Q&A: almost 3 years old

Ellen writes:

"I have a 2 year and 10 month old son and he is very independent andwants to do or have whatever he wants. everything ends up in either
crying for 30 minutes or screaming till he gets it. he does not want to
go to bed to sleep at night and he says no we have to stay downstairs
and play. he used to like going out to places and play but now every
time we ask him do you want to go out to even places he likes and he
says no I want to stay home.he does not want to learn to potty and he
says do not put pull ups on me. he does not let me change his pull ups
either. My husband and I are frustrated and need help."

Oh, yeah. That all sounds veeeery familiar (but through the lens of time not as distrubing as it actually was when it was happening). I remember that stage well.

I also remember thinking I was doing something wrong, or that there was something wrong with my son. Then I ended up buying the Ames & Ilg book about 3-year-olds, Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy. The name pretty much says it all, no?

(I’ve talked about the Ames & Ilg books before. They were written in the ’70s by researchers at the Gesell Institute of Human Development, and they go into all sorts of little details of children’s behavior at each age. Lots of what they say is totally anachronistic–the assumption that all mothers are at home with their kids all day, for example–but the descriptions of child behavior is dead on. I definitely recommend them as references to let you know that your kid is normal, but don’t expect to get much current evidence-based advice about what you should do about your kid’s I-though-it-was-strange-but-it-turns-out-to-be-totally-normal behavior.)

The thing that truly freaked me out about that age was that my son suddenly didn’t want to go outside anymore. He really would have stayed inside our small apartment for months at a time if I’d have let him. It made no sense, and I thought somehow he’d gotten agoraphobia until I read that this was a feature of the age (and here I thought it was a bug).

As for the screaming, would you like to guess what Ames & Ilg say to do? Have the child spend as much time with a babysitter as possible. (Because often kids that age cooperate with people they can tell aren’t as invested in getting them to do something.)

Reading that made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Then I laughed again. Partly because it wasn’t practical, partly because it just seemed so Mother’s Little Helper, and partly because it made me realize that it wasn’t me and it wasn’t my kid. Apparently many of them are just unbearable sometimes at this age.

What I ended up doing was sitting down and figuring out what were the exact rules I cared about (bedtime–yes, what he ate for supper–no, etc.) and standing absolutely firm on what I cared about, and allowing everything else from the get-go. That meant I never said "no" and then changed it to a yes. It was either always no, or OK as soon as he asked. After many arduous weeks, he finally started to get that the crying wouldn’t get him what he wanted. And it was either that or just the passage of time that eased the situation for us.

So I’d say to pick your battles (probably you’ll enforce bedtime and insist on changing his diaper, but give in on going outside all the time) and just know that it’s a phase. If you can give him enough choices to feel like he has some control over his life it might be easier, or it might not.

Anyone have any amazing tricks for that age? Please share.

Q&A: 5-year-old with excess gas

It’s a scatalogical kind of Monday.

Rachel writes:

"My daughter will be 5 in about two weeks.  She has been
complaining on and off about a "stomachache" that seems to come and go
randomly.  It never seems severe and to be quite honest, I’m not sure
its not a ploy for extra attention, as it never hinders her
activities.  However, she has been VERY gassy and "poots" ALL the
time.  At the dinner table, outside playing, sitting watching TV…you
name it, she poots!  She, of course, thinks it funny.  I, on the other
hand, am wondering if perhaps she has an intolerance to something in
her diet.  Any ideas? 

ps…She was on soy formula as a baby, as she didn’t tolerate the
milk based formula.  I haven’t noticed any problems since then…until

It does sound a lot like she’s having a problem with something she’s eating. I think I’d start eliminating with the usual suspects: dairy, wheat, soy, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). I’d also cut out all the fake sugars if she’s eating any–I know a couple of adults who’ve told me that aspartame or Splenda make them gassy. (It wasn’t like they just up and told me out of the blue–we were talking about kids and digestive stuff, and it came up. I mean, people tell me stuff, but not that much stuff.)

You should probably start a diary of what she eats, and also when she complains about the stomachaches, and record any really excessive periods of gas, too. I’m betting that after a week or so you’ll figure out a pattern. Don’t forget to keep track of the stuff she eats when she’s not with you (at school or a babysitter’s or a relative’s house).

Hmm. I’m trying to think of something mildly funny to say about this problem, but can’t really come up with anything, because 5-year-old farts are really smelly and gross.

I can’t imagine what any of you would need to share about this, but I’m sure there’s something you’re dying to say on the topic, so let loose.

Q&A: milk drying up on one side

Theresa writes:

"I am a mom to a 8
month old and just wondering if it is possible for one side to "dry up" and have
the other side still function well for breastfeeding.  I have always had
more milk in one side but now the other side is hardly producing anything at
all. It can take almost 12 hours for me to just get an ounce or so out of that
side.  Is this normal?  possible??"

One of life’s rules: You’re probably not an outlier, so if it’s happening to you, it’s definitely possible (and probably normal).

Yes. Sometimes one side will just dry up. Sometimes there’s a reason for it (mastitis, repeated plugged ducts, or something else physical like that). Sometimes the baby just shows a strong preference for one side from the beginning so eventually the other side will dry up from lack of stimulation.

Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it.

And, yes, you can continue to breastfeed on the other side. That breast should produce what your son needs. (If one mother can nurse twins with two breasts, then you can nurse one baby with one breast.) Your breasts will probably be lopsided while you continue to nurse, but should go back to being mostly even after you wean.

So it sounds to me like you have two options: Keep pumping away at the dry side to see if you can keep up any production, or just stop worrying about that side and keep nursing on the other one. I know which one I’d choose (cough-lazy-cough), but it’s clearly up to you.

