Training the little berry

by thewallflowerchapter

Recently, there’s been a couple of episodes whereby the little berry had been pretty disagreeable and we had to stand our ground and guide her in the right direction.

Once was when we came back from a trek in BT. She missed her afternoon nap, fell asleep in the car and woke up with insufficient rest. Let’s just call that a mini WW3. She wanted to be carried by me and she didn’t want to be put down at all. She didn’t want to go into any rooms so I was standing at the staircase landing with a crying baby in my arms. She didn’t want anything except to cry…

The other episode was when she was at my parent’s place after church. She was quite tired, possibly from the lack of sleep the day before (which was the BT day), and was rather cranky. She dropped a stack of cards on the floor and was intentionally scattering them around, I told her to pick them up and she refused. It quickly deteriorated from stubborn “no, no nos” to full-on crying and thrashing about on the floor because I refused to carry her.

In both episodes, I noticed a couple of common things:

  1. She was over-tired, either from lack of sleep, or from residual insufficient rest. She was possibly also not 100% health-wise, possibly from the recent bout of flu, or from the vaccine.

  2. She wanted things done her way (e.g. to be carried by a particular person, usually me), and her behavior would quickly degenerate when her wants aren’t met.

  3. Once she gets into a funk, she quickly spirals down and it gets very hard to pull her out of the unreasonable behavior. I also observe that she finds it hard to stop crying and will sob for a long time, and anything can trigger her sobs to full-on crying again.

I thank God for the patience and firmness that GY displayed when he was communicating with her during the trying episode. He tried to get her to do the “ears listen, eyes watch, mouth quiet, body calm” Cookie Monster move to calm down. He had to try for many times before she would follow through. When she’s calmed down, he talked to her in a loving yet firm voice and asked her what she wanted. When she can articulate what she wanted (which was to come to me), he then let her come to me. It took many tries because in between her crying, she couldn’t calm down for a long time.

When she was eventually allowed to come to me, she had to say “please” before I could carry her, but even then it wasn’t easy because she didn’t want to go anymore and it got tiring to carry her just standing still in one place. I didn’t know what to do, but I thought it’s best to not do anything and to observe her or let her work through her emotions for a bit before I decide on my next move. When I could see that she was still very much in a downward spiral, I decided to change the environment altogether, and carried her to the laundry area in the kitchen to take care of the dirty diapers, which was something I had to do anyway.

She protested initially but I walked on anyway, talking to her gently, lovingly but firmly along the way. I noticed that it helped to talk her through what I was doing

  1. As GY did, talk in a loving but firm voice to ask her to calm down and articulate what she wants. Stand our ground but also be flexible in what she’s able to do (e.g. she may not be able to do everything in the ‘ears listen…’ move when she’s in that state.)

  2. Affirm her that we love her and wants to carry/respond to her, but she has to calm down or say “please” first.

  3. Change the environment/context when she’s more or less calmed down to prevent a downward spiral again.

In the second episode, I was alone and had to discipline her behind closed doors, away from the distraction of loving grandparents. I wasn’t sure what to do because she was definitely in a downward spiral, so I told her to pray along with me, which amazingly, she did. We prayed that God would calm her down, fill me with love and wisdom on how to respond to her, that she will have a teachable spirit, and that she will get a good restful nap later. She calmed down significantly after praying.

This happened again after she woke up from her afternoon nap on the same day. She didn’t sleep that long and woke up grumpy. She was disagreeable and basically didn’t want anything. In between her “no, no, nos”, I asked her to pray with me and she did. It wasn’t a 180-degree change in attitude but she calmed down significantly and after that, I was able to distract her with other activities and pull her out of her downward funk. Eventually, we were able to have a fun evening watching DJ bake.

So what I’ve learnt from this episode was:

  1. To bring her to a quiet place where I could teach her privately, without distractions.

  2. God hears our cries for help! Praying calms her down significantly.

  3. Her attitude may take some time to improve, give her time. Be patient.

With her growing up and asserting her independence, I suspect this is just the beginning of many more episodes where we’ll need to teach her, train her, discipline her…

Lord I pray for the wisdom and love to be firm, and to act in both truth and grace in training the little berry. I pray that you give us an added dose of patience and creativity to teach her. I pray against the spirit of anger, against acting on our human impulses. I pray that we’ll seek you first, and we’ll always come to you when we don’t know what to do. I pray that with every episode, that we’ll reveal more of you to her through our loving discipline. I pray that when we get tired, weary, impatient, that we’ll remember how we sin everyday, so many times a day, and yet you choose to show us grace, to bring us back to yourself. Help us Lord, to reflect you when we train the little berry. In Jesus’ name, Amen.