I have a confession to make…

I have a confession to make. So first let me set the scene, I’m with my 16 mo. old daughter and she reaches for something. Now I have to quickly decide whether it’s safe for her to have. If it’s not, I feel pretty justified in wrenching it forcefully from her grip. Scissors, sharp knives, push pins, and electrical cords are all things in that category for me.

But then there are other times when I simply don’t WANT her to have the object of her desire. The truth is, sometimes I grab stuff away from her. Wow, I feel so vulnerable sharing that. And I feel awful afterward, especially if she’s left upset and crying. So I’m declaring right this moment that I’m committed to stopping this behavior. I will no longer grab things from my daughter (unless they’re truly dangerous items).

You might wonder what alerted me to the behavior in the fist place. Well, let me tell you. A couple of weeks ago my wonderful mother-in-law (who takes care of my daughter two days a week) came home from the library with a story about how my daughter had walked right up to another child and grabbed the book she was holding away from her. I’m sure it was an awkward moment for all involved and I was reminded of this blog post by Leslie that really inspired me (funny that her story happened at the library too).

After I heard about the “incident” at the library, I began to get curious about where my daughter had learned to grab and more importantly, why I hadn’t been teaching her how to ask nicely when she wanted something from someone else. And in the midst of my inquiry, I realized, I’ve been modeling the very thing she did. Whoa.

So, now that I’ve noticed the behavior that isn’t working for us and I’ve declared my new commitment to honor my daughter more fully, I have to come up with some strategies to help me keep my commitment. The first one is to plan ahead and keep items I don’t want her to have out of her reach entirely. So I’ll go through a few problem areas (like next to the diaper changing station) and reorganize, placing baby unfriendly items away in cabinets or boxes that close.

But I also need a strategy for the times when she does get something that I don’t want her to have. In those moments, I’ll take a deep breath and remember my commitment and then I’ll ask her for the item. If she refuses, I’ll ask her for “my turn”, or I’ll follow her around until she loses interest and then remove the item to a cabinet or drawer.

OK, so now I have my new commitment and my new strategies. I think I’m all set!

The only thing left is to process the feelings I have about how I’ve behaved in the past. I feel guilty about having ripped things away from my daughter in the past. I feel ashamed of my behavior and I’m judging myself as “immature.” And…my deepest truth is that I really was doing the best I could in the moment. It’s just that my best is constantly changing and grabbing things away from a young child no longer makes the cut.

Now I don’t expect my toddler to stop grabbing simply because I’ve stopped, but since we’ve also started talking about taking turns, I’ve noticed a big change already. After just a week or so of discussion, she now walks up to me, puts out her little hand and says “Turn?” My heart melts every single time.

Is this something that you struggle with too? If so, please leave me a comment. I’m out on a little bit of a limb here, and I would love to know that there are other people out here with me! Or maybe your challenge is slightly different, but I would still love to hear about it. We can support one another in making a change!

Sending you all warm hugs, Shelly

22 comments
NPava
NPava

I read this post last week and it's been in my head ever since! Thanks to your words and insight - it has all supporting me in being more mindful and sharing more about my actions with my daughter. You're the best, Shelly!

Kimba
Kimba

Shelly! I love this, loving your awareness and commitment to changing your behavior to model what you want for your daughter. I was so touched by the vision of her coming up with her hand out asking for her "turn?" So beautiful! I have several stories of how witnessing my children's behaviors was like being hit in the face with the reality of what I model for them. I still struggle with the feelings of guilt and shame and even despair when I see things in my 17 year old that seem too late to affect. And, I find hope in the process of evolution here. You have changed something for yourself and your 16 mo old for the rest of her life. Yay for your commitment.

And as for your struggle with sticking to it, I would suggest that there are times when its still appropriate to say, I am your mommy and I need to teach you and love you, and this is something that is not OK for you to have, I am going to take it from you now. Then with real understanding of her sadness and/or anger be there and allow those feelings.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

OK, so now that I've made my commitment, it's getting really hard to keep! I could use some encouragement and maybe some more strategies. It seems like instead of grabbing I'm resorting to trickery or cajoling. A couple of wins though. At least some of the time I've been able to ask nicely or wait her out and then remove the item.

I can see that I need to be more proactive about restricting her access to the trouble spots until I can get them better organized.

Any suggestions?

NicholasCarter
NicholasCarter

I grabbed a photograph out of my niece's hands once, because I thought her hands were dirty.

I hadn't seen my sister wipe her hands moments before.

Led to big tears. I only realised after dinner what had happened, because nobody said anything when I grabbed the photo. I called my sister and apologised, I said I'd like to apologise to my niece, but maybe I could only do that when she is older. I wish I'd actually apologised directly to her now.

ThomasKuoh
ThomasKuoh

Yes, I concur. As a "guy" i did initially just grab the things away from her. But after a lesson from my wife, well, more like a stern talking to, I realized what I was doing, I was modeling for her and basically perpetuating what I experienced as a child. I realized that Paisley was fully capable of understanding, or at least very distractable, both are better strategies to letting her cry and feeling justified because I know better.

Luckly, I only did it to her less than a handful of times. So she never picked up the behavior. And in play groups, even if she wants something someone else has, and is fraustrated by not having it, she never just grabs it.

