Another fun toddler stage: “Up?! Up?!”

I get that babies and toddlers go through stages. Everything is a stage. Ironically, the more frustrating the behaviour, the longer the stage- in my experience. But, as with all things, eventually it passes and they are on to the next.

Audrey’s current stage can be described as “Up?! Up?!”. I know she is not the only 20-26month old that has gone through this. I should probably go back and consult The Wonder Weeks to find out just what kind of amazing and disorienting changes are going on in her brain to warrant such an obsession with being carried around. Anyway, the point is I am sure there is a developmental reason for this shift but it rather sucks. I mean, I was just getting used to her being a little more independent.. able to walk herself to the car, get herself up into her chair for dinner, able to climb up and down the stairs, ect. And now we are back to absolute exhausting “Mommy I need you All. The. Time.” Sigh.

She wants me to carry her up and down stairs. She wants me to carry her around all morning while I am getting breakfast ready. She wants me to carry her upstairs and then asks to go downstairs. The other day she wanted me to carry her 4 feet from her bedroom to the bath tub in the bathroom. Kid weighs like 28 lbs. She is 21 months old. And yes, I need to work out, but this wasn’t what I had in mind.Wanna take a guess as to what happens if I put her down or say no? Yeah, you got it, crying. Lots and lots of crying.

So the question is, what does one do?

1) Carry the kid. Let it be a stage. Indulge. Soon she won’t want me around as she races off to play.

2) Split the difference. Carry her when I can, stop carrying her when my back is near breaking or when I really just can’t hold her while doing a particular task. Put her down, bear the crying.

3) Stand my ground and try to talk her through it to do it on her own. Maybe not all the time, but regularly.

I was channeling Janet Lansbury (or what I imagine Janet would say…) the other day and tried this tactic:

This particular stand off was over the stairs. “Audrey, I know you want me to carry you, but you can do this on your own.” Crying.

“Audrey, I know you want me to carry you, but you are very good and walking down stairs on your own. You will feel good when you do it on your own. Look, there is only 3 steps. I will hold your hand and we can count them together.”

“One…….” She takes one step and starts to cry again.

I repeat pretty much the same thing over and over again until she finally gave in and walked down the stairs. I told her I was proud of her and that she looked proud of herself. I thanked her for going down the stairs on her own.

I tried a similar technique with the walk to the bath tube the other night. So I know it works.

But I don’t have the time or the energy to do this every single time she wants to be picked up. So, along with a few of these chats a day, I am also trying to get down to her level and give her extra hugs. And yes, sometimes, carry her around.

Anything else that works? Oh, and any idea on how long this stage lasts? (If it is longer then a couple months please lie to me, I don’t want to know.) What do you think one should do?


11 responses to “Another fun toddler stage: “Up?! Up?!”

  1. Susan December 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I’m right there with you with my clingy toddler. I just carry her as much as I can, and try not to feel bad when I just cannot. No science to the madness, I believe!!

  2. kelly @kellynaturally December 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I usually take the stance that if a very young child is asking for something that has been a need in the past (like milk, or mom contact, or sleeping with mom) that it usually is signalling something they’re working through, and they are looking for extra comfort & reassurance from familiarity & connection.
    I believe that when needs are fulfilled (and when toddlers, even those things we *think* they should have outgrown already) they go away, quickly.
    Do you have a backpack carrier or a wrap sling? You can more easily strap her to you & keep about your day for those times when she’s feeling more needy, if you use a tool like a sling.
    If not, you can try to help her through those things you really truly feel she CAN or SHOULD do, and be more patient with her demands on thsoe things which may just be signalling that need for closeness. Or, continue with helping her through those things you’d like her to do independently, but at the same time, increasing how much of YOU you’re giving at other times (when she’s not asking). Like, offer to read a book with her snuggled on your lap, or offer to lie down with her for her nap (if you don’t do this already), or carry her “like a baby” for a few minutes – my kids always got a kick out of being carried like a baby. FWIW, my Montessori-raised (aka very independent) 3yo still goes through occasional times when he asks to be held or asks for help with something he’s be doing on his own for months. It’s normal & natural (though tiring, yes)… and goes away.

