My child is crying and I don't know what to do - help!!
It would be nice if all our days as parents were smooth sailing and sunny skies. The reality is that all babies and children have fussy or weepy days - the Bumpy Days on the parenting road.
The most important thing to do when our children are crying more than usual is to rule out illness. Check their temperature, look for rashes, examine whether or not their activity levels and/or appetites have changed in the last 24 hours. If you think they might be sick, call their care provider as soon as possible. If you do rule out illness, it's time to look at what else you can do to help them get over their weepy mood.
It is easy when we can handle their blues with love and affection and stop the crying immediately. We feel gratified, our children are happy again, and everyone moves on.
Then there are the days when they seem inconsolable. I think some of us get to the point when we find ourselves at our wit’s end. Sometime it’s from fatigue or exasperation, we may be missing the camaraderie of adult conversation; other times it could be the end of a long day.
Although there are a myriad of reasons why taking care of our children may leave us feeling a little short-tempered, it is important to remember that they are people with feelings and need to be treated with respect. Everything we do and say is teaching them how to treat other people. It is important to remember to act from a place of love rather than acting impulsively.
My own experience is that it is easier to be patient with infants and younger children. They are so little and innocent; my exasperation comes more from the tiredness and the newness of having a life dependent on me for all of their needs. On a good day, taking a deep breath and reminding myself that these little ones love us and need us it all it takes.
What about the times when I have already done my deep breathing and need something more? Here are some ideas that I have found helpful to get me through those tough times without losing my temper. I encourage you to go through the list and see what might work for you.
1. Too close or too far? If you are like me and enjoy wearing your child in a carrier or sling, examine if you have been wearing them too long and maybe they want their own space to explore on their tummy or their hands & knees. On the other hand, maybe you have been busy running errands or doing housework. Now they want your attention and need to be close to you. So the answer is: take them off and give them space, or put them on and reassure them that you know they are important.
2. Change your location. If you have been in the same space for over an hour, go to a new location. An infant needs a change in scenery as much as you do. Older children also benefit from a change in space – it may help change their mindset if they have a new place to play or look at books.
3. Take a bath. Water has a way of dissipating tension. You can draw a warm bath for your baby; or if you want to take it a step further, fill your bathtub and get in together. Warm water plus skin-to-skin contact is a great combination for relaxation. You can blow bubbles, play with bath toys, splash around, and if Mommy is in with them you can nurse them – there are lots of ways to have fun and find the joy to finish out the rest of the day.
4. Play music or sing a song. Music has a magical way of spreading joy quickly. You can dance, jump, make up an obstacle course, maybe sing songs and clap along. Older children can do “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, the “Hokey Pokey”, the “Chicken Dance”, the “Bunny Hop” – there are lots of other songs that incorporate movements with the words. If you play an instrument, play music for your child. Whatever you do, have fun and sing and/or dance until you feel better and are ready to face the rest of your day together.
5. Add movement to what you are doing. If music isn’t “your thing”, get physical. Do jumping jacks, run a race, make up an obstacle course, get on a hobbyhorse, turn somersaults, or clap your hands (quiet, loud, high, low, around – there are lots of concepts you can teach with a simple clap). The most important thing is to get silly. If your child isn’t old enough to do these actions with you, they will certainly start laughing at your antics.
6. Play a game or make one up. Peek-a-boo is a great game to play with infants. If this isn’t enough to excite you and get you out of your funk, get out one of your baby’s teaching toys and start showing them how the buttons work. Toddlers can play hide-and-seek, ring around the rosie, pass the ball. If you do an Internet search under “toddler movement games” you will play find plenty of ideas to keep you both happy.
7. Get out the paints and paper. Art is fun anytime of the day and it’s a great way to settle down a child who is wound up. You can use any type of paints – temperas, watercolors, finger paints, or you can also use ink pads with hands or stamps. Focusing outside of themselves has a way of calming and quieting children down. An infant will find the texture of the paint or ink on their hands interesting, and you can stamp their hands on paper and send it off to grandparents with a little note about what they are doing developmentally. Older children can make their own patterns with their hands or with brushes. Complete the quiet mood by playing some soft music and see what kind of art is inspired.
8. Have a “rainy day” activity box. This is one of those last resorts for the days when you are at home. This works well for older toddlers and preschoolers. Keep very special toys and very special books or the super messy activities in a box that only you can reach. You can ask your child to earn the “key” that opens the box by helping you with a chore – they can clean their rooms, put away dishes, help with whatever needs doing around the house that day. Once they have earned the “key”, bring down the box and your children can take turns taking an activity out of the box. Once you are finished with the activity, put it away and store the box back in a safe and mysterious place that only you can find.
9. Get out of the house. If you are home, get everyone in the car. Go for a drive to the library, a park, the mall (if it’s a place you can go without creating more stress) – go anywhere that gets you out of the space you are in. I find that it’s much easier to find patience when I am in the public eye and being fallible, sometimes I need the accountability to make sure I speak kindly to our children.
10. Know when to go home. If you are out and about and find yourself running low on emotional reserves, be wise and kind to yourself and your children – call it a day. There is very little in life that is a true emergency and most things can wait until tomorrow. If you really need something today, call someone to come watch the kiddos, or ask your partner or friend to finish your to-do list for you. It is necessary to acknowledge that our children have even less patience than we do, and if they have behaved long enough for you to get some things done, thank them for their good behavior. Then get home and give everyone a break so that your day ends on a high note.
I hope this gives you some ideas to try out and add to your list of things to do before things get out of hand. When your exasperation comes from a child who is behaving badly, you will need some consistent behaviors that will set boundaries. Disciplining your child is another topic completely and I will write about it some other time. The good news is that when you get good at using these techniques, you are more likely to head off the behavior that needs to be disciplined as your children get older.
In addition, please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section so the rest of us can try them out the next time we need to put some fun in our day!
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It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.