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Unconditional parenting advice

(33 Posts)
Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 16:06:51

I apologise for the length of this post in advance.

DD is 2.4 years old. We started using the unconditional parenting approach about 5 months ago after reading Mr. Kohn's book. I was able to see results fairly quickly, if I'm honest. We changed the way we approached DD and her behaviour improved a lot. Even though she had never had "tantrums" per se, she had a period of bolting whenever we went out, for example, and throwing stuff at home, and UP helped a lot to improve that; she stopped running away from us when out and about, and responded really well to us talking to her and explaining her why "this was not OK" etc etc.

Then DS was born 6 weeks ago and it all went upside down sad It's evidently hard for her to get used to having a little brother, and the fact that he gets attention, but she's changed SO much. She started hitting or slapping him whenever we weren't looking, so we've had to be hawks whenever she is near him. We explained and explained but she does it anyway if no one is around. She also slaps us (on our legs, as we're standing next to her), and again, no amount of talk will disuade her atm. She screams when frustrated and talks as if "telling us off" (she speaks Spanish and English so it's all a bit mixed and not too clear at the moment). I try and spend time with her daily doing stuff, painting, doing some artwork, playing house, etc, so that she doesn't feel left aside or less important...

She's also turned really fussy with her food, she won't try anything new and even things she used to eat are now "yucky". It worries me so much. I can't believe she can eat so little and be OK. Again, we've explained things but nothing... DH finds it much harder not to throw lots of "ifs" in the air. He's doing it quite frequently these days in an attempt to make her eat or do something or prevent her from doing something.

The worst thing is she'll do ANYTHING you tell her not to do, from throwing things, to standing 1 inch in front of the TV, to not pouring a whole glass of water on the floor, having a bath, having her nappy changed... The list is endless these days, and I'm finding it quite hard to stop her from doing some of those things when breastfeeding DS or holding him for whatever reason. She literally looks at me and does something as she knows I can't do anything to stop her sad This morning she slapped DS on his head; I didn't see it coming (I was holding him) and I felt so bad I couldn't help but cry. DH took her to one side and started talking to her and explaining her why that was not OK but she just giggled and refused to even look at him.

Has anyone gone through similar situations and managed to handle them using UP? Any advice or suggestions will be HUGELY appreciated.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 11-Oct-11 17:23:43

I don't know what unconditional parenting is, sorry. If she's hitting the baby deliberately she needs to be firmly told off and there have to be consequences that she doesn't like. She's had you all to herself now and it's a steep learning curve to find you're not the centre of Mum and Dad's universe any more. But that's life. Keep being positive when she's kind and cooperative, find time for her as an individual, tell her she's special and that you love her, but also stick up for your new baby a bit more and read her the riot act when she's being a PITA.

Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 17:51:37

Cogito, thank you for your reply. You made me grin with "read her the riot act".
Yes, I'm positive when she helps around, and is nice to her brother, but it's as if she couldn't help herself when she slaps him or pokes him, etc... she goes from minding her own business to poking him, for example, and she looks at me to see my reaction.
This morning DH spoke very firmly when she slapped DS, she just giggled away. I try my best to be extra patient but it's hard these days!
I hope the learning curve doesn't take TOO long.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 11-Oct-11 18:33:51

It's attention seeking. Your attention is taken up with the new baby and she's not happy with that. She knows it's wrong - the giggling, the looking at you when she's doing it - and she's also hurting the baby which is why you have to nip it in the bud. Hurting is not funny. For children that want attention the best punishment is to deprive them of your attention.... and the best reward is the opposite. So be very, very cross if she does it again & put her well out of harm's way until she's being cooperative. And make sure you giver her plenty of one-on-one time when the baby is napping. Get her to help you by fetching clean nappies or whatever...

Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 20:06:12

Yes, I'm trying to spend as much time with her doing stuff while DS naps. Although it's tricky sometimes as I usually have to do some laundry, dishes, etc as well. I tend to ask her to help me (things she can do) or ask her to cook with me to try and get her more interested in her food as well.

I'm finding this quite hard to be honest, no idea if I can still be all hormonal 6wks afterwards hmm but as you say, hurting DS is not ok so I can't tolerate that. I remove her from the situation or take DS away... I know it might sound stupid but I just want my usual DD back...

Nevercan Tue 11-Oct-11 20:25:20

My dd1 is 2.5 and still has really lovely moments and not so nice moments with my 12 week old dd2. She is getting better slowly. We have had to tell her off sternly and make her apologise to her sister numerous times. I think it just takes time to adjust as they don't want to share your attention. It is slowly getting better smile

Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 21:06:52

Glad to hear it's getting better for you, Nevercan smile Hopefully I'll be able to say the same in a few weeks? DD has got a bit better in the past few days wrt the slapping thing... the first 2-3 weeks it was almost constant (her attempts, not the actual slapping as fortunately we were always there to stop her).

