In Playful Parenting, Lawrence J. Cohen talks about attachment by using the metaphor of filling and refilling a cup. The caregiver is a reservoir for the child, the child will come back to refill their cup when they are feeling tired, hungry or lonely for example. A blanket and somewhere comfortable to lay, a snack or a reading a book together can help refill the child's cup. Sometimes though, the child might have a leaky cup, so getting that refill is even harder. Even when they get a little refill, it still isn't enough as it simply keeps on leaking. They will try and refill that cup any way they can, even through negative attention. With Miss K being in full time school and spending less time at home, her cup had been leaking and she had turned to arguing and fighting with Little L. She was trying to gain attention, even if it was negative, from me to refill her cup and trying to steal out of her sisters cup at the same time. She was trying to get a refill anyway she could. When siblings fight, the most common advice I hear is to simply ignore it, which only makes a child with a leaky cup even more desperate for a refill.
When I started to fit special time with Miss K into our daily routine by staggering bedtimes four to five times each week, almost overnight, the fighting stopped. Miss K was kinder and more patient with her little sister. The girls started to get along with each other rather than fight against each other. Miss K's cup was full again and she didn't have to 'steal' from her sibling to get a refill or fight to gain the attention. She happily plays with her sister now before and after school for long periods of time, sometimes up to forty-five minutes or an hour, with barely any cross words between them. Her tone of voice is different when she speaks to her sister now, it is gentler, more understanding, more caring. I came to realise that if a child is deeply happy, that happiness seems to spill out into their everyday interactions with the people surrounding them. They are free to 'give away' their happiness by being kind to others as they know they're going to get a refill soon.