Toddler Behavior: Louise Bates Ames Writes About Your One-Year-Old

I'm reading every parenting book ever written on an obsessive quest to find helpful nuggets and insights to include in my first BabyShrink book. Those of you who know me know that I think much of what's available these days is garbage. Junk. Not practical. Not worth the money.

But once in awhile, I find a gem. Most of these gems are "oldies but goodies" -- dated, in some ways, but true and superb in the way that classics always are.

Louise Bates Ames, PhD, wrote a whole series of parenting books over 30 years ago, with a new book for each year of life. I've read most of them, but so far, this is my favorite. It might have to do with the fact that I have a particularly spicy 1-year-old in the house (thankfully NAPPING, at the moment -- something I don't take for granted with her).

Ames doesn't take 12-24 months for granted, like so many other parenting writers. Ames contends that, in fact, this is one of the trickiest ages to parent -- and I fully agree. In this book, she explains why -- and gives the simplest, sweetest, most effective suggestions I've ever read on how to contend with your newbie toddler.



Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: Fabulous Fraiberg #6: Why Won't My Toddler Sleep?

zzzzzz.......Excuse me, I was just dozing off. I haven't been able to get much sleep over the past, say, 10 years or so (I keep having babies, what can I say) -- and the pursuit of sleep, because of unwilling babies and toddlers, has become an obsession for me. Unfortunately, there's no holy grail, but at least there's a good explanation for it. As usual, I turn to the Fabulous Fraiberg for a little support over my sleepless children. I always get goosebumps when I reach the end of this section:

We began with a baby in the first month of life....His world was a chaos of undifferentiated sensation from which he slipped gratefully into the nothingness of sleep...

At 18 months this baby is traveling extensively and has acquired a small but useful vocabulary (just enough to get a meal and bargain with the natives). He has encountered some of the fundamental problems of the human race -- the nature of reality, of subjective and objective experience, causality, the vicissitudes of love, and has made promising studies in each of these areas. We could easily forgive him if these first encounters with our world should create a desire to go back to sleep twenty hours a day. But this fellow upsets all notions about human inertia by forging ahead like a locomotive right into the densities of human activity. Sleep?...Let us try to take it away from him and put him back into the darkness. Sleep? But look, he can't keep his eyes open! He's drunk with fatigue. He howls with indignation at the extended hands, rouses himself with a mighty exertion from near collapse to protest these villains who take away his bright and beautiful world. From his crib, in the darkened room he denounces these monster parents, then pleads for commutation of sentence in eloquent noises. he fights valiantly, begins to fail -- then succumbs to his enemy, Sleep.

Sleep -- at last

From Selma Fraiberg, The Magic Years, pages 63-64

Don't blame the toddler for resisting sleep. But notice, Fraiberg doesn't suggest we take him out of the crib and let him keep up his explorations -- no, Fraiberg asks us to understand the toddler's dilemmas, to empathize with him, but to put him to bed nonetheless, when he needs it. A toddler can be "pushed" to go to sleep. A 6-month-old baby shouldn't (yet). It's this major disparity in the developmental needs of young children -- 3 months, vs. 6 months, vs. 9 months, vs. 12 and 18 and 24 months -- that confuses us, as parents. But the more we understand the unique needs of the specific age of our child, the better we will be at negotiating their needs.

And now, off to get a cup of coffee -- the baby needs me :)


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: Fabulous Fraiberg #5 - Dealing With Negative Toddlers

Here's a continuation of the previous quote from Fraiberg. I try to keep this in mind while wrestling with the baby at diaper-changing time:

The chief characteristic of the second year is not negativism but a powerful striving to become a person and to establish permanent

Toddlers -- messy and hilarious

bonds with the world of reality. We must remember when we speak of the "negativism" of the toddler that this is also the child who is intoxicated with the discoveries of the second year, a joyful child who is firmly bound to his parents and his newfound world through ties of love.....Under ordinary circumstances it does not become anarchy. It's a kind of declaration of independence, but there is no intention to unseat the government....The citizen can be allowed to protest the matter of the changing of his pants (they are his pants, anyway) and the government can exercise its prerogatives in the matter of pants changing without bringing on a crisis. When the citizen is small and wriggly, is illiterate and cannot even speak his native language, it takes ingenuity and patience to accomplish this, but if we do not handle this as a conspiracy against the government, he will finally acquire the desirable attitude that changing his pants is an ordinary event, and one that will not deprive him of his human rights.

Selma Fraiberg, The Magic Years, pages 62-62

It's a lot of work coping with (and cleaning up after) these shrimpy mess-makers, but try to remember that you're in charge, after all. Then try to enjoy the wild abandon that is the miracle of your toddler.


