2 years 10 Months, Cries When I Laugh

(22 Posts)
Khono Sat 13-Oct-12 15:40:59

I'm taking care of a single mom's child while she's at work. I don't have any children myself so I'm a newbie. She's been a pretty good child, rarely crying and learning to talk pretty fast. But she's started to cry quite harshly when I laugh. Whether she's in the other room watching a show or she's right beside me, my laughing bothers her a lot. Even when I fake it to see her reaction.

I suspect it's just a strange phase she'll pass through, but does anyone have any insight here? My laugh isn't really loud and it doesn't sound like yelling or anything like that. I only noticed it the today or yesterday. But then again, she's only now beginning to trust me and open up.

Titchyboomboom Sat 13-Oct-12 23:14:22

Maybe she thinks you're crying... a lot of children cry when someone else cries

Arseface Sat 13-Oct-12 23:27:24

Never heard of this but have not regularly cared for children other than my own.
Perhaps post in the nannies/childminder topic as I'm sure someone there will have experienced it.

Sounds quite unnerving OP, hope someone more knowledgeable comes along with more helpful suggestions.

nannyof3 Sun 14-Oct-12 00:38:21

Why wud u do it to see her reaction if u know she cries? angry

Khono Mon 15-Oct-12 17:28:12

@Titchyboomboom: An interesting thought. I tried a few different ways of "crying". The first one she reacted to with a few whimpers but they were very different from the wails and calls for "mommy" when I laugh. The next few didn't get any sounds out of her. Not conclusive. I'll keep it in mind. Thanks smile

@Arseface: Thanks for the suggestion, I'll give that a try.

@nannyof3: I want to understand what is upsetting her. As far as I can tell, it does no lasting harm to her. Yet someone who is not comfortable with laughter will not be particuarly comfortable with many normal situations.

greenandcabbagelooking Tue 16-Oct-12 11:23:41

Maybe she equates it with something scary. Lots of villains of children's TV programmes have a laugh that could sound scary to a small child.

babyboomersrock Tue 16-Oct-12 11:29:37

What does her mother say about it, OP?

I must say it sounds a bit strange - she gets upset when you laugh, even when she's not in the same room? I assume you're alone in the house with her with her, so why are you laughing (in a different room)?

kittyandthegoldenfontanelles Wed 17-Oct-12 06:49:36

You are pretending to cry in different ways and pretending to laugh? No wonder she's upset. Poor lambkin. It sounds uncanny. Perhaps leave her be and stop laughing and crying at her?

Khono Wed 17-Oct-12 07:38:01

@greenandcabbagelooking, that's possible. Even mild chuckles set her off somehow, though. A point in favour of this explanation, though, is that she's far more likely to get upset at laughter when it's just her and I in the apartment.

@babyboomersrock, her mother can barely speak any english. She didn't even understand what I meant when I handed her the phone and told her someone wants to speak with her sad

It's usually because what I'm doing on the computer, be it watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book, reading email, I'll come across something especially humorous.

@kittyandthegoldenfontanelles, I'm not laughing or crying at her. For about ten seconds, I tried various sounds immitating crying. For perhaps 20 seconds during the entire time I've known her I faked laughter so that I, and others, could gauge her reaction.

I suspect that most of you who've taken care of very young children know how upset they can get over a soiled diaper and how that discomfort can last a long time. One soiled diaper adds up to more apparent discomfort than my laugh/cry probes apparently did to her. Furthermore, if she has had some trauma that triggered this unusual response, it can be highly beneficial for us to find out about it so that she may be helped. Laughter is a normal and healthy part of life and, if this isn't just a phase she'll outgrow soon, we'll be needing to help her adapt or she'll be going through A LOT more discomfort than 30 seconds worth.

Back2Two Wed 17-Oct-12 07:44:22

How often are you playing games and watching movies whilst looking after this 2 year old. It doesn't matter that her mum doesn't speak English,communication is more than words. Maybe interact more with the child. I've never watched a movie "whilst" looking after my sons.

