When you become a parent there are so many choices about how to raise your kids. You can be an attachment person, a “cry it out” person, a formula person, a someplace in the middle person and so on and so on… Before having my son I put NO thought into the kind of parent I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be a Mommy and figured the rest would just work itself out. Once I had this child I found I naturally am more of an attachment kind of parent in that I love nursing, baby wearing, couldn’t stand to hear him cry more than 5 minutes and he slept in our room for about 13 months.
BUT this thing happened the moment he turned 1 that I was not at all prepared for… which threw a bit of a wrench in my no cry strategy… he started throwing fits! He suddenly had opinions he managed to clearly express with no words at all. First he decided he was not a fan of car rides and screamed at the top of his lungs the entire time he was placed in the car. Then, he decided life was more fun with Mom than on the floor…. so if I happened to set him down at the wrong time he would cry, scream and sometimes even bang his head (ouch!). There was even this one time I didn’t realize he really wanted to touch the yogurt so I put it away before he got to it and he threw a 30 minute fit following me from room to room expressing his outrage.
The reason I have found this stage to have been more challenging as well as startling is that first it seemed like overnight my sweet happy baby needed boundaries and I wasn’t sure how to appropriately put them in place. Next, communication is just forming between the ages of 1 and 2… so as a parent I often am unsure how much he can understand and while I feel he has remarkable nonverbal communication skills, I still sometimes just am clueless as to what he wants.
As we face this stage I have found a few things that have been helpful for me and thought I would share in case you had any of the same experiences with you very interesting one year old…
1. Redirect. I have a pretty stubborn little guy who gets VERY fixated on things so this does not always work but when I see he starts getting worked up I try to start talking about, pointing to or engaging with something new. I feel like this is very appropriate for his age and given his lack of communication skills… I can’t give him a lecture on why the stove is hot and therefore he can’t stand on it right this moment… but I can give him a cool piece of tupperware to look at while I take care of the whole oven thing.
2. Be silly. This is most likely just for my benefit…. Toddlers have BIG emotions and so do pregnant people…. I happen to be pregnant and have a toddler so I have to be careful to make sure his BIG emotions don’t provoke a unfair emotion from me. When Isaac is upset over the yogurt or what not I often will try to make the situation into a game or use a fun voice to talk to him about him being upset. He probably thinks I’m crazy but it helps me stay calm amidst the storm of emotion.
3. Give hugs and breaks. Most of the time these outburst happen because Isaac is tired or has been at daycare all day and misses me. He cannot express either of these emotions with words so often times especially in the evenings after work he expresses this through crying over tiny things. After realizing this to be the case I have worked to make sure I spend more of my evening sitting with him, holding him and giving him lots of hugs especially when he becomes upset. At first I felt like if I hugged him I was affirming his tantrum behavior but at this age and at this time of day I have come to believe that in fact he is just trying to tell me he needs a little extra loving more than anything else.
4. Pick your battles carefully. enough said…
5. Be consistent. If I don’t want Isaac to play with the fireplace I have to let him know that he can’t touch the fireplace every time he gets near it until he understands the boundary I am working to put in place. For me I feel that the things Isaac “can’t” do should be a short list… I don’t want him to be afraid of the world and I want him to feel free to experiment. But of course if something is dangerous I make sure I am firm and consistent in saying no. Isaac already almost never pushes these boundaries. Kids learn quick!
6. Take a break. If you have a spouse let him step in during these moments of frustration or if you have a friend or a mom or anyone really… but when you find you are feeling frustrated it’s probably the best for everyone if you take a breather.
If you have any ideas on how to appropriately set boundaries for 1-2 year old please share them with me! Parenting is such an adventure. I feel like there is so much trial and error (sorry kids). It’s hard to know for sure you are doing the best for your kid. I think in the end if you are doing what you do with love your kid will know it and turn out ok… BUT I won’t know this for sure for many years since I am still just testing out my theories on my boys.