I am humbled and amazed (but clearly not speechless! ) to know that the articles I write here on Little Hearts have been read one MILLION times. A MILLION! That’s 1,000,000! Wow! And that’s not all. My site stats have logged readers from 123 countries spanning the globe reading my site in the last two weeks alone! They’re not just accidentally landing here and clicking away, either. They typically stay for 10, 20, sometimes 30 or more minutes at a time and read post after post after post. People visit from Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Germany, Bosnia, Australia, Vietnam, Romania, Malaysia, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Iceland, Slovenia, Qatar, and the list goes on and on and on.
To know that the nights spent typing away on my little laptop while my children sleep nearby (or typing one-handed while nursing!) are not wasted, to feel that I’ve touched hearts to make a real difference in the lives of children, to see that what I write resonates literally around the world is deeply humbling and incredibly validating for me. It gives me hope that true, lasting change is possible for a globe that is suffering from violence and power-mongering.
If we as parents stop using violence and intimidation to control our children and instead work together with them through connection and communication, the adults we send into the world when they are grown will be world changers.
It’s not our job to toughen up our children to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless. If I can help make that happen in even a small way, then the many sleepless nights and the one-handed typing while nursing and the neglected laundry will be well, well worth it!
As a ‘thank you’ to all who have read and shared my articles and bought my books and shared their thoughts and encouragement, I’m hosting a Facebook Party! today, March 20th 2013, from 2 pm to midnight EST. Join me for giveaways every hour and fun Q & A’s and word games so we can get to know each other better!
Check out some of the awesome Little Hearts products that I’ll be giving away–>
At midnight there will be a Grand Prize package, too, so don’t miss it!
See you there!
You might also be interested in:
March 20, 2013 | Categories: attachment parenting, communication, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, parenting guide, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment parenting book, gentle parenting book, giveaway, parenting | 1 Comment »
Welcome to the Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages Book Tour! Check out all of the awesome book reviews, author interviews, and giveaways we’ve lined up for you!
Book Tour Hosts:
Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages is an introduction to the ideas behind gentle parenting and provides practical examples of its application in each of the developmental stages of childhood such as the transition from diapers to potty, problems with sharing, coping with picky eaters, guiding children gently through behavioral issues, and more…
L. R. Knost’s ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through The Ages & Stages’ is a gentle nudge from a fellow momma who’s been there, done that; and who happens to also be a parenting author and child development researcher. A mother six times over, it quickly becomes clear that her point of view is based not only on biology and sound evidence – these practices have actually enriched her own family life and her latest book is a letter to other parents detailing how we too can strengthen our family’s connection as well, when applied with practicality.
“Of my six children, two are what most would call high-needs or strong-willed. Gentle parenting is particularly effective with challenging children. Strong will equals strong need and focusing on those needs defuses rather than escalates behavioral issues. My objective is always first and foremost to meet their needs, which typically involve reconnection and being heard, then to work with my child on equipping them with coping skills to handle their overwhelming emotions, and finally to address the behaviors themselves when my child is calm and open and ready to cooperate.”
L. R. Knost’s ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through The Ages & Stages’ gently presents a strong case for gentle parenting and shares helpful, practical wisdom, presenting gentle parenting in a way that makes it doable. She speaks with a calm, reassuring voice, encouraging parents to live what they want their children to learn, to build strong and healthy connections with their children, and to enjoy their children, plus, importantly, she shares ways to help make these things happen. One highlight of the book is her chapter on The Problem with Punishment (which can be read online). Two Thousand Kisses is a wonderful introduction to gentle parenting.
I loved this book. More than just the content, which was excellent, I loved what this book did in me as I was reading it. I have read books by punitive authors such as Ezzo, the Pearls, Tripp and others who left me feeling at war with my children. I would find myself being less patient, quick to anger and assigning evil intent to their motives. In contrast, when I read Two Thousand Kisses a Day, I felt so light and loving. Little love waves kept splashing on my family the whole day, and we all experienced more peace, joy, patience, kindness and self control.
L. R. Knost’s ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through The Ages & Stages’ reads like gentle suggestions from a good friend. The author is an independent child development researcher and mom of six (6!) children ranging in age from toddlerhood to young adult. Although Two Thousand Kisses a Day covers a broad ranges of ages and stages, the chapters are short and easy to read. The author provides understandable scenarios to illustrate her points and often gives easy to follow suggestions for every-day difficulties, such as doing chores in the house or feeding a picky eater, from a gentle parenting point of view.
Two Thousand Kisses a Day is truly a breath of fresh air amongst all the harsh traditional parenting books advocating for punishments, rewards, and control. It takes you back to what parenting should be: a respectful partnership. A dance between parent and child, where everyone’s voices are heard, and everyone’s needs are met.
And while it speaks beautifully to the wonderful parts of parenting, it doesn’t gloss over the hard parts either. The author also speaks with great candor about a few difficult moments she had with her children, as well as how she handled them as a gentle parent, and what she learned from the process. It is honest, and it is enlightening.
Two Thousand Kisses is based on guiding your child from infancy to adulthood using connection and encouragement through the ups and downs of life rather than punishment and control.
