11.20.2011

pay attention to me!

I have decided that my daughter's repertoire of undesirable behavior is a result of her need for attention.  For four years she has been the apple of my eye.  We spent a lot of time together just the two of us because hubs always worked late - past her bedtime.  But it wasn't always quality time.  We usually didn't get home from work until 7:00, and we spent the evening eating dinner, bathing, getting into bed.  There wasn't much time for play or just togetherness.  Then the new baby came, and she has had to share my attention with him.  It must be hard for her to move aside for this little guy, but we are lucky that she loves him dearly and showers him with hugs and kisses.

Lately she has been extremely disobedient.  We have to tell her to do something (or stop doing something) several times, often with raised voices and threats of bodily harm and relinquished privileges.  She has been wetting the bed just about every night, despite our efforts to cut off all liquid consumption at 7:00 (she goes to bed around 9 or so).  With hubs getting home from work around 6:15, we can't really go any earlier than that. Otherwise she would be eating dinner without any milk.  During the last week or so she has also requested that I hold her (snuggle).  I love snuggling with her, and I have to try to make time to do that.  She usually asks me when I am holding the baby.  Since I have become more aware of this, I try to hand him over to Daddy so I can cuddle with my sweet baby girl.

Since the baby was born in May, and I didn't return to work, we have a lot of time together.  She is in Pre-K, but we are home together by 2:30.  I guess I just get caught up with feeding the baby (ALL the time), changing him, trying to get dinner ready, etc. that I don't stop and spend one-on-one time with her.  She needs some time each day with my undivided attention.  This is challenging with an infant in the house, but I do think it's feasible.  He takes a variety of naps.  Nothing consistent, but we can work around him.  She likes to do artsy crafty kind of things, so I think I'll plan some activities that the two of us can do together.  We played with her Barbies the other night, and I think she really enjoyed that.  It may also be time to go through her toys and books and pull out anything that's below her "level" or that she just doesn't play with.

As for the behavior, I'm starting to discover that she responds well to competition (I will get my things put away faster than you will), rewards (you can choose a piece of candy as soon as you ____), and responsibility (I could really use a helper).  It doesn't work every day, though.  Some days she just wants to be a kid and be irresponsible.  Don't we all?  I'm really conflicted over discipline techniques.  Spanking bothers me more than it bothers her, so I think she may be getting too old for that.  I put a lot of effort into it, yet she still seems to be laughing.  Is she crazy?  Am I??  There are a few things that she cherishes:  her movies and her right to choose her own clothes.  Take away these things and she is devastated.  So, I can use them as leverage.  The trickiest part in all of this is finding the right balance between behavior modification and security stabilization.  She needs to feel secure and confident that I love her every bit as much as always.  She also needs to learn to follow directions and accept consequences when she doesn't obey.  My theory is the more unsolicited attention she receives the less she will feel the need to act out in an effort to garner it.

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