Tag Archives: behavior

How could you! I do it!

“You want to read a story? You do? Okay, come on, which one?”
“This one! George!”
“Okay, here we go.”
“NO NO NO, I do it!! I turn page!”
“I just opened the book, you can turn the pages.”
“NOOOOO I turn page!”
“I know, you can do it. I just opened the book. Here, I’ll close it and we can start over.”
“NO NO NO Mama, I doooo iiiiitttttttttt, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
“Calm down, take the book, what do you want to do?”
“You’ve ruined it mom, ruined it. I have been looking forward to cracking this particular volume of Curious George open all day and now I’ve clearly seen the title page and the mystery is gone. I’m crushed. Nothing can give me this moment back. I am so disappointed that you opened it without prior authorization. How could you?”


“Are you hungry? Do you want an orange or a banana?”
“Okay hold on. I know you want to peel it, let me get a piece up for you to start.”
“Okay, you can peel, here!”
“Noooooo! I do it, I peel!”
“I just got it up for you, you can do the rest, I didn’t take any peel off!”
“Do you want an orange or not?”
“Listen, lady. I am a big fan of oranges. Not only do I like their flavor and fun segmentation, I enjoy peeling them immensely. I frankly think the whole experience is ruined if you, as you say ‘start’ it for me. It’s part of my process. I cannot possibly enjoy this orange now. No, no.. another orange will not do. I will always know that this orange was MEANT to be my snack but was desecrated by your complete lack of consideration for my feelings. Really, how could you?”


“We need to go. Can you put on your shoes and coat?”
“I wear bunny hat!”
“Yes, you can wear your bunny hat, but put your shoes and coat on first.”
Wanders off.
“Excuse me, can you get over here and put this stuff on now?”
Nothing happens.
“Okay I’ll come put it on you so we can go.”
“NOOO! I put on shoes!! No mama.”
“You can put them on, I just need you to hurry!”
“No help me, I put them on. I PUT ON!!!”
“Okay I’ll stop helping, jeez. Can I put on your coat at least?”
“How dare you?! What do I look like? An infant?! I can clearly prepare myself for going out and maybe if you weren’t always springing these things on me I’d be more prepared. I distinctly remember that yesterday, I HAD my coat, boots, AND hat on and was ready to go downtown and waiting by the door and at THAT time you were all like ‘oh no, we aren’t going anywhere, you aren’t even wearing pants, blah blah blah,’ and you didn’t see ME trying to stuff you into a pair of rain boots and coat so we could get out. Oh no, I wouldn’t impose like that because I’m a reasonable person.”


“What are these pieces doing all over the floor?”
“I put there. I play.”
“We need to pick them up, come help me.”
“Oh not so interested in ‘I do!’ anymore, huh?”
“Mama pick up!”
“I think you need to help.”
“Do you not know what your job is, mom? Are you unclear on what it entails? Perhaps you need an appointment with HR. Just pick up with stuff everywhere and leave my books and fruits alone. Got it? Oh, and get more of those Hello Panda things. Maybe they shouldn’t be kept so high up. Maybe I should handle snack storage from now on. You seem like you’re not keeping up with things. You better give me that ipad until you can learn what’s expected of you.”

I would like to check one bag and one child please.

We’re getting ready to remove ourselves to our holiday residence at my in-law’s house. On the way, I’ll be stopping briefly in Chicago. I’m very excited! There’s a lot to do before we leave. My daughter and I head out on Friday, my husband the 18th, and the cat, sadly, has to stay home this year. Poor cat.

I didn’t bother decorating since we’re leaving so soon, but I did put up some christmas lights. A certain kid loves them, asks me to turn them on a lot. I usually ask her to do something for me and then I’ll turn them on. That’s where we are these days, EVERYTHING is a negotiation.

I’m worried about the airports and the cars, the new beds and the restaurants. She’s a different kid since we last went anywhere else, she understands more, but her patience is maybe a bit less and she’s far less containable. I’ve been so very lucky with her on airplanes that I’m starting to fear that the other shoe is about to drop. Will this be the trip where TSA has to pry my 2 year old from a plastic tub? Will the passengers on this flight be staring at me with the “oh god, make it stop” faces? Will this be the trip where my ipad battery dies the moment we get into the car?

