When my son was a baby, I still worked full-time. I found a wonderful care-giver, who we called “Miss Pat.” After my 3 month maternity leave was over, I took him to her house where she watched 4 other babies – all under 18 months old. After 18 months, they “graduated” and were cared for by her neighbor (coincidentally, also a “Miss Pat”).
In Miss Pat’s house the living room was the only place the babies were allowed to go on their own steam. She could carry them down the hall and put them in a crib for a nap, but they didn’t crawl down the hall on their own. They stopped at the doorway.
Her living room, which was carpeted, opened up into her kitchen, which was tiled. When she was in the kitchen, the babies would line up on the edge of the carpet, but never crawl onto the tile.
I was amazed. Babies less than 18 months old. Only crawling where they were allowed – the only “baby proofed” room in the house. How in the world did those babies know? I had to ask. She said, “I’m consistent.”
She said, “When these little ones start to crawl, and they start over the edges of the living room, I pick them up and put them back.”
“Well, I don’t just do it once, honey. I do it about a hundred times a day for at least a week, maybe two. After being put back in the living room that many times, the babies get tired of it and spend their time playing instead of trying to get into the kitchen.”
Miss Pat taught me a lot, but this was key: “Training a child is exhausting.”
But worth it.
Today, my son is 12 and my daughter is almost 7. She has a habit of crying when things don’t go her way. It is so tempting to give in. When I’m tired and she’s tired and she’s crying and I feel like joining her . . . I don’t. I have this thing I say, which sometimes infuriates her, sometimes works like a charm:
“Solve your problem.”
Sounds easy to say, right? I don’t just say it once, honey. I say it about a hundred times a day and it’s been WAY longer than a few weeks and sometimes she still cries when something doesn’t go her way. The difference is that she doesn’t do it as often as she used to. More importantly, she doesn’t do it as often as she would if I sometimes gave her what she wanted when she cries.
It is the simplest advice. But it is exhausting. It tests your patience to the furthest limit. But if you give in – even once – that seed is planted “I wonder if she’ll give in this time?”
Don’t do it. Decide what’s important and then be strong.