This has been a self improvement project of mine for the past 2 years. The best step I took was sending her to public school. As much as it hurt me to give up homeschooling her we really needed that time away from each other for me to gain control of my reactions to her actions, and also just to give us time away from each other to develop our own personalities. But, I hadn't really improved any of my parenting, I had just gained a bit of freedom and the ability to avoid her for half a day.
Lately our biggest struggle has been the way she treats her brother, Monster Man. She hasn't really liked the poor guy since he was 2 and has been rather obvious about it. It took us two years to get her to eat at the same table with him. She still won't sit next to him at dinner, church, or during family prayers. I was able to just accept it as sibling stuff and we set things up so that Monster Man wouldn't notice. But lately things have gotten REALLY bad. Cookie is a good kid and doesn't get in trouble for the most part but it seems like I am lecturing her all the time about the way she treats and talks to her brother. I finally sat her down for a talk and this is basically how it went:
Me: Cookie, what have you been getting in trouble for every day lately?
Her: For talking mean to Monster Man
Me: Do you love him?
Her: (Shrugging) yeah
Me: Honey, if something awful were to happen to Gabe today, if he were to die right now, what would be the last thing he heard you say?
Her: Yelling at him (she is tearing up now)
Me: Have you ever noticed that any time I have to get mad at one of you guys I always end it with hugging you and telling you what I love about you? I do that because I want to make sure that the last thing my children hear from me is how much I love them. When was the last time you told Monster Man that you love him?
Her: I don't know
Me: When was the last time you hugged him?
Her: I don't know
Me: When was the last time you asked him to play with you?
Her: I don't know
Me: When was the last time you said something mean to him?
Her: Just a few minutes ago
Me: Cookie, I know that deep down you love him, but do you think he knows you love him? Now, I have talked to you about this over and over again. You've gotten in lots of trouble and even been punished for the things you've said to him. Nothing I've done has made you stop being mean to him and I think I know why. It isn't enough for you to try to stop being mean, you now have to start actually doing loving things to him. Starting now I want you to tell him you love him at least once a day. I want you to start telling him why you love him. I want you to start hugging him and playing with him. Because unless you start showing him that you love him he will never know. And the more you show him your love the harder it will be for you to be mean to him because you won't like the way it makes it feel anymore.
Later that night I layed in bed staring at the ceiling thinking about why this situation had gotten so bad. Then I started realizing that I needed to show her how to be loving. I am ubber loving with my other kids but, for many reasons, I find it very difficult to be loving to Cookie. It is highly probable that her treatment of Monster Man is simply another reflection of the way I treat her. Ouch! Talk about your humble parenting pie. So, I am determined to be loving towards my daughter. I am going to try the same experiment I gave her. I am going to tell her I love her before she tells me. I am going to ask her if she wants to play chess instead of telling her I don't have time. I am going to stop correcting her unless it is something serious, and even then I will count to ten first. I am going to hug her for no reason. I am going to look at her and tell her she is beautiful. I am going to tell my husband only good things about her for the rest of the year. I am going to start seeing the humor in her little quirks rather than let them make me bristle. I am going to do all of this because, frankly, if she were taken from me this moment I could not be confident in thinking that she knows how much I really love her. No child should have to wonder if their mother really loves them or is just putting up with them.
I love you Cookie, more than I will ever be able to make you understand.