All these very real fears of parents all over haunt me.

As much as non-parents like to believe that a) travel is just for them and b) all children can be brought down from the throes of meltdown, I have some bad news for them. Kids go places. Especially on the holidays. They have every right to be on the plane as any other ticket holder. (The logic that some adults have that adults are worth more than kids baffles me.) Kids have complex and shaky emotional scaffolds, they haven’t learn to repress, delude, and compensate through years of turmoil and boredom like adults have. If one prefers to see it in a positive light, they are more honest. Loudly honest. So, not all bad behavior by kids on planes can be stopped with any simple procedure. If the parent isn’t even trying, that’s one thing, but we like to hear our kids scream even LESS than strangers do. Trust me.

Anyway, I’m hoping I can negotiate my way from here to there with my 2 year old. I have an arsenal of stickers, apps, videos, and snacks with which to bargain. And if all else fails, I suppose I could tell her Santa’s watching…

Determination vs Cooperation

Now that I’m in the midst of two toddlers, at the height of their frustrations in their own inability to verbalize all that it is that they are feeling, I have been thinking a bit about the problem of determination versus cooperation.

One of the things that makes toddlers so hard to manage is that they are all about instant gratification. They don’t understand waiting. In some senses, this makes them extremely determined individuals (granted, with relatively short attention spans). However, so much of what we ASK of our little kids in terms of “good behavior” is really based on delayed gratification. You want to go the playground? Okay, but you have do get dressed now and THEN we can go. You want to play with that? Okay, but you have to wait until it’s your turn.

How do you encourage your kid to be persistant and determined when it counts but also understand cooperation and being patient? Sometimes determination is all about patience, but understanding that requires a lot of experience and feeling confident in the outcome. A toddler doesn’t really have either. They may understand OUR promises to give them what they desire, but they have no framework for holding us to it or knowing that waiting patiently will result in anything better than simply whining about it and maybe getting it sooner? What is sooner or later to a toddler?

The shaky ground we are on, Julia and I, is having kids who know what they want but can’t tell us what it is. They are old enough to have all these complex thoughts, but haven’t pick up on the tricks of the tongue that will let them unleash the contents of these thoughts on our bewildered selves, standing in front of the fridge trying to guess what they’re pointing at or following them around the house trying to make the whining stop or subvert a tantrum.

They say that “communication is key,” and I’m hoping, in this case, it is. The pointing is only going to get us so far. But even when the words start flowing, there are going to be plenty more instances where verbal exchanges won’t be enough to negotiate cooperation. Demonstrating consistently the rewards of cooperation is helpful, but at the same time, kids still learn that it’s sometimes more beneficial to stubbornly demand and be appeased. Is this wrong? Do we stop fostering determination when we require cooperation all the time?

I read about a study at the University of Virginia (Child Development, Dec 2011) where they found that teens who “talked back” to their parents were 40% more likely to resist peer pressure on such issues as drugs and alcohol. This is obviously a study of teenagers, a different species altogether, but Joseph Allen, the psychologist leading the study told NPR during an interview: “We tell parents to think of those arguments not as nuisance, but as a critical training ground.”

I like that idea, so that’s what I’m trying to think of these toddler confrontations. Hopefully, I can stay sane long enough each day to show my kid the benefits of sticking with it and when the greater mutual benefits of playing along nicely exceed them and how to know the difference.

A Study in Disappointment

The disappointment around here comes in frequent and heavy bursts. My daughter does not know why we limit her so, given her clear preference to have all things upon request. Do we not understand her pointing her index finger so sharply at the TV? Do we not register the stern “mmmmm!” sounds escalating to the furious “MMMMMM!!!!!” sounds that issue forth from her little mouth? Is this most primal of communication over our heads? Should she be forced to learn how to do everything herself? How then shall she attain sufficient height to reach Those Things That Were Placed Out of Reach for a Reason?

