Over the past three years I have noticed that my daughter thrives on interactions with other people– kids or adults– it does not matter! She just loves communicating and learning from others. When she has spent time interacting with others, she beams a smile to the moon! I have often said, “her cup is full” when thanking others for spending time with her because she truly benefited, perhaps more than they did. They have no idea. We could safely call her an extrovert!
So, it is no surprise that when you subtract the people interaction from her day, she becomes less happy. As a toddler, she has a limited vocabulary for communicating her need for people, so it has taken me awhile to figure out the source of her violent outbursts (which began around the time her brother was born and escalated recently as brother started crawling and eating everything he could find off the floor– thus requiring much more of my personal attention). We jumped to the conclusion of sibling jealousy, but the normal techniques for “treating” typical sibling jealousy did not seem to work.
Recently I thought of a concept I call the “Fill Up Station”. I put down whatever I am doing, hug her, and allow her be the center of attention for the moment. I ask her to tell me how she is feeling, and usually she gets tired of me pretty quick and jumps down. The main idea is to keep her “cup” full of love throughout the day. All day long I ask myself, “what have I done to fill up her cup?” and this reminds me to keep giving to her throughout the day…whether it is setting up playdates with friends for her, going to the zoo or park, working on “school” (which we do at home right now while our home is in flux), doing her hair, making a clay sculpture with her, a walk around the block holding her hand, or just some quality cuddles on the couch, giggling at the silly stories she tells me and giving her my undivided attention that she craves. I can tell she is soaking it up by the ever growing spark in her eyes…and the lack of violent outburts towards her brother during in the day. The idea is to not only give love to her, but to give her so much love that her cup is overflowing and the need for attention is obsolete…thus the violent behavior used to get my attention is also gone.
Children need love and attention. That’s well known, but I didn’t realize sibling violence was something I could personally control. It turns out that my daughter’s violence towards her brother (hitting, shoving, pushing, scratching…you name it), was a her way of telling me that she needed more love from me. She was not trying to hurt him. She was not even jealous, as we thought. She just knew my attention was on him, and hurting him was the quickest way to get it back.
Giving of oneself continuously as a mom is no easy task, especially with another little one crawling around, who technically requires a lot more attention for his safety.
Finding ways to balance this makes for a very active day for me, but it is well worth it to have happy, peaceful interactions between my kids. I am grateful to have a few minutes during naptime to type this out, and I hope it reaches other parents who might need it.