Ever look at your dirty, smiling child's face and try to clean it off -- only to be rewarded with an ear piercing wail?
Or perhaps you see your precious baby slumped over in their car seat snoozing -- their head lolling at an unnatural angle. You think "Aw. Poor thing. They must be so uncomfortable." You want to fix it. In fact, as their mom (or dad) you are compelled to fix it. You lift their head gently from the side, trying to find the "tipping point" between front and back and side to side. You think you've got it. Ahhh ... the head is balanced. Success! Then the baby wakes up... and SCREAM.
My point is, every day our children are happy. It's just hard to accept. So we embark on a quest to make their lives more pleasurable, more comfortable, simply "happier." We shift, we move, we change, we sanitize, we anticipate their unspoken needs and respond instantly. And what do we get? A migraine for our efforts.
The best parenting advice I ever got was from a cousin who had two sets of twins. Upon the birth of my first child, she said "Heed my words -- NEVER make a happy baby happier."
I didn't get it at first, but more than ten years later this has become my parenting mantra.
For many parents (me included) it can be hard to accept that our help won't make our children's lives just a little bit better. But believe me. It won't. And to illustrate my point I've compiled a list of the 10 most common tantrum-inciting things you can do to an otherwise content baby or toddler. Just try one. You'll see.
1. Moving your sleeping child from their car seat into the house so they can have a more comfortable nap.
2. Waking your child to change them out of a wet diaper in the middle of the night.
3. Adding to a picture they're working on ... just to make it "prettier" (or neater, or more colored in the lines). Step away from the crayons.
4. Paying for expensive seats to a live kids show and insisting they watch every last second of it.
5. Adding salt, cheese or ketchup to your child's food without asking first.
6. Not returning a baby's lovey, blankie, stuffed animal, (whatever) to them after it falls on the ground. A little dirt never hurt anyone. Abide by the 5 second rule (or stretch it out if need be) and give the precious object back. Quick. Before the screaming begins.
7. Fixing their shirt.
8. Brushing their hair.
9. Popping a puzzle piece into place because you see your child has been struggling to finish. This is definitely a "no good deed/puzzle piece goes unpunished" moment.
10. Your preschool daughter prances out of her room in an outfit worthy of a circus performer. You say "Why don't you wear that nice outfit I bought you!"