walk

Right now, we are in that delightful two-year-old stage of constantly needing to assert independence and control. And while they are both dealing with it, it’s hitting my son especially hard.  Today, the whining and demanding for [insert whatever item his sister is currently holding] started before we even made it out of their bedroom.  It was a rough morning, and we’ve had a lot of days like that recently.

What might be making it even harder is the contrast with his sister’s behavior. She’s no angel (friends accurately described her over the weekend as a “wild card”), but where Daniel digs in his heels and throws a tantrum, she is more likely to realize that she is about to get in trouble and back off.  And so, human nature kicks in, and I (temporarily) have a favorite child.  Which only makes me feel worse.  I struggle with simultaneously being enormously frustrated with my son, and then feeling bad that I harbor less happy feelings toward him than his sister.

Thankfully, if I’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that they will soon switch places.  While some of these characteristics are consistent and very true to their personalities, I also know that the title of “more difficult child” is passed around with great frequency.  But in the meantime, I still have some internal conflict.

What about you? Do your kids trade off on the “good/bad twin” role?  Do you find yourself temporarily favoring one twin over the other?  How do you cope with favoritism, even if it is fleeting?

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