In Which Her Bad Mother Quite Unironically Seeks Assistance In Her Efforts To Practice Good Parenting

October 15, 2006

I cannot thank you all enough for your tremendously supportive response to my last post (and to my recent, related posts over at urbanmoms.ca): your comments, your e-mails, and your many virtual hugs have been so much tonic for my frazzled soul. Things are still very challenging – WonderBaby is turbo-charged for as many hours in the day as she can keep her eyes open, and then some, if the night terrors come – but the knowledge that I am not the only one struggling with feelings of maternal inadequacy, that so many of you have felt or feel right now the way that I have been feeling, has gone so, so far toward easing my anxiety and frustration. But even though ‘thank you’ is insufficient, it needs to be said: thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now to business. I need more feedback and advice: how does one approach discipline with a baby that is rushing headlong into toddlerhood? WonderBaby – 11 months old yesterday – cannot be reasoned or bargained with, and she has only the most rudimentary understanding of what it means to do something that Mama disapproves of. (I think. There have been many moments during which I have been convinced that she knows exactly what she is doing. The deafening silence that falls upon the house when she is about to do something naughty – like, say, reprogram all of the electronic devices in the house – is, for example, suspicious.) Obviously, sending her to a Naughty Corner isn’t going to work.

What we currently do, when she does something that she shouldn’t: calmly and slowly say no, and separate her from whatever it is that she is doing. This, as I related the other day, is sometimes very difficult if not impossible: she’s a strong and willful baby, and if she works her well-honed arch-back-go-limp-deaden-weight move (which makes it near-impossible to lift her), her push-self-against-Mama-arch-and-throw-head-back move (which makes it near-impossible to hold her), or her arch-backward-go-ironrod-stiff move (which makes it near-impossible to get her into stroller or carseat), it can sometimes be – how to put this? – impossible to manipulate her physically. In which case, what is one to do? Obviously, in an emergency or truly desperate situation I would just wrestle her and drag her away, screaming, but I am, as it goes, reluctant to do this under ordinary circumstances. So, what is to be done? Do I just ride some things out, pick my battles, etc, etc? Or will I spoil her by doing this?

She’s a sweet-tempered baby. With so many things, she is agreeable and adaptable: if, for example, I pull her away from my laptop – as I must do frequently – she lets out a holler and stomps a foot but is over the fuss in a split-second and moves on to something else. In some cases, simply saying, firmly, NO, WonderBaby, will be enough to dissuade her from pursuing whatever nefarious activity she has set her mind to. But often, when she is really, really determined to do or not do something (eat, nap, get in stroller), there is no fighting her.

(On that subject: how does one feed a baby who refuses to eat anything but random bits of cheese and cucumber and the occasional lemon, and who refuses – REFUSES – to be spoon-fed? She’s a healthy girl – the energy level described in my last post, and her seemingly superhuman strength are evidence of this, I think – but she can go days just picking at and playing with her food. Is this a problem? How do I battle it?)

I’ve always intended to exercise a form of discipline that utilizes reasoning and discussion and getting down to child-level and teaching. But I fear that that particular resolution is doomed to the same fate as the no-garish-plastic-toys resolution and the no-DVD/television resolution (let’s just say that the week I was sick, I spent hours hunkered down on the floor in front of the television with the remote control and a stack of DVDs, trying to get Miss Business to sit still and get addicted to the screen already. That I was profoundly disappointed with my failure speaks volumes about how very, very far I have fallen.) I can’t have empowering heart-to-heart talks with WonderBaby about why it is very important to not bite one’s mother. I can’t reason with her about how very unpleasant it is to listen to screaming. She’s a baby.

I’m uncomfortable with the idea of raising my voice with her; my heart flips when I think of even speaking harshly to her. I much prefer the idea of firm and gentle – but is it enough with a despot-in-training? (Benevolent, but still.)

Despots-in-training shun toys. Despots-in-training sweep toys from shelves with one flourish of their tiny muscled arms and make those shelves their own. Despots claim territory, and if some idiotic department store employee has left a screwdriver behind with which to dismantle the structures of that territory, so much the better.

What do you all do? What did you do, when your children were very small? When did you begin exercising discipline, and how? And if you have a quote-unquote spirited baby, what do you do now?

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    { 71 comments }

    Elizabeth October 15, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    We have a daily battle with Kaitlyn and her fascination with splashing in the dog’s water bowl, and with scooping up and EATING the cat’s dry food. When we catch her doing it, we pull her away, say “NO” (in that firm and gentle way you described), and then carry her into the living room and set her down next to her toy basket. Redirecting her is the only option, really, since she is too young to understand explanations as to why she shouldn’t be doing that.

    As for the eating, babies have an innate sense of how much food they need. If she’s just picking at it, she’s probably not growing right now and therefore not really hungry. As long as she’s peeing and pooping normally, she’s getting enough to eat. I’d continue to put bits of food on her tray, but don’t fight her on it. One of these days, you won’t be able to get the food into her fast enough.

    Gabriella October 15, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    Ahh the food issue, something I’ve struggled with for so long. Samantha goes through phases where she doesn’t want to eat anything (and I cry each of those days in frustration) and then days where she’s content to eat anything. It’s a strange thing. But like Elizabeth said above they do have some innate sense of how much they need.
    Samantha too hates to be spoon fed, I try to give her alot of finger foods (pieces of chicken, fruit, cheese,) but some foods need to be spoon fed, in this case I give her own spoon and let her play with it in the bowl while at the same time I feed her with my own spoon. Sometimes it works sometimes no. It does get frustrating, but I try to make it up with finger foods. Ahh who am I kidding, feeding and sleeping are the hardest things!!!
    Disciplining Samantha, um, I tell her no and move her away from whatever it is, while she runs back yelling out no no no. Most of the time I sit there and laugh. What more can I do at 14mths????

