Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Following the Principles: Parts 7 & 8 in a series of 8

Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~  23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!
Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~ 23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!

Now that we have finally welcomed our newest addition— an 11lb son named Lazlo who was born safely at our home — I can take the time to sit down and write again. The swelling and the restlessness of late pregnancy made computer time just one more form of torture in a sea of physical discomforts. Fortunately, those discomforts are behind me now (although I vow to never, ever forget the challenges of the third trimester, just in case I am ever stricken with Baby Fever again years from now) and my recovery has been a joyous time of healing, snuggling, nursing and marveling. Well…for the most part.

Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.
Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.

There, of course, is my sweet little 22-month-old T-Bird to deal with. While she is thrilled that there is breastmilk on the menu again, she is not as enthusiastic about her new little brother trying to enjoy that milk–with or without her. Nursing them together is a terrific way to get a worry-free 20-minute power-nap, but can also backfire and result in T-Bird’s numerous attempts to unlatch the baby, to poke him the eye, to cover his face with a blanket, to elbow him… fun times. So then, I will go with the other extreme and nurse T-Bird first, or nurse her in another room, or nurse her after I get Lazlo to sleep. She then proceeds to spend that time constantly unlatching and relatching asking “Where’s Lazlo? Baby wants nursie?” while pulling, scratching and patting the unoccupied breast…more fun times. Not to mention the all-new behaviors when we are not nursing—throwing, hitting, screeching, drawing on walls, stomping food into the carpets.

Big Sister Bug is smitten with our new little guy.
Big Sister Bug is smitten with our new little guy.

Needless to say, the frustration level for everyone has risen sharply and words like “No!” “Don’t!” and “Stop” are being heard way more often than I am comfortable with around our cozy home. It is so effortless to simply be angry and frustrated with T-Birds anger and frustration. We’ve done all the “right things” and followed all the the advice about preparing her, preparing our house, preparing things for her to do. We even recognize and accept that reversion to baby-like behaviors is perfectly normal — Sir Hubby happily slings T-Bird and rocks her to sleep and we’ve allowed her to move back into our bed at night. So what gives? She still seems frustrated, angry, and unhappy.

The new baby is getting poked and prodded and left to cry longer than I would like so that I can deal with T-Bird’s behaviors. I am feeling racked with guilt—I am not providing the level of care and attention that I feel our newborn needs, nor is T-Bird getting what she needs to be the pleasant, happy, generous little person she was just a week ago. This is our very first time having two children so close in age, we expected it to be more difficult, but did not expect it to be so emotionally trying to see one of our most cherished family members acting so hurt and frustrated. Our older children always welcomed their new siblings with loving acceptance. Clearly, if there is to be any balance in our home ever again, we have to begin practicing positive discipline at its very finest and help T-Bird deal with her negative emotions and her worries about having a new baby in the house!

Big Sister Ella gives T-Bird some love during Lazlo's birth
Big Sister Ella gives T-Bird some love during Lazlo's birth

So, in addition to all of the new responsibilities of having two under two, Sir Hubby and I are busy busting out our best discipline resources: Attached at the Heart. Unconditional Parenting. Connection Parenting. The Discipline Book by Dr Sears. Sure, as the parents to five children, we are familiar with all of the techniques, but while under stress, even the most practiced positive discipline advocates may need a refresher course. We find ourselves rewinding a hundred times a day– magically turning “Stop that!” into “I see that you are curious about your brother’s eyes. But it hurts him to have them touched. What body parts do we all have in common? Let’s sing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes together! But there are plenty of times that even our best efforts fall short and we have a screaming, thrashing toddler and a screaming, wailing newborn. The very scenario I was dreading all through the pregnancy!

Our precious new boy!
Our precious new boy!

It has been less than two weeks since Lazlo was born, so we don’t expect a miraculous turn-around in T-Birds behavior. I have a postpartum doula who is helping me to design a daily routine to hopefully accommodate all of the family members and to allocate my resources more appropriately so that everyone’s needs are met (including my own). We have a wonderful support system of friends and family who have descended upon us and stocked our freezer. We are as blessed as a family could be and know that our children have the type of secure attachments that will see them through this transition. But knowing something on an intellectual level and feeling it in your heart are two different things and I worry that we may never see our incredibly sweet-natured little girl again!

So, Momma’s with kids close in age…what secrets can you share with me? What resources were invaluable to you? What tools worked? And how did you keep yourself taken care of when so many people were making demands of your body, mind and time?

