What is bugging her?


The tiny girl, in her pink dungarees and pink ribbon in her hair to match, just would not sit in her buggy! What suddenly made her react like that? She always loved sitting in it before, looking around, and gesticulating at things she saw. But today, it was as though the buggy had some hidden menacing monster in it.

I could totally identify with the Mum describing her toddler, and cite more examples of when children just would not or could not do something that they have done before quite happily.

It is one of the hardest things for us to do, to understand what is going on in the mind of a child, and often our logically adult, rational thinking just does not let us get close to what the child is actually afraid of.

We parents have our own anxieties and unconscious responses that we developed as children. These govern the way we respond to our children, in how we feed them, how we react to ‘accidents’ in potty training, how we behave with strangers, bedtime routines.

Our response as parents carves out the way for our children to be able to deal with anxieties and be reassured and strong – or to retrace the circle and leave our children with similar ‘hang-ups’ to ours.

When my daughter grew up, and we returned to a house we had lived in when she was small, she casually said, as she looked at the beautiful stained glass windows in the front hall: ‘I used to be so frightened of those – they look like scary faces!’ Suddenly, her reluctance to go through the hall without having the lights on, and wanting me in close contact, made sense! Although she was old enough to talk very well by that time, it was not something she had ever told me, even though I would ask her what bothered her, what she was afraid of.

Small children who are still learning to talk are also learning all the other things about the world around them. I watched a child the other day as he explored water – putting his fingers in it and looking at them as he took them out – I could almost hear him wondering at the feeling of the water, how it lets things go into it, and then the sensation of wetness remaining and the drips on the fingers as they come out.

We lose that sense of wonder so quickly as we grow up. The world is a truly marvellous place – even though it is sometimes a very scary one, when everything is new and the child doesn’t yet have a ‘rule’ for it in his mind.

Mums are the most amazing, versatile, think-on-their feet people! They are used to finding solutions and making things better. So let’s see the sorts of things we can do to problem solve when our little on comes up with a new and sudden fear that we don’t understand.

The Bugged Buggy and other bothersomes

What to do about the little girl who wouldn’t go in her buggy – suddenly!

Check out what has happened, you might find a particular incident, that didn’t seem big at all, has caused the sudden buggy hate.

She may just have decided that buggies are for babies, and she wants to walk, as my daughter did – when she was 15 months old, her little brother came along, and she determinedly pushed the buggy rather than sitting in it, even if it was empty! That made for some very long-drawn out walks as she seemed never to get tired of pushing it! But with some well-placed incentives such as ‘Let’s get to the shop quickly so we can find your ice-cream’, I could usually get her into the buggy to get there – and on the way back it would be: ‘Sit in the buggy while you eat your ice-cream, or it might fall.’

Getting a child to accept something they have associated with unpleasantness is mainly a matter of changing the association back to a pleasurable experience.

So, for this little girl, I suggested that the buggy be played with, using it to put teddies and favourite toys in, ‘talking’ to the teddies or dolls about how nice the buggy is!

Or try sitting her in the buggy with a favourite book, and sitting with her to read it or play a game she likes. Even a few minutes is fine, gradually getting her used to the buggy again. Her Mum told me she had tried giving her food while sitting in it, which helped, as that is something she likes doing.

Her mum also took another action that may be necessary if all else fails – replace the bugged buggy with another one, even if temporarily, till the problem can be solved.

Action summary:

Try to find out what caused the child to dislike the thing that bothers her

Be very positive and reassuring, demonstrate that there is nothing hidden to scare her.

Associate fun and pleasurable activities with the item that is bothering her.

If all else fails – be patient – and replace it.

(I bet you have some things you just dislike and have to get rid of!?)

Do share if you have good ways to help children overcome sudden fears

Have a great week

Margi Kulsoom


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