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Daycare Center and Family Home Forum>Spirited Infant Requires Constant Holding?
MomOfMia 05:26 PM 11-09-2009
Hello All,

This is my first post, so I'll offer up some background. ((sorry for how long this is))
The temperament titles I am using here are referenced in Tracey Hogg's book, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. As a background, a spirited child is BORN with that temperament and it is not created. They are not spoiled, they just have a higher need for attention and contact than most babies. It does help to understand that this is in the child's nature.... now, how to deal with it? See this for reference:
I have a 3 year old named Mia. She was an Angel/Textbook as a baby and still is. We had her on a wonderful routine and she gave very easily interpreted feeding and sleep cues.... a super-easy kid to parent! She's a very mild-mannered, easy-going kid. Fairly shy, but extremely bright as she is already starting to "build words" and spell. I thought that she was a super easy baby to parent and often kidded that if I could have 5 of her, I'd take 'em. I thought I had "the touch".

In early October, I quit my part-time job, removed Mia from a daycare center and began doing daycare for the daughter of my friends from church. Tahlia is 8 months old and is definitely a spirited-grumpy and WOW am I humbled! I no longer think I have "the touch". As a bit of background, she is able to roll (everywhere) and is army-crawling, but she will not follow me.

ACTIVITY: I honed in on her temperament within the first few weeks..... at first, I thought she had a raging case of separation anxiety, but then I realized it was her temperament. She begins fussing within 5 minutes of her mother dropping her off. She cannot be settled unless she happens to be hungry enough to eat.... holding her sometimes helps, but rarely will she play alone on the floor or in the jumperoo. Mia can sometimes entertain her, but not always. Many times, I have to put her into the crib in a fairly dimly lit nursery to get her to calm down. In fact, sleeping is just about the only time she is NOT fussy. She's not teething (that's a different cry--went thru that right as she started with me).
If she's awake, she pretty much demands to be held/cuddled or she will fuss until she is all-out screaming. I can MAYBE get her to play for 20 minutes at a time, twice a day, maybe 3x.
If she gets into something she shouldn't, she screams at me if *I* take it away from her, but she doesn't seem to care if Mia takes it away--so, consequently, I find myself asking Mia to "get that fuzzy out of Tahlia's hands".
And that leads me to this: She HATES TOYS. ... at least the ones appropriate to her age. She wants Mia's toys or something that is not appropriate for her safety (my watch, a comb, a metal fork, paper, etc.)

EATING: I used to feed her in the high chair, but she fussed constantly. So, I moved her to the Bumbo sitting on the counter (yes, she is safe as she's 17 lbs and does not have the strength to topple). If I am preparing her meal and she's not in the Bumbo, WWIII breaks out (mind you, she CAN see me in the kitchen from the living room). While eating, she either bucks backward, wildly flings her head left or right or fusses when she's getting baby food (oddly, all this while mouth open for food and making "num num" sounds when she has a bite). For her bottle, she will hold it on her own, but she will not hold still to receive her bottle and will get mad if I try to keep her from rolling while giving her bottle. I can no longer allow her to just give herself a bottle as she will roll within 15 seconds of starting.... and with a level 3 nipple, that leaves the bottle leaking on the floor and her screaming that she's not being fed.

She has pretty much demanded she has a pacifier all the time, but will usually fuss (to a slightly lesser degree) even with it in her mouth. I understand spirited's have a strong need to suck all the time, but I know her parents do not want her to have a strong dependence on the binky as she gets closer to age 1. If she looses her binky and I approach her to give it to her, she gets mad if I do not pick her up.

SLEEPING: When it's time for nap, she usually does go to bed easily, which I understand is not usually characteristic of a spirited baby. However, she's extremely sensitive to sound, so the doorbell, telephone or door slamming will cause instant screaming.... this, despite her door being closed and me living in a fairly quiet, 8 year old home. But, when she wakes up, she usually screams bloody murder... and that's pretty much from the second she wakes up! And when I go in to get her, she doesn't become happy to see me (as Mia did), she screams louder, as if to say, "It's about f'ing time you get here. Could you not hear that I've been crying my f'ing eyes out for the last 5 minutes?"

OUTINGS: Generally, she likes car rides and errands. But I can't do that all-day, nor every day... especially since I live in the northern plains and it will soon be less-than-easy to get out. She will often fall asleep in the car, but only if it's near nap time. She will not, however, fall asleep while in the carrier, say at Target.

