Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Preventative Discipline through Lifestyle Choices

At 18 months, the majority of "discipline" for her involves me trying to prevent and ward off tantrums in both me and her. I've tried to align our days and weeks around making it easier for us to be in better moods.

Breastfeeding fixes a lot of things at once: it removes a child from a stressful situation, it addresses thirst and hunger, and it can facilitate a much needed nap. If Margaret is cranky and I breastfeed her- she often falls asleep within 5 or 10 minutes. Sometimes it's even faster- 30 seconds to a minute!

Margaret will occasionally comfort nurse. She used to never accept the breast when she was hurt, but now it's a great way to calm her down. Once at story time at the library she tripped on the steps and started screaming. Immediately I thought of what I could do: take the screaming toddler through the library and out into the echo-y hall, and hope she calms down or I could just pull my shirt down and breastfeed her. I chose the later and in less than 10 seconds she calmed down, nursed, and was already off my breast ready to go listen to the story. As tempting as the echo-y hall sounded, I don't think it would have fixed the problem that quickly.

Breastfeeding is also beneficial to me because it requires that I stop everything I'm doing and sit down for a couple of minutes. It gives me time to collect my thoughts and gain control of the situation. Often it's not Margaret that needs discipline, but me.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful tool for discipline. If you're interested in how breastfeeding can be used as a distraction for toddlers, or just want something funny to read, I highly recommend Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan. It's long, but totally worth the time.

Sunshine is good for my moods and for Margaret's as well. I try to make sure Margaret gets outside for some part of the morning. This is getting harder now that it's colder, but I still try to get her outside. Besides making Margaret a happier, vitamin D-filled child, it helps her take better naps. Better naps lead to less mood swings and tantrums. Blog posts that made me think more about how much Margaret needs sunshine include PhDinParenting's Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips and The Parenting Passageway's "Social Experiences" for a Four-Year-Old. PhDinParenting's suggestion of doubling outside time and her example of going from 2 hours to 4 hours of outside time shocked me. Four hours? Wow. That's a lot. Do kids really need that much? Then I read that post from the Parenting Passageway and I thought more about how spending time outside can help a child. I think I really need to step up our outside time. I also plan on reading and reviewing Last Child in the Woods this winter.

Our morning outside time is part of our whole routine. It's not set in stone, but it does make the day easier. In the morning we go out: to the park or on errands depending on the day. In the morning, Margaret is rested and able to handle the busyness. Around lunch time we come home and I immediately nurse Margaret down for her nap. This is probably the most important part of the routine. She expects this and usually falls asleep in about 10 minutes. I can then eat my lunch while she naps and that's my "me" time. Margaret usually stirs twice in her nap and needs to be nursed back to sleep. If she doesn't get nursed back to sleep at those times, she is much crankier later; she needs somewhere around 3 hours of nap, give or take. Then she wakes up and McKay comes home and we have dinner and fall into our night time routine. This is working pretty well for us, but I think I need to add more outside time in between her waking up and McKay coming home.

Those are our main lifestyle choices for limiting moodswings and tantrums: breastfeeding, sunshine, and a routine. Tomorrow I'll touch on some of our nutritional choices.

How do you use your routine to help your toddler's day run smoothly?


  1. Love the picture of Margaret!

  2. Our routine is different every day, because I can never predict what time my daughter will want her nap, and how long each one will be. But good days always follow a pattern: activity, sleep, more activity, sleep, eat dinner, play, sleep.

    One thing that works very well for me is nursing my baby down in a ring sling. I have done this since she was 5 months old so she has a strong association between lying in the sling and going to sleep. It only takes 10 minutes to nurse her down during the day because of this association.

    There is a very strong correlation between good days (in terms of my mood and my daughter's mood) and outside time. Unfortunately it is often the first thing to go when I am tired and cranky.

    Nice interesting post. Thanks.

  3. I think that nursing is a wonderful preventative tool for crankiness. I do allow Michael to release tensions by crying, but after he's cried for a bit, he often wants to nurse. I think he's figured out that it helps him feel better. I love that it takes care of hunger and thirst and rest, because those are all important factors in how a child is feeling.

    I'm preoccupied about vitamin D and getting enough of it. I don't want to give him artificial vitamins, so I am always trying to get him out. But FOUR HOURS?? I am constantly trying to step it up, but it's hard! He's always in a good mood when he is out, though!

    Michael has recently decided that he wants to go in the "car" first thing every morning. Um, I don't think so. Maybe we need a more fixed routine? At least his nap is pretty set, for most days.

  4. Lisa- I think the library example was much of a fluke. More often than not, Margaret won't accept the breast immediately after being hurt- she has to get her crying out and tell me how bad it was before she'll relax enough to latch on.

    And I so know 4 hours is daunting. We barely get 2 hours in most days. It's really hard in the fall/winter.

  5. Wow, Heather, I'm really impressed. I don't usually visit this blog because I know that we have very different parenting styles but I love this post (and the next one). Preventative discipline is so important and you have lots of good ideas for how to keep mom and child happy and calm.

    I should take a page out of your book and try to spend a whole lot more time outside.

    I still find that when Soren is happy and calm, he will do things that he shouldn't. He will throw food on the floor, scratch the skin off his butt, hit another kid, or stick his fingers in a light socket. He's not acting out; he just doesn't know any better. Part of my job, though, is to teach and protect him. While I do not think that lashing out in anger or with violence is appropriate, I do think that some form of guidance is necessary. I usually find that saying "No" and removing him from the situation is all the "discipline" he needs.

  6. Maybe in the library she sensed that you didn't want her to cry and disturb people, so she accepted the breast?

  7. Lisa,
    I suppose it's possible. She was born in the caul and that's supposed to make her psychic. :)
    I do think kids are amazing at picking up on parents' vibes. Maybe she did sense that. It's quite possible.


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