Advice from Canpol's experienced mothers.

A little rebel - how to handle baby's protests

Before his 1st birthday the baby cannot show he does not like something otherwise than with sounds, crying or movement of his body. At the beginning I found it difficult to read why my baby felt uncomfortable. I watched my Franek closely to avoid actions during which he "rebelled".

Baby care - from discomfort to pleasure

I noticed that Franek often cries while being dressed. I tried to do everything quickly and efficiently, but still felt that it did not help. I started to choose clothes that were easy to put on and soft, not to irritate the delicate skin. Yet I still felt impatience of my baby during that activity. I did not know what to do, so I asked my mother for advice. Watching her I noticed that she treated dressing him as fun. While dressing my son, my mother caressed, kissed and tickled him. He did not cry at all and it looked as if he had nothing against being dressed. I sat down and realised that I treated that activity too seriously, and my stress was passed on to my baby. I was surprised I had not realised that earlier. Thanks to that simple solution I started to combine duties with playing with my baby.

I applied the same rule to bathing my baby. I tried to make the baby feel safe during that activity. While taking care of him, I talked to him all the time, caressed him. Then I added first toys that could be put into water: rubber animals, a watering can. My endeavours were crowned with success. First baths were not easy, but with each successive one we both had more fun.

Problems with falling asleep

My baby did not have any problems with falling asleep. However, quite a few of my friends told me it was a difficult part of the day for them. They asked what I did when putting my son to sleep. I thought I did nothing special. I simply followed advice of psychologists and tried to make each evening look the same. The specific order of activities became our ritual: a bath, cuddling and rocking, and then music from a toy hanging above his bed. My friend told me that at the end of the day she was very tired and simply tried to make everything as quickly as possible. After talking to me she changed her attitude. She realised that she passed her haste onto her daughter, and now she cries less when being put to sleep.

Cry-baby

Franek often cried when I was not around. I thought that when I could see he had everything, I would try to calm him down, but I could not carry him in my arms all the time. I was about to return to work, part-time. My heart was breaking hearing him cry, but everybody kept on telling me that from time to time I had to leave the baby with a trusted person. Step by step, I started to accustom the baby to the fact that I could not run to him each time he cried. Once a week I left my son with my mother or mother in law (for two hours). My evening duties related to the baby were taken over by my husband. It was very difficult for my child, but I am not sure, if at first it was not even more difficult for me. When I returned to work I was grateful to my family and friends for their help and tips.

When the baby was one

Suddenly, our house was turned upside down. Our quiet son had grown into an untamed cranky child. That situation made me feel completely helpless. Requests and explanations did not help. I felt I did something wrong. I decided, instead of reading books, to ask for advice the mothers who already went through that stage in their child development. I was given numerous valuable tips that were of great help.

What causes my baby's rebellion?

Together with other mums we discussed the reasons for rebellion in my child and other babies. When the child learns a lot of new skills he wants to perform them in the best way possible. He has a lot of energy and tries to get rid of it. Unfortunately, he cannot do everything yet, and hence the anger and frustration. Even when a parent wants to help him, he objects. The other cause may be a wish to express his own opinion, trying to check to what extent we, parents, are consequent in our requestes and activities. To this aim, the child often uses the word "no" and waits for our reaction. Will mum/dad not repeat their request to put a cap on, or will they repeat it until it is done? And the final conclusion summing up our discussion is: our children cannot yet distinguish or name well their emotions. What they feel, is bottled inside and this ultimately results in screaming or crying. Our task is to help our child in this difficult world of emotions.

What should you do, when the tot rebels and is angry?

First, I did not realise what a good observer our child was. Not once he had to see me in a stressful situation, when I was angry with myself or someone else. I realised that the way he would deal with anger in the future was strongly connected to the behaviour patterns that he would learn from me and my husband now. As I did not want to pass my negative emotions to my child, in critical situations I asked my husband for a moment for myself. Then he took over the care of our son completely, to let me cope after the hard day, but this time, with my emotions.

As I have already mentioned, I noticed my son had great stores of energy. Therefore I decided to find him such activities that would help him to release that energy. Playing together in the playground required a lot of physical activity from him and from me. This way my son let out his energy naturally, and we had a lot of fun playing together. 

Of course, even when playing, tantrums sometimes occurred. For me it was the worst when it was in a public place. Thanks to support of other mums I felt I could get through that. Screams and crying in a place full of people scared me. Following my friends' advice, I was adamant and did not agree to anything I had forbidden earlier, even facing my child's anger and hysterics.

The magic of planning

The streak of independence often manifested itself when I was really in a great hurry. For example, I had to go out with Franek and wanted to dress him quickly. At that time he wanted to do it himself. When I tried to convince him that I would do that, he screamed and threw the clothes around. It made me angry, but I developed a method that helped. Knowing his urge for independence, when planning the day I added 15 minutes to each activity, so I did not have to hurry and worry about being late. I thought that if I always did things for him he would never be independent.

I also managed to eliminate tantrums when watching TV. Of course, I allowed my child to watch only an evening cartoon before sleep, but even that caused problems. Just after the cartoon, when I wanted to change the channel or switch the TV off, my son started to cry. With his screams he tried to force me to let him watch the TV for longer. I noticed that if before the cartoon I said: "today we'll watch one cartoon and then go to sleep", it was much easier to put my son to bed. Of course, it did not work immediately, but because this communication was repeated, my son noticed that his tears did not change my behaviour.

Evening rituals

My son often rebelled while being put to sleep. It was at that time that he really wanted to jump around, run or play. Escapes from the bed, stamping and screaming were very tiring for me. With my husband we decided that we will put our child to sleep in turns. We also decided to spend some time with our son at that hour and play with him, but only games that were calming and not exciting, such as reading books or massages. It was not easy but our patience was rewarded. Our evening rituals became a pleasant time for our family.

Rebel at the table

A rebellion at the table I would rather describe as dawdling. When I gave Franek the food he liked, I had no problems with feeding him. Time passed pleasantly and quietly. Unfortunately, when the served dishes were those he disliked, then he played with his food or turned away his head when I tried to feed him. I did not want to force him to do anything, but, on the other hand, wished to give him all he needed. Step by step, I introduced new flavours. To each known and liked dish I added something new. When I saw that my son evidently did not like something, next time I replaced it with another product having similar properties. At the beginning, I had to spend more time on preparing meals, but later it was less time-consuming. The meal times begun to be pleasant and my knowledge of my son's favourite tastes increased.

Joan

Mum of 3 year old Franek, 13 years of professional experience

Karolina Taranko

Creativity Psychopedagogue
- consulting