What I Do

June 10, 2010 at 7:43 am (Attachment Parenting)

As I mentioned before, I am having a hard time finding time for all of the writing that I want to do right now.  I have been getting up at 5:00 am to work and write for 2 hours before the kids get up.  Well, before they’re supposed to be getting up!  Why is it that they can consistently sleep until 7:00, and when I finally decide that I have enough time to get up early and get some work done, they get up early too?  I don’t think my typing is that noisy! Somehow they just sense the Mom-Presence awake & alive in the house again.

I am continuing to work for API; blogging, contributing writer for their magazine, meeting resource coordinator, and now a monthly columnist on their E-zine. And I’m continuing to try to maintain a local presence as a parent educator and support group leader through PD classes and API meetings in Portland.  It’s too much. Well, it’s too much to accomplish between the hours of 5 and 7 am every day.  I love all the work I do, and I am continuing to plug away at it, little bits at a time.

But I feel guilty for not blogging here at PFS more.  Like I said in my previous post, I have lots to say!  Sometimes it seems to get said in other venues, so I will try to cross-post my words here.  To my readers here, though, I apologize that I’m depriving you of an original PFS entry.  However, you guys get all the cute pictures of our kids…not even Facebook friends get that anymore!

A mom emailed about some difficulty she was having with her son after she brought her new baby home from the hospital.  This is a copy of my response to her.  Just another example of what I do:

Mom: “My oldest is 23 months and is NOT adjusting well [to the new baby]. he is usually a very happy boy but now it is constant whining or crying or tantrums. i know he is close to 2 and that comes with the territory and i expected a little regression, he wants to be held and rocked like a baby, say ga ga goo goo. all of a sudden has lots of ‘ouchies’ that we need to kiss.  it is just very hard when we were not used to this type of behavior. any thoughts would be greatly appreciated as we are going crazy over here.”

Kelly: It is a complicated time for your oldest son right now. Through no fault of your own, of course…this is just what happens with our growing children! And finding the best way to respond to your son is a matter of understanding what’s going on for him and what he needs.

Probably most important to understand is that all children strive for a sense of significance and belonging…they want to know they they matter and that they belong in the family. Consequently, their behavior (either desirable or undesirable) is aimed at achieving this sense of significance and belonging. If they are not feeling secure or that they have an important place in the world (their family), they will behave in ways that attempt to accomplish this.

It is equally important to understand that children will behave in ways that make sense to them to achieve that sense of significance and belonging. Never mind if it actually makes sense to us or is appropriate at all…all they know is what’s going on in their own cycle of private logic in their mind.

Children are excellent at observing things that are going on around them. However, they are not great at interpreting those observations. Those misinterpretations lead to a misunderstanding about what’s true about themselves and what they need to do to gain a sense of significance and belonging. If we take the “new baby” example…

Observations = There is a new baby in house. All the time. Baby makes a lot of noise. Mom holds baby a lot. Baby needs to be tended to frequently. Baby cries a lot. People come to see the baby. Everyone wants to hold the baby. Baby eats a lot. Baby gets diaper changed a lot…etc.

Interpretations = Baby is most important.

Beliefs = I am no longer important here anymore. Yes, mom loves me, but I have lost my place where I belong in this family.

Behavior = Act like a baby. Emulate behaviors of baby so that I will have an important place here, too.

This is called the “Cycle of Private Logic” and will continue until parents understand the child’s needs. Does that make sense? I know I’ve not given any concrete suggestions so far, but I think it’s super important to understand a little bit behind the behavior. So, the next thing is how to respond to the actual behaviors that are going on…

A lot of that depends on how his behavior is making you feel. It sounds like you’re feeling annoyed, irritated, maybe worried about his development & how this transition is affecting him, or even guilty about the new balance of your time & attention being split between the 2 kids? I’m not trying to presume anything, that’s just what it sounds like based on what you wrote. Which is also very common for anyone when a new baby arrives.

But it sound like the “mistaken goal” of his behavior is about getting undue attention. His belief, based on his misguided interpretations of observations, is that “I count (belong) only when I’m being noticed or getting special service. I’m only important when I keeping you busy with me.”

The coded message in this kind of behavior is “Notice me; involve me usefully!” Here are some responses to unwanted behavior that you could try, depending on what’s going on at the time:

–Redirect him by involving him in a useful task to gain useful attention. I would choose a task that doesn’t involve helping the baby too. It might be easy to ask him to go bring you a diaper for the baby, but perhaps more meaningful if he does something completely different, like helping wash food for dinner, putting clean dishes away, or cleaning windows with a spray bottle.

–Touch without using words. You are letting him know that you are there and aren’t ignoring him, but you’re not giving his behavior any “juice” by verbally responding to it.

–Say what you will do. “I love you, and I will spend time with you later.”

–Avoid special service. Say, a band-aid when he doesn’t need one, or doing things for him that he is capable of doing himself.

–Have faith in him to deal with his feelings. Don’t try to fix them or rescue him when feelings run strong. It is OK for him to be upset, to get mad. If he is allowed to express those feelings now, they will become easier to manage as his brain matures.

–Schedule regular one-on-one time! This would be just 15 minutes every day where it’s just the 2 of you and he gets to be the boss and play however he likes. If he wants to play baby, perfect. Regular special mom time is the best time to connect with him. This is a very proactive tool, and will go a long way towards helping those behaviorally-challeneged moments.

–Establish routines. Another proactive tool that helps develop predictability and security. He can even help make a picture or photo routine chart to post on the wall. It’s best to keep routines to 5 steps.

–Engage him in problem-solving. “Hm, this is a big problem. What do you think we should do?” And be ready to take his suggestions seriously, even if they are not practical. His voice matters!

These early years and early days with a new baby are so emotionally and physically draining! But I think it’s the “not knowing” that is toughest…when there’s no immediate Answer to what’s going on. But hang in there and continue to respond to your son! It’s just about finding the most meaningful response for what’s going on…something to let him know that what he’s feeling and needing is OK, and that he still has an important place in the family.

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