L.R.Knost is certainly gifted in her emotional intelligence and in her ability to view life from a child’s perspective. It is this gift that makes her an excellent adult voice for children and babies, and in a tone that comes across strongly and compassionately throughout the book. (As one of many examples of her ability to view life through the eyes of a child, I found her discussion on how children learn about sharing to be quite helpful.)
Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by parenting and children’s book author, L.R.Knost, has been described as “a book you’ll devour in one sitting and then keep close at hand for easy reference as your children grow” and “like sitting down for a cuppa with a good friend.” Other reviewers have said it has “an easy, conversational, parent-to-parent tone” which “refreshingly does exactly what it promises: it shows you how to parent gently, with kindness, compassion, and connection, always keeping that
strong and healthy relationship with your child at the forefront of your journey.”
A mother to six children, L.R.Knost has been parenting for 25 years. She’s not just excited about gentle parenting, she’s lived gentle parenting from pregnancy all the way through every stage with their own joys and struggles. And she shares with you concrete ideas for every age and stage in an understanding, reasonable way.
Parenting Beyond Punishment has added Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages to their recommended reading list!
The Natural Child Project chose a quote from author, L.R.Knost, as the April ‘Quote of the Month’!
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ~ L.R.Knost [From Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood due out June 2013]
Upcoming reviews and author interviews:
Natural Parent Network
If you’d like to know more about Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, just click the link to read the editorial and consumer reviews.
March 9, 2013 | Categories: attachment parenting, books, communication, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, middle childhood, parenting guide, positive discipline, positive parenting, preschooler, teens, toddler | Tags: communication, discipline, parenting guide | 27 Comments »
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
As a mother of six, I’ve been breastfeeding babies and toddlers for a cumulative 10+ years of my adult life (and counting!). That’s more than 3,650 days and nights I’ve spent nursing! For someone to spend that much of their lives committed to something, clearly they must believe it is worth the time, effort, and personal sacrifices involved. I do, and it is!
Here are just some of the reasons I’m still happily and willingly breastfeeding my toddler:
1) Breastmilk doesn’t suddenly ‘expire’ when a baby reaches 12 months. In fact, studies show that breastmilk actually changes composition to meet a child’s changing needs as they grow!
2) We all know how picky toddlers can be, so knowing that my toddler is getting a super-charged, nutrition-packed, power-snack several times a day sets my mind at ease and eliminates meal-time battles.
3) The all-important immune system enhancement that breastmilk gives our little ones keeps right on providing protection into the toddler years.
4) Not only does breastfeeding offer health benefits while a child is actively being nursed, but studies show that it also provides long-term health benefits such as reduced chances of asthma, childhood leukemia, diabetes, gastroenteritis, otitis media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), necrotizing enterocolitis, obesity, and other potentially life-altering or fatal conditions.
5) Nursing gives me a chance to slow down several times a day and focus on my toddler. While I play with her fingers, nuzzle her little head, and smile into her big, brown eyes, I’m savoring these moments that I know will be gone all too soon.
6) Research shows that breastfeeding enhances brain development and may help little ones to reach their full intellectual potential.
7) The health benefits of breastfeeding aren’t just for children, either. For breastfeeding mothers the benefits include a statistically significant decrease in the risk of diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name just a few!
8) As a source of comfort and connection, nursing my toddler is a miracle ‘cure’ for all sorts of boo-boos, frustrations, sleeping issues, and potential meltdowns. In fact, it’s one of the best tools I’ve got in my parenting toolbox during the toddler years!
9) When faced with a serious illness recently, breastfeeding for comfort was credited for keeping my toddler out of the hospital because it kept her from getting dehydrated when she was too sick to eat or drink anything else.
10) Breastfeeding a toddler can burn from 300 to 700 calories, depending on how often they are nursing. Dieting without even trying…win!
11) Economically and environmentally speaking, I don’t have to buy bottles and formula during the infant years; I don’t buy sugary juiceboxes or plastic water bottles to bring to the park and add more trash to the landfills; I don’t have to let my little one drink from germ-ridden water fountains; and I always, day or night, anytime, anywhere, have a healthy, environmentally friendly source of hydration and nutrition for my toddler.
To check out the studies mentioned here or to find a supportive community for your breastfeeding journey, visit KellyMom.com
Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon:
~The birth story of a book~
A mother is born…
Many years ago (26 to be exact!), a small, scared, pregnant, teenage girl walked down the aisle to her tall, scared, clueless, young man and they said their “I do’s.”
But what were they going to do? No earthly idea! They didn’t have the internet to surf for blogs about parenting and marriage, couldn’t afford the few paltry magazines available on those subjects at the time, and weren’t convinced that the way their parents had raised them was exactly how they wanted to raise their unexpected little blessing. So, they simply joined hands and hearts and figured it out the old-fashioned way…through trial and error.
The young girl gave birth prematurely and, after a terrifying NICU stay, brought home her barely 5 lb baby boy. Since the young couple were living on one income and were barely able to feed themselves, it made sense to them to breastfeed their little one. Neither one had ever even seen a mother breastfeeding her baby or even heard of a lactation consultant and no one at the hospital had mentioned breastfeeding at all, so the two young people just kept working through the cracked, bleeding nipples, engorgement, over-supply, and other issues until they got it figured out…and then they were breastfeeders!
