Last week Bina was in a BAD MOOD. She was a completely different baby, crying at everything, demanding, hitting me… I think she was going stir crazy, we were cooped up with the much-prayed-for Jerusalem rain and had very little outdoor time. In the interim a few people emailed me to ask if I have any suggestions for toddlers who are hitting, biting, throwing, etc. It helped me get out of my own wallowing and into thinking about what I’d recommend to a client–
As much as possible, if you try to seek connection and understand your child more than trying to control behaviors, you sometimes inadvertently get improved behaviors, and at least get a more emotionally-enriched child (which can spell out more ease down the line). Inbal Kashtan writes about non-violent communication (NVC) in parenting and there is a specific lingo/way of interacting that is meant to be especially empathetic. IE – can you think specifically about what your child may be feeling and try to help give words or expression to the feelings? Maybe she is exploring limits; maybe she is working on her sense of humor; maybe she is feeling frustrated that you have all the power; maybe she learned this from someone at day care and is acting out to express some other need. So, can you ask her, “do YOU need to have more power?” or “do you think that is funny?” and see what she does… the philosophy is that she may not know what the word “power” even means but she can hear you sympathizing/relating and she moves on. You may tell her that you DON’T find it funny but after validating what she thought. Likewise you also need an empathetic listener, and I was grateful for the help of supportive friends last week (skype is amazing)! You can read more here: http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/inbal_kashtan5.html
Truth is, Bina bites me while nursing a fair amount (I think she has a limit of how hard, though her limit is just a little harder than mine!) and I haven’t worked through it with NVC yet – i’m going to try this week. But what has helped so far is when I’m pleasant and clear about my limits, and when I remember Bina does not have malicious intent, even when her behavior is intentional.
These links also address this topic:
Naturalchild.org is a great website I just learned about, with 1-page articles written by a lot of authors I admire – so a quicker read than a whole book, and you can decide if you want the whole book if any of these authors pique your interest enough.
I’ve also been working on being more positive in my phrasing of things with Bina, focusing on what I want rather than what I don’t want. No easy feat but with practice I find I’ve been improving. I’ll start off saying “please don’t hit, we need to be gentle with our hands,” and then remember I can just use the second part of the phrase. “Don’t touch the garbage” can become “let’s keep our hands clean; we can wash them now that you’ve had your hands in the garbage.”
I’m looking at these challenges as an opportunity to work on my own interpersonal skills (for example I’ve always wanted to work on phrasing things more positively; even in my yoga classes I try to suggest “do this,” and leave out the “instead of”), and hope to model the behavior I wish to see in my toddler.
One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve received is this – if your baby is challenging you, put an X on the calendar – more often than not, the phase has passed within 2 weeks. Bina actually made a complete turn-around, which I was so thankful for and kind of shocked by (I was concerned we had prematurely and abruptly entered the T*&RB*@E TWOs). I know I won’t always be so lucky. But I’ll keep trying to support Bina’s need for self-expression, even when it shakes me, and know it will pass, along with all the tiny giggles and major milestones.