    J. October 15, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    I have to admit, at risk of being throttled, that my daughter was a pretty happy baby. There really wasn’t much she troubled me with.

    Stop mitting me. Not nice. Bad HBM, bad.

    Anyway, when she DID freak out, she went full on with it. And I took the high road of either ignoring her or pointing and laughing. Sometimes both.

    Her very first hissy fit in the mall, at age 2, she got down on the ground, pounding the concrete and screaming up a storm. I pointed at her, laughed, and said ‘don’t you look ridiculous’ and walked away. Keeping all eyes on her mind you. She was never out of my sight. But it freaked her out enough to get up, shake it off and run to catch up with me.

    Parenting is such trial and error. Emphasis on the TRIAL. LOL. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    reddragonsangel October 15, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    jeesh- you raise so many important questions! To be honest I take it as it comes- my son was soo well behaved- I would say no ans he would walk away- that was when he was a baby/toddler- now it’s another story- he is 6 and we go toe to toe on a regular basis- but with the baby- now 2- and really- with bot, you pick your battles- some days are wayyy better than others- depending on thier moods and mine-lol! This weekend we just started the time out chair and she hates it- the same way my son did. But it does work- she had always been more spirited as a baby than he was, but now- at 2 she has started the screaming and the saying no and all that fun stuff- alternated with incredible clingy-ness that some days I think that I have been touched/loved to death! As far as eating- thats totally normal- give her what she asks for within reason- have her drink good things – milk, smoothies etc- believe me- when she is hungry- she WILL eat!!! I know that sounds crazy but it’s true! You are doing fine on distracting her with an item and saying no down at her level. For the tantrums in public- do what ya gotta do- I think that they feel your anxiety and feed off of it- and you are looking at them like what the hell happened to my baby??!! I have left a full shopping cart a few times and walked out of a store becuse my child was totally screaming and freaking out- I have had this happen at doctors offices as well- not so easy to leave- but you start with the whispers of please stop and try distracting them , but some times they just have a damn tantrum!! Try to hold in your tears and breathe and get thru the times when leaving is not an option. I promise that this too will pass- she will sleep and she will start to be able to listen and understand you and she will be able to communicate her frustration – I PROMISE! lol! remember- you are an awesome mom and she is an awesome baby and to be honest – my six year old is just as bad as the 2 yr old some days – but with love and patience and unfortunately tears- we get thru it and you will too honey! (HUGS) P.S. I have read all the books I can get my hands on and I have a darn library of them and when it gets too bad- I like to check them out and honestly it helps becuse if nothing else- I know it’s normal !!!!

    mothergoosemouse October 15, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    As I said in my previous comment, I have two girls who are polar opposites. CJ is very much like WB in many ways; my wish for you is that WB decides to stop hooting and start talking sooner rather than later, more rather than less. Or else you will be in my position, handling one who is nearing two and still arching her back and flailing up and down such that you can barely hold onto her (especially since she is much bigger now than she was at 11 months) and banging her own head against the floor and so forth.

    Redirection is good. Gentle but firm “no” is good. But since WB and CJ share the same sort of determination to wreak havoc and overthrow the househould, I don’t expect that such mild discipline will result in any drastic changes.

    That said, you have two choices. Duct tape, or wait it out. So far I’ve chosen the latter, but I could change my mind tomorrow.

    Karen October 15, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    I pray. And drink.

    Actually, I don’t do either of those things.

    We use the crib as a pokey. Teddy cools down in there after crying hysterically for a minute or 2. Some people will caution about confusing their bed with a place of punishment, but we don’t treat it as a punishment. It hasn’t affected his sleeping.

    And we never fight the food battle, especially with Lizzy. I want her to have as few negative associations about food as possible. If she’s healthy and active, then she’s eating enough.

    There is much we ignore. Our TV often has Arabic subtitles and the phone display is au Francais. I’m not really bothered by the site of him standing on the coffee table.

    Reesh October 15, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    You daughter sounds like my daughter’s twin sister!!! She is a high energy go go go child who barely stops for anything. We have just recently discovered at 8 months that she really does understand “no” so we have been using it with a head shake. I know for a fact that she has figured out the head shake means “no” and now instead of arching her back for something she doesn’t want she just shakes her head. We try to be consistent with what we tell her “no” for and we always remove her from that situation and give her something else as we say “yes” and nod our heads. So far it seems to be working and she finds all the head shaking and nodding quite funny. I’ll guess we’ll see as she gets older and smarter if this will be enough or not.

    As for the food, it’s the same situation over here. At 8 months we are not that concerned and have also been told that when she is ready she will eat. But of course the worrier in me wants to make sure she is eating enough. So far her favourite thing is cucumber, watermelon and strawberries so we give her these, she feeds herself and seems to quite like it.

    I’m Reesh by the way and I found your blog thru Much More Than a Mom.

    K October 16, 2006 at 12:09 am

    Yeah. I’m not so much for the loud voice either – which is amazing since I’m a total yeller.

    However, you just have to read your kid. Q responds well to a firm look and I think because I’m generally loud and jovial, when I get quiet and I speak to her low in her ear, she knows I mean business. For some kids, if you’re usually quiet, you need to be loud. Just make sure it’s a change in how you usually respond.

    At her age, I’d go with the firm NO and then redirect quickly to something else. And then make it fun and exciting and better than what she was doing before.

    If that doesn’t work – we did a time out – even though Q never really moved from the spot – I imagine WB would be up and out of there. I would just put her in the corner (not sitting since she loved sitting on little chairs) and then count to five or something and then tell her why she’s there.

    However, she’s a bit young and that might just all be mute.