But I do have a tinge of doubt in my mind about what the opposite is that I'm teaching her. Am I spoiling her? Am I not giving her enough discipline. But I feel like, that's not in the Now, and more of a hypothetical than reality. And I hate to boast, but I feel the way we have been with her has led to a little girl who is quite reasonable and well behaved. She knows we let her basically have whatever she wants, even if it's slightly questionable, I will let her play with it under strict supervision. But when I say no, she's been very good about obliging.

Thanks for sharing! now maybe you can share about the times where you've totally lost your sh#t. Cause I was very surprised when I lost mine!!! Oh my!

vanessasclayadventures
vanessasclayadventures

@AwakeShelly no my son isn't saying thank you yet but he will sign it once in a while. He also signs please when he wants something some how hurts and signs sorry if he some how hurts me.

vanessasclayadventures
vanessasclayadventures

Great post! My son is 18 months old and for the most part we have removed most items that we don't want him to have. I also grab things from him if he does get hold of something I would rather he didn't have. I will have to think on my actions a little more . My son already gives me some things he finds on the floor with out being asked and I always say " thank you" now I need a better way to deal with the items he does find and I don't want him to have. Thanks for the kick in the pants :)

shalommama
shalommama

Ugh! I do that! Thankfully, I've noticed it and have become much more mindful about asking the kids for something I don't want them to have.

SamiFournier
SamiFournier

So glad you grasped at this right now. :) At 5 months, my daughter is so good with her hands, I have already gotten used to moving things out of her reach. I need to be alert to how we 'handle' this particular issue, as it evolves and she develops. I have tried trading her for things, easing them out of her hands while explaining that is not for eating. Because her grip is weak right now, grabbing something away from her is easy, and she is used to losing things to gravity, so she barely registers when it's gone. I'm super grateful to you for alerting me to this before it became my habit. I think I'll try to ask 'please' and 'thanks' for things, now, but later I know it gets harder. Should we wait until she understands more, or start now?

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

Aw, thanks @NPava! Sending you and your little one big hugs and love.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@Kimba

Thanks for your comment Kimba! I've been so much more mindful of this since posting and it's true, sometimes there are things that I don't want her to have. I agree that letting her know what's about to happen and then listening to her feelings afterward is a much better way to handle it than just grabbing. AND I really want to get better about putting things out of reach if they're not available to her.

Sure, she needs to learn that not everything is hers for the taking, but I also feel really protective of her impulse to explore her environment. This morning she discovered her first pouring activity on her shelf and she loved it!

I would love to hear more about your parenting journey. Would you like to do a guest blog sometime? Sending you warm hugs, Shelly

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@NicholasCarter Hey Nick, There's nothing stopping you! I think it's a beautiful gesture of respect when we can own our mistakes and apologize to a child. Thanks for sharing your experience! Big hugs to you.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@ThomasKuoh Yes Thomas, I do plan on sharing that. Although after so many years of child-care, I'm pretty good at keeping it together :) I do think it's important to set clear boundaries, but it sounds like you're already doing that! Sending you and your fam huge hugs and lots of love.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@vanessasclayadventures Oh J signs "please" too! But I don't know the sign for "sorry" yet. Where are you learning signs? Do you have a good website recommendation for me? We've been using books from the library, but I'm ready to learn more!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@vanessasclayadventures Thanks for the props! And you're welcome for the kick :) Is he saying "thank you" back yet? I couldn't believe how quickly my daughter picked up on "thank you." Now we're working on "please" and "no thank you!"

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@shalommama Oh thank goodness I'm not the only one! It is a mindfulness practice, isn't it? Hugs to you Nina!

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@SamiFournier Oh Sami, I can't believe how fast time flies! She's 5 months already?! My experience was that it was easy to trade all the way up until about a year old and then it became MUCH harder. You might also want to check out RIE, I bet you'd like it. I don't know a lot about it yet, but from what I know it's all about giving full respect to babies and honoring their process. janetlansbury.com and regardingbaby.org are good resources. @janetlansbury @lisasunbury

Kimba
Kimba

I feel like I may have sounded preachy and didn't want that. I am noticing how much I wish I would have been having this discussion years and years ago. Wow, I feel ashamed and trying to be gentle with who I was then. I really value and agree with what you are saying about protecting her impulse to explore. I wish I would have been this awake when my son was born. My daughter had a very different experience of me as a mother. Oh pouring! I am longing to watch that early development again, it's so fantastic.

I would love to guest blog and am also terrified.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

@Kimba Hey Kimba, I didn't experience you as preachy. Now I'm wondering if my response sounds defensive ;) I understand how challenging it can be to look back at who we were in the past and be compassionate and understanding with ourselves.

I remember the first time I read "Unconditional Parenting" by Kohn and realized that excessive praise is bad for kids. I beat myself up for about a week for all the praise I had given to so many of my preschool students. But then I remembered that I was doing my best at the time, and that's all we can really expect of ourselves, right?

I am loving it so much that you shared that you're terrified to guest post. I think that means there's some good personal growth opportunity there! And, I want you to go at your own pace. So send me an article when you're ready. Unless you'd rather I hound you about it so that you'll be more likely to actually write it!

Even bigger hugs this time :)

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