Respect the diaper!

diapersLanguage is important. It matters. It matters what we say. It matters how we say it. And while this does not mean we need to go crazy and analyze every-single-word-we-have-ever-said, it means that whatever we say to (and in front of) our children will also matter to them. We get emotional, we say things we later wish we hadn’t, sure. But there are certain areas, where disrespectful words are not a matter of emotions, are not necessary, and are harmful.

We’ve said that before, and we’ll say that again – we love diaper changes around here. Really. We think they are truly valuable times, times of connection. So hearing comments like these makes us really sad, and here is why:

‘Ewwww, your diaper is smelly.’

Yes, poop smells. Mine does too, by the way. Wouldn’t it be oh-so-lovely to have our poop smell like roses? Sure it would! Imagine though how embarrassing it would be if someone walked into the toilet after you and commented on the smell. Not so nice, right?

The hidden (well, not so well-hidden) message our child might be getting is that his bodily functions are not pleasant for us. That somehow the way his body works is ‘smelly’ and so he should be ashamed of it. This sends a powerful message about the body and how we treat it – we all want our children to respect their (and others’) bodies, to know that they are respect-worthy – here is where we can really have an impact on how our children see themselves.

‘Oh wow, look he is pooping, look at that funny face he’s making!’

Seriously, put a mirror in front of you when you are on the toilet – yes, we all try to look our best most times, and there is a reason (well, more than one reason) why we sit on the toilet behind closed doors. Yes, it is private. Yes, it is something you would not really want to do in front of other people. Our babies don’t have that luxury yet – let’s support them, not ridicule them.

Making fun of a child is one of the most powerful ways to break him. To make him feel really badly about himself. Above all – it is plain cruel.

‘Oh no you pooped again, now I have to change you.’

We love diaper changes around here. Really, we do – have a look at our previous posts if you don’t believe it :) There are times when it’s not the best timing, sure – we are in a hurry, almost out the door and of course that’s when the diaper needs to be changed. But with all honesty – hasn’t it happened to all of us one time or another? We need to catch that bus and suddenly we also need to go to the toilet really badly.

We take care of our children because we love them so much. Because they cannot yet do it for themselves. Because too soon they will be able to do it all by themselves and changing diapers will be a sweet memory.

The message our children might be getting hearing disrespectful comments like the ones above, is this: Taking care of you is not pleasant for me, it is annoying. I wish I didn’t have to do it. Powerful, right? Also, a little scary…

Language is important

[P]eople will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou)

Considering our diaper-related language is important. We send powerful messages to our children, messages that our children treat very seriously, that might stick with them for life. Talking about body, its functions and the way it behaves, leaves a mark on how our children will see themselves and how they will build their self-image. It will influence how they feel about themselves, and how they think others should think and feel about them. Talking about this in an unpleasant, disrespectful way might also create problems with future toilet use.

So yeah, mamas and papas – let’s all respect the diapers!

:)

Walk the line – (Diaper) changing with a toddler

“Help me do it myself.”  – This is a famous quote by Maria Montessori. Her approach was to help the children JUST as much as needed for them in order to then do most of it themselves. Which is the fine line between doing things FOR them and forcing them to do things completely on their own. Again – it takes patience, careful observation and communication with the toddler. All of which are strong pillars of the RIE philosophy too.

This post is the third and last in our series of diaper changes. But it is also about (un)dressing in general. Because with a toddler this goes along the same lines. 

When changing a toddler we are facing a whole new challenge – the strong aim for independence. More and more often we hear „Me! me!“ or „Alone!“. Quite often he wants to be bigger than he is. And more independent. It is our task to support this. Not more. But how ?

Move down

With a toddler we tend to change him wherever we are in the house right now. The changing table might be too small or too dangerous now. And in the end the child can stand just anywhere while being changed. But having a clear area helps us and the toddler focus on what is going on NOW. What we are here to do together – get changed.

