Tantruming Toddlers

May 27, 2010

I felt like the cards were stacked against us today: I am sick, Calvin is cutting his canines and lately he has a propensity to meltdown and lose control.  Despite all of that, we ended up having a great, slow, lazy day. He is at such a great age; easy to care for and fun to interact with. He’s still a little bit of a baby but rapidly becoming a big boy. And with all of these life changes come a stage I had been anticipating with a bit of dread: Tantrums.

Indeed, he had quite a few tantrum-type episodes today – so many that I lost count (5? 6? more?). I have been surprised to discover that this experience is not that bad and not the big deal that I thought it would be. I try to recognize the tantrums for what they are: outbursts of emotion that are beyond his control. I try to remember that he is just a little guy in a big, frustrating world. I know that he will someday learn other ways to deal with his emotions, but in the meantime I need to let him vent his frustration.

I have found that the best way to deal with his tantrum is to sit nearby quietly and wait for it to subside. I don’t leave him while he has his moment; I can tell that he wants me there. I don’t touch him; he has made it quite clear he doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want me to say anything, either. So I just wait. It subsides after a minute or two, and then he usually has a smile on his face and he often runs over to hug me.

Code Name: Mama has written about tantrums lately and her thoughts are very similar to mine. In Riders on the Tantrum Storm, she says:

We do not believe in punishing tantrums. Children are learning how to navigate the world – oftentimes, their emotions overwhelm them. A child in the midst of a tantrum feels powerless and out of control. Punishing tantrums does not “teach” a child anything, other than the fact that they cannot trust their deepest feelings to their caregivers.

I try to remember how I feel when my emotions are out of control. I may be well beyond the toddler years but this is definitely something I still experience from time to time. When I am upset or venting to my husband it would certainly be counterproductive for him to leave the room or to yell at me or otherwise “punish” me. Often I just need to get it out and then to calm down. I don’t think that a toddler’s experience is too much different.

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It has been one of those days… Two failed nap attempts. A toddler who constantly wants to nurse.  The perpetual sounds of cranks and whines. There seemed to be nothing that would please him.

I kept it together pretty well, but late this afternoon I finally lost my patience. I missed the mark when it came to my job as a mother. It kills me to not be the epitome of the gentle, attached mother that I want to be (and that I usually am). But today (and really, all week) things have just been off track. He is extra whiny and needy, and my patience is stretched thin.

On days like this I could use more ideas for grounded, gentle and patient parenting. A few things that work for us so far…

What helps me set the tone:

  • A prayer to start the day, and intermediate prayers asking for God’s mercy throughout the day.
  • Beginning the day with a playful/joyous spirit.
  • Really focusing on him for the first hour of the morning (after my coffee is made, of course!)
  • Getting enough to sleep. Lately it’s been hard for me to go to bed on time.

What helps me try to get both of us back on track (or what helps me keep my sanity):

  • Taking the time to pay 100% attention to him for a while. Read books, play outside – whatever he wants is what we do.
  • On the flip side, letting him watch TV. Sometimes it is either this or I might jump ship.
  • If my husband is home, I am a big fan of letting them have one-on-one time. This is definitely a win-win for everyone.
  • Take a trip to the mall or Target. Take a walk. Water the plants together.

What are your ideas? If you have older kids, tell me: does your patience grow as time goes on? I sometimes wonder if I would be more patient if I had more perspective on just how young Calvin really is. I hope I don’t come off as sounding horribly impatient; my husband always tells me that he is amazed by my patience with Calvin. But when that patience cracks… boy, do I hate that.

On Lactivism

April 17, 2010

Lactivism is the advocacy of breastfeeding. I consider myself a lactivist which should come as no surprise since I am nursing a toddler. Lactivists come in all forms and I try to remain mindful that I want to be the nice, helpful, non-judgemental kind of lactivist. I am unconvinced that militant lactivism is of benefit to anyone.

I wanted to share a few great lactivist links that I recently came across:

Newborn Breast Crawl – This is a really cool video of newborn babies crawling – yes, crawling! – up to the breast. Breasts shown, so you may not want to watch this one at work. Watching this I was reminded that babies are born to be breastfed.

Why Seeing Breastfeeding is Important – I’ve always nursed in public, though I find myself cutting back just a bit now that Calvin is getting older. I do believe that breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere is an important step in normalizing breastfeeding. I think nursing in public paints nursing in a very positive light: a content baby and a mom who can be anywhere she pleases.

Take the Risk and See – Give Extended Breastfeeding a Try – There probably aren’t too many first-time moms who plan to be in an extended nursing relationship. My personal set-in-stone nursing goal was to nurse exclusively for six months and to continue to nurse until the first birthday. After I made that goal, I would evaluate and move on from there. That was seven months ago and I haven’t even thought about weaning. Why would I stop giving him the perfect food? Why would I give up the ability to comfort and soothe him at the breast? And of course there is one of my favorite side benefits – why would I want to lose my ability to consume a little extra junk food?

If Calvin doesn’t show some interest in weaning soon, then I think I may end up tandem nursing. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. But I feel that the downsides to tandem nursing don’t even compare to the downsides of forcing a milkaholic toddler off the breast. The average human weaning age is somewhere between two and five years old. While I probably will not pursue a 100% child-led weaning method, I will certainly continue to use gentle techniques that show respect both to Calvin and to the nursing relationship that we have established.

