This blog is written by Stacey Kelly at Your Very Own Story – the writer & illustrator of personalised children’s books. Click on the image above to preview yours now!
When my daughter was a newborn she was either eating, sleeping or crying which is somewhat traumatising for any mum never mind a first time mummy! I spent endless hours shushing and jigging from side to side yet the crying continued. How it has taken me so long to lose my baby weight I’ll never know because from all the jigging and breastfeeding I did (and have continued to do) I should have looked like Twiggy by week 2! Any Mama will know that the feeling you get inside when your baby is screaming is awful. You get a physical reaction to every sound. What if she’s in pain and can’t tell me? What if she’s scared? What if she doesn’t like me? The questions and confusion were endless because let’s face it, it takes a while before you and your baby know each other well enough to work out the answers!
I have always viewed crying as a baby’s way of trying to communicate something so I have never ignored my daughter’s cries. She was like a little cryptic puzzle that I had to somehow work out but in time it all became clearer. Slowly but surely I began to understand her language.
My daughter was never a fan of getting her nappy changed. She still isn’t for that matter as only last week she wrestled me off of her changing mat whilst I was changing her pooey nappy – you can imagine the carnage!! Anyway, one day when my daughter was about 3-4 weeks old, I was changing her bum. I was in a complete fluster because yet again she was screaming her head off. Her face was bright red and all scrunched up and my face was also bright red and slightly sweaty due to the fact that I was about to have an anxiety attack! All of a sudden in that moment I realised that this was the same cry that she was doing at nighttime. Her cry was telling me that she didn’t like her nappy being changed. Something clicked and I realised that her constant crying at night wasn’t out of pain or sadness, it was once again her ‘I don’t like it’ cry – probably because she was tired and didn’t understand this feeling.
Now babies and children may be little but I have always been of the mindset that they are still people who have struggles like us grown-ups do. If I look back at my woes when I was 16, they seem really trivial now but at the time they were very real & cut deeply. It’s the same thing for children and babies. They are just little people with big problems that are relative to their age. If you put yourself in a baby’s shoes (or should I say booties) it must be really hard. Everything is out of their control and what’s more, everything they have ever known for 9 months in the womb is different. No wonder the transition can be difficult and all they want is to be held tightly by their Mummy listening to her heartbeat.
My daughter is now 15 months old and gets extremely frustrated. There are times when I feel like pulling out my hair (particularly when she grabs hold of my face in a fit of rage) but 9 times out of 10 I understand why she is feeling angry. Her understanding of this world is growing but because of that, her inability to communicate is becoming more evident and more of a challenge to her. She understands far more words that she can speak, she knows her own mind and knows what she wants yet cannot tell me. Plus, at 15 months old she has not yet learnt empathy which means that she is literally the centre of her own universe. She wants what she wants and is not old enough to understand why she cannot have her own way all of the time. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in our own agenda as adults without taking a minute to look at things from a child’s perspective. Here’s a scenario:
Now, it is not acceptable to grab someone’s face in a fit of anger and I will always address this behaviour and let my daughter know that she mustn’t do this. However, it still doesn’t stop me from trying to understand what has led to this moment and from trying to come up with a solution in an attempt to prevent this level of frustration. Could I sit and play with my daughter for 2 minutes before I whip her away to change her bottom? Could I actually tell her that in 5 minutes I’m going to change her nappy so she has some warning? Would taking her toy with her help? I always treat people the way I would want to be treated and I use this same principle with my daughter. Would I be happy if I was in the middle of doing something and someone bigger and stronger than me grabbed me and took me away from my project without warning? I think I would be pretty annoyed! Why would it be acceptable for me as an adult to feel frustrated by this scenario but not for my child? It’s not about always giving my daughter what she wants but about understanding her perspective and supporting her through these big problems in her little world.
Finding the balance between showing understanding and having boundaries can be challenging but like any first time parent I am finding my way and learning as I go. No one is perfect and I sometimes make mistakes but like every Mum out there I am just doing my best and hoping I get it right! No matter what I do I will always look at the world through my child’s eyes as well as my own and will try to show understanding and to lead by example.
I thought I would finish by sharing this poem. It is one of my favourites and says it all:
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Love Stacey x
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