Monday, May 04, 2009

go from giggles to tears in 5.7 seconds (updated)

Okay - so here's another one of my occasional calls for help/input/information/encouragement:

I have a lovely, charming, curious and energetic almost-15-month-old daughter. She is very smart and aware, and although she only says a few actual words right now - she understands MANY MANY more than that.

A few weeks ago, she started pitching an enormous fit every time a diaper change came around. Back arched, screaming, kicking her legs... the initial few seconds is always rather loud (now that it's summer, I'm sure the neighbors can hear her....) and she calms down a bit - but often cries, fusses or strains against me/her dad throughout the process.

She's also fully mobile now - walking quickly and steadily where she needs/wants to go... and with that has come a whole new level of mama-attachment. I know this is age appropriate and not a bad thing... but the bad part comes when any movement I make away from her (to set her down, walk to the kitchen, etc...) is met with a bright red face, crocodile tears and more piercing screams.

Her schedule is early (bed at 7:00) and she usually eats dinner around 5:00 - and we often don't get to eat until she is almost or completely finished (because Mark's not home, or dinner's not ready, or we're just plain not hungry that early). She wants to get out of her high chair, but then won't leave us alone - crying, whining, arms up to be held, and she won't sit still on our laps while we eat either. I've started telling her calmly to find books, toys and other things, and that Mama and Daddy are eating dinner and aren't ready to play. It's not really helping yet, but it's something.

She also has a tendency to get aggressive when she gets mad - she'll scratch, pinch or flail (often hitting people and/or things).

Oh, and there's also a new, lovely whiny noise that she makes whenever frustrated or tired/crabby. (and whiny noises are high on Mama's list of pet peeves...)

So here's the pitch:

I'm not sure how to teach her what is acceptable and what is not, at this particular age. I know that I cannot avoid all fits/tantrums/whining... she's obviously learning and figuring out how she can express herself, and that's normal. However - I want her to know that whining is not an OK way to communicate with me or with her Daddy. I want to be able to eat dinner without being serenaded by her crying and whining. I want to change her diaper without getting a headache, and I want to teach her that she cannot hit or pinch or whack things/people when she is mad.

Soooo... do any of you experienced mamas out there have any good tips for training a very young, very smart, very stubborn, very emotional little one? (I'm not sure how I feel about physical consequences (a swat on the diaper, for example), and from my limited experience, ignoring her completely does not work either... but I'm open to considering any suggestions).

Most of the day - she's funny and full of life and is an absolute joy to hang out with. But these moments are enough to make my head spin a bit... and with another little one on its way (only three more months - ack!!) - I need to make some progress here. Or at least have a plan.


I'm enjoying the comments so far - I just wanted to be sure that it was clear we are not doing nothing at this point - we're doing the very calm "Hazel, stop screaming" and other directions, holding her hands still for a moment if she has tried/is trying to hit or pinch something/someone, and I often am calmly explaining that Mama is busy and will hold her soon. Redirection also works sometimes (she loves to go get a book to read).
Here's the thing - I don't want the behavior to just stop... I want her to learn why it has to stop, so she'll stop it herself. I haven't tried time-out with her yet (and I'll give it a whirl) - but my inclination is that it's not my favorite discipline tool - I'm not sure that isolation is a great consequence, and I fully believe that many kids out there are able to endure a time-out with no change in attitude and without having to really evaluate their behavior.
That being said, I haven't tried it yet, so I could be putting my foot into my mouth...
I'm having fun reading people's thoughts though - so keep 'em coming!

8 thoughts:

Kaycee said...

I am with you on this one (as you saw over Spring Break). We are making progress with Madison's frustrated flailing/hitting by telling her that there is no hitting and if she does it again putting her down or putting her away from us. This usually results in those hard to take crocodile tears. I let her cry for a short (like less than a minute) time and then pick her up and talk to her about how we have to be nice and there is no hitting. We seem to be making slow progress with this as she will now hit and then get a remorseful sort of look on her face like she knows we are going to not play anymore. I can't wait to see if anyone has better tricks though!

lauren said...

relaxation spot/time-out/comfort corner/solo step....

