Monday, August 31, 2015

Mailbag: What if I'm Pregnant but My Two Year Old Hates Babies?

Mailbag time! This is a variation on a parenting topic I've addressed a lot on the blog. But I know it's something a lot of us struggle to figure out how to handle. So here we go again . . .

- the question -

Hi Kendra,

I'm a new fan of your blog, and I love all of the advice you give. I'm going through a bit of a sticky wicket right now and would love to hear from you about it!

My son is 2 and a half and is probably the most clingy child in human existence. He loves and adores my husband, but he loses it every time I go upstairs or use the bathroom or the shower. (Dad can do whatever he wants, of course.) He's a social child, though, and gets along with our little troop of friends his age (five other kids) that we spend time with, but he's also extremely jealous. If I pick up or hug one of his friends, he cries until I put them down and hug him. Our friends are now having their second babies, and when I hold one of them, he just stands there and sobs uncontrollably, no matter how many times I tell him it's not our baby, it's okay, I still love him, etc..

I'm at my wit's end! I am also expecting our second in June, and I am dreading the transition. We're doing the traditional things to help him now, like reading books, explaining what's going on with mommy's tummy, etc - but if he gets so jealous of kids he's known for two years, how the heck will he respond to someone who will take up so much of mommy's time?

I would so appreciate your advice! Thank you so much!

Christy

- the answer -

Hey Christy,

Thanks, and I'm so sorry, this sounds super challenging. And kind of familiar, the day we got the baby stuff out of the closet before Gus was born, I found the two year old crammed into the baby swing shouting, "No! Bobby Mommy's baby!"

A few things come to mind . . .

Your son is a unique individual. Even as a toddler, he's got his own particular temperament and issues. The way he IS isn't your fault. It's just who he is. He's clingy and prone to outbursts. We're all something, though. We all have our issues. In my experience with my kids, you just get what you get, they'll all different. Then we, as the parents, have to figure out how to support our kids' character strengths, and how to help them change where that would be helpful to their own happiness and the peace of our families.

What I would do first is stop all reference to outside influences when dealing with his behavioral issues. Because what's motivating his behavior, whether it's that he misses you or that he doesn't much care for babies or whatever, none of that matters. He's allowed to have all the feelings he wants. He's just not allowed to lose it because of those feelings. So, I wouldn't say "It's not our baby, I still love you, etc." Because even if he is worried about those things, that's not the problem. The problem is his crying. It's a behavior that you want to modify. Once he has gotten his emotions and behavior under his control, you might find that his feelings are actually pretty manageable for him. That's been the case with my kids.

I would start at home with "Cryin' babies go to bed" type stuff. My kids don't get to hang on my leg and cry. It's just not allowed. If their physical needs are met, and they can't get their behavior under their control, they go sit in a crib or pack n play until they can settle down. Even if that's a long time.

I've had a lot of success with this method with my own kids. It takes longer with stubborn kids, but it even worked on Frankie, eventually. I make sure my kids understand that I have the expectation that they would not throw fits in our house. And that if they are crying for no reason, they'll need to go to their bed to compose themselves. Period. No yelling, no bargaining, no threatening. One reminder, then the consequence. Frankie came out after waking up from his nap today in tears, and I just sent him right back down the hall until he could come out happy, and a few minutes later, he did.

Once he has an understanding of what is acceptable behavior at home, I would implement the same expectations in public. If he threw a fit in public, I'd take him to a corner to sit to calm down, or to the car, or I'd just take him home if I thought that would make a bigger impression. And I'd really, really reinforce that it is his behavior that's the problem. He can't throw fits. He must learn to compose himself.

My guess is that learning to control the behavior will take care of the feelings. But if it turns out that once he's not throwing fits anymore, he calmly says to you. "Don't hold that baby. I don't like it when you hold babies," write me back and we'll work on that. Write me back either way. Write me back if you think I'm totally off base on this right now. We'll figure it out.

Some blog posts you might like:
Hang in there!
Cheers,
Kendra



Mailbag Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

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6 comments:

  1. This is really helpful! I'm not a mom, but this is good for "down the road" to keep in mind. It's also helpful for me to read, because there are times when I almost wonder if I'm a bit heartless-when I was younger, and a younger sibling would throw a fit, I am very much the type of person who would go, "chill out, I'm not going to coddle you and let you hang on me because you're crying immensely," but some of my family members are very much into "let's snuggle until you stop crying." So, I feel a bit relieved that my reactions to outbursts are not abnormal! :)