    Annie, The Evil Queen October 16, 2006 at 12:12 am

    My son is in the proces of giving up one fo his daily naps, so his usual spirit is augmanted lately by abject crankiness. My first suggestion is, do not turn food into a battle. Offer her healthy things, let her eat what she will, and let it go. they all go through phases and you don’t want to turn food into an issue. Second, when Sam, 17 months, is into something he shouldn’t be into (toilet, computer, trash, whacking me in the noggin’)I tell him no and try to remove him from teh temptation. If he hits or bites me, I put him down. Sometimes, he goes into the playpen for a minute or two. Developmentally, they understand cause and effect, so they will eventually associate bite mommy=no mommy arms. Sam’s latest thing is throwing. A trial. He throws toys and food. (and shoes, and towels, and phones…) I usually remove the object for at least a few minutes. It’s also a good indication that he’s done with whatever is on his high chair tray, though I would prefer an “all done.”

    hautemama October 16, 2006 at 12:29 am

    I had a colicky, spirited first child and it was challenging but I listened to my instincts, did not read too many books and today he’s the sweetest 18 year old I know. I was firm, but nice.

    One thing to remember, what seems like a small battle to us is a big one to them.

    Don’t let them boss you around!

    Kristi October 16, 2006 at 1:24 am

    This is all really good advice. I will say…as long as no one decides to boo me…that we sparingly use spankings with our kids when they are older than your cutie.

    Sparingly as in, time out didn’t work, taking something away did work, and now I have a 5 year old daughter kicking her legs and screaming at the top of her lungs. Yes. Spankings are effective in those circumstances. And only if mom or dad are quite in control of his or her anger and said child is this ( ) close to becoming a lifelong brat. Sparingly.

    That’s just us. And spankings don’t go into effect until they are at least 2 and have committed major atrocities.

    But like I said…that’s just us. I think at her age we were just using angry eyebrows and high-pitched, exacerbated voices.

    jen October 16, 2006 at 1:48 am

    ahhh…to hell with it bad…i just take a heck of a lot of valium. kidding. mostly…..

    ok then..i spent time crying to a child development instructor b/c M was so well, seemingly manic all the time, and i was at a loss. the woman reinforced what i was already trying to do – keep a calm voice, but firm, and don’t give in, but yes, choose your battles. i hold M when she can’t have her way and pitches a fit, so it’s always validating but not yielding…and after 1 or 2 hundred times of the same she gets it, and moves on.

    on the food thing – will she use a spoon herself? i tried to make a smorgasboard of food and let her graze, no matter how messy, just to get it down.

    and lastly, let me know when you want me to come and babysit, so Bad can go get a massage, or something of the like.

    Lady M October 16, 2006 at 3:41 am

    Do you read Mary P? http://daycaredaze.blogspot.com/

    She’s given some great advice that has helped me through many a stressful time. I’ve compiled some links of her posts on discpline, eating, and so forth for my own use. I’ll send ‘em to ya!

    Blog Antagonist October 16, 2006 at 6:55 am

    Ho boy. My youngest was easy. A firmly spoken no was almost always enough. When it wasn’t, I simply removed the temptation, or corralled him in a safe place. With DO, my spirited child, there was nothing that I could do except be vigilant and remove him from life threatening situations when they occurred. When he was a toddler, there was virtually nothing that deterred him from a given course of action. Those were a tough couple years.

    When he got a little older, I bought and read Mary Kurcinka’s “Raising A Spirited Child”. Now, usually, I scoff at most parenting books as completely idealistic and unrealistic. But this one really did help me. I also liked “Raising a Thinking Child” which is about helping your child make good choices.

    Two things I have learned from parenting a Spirited Child:

    PICK YOU BATTLES. Really. I can’t emphasize this enough. If she wants to wear a purple skirt over red and green plaid pants, nobody will die. Let her do it.

    LET HER BE IN CONTROL whenever possible. I know it sounds like you’re giving in to a toddlers demands, but spirited kids are all about control. Sometimes, it means just letting her *think* she is in control. It’s an art form, really, and I’ve almost perfected it. With DO, if I can somehow manage to make him think that it was his idea to do a certain thing a certain way…it’s a snap. If I try to strongarm him in any way, there WILL be a fight. Of course, sometimes I have to put my foot down, but the fallout is usually much less from these instances when he has been given the chance to be in control in other, less consequential (to me, not him) ways.

    Food…Everything is finger food. Period. Mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, yes, even spaghetti. DO wouldn’t let me feed him at all. So I started simply dumping stuff on his highchair tray and letting him go at it. Messy? Yes. But she’ll be happy and a remarkable amount of food will make it into her stomach.

    Read Mary Kurcinka’s book. It’s not a solution, but it will give you some good tools.

    Good luck!

    Gillian October 16, 2006 at 6:57 am

    No two munchkins are exactly the same so it really is trial and error with your own. Redirection is the best tool but it is exhausting and some kids just will not be diverted.

    You can’t make a baby eat even if it makes you crazy. Mine had no appetite because of her heart meds, so when she was tiny I sang and whistled and acted like a court jester. As she got older I made carrot curls and apple rings and cheese balls – anything interesting. Some kids seem to survive on white bread and air so you keep them supplied with bread. It has been suggested that kids have a biological trigger as toddlers that makes them shun a variety of food, because it protected them from eating poisonous plants once they could get around. That would make more sense if at the same time they didn’t try to eat vaseline, dimes or anything they find on the ground. Adorable grandson is a dedicated screamer. You had to spread food puffs and cheerios all over his tray for him to grope and stuff while you shoveled food as quickly as possible because he would shriek the instant his mouth was empty.

    My grandmother’s great child rearing advice was try whatever works. Can’t lose with that canny thinking. It does get easier as they get older because you have more tools to use with them like bribery. Even with the easiest of kids you find yourself thinking at times that you have blown it and they are ruined. Believe everyone when they say you are not a bad mom. Bad moms don’t struggle to parent well.

    bubandpie October 16, 2006 at 7:17 am

    I was thinking about your “Survivor: Child Island” post yesterday when we went to the grocery store en famille to pick up some photos and then let the kids run around rampant for awhile. And it was incredibly stressful and exhausting because the grocery store is full of things that children really shouldn’t be touching (like packages of raw chicken) and it was a constant effort to redirect and really just not worth it. And I thought, this is exactly why I never take my children places like this.