Author: justine

Justine Julian blogs at State of the Heart. Learn more about her work as a doula at JulianArts.

8 thoughts on “Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life”

  1. Wow, now here is an article I can relate to! Two under two is so hard. My son was raised as an ‘attached’ baby, not left to cry, co sleeping, nursing, positive discipline, a model child compared to others. But his sisters coming was very hard on him. I too thought i had lost my sweet little boy. He loves here dearly but always wants my attention. Once baby starts crawling it gets interesting. He now asks to play with here as they like the same toys, but sharing is sometimes a problem. It’s hard to not shout ‘stop!, don’t!’ but I don’t beat myself up over it. I can’t be the perfect parent all the time with two little ones.

  2. Hi Justine,
    I always appreciate your articles… My kids are three years apart (39 months) so I had a slightly different situation, though I have to say that I was beyond my limit and overwhelmed regardless.

    One thing that helped me, and I realize this might not work with a younger child, is that we developed a code-word. He could say this word and it meant that he would have 100% of my kind, open attention. We practiced while the baby was asleep so he came to understand that the word really “worked.” I suppose it gave him a sense of control over the situation. I wrote it about here (three years ago!)

    I know you may not want to hear it, but it also just took time… 🙂 Your good intentions and your awareness will do wonders, even though it doesn’t feel like it, yet.

    I did feel badly for a long time and worried and fretted and could not see how it would all work out, for a long time. One tool I wish I had then was the ability to focus more on what I wanted rather than what I DIDN’T want. Just even spending a minute day imagining a peaceful, cooperative home might have helped me. I know it might sound new agey, but you could try saying to yourself, “Things are challenging right now, but we’re finding our way.”

    Because you are… you are always finding your way.


  3. Let me tell you I had goose pimples while reading your post. In July I had my second baby and went through many, many similar situations as the ones you describe. My precious Sofia (two years old) went from smiling princess to moaning witch…my baby girl was frustrated, disoriented………..and I couldn´t find a way to make her feel better. At the same time I found myself being angry many times. Now, six months from that moment, I can tell you the system is in balance again. If I had to say what worked, I would have to say: AP practices (just like you describe) and TIME. There is not much we can do, it is their first frustration. I remember putting that into words and, sometimes, hugging her and telling her that I missed so much being able to make her happy just by being with her. It was a big frstration for me too. I cried a lot! Now, I watch them together, cuddling, and cry again but with tears of joy. Congratulation on your newborn and thanks for all your beatiful texts. Best wishes from Argentina.

  4. Congratulations on the new baby! My last two are 23 months apart and I did find that harder than my first two who are 26 months apart. Just those 3 months difference made a big difference somehow. I found that the first few weeks, we just had to survive, which meant trying to get enough rest, taking it easy and not rushing to get back to normal and focusing on lots of bonding through simple things like just cuddling up in bed. And what helped me and I feel really saved me was babywearing. I quickly learned how to put my new baby on my back and he would take all his naps on my securely on my back in a woven wrap or a mei tai. That gave me my full front for my other kids, which then kept their world similarly to how it was before baby. I really think that helped a lot in merging the new baby into our lives and having my 23 month old still feel that he has his mama like he did before. I know you’ll figure out what works for you. You are an amazing mama!

  5. Someone framed it like this for me:
    Imagine your partner just arrived home and said I am getting another spouse, they are moving in next week. Not an easy situation for a little one.

    When my second arrived my first was 13 months and he needed to have some good cries. My partner or I held him and accepted his really powerful emotions.

  6. It sounds like you are already figuring it out by going back to the suggestions from Dr. Sears. I wish i had read that when my daughter was 29 months and my son was born. She, too, took it hard and acted out a lot. She is still, one year later almost to the day, too rough with him too often and is unable to let me tend to him when needed much too frequently. Sometimes I want to scream, if you could give me 10 minutes of uninterrupted time, i could get the baby to sleep and we could play for 2 hours straight! All I can say is I wish I had been more patient and understanding and tried to help her cope more in the beginning. I was so tired and still am. I pushed myself too hard and tried to do it all. You are very fortunate to have a doula. I did have help from my mom. Pull in all your reinforcements, but don’t have them all take on the role of spending time with your older one. take 1:1 time with her and let them enjoy the baby so she feels special again. This is SUCH a hard situation. I still struggle with it daily on some level, but it is much easier than the earlier months. They do bond. Hang in there. And congrats on that big healthy boy! Mine was 10# 3oz and I thought that was big!

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