Neither one of the young couple had ever read a parenting book or had ever even heard the words ‘cry-it-out,’ and the young girl discovered their first night home how much easier it was to clear away all of the pillows and blankets to keep her baby safe and then simply take her little guy into bed with her and breastfeed him when he was hungry…and then they were co-sleepers!
‘Self-soothing’ was another term the two young people had never heard, so the two of them just did what came naturally and picked up their baby when he fussed or grunted or just looked cute and finally found it easier to just snuggle their little preemie into a baby carrier and tote him around with them wherever they went…and then they were babywearers!
As their precious little guy got bigger and began to explore his new world, the young couple delighted in everything he did and simply moved him or distracted him with songs and toys if he got into things. They couldn’t bear the thought of hurting their son, so punitive parenting just wasn’t an option. They decided to treat their little guy like a person instead of a possession and communicate with him instead of punishing him…and then they were gentle discipliners!
Now, this journey might sound like an easy one when summed up this way, but I can assure you it wasn’t. The young couple, my amazing husband and I, encountered strong criticism of our parenting choices through the years:
- We were warned that our marriage would suffer at the very least, and our babies would suffocate at the worst, if we slept with them in our bed instead of putting them in isolation to sleep.
- We were informed that my breasts would look like deflated balloons and reach my knees by my thirties if I breastfed more than a few weeks.
- We were admonished that our children would grow into spoiled brats if we responded to their needs instead of teaching them to ‘deal with it’ and ‘self-soothe’ their own, and would end up as social outcasts or criminals if we encouraged and guided them instead of spanking them.
These challenges to our parenting style were difficult at the time, and they sometimes even resulted in people choosing to de-friend us (not Facebook de-friending, in real life!), but that had the powerful positive effect of making us really examine what our beliefs were and, as a result, strengthening and solidifying our values, our marriage, and our family.
As for the dire warnings listed above:
- Our beautiful, strong, loving marriage is in its 27th year.
- Our children all survived and thrived on co-sleeping (our littlest is still safely and contentedly sleeping in our bed) and have, in their own time, moved happily to their own rooms.
- Except for being a couple of cup sizes larger at the moment since I’m breastfeeding a toddler, lol, my breasts are normal despite the fact that I’ve breastfed little ones for a cumulative 10+ years of my adult life!
- Our children are, in order, a 25-year-old Pastor (our firstborn son mentioned in the story above who is now a husband and father of two!), a 23-year-old Family Therapist, an 18-year-old pre-med university student on scholarship, 13- and 7-year-old beautiful and well-behaved homeschooled girls with lots of friends (soooo not social outcasts!), and a sweet and happy 2-year-old baby girl. Not a spoiled brat or criminal in the bunch!
Our journey to gentle parenting has had another, somewhat unexpected, effect. While we may not agree with others’ parenting choices, we have been on the receiving end of criticism far too long not to have learned this lesson: Gentle parenting is for parents, too! We have learned to respond gently to our friends who don’t agree with us, even when they don’t respond gently to us. Responding with harshness and criticism doesn’t work with adults any better than it does with children! Responding gently to those who disagree with us may or may not affect their parenting choices, but what it does do is model respectful behavior and conflict resolution to our children and, most of the time, preserve dear friendships.
A gentle parenting advocate is born…
This journey also resulted in a passion for children and family harmony that launched me many years ago into the world of parent coaching and child advocacy and later initiated the creation of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources as a consulting and educational resource for parents, caregivers, and educators. The culmination of this work led to the development of a series of gentle parenting handbooks designed to equip parents with the information and tools they need to gently guide their children from infancy through toddlerhood and the preschool years and on through middle childhood, the teen years, and beyond.
A book is born…
Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages is the first in the series. It is an introduction to the ideas behind gentle parenting and provides practical examples of its application in each of the developmental stages of childhood such as the transition from diapers to potty, problems with sharing, coping with picky eaters, guiding children gently through behavioral issues, and more!
*also published in The Natural Parent Magazine
February 20, 2013 | Categories: adolescence, anxiety, attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, birth, books, breastfeeding, character, childhood, children, communication, cosleeping, discipline, family, fear, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, meltdown, middle childhood, motherhood, natural parenting, newborn, nursing, parenting guide, positive discipline, positive parenting, preschooler, rebellion, sharing, soothing, spanking, tantrum, teens, time-in, time-out, toddler, volunteering, wisdom | Tags: gentle discipline, gentle parenting, parenting book, parenting guide, positive parenting | 3 Comments »
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
It’s been said that it takes twenty-one days to make or break a habit and that change comes easiest and lasts longest when it’s undertaken in small, bite-sized chunks. Those same principles apply when trying to transform your parenting, as well. Simply resolving on January 1st that, from that day forward, you are going to be a gentle parent and trying to change everything all at once is just setting yourself up for disappointment, frustration, and, more than likely, failure followed by that age-old enemy of peace…mommy guilt.
Instead, try setting yourself up for success by taking a year of ‘baby steps’ to create real, lasting transformation in your parenting. Here are 12 steps you can start any time of the year, not just on January 1st, that offer practical, effective guidance to help you on your journey to gentle parenting. Keep in mind, though, that failure is a natural, normal part of change, so remember to give yourself grace when you fail. (Also, giving yourself grace is good practice for learning to extend that same grace to your children, which is a hallmark of gentle parenting!)
