One of the last lingering effects of a former relative’s playing favorites with my twins, is that Halle can’t stand to see Zanna win or excel in anything or receive any kind of praise.
It doesn’t matter that Halle herself is equally praised, complimented and congratulated on her accomplishments, she just can’t stand it. If Zanna is praised, Halle wants to be praised more, if Zanna looks as though she’s going to win a game, Halle’ll give up and throw a tantrum at the “unfairness” of it.
And for Zanna , she’d become afraid to compete against her sister, afraid to do anything well in the presence of her sister, and though she had great talent and love for art, she’d all but given that up, because getting complimented for it meant gaining the ire of her sister.
We’ve been wracking our brains on what to do here. Both of the girls are victims in a way.
So after the last bout of tantrums because Zanna got praised for cleaning up her messy toys (while Halle had refused to pick up anything), I announced:
“You know what we need around here? We need a special holiday! We need a Mazel Tov Day!”
Both the girls were very curious about this. “What is Mazel Tov?” they asked.
Well, Mazel Tov is Hebrew for “Congratulations, I’m happy for you!”
I told them that it’s important to be happy for other people and not begrudge them or get sore if they do well. We can either choose to be a sore sport and get mad when anyone else does well, or we can congratulate them and feel happy that someone we know has done well!
In fact, instead of just a day of Mazel Tov, I think we need a week or a month, maybe!
I told the girls that I wanted them both to be Mazel Tov girls that I could be proud of!
I could see the wheels turning in Halle’s brain. So I left things alone for awhile to percolate.
Later that day, I presented Halle with some art supplies she’d been begging for, and for Zanna, I pulled out a new sketchbook. I could see Halle looking at us, so I did my best Mommy-Telepathy and projected: “Don’t you dare!” She turned away and proceeded to start using her new art stuff and left her sister alone.
Zanna was overjoyed with her new sketchbook. I asked her if she wanted anything special to use with it – liner markers, pencils, etc., but she said that she wanted to use the colored pencils we already had. She happily scooted off to her room to get to work.
Soon Zanna came back showing the pictures she drew. (It was pretty obvious she’d become out of practice from the long hiatus.) I complimented her art and suggested that she find a place on the wall to tape it up.
Then Halle asked, “What about me?” So I asked her if she’d drawn anything yet. “No,” she replied, so I told her to get busy and then we’ll see. About half an hour later, Halle came up to me with a lovely picture of a monster that she’d drawn from an advertisement for something and I told her it was very well done! I suggested that she also find a nice spot on the wall to tape it up.
So we’ll see. I’m not kidding myself that we’ve managed to stamp out the problem completely, but at least we’ve found the language to effectively communicate what we expect from the girls, rather than a vague and general “Don’t do that!”