    At home, I childproof the heck out of the place so that anything my kids can do, they’re allowed to do. I have one or two exceptions for the sake of establishing the principle of “no,” but beyond that, all the no-nos are out of reach.

    And when I take the children out it’s almost always to a playgroup or somebody’s house where the same principle applies – and I buckle everybody into the stroller on my way to and from. I find that bribery works best for getting them into the stroller as we’re leaving – juice in hand, into stroller.

    That said, I’ve been amazed at what my child-care provider has been able to accomplish with infinite repetition: her cat food dishes sit out in the kitchen and she’s trained all the kids not to touch them simply by saying “no” and moving them away hundreds of times. I don’t have the patience or persistence for that, but it’s interesting – and astonishing – to realize that it can actually work.

    Laural Dawn October 16, 2006 at 8:39 am

    I’m not claiming to be the world’s best mom – far from it. But … given that I’m still standing and Matt is 2.5 and he is still standing here’s my thought.
    Say no when you must and truly mean it. Like, if she’s about to run in front of a car shout it.
    Otherwise, distract.
    She’s 11 months. I don’t think kids at 11 months understand reason. Like, with Matt I always kept stupid noisy toys in my purse/bag. It often worked. At least for a second.
    And, sometimes I did drag him off screaming.
    And as for the eating …
    Who cares?
    I’ve read that toddlers tend to pick and choose and as long as the choices they have are healthy than you’re okay.
    And maybe she’s not in growth spurt or something.
    Or formula/milk is filling her up and that’s pretty healthy.
    See – bottom line. As long as you are both surviving all is good.

    metro mama October 16, 2006 at 8:42 am

    Jane is spirited too. I say no (loudly sometimes) and try to redirect, but I don’t think it’s doing much good. I’ve decided to just choose my battles (actually, so far I haven’t really chosen one–I’ve given up and let her toss her food on the floor; I’ve child-proofed the hell out of the house). I am going to have to insist on hat-wearing though, our latest struggle. I think my approach will be to put the damn hat back on, over and over. If it takes us an hour to get anywhere, so be it.

    cinnamon gurl October 16, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Last week my mums’ group invited a public health nurse to come and answer our questions. I also went to a workshop on development 6-18 mos. at the OEYC. A few things I picked up that you may be interested in:

    around 12 months, babies’ growth slows way down and they don’t eat nearly as much as they did a few months ago.

    Parents have three responsibilities with regard to food: when, where and what. Kids have two: if and how much.

    Good luck! Oh and one other thing I liked from the OEYC workshop. She said parents are the experts, everyone else, like her and people writing books, are just our assistants.

    kittenpie October 16, 2006 at 9:48 am

    YES, pick your battles.

    Don’t sweat the eating too much – give her options on different finger foods and try to stuff as much good stuff into the things she will eat as possible (I still sneak veg and fruit puree into things on occasion!). She won’t starve – promise.

    I am fully familiar with those patented moves you describe… tricky. But as I say, clamping under an arm works, and if we need timeout badly enough, it happens in the crib, where she is safe but contained.

    I think a sharp tone is also not a bad thing when warranted – it can let them know you mean business.

    Counting for some reason works really well. Now I ask Pumpkinpie if I need to count and only rarely do I have to start. She gets it. If she doesn’t want to get in line, I tell her what the specific threat (ie. no ice cream, put in high chair, etc.) is if she doesn’t do X by the time I say 3.

    Redirecting, letting them have a turn so they can try it out ans satisfy their curiosity, or giving them their own version of the thing work often.

    But mostly? Don’t worry about little stuff, try to enjoy the journey and let her take her time exploring when you can, let her do some of her manic stuff on her own – she may just check in with you now and then and otherwise be happy whirling about solo. We just babyproofed EVERYTHING and let her go. And ignore stuff that isn’t a big deal, just a smidge annoying.

    That’s a lot of rambling there, I know, those are just the things that have worked for me so far. And it’s still a struggle… but we’re getting there.

    crazymumma October 16, 2006 at 9:51 am

    I am smiling because you are bringing me back to the baby days. sigh…
    It sounds like you are doing an amazing job. And I think the joy we see in the photos of WB illustrate that.
    My Little Girl was my terrifyingly willful baby. And going out with her, just getting through the day was sometimes enough to make me cry.
    When I could I gave time and opportunity, DISTRACTION, so as to leave a situation. But having also a Big Girl, who had school hours to keep etc…one would very often see me carrying my screaming child in my arms.
    I hope you feel better about this, I know you are going to get some great advice.
    Can you get a bit of time to recharge? Maybe a tween to play with her while you write, take a shower, whatever? Sometimes that just gave me the time I needed to get over the mood of the moment.
    Bon chance! She sure is cute tho’….

    Slackermommy October 16, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Diversion and distraction. Try not to use “no” too much. You don’t want it to lose it’s effectiveness now because you’ll be using it a lot when she’s two. The best advice I can give any new mom is CONSISTENCY. That has been my biggest discipline mistake. Wonder Baby seems pretty spirited which means she probably has a higher than normal IQ. She will quickly figure out that mommy sometimes gives in or that rules can be broken especially if she throws a really good tantrum.

    Jozet October 16, 2006 at 10:45 am

    It’s been a while, but here’s what I remember as the good advice and words of wisdom given to me:

    – Choose your battles. If you choose to die on every hill, you will.

    - never take a tired or hungry child anywhere if at all possible

    - tantrums are not manipulation at this age. They are overwhelming and frightening for little kids who are feeling out of control.Tantrums are often punishment enough. Don’t give in, but don’t add additional punishment on top.