FiatCunto Wed 17-Oct-12 07:50:53

Is there any need for the hmm at op for imitating laughing. Surely it's common sense to try and find out if it is actually yje laughing that is the issue.

I have no idea why she is doing it op, but could it be that she doesn't hear laughter very often? Her mum may not laugh much. Does she go to playgroups or anywhere with a few other people around?

kittyandthegoldenfontanelles Wed 17-Oct-12 08:13:42

Agree with back2two.. watching telly/on the computer/reading/playing a game/ in another room is not the way to look after a 2 year old.

babyboomersrock Wed 17-Oct-12 12:10:20

Poor child - I feel very sorry for her. Is she expected to speak English with you? She must be utterly confused if she's suddenly having to use two languages, as well as missing her mother.

And I agree with previous posters - if this is a paid job, you're surely not permitted to spend time on the computer while doing it? This little girl must be feeling quite abandoned - at her age, she needs lots of affection, attention and interaction. I have children of my own, but I have also worked as a nanny in the past, and I was expected to spend all day supervising the children; taking them out to the park, playing with them, helping them with craft activities, baking, preparing meals together, and so on.

I don't think it's the laughter itself which is the problem - think of it from a toddler's perspective. She is missing her mummy, she has only recently been left with you - someone she doesn't know - you speak a different language from her mummy, and she's left alone in one room while this unfamiliar person does her own thing in another room. I'm not surprised she's upset.

If you really want this to work, you need to spend all your time with her, reassuring her that she's safe with you. If she hates the laughing, don't do it. Play with her, take her out walking, go to the park, occupy her so that she feels cared for.

babyboomersrock Wed 17-Oct-12 12:25:42

I've just re-read your OP. You say "we" and "us" when you talk about the need to find the source of her anxiety. Who else is involved in her care?

You also say you're a "newbie" (I assume you mean a newbie to child care) - so I don't see why you're so focussed on this one issue - your job is surely to take care of the child by being with her, getting to know her, rather than trying to analyse her dislike of your laughter? If you knew her better, you'd possibly be able to work it out but meantime, I wouldn't go jumping to conclusions about some psychological trauma being the source of the "problem". Maybe she's just scared because you're unfamiliar and she isn't used to your voice?

Finally, I do think it's an issue that you and her mother can't communicate - how on earth could you tell her if something was wrong? How do you contact her if she can't speak on the phone? What if the child was ill?

Notquite Wed 17-Oct-12 13:20:14

'It's usually because what I'm doing on the computer, be it watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book, reading email, I'll come across something especially humorous. '

Is the laughter coming at her suddenly out of silence, when she has no idea what's caused it? I would have thought that could alarm a toddler, particularly if she doesn't know you well. It does sound as if you need to spend more time playing with her and less time analysing her to be honest. She might respond better if you find something funny together, perhaps trying to keep your laughter fairly quiet until she's more used to you.

How long have you been looking after her?

kittyandthegoldenfontanelles Wed 17-Oct-12 13:45:18

Take a leaf out of babyboomersrock's book. This is how you should be interacting with the child; encouraging, engaging, developing, entertaining, comforting.

Who are these 'others' of which you speak?

Khono Sat 20-Oct-12 17:36:04

it's the one thing Selena is doing that seems abnormal. Everything else being, while not always convenient or pleasant, seems healthy and normal. What I was hoping to hear on here was that it's a little-known phase that some children go through. Having not heard that from anyone, I remain interested, though not particularly concerned, about it.

She may indeed be scared of my voice. I'm a man (the first I mention that here, I think, since I don't think it's right for people judge fitness for a job based on sex) and people have said my deep voice can be intimidating.

