attachment parenting and the errant toddlby

October 25, 2010

many of the core tenants of attachment parenting floating around these days (i wrote about it here) seem to focus primarily on infants.  as we got further from jude being a lumpy little squishball and closer to him being a walking-talking kiddo it's been interesting to see how attachment parenting has changed for us.  at this age we're dealing with a totally different set of needs, how do our coping mechanisms adjust along with that?

in the early months much of the focus was on breastfeeding/babywearing/cosleeping.  and the good news is that yes! we still do those things!  jude is not yet walking and we continue to baby-wear on a daily/weekly basis.  now that he is more active (and more vocal) it is even more convenient to have him near me– no worries about him screaming, trying to escape, or going off to get into trouble.  we switched our carriers to ones that do better with a heavier load and we still get a lot of use out of them on walks and adventures.

at 14 months we continue to breastfeed on demand (which is a whole topic of its own) and we introduced our crazy eater to table foods using baby-led eating.  he started eating table food when he seemed interested and let us know what he was ready for.  these days, though he still only has three teeth, he'll eat just about anything i eat and continues to get nutrition from breastmilk several times a day.

{cosleeping went out the window for us around six months.  jude loves loves, to sleep in his own bed.  crazy kid.  plus i don't know how some of you cosleep with toddlers!  arg!  he pulls my hair, climbs the headboard, jumps up and down.  generally, it's a party in our room, is what i'm saying.  so no cosleeping going on, at the jude's request.}

while we continue to utilize those core concepts, now things are more about consistency, responsiveness, and gentle discipline.  it's a whole new realm to learn about and focus on.  the challenge i've been having is that we are in an in-between stage– not a baby, not yet a toddler.  distinctly a toddlby.  many of the gentle parenting techniques seem more geared towards older children who can, you know, TALK, versus the very irrational anger of a non-verbal toddlby.  they're still good things to learn about for later and i store them away in my brain, but i've struggled with how to put them in to action.  offering a toddlby two choices still doesn't work– neither does getting down on his level and calmly helping him work through his emotions, know what i mean?  he's just not there yet.

however, we have definitely started adding things to our parenting routine to get started with the gentle discipline concepts.  when he is upset i try to help give him words for his emotions.  if he cries during a diaper change i'll walk him through, "oh, you're upset that i'm changing your diaper.  you don't want to stop playing.  i see that you want to go play with xx.  it's ok for you to be upset about not playing with the yy.  let's change your pants quickly so you can go back to playing."  obviously he doesn't do a lot of responding at this point, but the goal is to help him build the vocabulary to tell us these things himself.

another example– i try to prepare him for transitions between activities, which so often troubles older toddlers.  i'll say, "in ten minutes i'll be time for bed.  we'll nurse and do jammies and then off to bed!" and then i'll remind him, "in five minutes, it's almost time for bed!" which again, at this point he doesn't do much responding.  he understands more than he communicates back but primarily it helps get me in the habit of walking him through our next activity.

mainly we work on our patience.  oh toddlers and toddlbies, the penultimate drain on a parent's patience.  many times there is no palpable rhyme or reason to their whims and after a while it just gets so. damn. frustrating.  some nights more than others.  since they often have trouble controlling their emotions it's up to us to be calm and reasonable and help them work through it.  even when it doesn't make any sense.  even when jude insists on sitting in the corner where he doesn't really fit and gets mad that his knees are stuck on the stairs.  and even when he won't stop doing that for the next 15 minutes though it is clearly enraging him.  my mantra is he is curious, he is exploring, he needs my support– help him puzzle out the problem himself.

when he screams during the entire diaper change, it's up to me to keep it cool.  and sometimes i don't, and i tell him, "you're making mama very upset.  i'm going to put you down for a few minutes and sit over here until i feel better.  here's your train."  at least that sets a good example of how to cope with overwhelming emotions for him in the future.  moms can need time-outs too, man.

we're working on bridging the gap between parenting a baby and parenting a toddler, one step at a time (some weeks a whole bunch of steps at a time).  for further reading about gentle discipline techniques i've been enjoying things over at code name: mama.  sometimes i agree with the suggestions, sometimes not.  in fact, jon and i often disagree about them.  but it always provokes a great conversation and thoughts about what we want to do in the future.
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