She wants to play with the camera. She wants to eat “Hello Panda” for every meal. She wants to dump her beverages on the floor so that she may point to the spill and then, aid us in the critical mission to clean it up. She wants my laptop to link her to entertaining people via video chat instantaneously. She wants to nurse whenever it crosses her mind. She wants to kiss the cat. She wants to read this book, no this one, no that one. She wants to be pushed in her cart. She wants both of us to get up and dance. She wants my phone. Oh, god she wants my phone. She wants to look at pictures of leopards in the May edition of “Vogue” and WHY ARE THERE ONLY THREE? THERE SHOULD BE MORE LEOPARDS IN THIS LEOPARD CATALOG.

But most of all, she wants to watch videos on TV.

It starts early in the morning with refusal to eat breakfast if someone doesn’t turn on something. We appease her by putting music on through the Apple TV, so there’s sound and a screen saver slide show of my husband’s flicker photo-feed. By mid-afternoon she has usually had one or two minor fits about the lack of quality programming. And at dinnertime, she will also refuse to eat and point mercilessly at the TV making whining sounds.

Oh the pointing.

And if you try to explain WHY she can’t do a particular thing right now, you get the index finger of “just one minute” or “shut up,” whichever seems to fit best at that moment. The best you can do is to distract, distract, distract. You just come up with random things and hope that something else will temporarily exceed her laser-focus on her current fixation.

Yesterday, she was sitting next to me on the sofa having a moment because I wouldn’t let her press random buttons on the camera. I was therefore able to capture this brief sequence that I call:

“A Study in Disappointment and Distraction”






And here’s one last picture of the cat looking smug:

5 Common Bad-parenting Misconceptions

Now stay clean kids, mommy needs to impress some strangers.

There are a lot of these, but I am going to give you 5 that I have not only been guilty of making but also have received dirty looks for being the “bad parent.”

1. Baby not dressed warmly enough, isn’t wearing a hat, isn’t wearing mittens, etc.
I give up putting my kid’s hat back on after she’s ripped it off and dropped it on the sidewalk about 10 times. Unless it’s -20 C, I just figure she’ll have to learn about getting cold. But I’ve gotten some rather harsh commentary from passers-by that will attest to my lack of parenting sense in this regard. I’m always tempted to unleash months of pent-up fury on them by saying something like “Oh! A hat?!! You mean like the thing I just put on her 15 times in a row and had to set down grocery bags to pick up off the ground 15 times in a row until it finally partially landed in a puddle and got all wet? Never would occurred to me. Thanks, helpful stranger!”
But I’m too nice. I usually just pretend I didn’t hear them or say “she’s fine.” I get being concerned about random babies’ comfort, but telling someone to put something on their baby is almost never going to result in them putting something on their baby just because you suggested it. Almost no one WANTS their kid to freeze, so zip it.

2. Kids out WAY too late at night.
I used to see kids, little kids and babies, on the subway in the wee hours of the night in NYC and wonder “who are these crazy parents?” But now I realize how one might find oneself out and about in a city at strange hours. We had flights a bit over a year ago that meant we had to leave for the airport at 4am and when we returned, we got in past midnight so we were getting to walk through our neighborhood from the shuttle bus terminal at an hour we rarely get to experience. Some of the people lined up for the nightclubs gave us some pretty surprised looks. I hope it was obvious what our situation was, what with the luggage in tow. But I have also been out walking around very late at night with my baby in desperate hopes she’d fall asleep in her carrier. I would have had no luggage then. I also know kids who are super night-owls sometimes due to their parents’ schedules. They get enough sleep, just on a slightly different timetable. So while I still might ponder a kid on the train at 2am, I’m much less likely to immediately think their parents suck.

3. Yells at their kid in public.
Oh god, no one WANTS to be this parent. No one likes this parent. Not even themselves. There are extreme cases of verbal abuse, don’t get me wrong, and you can probably spot them a mile away. But I can totally see how a person could totally lose it over something that from the outside would look totally ridiculous and insignificant. Like throwing my metrocard on the bus floor. The bystanders have no idea that I’ve picked it up a dozen times before they got on and twice after and during one of those times that I was bent over getting it, my kid managed to destroy something, spill something, throw something else that scattered, make me miss our stop, etc. To top is all off, we’re running late, she kept me up half the night, I think you can see where I’m going with this. It would take a SAINT to keep cool under these kinds of circumstances. Or possibly access to the world’s largest stash of valium.

