updated 24 Dec 2010, 11:46
user id password
Fri, Dec 24, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
'Baby etiquette': Tricks to handle your kid's tantrums
by Margarita Y

LET'S FACE IT. AS CUTE AS babies are, they can also be trouble for their parents and carers-and because we live in the real world, annoying for people around us.

As full-time mom, I don't have the luxury of screaming "Yaya!" whenever my toddler has a tantrum. I have to figure out what he wants, how to give it. And I must do it fast and without making a bigger scene than he has already put me in.

Here are few tips and tricks I have come up with over the past 19 months (my, how time flies!) to soothe the savage beastie that is my angel Gabriel.

Schedule events around your baby's schedule

When my son was less than three weeks old, he attended lunch given by the board of a UK bank and was a total angel. He also went to another bank's cocktail at six months, prompting my banker to promise to serve "baby cocktails" in their subsequent events. Again, he was an angel-mainly because I accepted only invitations for events that fell within his nap times.

On my last trip back to Manila, my toddler was particularly irritable at night, which was when my mom would usually schedule dinners with the seemingly endless list of titos and titas who wanted to see him. It was unfortunate, but I had to stop accepting dinner invites and settle for lunches or meriendas, when he was at his friendliest.

Foregoing dinners proved better for him as well. Staying home meant he could be put to bed at a decent time for babies (my son normally sleeps when we sleep-which could be as late as midnight!).

This advice is most effective before the age of 1, when we can predict when babies doze off, but is less so after, when nap times become shortened and less frequent.

Tune in to what your baby likes

Younger babies are easier to soothe. A bottle of milk or a pacifier can usually do the trick, but older ones are less so. They are easily distracted and can be set off by anything. To keep my little one happy, I carry, literally, a bag of tricks.

My son loves tinkering with cell phones and other things that light up. He is totally unimpressed by the toy versions, of which he has many, and is only satisfied by his dad's Blackberry or my Nokia-both of which have battle scars from being bitten, licked or, worse, flung in the dirtiest of places.

To keep him happy, I charged an old Blackberry and an even older Nokia and keep them in his baby bag. I even put the same wallpapers and ring tones that are on our real phones to convince him the phones are the same. Before anyone shouts out "Radiation," don't worry, because the phones have no SIM or signal and are on offline mode.

More recently, I uploaded some of his favorite songs from the TV show "Hi-5" into his cell phones, which, for some reason probably only known to the show's producers, can calm him in an instant. On the other hand, my friend's daughter likes looking at photos of her things, so her mom's I-Phone memory is used up on snapshots of Elmo, Barney and... well, you get the picture.

Meet and greet

Keeping my son busy on long-haul flights is particularly difficult as turning on the cell phone, even without a signal, is controversial. Bringing a portable DVD is not only inconvenient, but irritating to the other passengers as well.

So I literally get help-from the crew! Nothing makes a long-haul flight more bearable for them than an appreciative little passenger, so we go to the galley and make friends with the team. Besides, babies are naturally inquisitive, so new faces, especially smiling ones (my son has a "thing" for pretty girls!), help keep them occupied and curious.

Making friends also makes long trips easier on the parents. We took Emirates on one flight back to Manila and my son was so popular (they called him "The Happy Baby" and took a group photo), that on my husband's flight back, the same crew happened to be on board and gave him extra special treatment!

Personalize your pushchair

You know how the good ol' Pinoy jeepney is completely decorated inside and out? Well, that's what my pushchair looks like. Short of painting our favorite places on the chassis, my pushchair has all the toys and books that my son likes attached to it.

At first, I bought pram toy attachments, but my son tired of them when he turned 1.

Stuffed toys are only interesting to younger babies, but are totally boring to older ones who like more interactive playthings. Before setting off each day, my son goes into his toy drawers and picks out his toys and books for the day.

Some book companies even make mini-books that attach to pushchairs. My son loves them, so I keep a small selection for him to choose from.

If you choose to use ready-made pram toys, make sure to alternate them. I found that doing so kept my son from getting bored and angsty when he was younger. I knew he needed a change when he started attacking the poor little stuffed alligator on one attachment.

Bring lots of snacks

One reason babies start acting up is simple-sheer hunger. I've realized they just don't have the same mealtimes we have. It's counterproductive to force them to eat when they're not hungry, or conversely, to not feed them when they actually are.

I read a book when I was pregnant that it was good to get babies on a schedule. I tried it when I first started weaning my son, but he didn't like it and would vomit when I forced him to eat. Now, I listen to him and he eats six or seven times a day, but never in large quantities (how lucky he is to have inborn portion control!).

He has a selection of snacks in his baby bag, which I put in the smallest size plastic containers I can find to minimize wastage and so I can change the selection frequently. I usually have a fibrous snack like wholegrain Cheerios, a savory like organic cheese puffs and a sweet treat like his latest favorite treat, Strawberries and Cream cookies from Crabtree & Evelyn.

Make them feel wanted

My son likes feeling like he's part of the gang, so to make him feel like an "adult," I bring his portable seat whenever I can and let him eat at the table and at our level. This way, he doesn't feel alienated and he ends up fascinated by the other guests. We've even done away with his high chair at home and just attached another portable seat permanently onto our dining chair. It has made all the difference (he really did not like his high chair and tried to jump out of it more than once).

I also order food I know he will like and let him eat like us. If I get a bread roll, I automatically give him some to try. I also use the available napkin as a bib and ask for a small bowl for him to eat from. Amazingly, he has not broken a single thing in any restaurant. In fact, he even gives me his bowl and utensils when he's done eating (and he's only 19 months old!).

If they do scream, hug them-then walk out

When all else fails, and believe me when I say it has happened to me more than a few times, give them a hug. Nothing makes babies calm down faster than a mother's hug. Besides, the moment you hug a crying baby, no one can get mad at you. They can stare at you and secretly wish you would take him out of the restaurant (which you will do, anyway), but they will all automatically sympathize and say "Awww..."

readers' comments

Copyright © 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.