I have had so many questions recently from parents with babies and toddlers who were either born during, or shortly before, lockdown who are worried about their child’s developing socialisation skills and whether separation from friends, wider family and other babies and toddlers of the same age will have a lasting negative impact on their child’s ability to socialise when lockdowns lift.
There’s no denying that the early weeks and months of parenting are exhausting. Babies need constant attention around the clock. Until three months of age, a baby’s body clock is not fully functioning, meaning they have no concept of day and night. They need to feed frequently and need parental reassurance and contact as much as physical sustainance. Sleep becomes a thing of the past and something you wish for in wistful, shattered moments. Time passes in the blink of an eye and before you know it, your non-sleeping baby has turned into a boddler, not quite a baby – not quite a toddler, zooming around your living room on all fours, putting anything not bolted down into their mouth, drooling and babbling away. Then the toddler years begin and your little one becomes a real person with a real personality. “No” and “mine” features at the top of their vocabulary, it’s a good job they’re so cute, because the tantrums can be hard to cope with at times.
Have you been questioning your parenting style recently? I think lockdown has resulted in a lot of navel gazing for many of us. The combination of more free time (for some – I know not all, thank you to those of you working hard through this!) and more time spent at home with our children means 1. a lot more difficult behaviour and 2. a lot more time to spend second-guessing ourselves and our choices parenting wise.
When your child pushes your buttons and you feel yourself getting stressed or angry, you should absolutely not discipline him until you are calm. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly exhale. Repeat as often as necessary until you can think more clearly. Sometimes you have to give yourself a ‘time out’. That is, move away from your child temporarily, so that you can think more clearly.
I would say over 90% of the parenting dilemmas posed to me daily have one very simple answer; “you’re expecting too much of them”.
When you practice a more gentle style of parenting, criticism from others can be all too common. So, what should you do then next time somebody offers you one of these pearls of wisdom?
I have made parenting choices that I am not proud of now and I would not make again if I knew then what I know now. I’ve also slipped up, many times, ‘in the moment’ and said and done things I regret. Everyone has, but I welcome my guilt for it teaches me to be a better parent. When we know better we do better.
I have often seen well-meaning nursery workers peeling a sobbing child or screaming baby off of an equally distressed parent with reassurances of, “It will be okay, don’t worry.” The parents walk away with tear-stained cheeks, desperately trying to not look back, whilst the childcare workers speak in jolly voices trying to cajole toddlers with the promise of a sticker or story, or bounce babies whilst playing peekaboo.
Remind yourself that your child is not jealous, they are grieving, and they are hurting. They are not being deliberately malicious. Their behaviour shows they are struggling and they need your help.
Coping with behaviour ‘in the moment’ is important, however it’s only half of the discipline. Unless you look at the cause of the behaviour and work to remove or reduce it, the behaviour is going to keep recurring.