Going Deep with Teresa and Sarah on parenting super spirited kiddos , disciplining physical toddlers, ending the boob pacifier, confronting self-doubt, and separation anxiety
In this month's Going Deep, Sarah and Teresa answer your questions about parenting those super spirited kiddos without killing their spirit, disciplining a hitting toddler, weaning little ones from pacifying on the boob, dealing with self-doubt, and separation anxiety. We love hearing from you all, so please submit your questions here and your comments below!
I am a single Mumma to a beautiful 2.5 year old girly. My daughter was an amazing baby and I felt like super mum doing it on my own, but as she gotten older, her extremely wild side has come to the surface. I absolutely love how free spirited she is but I find that she feels every emotion extremely hard, she has trouble listening to any sort of instruction that she does not agree with and finds it difficult to self regulate in certain situations. How do I help her understand her emotions and give her direction without dulling her wild side? And how do I keep my cool while doing it? I find it difficult after a while because I don’t have anyone there to ‘back me up’ or share the load with.
TP: Hi Jamie, I can’t begin to imagine how much harder it is to navigate discipline when you’re having to create boundaries without having a partner to consult or back up your choices. I would say, however, that your instincts are spot on. Giving her the freedom to truly let her free spirited self shine whilst also maintaining structure and boundaries.
I find using language like “I’m not okay with that”or “I won’t let you be rough” works well. Sitting with her and telling her what your expectations are. Even if it means not continuing an activity or having to leave somewhere because of her behavior, then that’s what it takes. Please check out Janet Lansbury’s podcast Unruffled and website. She talks about this so beautifully and always offers up really wonderful ways of dealing with spirited children and those with BIG feelings. My two also have big feelings. I like to help the boys label them and talk about what they’re feeling. “Oh you seem so angry” or “you’re really upset right now” they feel comforted knowing that I see them and Dan recognise how they’re feeling. All the best of luck to you and please share with us how you go.
SWO: Jamie, I love the way you talk about your little girl. Such a sweet and loving way to describe her big feelings. 2.5 is an age where they push back so hard. They are learning their boundaries, what they can and can and cannot get away with. This time can feel overwhelming as every little thing becomes a huge situation but I once heard from a preschool director its also an incredible opportunity to teach. When she would say that my mind would go “Ok… but how?” hahah
We approached this challenging time by acknowledging our child’s feelings and figuring out a solution together. For example: “NO I REAALLLLY want to stay on the slide I don’t want to go home!!!!!!” You would say “I hear that you really want to keep sliding. You love this slide and you are having so much fun. Should we stay for three more minutes of sliding and then go home OR should we go home now?” In this situation I give my child two options, then I empower my child to choose. The timer goes on and when three minutes are up we head to the car.
My child would usually say three more minutes or when he got a little bigger and wiser he would ask to negotiate for four minutes. I LOVE the examples Robin Berman MD gives in Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits This book was a game changer for me. It gives great examples on how to give your child limits but also to empower them in the process.
My son is 16 months old. He’s my biggest treasure, but he is now starting to hit randomly or pull hair. I know it’s because he wants a reaction from me but I want to teach him that it’s not okay to hurt but without telling him “no” all the time. I’ve tried to talk to him and say “Ow, that hurts Mommy” or “don’t hurt Mommy” but he will just continue to do it. I don’t believe in yelling or hitting, and I don’t want to always tell him “no”. What are some techniques that I can practice with my son to not hit or pull hair?
TP: Our oldest son Isaac had started playing a game with Forest where he asks Forest to hit him and when he does Iz flies across the room as though Forest has super strength. Of course this cracks Forest up and he thinks it’s the best thing in the world, but now he tries to do it with other people too. I’ve had to say to him on numerous occasions “Ow, hitting hurts. I won’t let you hit”. In our case Forest always stops, however, if he didn’t this is how I’d continue communicating; “you’re having a hard time listening to my words, I’m going to hold you until you stop” then I would hold him until he understands that mummy isn’t okay with that. I highly recommend Janet Lansbury’s podcast Unruffled and her website. She addresses hitting a ton in her work. Most of what I’ve learnt about conscious and gentle discipline has come directly from her work with the RIE philosophy.
SWO: Tiana, You are I are in the same boat right now. My daughter will be two next month, and she has started hitting and pulling hair as well. I try things like “I won’t let you be rough, we will sit here together until you can keep your hands on your own body.” or “Soft hands, can you show me soft hands?” or “My body isn’t for hitting, or "My hair isn’t for pulling.” If your child smiles looking for a reaction and continues, then you simply explain that you have to remove them from the situation until they can be gentle again. I have learned a lot of my gentle discipline from Teresa. I am a huge advocate of Mommy and Me classes or toddler classes where you have a teacher who believes in Conscious parenting or RIE teaching philosophies. You can learn SO much by listening and observing how they communicate with children in a class. If that's not something available in your area, then I would take Teresa’s advice. My other go-to book for this is Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits.
We’re co-sleeping with our 14 month old but my back is so sore because she just want to nurse all night. She used me for a soother and won’t take a pacifier, bottle or her thumb. She screams so loud at night when my boob falls out of her mouth. I don’t want to wean her at all. I’m just wondering how to have her not use me for a paci.
SWO: My daughter will be two next month and she still nurses through the night. Some nights it's not a lot, and others (if she needs soothing for teeth coming in or is having a rough night sleeping) she will try to nurse all night long.
