My daughter, Sweet Pea (3-1/2) is really mean to my other daughter, Lovey (18 months). I know that Sweet Pea loves her little sister; I also know that siblings antagonize each other, but one night, in the car, Sweet Pea’s outright contempt for Lovey got to the point where I could see it possibly doing some real damage down the road.
Sweet Pea: Mommy, daddy–daddy, mommy?
Sweet Pea leans forward as much as she can in her car seat and says in a very soft, conspiratorial voice just above a whisper: Let’s pretend Lovey isn’t here.
(GASP!!) Poor Lovey!! HOW MEAN IS THAT? I mean, it’s funny, but still, it’s mean.
And little Lovey! I looked in the back seat and there was Lovey. So cute and so sweet just sitting there in her car seat, kicking her chubby legs, smiling and nodding, completely and utterly oblivious to the mean comment that is just one on a long list of many mean comments coming from her sister as of late–comments that could very well make her feel bad, if she actually understood a word of English.
I thought to myself: If we don’t get this under control, it’s only going to get worse and pretty soon Lovey will understand what Sweet Pea is saying…and one day, probably in college, we’ll get a call that Lovey is on the top of the building with a shot gun (but not our shot gun because really, what Jewish person has a shot gun?) yelling: “Sweet Pea was mean to me when I was little and now I’ll never have the confidence to go after the good guys, and I’ll always settle for being the bootie call, and my mom could have done something, but she SUCKS!!!”
So, here’s what I did (and it worked AND it cost less than 5.00!)
I asked Sweet Pea what she wanted more than anything in the world: A Snow White costume. Shocker. Fine. No problem…but she had to earn it.
We went to the store and we looked for Disney stickers and poster board. I let her pick out any color poster board she wanted. She picked blue. It was .69 (I only remember that because I’m really immature). We already had markers at home so we were ready to rock. Side note: If you don’t already have markers at home, you’re pretty much already failing as parent.
When Sweet Pea went to bed that night, I decorated the poster board with the Disney stickers and, using the markers, I made a path that mapped out “The Road to Snow White” (This is the part where you are probably rolling your eyes and mumbling to yourself, “This isn’t new. I’ve done this before, whatever with her!” But listen–I told you I was going to “Jessica Seinfeld” the hell out of this blog in my very first post, so you were warned, so whatever with YOU).
The next morning, Sweet Pea was all excited when she saw my very beautifully decorated poster board and we went over the rules: If you’re nice to your sister, you move up the road. If you’re mean, you move back. The object is to get to end. That’s how you’ll get your Snow White costume. I found a Snow White magnet lying around so that is what I used as the “mover piece.” Sweet Pea wanted that Snow White costume BAD so she was ready to play.
Thankfully, she messed up quite a bit in the beginning because I still needed some time to actually acquire the costume. The whole process took about a month and it actually worked out very well. In fact, towards the end, we sometimes forgot all about our original motive of Sweet Pea being nice to Lovey and just started arbitrarily moving the magnet mover piece back whenever she pissed us off, and moving it forward whenever she didn’t.
And then when Sweet Pea made it to the end of the Snow White path, my girlfriend, Busy, had a Snow White costume that her daughter grew out of so I got the prize for FREE!! Sweet Pea was beyond excited to get her Snow White costume, and she genuinely earned it. We were very proud of her, she was proud of herself and quite unexpectedly, in the days since the poster board has been put away, it has become almost habit for Sweet Pea to continue being nice to Lovey… at least when I’m looking.
Thanks for being here!
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