I was thinking last night that easeful parenting involves quickly and effortlessly matching up the right solution to your baby's needs. For example: a wet diaper is uncomfortable and leads to fussing. Put on a dry diaper and the fussing stops. When a baby has a rumbly tummy and you take too much time to feed them, you have a howling baby. When you do fill their tummy, the howling stops.
Parenting really is a lot like Perfection, the game.
Each child has at least 25 little keyholes that need to be filled. In real life, those keyholes are things like love, security, comfort, connection, protection, humor, service, satiation, attention, justice, relaxation, contentment, and energy. Your job as the parent is to fill those keyholes with the matching piece in 60 seconds or less......If you don't.... "POP!!!!" Your baby starts inconsolable crying.
Enough rounds of Perfection in a day and you start feeling frustrated and incompetent.
It is nearly impossible to fill those keyholes each and every round. Luckily, babies don't expect you to be perfect. They are happy if you try and keep trying. Your job as a parent is to become aware of your baby's needs and find ways to fulfill them. With each growth spurt, the number of needs increases. Some keyholes may change with time. When you fill keyholes consistently and often, your baby learns how to fill them himself.
When you respond to your baby's needs, you are not spoiling, you are teaching. You are not being manipulated, you are learning more about your baby.
While it can feel like Perfection, the game, it is impossible to be a perfect parent.
Every person has their own preferences and ways they like to be treated. You will make mistakes and inadvertently hurt your child. You will be so frustrated at times that you may purposefully hurt your child with unkind words, a spank on the bottom or ignoring their demands.
What happens if you ignore the need?
And, you will. You will be tired or miss your baby's cue. In addition, every parent has some part of their baby that they just can't understand.
Your baby will keep asking, non-verbally of course, for a while and if you keep ignoring the need, they will start to compensate for the unfilled need with an alternate behavior. Common behaviors we see in babies is over or under-sleeping, crying that goes from 0-60 in a second, refusing to breastfeed or biting your breast to get your attention. When you experience repetitive behaviors that you don't like, it is a sign that a need that isn't being met.
You might use a little creative thinking and try to imagine what it is your baby might be needing. Some of these needs are real mysteries that take years to figure out, so don't think of this as a one time thing. Some will remain mysteries for your child to learn in their lifetime. Some you will just outright be unable to fulfill.
Consistency breeds consistency
On the other hand, children have pretty consistent personalities. When you get 'it' right, all you have to do is keeping doing 'that' again and again. A baby who is a "huggy bear" will always be a "huggy bear". When you hold a huggy bear, hug and gently stroke them. Watch them melt into bliss. You will find that doing this consistently shortens their periods of upset.
A baby who likes to be around people will always be the life of the party. Make sure they get lots of social time. Sing songs and play interactive games like peek-a-boo. Plan at least one errand every day so they get the stimulation they crave and then bring them home for some down time.
Some babies are introspective and need peace and quiet. They break eye contact and refuse to look at you when they are tired or overwhelmed. They may prefer to be laid down and left alone to sleep. Make sure you spend quiet time together every day.
"If only I had instructions!"
Many parents lament that babies don't come with an instruction manual. I think that this shows a loss in how to use our inner knowing. When we pay attention to our inner knowing and our feelings, we learn to read our babies and trust our judgement. Books, videos and articles are helpful when you use the information to confirm what you are feeling and also to broaden your perspective on what your baby needs. When we try to make our baby conform to a mold that is unlike them, it only makes everyone unhappy.