I got some great advice from a group of Doulas who help moms “sleep train” (I don’t love saying that but I don’t know how else to explain it) their babies. I wasn’t looking to sleep train - I just wanted advice like you on simple night things that were happening. You can explain to your baby that (whatever you baby calls your boobs in my case its Milkies) Milkies are going to sleep when the sun goes down but will wake up again when the sun is up. This is if you are wanting to cut off the night time milk factory. If you aren’t looking to wean at night then try putting your hand on your baby’s tummy. I know the crying will be loud but just try to gently sooth your baby back to sleep with shushing sounds and rubbing the back or tummy. You can say Milkies are sleeping right now, baby needs to sleep too. I know at first this will be hard, but see what happens. Try the back rubbing, try singing to your little one. They are used to being comforted by your boob, so just for now try comforting them in this very simple way, and keep it consistent every time. So when your baby wakes and you don’t want to nurse do and say the same thing every time, even if it did not work perfectly yet. The consistency is important, and eventually your baby may fall into this new routine. Now, does this mean you will have to shush and sing and rub your baby’s back now instead of putting your boob in your baby’s mouth? Well no, the thought process here is that eventually your baby won’t wake as much because your baby wont need that comfort from the sucking. And the belly rubbing may turn into a hand on the tummy instead. My daughter now grabs my arm in the night sometimes instead of the boob and just holds my arm. Please let us know how it goes. xo
TP: Forest is a night boober too! Recently, I’ve been feeling extra tired nursing throughout the night (I know Sarah feels me on this too!) I’ve been saying to Forest (19 months) that boobies are asleep when he goes for them during the night. He will cry and fuss for a minute or two but then I say “boobies are asleep but cuddle mummy?” He then will settle down and wrap his arms around my neck and sleeps with his face touching mine. I realised that he wasn’t nursing for need but for comfort and he has now gotten the same comfort being snuggled very close in to me. Once he is really asleep I can roll back over in to a more comfy position if needed. He knows he gets his night time nursing, first thing in the morning and throughout the day on demand.
I am a single mother of a 16 month old without family nearby. I often ask myself if I am enough? I start to future trip and lose sight at moments of the knowledge that everything happens as it should with reason. In those moments of doubt I wonder if not having a father figure right now or family etc. around will create a sense of loneliness? I worry that I’m just not able to show or give her enough. She is my life, my heart, my reason for being. But I wonder if trying to make up for the missing pieces in our own little family has or will create an emptiness within her. If trying to overcompensate is helping or purely creating more tension/anxiety that is unnecessary.
TP: Honestly, kids just need to feel loved, secure, attached and nurtured. It sounds like you’re absolutely doing this for her. I was raised by a single mother and I grew up knowing that I was her whole world, and as a result, I’m very secure in my bond with her and that has served me as an adult in relationships with others. Also I never had to share my mum with anyone! what a lovely thing that she gets to have just you, it’s a special kind of closeness that not everyone gets to experience. Embrace that and understand how enriching that is for her life.
SWO: I completely agree with Teresa. It sounds like you are giving her exactly what she needs. Reaching out and leaning on other mamas and mentors is so helpful. As your baby gets a little bigger and you get into toddler groups or preschool or little classes, your community and friend village will grow. She won’t know that there is something missing from her life, you are her life. You are what she needs. I try to remind my girlfriends who are first time mamas with new little ones that at the end of the day what children need most is love, it's that simple, everything else is bonus.
Hello! I have 15 month old twin daughters named Mila & Lyla. I recently went back to work full time and have been having issues with separation anxiety with Mila. She seems to be fine when I’m gone, but as soon as I come home from work she becomes very needy and possessive of me. She will not allow me to put her down for the first few hours after I get home and gets very jealous if I hold her sister. Any advice on keeping things fair between kids when it comes to time with mommy? I try to spend equal time with my girls but it’s hard when I know mila struggles with separation anxiety as well as me feeling “mommy guilt” for not giving Lyla equal attention. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
TP: It’s probably a phase that she is going through, and perhaps she has more sensitivity surrounding your return to work. Acknowledge it and give her what she needs to feel secure. Think about strapping her into a carrier if she wants to be close. That way, your arms are free to tend to Lyla. Lyla sounds as though she isn’t phased by it and feels securely attached, so let go of the mommy guilt and know Lyla is getting what she needs. If you’re still worried about it, spend some time with Lyla when Mila has settled or is asleep. It’s just about being in the moment - assess the energy at the time and make your decisions from there. By the way, every parent goes through this and it’s just a stage. As I’m writing this to you, I’m in the front seat clutching Forest's hand in his car seat and typing with the other hand, just to settle his cries! He is sooo attached to me and is very clingy for mama but I know this stage will pass and I’ll miss the days when I was his main source of comfort. Good luck!
SWO: I remember this time so well with my son. He would stand on the steps of our home with the nanny as I would drive to work in the morning and he would be so sad, then she would tell me that the moment the door closed he was fine. I still notice that the time right when I get home from work is a very important time for our kids. I always have to pee cause I sit in traffic for so long in LA and the moment I come in the kids want me on the floor. My daughter wants to nurse and my son wants to tell me a story, or talk about his day. I give them everything in those moments and listen to them, and if I need to go to the bathroom or if I want to change my clothes or wash my hands or drink some water I just ask them to come with me. My daughter usually won’t let me put her down so I just hold her and kiss her and ask her questions and at some point, she feels good and secure and goes back to doing whatever she was doing before I came in the door. Teresa is right, it does go by quickly. This phase will pass and there will be something new. Enjoy the cuddles and although you may be holding one in your arms you can still be very present for both of them.