When I was pregnant and even when the diva was an infant, I wanted to do everything exactly right. Many parents think you have to buy the expensive diapers, feed only organic baby food, play Baby Einstein DVDs constantly and begin teaching another language. While there is some truth to all of that, what I’ve learned is that raising a child is more of an art than a science. You cannot possibly do everything exactly right – lest you turn into the Tiger Mom. And many of these things can turn that sweet little baby into a toddler terror. So let’s begin with what I did and where things went wrong.
At about five months old, I began to teach the diva baby sign language. Baby sign language advocates claim that teaching sign language to a baby reduces fussiness since the child can tell you what she wants and needs. What mom can’t use a little less fussing in her life?! Research has shown that baby sign language also accelerates speech development. All good, right?
So I began researching how to teach baby sign language. It’s very simple. You learn a few basic signs and every time you perform a task with baby (feeding, changing diapers), you’re supposed to make the sign and say the word. The diva picked up a few signs very fast – more, done, milk, please. And this is where things went horribly wrong.
What about the fussiness sign language was supposed to alleviate? ha! When the diva was finished with her snack or Mickey Mouse ended, she would begin signing maniacally. Done. More. Please. And when I didn’t oblige her requests, they turned to screaming. DONE! MORE! PLEASE! I thought I’d be strong and not give in to her. But she knew I knew what she wanted and not giving it to her made her angry. Absolutely and positively furious. I remember standing there thinking where is the little calm, communicative intellectual that I was promised. Needless to say, I stopped teaching her how to boss me around.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure baby sign can be a wonderful tool for some parents, but my diva is stubborn with a short fuse. So now when she wants something that I refuse to give her (like more cheese instead of finishing her fruit), I ignore her and eventually she’ll move on to something else. And there are no bad feelings because I refuse to feel guilty for not acquiesce to a toddler’s immature desires.
Bad parenting? Perhaps. But so is teaching your child to ask for something and then giving it to them every single time they want it. Or not giving into the requests that you taught them how to ask for when they’re too young to understand limits. Young babies little underdeveloped brains can’t quite understand why you teach them how to ask for milk and then refuse to give them 3 cups in a row. Now THAT, people, is frustrating.
The diva is becoming a little more vocal, learning to say please and we’re teaching her that you don’t always get your way. In her ripe old age of 18 months, she’s more able to understand that she can’t always have what she wants. Although that doesn’t always eliminate the temper tantrums, at least they’re born out of pure defiance instead of confusion.