When your baby squawks, goos or cries, you do not need to respond that very instant. Take a deep breath, and do your own thing for a few minutes (we’re not talking hours here mom, we’re talking five minutes, tops!). Every time a baby utters a little sound or even cries, it does not mean he is upset or needs anything. He might be chattering, blowing off steam, or amusing himself. Let him be for a few minutes. If he is in fact upset about something, those few minutes will allow him to develop skills for soothing himself like sucking his fingers, putting in his own pacifier, or reaching for a blankie or stuffed friend. The important thing to remember is that you are still going to respond to your baby – just in a few minutes instead of immediately. This will mean that your baby will learn he can trust you (setting a template for how he relates to others for years to come), but it will also mean that he will learn to trust himself.
Archive for January, 2010
A while back, Vogue Magazine included the following quote: “A fluid evening dress drips with glamour on Natalia Vodianova, who appeared in seven shows weeks after having her third baby”. What does “weeks” mean? Did Ms. Vodianova have her baby two weeks ago….or 20 weeks ago? Similarly, when you see pictures in magazines of celebrities who just gave birth and look thin and fabulous, consider how this image was accomplished. Was the picture airbrushed? Did the celebrity opt for an elective c-section before full term in order to avoid gaining that last bit of weight? Did she have a tummy tuck at the same time as her c-section? Remember, the images we see in the media are often not based in reality.
I am endlessly fascinated by children’s clothing-related behaviors – and I don’t mean deciding whether to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt. On some mornings, my two-year old insists on keeping on his “yammies” (his pajamas); on other mornings (usually Sunday mornings when we have nowhere to go), he begs to get dressed. My daughter, who is four, can get dressed by herself in 2 minutes flat if something exciting is about to happen, but can take an hour to do the exact same thing at night once “failure of the frontal lobe” has set in (click here to read more on Caring for Kids). We do a few things to ease all the potential problems relating to getting dressed and undressed. First, we get dressed and undressed at the same time every day, and in the same place every day. Second, we play a getting dressed game. Ever since my second child was born, we have had a race to see who could get dressed faster, big sister or little brother. Strategy: Mom and Dad work really slow on little brother, allowing big sister to win each and every time. Now that little brother is beginning to care about winning, the competitiveness spurs them both on. If you have one child (or don’t want to spark competitiveness between your kids), you can set a kitchen timer and have him or her try to beat the timer. Kids love winning, even against a kitchen timer!
Did you know that it is never too early to start raising an emotionally competent kid (who then grows into an emotionally competent teen and adult)? In my opinion, one of our major tasks as new parents is to help our little ones learn how to handle feeling upset.
I decided to write about this topic for two reasons. First, as a new mom myself, I often find myself jumping to attention the second either of my kids needs anything. And second, as a psychologist, I have noticed that many of my young patients (kids ages 7 and above) have a great deal of difficulty handling any upset, disappointment, distress or discomfort. I started to wonder how these two observations fit together.
Is it possible that by being over-responsive to our babies needs, we are raising kids who can’t soothe themselves?
New moms have all sorts of beliefs about what their babies needs and how their responses to these needs reflect on their skills and abilities. Do you recognize any of these thoughts?
-If I don’t soothe him right away, I’m a terrible mom.
-If I don’t play with him all the time, he’ll be lonely.
-If I let him “cry it out”, he’ll be scarred for life.
-If I don’t make sure he is constantly amused, he won’t be learning as much as other kids.
The problem with thoughts like these is that they cause new moms to run around in a panic, behaving as if the house is burning down instead of the baby simply needing a bottle! Furthermore, they cause new moms to neglect themselves. If the baby needs to eat when mom is about to step into the shower, mom turns off the water to go and feed her. If the baby looks like he needs amusing right when mom is about to take five minutes to read the front page of the newspaper, mom puts the paper down. If the baby needs to be rocked to fall asleep every time he rouses in the middle of the night, mom neglects her own need for sleep.
And, perhaps most importantly, we deny our babies the opportunity to learn to soothe themselves, to learn to play independently, to learn to get to sleep on their own. My hunch is that those babies grow up to be 10-year olds with exactly the same problems.
The Calm Mom is by no means suggesting we don’t pay attention to our babies. What I am suggesting is that you give them a chance to draw from their own resources.
The moral of the story: While we want our children to learn that we are always there for them, we also want them to learn that they can rely on themselves.
Want to learn how to raise emotionally competent kids? Read my Calm Mom Tips on this topic.
Some moms will go the route of plastic surgery to get their pre-baby body back (this topic was even covered in the October 4, 2007 New York Times). But, be mindful that even the most minor plastic surgery procedures are surgery. It is not like getting a manicure or getting your hair dyed. This is serious stuff. People do die from plastic surgery – trust me, I know someone who did. Always, always, always seek out treatment from a board certified plastic surgeon. Have your surgery done in a hospital instead of a free-standing clinic that might lack emergency medical care. And, don’t skimp. Don’t ever go with the lowest cost option. Quality treatment probably will cost more.