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #3 -- How to Civilize Your "Little Savage"

Your toddler isn't a "kid". Your toddler is a unique creature with his own way of thinking. We could all use some reminding about what it's like to be a toddler. Check this out, another gem from Fraiberg, about the experience of a young toddler:

The missionaries have arrived

The missionaries have arrived. They come bearing culture to the joyful savage. They smuggled themselves in as infatuated parents, of course. They nurtured him, made themselves indispensable to him, lured him into the discovery of their fascinating world, and after a decent interval they come forth with salesmen's smiles to promote higher civilization.

Somewhere between eight and fifteen months they sell him on the novelty and greater convenience of a cup over the breast or bottle. By the time he himself has come to regard the cup as a mark of good breeding and taste the missionaries have lost interest in the cup and are promoting the hygiene and etiquette of potty chairs and toilets which, he is assured, will elevate him into still higher strata of culture....They are forever on hand with a clean diaper, a pile of fresh clothes and hypocritical smiles to induce him to leave whatever it is he is doing for whatever it is they want him to be doing, and it's certain to be a bore. They are there to interfere with the joys of emptying garbage cans and wastebaskets. And of course, they bring in proposals of naps and bedtime at the most unfortunate moments and for reasons that are clear only to them.

Now, admittedly, such interference is necessary in order to bring culture to a fellow who obviously needs it. But from the baby's point of view most of this culture stuff makes no sense at all. He only knows that certain vital interests are being interfered with, and since his missionaries and he do not even speak the same language, the confusion will not be cleared up for some time.

The baby resists these interferences with his own investigations and creative interests. This earns him the reputation of being "negative" and permits us to speak of the second year as "a negativistic phase." This is not entirely fair to the toddler who lacks the means for stating his case. If he had a good lawyer he could easily demonstrate that most of the negating comes from the side of the culture bearers, and his "negativism" is essentially a negation of their negation.

From Selma Fraiberg's The Magic Years, pages 59-60.

That's why an easy-going toddler toddler with no complaints actually worries me. It's not developmentally appropriate. So the next time your toddler dumps out your garbage can, think of Fraiberg and try to smile. My 7-month-old and I be joining you there again in just a few months :)


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #2 -- Fear and the Young Child

I'm plowing through essential classic parenting titles as I write my own book. Fraiberg is such a gem, and even 50 years after publication, this book is a giant among Fears can't be avoided

parenting titles. In this next section, she elaborates on the theme of the child's own innate ability to deal with fears. She give us a timely reminder that we need to trust in the inner ability of our children to cope with their own difficulties. Of course they need us to assist and support them in that process, but the "equipment" is there, naturally. These days too many of us get caught up in worrying that we need to teach our kids every single thing, and don't give them enough space to work on solving their own problems. I find it quite a relief to be reminded that my kids are far from a tabula rasa -- a blank slate -- but rather, they come pre-loaded with all sorts of fancy developmental abilities.

(Normally) the child overcomes his fears. And here is the most fascinating question of all: How does he do it? For the child is equipped with the means for overcoming his fears. Even in the second year he possesses a marvelously complex mental system which provides the means for anticipating danger, assessing danger, defending against danger, and overcoming danger. Whether this quipment can be successfully employed will depend, of course, on the parents who, in a sense, teach him to use his equipment. This means that if we understand the nature of the developing child and those parts of his personality that work for solution and resolution toward mental health, we are in the best position to assist him in developing his inner resources for dealing with fears.

From Selma Fraiberg's The Magic Years, page 6.

So as parents, the best we can do is to understand the developmental process, know the temperamental realities of our own kids, and hold their hands while they walk through the tricky spots. No parenting "technique" can take the place of a genuinely interested, centered, and supportive parent -- one who knows when to step in and help, and one who knows when to hang back and trust the magic of the developmental process.


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

I Need Your Most Challenging Baby-Parenting Stories!

When our first child was 3 months old, a stranger in a coffee shop stopped to "ooh and aah" over her. "Is she your first?" He asked. When I nodded through my sleep-deprived haze, he went on to say, "A first child is always showered with love -- and anxiety." He didn't stay long enough to explain this pithy statement, but it really is true. Our hearts are rent open forever, exposed outside our bodies, by the vulnerability we now feel, and by the love and havoc wreaked by these tiny creatures. The first baby gets the brunt of our fears, projections, stress and worries. Becoming parents changes us from the inside out, and those early weeks and months are unique in our lives.