January (Step 1)
Slow down! ~ Gentle parenting is, at its core, based on a strong, healthy parent/child connection, so intentionally including time in your life to build and maintain that connection is vital. Start the year off by examining your daily and weekly schedule and looking for things to reduce or eliminate. Add up how much time your children spend in school, sleeping, in daycare, with babysitters, at sports practices, in music lessons, etc. and look at how much or little time is left over. Time for your family to connect, time to play, time to simply be, are just as important as those activities, if not more so! Eliminate and reduce what you can, and look for ways to build connection into the things you can’t eliminate. For instance, if your child has homework each night, why not sit down and work through the homework with them? As humans, we learn better through interaction, anyway, so you’ll not only be connecting, you’ll be enriching your child’s education in the process! Another area that might benefit from a connection ‘rehab’ is that morning rush to get ready and out the door. Try getting everyone up a half hour earlier to ease the morning stresses that often lead to conflict and can result in a parent/child disconnect.
February (Step 2)
Listen! ~ Once you’ve slowed down enough to breathe, it’s time to stretch yourself and grow as a parent. Like most changes in life, it won’t come easy, but the rewards are well worth it. Fred Rogers said, “Listening is where love begins,” meaning that when we listen, we really get to know someone, learn about what motivates them, and understand their thoughts, hopes, dreams, hurts, disappointments, etc. All behaviors communicate underlying needs, and what we learn about the inner life of our children by listening to them will help us to focus on the needs behind the behaviors instead of simply correcting the ‘symptoms’ (i.e. the behavior).
As a parent, it may seem instinctive to insist that our children listen to us so that our guidance and/or correction can be heard. In fact, the number one complaint I get from most parents is, “My children just don’t listen!” to which I respond, “Do you?”
The reality is that if a child doesn’t feel they are being heard, then even if they stand silently ‘listening’ while we lecture or rant or even just talk, the child is simply rehearsing in their brain what they want to say rather than actually doing any effective listening. As the only adults in the parent/child relationship, it’s up to the parent to be the first to listen, to really listen, because we are the ones with the maturity and self-control to be able to patiently wait to be heard.
March (Step 3)
Live what you want them to learn! ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Consciously, intentionally, and consistently living out how you want your children to turn out is the most powerful and effective character training there is. If you want your children to be kind, be kind. If you want them to be respectful, respect them. If you want them to learn self-control, model self-control. If you want them to be compassionate, treat them with compassion. If you want them to feel joy, enjoy them. If you want them to feel valuable, treasure them. The bottom line is, your children are always watching and learning, so make sure what they see in you is what you want to see in them!
April (Step 4)
Breathe! ~ We all get overwhelmed by the seemingly endless demands of life at times, so this month remind yourself to relax and consciously focus on enjoying your children. It’s just a fact of human nature that when we enjoy something, we pay more attention to it, value it, and treat it better. Applying that fact to parenting, it makes sense to be intentional about taking time to laugh and hug and simply be with our children. Here’s a ‘bucket list’ full of ideas for simple, memorable fun to share with life’s most precious treasures, your children!
May (Step 5)
Book it! ~ It’s been said that our treasure lies where our time, attention, and love is invested. While having special family outings and activities is a wonderful way to enjoy our children, it is in the daily routines and busyness of life that the parent/child connection can often suffer the most. One of the best ways to stay connected with our children is to build time into each day to invest in them, and one of the best investments is in a love of reading. A love of reading is born on the lap of a parent, in the soothing cadence of a mother’s voice reading the same beloved story night after night, in the rhythmic sway of a rocking chair, and in the comfortable rustle of well-worn pages being turned one after another after another. A quiet bedtime routine that includes a nighttime story will not only help bedtime to be happier and smoother, but will also incorporate vital time for you to reconnect with your children at the end of every day.
June (Step 6)
Turn your ‘no’s’ into ‘yes’s'! ~ In any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. With gentle parenting, setting limits focuses on connection and empathetic communication rather than control and punitive consequences. This month try setting limits using gentle parenting by turning your ‘no’s’ into ‘yes’s.’ Instead of “No, you can’t have ice cream until after dinner,” try “I know you love ice cream. I do, too! We’re getting ready to eat right now, but what flavor would you like after dinner?” This invites cooperation instead of triggering opposition, another hallmark of gentle parenting!
July (Step 7)
Play! ~ They say that the family that plays together, stays together, and there’s great truth to that. Play is the language of childhood, and through play we get to know and connect with our children on their turf, in their native language, and on their terms. It’s a powerful moment in a parent’s life when they suddenly see their sweet little one as a separate, intelligent, worthy human being who can plan, make decisions, snap out orders, and lead other humans on a journey through an imaginary rainforest or on a trip through outer space. This month, try taking on the role of follower in your child’s land of make-believe, and you’ll discover a whole new world in which your child is strong, confident, and capable, and you’ll come away with a deeper connection with and appreciation for the person, not just the child.