Book Review: Bedtiming

March 18, 2010


snoozing Calvin

I read about this book on Moxie and was intrigued since it purported to take a developmental approach to sleep issues. There are some interesting developmental resources available on infant/child sleep… Moxie herself has some of the best resources on this. But I was still curious about seeing a more comprehensive study of such issues. The premise of this book is that if you want to make sleep changes that happen easily and that will stick, you need to do it in the right developmental window. Since I have tried to make changes before – and I’ve usually failed miserably – I thought that this sounded like good information to have.

I should note that Calvin and I had been experiencing sleep hell when this book arrived. I was really at my wit’s end – what was going on with my little guy who was previously so content to nurse a bit and then go straight back to sleep? Now he cried and squirmed and tossed and turned. It didn’t matter if he slept in his own bed, or in my bed… no matter what I tried, he could not sleep. He was nursing at night more than a newborn and still he could not sleep. I am so thankful that Moxie had several great posts on the 18 month-old and how he didn’t want to sleep. Misery loves company.

So you can bet that upon receiving the book I quickly flipped to the section that would address my current woes. According to the book, 17-21 months is not a good time to implement changes because of the toddler’s fear of separation and his determination to hold his own in conflict situations. Instead, stay consistent in bedtime routines and just wait it out. I really was not surprised by the advice because it was exactly what I was experiencing. While I would have liked a solution, I can definitely appreciate the fact that what I was experiencing was normal.

In the end though, I didn’t feel that this book  really had a lot to do with sleep. Instead the book is a developmental overview up to age four. The developmental stages are loosely tied to sleep issues. Sleep is really only mentioned at the very beginning and the very end of the book. I think this would be really helpful information for new parents who don’t yet know much about developmental stages. Otherwise, I think that Moxie’s information about sleep regressions is every bit as helpful – and I’d even venture to say that it’s probably more helpful.

The second to last chapter is devoted to a brief analysis of the major “sleep training” techniques: CIO a la Weissbluth, CIO/gradual extinction a la Ferber, and no-cry solutions a la Pantley. The authors contend that there is no best way to help your baby sleep so they run through the major options and leave it to the parent to choose. I am anti-CIO (I particularly abhor Weissbluth’s method), but I do appreciate the way that the authors handled these topics. In the CIO section they are careful to point out that there is nothing wrong with nursing or rocking your baby to sleep and that indeed, this is often a very enjoyable activity.

Long story short: Take a look at this book if you want a good developmental overview that can be related back to sleep issues. There is a little chart in the front of the book that is especially handy for quickly determining whether or not your child is at a good age for changes. There was once a time when I thought that I would easily go on nursing Calvin at night until he was no longer interested… that time passed. There will most likely come a time when you want to make changes to help your child (and you!) sleep, so be prepared beforehand.

Keep them rear-facing

February 15, 2010

Earlier this week I took out Calvin’s carseat so that I could clean the seat and install a seat protector. He is still rear-facing and his muddy little shoes were not playing nice with the interior of my new car.  Just for kicks, I set the carseat in a forward-facing position and I let him sit in it. Wow, it was so nice… so much more room. I was tempted to install it like that, but I just couldn’t – not when he is only 17 months.

A few days later I stumbled across the following link: Why Rear Facing is Better. If you have a little one, please check this out. Just a few stats for you:

  • Forward-facing children under the age of 2 are 75% more likely to be injured.
  • Toddlers up to the age of 2 are more than 5 times safer riding rear-facing.
  • After reviewing studies from the U.S. and Sweden, a study published in the highly regarded British Medical Journal advises keeping children rear-facing until age 4.

Yes, it’s a bit of a sacrifice to keep Calvin rear-facing. He would probably enjoy the car more if he faced forward and I would definitely have an easier time getting him in and out. But I am resolved to keep him rear-facing until he reaches the weight limit on his seat – his safety is worth it.

Looking for a good convertible carseat at a reasonable price? I have The First Years True Fit and I love it. Similar to the pricey Marathon seats, this seat seems super comfy, is incredibly easy to install and one year later it still looks brand new.

Night weaning a toddler

January 20, 2010

I was the picture of patience for the first year of my son’s life. I co-slept, nursed on cue, wore him in a wrap – I was everything a good AP mama should be. But towards his first birthday my nighttime patience began to fizzle. Co-sleeping had previously been the perfect solution for meeting both Calvin’s needs and my needs, but now it seemed to have lost it’s magic. Around eleven months we decided to transition him to a crib. It was bittersweet; I missed being next to my sweet babe, but I also relished the chance to stretch out in my bed. Thus began my own hybrid style of parenting; very influenced by AP thought but thoroughly mixed with things that work for our family.

Contrary to many modern parents, I continued to nurse my son on cue – even at night – throughout the first year of his life and into the second. I did this for many reasons. One, I believe that he needed the nourishment and the comfort. Two, I believe that it was safest to meet his needs and not try to encourage him to sleep through the night. Three, I wanted to wait until I really felt that he was ready. Four, it is just the thing to do if you are AP. Five, it was helping me burn lots of calories even at night. Six, I was afraid of making changes, especially after one failed attempt when he was about 13 months. Seven, as long as he went right back to sleep and didn’t wake too often, I really didn’t mind. Eight, I believe that to some extent, this is par for the course when it comes to extended nursing relationships. Nine, I had spoken with other nursing moms who said that things started really improving between 18 and 24 months, and I thought I could hang in there until then. Read the rest of this entry »

Signing with your baby

January 15, 2010

It is ridiculously easy to teach your baby to communicate before he is able to speak. I started using a few signs with Calvin when he was about six months old because I had heard that signing can reduce a baby’s frustration as they wait for a parent to guess what they are upset about. It makes perfect sense to me – I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be if I could only communicate my needs by crying. Read the rest of this entry »