So perhaps I should come back to what the school psychologist said about what she saw in Emma (after speaking with me, observing her in class and also after putting Emma and her classmates through the Brigance screening).
In a nutshell:
- Emma enjoys being the centre of attention of the class, her teachers or friends (same at home)
- there is definitely some sibling rivalry but it is normal
- she is quite the little perfectionist and very competitive
- she appears to fear failure
- she needs to be reassured a lot
- she is one of the most dominant characters in her class
- although she is among the strongest in her class she was the by far the slowest in doing the Brigance screening because as soon as the answer to the exercise was not immediately obvious to her she kept saying "I can't" and stalling. The child psychologist told me she felt Emma clearly wanted to be walked through it and wanted more attention.
- she has trouble finishing things especially if they require the extra bit of effort as most things come quite easily to her.
What we /I can do:
- It is necessary to set clear limits to her in terms of attention and time (like giving Emma a turn to speak at the table then moving on to William and Emma should now wait quietly also in terms of my time especially when she tries to stretch it like before bed-time or when something/someone else needs attention) but also so as to protect myself and stopping before I have lost all energy and patience.
- Do not give attention to "negative" behavior or behavior we do not want to encourage (whining, complaining about the food she did not want for dinner etc.) - just set the limit/give some kind of instruction, then ignore and move on.
- Make her aware of her feelings by mirroring them them back to her. For example when she tells me that William comes to kick her in the middle of the night (oh yeah!) I should hear her out and then tell her something like "you seem quite angry at William" (pause give her a chance to express more) then perhaps something like "I wonder if it's because you have to share Mummy and Daddy with him? (pause) sharing is not easy but we all get our turn (...) Mummy loves both of you very much - loves you and William".
- do not compare
- explain and show that mistakes are ok and that we just get up again and start again (and she actually tells me she does not like losing/catching the boys at tag/not winning which I think is great cause at least she is expressing it and it gives us a chance to talk about it)
- keep her to a routine as much as possible (this totally reassures her and she thrives in it)
That's about it.
Having said that, most days things are fine. Emma is doing very well in class and it no longer stalling so much when asked to do an exercise. This might be because she has understood it is not going to get her the extra attention or because she has learned more (adding, reading) to feel comfortable once again.
At home she plays really well with William and I try to do something with just her at least once a week but it's tough as William does not yer have his own activities at the grand old age of 2,5 (although he is very good at keeping himself busy on his own with bricks or lego).
She is getting better at understanding that asking Mummy to give her more snack and put music on at the same time although I have not yet sat down in the car myself is not a good idea and that if she has to ask she can say "when you can..." or "when you are ready..." first.
I do still find it tiresome having to stop her from being overbearing and answering in William's place when he is trying to learn to pronounce a word correctly. I know she just wants to help but she does not seem to get that William also needs his own time in the conversation. I guess for a 5 year old it's pretty normal though.
On the other hand I have been patting myself on the back for not losing my patience with her too often lately despite her total being dissipated and basically totally distracted.I find humor goes a long way (but you do have to have the energy and distance to take that road - still practice makes perfect.)
Finally, I realized that practically everyone is losing their nerve with their own kids (other people's kids are easy) and that the key is in not being too hard on oneself and taking it too seriously and letting it ruin your day.
so... have a good day!