Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To soothe the crying babe

In case you couldn't tell, I am very into attachment parenting.  It just makes sense to me and it feels right.  I have gotten comments from several people who have negative views of extended breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc.  And you know what?  They aren't my child's parents, so I just ignore the comments.

One of the things I struggle with, though, is how to approach her crying.  Of course I pick her up and try to comfort her and if I know what's wrong then I fix it.  But let's say that she falls down and bangs her head against something on the way, causing her to dissolve into a screaming puddle of tears.  There are two conflicting ways of comforting her that come to mind every time: pick her up, comfort her, and tell her that really it's nothing; or pick her up, comfort her, and tell her that I bet that really hurt and it's okay to cry.

The first approach tries to tell her that falling down and bumping your head isn't the worst thing in the world and that happens in life.  But it also, in a way, invalidates her feelings and her pain.  Telling her that it's nothing is like telling her that she shouldn't be crying - when clearly she needs to.  Maybe if she had the words to come to me and verbally tell me that she fell down and she got an owie then she wouldn't need to cry, but at 15 months L.H. can't quite get the message across with words or signs.

The second approach empathizes with her and validates what she's feeling, giving her a comfortable outlet to express her pain and frustration while also helping her calm down.  On the other hand, one must be careful not to overdo it.  If you make too big a deal of it, then I would think the child would learn that a small little bump really is a big deal and worthy of a meltdown.

I think that the best thing is to find the balance between the two.  For a younger child who is still very far away from being able to express himself through words, I think that the validation is very important - within reason.  For an older child who already has language and other means of communicating aside from crying, I think that it is worthwhile to downplay small bumps and bruises enough so that they learn not to get too upset about them, but not so much that they feel that you are uncaring and don't understand them.

I suppose that that's really what parenting is all about - finding the balance.

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