Janet, thank you again so much for answering my questions and for your wonderful articles. We have made huge progress and are so much calmer and happier in just a few days of changes.
Here is my next question: I’m trying to get this right, and observing my baby carefully really does help to figure out what he’s crying about. But I’m unsure how to handle his cries after he trips or loses balance.
The environment he plays in is safe, but I wonder sometimes if he’s crying more out of being scared, or frustrated, than actual pain.
I started doing this… I will go right up to him kneel down and rub his back and say “I’m sorry you fell, can I help you?” I pull out my arms and let him climb up to me. He usually pushes me away and goes on his way, but crying still. On one occasion he climbed up on me and rested a minute then resolved and went on.
I feel awkward; I don’t know what I should be doing. What I used to do before is pick him up, give him some water and show him his favorite book. I now feel like it wasn’t helping him cope or grow from the experience.
I’m not good at listening to crying. I usually know what he wants, that he’s scared or tired, or hungry. I’ve been really good about it, but to hear his displeasure is just not comfortable for me, especially when he’s just frustrated and struggling to learn.
He has been a powerhouse of milestones these past few days, he crawled out of nowhere, learned to sit up from laying down, took his first steps, ran straight to the front door!
It would be great if you can give some scenarios of infants tripping falling and crying, and how it’s handled exactly, what to say and do?
How about just frustration, crying about a toy being too far, and frustration trying to figure out how to get there? My son is so angry that he can’t walk he will literally stand somewhere, hang on with a few fingers and scream that he’s scared to let go, and that I should come and be his walker. So what I’ve been doing is sitting down and saying, “Noah, try to sit on the floor and crawl to it.” His bottom will go up and down a few times while he’s deciding and then he’ll sit and actually crawl to it. I’m not sure if this is right, I don’t know if this is interfering too much? Can I give suggestions how to ease his discomfort?
Like when he’s teething, and frustrated, can I suggest he try to find a toy to use? Can I suggest he look one way or another? Or should I just let him be frustrated and cry and figure out on his own?
I have been doing a combination, but I am really convinced that his frustration has led to major development, and I’m truly amazed. But it’s hard to listen to the displeasure and frustration. Should I even be talking and when should I be talking?
Shana, what you are doing here sounds perfect: “I will go right up to him kneel down and rub his back and say ‘I’m sorry you fell, can I help you?’ I pull out my arms and let him climb up to me.”
You are acknowledging him and giving him the opportunity to let you know what he needs, but also allowing him to have his feelings. Feelings do not always make sense, or even seem appropriate… they are just feelings. And, yes, they can be the hardest things for moms and dads to hear, but it is such a gift to let your boy have his feelings, to cry as he needs to without trying to fix him, distract him, or otherwise take the feelings away.
Pat yourself on the back for allowing him to cry when he needs to, no matter the reason. Calm yourself when he cries and find the patience to let him express his feelings until they pass completely. Support him to have all his feelings. Then he doesn’t have to stuff any of his emotions for therapists to unravel later.
Example: Your baby is taking steps, trips and falls. Wait to see his reaction before doing anything. Often, babies get right up and go on if we don’t react. If he cries, go close to him (no rush), kneel and say calmly, “You tripped on that block and fell. I saw what happened.” Help him understand what occurred. (If you do this he’ll soon start pointing to the ground and going over each incident afterwards. Infants and toddlers take an interest in everything that happens and are eager to learn and understand.) If he keeps crying, reach out and ask if he wants you to hold him. Take your cues from him.
“My son is so angry that he can’t walk he will literally stand somewhere hang on with a few fingers and scream that he’s scared to let go, and that I should come and be his walker. So what I’ve been doing is sitting down, saying, ‘Noah, try to sit on the floor and crawl to it.’”
You are right to not “be his walker” — that only gives him a false sense of balance, creates a dependency and can be dangerous (when he thinks he can do things he can’t). Acknowledge his frustration, but don’t assume his intention. Sometimes we project what we think a child is doing, and we’re wrong.
“I hear you. Were you moving to that toy? Do you feel stuck? Can you get back down yourself? I won’t let you fall.” (All spoken slowly.) Then ‘spot’ him so he doesn’t fall. If he still seems stuck, give a little more instruction… “Try bending your knees. Can you let go of the shelf? I won’t let you fall.” The idea is to let him solve the problems as much as he possibly can. It takes more patience than handing him the toy but has big pay-offs — a child who is tenacious, feels capable and self-confident.
Don’t distract. Ever. We want to encourage children to be attentive, engaged, present. And we want to have a relationship based on honesty and trust.
If he’s teething, offer him not one, but two teethers so he can still be the initiator and choose. “Would you like one of these for your mouth?”
You are so right about frustration leading to development. And imagine how great it is for him to learn from you that frustration is just a part of life — it is not to be feared or fixed. As infant specialist Magda Gerber always said, “If we can learn to struggle, we can learn to live.”