|"dd1 hitting your sister over the head with a groovy girl is not okay. If you don't want her to play with that one tell her with words! It's okay to want that doll and it's okay to not let dd2 have it, but it's not okay to hit her with it. You can say 'dd2, I'm playing with this right now.'"
Giving my dd the exact words to use has been one of the most helpful things for us, by far.
Empathy is great, but for us is doesn't work. Validating feelings (ie. "I see that upset you") does work. But empathy hasn't worked much for my dd. I can't remember where I read it, maybe in Hold On to Your Kids
, but some theories say that kids need to learn to process hurts before they can move on, that it's an important developmental step that many kids don't go through these days. I think (I think!) there really must be a certain "that's how it is" (not a "life is hard" one, just a "there's nothing to be done" one) emphasis at a certain point. Then the child can cry about it and move on. When I stopped trying to solve every problem and let my dd know that sometimes there's nothing I can do, things improved ten-fold.
Validating feelings, for me, is my best tool. For example, yesterday I worked hard at decorating the house for Halloween. I live in a country where Halloween stuff isn't available so I had to wing it. Despite my work, and despite my dd's delight with the decorations, dd was still down about not being able to trick-or-treat. I didn't tell her that she should be happy about what I did do. I acknowledged that it was hard for her to miss out. Inside,
I was a bit let down that what I did for her wasn't enough. I'm only human. But I still let her know that it was okay to be sad about the trick-or-treating. Dh felt she should be happy with what I did. I disagree.
Letting her know we all feel this way sometimes, we all make mistakes, we all struggle with patience has been helpful.
Letting her solve problems is always helpful. She can be very smart and creative. It gives her a lot of practice for the future.
Identifying emotions is immensely helpful. Frustrated, angry, sad, etc. Drawing the lines between anger and underlying needs. Talk to her when she's calm: "Hey, remember when you got so angry about xyz? What was up with that? Do you think you were feeling jealous, sad, in need of loving, etc.? What do you think you were really feeling?"
Dd and I started "loving" sessions. We started this about two years ago. When she would get upset I would ask, "Do you need some loving?" She would always say yes. And we would sit on the couch and hold each other. Now she'll ask spontaneously for loving. "Mama, can I have some loving?" or "Mama, I need some loving." No talking. Just quiet moments of love.
Sometimes I would let dd destroy her room. This was a long time ago, but it always helped (my dd was a hitter until she was 5).
I don't allow any whining, period. I just don't allow it. I tell her what to say and how to say it. I am very, very grateful that I haven't dealt with name-calling or sassiness (or however you want to call it). That must be tremendously difficult! And I don't know if just not allowing it has any value at all in that case.
Lots and lots and lots of physical activity. A martial art, especially Aikido, which is a non-violent one, helps a lot. My dd still needs lots of activity to stay sane. It is instantly obvious when he hasn't had enough.
That coupled with very limited or no television. It is also instantly obvious when dd has watched TV.
Try an exercise where you write down 8 things that bother you in your dd and 8 things you love. Can you see yourself in any of those? How do you treat yourself when those traits come up in yourself?
I'm going to put that book on my wishlist!
Edited to add:
I don't want it to seem like I've handled all this perfectly. Dd has been very difficult for me to parent. And I've been angry and have yelled plenty of times.
But sometimes yelling has been effective. :LOL For instance, she went through a period where she would turn her head every time someone talked to her or said hello. She did it to a friend once and I blew my top, telling her she can't treat friends like that. After that, she stopped turning her head and even started to say hello and answer questions. (I've talked with her since, and I think she's operating out of a sense that interacting with others is enjoyable and not out of a sense of guilt).
One thing I haven't been handling very well is her anxiety about her little sister. She gets very anxious when we're out and I don't stay close enough to dd2. Dd2 is fine, within my view, just not right next to me. Well, dd1 had a nightmare about dd2 wandering onto a subway. The doors closed and dd2 went off on the subway alone. I realized then just how anxious dd1 is about this. I had been saying things like "Don't worry about it! I'm the mama! I'll worry about dd1, you don't need to" when she kept getting so anxious about it every five seconds.