Her parents fully realize she's spirited and I think they do tend to cater to it (so as to minimize the outbursts).... using a Baby Bjorn or holding her a lot at home, or sleeping with her if she wakes up overnight and will not talk herself to sleep within a minute or two. Her mom has said to me at least 3 times, "if you ever need a break or if she's too much, please call me, or let me know if you need a day or two off." Well, she's a teacher, so it's not like leaving work is easy for her and her father is a college professor, an hour away. And generally, having Tahlia spend 20-30 minutes in the crib gives her a chance to chill out and me a break... Their working hours provide that she gets less than 1 waking hour with them in the morning, and only 2-3 hours in the evening.... so part of me thinks she's just not getting enough mommy-daddy time (though, that will be lengthened soon as her mother's stint as the high school volleyball coach will be over by next weekend).

Here's my dilemma: I am her daycare provider, not her parent. As her care-giver, I do not think it is appropriate to engage in baby-wearing or constant holding ... I believe that is the job of the parent. I also do not want to send the message to Mia that Tahlia gets more of my attention because she fusses more. I have already started to notice Mia whining and fussing more since Tahlia joined us.

So, what do I do? I can't just keep her upstairs in the crib.... she sleeps too much and that's just not fair. But on the other hand, if she's downstairs, during her awake time, she fusses for at least half of the time. I know she's going to soon give up that morning nap, which means a longer awake time and more fussing. I do not want to give up on caring for her as she is a sweet baby when she isn't fussing. But the fussing!!!

Can someone point me to a resource (book, website, or even a thread) that has specific tips for caregivers? Like I said, I just cannot do baby-wearing or hold her as much as she wants to be held.

I did read the recent thread about constant crying, but I didn't see anyone give any suggestions other than letting the kid go. I care about this family and believe that I am intended to watch Tahlia and her little-sibling on the way. I just need some solid strategies to deal with the constant crying!

Thank you!
tymaboy 08:26 PM 11-09-2009
Have you tryed an activity seat? Sorry I can not think of the actual name of them. I know my little ones love it. For a little while I had even tryed a pak n play in the room or in the room next door with a toy.
MomOfMia 09:12 PM 11-09-2009
Originally Posted by tymaboy:
Have you tryed an activity seat? Sorry I can not think of the actual name of them. I know my little ones love it. For a little while I had even tryed a pak n play in the room or in the room next door with a toy.
We have a jumperoo that doubles as an exersaucer and that rarely works. :-(
mac60 03:43 AM 11-10-2009
Don't take this wrong, "spirited" or not, 8 1/2 mo is quite young to be ruling the roost, and that sounds exactly like what is happening, only someone is trying to put a "label" on it. Personally, I would not cater to her every whim. At 8 1/2 mo, she should be playing in a pack in play/enclosed play area, be content in a walker/saucer. Sitting in a high chair eating/playing, taking 2 naps per day. I would be doing things the way you want, and if she cries and doesn't like the highchair vs saucer, I would remove her from both, she will learn eating is done in the high chair.

While I understand that you don't want to terminate and it isn't an option, we have all been there, you are going to have to be the "boss" of this child and do things your way, and she will get used to it. When she goes into these behaviors, I would simply put her to bed, if she cries she cries. She already knows whose the boss--her. She needs to learn how it all works.
kiddiecare 07:25 AM 11-10-2009
I agree with Mac60, as a parent of 4 and a daycare provider my advice is to stop catering to the child, its not healthy for her, Ignore the outburst and reward the good behavior. 'spirited' in my opnion is someones label that didnt/doesnt want to own up to the fact that their child is spoiled. The parents and or you are not doing this child any favors by giving in and doing things the way she wants..all that teaches her is that fit throwing will get her her way and thats not how the real world works..and you say that she has a sibling on the way? yikes are those parents in for it! Sounds as if she is the ruler of the roost and once that baby comes not all the attention will be on her anymore and then you'll see some major attitude so be ready for that..Kids learn at an early age what they can get away with and with whom, even if the parents continue as they are the child will know that at your home the same rules dont apply..Thats just advice as a mom and caregiver, good luck and i think the girl is lucky to have someone that cares so much about her taking care of her..
ritashomedaycare 07:47 AM 11-10-2009
I have a 14 month old boy who is much like this. He cries whenever he is uncomfortable with anything. His blankie sometimes helps him to calm down and sometimes a bubba will, but he doesn't respond to me at all. I'm thinking about calling it quits with this child as I'm 7 months pregnant and it's getting a bit much. But I would prefer to make it work. I don't cater to him at every whim, but I do try to calm him quickly or put him upstairs to bed for some quiet time when he won't settle as he upsets the other kids, especially the 4 year olds get distressed with him crying. I've had him for 2 months and nothing has changed. I feel you and I'm somewhat relieved to have found your post to see that I am not alone.