    - find other ways to say “no”. For running into the street, say STOP or DANGER instead. OUCH or HOT for touching something not safe. The child will be hearing NO a lot, and it can quickly loose it’s effect…if there was any to begin with, lol. Also, thinking of new ways to say no offers mom the chance to stretch some creative muscles.

    - redirect, redirect, redirect

    - begin naming emotions. Little kids won’t “get it” yet, but if you begin to build their emotional vocabulary, it helps when you get to the “use your words” stage. “You are stomping your feet. I see how angry you are!” or “Look at that smile. You feel good. You are happy!”

    Google anything with Positive Parenting or Positive Discipline. This is NOT permissive parenting. It’s parenting with natural or logical consequences when appropriate. Discipline = teaching.

    - it’s okay if you blow your lid. it’s okay to occasionally hide in the bathroom and give yourself a time out.

    that’s the short list… :-)

    Susan October 16, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Ahh, we’re struggling with the same questions over here. I find myself longing for a patience-IV on a slow drip… We’re on the say-no-then-remove-and-try-to-distract-
    the-undistractable plan as well. I just keep telling myself that he’ll either get bored with hearing “no” and being redirected a million gazillion times or he’ll finally get it. Right? RIGHT?!

    As for the eating, take heart! My pediatrician told me not to worry — a perfectly healthy toddler can and will take up to a month to eat a well balanced diet. She asked me to keep a food diary so that when I panic on the “only cheese and cucumber and bits of catfood that I wasn’t quick enough to sweep up before the turbo fingers found it” days, I can look back a few days and see that we’ve recently had a “only meat! Meat! Meat!” day and a “no thanks to the broccoli, but I will eat an entire can of green beans followed by 7 of those tasty organic cookies” day. Great advice… it really has helped!

    braiding mommy October 16, 2006 at 11:14 am

    Well, three-years into the reign of Lydia, the free-spirit, I’ve learned to choose my battles and let her be a kid. I think being a parent is a careful balance between not letting them run wild, but not expecting them to act older than they are.

    There are things I have gotten used to with Lydia. Shopping, going to restaurants, these things are generally out of the question and will remain so for just a little longer. She likes to run. She’s not being naughty, she’s being 3 (she was being two) and as her reasoning skils adapt, she adapts and we adjust where we can and cannot take her.

    For punishment at home, I do choose my battles. One thing that works well with Lydia when she is really upset is the bear hug. She’s old enough that if she does something naughty and I remove her from the situation, hug her tight, and talk about it with her softly, she gets the message.

    Man, parenting is hard…

    T. October 16, 2006 at 11:54 am

    I have no words of advice. As the mom to ten and nine year old Fric and Frac, I merely closed my eyes and hid in the closet at the first sign of trouble.

    Which is why, they still run the show. Learn from me, and don’t do what I did.

    It is also the reason why I’m adopting a special needs child. They are sooo much easier to convince to eat, dress and behave.

    Oh dear, I probably just jinxed myself…

    Good luck. Be kind to your momma Wonderbaby…

    Crunchy Carpets October 16, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Caity is like WB….she is now two….I have become numb to the shrieks of rage and temper tantrums.

    Smashing of laptops gets her sitting on the couch away from mom.

    Toys get taken away.
    I hold hand that hit and say no very firmly.
    I ignore screaming hissy fits unless out in public and then we just leave..abort the mission.
    Now she gets a time out in her crib..only a short minute, but it is enough for her to smarten up.

    It is hard and exhausting and when you have two who are the same….well.

    I loved all you folks who wrote about your rate and lesser moments….I was too ashamed to.

    I think I have been pretty open about my issues, but to ramble on about my anger…well, I know I have issues and am dealing with it…and demanding help from my partner too.

    24/7 with high needs kids wears the best parent down.

    Oh and food?
    If she is hungry she will eat.

    Caity is a horribly messy eater and has mor fun destroying the food instead of consuming it.

    If all she is doing is making a mess…the food goes away.

    If you are offering snacks all day…she will not be hungry for the bigger meals and that is ok.

    Feed her anyway that works.

    Hang in there…

    Erin October 16, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    My daughter is 14 months old and I know where you are coming from. I think in some ways the itty-bitty baby days were easier. Yes, they were sleepless, but meeting the baby’s needs was so much easier. Now she has a will and an opinion and wants… you have to assume the role of parent instead of loving caretaker. And you love them so much, you don’t want to be the heavy and tell them no, but you also don’t want them to be a brat, because you love them. A total catch 22.

    With my daughter, as with 99% of the commenters above, I say no firmly and redirect. I have baby-proofed the house so that she can’t get into too much trouble. There are a couple of things still out that she’s not allowed to play with (computer and wedding picture for starters). However, there are times when I tell her no and she laughs in my face. And then my blood boils. I have to take a deep breath and then I put my face in hers and firmly say no again. She usually gets the message. And then we redirect.

    As far as food goes, I don’t sweat it. She’s not going to starve if she doesn’t eat breakfast. If she eats something, I’m a happy mom. I’ve noticed that Emily usually has one meal per day where she really stuffs it down, and then the others aren’t as big.

    Also, Emily started to refuse to let me spoon feed her right around 11 or 12 months. At which point I said, fine, feed your own damn self and started giving her the whole equivalents of the pureed foods she’d been having before. I drop a handfull of an assortment of food on her tray at each meal (i.e., dry cereal, fruit and spoon feed some yogurt for breakfast; macaroni and cheese, banana and milk for lunch, etc – often it is exactly what we grownups are having) and let her go to town. I have a second box of diaper wipes that I keep on the dining room table to mop her up with. She loves to feed herself and is now rejecting the cut up versions of food, preferring to eat the banana right out of the peel. Independent? Just a little. Strong-willed? You betcha.

