Q&A: hitting

Shannon writes:

"I have a 22 month old son (Henry) and a 7 week old son (Myles). Henryis a sweet, loving boy who loves to cuddle and hug. He has such a huge
heart, but he also hits constantly. It started about 8 months ago, and
he was hitting me and his Daddy, it has slowly progressed to him
hitting everyone. Sometimes its when he doesn't get his way, other
times (mostly with other children) just when he feels like it. He is
excited all day to see his cousin, and then when we get together, he
just walks around beating on her, and then watching her cry. Sometimes
he's hitting me over and over again when he is mad, and I feel like he
can't even control it. When Myles was born, Henry seemed to adjust
wonderfully. Lots of kisses and he always wants to hug his little
brother. But he can be so aggressive and I really have to watch that he
doesn't smother Myles, but as soon as I restrict him in any way, he
immediately starts hitting Myles. Or sometimes he'll just scratch his
face for no reason.
I feel completely lost. I don't know what to do anymore. I feel like I
have tried everything. Stern talking to, time outs, time ins, yelling.
Unfortunately, I have also been aggressive back with him, out of pure
frustration. I am brought to tears almost daily, because he has made
Myles bleed or tormented another child. Sometimes I loose sight of the
fact that he is my baby, that I gave birth to him and he is an innocent
child. I just get so upset and protective of his younger brother.
I feel like speaking with him gently and explaining that he loves Myles
and that he doesn't want to hurt him works to a certain extent. It
prevents further hitting for the time being, but it hasn't been a cure
all, and to be honest, it is so hard to be patient and soft after this
long.

What do I do? Where do I go from here? Nothing has worked, and
everyones advice that he'll grow out of it seems to be totally
inaccurate since we are coming up to almost a year of it. Any advice
would be greatly appreciated."

Henry sounds a lot like my second son. He has extremely intense emotions, and is the most loving child I've ever met. But his emotions are so intense that he has a truly hard time dealing with them, and that results in a lot of hitting (and sometimes biting) and now threatening with words. It's been going on since he was a toddler, and it seems to me as if his aggression just flares up when he feels misunderstood or thwarted and he doesn't know how to make himself feel better about a situation.

The only thing that seems to help is to talk out his feelings with him, to allow him to be angry but to express it verbally instead of physically. When he was littler and not verbal what helped was saying what I guessed he was feeling, about being angry or frustrated. He could nod his head when I hit the right emotions. Now I can say, "How does that make you feel?"

I've also started noticing that when I do a more general debriefing of the day at night and in the morning of what happened that day or the day before and how he felt about it, he seems to do less aggressive acting out. It's almost as if he knows he's being understood and will have his chance to state his emotional case, so he can control the lashing out a little more.

Have you ever felt like the world was on your last nerve? That must be what it's like to be a really intensely emotional child. Anything is going to set you off, and you won't have the emotional space to pull back. So I think trying to make your child feel understood, and taking the focus off the kids he hits and more onto his own emotions just might help. But it seems like a more constant process (of daily check-ins) than just stopping it at the time.

I'm going to try it out even more over the next few weeks, and if any of you with intense kids who are physically acting out would volunteer to try it out, too, we could see if it's a plan that helps. Because that feeling of not knowing how to stop your child (who you KNOW is loving) from hurting other kids is horrible.

Any comments?

Q&A: eyeteeth support group?

Corinne writes:

"For the last 2.5 weeks my son has been a complete and utternightmare!  Eye teeth.  Are they worse than other teeth?  Worse than
all other teeth combined and then with an extra shot of ugly screaming
and misery?  My darling cheerful 15 month old little boy has gone from
sleeping through on his own in his crib to wailing in the night until
we cave and bring him to bed with us.  Half the time he still won't go
back to sleep.  We're averaging 2 hours of awake time in the middle of
the night, in our bed or fighting to get him back to sleep in his crib
(which always fails in the end).

I don't know what I'm looking for – mostly I guess to hear that
other people have gone through the same thing with their kids and come
out the other side with their sanity in tow.  Are eye teeth really that
miserable?  Can they really take this long to come in?  Or is it not
teeth at all, and instead he has learned the art of mid-night
manipulation?  Are we destined to share our bed with him now until he's
in high school, or will this be easy to correct once the phase has
passed?  Does anyone have any survival tips (besides cold wash cloths –
I don't think I can survive another cold wash cloth suggestion… akin
to fighting an inferno with a water gun…)"

Ah, yes. The "cold wash cloth" suggestion. Much like the Anbesol suggestion, or the Tylenol suggestion, or any other teething suggestion that just doesn't understand that for some kids teething is a full-body experience.