4. Lets their kid eat/drink something unhealthy.
First of all, looks can be deceiving. Yes, my daughter is drinking out of a large Starbucks clear cup something that looks like iced tea or maybe from a distance, coffee. I have to tell you that since she could drink liquids she has preferred the green straw to almost any other delivery mechanism. I also have to add that I drink my tea weaker than should be legally allowed. Then, I add ice. If she has a sip of it to stop her from flipping out in your presence, you should give me a damn medal. You’re welcome.
When the offending food item is more certain, you may raise your eyebrow, but what you don’t know is how much or how often the kid is really eating this food. Sure, a infant shouldn’t be drinking Pepsi. And if you see that, maybe you should ask if it’s at least diet. But for older kids almost everything is acceptable in small doses. It is all “food” after all, it’s not rat poison. And kids tend not to snack on kale in public. That’s what the junk food is for. It’s payment for their cooperation.

5. Kid is misbehaving.
This one is probably the king of them all. So many people see kids act a certain way and say something like “I would never let my kid get away with that” or “my kids would never be so horrible” or “my kids never got away with that crap.”
Well you will, they will be, and you did.
My daughter is such a sweet little person, she’s on the very low end of the meltdown spectrum in public, but even she has had her moments where the people around us look at me like I’ve raised some little dramallama and haven’t a clue what I’m doing. Kids, especially toddlers, just get tired, cranky, upset, have bad days, just like adults. Only they don’t have the emotional framework yet to repress or cope with how they feel. In many ways they are more honest, if you want to see the silver lining. Sometimes these feeling manifest as a meltdown, sometimes just as manic running around and pulling things off shelves. There are many forms of freak-out in kid-land. I know everyone wants to believe that all decent parents are going to put on their Psychoanalyst hats and work their kid through every situation like this, but it’s just not possible. Sometimes you just need to step back, let them flip out, and try to contain the property damage. And if it happens in a store, you do your best to get out of there, but lines only move so fast.
The hardest part not to judge is when you see a kid in the throes of some really awful behavior. Hitting, kicking, breaking stuff… You want to chalk it up to the parent so you can maybe believe this could never happen to you. But you don’t know what kinds of issues are going on in these people’s lives, you don’t know if the kid has any kind of autism or behavior problems, and you don’t know how hard it is for the parent you’re judging at that precise moment to deal with the situation. Maybe they are having the worst day imaginable? So if you can’t bring yourself to step in and lend a hand, at the very least try not to assume they are a bad parent.

BabyCenter’s remedy for Toddler Personality Disorder (TPD)

My name is Raawwrr and I'm hear for your sweet baby! I cannot hear you, because I'm going "Raawwrr" all the time, as that is my name. What's my name!!?

After three days of questioning what happened to my usually sweet baby, and why she suddenly has the disposition of T Rex with longer reach, I received this timely piece in my inbox from our informative friends at BabyCenter.com.

“New this month: A stranger among you?
You may not know from one minute to the next how your 13-month-old will behave. At this age, many toddlers begin to behave unpredictably. Yours may scream at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason, pull the tablecloth (and all the dishes on it) to the floor, or yank the dog’s tail despite your firmly telling him not to.”

Substitute “cat’s” for “dog’s” and strike the tablecloth bit for just the dishes and I’m totally with you, babycenter.

“Though this may be a trying time for you, remember that your toddler isn’t deliberately disobeying you — he’s just exploring his surroundings and figuring out how much power he has over you, his environment, and himself. Many of these “destructive” practices will actually help him develop a sense of independence and figure out which types of behavior are acceptable to you and which aren’t.”

I’d be more inclined to believe it wasn’t deliberate if she didn’t give me that LOOK every time, but sure, she’s trying to figure out boundaries, independence la la la… at the expense of my housekeeping. Lovely.

“What you can do”

I’m all ears (or rather eyes) BabyCenter!!