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  2. You know, Kendra, I don't have a new baby but I have a one-year-old and this is still excellent advice. His two big sisters like to give me the "you spend all your time with the baby" which is just malarkey. We're also transitioning into school again which means a lot of fits. I'm going to start giving one warning and then putting the girls in their room. Because I just can't take the outbursts anymore.
    Thank you so much for posting this!!
    Kandace

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  3. I'd like to point out the possiblity that your toddler might totally surprise you and be just fine with his new little sibling. I've had 6 kids in the past 6 years. The new babies come along when the toddlers are in the worst of their awful toddler problem phases, and yet I have never had anything but the most minor jealousy problems. The toddler (toddler twins, this time) is always a bit shocked and bowled over at the sight of me holding our new baby, but after a few days of confusion, they adjust to my new level of attention to them. They always love the baby at first sight. I didnt' read Kendra's post about the "your baby" method of teaching toddlers about a new sibling, but that has basically been our attitude just from my intuition. We always say "our new baby" rather than "mommy's new baby" and talk about how excited we are about our baby. We have never made a big deal about reading books about new babies as we don't own any, but we do enjoy reminiscing with our little ones about past babies, themselves included, and how much we loved them and how cute they were and how excited we are about experiencing another new baby. For us, it's just part of being a family. I know it is a bit harder for your toddler since he doesnt' have any older siblings to set an example. Keep a positive and excited attitude and I bet that will help. If he remains extra cuddly after the new baby comes, you might find that you can cuddle with both at once. It doesn't always work when you're nursing or the baby demands motion, but I often cuddle my two year old twins and my baby all at once. The twins feel like they're getting mommy time as well as helping care for their baby sister, so we all win. I hope it all goes well for your family!

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    Replies
    1. Emily this it my experience exactly and I have six also (some close together some more spread out.) I do the "your baby" also. Christy, I have a little daughter who just turned 3 who sounds just like your little guy in terms of clingy-ness. It is just a part of who she is-things can also be busy here, and I recognize that I am her home base-her constant. Toddlers have a strong sense of order and this is the way she orders things in a world that moves so fast and is so big. He can sense your apprehension and your anxiety about the new baby and how he will react perhaps-he doesn't know what is coming up here, but he is apprehensive about it as you are. Just let it be-he will outgrow the clingy-ness, he is just very attached to you, and that is a GOOD thing. I would hesitate to punish him by forceful separation in a crib or pack-n-play-this will most likely terrify him and threaten his security further-I can see that making it much worse right when you could be gaining ground. I have a friend whose sister has seven almost all grown children-she was talking of a daughter who was stuck to her like glue for years and years-her little shadow she called her. She just embraced it-and now they all laugh-that girl travels all over the world! I know going from one to two holds so many unknowns-for you and your family, but I think extra cuddles and less worry (just have the expectation always that he will be fine, jealous or not-he will just get used to it and be fine) might be the answer.

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  4. Kendra, I'd love to weigh in on this topic, too. All your advice is spot on. Perfect. Everyone should do everything you say. Period. I'd like to add that my oldest daughter (she'll be 18 in 3 weeks) used to climb up on the back of the couch to watch me take out the garbage and if I stalled to look at a bird or something she would knock on the window and beckon me back in with a terrified look on her face. She would also wait outside the bathroom door for me, not knocking or yelling for me, just waiting. When she'd hear the flush, then she's holler through the door for me to come out right away. And I can say that now that she's nearing 18 she is the most responsible, non-clingy, well-adjusted, social, smart, crowd leader type of a young adult there ever was. I don't know how long her watchfulness of me lasted because we just kept having babies and I got busy paying attention to them rather than worrying about how many times a day she was spying on me. Good luck! And as my grandma always said, "these things will all work themselves out". She was a wise woman.

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  5. I had something similar happen with my #6. She pointed to herself and said in her 1 year old voice, "I baby!" when I told her about my pregnancy. I had been calling her the baby, so that stopped. I made a big deal of how she was my big girl and how I needed her help when the baby came. How she would get the baby diapers, kiss the baby, hold the baby, rock the baby (with assistance, of course). It took weeks, but she started seeing herself as a big girl. We talked about how babies don't have teeth, can't walk, can't talk, etc. and she could. It paid off and by the time the baby was born, she was ready.
    I totally agree with "crying babies go to bed", but also I would reward the child if he does fine when you leave him with dad, emphasizing what a big boy he is. Maybe even have the reward right then with dad if he doesn't cry. (So, reward with dad, or crying baby goes to bed.) Do train him now to be with dad starting with short periods of time. The first few times of training are always the worst, but he'll be so much happier in the end if he cries some now and learns he doesn't like to be a crying baby.

    (Would he like to hold your friend's baby while he's sitting on your lap? You could talk about how he looked little like that when he was a baby...just a thought)

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