When you have your first kid, you learn to parent them as a first-time parent. You quickly learn what works and what does not (for that particular baby). I think a lot of parents forget every baby is different and when kid #2 or #3 comes along, what worked well for kid #1 may not work well for the next baby. Then, the new baby is labeled “bad,” “tough” or “difficult.”
It’s important to remember every kid is different and needs to be parented in their own way. How can a baby be bad? Let’s think about this, the baby didn’t come out of the womb thinking, “Mom and Dad, I’m going to frustrate the heck out of you.” They are being the person they are hard-wired to be. It’s not the kid who has to change, it’s how we interact with the kid which must change.
I am keenly aware having identical twins means they are going to be lumped together a lot. On some level they will always be compared to one another. I try my best not to compare, but it’s inevitable. Add in an older sister and I have three individual parenting style situations I am constantly reminded of using on a daily basis. My oldest daughter, Esther, responds to Positive Parenting in a textbook way. Cause and effect, she gets a time out, calms down, we praise, unwanted behavior is extinguished and we move on. It is beautiful to see it work so well. Positive parenting has been absolutely awesome for her. But I have another baby who likes to be cuddled when looking for praise and comfort (physicality is her love language) and yet another baby who doesn’t like over the top praise at all.
You know how your parents stay stuff like, “I hope you have a kid just like you when you grow up?” Well, I have figured out which kid has my personality. Miriam is going to stretch my parenting acumen and give us a MAJOR run for our money because she is JUST LIKE ME when I was little. I was SUPER DUPER manipulative and knew how to push every button perfectly. She is AMAZINGLY good at this. I am actually impressed, but now I have to figure out how to parent “toddler Michelle” times 100 because Miriam is like Michelle 2.0, new and improved in manipulative ways.
My husband and I spent half a date night dinner talking about how we should approach parenting Miriam. He asked, “What did toddler Michelle want?” I said, “I wanted to have some sort of power and control because everything was always decided for me. I felt like I was in prison.” It makes me sad to think perhaps Miriam is exercising her strong will because she feels trapped and helpless. SO, we are going to give Miriam choices (a lot) and tell her it’s her choice from options A or B and she can decide what she wants. It’s up to her.
I’ve started doing this and I can see her face light up and almost look surprised when I tell her she can decide something. Before she was even 2 years old, she knew exactly what was going on. Even when she’s pushing buttons, we cannot be upset with her because she’ll give us a little smirk and she’s so darn cute, we just want to eat her up! Still, it doesn’t excuse her totally batty behavior… I know how frustrating it can be to be small and feel powerless. I think it will help if we can give her constant love, compassion, kindness and a sense of power and choice.