Inspired by some of the suggestions made in If I Have to Tell You One More Time (discussed here, here, here, and here), I have started trying some skill-building lessons with the girls. I tried to make it fun, informative, and toddler-appropriate. That is kind of a lot to ask. So I only have two ideas so far.
First, whiny voice story time. The girls find this hysterical. I'll read a book (pro-tip, find a true toddler book with one sentence per page or so) and read each page once in a super whiny voice and once in a nice and pleasant voice. I just channel a toddler wanting the red cup instead of the green cup. Before each reading, I explain: this is whiny voice; this is gentle voice. Isn't gentle voice so much nicer?! Then I tell them (mostly Hannah, I think Maggie might still be too young to get it) that whiny voice hurts my ears and when I hear it I will cover them to keep them safe.
Second, "please hands." Toy grabbing is a big problem. One kid has it, the other kid wants it and grabs it, and that is when things get ugly. So we taught them "please hands." This is where you hold your hands, palms up, towards the other person and say, "please!" So no grabbing. We practice by mommy and daddy asking each other for a toy by using please hands. And then the girls join in. So we are all just passing a toy around using our "please hands." It's fun, I promise.
This grabby/mine thing is a serious up-hill battle though. It is hard because when the fighting starts, I want to grab whatever it is and just say, "that's it! It's mine!" But then I'd just be modeling the grabby/mine behavior I'm trying to get rid of (ugh). So Instead I just get into the fetal position and rock back and forth. I mean, seriously. This is annoying stuff. The author of If I Have to Tell You suggests letting kids work out their own stuff, and don't step in until it becomes violent. I like to think it is just a toddler phase thing, but maybe I just make violent children? because just about every fight turns violent (pushing, hair pulling, etc.) So, I'm not sure what to make of this advice. I do try to get the toy though, as gently as possible, and tell them that they will get it back when they can play nicely/take turns. But seriously. blerg.
The funniest thing that has come of this started when Maggie wanted a toy from Hannah and used her please hands to ask for it. Hannah told her, "say please!" and Maggie signed please (an open hand, making a circular motion on the belly). And Hannah said, "No! say please with your mouth!" Maggie is totally capable of saying the word "please." But what she did instead was just do the sign for please over her mouth. Which made Hannah laugh hysterically. Which made Maggie "sign please" (or sign, something, I don't know what that is a sign for) even more vigorously. And now it is a thing they do. They think it is so funny that they sometimes forget to fight over the toy. Which. Is. Awesome.