In a way I guess I'm gutted surprised that talking to her and explaining things was working so well (considering she was younger a few months ago) and now it just doesn't, at all!

baskingseals Tue 11-Oct-11 21:46:33

don't take her behaviour too seriously - apart from when she hurts the baby, when she does that she needs to be told NO.

the rest of it, unless she is endangering herself or others, i would let go. she's going through a massive adjustment and it will take time for things to calm down and get back to normal. don't start feeling that you have stuffed it all up - in a few months time you will be enjoying your new family, but it will take a little while to get there.

when dc3 was tiny, i used to do silly things with the older two - like playing with the hoover attachments, blowing up lots of balloons, pillow fights - really mature stuff. i think the first 6 months of a baby's life it's almost impossible parent exactly how you want to or how you think you should, that doesn't mean it's mayhem, but don't worry if she watches too much tv or eats too much pizza at the moment, it will not harm her, the best thing you can do now is ENJOY her and show her that she is still loved and important - the rest can wait until you have more time and energy.

however she must not hurt the baby. it is absolutely ok for you to say no. she'll get bored and stop. don't make a big thing out of it, just no and move on.

good luck smile

Sparklyboots Tue 11-Oct-11 22:13:27

No experience disclaimer, but I wonder if you could insert an acknowledgement of her feelings as well as explaining why it isn't okay? I only suggest because if you are explaining to her why her behaviour isn't acceptable you are only dealing with half the problem. She's obviously cross and very conflicted by the new baby, and each instance of her bad behaviour (which you acknowledge and try to deal with) is an embodiment of her anxiety and anger about the arrival of the new baby (which you don't seem to be talking about with her). Could you name those feelings with her, but as her feelings? You can do it both in the moment and later at a less tense moment, and work on strategies together - what to do when she feels very cross about the new baby, what she should do when she feels sad, what to do when she feels upset (ask for a cuddle should feature heavily imo). In this way you don't ask her to stop having her feelings but find useful ways of handling them with your help.

baskingseals Tue 11-Oct-11 22:19:39

good idea sparkly, that will definitely help.
it's okay to be angry, but not to hurt people with that anger

deviladvocate Tue 11-Oct-11 22:25:18

I couldn't leave DS2 alone with DD3 at all for min 6 months, he wasn't being deliberately malicious but was just far to boisterous around her. It sounds overwhelming having so many aspects of your DD's behaviour going downhill simultaneously, i'd second baskingseals in terms of letting it go and not stressing too much about it. Sparklyboots makes lots of sense in trying to help her understand what she's feeling. As a practical suggestion I wonder if you could encourage her to look after her own baby (doll) and let her copy your activities to help her feel more involved - with a bit of luck she'll take out any resentment she feels on the doll and not on baby! My eldest found it useful doing this when my second was born.

Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 22:36:07

Baskingseals, thanks for your reply. What I can highlight from your post is when you said "don't make a big thing out of it, just no and move on". You might have hit the nail right on the head there, maybe I'm talking too much, making too much of a fuss every time she does it, I'll put that into practice, thanks!

And I also think I should try and enjoy her more, as you mention. These days I'm not feeling like I'm having too much fun with her sad as there are more "challenging" moments than "fun" ones... I'm going to do my best and change that.

Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 22:37:37

cross-posts! I'll reply now.

Gauchita Tue 11-Oct-11 22:45:21

Sparkly, your post makes a lot of sense, thank you. I actually do the cuddling approach whenever she screams with frustration or feels suddenly upset because of something... I ask her if she wants a cuddle and she says yes and we have a good cuddle smile But what you say about talking to her about her feelings and what to do whenever she feels anger or frustration makes a lot of sense (I think now I can remember reading that in the book blush) I'll put that into practice as well.

Deviladvocate, another good idea, a doll! grin at her hopefully shaking her frustration off with it. We can only try!

deviladvocate Tue 11-Oct-11 22:50:37

Our nct teacher suggested having a box of special toys/books/dvd's that were just for when it was feeding time for baby, then as soon as baby was latched on you could read a story or watch a dvd together.

also we made a 'me' book, filled with photos of the older child as a baby doing all of the things you're doing with the new baby - cuddling, feeding, sleeping, playing, going out in the pram - it helped each of my older children to understand that everything that we were doing with the new baby was exactly what we had done with them when they were little. they still look at their 'me' books regularly!

titferbrains Tue 11-Oct-11 23:26:09

My dd is 3yo and baby is4wo. When she is very naughty I ask her if she needs a cuddle, she often says yes. I know that her feelings are confused right now and I believe she needs reassurance about her place in my world. So I remind her that I love her, she my special girl etc but that she shd not throw/hit etc. I think tis has been more effective for us than trying treat it as total naughtiness. We also don't "understand" a mean or whiny voice so she self corrects that a bit now, thank goodness!

