Raising a Rule-Breaker

imageThere is something about third children. Most of the thirds I know are somewhat rebellious, to put it politely. You could also call them ‘little shits’ if you were feeling less generous. Opinionated, strong-willed and challenging. Thirds don’t take any crap but they give plenty.

My third, my Terrible T, is just so wilfully naughty. He is challenging us in ways the the older two never did and just recently he seems to be really ramping it up. It might be because I’ve been ill this week with a monster of a cold that it has been getting to me more than usual, but I don’t think it is just that. T is starting to push really hard against the boundaries to see what he can get away with. And, my goodness, it is exhausting.

You see, T is over two-and-a-half now and he is a bright little button so he is fully aware of what is considered to be acceptable behaviour. He totally knows the rules. He just chooses to believe that the rules do not apply to him. The older two were little monkeys as toddlers and very naughty at times but they are, deep down, rather law abiding citizens. They like the stability of rules. I think it makes they feel safe and happy to know what the boundaries are and, for the most part, they have stayed within those boundaries.

The same cannot be said for T. He is first of our children to draw on the walls. Repeatedly. He is the first to have eaten soap. The first to have wedged magnets into the radiator grill, to have broken the door off the dolls house and to have rubbed Vicks all over the carpet. After having two kids, you feel pretty well prepared to deal with whatever a third one can throw at you. Well, T seems to have come into the world determined to shake that sense of security that we once had to it’s very core.

imageNothing is safe with T around. I found him in our bedroom earlier this week, squirting decongestant nasal spray all over his head. He was soaked with the stuff. And just yesterday morning I got back from taking the older two to their swimming lessons to find that T had taken advantage of Daddy being busy with the noisy vacuum clearer to squeeze an entire tube of very thick hand cream all over the Happyland house. I had started to clean it up – which was no mean feat as the cream was so gloopy and had been smeared into every little crevice – when I heard a cry of horror from upstairs. T had found the only non-washable pens in the house, in M’s Tinkerbell pencil case (which had been hidden in the bedroom, apparently away from her marauding little brother). He then decided to customise the kid’s bedroom carpet with them. He has basically ruined it.

imageThe most infuriating thing about our smart little lad is that not only does he know he has done wrong but when you tell him off he doesn’t seem to give a damn. He looks at you, sometimes even smiles sweetly and says “oh dear” or “sorry”, and then goes off on his merry way to cause yet more mayhem. The biggest indication that he is fully aware of how naughty he is being is that he has started shutting doors to hide his misdeeds. He takes himself off in search of something to fuck up, closes the door and gets to it, causing as much trouble as he possibly can before he is discovered. He has also started hiding when he knows he has done something terrible. Like all 2-year olds, he is pretty crap at hiding.

T demonstrates a level of mischief making and destruction that we simply haven’t encountered with the older two and I have to say it makes us a tad nervous about the future. He can be so incredibly naughty, doing things he knows are wrong just because he wants to, and it is very hard to control his naughty whims. So what the hell will he be like as a teenager? I foresee a total rebel, trying out anything banned just because you have told him not to. That kind of kid could easily come a cropper. Hell, he is already pushing the limits of our control and he is just a tiny tot. Who knows what a 15-year-old T will be getting up? It gives me the fear.

imageT has been playing with the Happyland house again today (he has also been drawing on the bedroom wall, which I’ve just finished attempting to clean off, turning it into a blurry, grey mess in the process – but we won’t talk about that). As he played, he was chattering away with the little people, putting them to bed, giving them a bath, and every now pointing at the little house and saying “no cream on it, cream naughty”. You would almost think he has learnt his lesson, listening to him. However, I know for certain that if he had access to another tube of hand cream right now, he would be happily dousing the house in it all over again. Just because he can. And, I suspect, mostly because he knows he shouldn’t.

So, what should we do? I don’t think there is a lot we can do, other than keep rewarding the good and chastising the bad. The boy appears to be a natural born rebel so all we can do is encourage him to behave well, to not always opt for the forbidden option. And we can give him approved outlets for his messy experiments and boundless energy that don’t involve wrecking our house. Beyond that, I’m stumped.

T is nothing like his rule-following siblings, but then why should he be? He has to be loud and to stand his ground with two older ones to compete with. So he is fierce and strong willed, wonderful and infuriating. He has charisma by the bucket-load and people tend to love him on first contact because he is charming and confident, both great qualities to have in life. He is already an expert at winning people over and uses his charm to deflect from whatever terrible deed he is involved in at the time.

But he has a look in his eye that worries me because he just gets such an obvious kick out of acting the rebel, out of choosing to break the rules. He is going to be one we need to keep a very, very close eye on.

Yep, third kids are seriously tricky. And none more so than my little firebrand. My rebel. My terrible Terrible T.

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