Lane, my 3 year-old daughter, can be a little tough to handle sometime. I’m happy to tell you seven ways from Sunday how awesome she is, she’s tough and brave and energetic and smart and happy and fun. But a lot of the traits that make her so awesome also make her… well, a minor challenge to parent sometimes.
I’ve finished reading one book – Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child – and I’m currently starting to read Positive Discipline which is a bit more academic in tone so far but nonetheless interesting. Both seem to espouse 1) that negativity gets you nowhere and that 2) it’s important to empower our children. Well, OK, I knew #1, and I thought I was good at #2, but there are areas I need to work on. Lane is capable of dressing herself, which is proven by the times she’s put on tights and a skirt and a shirt all by herself. But then sometimes she loses her patience putting socks on and I am usually happy to swoop in and rescue her, rather than take the time to let her persist, or insist that she persist.
Yesterday we had such a situation. I had plans to go to Target (aka the “Red Store” in our house because, well, it’s all red) and then to Costco and told Alena she could come if she got herself all dressed and ready. Frank was home and feeling the need to veg, so I thought it would be nice if he hung out with Jake for a couple hours and I would take Lane with me. She got her shirt and pants on well enough, and then came the socks. I’m not sure what happened, but her patience wore thin with them very, very quickly. She insisted I help her, and I refused. I told her I knew she was a big girl and could do it herself. She made a couple very feeble attempts and resorted to crying to try to get me to help her. I continued to refuse, and told her she only had a few more minutes to get those socks and shoes on or I was leaving without her. I stayed calm, counted down the time she had left, she got one sock on, and then it was time to go and I had my coat on and she had no coat on and only one sock. So she was left behind, and she was NOT HAPPY. Setting Limits says that if she doesn’t get something done in a reasonably time frame, then to let her deal with the natural or logical consequences of not finishing. I think not being able to go with me was a pretty fair consequence. I guess the truly ‘natural’ consequence would have been to make her go to the car with no socks or shoes or jacket on, and let her experience the cold on her feet and skin. But it was pretty cold yesterday, and the voice in my head that blabbers on about how cold feet = getting sick simply wouldn’t let me do that. And she didn’t HAVE to go to Target, it wasn’t like I was taking her to the doctor or school. So she stayed home. Frank says she cried for a few minutes but then was OK.
When I got home, I didn’t mention anything about it. After I had everything put away, she said something to me like “You left without me because I didn’t put my socks on.” I replied something like “Yes, I did. I would have liked you to come with me. You missed out on all the free samples at Costco!” And I gave her a big hug and kiss and told her I loved her. (That part’s nothing new, I probably do that twenty times a day.)
The other experiment is something from the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution and applies to Jake, who despite closing in on a year old (and OMG how did THAT happen?!?) is not sleeping through the night. In fact, he’s barely sleeping through an hour. He generally has a 12 hour period of sleep at night, like 9:00 p.m. – 9:00 a.m., but he wakes up a minimum of four times in that period. Most nights it’s five or six times. And each time, I find I have to resort to nursing him back to sleep.
So, one of the things I’m doing is called the Gentle Removal Method from No-Cry, which basically amounts to removing my nipple from his mouth before he’s really asleep, to get him used to drifting off without it in his mouth. The intent is that you remove it gradually earlier in the putting-to-sleep process, so that eventually the baby isn’t really nursing to sleep at all, but might be nursing before going to sleep. This is a method of real patience, but it paid off handsomely with Alena when she was about this age, so now it’s Jake’s turn. I’m also trying to introduce a lovey to Jake. I’ve picked one of the smaller stuffed toys we have – a little bear that also winds up and plays lullaby music. Starting last night, as I nurse him to sleep at bedtime, I’m letting him snuggle with the bear while he nurses, thus associating the bear with nursing and falling asleep. I feel conflicted about this. Is it really the best thing to try to fixate him on an inanimate object, when up until now I’ve been his lovey/pacifier? But at the same time, I’ve been his lovey/pacifier. And I’m tired.
We’ll see how it goes. I’m pretty confident the gentle removal will provide some improvement. I’m not sure if I’ll persist with the lovey idea, but I’m going to keep with it for the next few nights, too, and see what happens.