You are doing some really good thinking around all this. What a smart Mama, you are!
My first thought is that you cannot get this wrong, and that, as you so brilliantly articulated, there are benefits either way. So, however you try it, don’t be afraid to change course midstream and do it differently the next night.
YOU are going to know best. My gut says “the crib” for several reasons. As you mentioned, there will be a sense of containment where she can’t get completely to you. She can’t bury herself in you and it may feel like less of a physical battle of wills. So, it might be really wild and wooly, but she may get more of the feelings/fear up and out faster. Kind of like projectile vomiting – to use a graphic image. I think this anecdote from Patty illustrates how the crib might assist you. In this example, Patty is providing the containment/holding the limit so the little boy can see his Mom, but not bury himself in his Mom’s lap – thereby tamping down the feelings. And there is physical contact. The Mom is holding his feet warmly.
I know you asked which way would be less torturous. I think the crib may make it seem like she’s wild with FEAR, but, as I said, it may help you both to move through this faster.
Ultimately, the crib may provide some sense of safety since, it sounds like she’s recently moved to a toddler bed. If the toddler bed is new, you may get the “big bed” fear, along with the “I want to nurse” fear. So, I think I would vote for containment, even if it does seem to kick up more fear. It could be more manageable and swifter.
I want to encourage you to do some of this emotional work during the day. Letting her know that this is going to happen may prime the pump and help her offload some before you actually BRING the Limit. This Mama did that
I also want to encourage you to work on FEAR/SEPARATION during the day. Remember LAUGHTER will build the connection/safety, which primes the pump AND is also offloading fear, Here are some games you can play around separation.
Ramping up the amount of SPECIAL TIME and Rough/N/Tumble PLAY where you take the LESS powerful role will pump up the safety and connection. Sometimes parents worry about “damaging” their relationship if they bring this kind of limit and LISTEN. Special Time and Rough/N/Tumble help balance the tears and tantrums. That’s why it’s so important to use ALL the tools.
Lastly, looking for LITTLE limit to Bring during the day – again – will help her release some feelings when you have more emotional gas – rather than in the wee hours!! It might look like this: https://www.handinhandparenting.org/2017/01/saying-no-to-help-release/
Of course, all this will go much easier if YOU are getting lots of LISTENING TIME. Let us know if you need some support setting that up. Do let us know how it goes…
It’s wonderful that you reached out! Your sweet girl is so lucky to have you thinking so well about her. Kudos, good Mama!
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi