“Elle, I need you to clean up all the magnets you threw across the kitchen floor.”
She looks up from the pile of blocks she has just dumped onto the living room carpet. “No.”
Then, ever so sweetly; “No, thank you.”
Elle smiles, then madly spreads the blocks across the room.
Is it possible that my two-year-old is actually a cunning little fiend trapped in an angelic little body?
I expected some behavioral repercussions following Emme’s arrival. It’s perfectly normal that your child would feel some jealousy when she realizes that the reason mommy’s not hustling to fulfill her every whim has a lot to do with that squirmy little thing we call Baby Sister.
But I thought the sibling rivalry would present itself in more candid forms. I had imagined bouts of clinginess and whining. I anticipated seeing a suddenly more demonstrative possessiveness over her belongings (“mine” is, after all, one of a two-year-old’s favorite words.) I had been advised that her potty training may take a U-turn, and had been warned that her resentment over the new baby sucking all the energy out of her parents could result in actual aggression towards the newborn.
I had, in other words, anticipated outright naughty behavior. But outright naughty behavior is straightforward. There are repercussions and punishments for outright naughty behavior. And while I can’t say that big sister Elle has not been outright naughty at times since her little sister arrived two months ago, the little bugger has learned quickly that there are much more subtle ways by which she can let her parents know just what she thinks about being booted out of the spotlight.
As it turns out, my two-year-old’s jealousy has manifested itself in clever tactics designed to madden her father and me, without technically precipitating any punishment.
“Elle, I mean it. I want you to pick up these toys, now!”
Nothing. Elle continues gleefully flinging blocks around the living room, her eyes slanted oh-so-slyly in my direction.
I realize I can’t lose my temper. That is just the type of negative parental behavior that perpetuates your child’s negative behavior… or so I’ve read. At this point it would be so much easier to pick up the dumb magnets myself, and get on with my life.
But I can’t back down now. I’m the MOM, which means I’m the BOSS. Right?
I take a deep breath.
“Well, I guess since you won’t pick them up I’ll just have to put them into the trash.”
Ah ha! I think. Threats! That will get her to do what I ask!
Still, no response.
Wait a minute… that’s right. Threats aren’t effective. I must give her options! Toddlers need to believe that they are making their own decisions, when it’s actually their parents who are steering them toward making the right decisions… or so I’ve read.
“Elle, do you want to come pick up your magnets, or do you want me to throw them away?”
I have really thought this one through. I have mentally outmaneuvered my two-year-old. Finally.
“Elle, did you hear me? Pick up the magnets, or throw them away?”
A pause. Then, “Throw them away.”
Elle looks up at me, and her smile is pure saccharin.
That’s right, I think. I am the mom. I am not the boss.
Defeated, I bend over to pick up the magnets (which do not end up in the trash.) While I snap them back onto the refrigerator door, I can’t help but smile. I’ve been outwitted by my two-year-old, once again.
Elle sees my grin, and there’s no doubting now who’s going to be picking up the blocks in the living room.