I found the molars far worse than the eyeteeth for both of my kids, but the eyeteeth were still pretty horrible. And no matter how strong his urge for manipulation is, no one would deliberately deprive oneself of that much sleep. So it's got to be the teething, or some other physical cause, but I'm going with the "when you hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras" principle and going with your suspicion of teething.

You're in an extreme situation here (or X-treme, if you prefer), and therefore your plan should go back to By Any Means Necessary. Obviously the sleep deprivation is making it worse for everyone, so anything you can do to get you all some sleep is fair game. If he slept in his bed by himself before this happened, he'll go back to it when he's done, although it may take some coaxing. (And if he doesn't stop teething until he's in the middle of the 18-month sleep regression, you'll have to weather that first, probably.)

But those teeth will eventually come in. He will sleep again. And you will sleep again, too. I just can't guesstimate when. It's too bad there isn't some vitamin we could give them to make the teeth come out sooner, but this is just one of those situations in which you can witness and try to comfort, but you can't do it for them.

Does anyone else have tales of the eyeteeth? Or other difficult teething situations?

Q&A: early walking affecting sleep regressions?

Elizabeth writes:

“My almost 8 month old started to crawl on mothers day, a nice day for
your first born to do something truly amazing!  He then started to
pull himself up like 5 hours later, truly!  I turned around and he was
in the middle of the floor hands and feet on the floor butt in the
air.  I think we’ll have an early walker… anyway he has been
teething for over 3 months, so we have been cosleeping since he was
4.5 months old and I feel like its time he learns to fall asleep on
his own.  He wakes up at the 45 minute mark for almost every nap, I go
in and nurse then back down for another 45- usually if I miss the
window and he wakes completely then he is up after only 45 minutes.
This is the main reason I want to do some sleep training, I plan on
doing [author’s name removed because all the sleep training methods are so similar anyway]’s technique.
Of late we have had more night wakings, practicing his crawling, teeth
pain ect…

Okay here is my question for real, if they have met some of the
developmental milestones early do we then have the sleep regression
early?  Or am I in for another sleep regression in a month?”

In general, if your child shows symptoms of sleep regressions (not all kids do) they are independent of everything else because they’re symptoms of developmental leaps. The developmental leaps are followed in the book The Wonder Weeks and seem to happen at the same time according to gestatiponal age, so kids who were born early go through them later, and kids who are born late go through them earlier.

So your son will go through his sleep regressions based on developmental stages. All the other stuff (teething, early movement, etc.) disrupts sleep, but isn’t technically a “regression” because it’s all about the teething or movement or whatever.

Good luck with the training–if your child is in the middle of all this movement or teething or regressions it may not be as successful as you want it to be. As long as you’re prepared for the fact that it’s not a guaranteed success, you should be able to make it through sensibly without traumatizing either one of you.

Did any parents of early movers feel like it affected regressions? Or just made for longer sleep disruptions?

The horror

There was a lot of projectile vomit in my life from about 8:30 pm to 3 am last night. So nothing I was going to do last night got done. And I have no idea what’s up in current events. And I have a lot of laundry to do. But at least the 4-year-old’s feeling better this morning.

Q&A: 2.5 year old screaming in the bath

Jessica writes:

"Several weeks ago, my 2.5-year-old son decided he wanted to try wearing underwear. He did it for a week, many accidents ensued, and by Thursday, he started holding his poop because he was afraid to have an accident. He held it all day, and finally, during his bath that evening, he couldn't hold it any longer. It wasn't the first time ever that he'd pooped in the bath, but it had been at least a year and he surely didn't remember ever doing it before. I tried to react in a
nonthreatening way. I got a little bit "OMG POOP" on him and told him he had to get out of the bath right away. Then I calmed myself so I could keep him calm, told him it was okay and that I'd clean it up after he was in bed. So we did the bedtime routine, got him in bed, and I cleaned it up. I thought that was it. It was the end of potty-trying for now, though. He's happily back in diapers. Which is fine.

But my question is not about potty training.

Ever since the poop-in-bath incident, N has hated his baths. I can't decide if it's directly related (i.e., he's afraid he's going to poop in the bath again) or if he's hit that developmental spurt and
suddenly has a bunch of irrational fears, and one of them happens to relate to bath-taking. (For history's sake, he's always had fun in the bath, spent 20 minutes or longer, and rarely initiated getting out.) Now, he's perfectly cheerful until we get into his room and start taking his clothes off, at which point he starts whimpering. By the time we get to the bathroom, he's saying he doesn't want to take a bath, and when his butt hits the water (if we can convince him to sit
down), he starts shrieking and screaming that he wants to get out.