August (Step 8)
Eat well! ~ Along with all of the exercise you’ll be getting playing with your child, take stock of the kinds of food you’re providing to fuel their little engines and enrich their minds. Good nutrition may not be the first thought that pops into people’s minds when they think of gentle parenting, but studies have shown that many behavior issues and sleep problems have their root in unhealthy eating habits, nutrient-poor diets, and food additives (dyes, preservatives, etc.). Children, especially littler ones, don’t take change well as a general rule, and changes to the foods they eat are on top of the list of changes they’ll resist. As a gentle parent, working with, instead of against, our children will help to make eating healthy a fun family project instead of a food fight. Try letting your children help you make weekly menus and shop for the fresh ingredients you’ll be using, and let them help you cook, too. If they feel like a part of the change instead of a victim of it, they’re far more likely to cooperate. If you have picky eaters, don’t hesitate to serve them the same foods you normally do, just with a few added healthy ingredients slipped in to make them healthier. For ideas on ways to make healthy changes more fun, click here.
September (Step 9)
Don’t forget your funny bone! ~ Often the best parenting advice is simply~Chill out! Relax! Laugh a little, for goodness’ sake! Sometimes as parents we get so caught up in ‘fixing’ our children that all we see are problems. We start focusing so much on preparing our children for their future that we forget to let them live in the present. One of the main problems with that is that children are, by their very nature, creatures of the ‘now,’ living fully immersed in each present moment. G. Mistral said, “Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are formed, his mind developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.” This month, pull out your dusty, old funny-bone, the one that used to keep you in stitches when you were a child, and laugh, on purpose, every day with your child. You’ll be amazed at how a good belly laugh can turn even the worst day into something a little easier to handle and how much a giggle-fest can heal the little rifts that tend to occur in the parent/child connection throughout each day.
October (Step 10)
If you build it, they will come! ~ A shared project can offer a real chance to get to know your child on an entirely new level, so this month find something to build together. Choose something they are interested in, whether it’s a model rocket or tree fort, and watch them blossom as they learn and build and grow. Your role is supportive~finding the materials, helping to read the instructions, offering suggestions or help when they struggle, etc. Simply being there through the process will enrich your connection with your child and offer you valuable insights into their interests and learning style, which will provide tools for you to use when helping them with their homework or homeschooling them.
November (Step 11)
Gratitude is an attitude! ~ Teaching our children to be grateful involves far more than simply instructing them to say, “Thank you.” We all want to be appreciated, and children are no different. Modeling the things we want to see in our children is the single most powerful mode of instruction, so living a life of gratitude ourselves goes a long way toward raising our little ones to be happy, grateful humans. Openly appreciating our children, telling them what we like about them, and thanking them for the things they do is a sure-fire way of inspiring an attitude of gratitude in their little hearts. This month, be intentional in finding things to praise in your children. Don’t be falsely enthusiastic or use “Good job!” as a brush-off to get them to leave you alone. Instead, honestly tell them what you like about them. Tell them ‘thank you’ when they remember to brush their teeth without being told or help their little sister with her block tower. Let them know you think their artwork is beautiful and don’t hesitate to give them a pat on the back for a job well done when they straighten their room. Remember, it is the hungry child, not the satisfied child, who craves food, and, in the same way, it is unmet needs that lead to attention seeking behaviors and unspoken approval that can create ‘praise junkies’ as the unpraised child seeks to fill the very human need we all have for validation.
December (Step 12)
Celebrate! ~ Take time this month to give yourself a pat on the back for working toward your goal of becoming a gentle parent. Congratulate yourself for all that you’ve accomplished and take stock of your successes as well as your failures. Don’t focus on your mistakes. Simply learn from them, forgive yourself, and move forward. Look back at where you were as a parent a year ago and compare that to where you are now. Don’t worry if you haven’t come as far as you’d like. Life is for living and learning and growing, and another year is about to start with a chance to move forward into a new beginning. Everything you’ve invested in your children in the last year has been worthwhile, and everything you’ll invest in the coming years will build on the foundation you’ve begun. So take this month to celebrate you and to enjoy the return on your investment!
Do you see a theme throughout this gentle parenting ’12-step program’? Getting to know and enjoy your children as individuals, intentionally focusing on building and maintaining a strong and healthy parent/child connection, and living what you want your children to learn are the bedrocks of gentle parenting. Walking through these steps, revisiting them when you find yourself struggling, and appreciating the incredible, miraculous gifts that each individual child brings into the world will keep you growing as a gentle parent day after day, month after month, year after year. Live. Laugh. Love. Enjoy!
Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon
*Also published in The Natural Parent Magazine
Dr. Laura Markham’s website, AhaParenting.com, is one of my favorite go-to resources to share with parents. With sound advice based on clinical and personal experience and supported by research, Dr. Markham offers excellent guidance for parents looking for help in their gentle parenting journeys.
Now, there’s a new resource from Dr. Markham that I’m delighted to share with you: her new parenting guide, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting! With a personable approach, clear explanations, and anecdotal illustrations, you’ll find Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting an easy-to-read, helpful resource to keep on hand and to share with other parents in need of a little guidance. (Check back here on Monday for a chance to win a copy for free!)
Dr. Markham honored Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources with the opportunity to be a part of her virtual book tour to launch her new book by engaging in an online interview with me. Here is the transcript from our surprisingly candid and insightful interview:
Welcome, Dr. Markham! Will you share your background/experience/education with my readers?