    When I talked with my pediatrician about some of my own battles, she said to remember that the characteristics that are frustrating us now are the ones we want to foster and will welcome in a bigger kid and adult.

    Hang in there! You can do it!

    penelopeto October 16, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    my kid is pretty chill, so maybe it’s easy for me to say, but it does come up (more and more often, lately). we’re totally not into discipline right now, especially any sort that isolates bee from her family (i.e. sitting in a time out – so ineffective). the supernanny’s have it waaaay wrong. becuase, you know she gets it. you know. she just doesn’t care right now.

    We don’t fight it. yep, she’s willful, yep, she stiffens or slacks or looks slyly and keeps going – up the stairs onto the armrest of the couch, into the cat food dish. sometimes she gets really frustrated and cries and pulls at my leg and won’t stop.
    here’s what we do:
    we tell her clearly what behaviour we want to stop -no running on the couch. sit down please.

    when she keeps going, we physically sit her down.

    when she starts running again, we remove her from the couch.

    when she climbs back on, we do it all again.

    after about the third time, we do the only thing that works – distract, distract, distract.

    As for tantrums, as long as she can’t hurt herself, we totally ignore them, but always give her cuddles when she calms down – it’s not the baby that bugs me, it’s the behaviour.

    it’s all about discovering boundaries and barrelling through them right now.

    this too shall pass!

    penelopeto October 16, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    p.s. as for the food – i gave my mother ulcers when i was two because of my (non) eating habits. she was told to not stress about it. no child will ever starve themselves, and i’m convinced that pushing food on a kid leads to bad issues later on.

    Linda October 16, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    I had a baby *just* like WonderBaby. For months on end, she slept in 20-minute catnaps over a 24-hour period. Her first year is a complete blur to me. She is now a three-year-old “spirited” child and *draining* just doesn’t adequately describe life with her. Still doesn’t eat much. Still can’t be reasoned with. Still doesn’t sleep much. I’m ashamed to say that I gave in to TV very early on, because it was the only thing that calmed her, delighted her and gave us all some much-needed peace. I am wholly inadequate to care for this child and am consumed with guilt on a fairly regular basis. I realize this isn’t very helpful, but sometimes it helps a bit to release these feelings… :-)

    Christina October 16, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    I think it is important to pick your battles. There are times when you should just give in, if a) it’s safe and b) you have the time for it.

    But we’re not talking about those situations, are we?

    I know you want to keep a gentle voice, but sometimes you can only get through by lowering your voice and adopting a harsher tone. You don’t have to yell at her, but the tone in your voice should carry the message that you mean business and you’re very unhappy. When Cordy was that age, a simple, stern “No” could stop her in her tracks and sometimes make her cry. She cried because she knew at the point that she had earned my displeasure, but she had to know that I didn’t approve of what she was doing.

    Unsafe activities always receive a stern “no” as well as removal from that area. You’re right, you can’t explain to her why you’re not letting her play with the kitchen knives, because she doesn’t understand at this age. But a short “No, that’s sharp!” and removing her from the situation would get the message across.

    As always, at this age, it’s all about the quick reprimand and the distraction technique.

    Tantrums are met with a blank face. Here’s my newest trick, and it works well (but probably won’t work for WB until she’s a little older): if Cordy throws a tantrum, I tell her that she is free to do so, but I am also free to not listen to it. I go to another room and tell her that when she’s done she can join me. She gets the anger out of her system, and I don’t have to listen to it. Works for both of us.

    As for the arching techniques of Wonderbaby, I can sympathize. Cordy is a master of those three moves as well, and she’s not a lightweight kid. Sometimes wrestling is just what you have to do.

    As for food, Cordy is currently in the “living on air and dustbunnies” stage, and I wouldn’t worry about it. She’ll eat if she’s really hungry.

    Oh, and if you failed to get her hooked on TV, maybe you weren’t using the right programs? I can recommend some of Cordy’s favorite programs for you! ;)

    nomotherearth October 16, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t know if the Boy is “spirited” so to speak, I think of him more as an “old soul”. In those terms, he is fairly happy and fun, but he knows what he wants and woe betide the person who denies him something that he wants.

    The methods that I use (and I have no certainty that they work but I have to try something):

    -Re-direction: make something else a lot more fun and interesting

    -Choice: always give him a choice between two things so that he feels in control. I am trying hard not to say “Do you want to…” because the answer is inevitably “no!”

    -NO alternative: we haven’t baby-proofed everything as I am trying to work with the concept that some things are “off limits” (I suspect this could change with two babies, but right now it’s manageable)

    -NO: for things that are absolutely unacceptable (like biting). I say his name, then NO and walk away a small distance and don’t pay attention to him. Bad behaviour = no attention, no response

    -Positive re-inforcement: I try whenever possible to praise GOOD behaviour. Make a big deal about something and he’s likely to want to keep doing it.

    As to the food thing. It’s been a losing battle for us as well. I’ve decided recently to offer 3 – 4 healthy choices per meal, and that’s IT. I try to make at least one of them something I know he likes. If he doesn’t eat, then I assume he is not hungry, and he will have to wait till the next snack/meal. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done (letting go), but I am at my wits end.

    sunshine scribe October 16, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    There is a lot of good advice here so you don’t likely need mine too.

    Here is what we did ….

    At her age “discipline” isn’t really an option. She won’t get time outs or any other tactic. But like Kristen (K) said, get her used to the “no” voice or look. Whatever works for you – just make it different. For me, I lowered my voice, put on a serious face and got to his leverl and was firm and slow in how I spoke.

    Then at that age it is all about redirecting and distracting I think. I used to carry around a bag of distractions and if all else failed, I’d pick him up in a foot ball hold and head home if it wasn’t working.

    And then she’ll change and develop new things and you’ll have to figure it out all over again.