If needed, I can use google translate to get a text message across. Baring that, I can call another person who knows Lao/Thai and has better english skills and they can get a message across. I haven't had to call her at work as of yet. If the child is ill with more than a cold or something, I'd call Lamoon and try to get my message across. If I could not, I'd call someone else, probably Phet. If it's an emergency, I'd obviously skip right to professionals and only contact the mother afterwards. I established before-hand that Selena has no known allergies or illnesses. While it would be nice if the mother and I were both fluent in the same language, it does not seem necessary.

@Notquite:

I agree, Notquite, that was my first suspicion, that the unexpected sound frightened her. However, even with her by my side, watching alternatively me and the computer screen, laughing, in various ways, not just loud barks, still elicited crying from her. But it was very brief and holding her soothingly reduced and sometimes eliminated the reaction.

I think that's a great tip. The only time I can recall where I got her to laugh (I've been able to get her to smile on many other occasions, but rarely laugh) was by tickling her. Next time I do that, I'll try laughing with her.

Umm, I believe this was the end of the second week of me taking care of her. She's much more comfortable with me. Unfortunately, that also means she's more willing to misbehave.

@kittyandthegoldenfontanelles:

I'm filling all those roles, but to them I'd add discourage, since I believe one must not only give positive reinforcement for good things, but negative reinforcement for the bad. From what I can see, Selena's quite happy with me and is developing her skills and behaviour rapidly.

I'm not certain what I was thinking about when I said "others" in the following sentence:

"For perhaps 20 seconds during the entire time I've known her I faked laughter so that I, and others, could gauge her reaction."

I think I meant to include everyone of interest, thus myself, Phet, Lamoon, and anyone on this thread who was curious. Reading it over again now, it seems like an awkward thing to say and I apologise.

Khono Sat 20-Oct-12 17:40:29

I seem to have hit the character limit for posts here. The above was truncated. I'll post everything that was cut off above it again. Sorry for my wall of text.

@Back2Two:

I interact with her often but I'm not interested in spending every waking moment nurturing her. I'm satisfied letting her develop her skills with guidance from me. When she sleeps, I allow her to do so alone. When she watches television, I'm willing to go into another room and rely on my hearing any problems, though only willing to leave her in her bedroom in this way.

I'm neither her mother nor her father and I have never been around anyone whom I saw was always watching their children at all times.

@FiatCunto:

Phet, my good friend and roommate, often laughs and must have laughed around Selena, the little girl, many times now. Selena's mother, Lamoon, does not laugh as easily as Phet, has laughed in the presence of Selena and myself.

Selena hasn't gone to any playgroups while living here that I know of. Now that she trust me more, I've begun to take her for walks every day, getting more exposure that way. She's still very shy around other people so it seems likely that more exposure to other people, whether in play groups or otherwise, would help her with this issue.

Khono Sat 20-Oct-12 17:40:42

@babyboomersrock:

Selena is able to communicate to a very small degree in english and somewhat better in Thai. Most communication I interpret, however, is physical. Crying being an obvious one, there are others. I cannot judge whether she's very confused now or not, not having known her before. However, she seems to be a normal child with reasonable actions and reactions. In fact, she strikes me as being more well-behaved than most children her age I've encountered. The only thing I've found really odd being her discomfort with laughter.

There were no rules set out, either before or since the babysitting started. I've heard no complaints and Selena seems happy. Selena is able, and seems to be perfectly willing, to come to me or call out whenever there's something she desires. When she's active (not sleeping or quietly watching TV), I stay with her, usually by arranging her things nearby since my desk is far less easily moved. She's fascinated with my computer as well as the laptop she's watching most of her stuff on. As you say, her need for attention and affection is constant, except when she's sleeping. More than half my time is spent interracting with her, meaning I'm being paid far less than minimum wage with only that time considered.

As you say, children, not one child. I imagine dealing with several children requires a great deal more time and would leave me with next to no 'sit-down time'.

Every time I do anything, Selena is welcome to watch or participate if she shows any interest and hasn't proven actions to be destructive. Unlike many (most?) people I've seen deal with children, I do not supress her so that I may accomplish activities quickly. We usually do them together so that she may learn.