People, you've been good to me these past 2 years. I appreciate your support, your questions, and your stories. Now it's time for me to take the next step and announce my next project -- No, I'M NOT PREGNANT AGAIN. (Sheesh! I just had my fourth....give me a break people!) No -- I'm writing a book. And I need your stories for my book on -- what else? -- parenting babies.

I need the lessons you learned, the dilemmas that vexed you, the memories you'll carry with you forever. And I promise I'll share mine too. Please try to dig down in your memory for dilemmas, lessons learned (or not learned) and things you wished you'd known in those early weeks and months of parenting for the first time. And if you're living it now, even better -- what anxieties do you have? What challenges you most? Thanks in advance. Comment here, or email me.

As always,

With aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

How to Talk to Kids: A Great Book

Our 6-year-old is in the throes of a really anxious phase. He often needs to be reassured about where we are, even if we're all just in the house. He's afraid to go to sleep at night. And he's terrified of "ET", a classic we allowed the babysitter to show the kids one night. You'd think my shrink-training would help in these situations, but often it doesn't. You know how it goes: When it comes to your own kids, rational knowledge goes out the window. Intellectually, I remind myself that 6-year-olds aren't rational creatures yet. They can't hang on to the logical reassurances we give them. They haven't reached the stage where logic "sticks" in their minds. In many ways, they're still like preschoolers; apt to live in the "magical world" of fantasy, imagination, and fears.

But when he's scared out of his wits, part of me wants to scream, "Snap out of it! We're not leaving you, we never have, and we never will! Enough, already, and go to sleep!"

So I'm calling in reinforcements. I've pulled an awesome book off my shelf and am reminded why I think this is one of the world's best parenting guides. If you haven't seen it, go spend 10 bucks on Amazon for the paperback version, or check it out of your library. You'll refer to it again and again (and I promise, I get no "cut" from promoting anything here). It's called "Between Parent and Child", by Dr. Haim Ginott. It was first published a million years ago, but it couldn't be more appropriate today. His sensitivity and approach to dealing with children simply can't be matched. Reading Ginott again has lifted a weight from my shoulders and reminded me that all will be well with our son, soon enough. It's also given me lots of good ideas for how to approach this phase-specific anxiety he's going through.

I hope you enjoy it!


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Great Books for Kids

Here are some of my favorites, if you need last-minute gift ideas for young kids, ages 4-8: Stoo Hample's Classic (Candlewick)

Stoo Hample's The Silly Book, published by Candlewick. This classic holds it's own. My kids recite these ridiculously funny lines in the car, at home, and make BabyShrink's Biggest Fan very proud in the process; she's the one who bestowed this goofy gift upon us. Really, any young kid MUST have this book. Required reading!


Check out Diary of Worm, by Cronin and Bliss (HarperCollins, Publisher). There's a whole series of these Diary books, but this is my favorite. Funny and gross in a way your 4-8-year-old will love. Believe it or not, these kinds of gross stories are developmentally appropriate! Kids this age are starting to understand humor in a new way, and independence is enhanced any time our kids manage to gross us out. It helps them set up a little kid boundary around what they think and enjoy -- and get a little space from us!


Finally, I want to plug my friend Ilima Loomis' new book, Kaimi's First Roundup. It's a lovely depiction of the unique life of the paniolo, our Hawaiian word for cowboy, and the book is getting great reviews. Your kiddie horse-lovers will enjoy this unique take on the cowboy story. (And perhaps inspire a trip to come see us in Hawaii!) Don Robinson's illustrations are fantastic.

Do you need a recommendation for a great book for yourself? Next time, I'll tell you about the book I just finished -- my favorite of the year!

My Favorite Book for the Baby in Your Life

Books are one of my favorite gifts, for any age. But I learned from BabyShrink's Biggest Fan that it's no good to give a book without thoroughly reading it first, to make sure it's just right for the intended recipient. My mother sits for hours in bookstores, pouring through childrens' books, and has come up with some fantastic specimens. I'll feature a couple of those tomorrow. But I have a real bone to pick with authors of books meant for babies -- many of these are just poorly written, with no appreciation for a baby's developmental level. A really egregious example is the series of books I saw the other day at one of the big-box stores. Upon first glance, the pictures were cute, colorful and fun. I think most parents (or grandparents) end their evaluation of the book right there. But if you look closer, you see that the storyline is confusing, there are a couple of parts that would be scary to toddlers and preschoolers, and the actual SIZE of the board book was enormous. Note to baby book publishers: Stop producing those giant board books that no baby could ever hold by themselves! Those things are real hazards. Have you ever tried reading one of those behemoths to a fidgety baby? They grab the pages and try valiantly to turn them, but the sheer bulk of the giant cardboard pages is enough to give the little one a black eye. Come on, let's see some books that are created with actual babies in mind!

