Happy and healthy. That's all we say we want for our babies in life.
I also want him to be a good person. A genuinely good person. Maybe that's asking too much, but that's what I want, and I'm pretty sure a baby can't teach himself that.
I've noticed there are two types of children. There's the stunningly polite, calm, well-spoken child who listens and helps his parents. And then there's the defiant, tantrum-throwing child who blatantly ignores and has control of his parents. The problem child scares me. Sure, there are children who fall in between these two extremes, but I'm shooting to raise mine as close as I can to the best one.
When I see the polite children, I stare and try to figure out how their parents got them that way. While I was pregnant, I told Matt over and over, we're going to raise this baby to be a good boy. A really good boy. Manners, considerate, kind, careful, insert any other happy adjective.
So in Carter's early months, I dismissed myself from the responsibility of attempting to instill this "goodness." You just can't teach a tiny infant right from wrong ... besides, infants don't have the capability to behave badly, they're made up of complete innocence. I did the most I knew how to do for him as far as instilling love and kindness; I nursed him, let him sleep with us, talked to him in a cheerful voice, avoided letting him hear Matt and I when we were angry and tried to calm him when he cried.
But I wondered, how much of our personalities are previously instilled in our brains and how much of it is how we're raised? Can I, as a parent, influence the type of personality he's already been born with?
Carter's nine months old now; he has some instinctive sweetness to him. When we ask him for a kiss, he plants a sloppy one on our cheek, with sound effects and all. When I call his name and ask him to come to me, he turns and happily crawls over. He smiles about everything, and he's always happy to see you.
But when he started regularly and purposely throwing food off his high chair and onto the floor, whining to get what he wanted and biting Matt and I for fun, I decided it's time for business.
When he's about to throw something off his high chair - and even when the food has just hit the floor - I look at him, shake my head and say in a sharp voice, No. I don't ever pick it up for him. I have a slight feeling he does it for attention, because when I'm not staring at him eating, out of the corner of my eye I catch him putting the food neatly in his mouth. I praise him for almost every good bite he eats.
Whining & fits
Carter's fascinated by cords, phones, pretty much anything dangerous or expensive and easy to destroy. I try to be flexible and let him play with almost everything so he can explore the world, but I have to take a lot of things away from him, too. If it's something really cool - like today it was my whipped cream covered Starbucks straw - he screams bloody murder and acts personally offended. I let him scream for about 15 seconds before I give him a new, safer toy.
When he tugs at my leg and whines, I wait it out until he's quiet for a second before I pick him up or give him what he wants because I don't want him to think whining is the way to get his way. I never give him what he wants at the same time the actual whine is going on.
I'll admit I mostly want Carter to have please and thank you engrained in his brain because it's adorable and impressive to hear from a toddler, especially if they aren't even asked to say it. When he's eating I open my mouth and say, Can I please have some? When he gives it to me, I say, Thank you! I do the same routine with kisses.
I try to talk to him clearly. This is a tough one because it isn't how I naturally speak. For example, I normally say, You wanna go gedda snack? I've been trying to remind myself to annunciate better for him and use a complete sentence, Do you want to go get a snack?
Asking vs. Telling
When I'm trying to influence and direct Carter, I try to tell him what we're doing instead of asking his permission. I do this because I feel like asking him leaves room for defiance. He can't understand everything I say, but he can tell by the tone of my voice that what we're doing is questionable. I avoid, Do you want another bite? Are you ready for bed? Do you need a new diaper? Instead I say, Here's another bite. It's time for bed. Let's get a new diaper. I don't want negotiation where it doesn't belong, but I also try give him tons of freedom in other ways while he's playing, eating and exploring, even if it means the house is destroyed and food's in his hair.
We've gotten past biting during nursing. He graduated to biting random body parts while we're holding him; shoulders, hands, stomach, even a fake out kiss on the cheek is sometimes a chomp ... maybe to get a reaction from us, I haven't quite figured this one out yet. I put him on the floor immediately and say, No biting, that hurts! and leave him there just long enough to make him uncomfortable - a few seconds - then pick him up again.
This is a tough one. I live with Carter day in and day out, so sometimes it's hard to treat each day like it's new and beautiful. I get tired, things annoy me. For the most part, I try to always smile at Carter when I look at him from across the room to help him retain his happy baby innocence. I love getting wide grin and a little giggle in return, I want him to always be this way. I dance with him when we hear music on TV. I kiss him constantly. I talk to him like I'm thrilled (and I usually am). I try not to yell at him or use mean tones. Just because you tell a baby or child not to do something doesn't mean you need to elevate your voice. I feel like a happy attitude is the best way to teach kindness.
I'm interested in eventually looking into a Montessori preschool. From what I read, it's very similar to how I'd like Carter to grow up.
Here's the basic Montessori concept: The method is to bring about and support a child's true, natural way of being. The teacher views the child as having an inner natural guidance for his own self-directed development. The teacher's job is to watch over the environment and get rid of any obstacles that interfere with this natural development. The teacher also has experimental interactions with the children, also called "lessons" to correct misbehavior or show how to use the various self-teaching materials that are provided in the room for the children's free use.
What kind of ideas do you have on raising your baby? How early are you starting? What do you think of my ideas? I want to know you're doing!