She is indeed left alone with me yet the language is a small barrier. She can speak only a few words clearly in Thai and I know some of these, such as "geen-nome" meaning "drink milk". Having said that, I acknowledge that this may be a much greater strain on her than I've observed.

She's always free to be around me whenever she wants which is most of the time when she isn't sleeping or sleepily watching TV. Even when she's watching TV I'll often spend time with her. I need to frequently revert the problems she creates on the laptop by pressing random things (she's only learning how to use it slowly, but not much more slowly than Phet learned it) and to change programs for her.

She rarely seems upset. If she were upset a significant amount of time with me, I'd be very concerned with that and be trying hard to find the source. As it is, the vast majority of the time I'm taking care of her, she seems to be quite content.

I do not think it reasonable to spend every moment interacting with her. Most nannies would not be doing this, either, I believe, since most will be dealing with more than one child at a time. Through my roommate Phet, who has a great command of the english language, I was encouraged to do other things while taking care of Selena. Selena, in addition, often does not want me to interfere with her activities. While we do often interract, in between these interractions, I'm able to accomplish other things as I've seen everyone else who takes care of children, with the exception of teachers or day-care professionals who are dealing with 10+ children each, do as well.

I fully acknowledge the great vulnerability of a child this age and that these are her formative years, but I believe many of the concerns expressed here about my attentions are unfounded.

Khono Sat 20-Oct-12 17:40:58

@babyboomersrock:

I read over my three earlier posts in this thread and then used a search algorythm and found only one instance of "we" being used in my post third post, last paragraph, and one "us".

I'm the only one baby-sitting her here and my "us" and "we" that I use here are to encompass her mother, Phet, and myself, since I figure we all care enough about Selena to be concerned if this turns out to be a long-term problem. I've mentioned it and they've shown no concern, yet. It's just a small thing that most people would probably not be bothered to look into. I'm just weird that way, in that I care too much.

Indeed, I'm a newbie to children in general, having had none myself and never having babysit. I've jumped to no conclusions since I've drawn none. I only have ideas. I'm fixating on this issue because it's the one thing Selena is doing that seems abnormal. Everything else being, while not always convenient or pleasant, seems healthy and normal. What I was hoping to hear on here was that it's a little-known phase that some children go through. Having not heard that from anyone, I remain interested, though not particularly concerned, about it.

She may indeed be scared of my voice. I'm a man (the first I mention that here, I think, since I don't think it's right for people judge fitness for a job based on sex) and people have said my deep voice can be intimidating.

If needed, I can use google translate to get a text message across. Baring that, I can call another person who knows Lao/Thai and has better english skills and they can get a message across. I haven't had to call her at work as of yet. If the child is ill with more than a cold or something, I'd call Lamoon and try to get my message across. If I could not, I'd call someone else, probably Phet. If it's an emergency, I'd obviously skip right to professionals and only contact the mother afterwards. I established before-hand that Selena has no known allergies or illnesses. While it would be nice if the mother and I were both fluent in the same language, it does not seem necessary.

@Notquite:

I agree, Notquite, that was my first suspicion, that the unexpected sound frightened her. However, even with her by my side, watching alternatively me and the computer screen, laughing, in various ways, not just loud barks, still elicited crying from her. But it was very brief and holding her soothingly reduced and sometimes eliminated the reaction.

I think that's a great tip. The only time I can recall where I got her to laugh (I've been able to get her to smile on many other occasions, but rarely laugh) was by tickling her. Next time I do that, I'll try laughing with her.

Umm, I believe this was the end of the second week of me taking care of her. She's much more comfortable with me. Unfortunately, that also means she's more willing to misbehave.

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 20-Oct-12 18:36:18

Hello khono
Just so you know it's not usual to refer to people by name on Mumsnet -we are a public internet forum.

Thanks
MNHQ

Khono Sun 21-Oct-12 01:11:25

Ahh, okay I thought it was fine to use poorly spelled first names. Alrighty.

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