I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I don’t typically write how-to post titles (and when I do they’re often tongue in cheek). But it’s easy to forget about what I’m doing with Laurel, especially as my middle child grows in her ability to understand and use language (although I still have mindbogglingly frustrating conversations with her). So for my own benefit, I’m writing a few notes about discipline and Laurel. Feel free to eavesdrop (and comment) as you like. Today I am thinking about when she cries. For the record, she’s fifteen and a half months old.
She cries to be held, usually when I’m making dinner.
- My rule of thumb is, if I can, I pick her up. If I have a good reason not to pick her up, I let her cry, pathetically clinging to my legs, splotchy face and all. It’s hard to do, but I think that’s the right response.
- Sometimes she cries because I’ve been neglecting her. I don’t always recognize this, but when I do, I’ve found spending a few minutes giving her undivided attention satisfies her desire for attention. Sometimes she just wants to be with me, doing what I’m doing. In this case, holding her while I work is a little slower, but better for us both. I also have found that letting her up at a step stool with measuring spoons or some other utensil satisfies her desire to be with mom.
She cries when she’s hungry or tired or bored.
- See above. Tonight I gave her a sucker while I was making dinner, but I’m not usually that desperate! Sometimes I’ve found that putting her in the high chair, giving her some milk, and pulling the high chair into the kitchen keeps her happy. I also don’t mind giving her dinner a little early if we’re eating late, but I try not to make this a habit.
- Sometimes I’m pretty dense and take awhile to recognize fussiness from fatigue or boredom. If she’s tired, I put her to bed. By now, she goes to bed quickly when she’s tired, as long as she has her blanket. She doesn’t always know how to entertain herself, so I’m always looking for something that will capture her interest
She cries when I don’t let her take a toy away from her older siblings.
- Imagine that! I’ll say, That’s Bethel’s toy. I try not to let this crying bother me. I’ll often help her find another toy or help her ask for the toy (at this point, I’m just saying what I want her to say, and then helping sister or brother respond appropriately. I don’t worry about Laurel’s response.)
- She also cries when she tries to take something away from me. I don’t actually care about the toy itself, often, but I do care about what she’s doing. Sometimes it’s a toy that I picked up; sometimes it’s a ball-point pen. But I don’t want to let her get into the habit of grabbing toys, so I’ll usually say, That’s Mommy’s toy. Sometimes I tell her to ask for it, and sometimes I help her find something else she might like.
She cries when I don’t give her food fast enough.
- When she’s crying instead of asking for something, I usually repeat what I want her to say eventually, wait until the split second when she is quiet, and give her what she is asking for. If I cannot give her what she wants, then she cries. If she’s demanding something from one of the children, I won’t let her grab it and she will usually cry. Looks like this: baby cries. Oh, you want milk. Milk please. I give her the milk, regardless of her response. Eventually she’ll start using words.
- I don’t always make a special effort to kill myself getting what she wants faster. I usually try to tell her what’s going on, but I won’t worry about the crying. She’ll understand when she gets the juice eventually. Many times she’s crying because she doesn’t understand (like when I go out to the garage to look for a missing shoe). I try to show some consideration and tell her what I’m doing in simple language. It might not make a difference now, but it will eventually.
My basic rule of thumb is to meet any needs, pick her up when I can, and let her cry when I am not able to help her or when I’ve determined it’s better for her not to get what she wants (like getting up to play in the middle of the night). I try to explain in simple language why I’m doing what I’m doing, two word sentences as much as possible. She’ll figure it all out, though, even if she doesn’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing.