“👶🏻Babies are full human beings with astonishingly amazing creative minds. They are absolutely fascinating. Enjoy every precious moment with them.✨”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge
“What if your baby keeps grabbing your nose ring, and cannot be reasoned with?”
First, when you say “cannot be reasoned with”, presumably you just mean that the baby does not yet understand explicit language well enough to understand explicit statements of your wishes? I assume you mean that rather than that the baby wants to wrench your nose ring out of your nose to see you scream in agony and to cause you to need facial cosmetic surgery to repair the damage? Because if you mean the latter, that is an egregious insult to babies. Even quite young babies show empathy. It is completely untrue that babies do not care about anyone but themselves. When a baby grabs an object, it is because it is interesting and they want to explore it more closely; it is not about wanting to hurt someone else.
Babies also tend to bite and chew things, sometimes inadvertently parts of other people. But they are not doing it to hurt the person, they just feel the need to do that, perhaps because they are teething. They are therefore perfectly happy to chew on something else, and lest there be any doubt, taking your children seriously does not in any way require you to suffer being injured, hurt or bitten by your baby. So if a baby were reaching for my nose ring, or biting me or pulling my hair, etc., I would physically stop him doing that—but not with any kind of disapproval or frowning or punitiveness of course—the baby does not know that what he is doing is hurting me (or in the case of a nose ring, that it could cause terrible damage in addition to being extremely painful). I would stop him, but in such a way that he was not at all upset, distressed, shocked or any such thing. In my experience, babies do not mind in the least bit when you stop them pulling your hair, biting you, etc. There is no need at all for any unpleasantness.
If I had a nose ring and my baby did not reach for it, frankly, I might be concerned about my baby’s vision! How could any baby not want to investigate such an interesting object? So if you have a nose ring and a baby, you might want not to wear it around your baby until the grabbing for everything in sight phase is over, or the baby understands well enough to know that grabbing your nose ring is actually not ideal.
Or perhaps your baby will not mind at all if you redirect her attention to something similar but not risking agony and injury. Over time, your young baby will learn from your facial expressions (and yelps of pain, in some cases!), and she might find it amusing and informative if you gently tug or touch her own nose to help her link the grabbing of your nose ring with her own nose.
If your baby keeps reaching for your nose ring, how about offering her a similar looking ring firmly attached to your finger instead, whenever she reaches for the nose ring? Obviously, a nose ring on its own could be swallowed so it does need to be firmly attached to something that cannot be swallowed. Perhaps a larger object rather than your finger? Perhaps you could attach multiple nose rings to a carabiner large enough that it cannot be swallowed?
But what I have said so far just deals with the issue of how to avoid being hurt and injured yourself. There is another issue that is actually much more important here.
Whatever your baby seems to be interested in, there is a reason for that interest, and I promise you, it is not that your baby is out to hurt you. So what is that reason? Find out! Experiment! Test different theories!
It is such fun to experiment to discover what the baby’s interest in a given object is about. And then how much joy and fun and connection we can have with our beloved baby by finding more to offer her based on what she seems to be exploring.
It is such a privilege to witness a human being at the very beginning of her life, forming expectations, noticing when they turn out to be mistaken, exploring, conjecturing, checking their conjectures, creating knowledge. They are learning so fast it will take your breath away if you actually pay attention.
When your baby keeps reaching for your nose ring, what a wonderful opportunity to explore to discover his reason for doing that, and what it is he wants, and to give him more of what he wants. That is an important aspect of taking our babies seriously. They have these incredible minds learning all the time, limited only by their access to the world. We parents can make a massive difference for them, by paying attention to what they seem to be interested in, giving them access to more such things, and by thinking what else they might be interested in given this interest we seem to have identified.
Just think about the difference between on the one hand a baby living in a plain box room with nothing to explore and no interaction and never hearing anyone speaking, no connection, no love, nothing new to see, to explore, to ponder, to wonder about—and on the other hand, a baby taken seriously. We are taking her reason and interests and intellectual work seriously as well as her need for love, security and connection. The baby being taken seriously has vast amounts of engagement, interaction—we are talking to our baby all the time and explaining everything. Think about all the fascinating access to the world we can give our babies, that they initially have no means of accessing without our help. We can make such a difference for our babies.
So, back to the nose ring. Which aspect of the nose ring is it that is of particular interest to my baby? Is it the way the nose ring reflects the light? What other things reflect the light interestingly? I would find more such objects for my baby to explore. And objects reflecting light in different ways for her to compare. (I still have the prisms I bought when my first child was a baby!)
If my baby seems interested in shiny things, what other shiny things might he enjoy exploring? I would bend over backwards to show him and offer him as many shiny things as possible. And non-shiny things, and dull things, for him to compare.
Is it the feel of the metal? Or the heat conductivity of metal vs other things? What other metal objects might my baby enjoy exploring? Or the smoothness of the surface? What other smooth objects might my baby find interesting? Might my baby be interested in the difference between different objects, some rough, some smooth, some slimy, some hard, some soft, some warm, some cold? Or objects of different colours?
Is it the roundness of the nose ring that is interesting? Is my baby interested in different shaped things?
Is my baby exploring the mathematics of rings/circles?
What other properties of the object might be of interest?
Or is the interest about how the object interacts with its environment in some way?
Is your baby interested in how you react when the hand reaches for the nose ring? Then what other reactions might your baby find interesting? What is it about this reaction that is of interest? Is it what you say? Or is it your tone of voice—a note of anxiety, perhaps? Why might that might seem interesting to your baby? Perhaps your baby is studying human psychology in some way? Is it how other people react? That might be very interesting, don’t you think? There are so many things it could be—and you get to have endless fun finding out!
It is difficult in the abstract or at a distance for me to guess what your particular baby might be exploring, but you are right there with your baby, so you have all the cues available from your baby to help you check your conjectures. What does the baby’s facial expression tell you? Her gaze? Pay attention and you will be able to discern such a lot in your baby’s micro expressions.
What else might the baby be exploring? (Do share your ideas!)
Babies are amazing! It is completely untrue that they are not open to reason. Their exploration of the world is reason, and we can do vastly more than you might imagine to assist our babies in their important work.
If you have a young baby, you are probably sleep deprived and exhausted and perhaps barely keeping it together (or perhaps that was just me!); and facilitating your baby’s lightning fast learning might sound like just one more thing adding to your burden. But the interesting thing is that once people start viewing babies as full human beings with astonishingly amazing minds (instead of just viewing the baby as an uninteresting and decidedly troublesome blob!), a whole new world opens up for the parents too, not just the baby, and in many cases what had seemed burdensome and miserable is now an endless source of fascination. Babies are absolutely fascinating. Enjoy every precious moment with them. ✨
Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 2022, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘What if your baby keeps grabbing your nose ring and cannot be reasoned with?’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/what-if-your-baby-keeps-grabbing-your-nose-ring-and-cannot-be-reasoned-with/