This area can now be on the floor, maybe with a little cushion for the child to sit on while he tries to put his trousers on. And we sit or kneel down with him. To still be able to look him in the eye.  To be at his height and connect.

A little corner is ideal because there WILL be times when he tries to run off. But at the same time trust the child to stay. In the end – he will know that this time there is not just about the diaper or the pyjama. It‘s about you and him.

Observe more. Do less. 

It can‘t be repeated often enough what Magda Gerber used to say.
From careful observation we see what our child is capable of. And what not. So when he tries and puts his arm through the sleeve of his jumper himself we may only hold the end of the sleeve so he can slide through easily. We might watch him put his jacket on all by himself. Bite our fingers and watch him struggle. A bit. And we are there as soon as he gets stuck and finally when he needs it zipped up. We offer help. And accept a „No.“

We also wait for the child to ask for help. We encourage without enforcement. We allow without expectations. We acknowledge without praise.

Walking this fine line takes the relationship with our child a step further. While silently moving away from doing everything for your child we are moving closer in trust and the security of „I see you can do this but I am still there when you need me.“

Communication

With a toddler communication comes to a whole new level.

Language has developed and becomes part of the play we mentioned in our previous post. Because the child can now name the car on his shirt or the mouse on his sock. And he will happily do so. He will ask what this is your hair is tied with or what is dangling from your ear. He will wonder why your hair is wet and will zip your hoodie up and down and up and down once he figured how these things work. Again – we join in. We talk and have fun.

This is connection and bonding too. A conversation at the changing table.

But this communication is fragile. And a fine line again. Between offering options and suggesting more than the child is capable of. We might ask „Can you take your diaper off yourself?“  and mean it as an offer to do it himself. But for a child who is not quite able to do so this is a question of „Can you or can‘t you?“. A question that shouldn‘t be raised because it lies within a child what he is able to. And what not. So instead we ask „Do you want to take your shirt off?“ And if the answer is „No.“ we go ahead and just do it. As usual.

Help

Sometimes the child might ask for help although we know he is capable of taking the shoes off himself. This is where parents tend to start a fight. „No you do it. I know you can.“ Often the intention is well thought and they just want to „teach independence“. But there is no need for it. Independence will come when the child is ready for it. There is no need in pushing or even forcing him to do things he is asking us to do. In letting him sit there alone until he did it because we know he can. Instead we can simply say „I know you can do it but I see you are really tired. Of course I‘ll help you.“

Children grow up so fast. We know this and watch it with a laughing and a crying eye. So why do we often rush them into being big and independent? Why don‘t we enjoy being their servants every now and then? We don‘t mind making our colleague a cup of tea although we know he is able to do so himself, do we?

We are so afraid of having children who are too lazy or too dependent and helpless of caring for themselves that we push them too early into something they are simply not ready for. Let‘s not do this.

„Every unecessary help hinders the child‘s development.“ (Maria Montessori)

This is true too. And of course – in doing everything for your child when he is already ready to do it alone, without giving a chance to try we will be in the way and maybe even hinder our child‘s development. But first figure out what help is necessary and what is unecessary. Find this thin line in between. The string that is tied between no help and too much help. And dance on it in rhythm with your child.

Nadine & Anna

Catch me if you can – Diaper changing with a mobile infant

In our last post we talked about how to build a relationship with our newborn and infant on the changing table, what helps us to really connect and enjoy these many many moments together so that our child can then “go off and play“ happily afterwards. And while this all may have sounded doable it won‘t take long until your infant gets mobile. Turns onto his belly. Crawls. Stands up. And literally walks away from you… 

We are facing two new challenges now. Not just will we sometimes find it difficult to wrap a diaper around our child while he turns over and around. It won‘t be as simple as picking him up and taking him to the changing table either. Chasing each other around the room surely becomes a famous game now. So what to do?