I’m trained as a clinical psychologist. When I got my PhD at Columbia University, my mentor was Dr. Larry Aber, an attachment theorist who ran the Barnard Toddler Center.
I was fascinated by the longitudinal studies that followed children over time and found that securely attached children are easier to raise, do better in school, are better liked by teachers and peers, are more professionally successful, are happier, are healthier, have better romantic relationships and marriages, enjoy parenting more, and are more likely to themselves raise securely attached children.
Unfortunately, only about 60% of children in the US (this varies a bit across cultures) are estimated to be securely attached, leaving the other 40% to struggle emotionally for their entire lives. And yet, this is something we can change – by working with parents! We can accurately project whether a child will be securely attached by interviewing the mom before the child is even born, and we can work with the parents to help them resolve their own attachment issues to raise a securely attached child. Every parent deserves that opportunity. That’s why I specialize in parenting.
So you advocate Attachment Parenting?
I’m an Attachment Theorist, but Attachment Parenting is not quite the same as Attachment Theory.
Attachment Parenting is a set of practices – for instance, wearing your baby, breastfeeding and co-sleeping – that are thought to promote a secure attachment. As an Attachment Theorist, I think it’s important to point out that while these practices may facilitate more responsive parenting—which does indeed contribute to a secure attachment—they are not the actual cause of ‘secure attachment.’
What creates a secure attachment is a parent who is warmly responsive to the needs of her unique child and able to accept the full range of his emotions. That means, for instance, that as a parent it’s important that we’re able to tolerate our child being angry at us, or clingy, or crying. To do that, we have to be able to stay calm and regulate our own feelings, and nurture our child through his emotions. That’s what creates attachment security.
Do you recommend babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping?
I lived those practices with my own children, and they made my life easier and my babies happier. I personally believe they help us to be more responsive as parents, and research is emerging to back that up. So yes, I recommend them. But my point is that if it doesn’t work for you to use one or more of these practices, for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a responsive parent with a securely attached child.
How has your own parenting journey contributed to your work and to your new book?
When my son was born 21 years ago, my midwife told me before I left the hospital that I should begin right away to let my son cry at night so he would sleep better. My instincts, and my training, told me that was wrong. The more suggestions I heard, the more I realized that most parenting advice we take for granted in our culture was inherited from previous generations who did not have access to the longitudinal and brain research that we have now.
For instance, we now know that the advice during the last century to “Leave your baby to cry and he’ll learn to self-soothe” simply isn’t true – babies’ brains develop the wiring to soothe themselves by being soothed by their parents. Babies who are left to cry may stop crying because they’ve learned that no one comes, but their cortisol levels are still measurably high, indicating that they’re still stressed. That stress and fear has to come out somewhere, in the baby’s cranky moods or clingy behavior.
Another example is the pervasive practice of time-outs. Children act out because they’re in the grip of strong emotions, just as adults do. Sending them off alone to calm down gives them the message that having emotions is a bad thing, and that they’re all alone to learn to manage their overwhelming, scary feelings. And punishment actually hinders moral development—it doesn’t help the child behave better.
When my son was born, I saw so many parents around me struggling. Parenting is the hardest work we do, as I learned first hand, and parents don’t get the support we need and deserve. But I also saw parents unknowingly creating problems with their children by following well-intentioned, but misinformed, advice. These were wonderful people who loved their children without reservation and only wanted what was best for their children. They would have been horrified to learn that their own actions were making their kids act out more. So I wanted to support parents and help them get a better start with their children.
What influence did your own childhood experiences have on your parenting philosophy?
My parents both loved me, but they were divorced and had their own challenges. They couldn’t handle their own emotions, much less mine. I remember vividly how fast I had to grow up, how lonely I felt, how I was looking in all the wrong places for someone to love me as a teenager.
Now, I couldn’t have explained to you, even as a 16-year-old, what was wrong. But having that experience, I can say with total certainty that every child who is acting out is sending us an SOS for understanding, connection, and help with their emotions—no matter how incomprehensible their behavior may be to us.
How is it that you came out of those experiences okay?
Parents often ask me that when they hear about my childhood. I spent years in therapy and years meditating. I still have to work at taking care of myself; it doesn’t come naturally because I wasn’t taken care of. And I’m just lucky that I didn’t have additional risk factors – like ADHD, or a vulnerability to addiction – or I might not have made it to adulthood.
But there are two positive takeaways here:
1. No matter what your childhood was like, you can heal it and be the parent your child needs.
2. No parent is perfect, because we’re human. Luckily, children are pretty resilient. What we do right is more important in creating the solid foundation for our kids than those times we mess up.
What has most impacted your parenting philosophy?
My understanding of children includes my training in child development, especially Attachment theory, which I’ve already mentioned. What I see parents struggling with is always emotions – their own, and their child’s. We all need a loving “witness” so we can heal our emotional hurts, which I first learned from Virginia Axline and Carl Rogers, and then saw Aletha Solter put into practice with babies.
