Friday, April 23, 2010

Separation anxiety

As a dog trainer, I often have to help pet parents with dogs suffering from separation anxiety of varying degrees of intensity. However, when it comes to the Baby Beast, I'm at something of a loss.

I know it's normal for a baby to have no desire to be separated from it's mother. In fact, I'd worry about a baby who didn't mind Mommy leaving it behind; that's not evolutionarily sound! If babies didn't get upset about Mommy leaving, the likelihood of them dying is increased. Babies who can watch Mommy walk away without raising a fuss might be forgotten and left behind, and babies left behind are at risk of predation and death.

Of course, in our modern world, it's not terribly likely that a tiger is going to eat the Baby Beast if I leave him behind with the Husbeast or his loving Grandma while I go to work or out to a non-baby-friendly appointment somewhere. But that doesn't change his reaction.

Since I am so able to help others with dogs suffering separation anxiety, it never occurred to me that I might have to figure out how to struggle through separation anxiety in my own home. Of course, I didn't take into account the fact that I'd have a non-canine individual dependent on me.

So, I'm in uncharted waters. How to best comfort the Baby Beast without creating a needy, clinging, totally dependent child with no self-confidence? The timing of author Elizabeth Pantley's newest book just couldn't be better.

I first met Mrs. Pantley through The No-Cry Sleep Solution when I was having issues with getting - and keeping - the Baby Beast into the Land of Sleep. That problem resolved with some of the tactics presented in TNCSS, but then a new issue cropped up: nap-time wakings, after only a tiny bit of sleep.

I wandered through TNCSS several times trying to figure out how to apply these things to the naps, and around that time, stumbled across a forum posting about Pantley's The No-Cry Nap Solution.I read this, applied a few reimagined tips, and voila! He was napping like a baby (Beast).

So when I heard about Mrs. Pantley's newest book, The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution, I knew what would be next on my to-read list.

I love Mrs. Pantley's matter-of-fact way of approaching sleep problems, and I'm sure I'll love her separation anxiety solutions. If you're interested in Mrs. Pantley's other books (and there are scads), check out her Web site:

As with everything I recommend, I want to emphasize that you read it and find what works for you. Find something in it that resonates with you. Not everything in every book works for everyone. For example, in the sleep books, Mrs. Pantley recommends doing some modified cry-it-out techniques, something I would never do with my children... so I don't do it. I use the other gems of advice in the books to work for our family.

So, hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on the book soon, and no longer have to look at a pitifully crying, hands-reaching-towards-me-in-a-"Don't-leave-me!" gesture baby when I'm heading out the door... even if it is an evolutionarily wise choice for him to not want me to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Toddling towards a better way of disciplining

Now that the Baby Beast is officially a toddler (even though he's only 12 months old; he walks - and sometimes runs - every where, so he's toddling), I find that there are days when I find it ridiculously hard not to fall into typical human behavior: hitting.

Hitting one another is a human thing, so much so that we've tried to take a Bible verse (Proverbs, literally "a proverbial saying;" more on that in a moment) about shepherding/guiding sheep and turn it into a justification for laying a violent hand on our children.

Now, before someone jumps on me for misinterpreting the Biblical verse, take a moment to read through all the English versions of the verse (and if you speak another language, read them, too): Proverbs 13:24

In all these verses, I see nothing about "punishing" or "punishment." I see "chasten" and I see "discipline." Let's compare the three words:

Chasten: To restrain; subdue.
Discipline: to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
Punish: to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault.

Now, of those three, which one sounds most inclined towards raising a hand (whether in anger or disappointment) against someone too small to protect themselves?

Many people say that the "rod" is in reference to the shepherd's rod or crook, the stick used to guide sheep. And while that rod is often used roughly (to hook around a wandering sheep's neck and jerk him back into place, for example), it is never used to beat a sheep into submission (unless the shepherd in question has some serious problems).

But all of this is simply coming from a proverbial saying. It would be like taking as instruction, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." And while this is good advice to keep in mind, it does not literally mean you should walk around with a bird held in your hand.

All of this simply to say: I am choosing a gentler form of discipline. Children learn behavior from adults. How hypocritical is it to tell your child, "Don't hit!" and then swat them (whether on the tush, the hand, the arm, the shoulder... whatever body part you choose, it is still hitting).

And lest we forget:

Hit: to deal a blow or stroke to.

Sounds like a spanking to me.

There are boundless books dealing with non-violent discipline for children, and I am currently reading them as fast as I can. Because I find myself often getting frustrated with the Baby Beast for being a normal toddler and getting into everything, and wanting to do things his own way, and wanting to explore. Here are the ones I recommend:

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen

I have read or am reading those. Books that I have on my list of To Read include:

The Natural Child by Jan Hunt

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp

I hope that some of these will be useful to you; they certainly have been for me.

You may ask how gentle discipline fits in with natural parenting, since humans have almost certainly been smacking each other since the days when they were pre-humans who looked more like apes than modern man. What is more natural than respecting another human being as a human being? After all, while the Baby Beast is my baby, he is also another person who will someday be making his own life choices. Do I want him to have a firmly rooted base in using violence to end disputes, or would I rather him be able to reason through things and talk about problems? To me, that's a no brainer.

And all that is besides the perk of having a happy, secure toddler.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Memories of a first birthday

On April 1st, my little April Fool turned a year old. To celebrate that, we went out to lunch at our favorite Thai place (which the Baby Beast loves - the spring rolls fit perfectly in his little hands).

Once we were full, we headed out to the Oklahoma City Zoo (a long enough drive that the birthday boy was able to get in a nap). Both the Husbeast and I love the Zoo (especially since they're continually upgrading the habitats to be better for the animals) and the Baby Beast seemed to enjoy it, as well.

Spring was in full bloom at the Zoo, and while it was windy (and Oklahoma norm), it was also 80-something degrees, making it perfect Zoo weather.

The baby and I spent at least fifteen minutes sitting beside an artificial stream in the Children's Zoo, playing with rocks and resting our feet in the cool, chlorine-scented water.

He could've happily spent the entire day there, I think, and had it not been such a popular spot with the other children, I would've let him. Unfortunately, older kids wanted to splash and throw the river rocks, and it just didn't seem like a safe place for a 12-month-old to stay for long. So we bid adieu to the wonderful little stream and headed back out into the Zoo proper.

We met a few of the touchable Zoo denizens (even if the most the Baby Beast could ever manage was to point).

By the end of the day, the Baby Beast was more than ready to head home... and, of course, fell asleep during the drive again.

I made a raw cake for him, since I'm still not comfortable giving him cow's milk in any amounts, and eggs and wheat only in small amounts. The Un-Chocolate Mousse Cake was delicious, and looked as good as any homebaked cake I've seen.

And the little man definitely enjoyed his serving of cake.

All things considered, a wonderful first birthday. Here's to the little guy who came into our life a cuddling lump and has now become a toddling whirlwind. I can't wait to see what other changes he'll go through in his life.