Have fun

As much as the diaper needs to be changed now – don‘t forget to have fun. Crawling or running away is not a sign of an uncooperative child. It‘s play. It‘s fun. And why not start a diaper change with some joy and laughter ?

Yes. Diaper changes are about quality time together. About closeness and connection. About paying attention to each other. But that doesn‘t mean it can‘t start a few minutes earlier during play. As long as it is clear that the diaper change is what is on the menu next. Play. Have fun but make clear “Ok this is fun and I see you really want to continue playing, but I need to change your diaper now. Do you want to go to the changing table yourself or do you want me to carry you over?“

Cooperation is thus a two way street – we expect the child to answer to our invitation, but we have to be able to do the same. That is, while changing a diaper should clearly be about changing the diaper (and not about playing peek-a-boo), if the child invites us to play with him for a while we should also be able to accept this invitation, this way showing him we also want to cooperate with him. Surely if you look at it this way, you can imagine the child who is more mobile would be thinking along similar lines: “My mum does not cooperate with me the way she used to during diaper changes.” 

Stay in touch

Eye contact seems to get lost a lot during a diaper change. We are often so busy cleaning and wiping around our child‘s most intimite area, closing tiny buttons or holding those moving legs out of the way that we forget to actually stay in touch with our children. But if we want them to listen to us and to be with us – Cooperate – WE have to greet them first. So keep looking up. Draw the attention back to where you are and what you are doing. Mumbling the next step into the socks of your child will not make him feel as if you are talking to him or actually really waiting for his cooperation.

While starting a game of rolling over or trying to move away your child is showing that he is actually having fun up there with you. That he likes and enjoys those special times with you. But children easily get drawn into those games. Bringing them back to the changing table and the actual situation can help bringing you two back together. A gentle touch (maybe placing your hand on his chest) and eye contact interrupts this game and calms him down. You can then take it from there again.

Slow down even more

It is important to slow down and be gentle and calm with a newborn. Makes sense to us, doesn’t it. But with a moving and mobile infant we tend to follow his movements and his pace. Quite often when it becomes wild our hands become wild to. Even hectic. We wanna be quick and get the diaper on before he moves over again. Instead of staying in touch we are losing touch here. Losing our connection.
It helps to breathe a moment. Hold on, maybe close your eyes (if your child is safe). Calm yourself and then get back in touch.

Grow together

As the baby grows and begins to be more mobile, the interactions on the changing table on the one hand need to grow with the baby, but on the other – the underlying principle needs to remain the same. We are here to do something together, I am here to guide you, but this is a cooperative activity.

When our child turns onto his belly – we carefully turn him back onto his back. We may comment on it „You turned around. You like doing this. But I need you to stay on your back for a little so I can put on a new diaper.“

Remember that the child is developing. Instead of insisting on doing things a certain way – try and develop with him.

I remember raising the issue of Leander not wanting to lie on his back while being changed anymore. And how to get him to do so. Our family counsellor looked at me, smiled and said: “Leander has just learned to stand up. He has achieved a major milestone. He does not want to lie on his back anymore. Can you imagine changing him while standing?“ I couldn‘t but smile back and nod. I had difficulties changing him while standing up with our cloth diapers. But when he was able to develop so fast, to master those gross motor milestone, why should I stand still and not continue trying to develop myself too ? (Nadine) 

Obedience vs. Cooperation 

A common comment seems to be that “my child does not cooperate the way he used to”. Do we really mean he does not cooperate? Or do we simply mean he does not obey, or he is not acting in a way we are accustomed to, and expect him to… but is that the basis of cooperation? Perhaps we should redefine ‘cooperation’?

Therefore if we see the child as our active partner in all activities, ‘we do not always expect him to do what we want [...], but if we cooperate, the child from the beginning learns to want to cooperate with us’ (Anna Tardos, Amsterdam lecture, March 2013)

So what were you most challenging moments on the changing table ? What sort of games did your child come up with ? We’re always excited to hear your stories.
Nadine & Anna