BertieBotts Tue 11-Oct-11 23:27:58

Marking place, because I need to go to bed, but will reply tomorrow. smile

Gauchita Wed 12-Oct-11 08:28:15

Devil, I'm gathering today some of those special things to have when DS is BFing. The "me" book might need a bit more time, though, as whenever I show her a picture of herself when she was tiny she points and calls DS's name grin Bless her, he does look like her when she was tiny so if I say "no sweetie, that's you" she looks at me as if I'm crazy and corrects me time and time again grin

Titfer, congratulations on the new arrival smile Cuddles definitely work here, if anything, to diffuse the situation. I just tried that a few moments ago, when we were having breakfast. She wanted to pour salt in her cereal, when I said no and gently took it away and explained that was salt she screaaaaamed. I simply asked her if she wanted a cuddle, she said yes and completely forgot about the salt and the whole situation...

LoveBeingAWitch Wed 12-Oct-11 08:39:37

Just to say having some similar moments her, ds 4 wks and. Dd 3.6years. Especially the doing naughty things/not listening when bf ds, not taken long to realise you can't go and stop them grin

ampster Wed 12-Oct-11 08:47:39

i can recommend the newsletters from this site:

they come from a gentle parenting perspective and roleplay through a range of situations including siblings hitting each other, hitting you, etc. i loved 'unconditional parenting' but didn't find it to have that much concrete advice on dealing with specific situations. laura markham's newsletters fill that gap.

ps - this is not a sponsored post, honest! just sharing something that helped.

Gauchita Wed 12-Oct-11 09:34:40

LoveBeing, congratulations to you as well! It didn't take her long to realise I couldn't run after her, no. Another thing I think might be frustrating for her is her language. She talks a lot but it's still a mix of her own language plus Spanish plus English; and many times we can't understand what she's trying to say... Even though we speak exclusively Spanish to her, she seems to prefer English atm confused

Ampster, thanks for that link, I'll have a read today as soon as I have a bit of time in my hands. I agree with you re. Alfie Kohn's book not having concrete advice. I can completely see his point when he says it's us who have to see and explore what works and what doesn't but there are times you really need a concrete tip!

BertieBotts Wed 12-Oct-11 11:22:25

I was going to suggest having something else she is allowed to take frustration out on - so saying she can't hit you/the baby but she can hit the sofa, for example.

Have you tried going through a timeline of photos with her so that she can see this baby who looks like her brother did actually grow up to be her?

Something I read on another thread too is to start back wrapping DC2 as early as possible, it leaves you a lot more hands free to deal with DC1.

Gauchita Wed 12-Oct-11 15:10:32

Bertie, good idea re. sofa or something else she can hit if she feels like hitting. The naive in me thinks I'd rather her not hit anything at all grin but maybe that will come in due time <hopeful>

Could you explain back wrapping a bit more? Is it wrapping DS using a sling for example?

Gauchita Thu 13-Oct-11 09:13:27

Yesterday I into practice some of the things suggested.
The special things saved for when DS is BFing worked quite well, at least for a while, until she got bored of them and wanted to do something else, but at least it was good distraction.
I introduced the baby doll and she liked the idea of mimicking what I did with DS with it, although then she wanted us to switch grin
I also started reading things on the link ampster suggested and I saw a whole article on what Sparkly had mentioned, so I'm going to try that and the "something to hit" Bertiebotts suggested yesterday.

We had two incidents yesterday. One at home, she came over to give DS a kiss and immediately after kissing him she slapped his head. It wasn't too hard but I feel like an idiot as I didn't see it coming at all, she was kissing him! So now I'm even more alert, even when she's being nice.

She immediately looked at me and realised she had done something wrong as I hadn't even opened my mouth when she said "sorry mami". I firmly said that was not nice, not what we did, and she pointed at what we were doing before and mumbled something, as if saying "I only did it because we were playing and now you've picked DS up and I don't want you to" so I told her we could play anyway, with DS as well, but that hitting was not right, and she started playing...

The other was at nursery, she wanted something another girl had and snatched it and started saying "mine, mine, mine". The staff intervened of course and had a chat with her, etc.

Thanks again for all your suggestions/advice/ideas.

Sparklyboots Fri 14-Oct-11 00:30:36

Oh, so pleased to be updated. Your description of the kiss-and-smack reminds me of one of the little vox-pop things in 'How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk' where the mum reports saying to her DC 'X, I think you have two feelings about your little brother. Sometimes you love him very much, but sometimes you wish he would just go away' and apparently little X was very pleased by this and would say, 'Mommy' (it is an American book), 'tell me about my two feelings again'. Anyway, I'm rambling by way of suggesting 'How to talk' in general and that specific discussion in particular.

Doesn't seem strange, btw, that she'd get very possessive of stuff in general - are the Nursery staff on board for sympathy because of new baby?

Good luck, darling, I bet she'll come through swimmingly as you so clearly are prepared to do whatever it takes to help her.

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