    Whatever you choose though, if you do it from a place of empathy & love, she’ll work through it quickly. Obviously punishing or shaming isn’t going to cut it here – she’ll just want it MORE, and this phase will last longer.

    The holidays are upon us… which, at least in my life, means added stress. Little ones aren’t immune to the changes they see & feel in us. Her wanting to be up may just be letting you know she can tell the change in routine & mood.

    • amoment2think December 22, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      “I usually take the stance that if a very young child is asking for something that has been a need in the past (like milk, or mom contact, or sleeping with mom) that it usually is signalling something they’re working through, and they are looking for extra comfort & reassurance from familiarity & connection.
      I believe that when needs are fulfilled (and when toddlers, even those things we *think* they should have outgrown already) they go away, quickly.”

      I totally agree with this- I think I alluded to it in my post- I get that this stage is because she is going through something. Which is totally natural and normal. And I am all for meeting her need to have more closeness and connection. That I am happy to provide. But I do think she wants to be carried but does not need to be carried. I would rather sit down and cuddle her reading a good book, then carry her around all day. So I am trying to split the difference. And when I decide that I won’t carry her, I am trying to be extra empathetic and show her that I understand that she is upset, but that I also trust that she can, for example, climb the stairs on her own. I agree, whatever route one takes, if it is done with love and compassion then it will work itself out.

    • Lisa Sunbury December 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

      Kelly, While I respect your point of view, and I agree with some of what you say, I really take exception to some of your suggestions for ways to meet a child’s needs for more closeness, like carrying a toddler in a sling or backpack, or lying down with her for a nap (if you don’t already.) There are many respectful ways to respond to a toddler’s needs without infantilizing them. And it’s been my observation and experience that sometimes you can bend over backwards to meet a child’s needs and they still need to struggle or cry, or just generally go through their process on the way to further growth and development. So meeting them where they’re at and responding in ways that allow and encourage their growing independence and self confidence coupled with understanding and acknowledging “This is hard for you, and me too,” seems to me to be a wise choice. Part of what toddlers are interested in , and starting to learn about is the “other.” And yes, the holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, but consistency, and clear, honest communication, go a long way towards helping toddlers cope- holidays or not. I don’t think it does anyone any good, or teaches children anything positive if parents take the attitude of “Oh you poor little helpless child, you need me so much. Here- let me sacrifice my body, and my sanity to try to make you feel better.” Empathy and love aside, growing up is hard work, and it takes the time it takes. We can’t do the growing up for children, or hurry their process, but we can stand beside and with them, and support them in ways that don’t convey a message that we think they aren’t capable of achieving what they are struggling to master. Adults also don’t have to totally sacrifice their needs, and/or squelch their need to express how hard it is for them to cope with a child who is going through a stage of demanding quite bit of attention, and expressing it as wanting to be carried.

  3. Lisa Sunbury December 22, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Oh Kathleen, This is wonderful! The 23 month old little boy I am caring for is in the exact same phase. “Up” is one of the few words he has mastered, and “Up” is what he says even when he means he wants to get down! It sounds like you are doing a great job of balancing your needs and desires with your little girl’s needs and wants. It’s a fine line to walk, between responding to and respecting your daughter’s requests, and encouraging her independence (and saving your back!) As for your question as to how long this phase lasts, who knows? Every child is different. With J.’s sister S., who is now 5 years old, there are STILL times when she asks us to pick her up, and/or do things for her that we know she is quite capable of doing on her own- LOL! It always helps me to remember that with S. ( and maybe all children) it seems that she is more needy right before making some big breakthrough in her development or understanding. With J. and S., I do what you do with Audrey. I try to remember that as hard as it might be for me to be so “needed”, it’s as hard (or harder) for them to struggle with their growing independence and widening world with all of it’s joys and challenges. I hold them when I can, let them know when I can’t, listen to their feelings, and re-assure them that I believe in their ability to stand on their own two feet, and that I’ll be right there beside them to hold their hands if it’s a little too hard for them to manage on their own. Being there to listen, being patient with their struggle and their process is all we can really do for our children, sometimes. And maybe it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give them. As for what else might help, time :), extra sleep/rest for both of you if you can manage it, slowing down, offering alternatives- “I can’t pick you up right now, but I can give you a hug/ or you can snuggle in my lap, and then we can go downstairs together.” As you note, it won’t be long before Audrey is off and running on her own with barely a look back, and she will have entered the “Me do it myself” phase, which can leave you feeling a little wistful for the “Up” stage!

