Tiny Mirrors

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was so worried about how my firstborn would handle being a big brother. Would he feel neglected? How could I make sure he got the attention he needed? How would I make sure he didn’t feel pushed aside for a new baby?
I read a lot of good advice about how to introduce the baby to the older sibling, and I used a lot of it. But what I really found to be the most influential in his behavior was me.
I remember a day where I was home with both kids by myself. My son was in the middle of potty training, and being the high-spirited (the nice way of saying “strong-willed”) boy that he is, he didn’t want to pee in his potty when I asked him. Not after waking up for the day, not after breakfast, not an hour later, and not right before the play date at our house.
He did, however, want to pee in his pants right when the doorbell rang with our first guests.
Since I was getting used to two kids, I was already feeling overwhelmed and regretting having a play date at our house. My daughter was only two months old, and even though she was sleeping like a champ for a two month old, she was still a baby and I was sleep deprived. And out of patience.
So of course I yelled at my son when he peed on the floor. I had reminded him multiple times that morning that he should pee when he needed to (Just like the books say! And that should work perfectly, right?) and then he just pees on the floor?!? Needless to say, my response was not what I wished it was. Even at the time I could see myself handling it badly. Why would yelling at him be the best response? But I just couldn’t be patient and loving about it. Why must he resist me with everything?
And the more I yelled and the crabbier I got, the worse he acted. The more he resisted me.
After a few days of this kind of potty training and an area rug that was starting to smell like urine, I took a different approach. I hosed off the rug outside (Thank goodness I had purchased an indoor/outdoor rug.), bought some little toys from the dollar store as rewards, took some deep breaths, and just RELAXED. And guess what? He did a lot better. Did he amazingly potty train in one day after I changed my approach? Of course not. But our days were a lot more fun for everyone and potty training went a lot more smoothly after that.
I don’t think I can blame everything he does wrong on my shortcomings as a mother, but those are the days that I can look back on and realize were hurting us so much more than they were helping. The more negative I am, the more I yell or berate, does not make my son motivated to behave. His poor behavior oftentimes is a reflection of my behavior to him. Most times he acts out I’m not paying attention to him (a result of having multiple kids!) or am feeling disgruntled with him (peeing on the floor again!), and he can tell. He notices. So he shows it to me.
Granted, he shows me by being a little terror, but still.
I can’t always muster up the patience or find the time to give him undivided attention when he wants it, but I try. I try to not spend my entire day yelling at him or finding fault with his behavior.
And it really helps.