Of course, recent neurological findings have helped me flesh out and evolve my approach, so I’m a fan of Dan Siegel and Allan Schore. Finally, my specialty is practical solutions to the issues of everyday family life, so I’ve learned from countless leaders in the field –Adele Faber, Magda Gerber, Patty Wipfler, Larry Cohen, Jane Nelsen, and so many more.
How does the style of parenting you advocate build trust to set the stage for a peaceful, mutually respectful parent/child relationship throughout the childhood and adolescent years?
Every time we listen to our crying baby, tantruming toddler, or whining preschooler and respond to her needs, we build our child’s trust that we’re on her side, looking out for her best interests.
Every time we resist our impulse to lash out with punishment, and instead help our child with the feelings that are driving her behavior, we help her gain the emotional skills to manage her behavior.
Every time we seek first to connect, and only then to guide, we help our child want to follow our guidance.
That slow accretion of respectful interactions is what builds the strong relationship we all want with our children. Our children learn that’s how to live in relationship, so they’re naturally respectful, compassionate and considerate. They treasure their relationship with us, and would no more damage that relationship — by lying to us, or defying us — than they would set fire to the house, and for the same reasons.
I now have a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old. We never had the rocky teen years that scare parents. I think that tough teen stage is completely unnecessary; it’s created by a parenting style that doesn’t meet kids’ needs.
If you had to sum up your parenting philosophy in a single sentence, what would it be?
Or more specifically:
Manage your own emotions so that you can listen, empathize and stay connected with your child as you guide him. When you get upset, breathe through it and don’t take action until you’re centered again so you have access to your deeper wisdom.
Dr. Markham, thank you so much for including ‘Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources’ in your virtual book tour, and good luck with the launch of ‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting’!
Dr. Laura Markham trained as a clinical psychologist, but she’s also a mother, so she understands parents as well as kids. Her new book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. You can get Dr. Laura’s free daily or weekly emails online at AhaParenting.com, the home of Aha! Moments for parents of babies through teens.
November 29, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, books, breastfeeding, cosleeping, parenting guide, positive discipline, positive parenting | Tags: babywearing, emotional intelligence, parenting, positive discipline, positive parenting, time-out | 4 Comments »
“Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.” ~John Holt
A love of learning begins in the home with the establishment of a secure foundation of trust from which children can explore their world freely and joyfully. Fred Rogers said, “Play is the work of childhood.” In other words, play is not a waste of time, something to be dispensed with in pursuit of ‘more important’ activities, classes, sports, etc. Play is the vehicle through which children process the adult-sized world they live in and the big emotions and overwhelming sensory input that comes with it. Play involves imagination, creativity, and unrestricted activity. Those qualities flourish in the context of a secure attachment to a parent, a sure knowledge that a safe haven, gentle guidance, and unfailing support are no more than a stone’s throw away.
Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. The four characteristics of healthy attachment (i.e. evidences of a healthy attachment) according to the originator of Attachment Theory, John Bowlby, are:
- Proximity Maintenance – A child’s desire to be near the parent
- Safe Haven – A child seeking the parent for comfort and safety when afraid
- Secure Base – The parent as a base of security from which a child can explore and experiment
- Separation Distress – A child’s anxiety in the absence of the parent
These characteristics of healthy attachment are developed through parenting choices such as promptly responding to needs, positive guidance, healthy interaction, and modeling of desired behaviors. When a parent intentionally builds a trust relationship from the beginning of a child’s life, it forms the secure basis from which a child can explore and create and interact. And that is where a love of learning is fostered, in the joy of exploring texture by mashing lunch through tiny fingers instead of eating it, in the fascination of creating towers of blocks and knocking them down repeatedly, and in the comforting cadence of a parent’s voice reading the same Dr. Seuss book night after night after peaceful night.
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.~Dr. Seuss
Play is imagination with feet~L.R.Knost
A love of learning is born on the playground, in a fort made of sofa cushions, and in the pages of a picturebook. ~L.R.Knost
The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things. ~Plato
Without imagination there may as well be no God, no Heaven, for we could not discern them, much less desire them, if we only saw with our eyes and not with our hearts.~L.R.Knost
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
On a Winnie the Pooh style ‘long explore’ my little Pooh Bear discovered the world in ways only a toddler can in…The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
The evolution of children’s communication proceeds at a steady and relatively predictable pace, though the timing is influenced by factors such as individual personality, cognitive development, home environment, etc. Here’s what to expect through the ages and stages…Tots to Teens~Communication through the Ages and Stages
From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques…Practical Gentle Discipline
I was at the park with my little ones yesterday and got a text from one of my older children. Not an uncommon occurrence since I have six children, all the way from a 24-year-old married father of two down to a nursling of my own. As I looked up from my phone after returning the text, I saw a young mom glance quickly away from me, obvious disapproval on her face. I suddenly realized I was a bad mom…you know, ‘that’ mom at the park or ballet lesson or soccer game who ignores her kids in favor of her iphone.
When my phone buzzed again with a return text, I hesitated for a moment before I caught myself, laughed, and responded to my son’s text. I’ve been a parent for 24 (almost 25 now!) years, and I know better. I am no longer crushed or even influenced by the occasional disapproving glances when I nurse in public or say those three controversial words, “We don’t vaccinate,” or when I don’t spank my toddler for…well, anything, ever! I am confident and comfortable enough in my parenting after all these years to neither hide nor flaunt my choices to breastfeed, cosleep, babywear, homeschool, and discipline gently.