  4. janetlansbury December 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Kathleen, I’m so honored for the channeling (!) and now know why I was feeling that funny/nice little vibration while engulfed in shopping frenzy yesterday! (Yes, I’m prone to procrastination and pay for it BIGtime this time of year.)

    “Audrey, I know you want me to carry you, but you can do this on your own.” I would be even a little more honest (which will be far less draining for you than doing a whole production) and say, “I know you want me to carry you, but I can’t (or don’t want to) right now. I’m sorry if that upsets you. I would love to sit and hold you ____ (whenever).”

    Both of you know she can do this on her own. Give yourself permission to say exactly what you mean, which might be, “I NEED you to do it on your own. I’m tired…my back hurts, whatever.”

    A great thing for me to learn (from Magda Gerber) was that I get to be “me” in the relationship with my children and take care of myself…my needs matter, too. That is good for us, because we are less likely to lose our temper or feel resentful, and it’s wonderful for our children because we are modeling self-respect and dealing with them honestly. They want and deserve our honesty. And they really, really, really don’t want us to subjugate our needs for theirs all the time, but they will never, ever tell us that.

    I agree with everything @Lisa said.

    Audrey may be on the verge of new development and feeling needy, but she also may be testing her puppeteering abilities, and your williness to be a marionette. I believe she needs compassionate but clear boundaries, and the freedom to cry as much as she wants about not getting what she wants. Don’t take her disappointment personally. Her feelings aren’t your fault. In fact, it’s good for her to learn that sometimes she gets what she wants and sometimes she doesn’t. Know that you are helping her develop coping skills — a lifelong gift. And that is REALLY LOVING her.

    Happy Holidays to you!

  5. Randi December 23, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Here from ICLW πŸ™‚ Ugh, I so get the sentiment of this. I don’t have kids, so I can’t exactly relate, but let me indulge myself and tell you about my cats. I used to have one cat. She’s a lap cat and an attention whore. She follows me around everywhere. Her biggest issue is that she loves to try and walk on top of the TV (though we’ve fixed THAT issue) and loves to meow at random things for 20 minutes at a time while I’m trying to sleep. Then I got a second cat. He’s quiet, but much more trouble. They fight. A lot. It was very distressing. Someone recommended to me that every time I see the 2nd cat advancing on the first, I get up say “NO” and then physically move him to another spot. That’s all well and good except that he advances her to fight about 50 times an hour. Which means I have to get up from whatever I’m doing 50 times an hour to stop him. I grew tired with this about 2 days in, and now I just spray the crap out of them with the water bottle. When the water bottle doesn’t work, I just kick one cat out of the room and live with the guilt.

    My point here is that there’s only so much of the “right” solution we can do before we want to snuff ourselves out… it takes too much energy for every. single. time. So sometimes you just take the easy route. That may be carrying her, it may be letting her cry. But you gotta cut yourself slack too.

    Either way, sounds like you’re a great mother. Glad to have found your blog. Happy ICLW πŸ™‚

  6. Ashley December 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I have no personal experience in this area but enjoyed your play-by-play very much. Hopefully this is a short lived stage and she will be back to being a bit more independent soon! Happy ICLW!

  7. Esperanza December 23, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Oh my, that sounds intense. My daughter is still very young so I haven’t had to deal with such a situation before, but it sounds like your approaching it well. I hope she gets over it soon and resumes her independent behavior! Good luck!

    And thanks for commenting on my blog! πŸ™‚

    Happy ICLW and Happy Holidays!

  8. Tara December 24, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I wish I had some great advice or techniques! I think you handled the situation well…I’ve enjoyed reading the other responses too.

    Happy ICLW!

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