This little girl is still very young. I hope you can find a solution that works. At least the parents sound very understanding. I have my little boy 1-3 days a week, so I don't have it as bad, but it's still very, VERY frustrating sometimes, making me question my decision to stay at home and do this.
Reply 09:49 AM 11-10-2009
(after writing this I went back and read it and it sounds mean pushy and not caring, this was not the intention when I wrote it. I feel for you, I do but I think you need to realize that this aggreement may not be what either of you need. It also sounds like Im an old school meany who doesnt love or care about the kids I keep. Im an old dog, and while I can learn new tricks if I truly believe they are worth learning,.., I think alot of the tricks these days are nothing more than excuses )
I agree with Mac, it seems she has always cried and been held,.. You are not doing her any favors by continuing the behavior. I would make sure she was fed, played with, changed, napped and for a few minutes at a time, do something else. Ignore her cries for a minute or two every ten minutes. "teach" her that your there without being held. Teach her how to play. Definately only let her play with age appropriate toys. Not forks or paper. and give her attention but let her fuss too., I bet it is hard because she is the daughter of a friend. and Im not going to get into the whole 'no friends, no family' issue. It is water over the bridge at this point. I feel your pain,.. and understand your spot. But,... your JOB is to provide a healthy atmosphere for her, to attend to her needs and insure her safety. To help her grow and become a little person who can function in the world around her. Not to coddle and prohibit her from exploring her world. It seems like that is what has been happening at home. I don't buy the whole, spirited infant aspect. I think its a label and that at this age noone needs a label. Labels define someone and anyone under the age of 95 should be free to grow and be the most they can without limits placed on them by a societies label. I mean,... 40 years ago mentally challenged people were often LABELED and not pushed to become active, happy, and productive people. Now they are taught to live fuller lives than ever and their abilities are always surprising those around them. I think to label a child as spirited or difficult is limiting what they can be. How they can be. I personally believe she has always either been picked up when she cried so that is what she knows. Or ignored until she reached the WWIII level. Do things your way..... allow her to figure out that life isnt going to end if she isnt held , that ear piercing screams are not the way to behave. At 8 1/2 mo she should be confident that her needs are going to be met and you will be there to play, feed and cuddle. But not constantly. If not bite the bullet and let her go. Its sometimes a hard lesson to learn but we cant be everything to everyone.
DBug 11:27 AM 11-10-2009
I have 3 kids of my own, and my middle child is "spirited" (which is a really nice way to say he's strong-willed and stubborn). He was just like this baby when he was that age. I found a huge advantage in "labelling" him, at least in my own mind, was that it freed me to deal with his behaviour in appropriate, constructive ways, and not simply to blame it on "a bad day" or whatever.

In my experience, the spirited personality is one that is constantly challenging and testing as a way to search out who the boss is. It's almost as if they have a subconscious need to know who is in charge, and they will keep pushing until someone stands up and says "I am!". Because my little guy (who is 7 now) was a second child, there were many times when I couldn't cater to him because I was busy with his brother. That taught him that he couldn't always get the attention he wanted immediately, and how to deal with it.

My advice would be to decide on your ground rules, and stick to them. If you are okay holding the baby for several minutes when she arrives, but then you'd like her to play in the pack n' play, then make it a routine, and stick to it -- no matter how much she screams (provided there's nothing else bothering her, of course). She's young, but she'll figure it out quickly. She will also try to wear you out and make you give in, but don't do it. It takes a ton of energy, but you've got to be the one to show who is boss. If you give in once, it will be that much worse next time. Believe me, this will go a long way if you're still watching her when she's a toddler!

So pick your battles, figure out what's worth it, and stick with it! It is a long-term investment of your energy and time, but it's well worth it. By showing her who's in charge, you're showing her that you care about her. Good luck!
Chickenhauler 11:37 PM 11-10-2009
You call it "Spirited", but to me it sounds like a classic case of spoiled.

The child gets what it wants by throwing a conniption fit. It wants to be held constantly, so when you put the child down, the child cries. You don't want the child to cry, so you're picking the child up. Child wins.

The child insists that it must be in it's eating seat when you are preparing lunch.....if it is not, it cries. You don't want to deal with that, so you put the child in there. Child wins.

The child goes berserk-o when you try to feed her.

