Ok, so kids become more and more independent as they get older, right?
I’m prepared for that (or at least I have been preparing for it), but now that Gianna is almost a year old–her first birthday is next Saturday)–I guess her time has come.
It’s not that she is suddenly going through some new phase where expressing her anger or frustration is acceptable–it’s really not that. It’s just that as she becomes more independent, she is starting to assert herself more often, especially when she wants her mom (and can’t have her).
It’s not an issue at all when Melissa isn’t home, but can become a big deal when she’s close but just out of Gianna’s reach.
Yesterday morning, Melissa went on a cleaning rampage through our bathroom and didn’t want Gianna in there with her. Of course the kid fixated on being with mommy, and wanted nothing more than to hang out right next to her. In order to get things done, Melissa put Gianna in the living room with me and shut the door.
And . . . she threw a fit, complete with screaming, crying, and banging on the door like a caged chimpanzee.
I have to admit, that often throughout my 11-month stint of being a dad (wow, that still sounds so weird to me!), I haven’t really felt at a loss as to what to do. I have usually known how to handle most every baby-situation and I haven’t felt exasperated very often. The path has generally seemed clear.
But when faced with a screeching, furious baby, I had a bunch of options and I wasn’t sure which one to take. As usual, I jumped in and took charge of the situation. I got up off the couch and went over to her. When I picked her up, she got more angry and tried to push away from me. I tried a bit of nice-talk to calm her down, but that quickly went nowhere since she just screamed louder and tried to slip out of my hands.
At this point, here I was, holding her, thinking about my options and what effects they would have on her.
I knew I had some foolproof options that would silence her crying and calm her down: I could turn on Yo Gabba Gabba and numb her mind with tv, I could have dazzled her with pictures of herself (which would have really worked). I could have opened the door and stood there holding Gianna so she could watch her mom.
While I instantly knew that even though all these things would stop the current bout of crying, I also knew they would have done nothing to teach her how to calm down and deal with things she doesn’t like. If I started giving in to her tantrum now, she’d know that tantrums are the best way to get what you want–that’s the last thing I want or need. I refuse to agree that she should be indulged in throwing tantrums in any way.
That road just leads to more tantrums.
My solution thus far is to re-direct her attention to something immediate that requires us to interact. Tv is no good, since that’s
just a crutch and is a convenient solution that will just help her become a mindless drone who you can’t pull away from tv (I see a lot of these tv drones these days). I also opted not to show her pictures of herself, although that would have worked very well and it would have required us to work together. It would have probably been just fine.
Instead I grabbed an Elmo doll and started playing with it. I kissed his face and tweaked his nose, loving him up. I had Elmo do the same to me, then when Gianna stopped crying and watched us, I had Elmo go over and give her a kiss too. Pretty soon, Gianna’s attention was diverted from mommy and into interacting with her buddy Elmo and with me. We played for about 15 minutes, switching to various toys. This pulled me off the laptop and away from what I was working on, but that’s good, since good parenting often requires us to give our kids attention when they need it. And once Melissa came back out of the bathroom, Gianna wanted to see her, but she wasn’t angry or frantic to see her anymore.
My Elmo gambit worked! Luckily. It might not have, you know? It might not work next time, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Now, I could have ignored her and let her cry, hoping she would eventually just stop, although that never seems to work for other parents I see. I also could have babied her up and tried to soothe her into calmness–I sort of tried that at first, and just like whenever I do, it didn’t work. She usually just gets more mad that I’m trying to love her up when she’s angry. I think the problem with these approaches is that even if they work, they don’t deal with the problem. Especially the ignoring thing. Ignoring bad behavior from your kids (or your dog, for that matter) doesn’t teach them how to deal with situations they don’t like.
So what do you all think? What would you have done? How do you handle this situation?