Breaking down a barrier

I came to motherhood fairly early and unprepared – I’ve never been one for thinking things through in advance, I go for the important decisions on impulse and take it as it comes. My daughter, my eldest child, always was the one I learned on – that is, I tried not to make the same mistake next time. Fortunately, I don’t think this has scarred her soul too much, she is certainly a lovely person now.

My first two children were born just two years apart. For the first year or so, this was fine. She was an adorable toddler, he was a sweet-natured, if time-consuming (he needed to be fed every two hours, day and night, but on the other hand he never cried) baby. Things started to go awry when he was a toddler and she was three.

She didn’t show jealousy towards the baby as such, but she started to be more and more naughty. He never was. I became conscious that he received all the praise and she got the blame – but it was hard to know what to do to change that. She really was too badly behaved to ignore and he was very easy-going and affectionate, I didn’t want to push him away just to make her feel better about it. And remember, this was nearly thirty years ago and we weren’t given much advice. Not that I was one to ask for it, to be fair. I did try to praise her and cuddle her, but she was becoming more and more unhappy, and when she started to push me away, saying she did not want to be loved or kissed, I was desperate.

I sat down and thought about it. Well, actually, I spent a sleepless night thinking about it. I realised that it was up to me to change my reaction to her behaviour, as she was a very little girl who could not be expected to change of her own accord. She misbehaved because she was unhappy, not because she was naughty and I had to put things right as it must have been my actions that had caused the problem.

The next day, she glanced to make sure I was watching, and started to misbehave (can’t remember what she did, but it was something that could not be ignored). I, in my kind but firm voice, told her to stop. She carried on. “Hey!” I said. “You’d better stop doing that, or I’m going to have to tickle you.” And I wiggled my fingers. She still carried on, though with a startled look. I went over to her, grabbed her and started to tickle. She tried to wriggle away, but then squirmed to the floor, giggling. I carried on tickling until she was helpless with laughter and kissed her all over her face.

And that was all it took to mend our relationship.

11 comments on “Breaking down a barrier

  1. Z

    I’d like to say it is the key to marriage too, but my husband hates being tickled. He doesn’t mind being kissed though.

  2. Z

    Hello Chiya and welcome.

    It shows, doesn’t it, that sometimes the simplest things work. It was just luck though that I thought of it.

  3. stitchwort

    Tickling seems like a better option than “the naughty step”.
    Do you really think all the advice now deluging new parents is going to produce a significantly superior generation?

  4. PI

    My elder son used to get a really unhappy look in his eyes when he ws being very naughty and I soon learned the only thing that worked with him was cuddles. He also had a younger cute sibling.

  5. Z

    Stitchwort – Blimey no. And I never used ‘grounding’ or sending to the bedroom or a corner for my children, I’d have resented it when I was a child. Actually, thinking about it, I may have shouted a fair bit but I don’t think I imposed punishments at all. Mind you, I was a hopeless mother, my children are a credit to themselves.

    I wrote this post because I’d watched Supernanny; there was an appallingly behaved little boy who actually wanted nothing more than to be treated consistently and lovingly in a happy family. It was heart-wrenching to see his unhappiness and his willingness to play his part in putting things right. And to be fair to the nanny, she rightly saw that he was the most mature person in the family and respected him as such.

    Pi – it’s true, isn’t it. To feel unloved (however much without reason) is the worst thing a child can experience. Children are both hugely vulnerable and amazingly resilient.

  6. diamondweeza

    I think most children would quite like being sent to their room, esp as they all seem to have TVs in there. I used to try to escape the scene of the crime as soon as I’d had a row with my parents but father used to bar the way so I could apologise to my mother, there & then – I was a very angry teen and this was rubbing salt into the proverbial. I think lots of space or copious tickles are the way to go – both diffuse the tension.

    Z – very true that the same could well apply to relationships! Are you the guru for the nuclear family??

  7. Z

    I was a cruel mother and didn’t allow television in bedrooms until well into children’s teens.

    But teenage daughter – ooh, I had one of those, thank god those years are over.

    If I had any advice for anyone it would be, be polite, be kind (there’s a third maxim regarding marriage, but this isn’t the place for it). Some people are more polite to strangers than to their loved ones.

  8. Geena

    Lovely post Z. Made me cry too.

    My older sister has never got over the way she bore the brunt of my parent’s mistakes and she is one messed up lady today…way worse than me…:-)….

    And what a great idea to ward off bad behaviour – tickle them silly! I’ll try little Tigga is so naughty but most of the time he doesn’t do it on purpose and when he does, he doesn’t know why he’s behaving like that. Such an adorable little boy, full of love and cuddles.

  9. Z

    My lovely little girl, it’s amazing that she has turned out to be such a well balanced, fun-loving but entirely stable woman (who also lurks silently reading this blog, so I must mind my manners). I’m just glad I got it right once in a while. Sometimes one can get into a downward spiral of naughtiness followed by nagging and it’s hard to break away from it and remember to have fun together.


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