“You can help him channel his potentially destructive exuberance in safe ways. Pillow fights, for example, either outside or in a room where he can’t break anything, are bound to tire out your toddler. For totally wild but nondestructive pillow fights, make a set of 12 small lightly stuffed pillows about 9 inches square — they’ll be easier for your toddler to heft and too light to break much of anything.”

Wait, you want me to do a crafting project? While my toddler does what? And then, you want me to have a pillow fight with her? You want me to encourage her to throw things at my head? The self-same toddler who likes to throw dishes and food and car keys? And we’re worried about the weight of the pillows for her little arms?! Gosh, I was thinking if the pillow were heavier she might not be able to throw it so hard!

“Playing with modeling clay — pulling, kneading, and rolling the squishy stuff — is another good outlet. On the next rainy day, put on your rain boots and go jump in puddles together. If you’re constantly admonishing your child to “keep the water in the tub,” he’ll love the freedom to splash around and make a big mess.”

Oh, BabyCenter… I know you mean well, but the last time she played with modeling clay, she pretty much ate it twice, looked revolted, and moved on. Granted, it was a very nice home-made, fresh batch, so actually pretty food-safe! But my point is, have you SEEN our puddles?? Whenever there is a bit of water on the ground, my dear daughter likes to pet it. Seriously. Pet it. Sure, she’ll run through it, but eventually, she’s going to want to touch it. And around here, the parks have Biohazard boxes for drug-users to put used needles. I’m no germ-o-phobe, but I am also pretty sure our puddles have Tetanus.

“Other developments: Picky eating
Does your 13-month-old seem so busy he can’t even make time to eat? That’s because he’s so preoccupied with moving that sitting still for five minutes, even to munch on a favorite food, may be more than he can manage on many days. Even if he eagerly ate everything from applesauce to garlic chicken when he was a baby, he may suddenly turn up his nose at every morsel you offer. Both behaviors are completely normal.You may think that because his activity level has increased so much he should be eating more, but a child’s growth rate slows dramatically during the second year and that accounts for some loss of appetite.”

Well isn’t that nice to know! My toddler not eating is completely normal! I can stop trying to feed her! Oh wait… So earlier tonight I made a nice Mushroom Bourguigon (courtesy of Smitten Kitchen) and she pretty much only picked at the noodles. I make her delightful things all the time. Julia suggested that the more effort we put in, the less likely they are to eat something, that they can “smell the desperation.” Well, I can’t very well feed her cheerios every day (oh, but we are close). Sure she eats fruit, so I guess I should count myself lucky in that regard, but vegetables, protein? A battle almost every time. It’s not like I get to give up, so where’s the hot tip?

“Experts say it’s a mistake to turn mealtime into a battle. The harder you push your child to eat, the less likely he is to do it. Offer him a choice of two or three nutritious foods at each sitting and let him eat what and how much he wants. (Be sure to offer him healthful snacks between mealtimes, too.) When he starts to throw food off his tray or otherwise play with it, take it as a sign that he’s finished and remove the food. If he refuses to eat anything you put in front of him, wrap it up, put it in the refrigerator, and save it for later (but don’t force him to eat the leftovers if he doesn’t want to).”

This is basically what I already do. A small bowl of two or three different things is set before my darling Pumpkinsauce, each night. Her first step, dump the bowl onto her tray and toss the bowl aside. I believe this is so that she can examine the contents in better isolation. Next, she tries to determine if any fruit is present. If not, she moves to the most nutritionally-devoid content of the assembled foodstuffs, usually the carbohydrate. She tries one or two bites and then begins to deposit samples on the floor (presumably for further study? eliminating the outliers?). If I took this as a sign she was “finished” then all she’d have for dinner each night is equivalent of one noodle.

Our fridge has a number of small containers at any time. I actually had to buy MORE small futzy containers (this is what we call them around my family, the ones that never seem to have lids) since we kept running out of them. After the food has been suitably stored, it’s basically a contest between her mind changing and the mold. The mold is winning, my friends.

I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing, unless any of you have suggestions. Sometimes they are super helpful, but this week, BabyCenter, you got nothin’.