When I was babysitting those were all the names of the spots I would be instructed to send kids as young and older then Hazel. The family that I babysat for most often had the solo step, where any time the girls began whining/crying/disobeying requests I was supposed to tell them to go have some solo time on the step. When we were "training" the oldest daughter about this, she would SCREAM and flail but we would pick her up and take her back, set a timer, and when it dinged she would be able to come back. She was probably 17-18 months when we started? She had been walking for a bit. I don't know much, but I know this worked in some variation for the 15+ familes I babysat for in High school. The timer was the kicker because it was allowing kids to take responsibility for their own misbehavior, they were required to set it. It's kind of cool when you think about it!

Phoenix Rising said...

We're already getting there too. Especially the temper and diaper change time. My trick with the diaper change is 1/2 the times, I change him standing up. So it's not so often that I lay him down and change him. I think he 'appreciates' that. Also, when I do change him, I have to have him on a changing table. The floor hasn't worked for about a month. He just flips and goes and if I try to stop him he gets UBER angry. When he's on the changing table I play with him, tickle him, zerbert him and give him toys, so it's 'funner' :-)

As with the temper tantrums...when you find a solution, let me know!! When I tell Asher no, he now grunts at's actually kind of funny! But I can see his tantrums getting worse and worse.

The only advice I have is try to stay calm and ot make a big deal out of hard as that can be sometimes!!! When Asher was biting me, the 1 thing that helped stop him, was not reacting. I just gently said no biting, that hurts mama and set him down. I think they feed on our reactions sometimes...but that's just my 2 cents! Good luck!!

Courtney said...

I know you said you're not interested in trying swats, but I would highly recommend reading Raising Godly Tomatoes if you haven't already. We love it and have had it highly recommended by several other families. You can Google it to get to the website and you might be able to find a copy of the book at the library. It's been a huge help for us!!

Katie said...

Courtney - I'm not necessarily not interested... just hesitant. I grew up in a house with a decent amount of physical punishment - and it was usually in anger, so I haven't seen it modeled well before. I'm thinking it might be one of the best options - just little alerts on her diapered rear end... it just makes me a little nervous.
I've been to that site though - and I've liked a lot of what I've seen. It's good to know it works well for you guys - that's helpful info for me.

Anonymous said...

I am the mother of 4 - 22, 15, 13, and 11 (2 girls and then 2 boys) and the grandmother of a VERY active 2 yr old grandson with a little girl due this month. My father is a baptist minister, and I was raised "spre the rod, spoil the child". Think of it like this - if your daughter sets her had on the outside of the hot oven, she WILL feel the burning, and will stop putting her hand on the oven. God set things up like that. Sometimes a firm swat on the PADDED diaper is sufficient to get the child's attention. ANY "discipline" with anger is inapropriate, I believe. However, I firmly believe that children need to have boundaries and consequences. I recommend Dr. Dobson's Dare to Discipline. Good luck!

his wife, their mama said...

Hey Katie!
Let me first tell you that I , too, was very hesitant to spank my wee ones at first, but Courtney referred me to the "Raising Godly Tomatoes" and I had great success with Elly and getting her to break her tantrums. I always tell the wee ones that they have made the decision to disobey so the consequence is a spanking. That way they understand their own actions are what prompted the spanking, not mama doing it because I'm mad.
Also, we use for the naughty wall for "minor" infractions and I started when they were about Hazel's age. It was very effective for the girls because they hated having to stop their play. That young, I would take them to the naughty wall and the girls would have to stand there with there hands on the wall and I would sit behind them. We rarely use it, but it is a nice time out for them to think about what they did to be put there in the first place. I would tell them why and they would have to apologize. Now, I ask them why they were sent to the wall so I know that they understand the correction and so they have to be responsible for their action.
Lastly, I a little curious if Hazel's fits are partly due to her being so smart but not having enough words to communicate it with you appropriately. I've been told by the SLP's that we've worked with to make sure you label her feelings for her, i.e. Hazel is mad or Hazel is sad. For us, I've seen it help because now Elly will tell me she's mad at whomever and rarely has the fit that used to come with such emotions.
I hope you and Mark are able to start having success with whatever correction you choose to use and that you'll find some relief from the fits. Hang in there!

Julie said...

I was thinking about the whole dinner 'issue'. Maybe she wants to be with you both because she sees you guys spending time together and wants to be a part of it. Maybe she hasn't seen Mark all day and wants to be with him. I don't know.

Is there any way you guys can all eat together as a family? I'm sure that's a desire sometime down the road, but it may not be too early to start that.

Maybe even just have her in her chair while you guys eat. Give her finger foods or toys and just try to share that time together.