So I'm thrilled with my latest discovery, No No Yes Yes, by Leslie Patricelli. It's a simple, hilarious look at the dilemmas experienced several times a day by babies and toddlers learning the rules and limits of life. Most baby books simply have too many words to be appropriate for such young minds.

Cover to No No Yes Yes by Patricelli

Patricelli understands that just a few words -- two, to be exact -- plus simple and straightforward illustrations -- are all that's necessary to convey a world of meaning to a little one. I love that she understands the challenge of this age; to learn to control oneself, given the zillion rules imposed by parents. She's truly speaking to her audience here, and in the process is already gaining an appreciative following. Our two-year-old is a case in point. He laughs hysterically every time he gets to the page where the baby puts a bunch of toys in the potty. He's simultaneously thrilled with the central character's daring, yet also mortified as to what the consequences might be. The book gets read several times a day around here -- and nobody has a black eye from shlepping around a book the size of briefcase!

Please check out Patricelli's book -- and she has several other cute ones I'm looking forward to reading.

Do you have any good baby book recommendations?

BabyShrink’s Book Bag; My New List of Faves! Part Two: Hilarious Mom and Dad Authors

Earlier in the week, I showed you the psychologist/geeky side of my Book Bag and the “expert” parenting books in there. Today, let’s have some fun by checking out the irreverent humor and real-world support we get from these parent authors, all high on my list:

  • My copies of The Girlfriend’s Guides by Vicki Iovine, especially her Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy and Girlfriend’s Guide to Toddlers, have been so well-read in my house that the pages are literally falling off the binding. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed hysterically and made my husband immediately read a paragraph (or 10), no matter how busy he is. Publisher’s Weekly, in their review of her Pregnancy Guide, says, “Without stepping on any medical toes, and in language that is neither technical nor cutesy, she tackles morning sickness, swollen breasts, exercises, stretch marks, sex during and after pregnancy, delivery and just about everything else, from maternity clothing to bladder behavior. Iovine anticipates every conceivable question, and her responses are warm, wise and witty.” And about her Toddler Guide, they say, “even experienced mothers can benefit from this candid, supportive guide.” I’d love to interview Vicki one day on BabyShrink!
  • Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows will save you a lot of $$$ in marriage counseling. Three mom authors have practical, funny, and realistic tips for making the whole family a lot happier, and restoring the balance that’s often lost when we add tiny little intruders into the family. I love the emphasis on re-invigorating a couple’s sex life, post-baby. And if you’ve ever experienced the “10 pm tap on the shoulder” approach to foreplay, you need to read this book for how to get things back on track. Explore their websiteas well as their discussion board for more on the tips in the book.  And stay tuned for my BabyShrink interview with the authors! Email me if you have any questions you’d like me to ask them.
  • I just finished reading Stefanie Wilder-Taylor’s Naptime Is the New Happy Hour; and Other Ways Toddlers Turn Your Life Upside Down. If you’ve seen the BabyShrink Interview with Stefanie, you know she’s hilarious, gorgeous, realistic about parenthood -- and just added twin girls to her brood. This humorist, stand-up comedian, and all-around fabulous chick believes that we often take ourselves WAYYY too seriously, as parents. Get a great dose of her brand of irreverent mommy-in-the-trenches humor in her new book.
  • And if you “reflexively refer to the bathroom as ‘the potty’, would trade your husband for a housekeeper, and consider going to the dentist your ‘special alone time’”, you need to read Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile’s I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids. I love the quick-read, funny lists they compile, like “You Know You’ve Lost Yourself Completely When…You find yourself rescuing a tiny Lego man from a poopy toilet”. They just released their follow-up, Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms, and I can’t wait to read it.
  • Paul Reiser’s Babyhood.  A classic. This comedian/writer/producer/actor’s memoir of becoming a father is painfully funny. A great read for both moms and dads. Here’s part of his conversation with newborn babies about sleep: “Look, you’ve been here long enough to know this is the way it works: We’re up in the morning and we sleep at night – which you’ll remember is the dark part of the day. If you want to take a nap or two in the afternoon, that’s fine. But basically, them’s the rules, and you better straighten up and fly right.” Traditionally, their response is: “Hey, I could give a crap about your rules. These are my rules, so why don’t you get with the program?” A must for every new parent. It was published wayyyy back in 1997, so you may have to search for it a bit, but it’s worth it.

What are your favorite mom/dad parenting authors? Let us know your picks by commenting here!