    Hang in there. You can do it. You know her better than anyone. Trust in that and in your own wonderful instincts more than anything.

    Jozet October 16, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Another spin on redirection abd saying no…

    instead of saying what you don’t want to happen, say what you *do* want to happen.

    instead of “Don’t run into the street” i say “Always hold mommy’s hand near the street.”

    with my kids it seemed – and still seems – that as soon as i say “don’t think of elephants!” all they can think of is elephants, you know?

    instead of “don’t write on the chair” i say “write on paper only.”

    nothing works all the time, however, or with every child. and i was always told that any new discipline tactic takes about 2 weeks to sink in and get past the test stage. and again, if you ever do flip your lid and yell, well, join my club.

    sorry no caps…i’m nursing baby while typing.

    Anonymous October 16, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    It may have been said, but we used the Pack N Play as time out. In there, we knew he was safe and it was enough isolation from the thing we wanted him to stop doing that he got the point quickly when we said no, we meant no. We rarely used it for a bed or crib unless we were out of town and then it was in the same room with us so Gabe was okay being put in there for bedtimes. When his environment was changed he was mostly okay with anything as long as he could see us nearby. Drowsy enough, he wouldn’t even connect it with the daytime “Baby Jail” as we came to call it. This was where he’d throw his fits, and then when he was done with the fit, I would take him out, cuddle him, and do my best to explain. As his vocabulary increased, the ease in dealing with him increased. Reading him books really helped him learn words that could express his frustrations, and he therefore figured out how to tell me when he was upset instead of taking his frustrations out on objects around him, or worse, me and his daddy. It’s a process. A painstaking one. And you don’t realize things are better until one day when they are better and you see how far you’ve come. Hang in there.

    Andrea (http://littlebalddoctors.wordpress.com ~ Blogger behaving badly again.)

    Ruth Dynamite October 16, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    I have no advice except to be firm and clear while making a serious facial expression.

    But this does remind me of this misguided (in my opinion) mom I once knew who yelled “AT” at her kids instead of saying “No!” I spent one evening with her and all she did was yell “AT!” constantly.

    I wouldn’t recommend this approach, because years later, people might blog about you.

    scribbit October 16, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    “Gentle but firm” is all I could possibly offer. Discipline is so hard to manage. And what works for one child may not work for another.

    wordgirl October 16, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    It’s been years since we dealt with the eating thing. Most doctors say that, in the end, everything evens out. If all they’re eating is peanut butter…well…that’s protein at the very least. Beth at So The Fish Said (she’s on my blogroll) dealt with this issue a bit. Both she and the husband are vegetarians and I think their toddler daughter stopped eating all of the things she normally LOVED. Yogurt, avocado…the works. I wish I could give you advice, but it would just be very old advice. Once they get to be teenagers, the struggle becomes more about how to KEEP them from eating like locusts.

    Mom101 October 16, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    While I’m only a couple months ahead of you here and probably not the experty one of this remarkable commenting bunch, my sense is that there’s only so much you can do. Say no, redirect, and know that in time it will mean something to her.

    As for the food, I too have a daughter who’s all about the cheerios and pasta. A cucumber! Well that would just be plain exotic. Best words of wisdom I heard recently is that toddlers are like snakes: some days they eat an entire mouse, then for two days they eat nothing at all. If she’s thriving (she is), growing (she is), she’s fine.

    ewe are here October 16, 2006 at 5:40 pm

    Discipline is a tough one. I can only hope that someone will clue me in when they find a sure-fired way to get toddlers to do what you want them to do and stop doing what you don’t want them to do.

    I do know that you really can’t ‘discipline’ per se an 11 month old, and, based on my limited understanding of the toddler mind, Naughty Corners/Chairs aren’t an option until they’re about 2 years old. I focus on repetitive explanations and ‘requests’ to my toddler figuring he gets it at some level, and if he doesn’t, he will. So I do try to be reasonably consistent. It’s not always easy.

    As for the physical resistance –the arch-back and pushing-away when you pick them up tricks– my husband and I learned to outmanoeuvre MF rather quickly. If he’s playing these games, sure, we’ll let you get your feet back on the ground and try to take off. Sure we will. Only we don’t actually let him take off. We scoop him up again, one arm under his butt, one arm around his middle, and his back against our front side so he’s facing outward. He can’t fight this carrying position easily – arched back doesn’t help; pushing away doesn’t help. I think that this is a firm and gentle way to get the message across that temper-tantrum-based resistance is futile.

    As for laptops? I can’t help you there. That is one item I have difficulty keeping MF away from. If I’m on it, he wants to poke at it. Or close it to make me do what he wants to do. No matter how many times I say ‘don’t touch mommy’s computer.’ Sigh.

    Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah October 16, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    I started doing time outs in a pack N play at 11 months.

    Now, I do whatever works that day. Often it invoves taking toys and putting them on top of my dresser.

    something blue October 16, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    With Strawberry, every morning to go to work/daycare used to be a battle of wills. She would become a board every time I tried to put her in her car seat (while the neighbors watched the show.) The only thing that worked was completely changing the routine. She would fight me on getting dressed so I quickly learned before she even fully woke up I had to get her dressed. Some days I would not recognize her tantrums and sing happy nursery rhymes. You learn to do what ever it takes. There was mornings that I would get to work completely spent and in tears.

    The best way of changing it up was to add Buttercup to the mix. Her routine was changed so much that she never fights me in the morning now! Plus when the little one has a tantrum, she helps me distract her. It’s awesome!

    When I’ve had to firmly say no to Buttercup she always bursts into tears. Just when you have one problem licked, another one pops up.

    HeatherJ October 16, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    It is so hard when they are that age. You can’t reason with them so you do what any parent does you seperate them from what you don’t want to do, or you lure them away with something really great that maybe they don’t get that often. I swear it gets easier when the communication skills improve. One of the best things is to create an area where she can have full reign to do what ever she wants, even if it is a little corner of a room, but then you don’t have to tell her no all the time.