I know this sounds cruel, but you have to prove to the child you are the adult and the one in charge (it sounds like the parents have failed at this task).

It's not going to be easy, as the parents are spoiling this child.

We have dealt with this at our DC also, and you would be amazed that once you set the ground rules down, how the child's behavior changes. What's even funnier, is the child will still be a spoiled little brat for mom and dad, and an entirely different child at DC.....because they know that at DC, the provider is in charge, while at home, mom and dad are not.
jen 10:10 AM 11-11-2009
I'm with Chickenhauler on this one...
DBug 09:11 AM 11-12-2009
I have to add my two cents on the spoiled/spirited debate ... again.

I don't think the two have to be mutually exclusive. As I mentioned before, my middle child is spirited, my youngest and oldest are the easy-going type. So far as I can tell, I've raised them all pretty much the same way.

In my experience, a spirited child has a very specific temperament that needs to be dealt with in a very different way than you would deal with a non-spirited child. It's very easy to spoil a spirited child, and so much more important that you don't. They'll push it farther every time, so if you give an inch, they'll demand a mile. And then 2 the next time, and 3 the next time. You have to be so much more consistent with your rules & consequences and expectations.

These are the kids that will be driven as adults to accomplish great things, if they're raised right. But in the meantime, even if you're not spoiling them, they'll still give you a run for your money!

I'd encourage anyone in this provider's postion to see the challenge as more one of shaping a child's character, rather than un-spoiling a kid. You'll likely feel alot less animosity if you look at it that way, and you'll be more able to work with the parents, instead of feeling like you're working against them.
MomOfMia 10:16 AM 11-12-2009
Well, over the last 3 days, Tahlia has been improving, I think.

She did a lot more independent play on Tuesday afternoon and again on Wednesday morning. I will say that she started to melt down about 45 minutes before mom picked her up on Thursday... I refused to pick her up, but instead, I did get on the floor with her to show her some support. I never did give in to picking her up. Wednesday morning, she played independently for a good while before it was time for nap.

But Wednesday afternoon, that was over 1 hours of inconsolable meltdown. She was especially unhappy when redirected away from things she's not allowed to play with.... that would ensue a good 5 minute mega meltdown! But I'm actually thinking the teeth might have been a lot of the issue here. Normally, I would have put her back in the crib, but thinking longterm, I knew that this would mean a late bedtime for her at home and consequently, a tough morning for me on Thursday. So, I just did what I could to comfort her without picking her up.

This morning, Thursday, was a unique morning. Her mama is away and this was the first time she didn't nurse in the morning (her only remaining nursing session). Instead, she had 6 oz of formula (as compared to 4oz normally) at home and arrived to me pretty happy and played contently and independently for over 90 minutes before napping.... Usually, when she first comes to me, she needs another 1-2 oz of formula before she'll go down for a nap, usually within 30 minutes of arriving. So, I cannot help but wonder if she's actually not getting much milk from her mom (remember mom is 4 mo prego) and often comes to me hungry and cranky in the AM. Her father is much more about teaching independence, so if I had to guess, this morning, she neither got the the cuddles or the milk she expects from mom in the morning.

And since she didn't have that 1-2 oz here, she was much more willing to eat her breakfast, after the AM nap, without throwing a fit.

So, when dad picks her up tonight, I'm going to share this with him and hope that he takes my suggestion to encourage mom to use this time away to fully wean. Her mom and I had discussed that earlier in the week as well.

I'm hoping this isn't a fluke and it does stick. She's been much more bearable today, so far. She been playing on the floor alone for the last 30 minutes or so!

DBug... I think I agree with you on the spirited/spoiled thing. I believe spirited/high needs is a temperament they are born with (nature).... and spoiling is a product of their environment/care (nurture).
I have met spirited babies who are better adjusted than other spirited kids, who, like Tahlia, need to improve in this area. I have also met non-spirited children who are spoiled brats! Tahlia is almost always a very difficult baby on Mondays.... fussing almost all day. But her mother warned me of this the 2nd Monday she was in my charge that her previous provider had the same issue. So, I do believe she's being spoiled on the weekends.

What really worries me, is what is she going to be like after 2 weeks off for Christmas break! Or good gravy.... next fall after the summer break! Though that will be a whole new story since her little sibling will have arrived by then AND she'll be walking AND the new baby will also be in my care... though I've already warned mom that I will not take them both if the 2nd one ends up with a similar temperament!

Anyway, thank you everyone for the support and suggestions. I have been implementing many of the ideas presented.
Tags:carry, hold, holding, needy, temperament
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