Over the weekend we went to my in-laws for brunch. Mac did a relatively good job behaving himself but there were a few moments when we were dangerously on the verge of a full-blown tantrum.
It’s his age, of course.
One of his more impressive fits occurred when his Uncle Mike was attempting to assist him with a shirt and jacket so they could go outside. Mac was not feelin’ it. At. All. There was screaming and squirming and tears.
Of course, I attempted to explain to Mac that he had to put on his shirt and coat before he could go outside – just like we do EVERY TIME we go outside – but my logic seemed lost on him at that moment. I’m not certain if part of it was the fact that Uncle Mike was helping him or if he was hungry and overwhelmed by having so many people around? Who knows? The bottom line was there were a few intense moments until we could get him outside.
Later, my Mother In Law said she thought it was good that I allowed Mac to cry at that moment. I’m glad she thought my reaction was appropriate but it kinda’ made me wonder what she anticipated my response was going to be exactly?
Did they actually think our policy of never allowing our child to cry himself to sleep would carry over into trying to continually assuage the demands of a headstrong, fickle 21 month-old?
I made a comment about choosing your battles. But that was a wholly over-simplified explanation of how we parent.
Long before Mac was born, we agreed that we would never allow our child to cry himself to sleep. We also agreed that when our child was an infant, we would never allow him to just “cry.” His needs would be addressed immediately. We did this in an effort to build trust, a sense of security, and confidence.
While we have no judgements about folks that use another “sleep training” method that involves “crying it out” to any degree, we agreed using a nurture to sleep method worked best for us.
However, that doesn’t mean that we NEVER let our nearly two-year old cry. Yes, he still never cries himself to sleep. The longest I’ll allow him in the crib upset is 2 to 3 minutes. Because I know if he’s not settled in that time, something needs addressed: hunger, discomfort, etc. (And when he was younger, he was removed from the crib immediately upon crying).
However, as he becomes older, we understand he needs to express his daily frustrations. Currently, our tactic involves explaining the situation, suggesting words he could use to express himself more effectively, and waiting with him until he feels better (holding him if he’ll allow it).
Certainly, we do pick our battles. Some things just aren’t negotiable – like having the doctor check your ears, or being properly dressed before going outside in the cold. If that causes a situation where the little guy gets upset, we offer understanding and comfort, but we remain firm.
There are other times when we do our best to distract, remove him from the situation, offer an alternative activity, etc. in addition to attempting to comfort him the best we can.
And finally, sometimes, I do just give in. If the kid wants help himself to 10 plastic kitchen utensils instead of 2, what do I care? If he would rather play with blocks than rush out for a walk, no problem. If he pushes me away when I ask for a kiss, I’m not going to force him to kiss me. Ultimately, he will be making his own decisions and allowing him to build confidence in his choices in a safe environment, is something we believe is important.
There are a lot more tears these days. It’s exhausting for sure. Yet, in the end, all we can hope is our methods will help our son be quietly confident, able to effectively express his emotions, and make good choices.
Are there other ways to accomplish these goals? Of course. Our parenting methods won’t work for every child or every situation. So far, they are working for us. . .maybe not so great for poor Uncle Mike the other morning. . .but it was kinda’ nice not to have to button up the Kid’s stupid shirt myself. . .