    PunditMom October 16, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    I wish I had some really sage advice, but how does one even start with discipline for an 11-month-old?

    I sort of gutted it out until R. was close to 3, and then we sought out some professional advice. It seemed to me that even a child that age should be listening SOME of the time, say 10%? We had the back-arching tantrums, as well as years of night terrors. Long story short, we’ve worked on a ton of different things, but one thing that was helpful was using “time ins” rather than “time outs” … instead of sending her off for something she had done wrong, I would help her calm down — sit with her on the floor and let her be angry until she was done, let her cry, but be there to hold her and comfort her to start talking about the problem, just to let her know I was there.

    I know it might sound a little too touchy/feely, but it’s worked for us. I’ve been on Child Island, and I’ve survived (though I must tell you there were days when I begged someone for a Xanax). But I’m not looking forward to the sequel: Pre-teen Survivor.

    Haley-O October 16, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Josh and I were just talking about this this evening when the monkey was throwing her food at dinner….We know what we want to do later: we want to discipline with empathy, respond rather than react, with a knowledge of where she’s coming from and with compassion. We will try not to yell…no promises there, though….But, NOW…how to discipline a baby!?

    My mother says “no” with a firm voice….I try that, and the monkey laughs. So, I’ve resorted to just talking to her, and telling her why what she’s doing is not appropriate or dangerous. I can’t tell you that it works, but it feels like the right approach for me.

    Re. the feeding….The monkey has days where she eats next to nothing. The teething has a lot to do with it. This you just ride out. I try to give her stuff that she likes that’s vitamin rich — like diluted apple juice (which she never declines).

    Don’t despair. :) you’re wonderful. Listen to your gut. It’ll tell you something different every time. But, you know what to do. :)

    Awesome Mom October 16, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    I truly wish I could offer you advice. My toddler is freakishly good and better trained than a dog. At the hospital a dog came by for a visit and the owner of the dog told the dog to sit. MY toddler sat down faster than the dog. How crazy is that? I wish I knew how I did it because I could make a ton of money writing a book on it.

    Jaelithe October 16, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    WonderBaby probably is a bit too young for time outs in the sense that she may not yet be able to grasp the purpose of a time out, but I think time-outs may still be helpful for YOU in terms of giving her a safe, contained place to let off steam once you’ve removed her from a dangerous situation. I like Andrea’s idea of the pack n’ play. My son gets time outs in his room– when he was about a year-and-a-half old I started putting him in his room and shutting the door for one or two minutes when he was seriously misbehaving. (At that age, one or two minutes in time out is usually quite enough). I would have to vote against the previously suggested crib, though, as WB already has sleep issues, and as the mother of a poor sleeper myself, I wouldn’t even want to take a slight risk of creating ANY sort of bed aversion! *shudder*

    I also agree with the suggestion to replace “No” with “sharp” or “hot” or “dangerous” depending on the situation; WonderBaby is smart and knowing WHY she shouldn’t touch something may help. When my son was WonderBaby’s age, I used to touch the edge of something sharp in front of him, pull my hand back quickly, and say, “Look! Sharp! Ow! It could hurt you!” I did the same with hot things, and electrical outlets. It took some months, but this approach eventually worked wonders with my son– now if he sees a sharp knife he points at it and says very solemnly, “Sharp! Don’t touch, Isaac.” These days he actually makes a point of warning me when he sees things lying around that might be dangerous to him.

    And I want to add: remember, if she is doing something destructive or dangerous and you need to stop her, it is really, really OKAY to make her cry. It is okay to be stern, even loud with her, when the situation warrants it. It is even okay to forcibly peel her off the floor and drag her away kicking and screaming and strap her into a stroller or shut her in another room (as long as you’re not hurting her in the process) if that is what you have to do to keep her safe. It is okay to do these things because you are doing it out of love. Through discipline, you are, in fact, performing your most basic duties as a mother: keeping your child healthy and safe, and teaching her what is and is not appropriate social behavior so that she will be able to get along in the world as she gets older.

    I really do know how you feel about not wanting to be harsh with her, because she’s a baby, for heaven’s sake, (and not just any baby, but the BEST baby ever, because she’s YOUR baby, and therefore you cannot help but feel somewhere in the dephts of your heart that she must be protected, Buddha-like, from all worldly suffering), but I’ve learned with my own son that when a child is not paying attention, sometimes you really do have to shout!

    Oh, The Joys October 16, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    My “mommy guru” (neighbor) recommended a book whose title I can no longer remember that suggested holding their arms down at their sides for one minute while talking about the behavior being wrong. It instructed you NOT to yell, not to lose your cool, but to calmly talk to the baby about the behavior, “No, no, we don’t…” while holding the arms down. (Not so hard that it hurts them, but hard enough that the baby really can’t lift them up/move them.) This worked like a charm with our kids because they found it infuriating and did not want it repeated. Who knew? We became devoted to the technique from about 10 – 20 months.

    Blog Antagonist October 16, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    You have gotten so much wonderful advice here, and much of it will work well.

    Redirection is a great tool for “regular” children. It worked very well with my oldest child.

    However, a truly spirited child does often not respond well to redirection. The phrase “one track mind” was invented for Spirited children.

    Certainly, it is worth giving a try. I just wanted to mention it so that you don’t feel unnecessarily defeated if it isn’t effective with Wonderbaby.

    One facet of Spiritedness is determination. DO will stop at nothing until he has achieved his objective, then, and now. Now, it’s a little easier to deal with, because we can set clear expectations with very clear consequences and know that he will understand. Understanding isn’t necessarily the same as prevention, but it helps.

    When he was a toddler, there was just no way to get through to him. As I said, it was a rough couple of years.

    I told myself over and over that his determination would serve him well one day. It has, and it will.

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