(Also bear in mind that you’re about to hit that 10-month mark in which many many women are suddenly and mysteriously unable to pump much even if they still have plenty of milk while they’re actually nursing. So your time with the pump may be limited anyway.)

Stories of one-boobed nursers for Theresa?

Q&A: gropey baby

S writes:

"My son is 18 months old and was weaned at 14 months. My problem is thatwhenever he sits in my lap he tries to play with my breasts. Also, when
he drinks milk, he likes to sit in my (or my husband’s or babysitter’s)
lap and relax by touching on my breasts or sticking his arm down my
shirt and just resting it there. I guess this started back when he was
nursing and would touch one breast while nursing from the other. I
don’t mind when he rests his head or hand on them to rest, but he
actually has to fluff them like pillows before he does so. This
behavior makes me very uncomfortable and I don’t know how to get him to
stop. Any advice?"

Oh, this question made me laugh out loud. File it under "It’s funny because it’s true." I remember sitting around at playgroup when my older son was this age, talking about how supremely annoying the groping was. It’s just so undignified. One of my friends who adopted her daughter as a 9-month-old used to say, "I never even nursed her! Why is she so into my breasts?!"

I think they do it because a) they’re there, and b) breasts are fun and comforting. If they weren’t, no one would go to Hooters. Or put carvings of women on the prows of ships.

It doesn’t really matter why they do it, though, when you’re trying to get them to stop. Probably your best bet is to redirect his attention or distract him with something else. Maybe he wants a nice strand of Mardi Gras beads (just to go along with the showing your breasts theme) to hang onto while he nurses. Or a soft stuffed animal, or set of keys to jangle, or something like that. Anything else he’ll hold onto that isn’t you is going to make things easier for you.

Would anyone else like to commiserate or reminisce about the groping thing?

Q&A: Enough crying already!

Blake writes:

"Please help I don’t know what to do.  I am a stay at
home mom (engineer) of a 20 month old and a 3 year old.  My 20 month old seems
to cry all the time instead of using his words to get what he wants.  He does
not have a great vocabulary yet but knows a lot of words (juice, snack, bath, night
night, more, etc).  I am so sick of the crying and I have tried time out for unnecessary
crying and it works for the moment but then he just cries the next time.  I
feel like it is frustration but I don’t know how to make him stop every
time he wants something.  He throws fits, hits and kicks and I ignore him or
put him in time out.  I don’t know how to make this stop.  Can you help
me please?"

Hey! My younger one is turning 2 next week, and this was our house 4 months ago.

I actually think this is pretty common for a younger child (I’m talking birth order, not chronological age). They seem not to be as verbal as early as the older children. Everyone says that it’s because the older child talks for them or gets them whatever they need, but I think that’s only part of it. Another part is that I think lots of us, despite our best intentions, just hand the second child whatever they want just to make things go more smoothly because we’re trapped between the demands of the older child and the demands of the younger child. (I’m raising my hand.) So the child gets rewarded for crying. Which in turn makes us nuts, and we just want the crying to end. It turns into one big crazy-making cycle.

Of course we know that the answer is just to be firm about not responding to crying, encouraging use of words, blah blah freaking blah. Who has the energy or time for that with the second child? The fact of the matter is that in a few months he’ll be able to talk more and will discover the joys of having his requests met cheerfully and more rapidly. The free market will regulate itself and he’ll do a little more talking and a little less crying every day, until one day you’ll suddenly realize that he hasn’t cried, not even a crocodile tear, for a whole 30-minute period.

And then he’ll turn 3, and it’ll all go down the tubes again temporarily.

One thing that helped us a lot here was for me to verbalize for him what his negative feelings were. "You’re so angry! You wanted that truck but it belongs to your brother and he’s playing with it. You want to scream and hit someone! You just feel angry and sad and frustrated all at the same time."  Having his feelings expressed for him seemed to be all he needed, and then he could calm down. (If it works for you, you can thank my therapist, who pointed out that a lot of the recurring anger and tantrums were probably because he wasn’t feeling understood, and suggested the verbalizing technique.)

In other news, I think the time-out is highly ineffective for a
20-month-old, but it is probably extraordinarily effective for you. So
when you just can’t take it, instead of putting him in a time-out, put yourself in one with a magazine and a beverage of your choice for 5 minutes. Then you’ll be able to return to the scene of the donnybrook with a little more strength and calm than when you left.

Courage. This stage won’t last much longer. You’re doing a great job.

Follow-up from Annie

Remember Annie’s creepy "birth mother" comment from her son’s caregiver at daycare? She sent me an update on the situation:

"I confronted the caregiver and she claimed
that she never said anything like that.  It was a difficult situation- I
didn’t want to accuse her of lying but I know what I heard.  I approached
the conversation from the stand point of- "well, here is how I feel
because this is what I thought you said."  I also told her that when
I was visiting my son she didn’t need to spend a lot of time and attention on
him.  Prior to talking to this caregiver I spoke with the second caregiver
in the room and asked if she had seen anything alarming or heard anything
strange.  She understood why I would be upset but said she didn’t see or
hear anything that would set off any red flags.  Since my conversation
with the caregiver she is not as friendly with me and is often short in her
responses, I haven’t seen any additional alarming behavior though.  We’ve
been so very happy about the care our son has received- and really have had no
complaints- aside from this major one. This incident has definitely been disappointing-
as all of you know- child care is a very complicated and difficult entity- the
guilt can be over whelming, but knowing that your child is well taken care of
and happy at the establishment certainly makes things easier to deal
with.  Because of our experience with this place we have decided to
continue with care here.  Happily my son is moving into a new room starting
at the end of May. 

Thank you so much for all your comments
and words of advise- I will definitely post again to this site- I appreciate
the support that I received!"