Stepping outside the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear

I apologize for the lack of substance on CDG this week. Between keeping a close eye on all of the developing stories in politics (more on my opinions another time), watching the Republican National Convention, being without the internets for a day, all of my crazy food preservation adventures (I’m still trying to write a how-to post about making/canning jam), updating the list of Ditch the Disposables challenge participants (woot!!), and Ava starting back to preschool, I just haven’t been able to get it together. However, finally here is some fresh content, cross-posted at the blog of Attachment Parenting International, API Speaks.

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During the past four years of my attachment parenting journey, I sometimes find myself in situations, especially with regard to discipline, that require me to step outside the box and out of my comfort zone.

A few months ago I was trying to get Ava, almost 4 years old at the time, to sleep. She had had a long day and was simply exhausted, so much so that every little thing was setting her off into a puddle of tears. I was getting frustrated because it seemed nothing I could do was right (in her eyes). Logically, I knew that she was acting this way because she was so tired and had passed the point of no return, but still I felt my frustration growing inside me.

She sat on the bed, slumped over crying and complaining about anything and everything imaginable and I wondered how could I get her to give in to her exhaustion and just lay down. I realized that reasoning with her wouldn’t work at this point. She was too far gone for that. I felt like yelling because my frustration was getting worse and worse – after all, I had things to do too and I didn’t want to spend all of my night trying to get her to sleep – but I knew that wasn’t going to help matters either.

Finally I decided what I really needed to do was take a deep breath, step outside of my comfort zone, grab a stuffed animal and start talking to her as the animal. Talking to Ava via a stuffed animal is a parenting “tool” my husband and I had used with success in the past, though not lately and, given the circumstances, I wasn’t sure how it would fly.

She has a bear named Roger who I always imagine talks with a Southern drawl and is good at cheering her up when she’s down, so Roger was the bear for the job. After a few seconds of talking as Roger, Ava stopped crying and began responding back to him, telling him what was going on with her. Although she couldn’t have done that for me, her mommy, she could do it for an impartial furry third party. ;)

Roger’s silly antics soon had Ava giggling and then he was able to talk her into laying down on her bed, relaxing and getting ready to sleep. As the bear said his good nights to Ava and me, Ava said her good nights in return and was soon calm enough to drift off to sleep.

As I left her room I couldn’t help but feel very proud of myself. I can’t claim to always respond well or the “right” way to every situation, but that night I put my pride and frustration aside and did what Ava needed to help her relax and get to sleep. Had I let my frustration overcome me there’s a good chance it would’ve taken me at least another 30-45 minutes and many more tears (probably on both of our parts) before she was asleep. But by tuning into her needs, letting go of all that I “needed” to get done, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and throwing in a little goofiness, I was able to get her to sleep calmly in much less time. And let’s face it, isn’t goofiness a prerequisite for becoming a parent? No? Well, it should be. The world just might be a happier place.

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14 thoughts on “Stepping outside the box AKA Talking for a teddy bear

  1. I totally agree–goofiness is a requirement. I will have to try this with Suzi, but she may be too young yet. Heck, I’d stand on my head if it’d calm her down at night! (Usually breastfeeding works though. She is a boobie addict.) That is hilarious about the bear with the southern drawl! My husband could just talk normally and Suzi’s teddy would automatically sound southern :-)

  2. Wonderful and creative strategy! Sometimes when we’re very stressed a newfound technique will pop into our minds at the moment we need it most. Now thanks to you, I’ve got one more great idea in my reservoir because lately my son has been a real pill.

  3. Great job Amy! With a sweet yet strong-willed 14-month-old son, I need all the tips for future “situations” that I can get. Thanks!

  4. Imaginary friends are a great tool. My five year old has been asking me to make her toys (also sometimes cutlery, chairs, shoes, our cats when we got them, her baby sister when she was born & until she could speak for herself, just anything and everything) talk to her since she herself could talk. I discovered early on that she would tell her “friends” things that she would not talk to me about, even though she was fully aware that I was doing the voice. I now use this tool with my two year old as well, and it works every single time!

    I loved reading your story. In situations like that I have a hard time letting go of my own frustration & sense of immediacy about getting things done downstairs once the girls are asleep, so I tend to become a grumpy mommy. It’s so great to be able to come to your blog & others and read about other people’s experiences, challenges, etc. It truly keeps me sane. I don’t know how my mom and much older sister survived. Telephone & talking to the neighbors, I guess.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story! I will give this a go. Bed time can be a big source of frustration for our family. I read my girls to sleep or they listen to soft music but when they are so over tired, I need a back up. Thank you for giving me a great tool to use which makes everyone happy!

  6. Amy,

    Awesome story, sometimes it’s the “simple” things that work the best. Thanks for helping me to remember that. :)

  7. Fantastic. You gave up on the power struggle and kids respond so well to that. It’s something so simple, yet so hard to do, to lay down pride and decide to meet them on their plane without the parental enforcer role in their face. It’s getting out of your own corner and going and standing with your child in their own. Good job, and thanks for the reminder.

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