He used to just hate the hair-washing but would calm down and play once we were done. Now, it's full-on screaming from start to finish. Doesn't want to play, doesn't want to color with his bath crayons, doesn't want to sing or read a book. Just "I want to get out!!!!" at the top of his lungs, shrieking and screaming and sobbing.

I've tried asking him what's upsetting him, but I don't think he knows, or he doesn't understand how to answer the question. He's extremely verbal, but he's still only 2 and a half, and I think
cognitively, he's just not up to answering "why" questions yet. If I make suggestions, he just agrees with me. ("Is the water too hot?" "Yeah." – The water was lukewarm at best. "Are you scared?" "Yeah." "What are you scared of?" "I don't know." "Are you scared that a green monster is going to come out of the drain?" "Yeah." – Well, obviously not because I just made that one up myself.) Last night I tried asking if he was "sad or scared." He said he was scared. I asked if he was scared of the water. No. The soap? No. The drain? Yes. I have no idea what's going on in his head. I tried explaining that the drain is too small for him or his toys, that only the water and the dirt would go
down. But I'm not really convinced that the drain is the problem, either.

I would try doing the bath somewhere else, but we only have the one bathtub and he's TERRIFIED of the shower – always has been, wants nothing to do with it. I suggested that maybe tonight we would try sitting at the other end of the tub, away from the drain, but somehow I don't think that's going to help.

So, how do I help him get over whatever it is that he's so upset about in the bath so we can have fun, peaceful bedtime baths again?"

And this, my friends, is why we need my mom to open the Toddler Boarding School. Because then it would be her problem and not ours.

There definitely seems to be some bath avoidance at 2.5. It's all part of the 2.5 phase. Remember the whole Ames & Ilg theory of equilibrium and disequilibrium at 6-month cycles? Usually equilibrium hits around the year mark and disequilibrium at the half-year mark (of course your child may vary), so 2.5 is a hornet's nest of all kinds of stuff going on developmentally and physically, and bath avoidance is one of those things. It could be exacerbated by the poop incident, too, which means it might be a more visceral reaction than just the normal fear.

You've hit the nail on the head with your assessment of why you can't just ask your son what he's afraid of. At this age they're not really reliable narrators, and are easily led. If only there was a way to ask a 2.5-year-old "WTF?" (in a nice way, of course) and get an actual answer, but there isn't. So you kind of have to let go the dream of understanding why it's happening and just try to get through it.

First, I'd assess whether or not he actually needs a bath every night, and if he doesn't, don't give one. That'll cut the stress at least a little.

Personally, in your situation, I would resort to my most lazy self and just try to bribe him to get the bath done. Cookies, hot fudge, Thomas DVD on endless repeat, whatever it took to get his necessary parts washed.

If you're not down with bribery, I think you and your husband are just going to have to shoot rock-paper-scissors for which one of you takes the hit and has to give the screaming bath on any given night until this phase ends or he forgets about the poop drama.

Does anyone else have anything for this phase other than bribery or grin-and-bear-it? It doesn't last forever, but it's so troublesome while it lasts.

Q&A: no, really, the swine flu

Sorry for getting this up late. I had it mostly written but then got distracted writing a song for next year's American Idol. If anyone can come up with a rhyme for "made it through the storm," I'll give you cowriter credit and 5% of the royalties.

We talked about the swine flu (or H1N1 or whatever the actual name is) a few weeks ago, and I kind of thought the fear was going to die down. But over the past few days I've gotten a couple of emails that basically said, "Aren't you terrified, living in NYC?" or "I was chill before, but there's one case in my town now and I'm finding that I'm lying awake at night worrying about it."

The short answer is, yes I'm terrified living in NYC. But not of the swine flu. There's so much else for me to be scared of, from being run over by a taxi to not being able to pay my rent to having a child get sick from possible mold in the walls of my crumbling apartment to having the tsunami we're due for hit to another terrorist attack to having the entire infrastructure collapse because of the recession and having riots in the streets to never finding the love of my life and living in noble loneliness for the rest of my days. Honestly, swine flu seems pretty tame in comparison.

(Hey, after I wrote that paragraph, they announced on the news that the first public elementary school in Manhattan is being closed today. Maybe this is going to be more extensive than I thought?)

OTOH, I don't blame anyone who's scared of it. Especially if you live in a place in which you have what I'd consider the "normal" set of worries. (Meaning not terrorism and taxis and other anomalous events.) It could stay at the level it's at, or something really weird could happen and it could get far more dangerous.

