Tough Love

I remember when Monkey was about 4 months old and the sheer exhaustion of having a newborn started really weighing on J and I. We were getting no more than 3 hour stretches of sleep a night and there were at least 5-6 wake ups and she would take forever to get back down. Couple that with 20 minute micro naps during the day and the banshee screaming that would take place during the late afternoon/early evening and we were at our wits send. We knew we needed to sleep train…for everyone’s sanity.

We researched various methods and decided on one that would work for us. I remembered when we tried it that first night and within 20 minutes I was ready to break the nursery door down with an axe and break in…but we resisted knowing that in the long run, it would help her (and us). Sure enough, after a trying couple of weeks,  we were all sleeping better and Monkey was only waking up 1-2 times to nurse and then go right back to sleep. All of us were happier because we were better rested and could enjoy each other’s company that much more.

Fast forward to today, and lately we are dealing with a lot of attention seeking behaviours from Monkey. Both at daycare and at home in the forms of screaming, crying, as hitting when demands are placed on her or when we say to to things that are asked for. After speaking with the Behaviour therapists, we agreed that we needed to put in a plan of action. Monkey needs to know what is expected of her, and what the boundaries are…not only for safety, but also to function in every day life. 

Today Monkey was eating dinner and after dinner I offered a cookie as a special treat. She wanted to get up and eat the cookie somewhere else, but I said that the cookie would need to be eaten at the table and sitting down. She refused, so I took the cookie back and a tantrum ensued. 

J and I looked at each other and agreed that we were not backing down on this: there was an EPIC tantrum. Our therapists mentioned that when we started ignoring unwanted behaviour, she would go through an extinction burst – or previous reinforced behaviour that would increase because the normal action wasn’t working. 

We ignored her, and didn’t make eye contact..and she screamed and wailed and cried for almost 15 minutes. There were periods of calmness however (which means it is an attention seeking behaviour thing rather than a full meltdown). Once she quieted down…after 5 full minutes we lavished her with attention and praise. She asked for a cookie to which I said ok, but you have to sit down first. She sat down and ate it with no problems. 

It was almost exactly like sleep training…I wanted to give up and scoop her up, but I know that in the long run this is best. There will be lots of times where people will say no or ask her to do activities that she might not want to do, and she needs to know how to handle them in a functional way.

So right now, it is tough love, and it is HARD, but I am trying to remember the place we want to get to after the hard part. The tomorrows are always the things that will get me through today.


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