I know that gentleness and respect “work.” It’s the foundation upon which I ran my infant/toddler classroom and the way I now interact with my own one year old daughter. Sometimes though, in the midst of a difficult situation, I overlook the obvious. It’s nice to be reminded through interactions, like this one, of the power of empathy and respect:
Stella had a fever before bed last night (teething), so I gave her some Tylenol. She has been HATING taking it. I had to give it twice the day before (which is a lot for a mom who RARELY gives meds!) and she cried and got very worked up both times. I had to put the syringe in her mouth with her resisting. I kept telling her it was yummy (even though I tried it and it was disgusting) and tried to make a game out of it by pretending to drink it myself — “Mmmm! It’s good! Look, Mommy’s drinking it! Here, you try!” — but it just made her more upset.
Last night, the same thing was happening, but then I realized that she could see right through the tricks (duh). She knew that I was being fake and dishonest with her and she was probably feeling very unheard.
I stopped and said, slowly, calmly, and kindly, “Stella, I know you don’t like the way this tastes and you don’t want to drink it. You have a fever and your teeth hurt and I have to give you medicine. It will help you feel better. Will you please take this medicine?” She looked at me for a moment and then reached out for the syringe with a cringe-y look on her face (like she knew it was going to taste bad) and she put it in her mouth. I pushed a little out and she swallowed it, made a “yucky” face, and turned away. I said, “Thank you for taking some of your medicine! There’s still some left. Will you take some more, please?” She did the same thing over and over until it was gone. I said, “You took all of your medicine! Thank you so much!” She looked at me with a big smile. I picked her up and she laid her head on my shoulder — a stark difference from the day before when the medicine-giving ended with a teary-eyed, distraught one-year old and a mommy who felt the same.
She totally didn’t want to take the medicine, hated the way it tasted, but was cooperating because I empathized with her and gently invited cooperation rather than trying to force compliance. Wow!!!