It's the unpredictability of it that makes it scary. If you knew what the path was going to be, or how serious it was going to be, you could stop worrying so much. If we knew H1N1 was going to be less lethal than the regular flu (100 deaths a day!) we could all just ride it out. But we don't know.

As a parent, it's your job to worry. We're hard-wired for it. Not worrying meant a dingo would have stolen your baby. And not worrying now means any number of things could happen to your child. The trick is to try to keep it in perspective so you don't become consumed with it. (If you find that you're having repetitive thoughts that are serious and make you feel out of control, tell your doctor immediately. If you find you're having repetitive thoughts that are annoying you but don't feel like a crisis, up your magnesium supplementation, because lack of magnesium causes anxiety and that repetitive thought/insomnia loop.)

So take the precautions you should take (wash your hands; eat, sleep, and exercise well; call your doctor if you develop flu symptoms). And then just do the best you can do to stay relaxed but alert.

Thoughts?

(I was at the burrito store the other day waiting for my order, and readin one of the Spanish-language newspapers (and I didn't bother to note
which one, which is unfortunate because I can't find the article again
online to cite) that in Mexico City, 98% of the relatives of those who
died from H1N1–the people who had been living closely with them during
the incubation period–did NOT develop any symptoms of flu. Which I
thought was really strange. And makes me wonder even more what's going
to happen with this disease.)

Q&A: “forced” potty training

Jenny writes:

"My son just turned 2last week.  He goes to daycare 3 days a week, which he seems to enjoy (not
as much as time with Mommy, but Mommy's got help bring home the bacon).  He
is transitioning from the "Toddler I" class to "Toddler II."  He spends
half his day in the first class, then half his day in the second.  In a
couple weeks, he'll be in the 2nd class all day.  My problem is with the
way they handle potty training in the second class.  They make the effort
to help each kid sit on the little potty a few times a day.  They say they
are just trying to get the kids used to the idea of the potty, learn what their
body does, learn what the toilet does, etc.  They still leave a diaper on
them all day, though.  While that all sounds fine and dandy, I have no
intention of trying to get my son potty trained in the next few months.  I
feel like I'm supposed to be reinforcing this behavior at home, but I just don't
want to do it yet.  He's not showing any of the signs that he's interested
or ready, and from what I hear about boys, if you start when they're 2, it's
going to take you until they're 3-ish anyway.  (I know, all kids are
different, but I just know he's not ready yet, and I have no desire to worry
about this for a really long time unnecessarily.)

Is it ok to just let
the day care people do what they're going to do, and ignore it at home for a
while?  I don't want him getting confused, but I also don't want to force
the issue when he's not interested yet.

Thanks!  I hope
to get a little insight from you and other Moxie readers!"

Mmmmm….bacon. Have you all tried my Bacon-Brown Sugar Coffeecake recipe?

Anyway.

I think that as long as they're not forcing the kids or putting any pressure on them, it's fine. They probably do all kinds of stuff with the kids that you don't do at home, and he's learned that school has one set of rules and expectations and that home has another set.

Also, and I know you didn't ask this because you already know it, but it's totally fine for you not to hop on the potty-training wagon on someone else's schedule. You know your kid and what he's ready for. It's possible that he will end up trained from what they're doing in school, but probably not. (If he does, my bet is that it will be the influence of peer pressure, not the sitting-on-the-potty stuff itself.)

But the bottom line is that I don't think he'll get confused, any more than he gets confused by the difference in his routine during the week and on weekends. So just nod and smile about all of it, and do what you're going to do anyway.

Has anyone else ignored potty training at home while a child was going through the motions at school? How did it go?

Q&A: oversupply causing strange feeding schedule

Normally I don’t diagnose a lot of breastfeeding issues because I feel like that’s something that’s tricky and also a little dicey to do when you’re not in the same room as the persona with the problem. Plus, I’m not trained in breastfeeding issues. But I got an email from Angel, who has a 5-week-old, and in her very long email she was convinced that she was somehow overstimulating her baby and making him nervous. As I read the email, it hit me that all the symptoms she was listing were classic symptoms of oversupply. I’m not going to publish the email because it was long and kind of made my heart hurt that she was blaming herself for creating a neurosis in her infant, when it was just a physical issue and easily resolved.

