Lara's behaviour is pushing me to the boundaries of Mellowness. Lara was three in June so I know that difficult behaviour is to be expected (I read a great blog post by Emma at Me, The Man and Baby about how the terrible twos really doesn't prepare you for three-year-olds). But, with every day of bad behaviour that goes past, I begin to wonder whether this really is just a phase that she is going through or whether this is just Lara and it is how she will be until... well... ever?
Lara's awful behaviour started a couple of months before Holly was born. At the time myself and Mr. B talked about it and decided it was probably just because she knew something was happening and she wanted to make sure that she was cementing her role as the boss of our family. Understandably, things got a little worse after Holly was born. Not immediately, but a few weeks down the line.
Lara never directly competes for attention with Holly. She rarely does anything to Holly that worries me particularly (usually she just gets in her face or occasionally tries to move her across the room). I know that however hard you try, the attention levels won't ever be the same for the eldest child and it is a trying time for them. I KNOW these things but I don't know what to do about it; I already feel like Holly is sometimes neglected during our attempts to constantly entertain/placate Lara.
I'm also not wholly convinced that all of Lara's noise, violence, disobedience and stubbornness is down to Holly. I think that tiredness and hunger have a lot to do with it but Lara outright refuses to nap during the day unless she happens to fall asleep in the car and our attempts to move bedtime slowly forward have been met with 1-2 hour tantrums resulting in bedtime being later than it was originally.
Lara bites. She throws. She deliberately ignores instructions and she is a cunning and manipulative individual - she ALWAYS has an excuse or a witty retort to offer. Part of me is proud that she has the resource and intelligence to behave like this but it makes me deeply upset when I hear her lie or witness her calculated plots from afar (I walked in on her at nursery trying to talk her way out of having pulled the curtain down).
Lara is also noisy. Now I know that all preschoolers are noisy when they want to be but Lara never every shuts up. After a particularly heated discussion with Mr. B about Lara's compulsion to talk, I started to watch and listen to other people's children more closely. Other people's kids talk and shout and sing and chatter but only ever in bursts. Lara talks from the very second she wakes up until that last, glorious moment before she falls asleep at night (and we secretly rejoice). Her speech is a lot more advanced than most of her peers and she has a wild and vivid imagination that I want to encourage. But, for large chunks of the day Lara doesn't have anything she really needs to say or sing... she just talks nonsense. Noise for the sake of noise. It is a compulsion. You can see her get physically twitchy when there is silence. Holly has already turned into a chatterbox just to try and get herself heard above the barrage of noise that is Lara.
I am sure that it is the noise that makes everything else seem so bad. Here I am with a quiet, placid 3 month old who is so easy to look after compared to Lara, it is bound to make Lara seem noisier and less co-operative than she really is. I find it REALLY hard to keep my temper when I am trying to explain to Lara what she has done wrong and all I get in return is a rendition of "Eh-Eh-Eggs in a pan" at full volume.
Last week I consulted the health visitor on Lara's behaviour. The text book advice she gave me was to ignore bad behaviour and reward good behaviour. The problem with this approach is that many of the things Lara does simply can't be ignored because they are too dangerous - take for example climbing up on to the garden table in order to stand and fetch a packet of matches we had put out of reach while she knew I was feeding Holly and couldn't get up quickly enough to stop her. Sometimes I feel like my whole day has been spent saying "No", and it depresses me that Holly will hear so much negativity from me when I am speaking to her big sister.
I've no idea what I'm going to do about it other than hope that it really is a phase and that she will grow out of it and hopefully come out of the other side with as much enthusiasm for speech and music and as much self-confidence and authority as she does now but without the throwing, biting and nonsense talk.