Having a little sister myself, I fully expected that my girls would grow up to have different personalities, likes, dislikes and interests. I had no idea, though, just how different they would be, right out of the womb. From nursing habits to sleeping habits – Peanut has been different than Pumpkin from the get-go, and the same things that worked for Pumpkin don’t always work on Peanut.
But there are some things I’ve learned, from trial and error, or from other parents, that seem to be universally helpful that I thought I would share in case they can help someone else.
Let them choose
When we lived in Reno, the parents of good friends of ours always invited us over for their annual Super Bowl party. One year, when Pumpkin was about 20 months old, she wanted a cupcake, so I got one for her, and she threw a fit. My friends’ mom, who had raised four kids, scooped her up, showed her the tray, and let her pick out her own cupcake. “Sometimes, they just want to choose,” she told me. I will always remember that. When it comes time to have breakfast or get dressed, I find giving a choice almost always makes the process easier – but limiting the choices is important, too, or it could take all day. Eggs or cereal? Red shirt or blue shirt? Giving them an option means less chance of a fight.
Let them help
Mr. G works nights a lot, but we are lucky in that he often works from home. One recent week, however, he was working away from home most of the week, so I was flying solo in the dreaded witching hour. The first night was a disaster. Neither of the girls was content to stay in the play room, they were fighting with each other, and Peanut just wanted me to hold her. Getting dinner on the table was a challenge. I remembered this post I’d seen on Instagram. The next night I gave them both tasks, pour this, stir that, bring me a spoon, etc. There were no tears, it went much more smoothly and they felt good about contributing. Pumpkin lately has been given the job of feeding the dogs, and Peanut is more than happy to bring the bowls to her big sister to fill. Pumpkin likes completing the task so much she’s even asked for a new chore chart!
Prep them … most of the time
This is a little trickier, and probably varies from kid to kid based on their personality, but for Pumpkin I have learned that it’s best to explain anything that’s going to happen in advance. When she and I moved back to Arizona, she was not quite 2. Mr. G stayed behind in Reno for a couple months to sell the house and look for a job. I underestimated how much she would understand, so I didn’t explain much to her. She had a very hard time in the first week here without Mr. G (or Scoop!) and in a new house and school. He didn’t intend to visit for two weeks, but came after one, because she would get so upset FaceTiming with him each evening and I think it just crushed him. Once he came and went, I think she understood that he would be back. Everything got much better after that. Now, I try to explain almost everything to her. If I will be leaving for work before she wakes up, or if I won’t be home in the evening, or if we’re going out of town. I try to give her as much advance notice as possible, and she handles it better when she knows what’s going on. I have learned some exceptions, though … she will be excited to know her aunt or grandma is coming over, but less excited to learn it’s because mommy and daddy are going out, so sometimes it’s better to skip that detail until necessary. I will tell her ahead of time that she is going to the doctor, but maybe not mention the shots, so she doesn’t worry.
What are some tried and true tips you have learned for your kids, or someone else has shared with you?