Instead, here are the symptoms Angel listed:

* nurses ravenously
* but for only about 10 minutes, and then he falls asleep
* eats every hour and is crying and starving if she tries to make him wait (and it was all day long, not just in the evening or late afternoon, which is classic cluster feeding and is comnpletely normal)
* he’d gained a lot of weight very quickly
* she also described a kind of “heh-heh” noise he was making that sounded like a “nervous tic” to her

All this sounded waaaay too familiar to me from my first son. Some of you may recall that he was 9.5 pounds at birth, so I just thought it was normal that a big baby would eat so often, so fast, and fall asleep in the middle of a feed. Then, I was hanging out at a breastfeeding support group (just to get out of the house and see some other human beings who wouldn’t judge me for being in maternity pants and not having any makeup on), and the lactaction consultant heard these little “heh-heh” baby goat-like noises he was making and diagnosed me with oversupply.

Apparently, when you produce a lot of milk, the baby gets the watery foremilk first, which is high in milk sugars. So the baby falls asleep while nursing from a food coma (the same reason we all fall asleep after a big meal), but it’s not fatty hindmilk so it runs through their stomach quickly and they need to eat again in an hour.

In the meantime, all the milk sugars make them grow really quickly.

The solution is to do “block nursing,” which means you pick a block of time, say from noon to 2, and every time you nurse during that block you nurse on the same side only. Then for the next block, nurse on the other side, no matter how many times you nurse.

Within a few days you supply will match up with your baby’s needs better, and the baby will get the right ratio of watery foremilk to fatty hindmilk.

Sure enough, Angel got back to me a few days later that he was going 3 hours between feedings and wasn’t making the “heh-heh” noise anymore.

For most of us who have it, oversupply isn’tr such a big problem that we’d even realize anything was wrong. But your quality of life changes radically when your baby can go longer than 60 minutes between feeds!

Also, I wanted to put this out there as yet another example of how many things with babies are NOT YOUR FAULT, and that you’re doing a great job.

Readers? Tales of oversupply or any other little odd things you thought you were doing wrong but were really just flukes or the way you or your child was built?

Q&A: fear of baby preferring dad over mom

Gah! Technology problems!

Anonymous writes:

"I am the mom of an 8-month old boy. I work full-time, and my husband ismostly a stay-at-home dad. Our situation is pretty great, although I
wish I worked 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5, but that's life, right?
The thing that has come up since I returned to work though is that I've
become surprisingly insecure about whether my son is more attached to
his dad than to me. I hate feeling this insecure and emotionally needy
with my own child and it isn't good for any of us, but I can't help
feeling really afraid that he will be way more into daddy than me. I
know toddlers often go through phases of strongly preferring one parent
over the other, and I'm worried that it's going to be his dad and I
will have a really hard time not taking that personally. I would love
to hear from working moms with stay-at-home husbands who either (a)
feel that their child is very strongly attached to them and can
reassure me a little, or (b) have been through their kid being more
attached to dad but got through it okay. If I'm really honest with
myself, I want more of the reassurance that our situation can still
lead to a very close mother-son bond, but I would like to hear both
perspectives."

I know you know you can have a close relationship with your son. You know he loves you, that he knows you're his mom, and that he's always going to know that.

I know you know plenty of families that have SAH moms and WOH dads in which the kids are very close to their dads.

So it's not about whether you can form a close relationship. It's about your fear of how you're going to handle the different emotional stages your baby goes through if you're not there all day long with him. This is an issue not about your son and his bond with you or your partner, but about your conflict with not being at home with him more.

So that's what you have to work on. Because the readers and I can give you hundreds of data points proving that it's possible (even easy!) to have a great relationship with your kids while working fulltime (and think about all those adults who talk about how close they are to mothers who worked three jobs to feed them and were hardly ever home, so it's clearly not just about facetime), but until you come to terms with how much you're home and how much you're not, you're not going to be able to accept it in your heart.

It makes me hurt for you that this is turning into such an anxiety point for you. I feel like I was lucky when I went back fulltime–it was the only way I could get a divorce, so I knew I had no choice (since divorce was the only way for me to get my kids out of the middle of our toxicity). It doens't sound like you have come to terms with it, though. Is it possible that you feel like there's something different that you could be doing? If there is, you might want to explore whether that's a possibility so you know you've maximized your options.

I don't think it hurts most kids to be apart from their parents all day while their parents are at work. I do think it hurts some parents, though. So you owe it to yourself to figure out a way to be OK (or as OK as you can be) with your home/not home ratio or else there's always going to be some worry point for you.

Any advice or sympathy for Anon? Any reassurance that her son will have a good relationship with her? And ideas for helping make WOH easier on her emotionally?

The future of the world

I’m in an auditorium right now waiting for 10 middle schoolers to face off against each other playing math video games. Their classes have come to cheer them on, and the place is pandemonium. For math, people.As long as the swine flu doesn’t get us, I think we’ll be OK.
Q&A up this afternoon.