Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I was getting mightily annoyed with Lucy for a while.
It involved nursing. (Big surprise, right?)
See, I'd latch her on, and often, she'd start playing with my skin. Sometimes on my hand, but more often in my armpit (especially with the advent of summer and tank tops). Either she'd give me little butterfly kisses with her fingers (I'm very ticklish) or rolling my armpit mole between her fingers (annoying) or pinching said mole between her fingers (painful) or grabbing whole fistfuls of skin when her nails needed clipping (excruciating).
Sometimes I'd try holding her hand down, but she'd shrug me off like, Oh, lady, you're so pathetic.
I remembered my friend Sarah talking about using nursing as a way of disciplining, and unlatching the child if they wouldn't "nurse nicely".
So I tried that once and Lucy got apocolyptic. So much so that she refused to latch on again for about five minutes, during which time I had a screaming baby instead of a merely annoying baby. When she did finally latch on again, she went straight for the mole, as if to say, You just think you're going to stop me.
I thought, okay, now what? I knew persistence was probably key, but persisting seemed a little, um, daunting.
So my next time seeing Sarah, I asked her about it.
She confirmed the whole persistence thing and said that if Lucy got that upset the first time, she would probably figure it out even more quickly. And she said to say "nurse nicely" every time I unlatched her because of annoyance.
She said that if we don't nip things in the bud they only get worse in the long haul.
She told me to give it two weeks.
So the next time Lucy did the skin thing, I said "Nurse Nicely" a few times, while holding her hand. It didn't work. So I took a deep breath and unlatched her. I said the nurse nicely mantra again. She got upset. I tried distracting her with the phone, music, etc. No dice. I latched her back on. More skin playing. Unlatch. Mantra. Upset. Distract.
She got distracted and stopped crying.

What's funny is that I realized I was contributing to the problem some by letting Lucy stay latched on (or even re-latching her) when she was finished nursing. I computer a lot when she nurses, so if I were reading, say, Dear Abby, and she finished nursing before I finished the column, I wouldn't want to immediately get up. But that only allowed her to sit and be bored in my lap, leading to skin-obsession.

Here's the good news: things have gotten a lot better. Often I can kind of hold down her hand, say the mantra, and she'll stop reaching for my armpit. When she won't stop, I say the mantra and unlatch and distract.
I feel much much much less annoyed about the whole thing.
It is kind of nice practice for future discipline problems.

Lessons Learned:
1. If you don't deal with discipline problems immediately, you get annoyed and angry much quicker than you'd like to think. You start attributing all kinds of negative characteristics to your ten-month-old, and knowing that they're doing stuff just to annoy and madden you.
2. It isn't fun and pleasant to discipline. It takes some patience, and you have to be willing to inturrupt what you're doing repeatedly until the kid gets it.
3. When the kid is misbehaving, the whole powerlessness feeling is what contributes to the anger. Like, I don't have any control, this child does whatever he/she wants and I have to just go along with it. Ack! Once you take back some control, the anger dissipates. Suddenly you're like, Oh, you're doing that again? We need to take care of that immediately.
4. It helps to have a plan and a mantra. Then it's easier to be consistent without thinking too much. Especially the mantra. It feels good to tell the child what they're expected to do. Maybe it's kind of like singing while the child is screaming because you have to change their diaper because they won't fall asleep with it wet and it's eleven o'clock pm and you want some sleep, and singing is a better idea than screaming with them. Not that that ever happens around here (last night).

So there. Now I've learned all there is to know about discipline! We're good until Lucy is about 21! I'm so relieved!


Melissa said...

Mm-hmm, yeah, now you're set. Empty nest, here you come.

Christine said...

But really, that is the foundation - the context of discipline will change, of course, but staying calm, explaining expectations and above all, being consistant will always be your best tools. (It gets more challenging when they are throwing mashed vegetables at your head for the 43rd time or calmly and logically explaining why it should be okay to boogie board off the roof into the wading pool)
You will do great!

writermeeg said...

Ah, yes. We went over how to hand a book to Mommy nicely about 20 times this week. Fun, fun!