Ask Amma

Crying for no reason

In Why on 11 August 2012 at 8:00 pm

My baby is crying, yelling without any reasons and wants me to play with her all day round.  Can’t do anything!  Help!

– Ma of an 18-month-old in Kolkata
from 
La Leche League Pan-India: Breastfeeding Resource


Times when my daughter was crying or yelling “without any reason,” I thought back and tried to put myself in her shoes.  More often than not, the reason became apparent.  Maybe she had asked for something in a quiet voice but no one listened.  Maybe the day had been rushed.  I had a checklist I would use when in doubt: “Are you well-rested, well-fed, well-read, and well-hugged?”  It became a kind of calming routine that allowed us to troubleshoot.  Sometimes we used “well-worked”  or “well-played.”  You can substitute anything you enjoy doing together like “well-danced” or “well-bathed” or even “well-turned upside down.”  Even now, sometimes she herself comes and tell me, after observing her own anger or frustration, “I am not well-fed.” or “I am not well-hugged.”   There will also be times when we don’t know the reason – this happens to adults too.  You may not be able to make your child’s tears go away, but you can offer a shoulder.

Maybe, like you, she too is thinking, “Can’t do anything!  Help!”  My first thought when looking at the two pieces of the puzzle – her desire for more play and your need to do other things, is – involve her in the things you do.  At 18 months, my daughter was never happier than when at work.  She could water plants, dig in the garden, wash and dry clothes, rinse, dry and put away dishes, sweep and mop floors, dust tables, pour dal into jars (one of her top jobs), sort fruits and vegetables and wash them if needed (and even if not needed.)  Before cooking I would often give her a vessel with rice or dal and ask her to wash and mix it.  She would do this for a while and then I would cook it.  My memory is hazy with the ages, but “helping” make chapatis was also a favourite chore of hers, and by age 3 her creations were edible.

Letting her help will slow down the pace of your work, but it will meet her (and your!) need for play, which to her is not different from work.  The work is not only “your” work.  It is her work too.  As kids become verbal, these times of shared work become the setting for very interesting conversations as well.  If we think back to earlier times, or visit our rural cousins, we find that children enjoy the company of all ages, throughout the day.  They naturally take part in a range of activities, sometimes in the lead, sometimes in the background.  It can be difficult to provide such diversity of company or of activity in modern urban settings, but we can acknowledge that we are missing something important.  With a bit of creativity and if possible, help from extended family or neighbours, we can try to make up for it.

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  1. […] well-run-around … and also go through this checklist aloud with her, as mentioned in Crying for no Reason. I will add more, but meanwhile quote Alfie Kohn: “So, what are we supposed to do when […]

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