I have the best parents in my classes. Maybe I am biased, but I really do feel that I have the best parents and their children are lucky.
However, they do not always have a smooth path. A few days ago I got this letter Jen kindly allowed me to share our email exchange.
I am going through a rough patch with Abby these days and wanted to drop you a note to see if you have any advice for me.
Lately, she has been showing a lot of aggression or would scream in really high pitch at home and in public. I finished reading Janet Lansbury’s book “No Bad Kids” and tried to stay unruffled and would tell her “I know you are upset…” but it hasn’t been so successful lately. She would still scream and hit.
I let her know I’m going to fix her breakfast in the kitchen but the moment I go in she screams and will either bang on the gate or throw things over the gate until I come out. I let her know I understand she doesn’t like me being in here and that I’ll be out shortly.
Please don’t judge me, but yesterday I finally lost my patience and raised my voice at her and gave her a scary look. She stopped screaming or throwing and totally changed her attitude. Instead of throwing, she handed me something gently over the gate. I felt bad because I don’t want to instill fear in her. Yet this was the only time she seemed to “calm down.” I didn’t feel so good saying good night to Abby and going to bed last night. I hugged her and told her we’ll have a better day today.
Today wasn’t that much better. Abby got really upset in public because I tried to “help” her because she was spilling all of her snacks on the floor. She would hit me and would get down on the floor and cry. I decided to bring her back home and she again didn’t want to be in the car seat. She started hitting and scratching my face violently.
I feel so lost and overwhelmed. I am thinking she is probably working on autonomy but I also am afraid I am “enabling” these behaviors by letting her be. For instance, she now won’t even eat her food, but will either want the food from my plate (even when it’s the same exact food) or she will just want to nurse all day.
Sorry, this email got a little long. I felt so exhausted and defeated today, so I wanted to reach out to you in desperation.
My heart went to Jen and Abby. I re-read the letter a few times… I was not sure what to suggest. Frequently I listen to a parent and see what needs adjustment right away. However this time, I knew Jen and I know her as a kind and mindful parent, who already implementing a respectful approach, I was not sure what else she can do. So I decided that I need to chat with her on the phone, before proposing any big suggestions.
This was my response:
First – big hugs. I know how independence, meltdowns and not having verbal skills to express herself can be very hard on parents (especially moms) and on the child as well.
Abby is quiet, yet she is determined and has a strong personality. I think you are already doing everything to support Abby. Sometimes it helps to limit going to events for some time and try to do more small low-key activities. You can empathize with Abby’s feelings, and in addition, tell her that it is hard for both of you.
Let’s chat on the phone,
Guess what happened next?
I got this email and almost cried:
I saw your email this morning and took your advice. Instead of driving to a bigger park or somewhere “far” I just walked over to old town Pasadena with Abby in her stroller and did just a short roaming around at a small park nearby on the way back home. She looked visibly tired (but no meltdown!) so I brought her home.
I nursed her and took her to her room to lay her in her crib. You won’t believe what happened! She resisted and cried when I tried putting her down, but once she was in her crib she held onto her lovey rabbit, kissed her, and then pointed at the door. I asked, “Would you like me to leave and close the door?” Then I walked over and as I was closing the door behind me she had the biggest smile and plopped down to sleep!
Maybe I subconsciously felt the need to go out every day so that she won’t be “bored” or so I can “tire her out” so she can nap well. But maybe all of that was overwhelming for both of us, and maybe that made me tired too (making me less patient) and perhaps Abby sensed my energy and also maybe she was just tired too!
Thank you Kira always for your support and advice! I was feeling like a very un-RIE-like parent this past week and was helpless… almost felt like all of my efforts to be more RIE were failing. Who knew a simple change in our day could help both of us?
Thank you again and I hope you have a great weekend!
The power of slowing down and doing less shouldn’t be underestimated!
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Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!