And, on the flipside of that coin, I’ve been a parent long enough to know that you don’t give birth and suddenly just know all there is to know about parenting. My own journey to gentle parenting was just that, a journey. We’re all learning ‘on the job,’ literally, and on top of that we’re all just humans raising humans and can and will make mistakes, no matter how much experience we have.
Breast or bottle. Demand or schedule feeding. Thumb, dummy, or mama as a pacifier. Public, private, or home school. Vax’ing, delayed vax’ing, or non-vax’ing. The list of differences among good parents doing the best they know how to do with the knowledge and experience they have is endless.
No, I don’t agree with all parenting choices. Yes, I can and will share my own experiences and beliefs. And, yes, I am passionate about my beliefs.
But I didn’t get to this place of comfort and confidence in my parenting overnight. And so I can and do give grace to those who aren’t making what I consider to be the best parenting choices or who aren’t confident enough about their own parenting to give grace to me when my choices don’t agree with theirs.
So, what are my personal parenting beliefs? Glad you asked!
- I believe that breastfeeding provides not only the best nutrition for babies and the best bonding experience for mamas and babies, but also cannot be replicated by formula if for no other reason than that it is a living organism that evolves as a baby grows to meet the baby’s changing nutritional and immunity needs. I believe it is also best for our society as well as our planet for reasons you can read about here. But if you bottle feed, I won’t roll my eyes at you in public.
- I believe that cosleeping not only helps new babies acclimate to this strange, new world, but that it also aids in the establishment of breastfeeding, is protective against SIDS, and actually helps exhausted new mamas to get more sleep. You can read about safe cosleeping practices and research here. But if you don’t cosleep, I won’t de-friend you.
- I believe that wearing babies helps them acquire head control and core strength without the discomfort of ‘tummy-time,’ aids in the development of proper hip alignment, and frees up mama’s (or daddy’s!) hands for other tasks, all while keeping their sweet little baby faces close enough for lots of kisses. You can find tons of information, links, and even some instructional YouTube videos here. But if you never wear your baby, I won’t hang you out to dry.
- I believe that herd immunity is a myth, that vaccine ingredients such as formaldehyde and aluminum are contributors to the skyrocketing autism and autoimmune disorder rates, that the immune system cannot be ‘tricked’ into providing immunity with any reliable efficacy, and that the pharmaceutical industry is calling the shots rather than the medical community. You can read more here. But I won’t talk about you behind your back if you choose to vaccinate your children.
- I believe that gentle and respectful discipline models the kind of self-controlled, compassionate, and responsible adults we all would like our children to turn out to be. And I believe that harsh and rigid discipline with punitive consequences produces negative long-term effects. For some gentle discipline ideas, click here. But if you subscribe to a different discipline style than mine, I won’t lecture you…though I will try to model a gentler approach.
And one last thing. Before the advent of iphones and ipads, moms like me would often bring books to the park and read them in between pushing our little ones on the swings and catching them at the end of the slide. We’d sit and chat with other mamas and daddies at ballet and soccer practice in between watching our children become what we were sure were going to be prima ballerinas or the next Pelé. We felt no guilt reading our books and chatting with friends. We still met our children’s needs. We laughed at their antics and kissed their boo-boos. We cheered them on and called out helpful ‘tips’ and encouragement. And these days if we occasionally answer a text or update our Facebook status in between interactions with our children, that’s okay, too. “Everything in moderation”…that’s my motto!
May 14, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, motherhood, natural parenting, nonvaxing, nursing, positive discipline, positive parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, natural parenting, positive parenting | 16 Comments »
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
Wearing your baby against your heart is one of the most beautiful and bonding experiences you can have with your little one after giving birth. Studies have even shown that mamas and babies can synchronize their heartbeats with a simple smile! Clearly, wearing your baby within kissing distance, where the slightest tilt of the head brings your smile into focus for your precious new little one, is a wonderful gift of connection that has benefits far, far beyond our understanding!
I have six children, so I can testify to the extreme value of babywearing for being able to continue with a busy life after giving birth to a tiny new person. From attending sports practices to grocery shopping to making dinner to housecleaning, babywearing is a life-saver, not to mention a great source of exercise to get that pre-baby body back!
In addition to the benefits to a busy mama, babywearing can also replace tummy-time for little ones who don’t enjoy being stuck on the floor. While being worn, babies’ core and neck muscles are being strengthened by the motion of a mother’s body while she walks and bends and moves throughout the day.
I’ve been gathering resources for a babywearing post and couldn’t resist using this cute picture to illustrate it even though the little guy isn’t in the best position for hip health. But I just love seeing daddies wearing babies as well as mommies wearing babies. Check out the resources below for information about the different kinds of carriers available, different kinds of positions you can use, health and development benefits, how to make your own no-sew wrap, and more!
Informative articles and answers to common babywearing questions from Dr. Sears.
Tons of articles and resources about babywearing from one of my favorite baby carrier providers, Boba.
Lots of excellent babywearing information from an extremely versatile carrier from another favorite of mine, Onya Baby.
Peer reviewed articles, scientific studies and analysis, historical precedent, cultural influence, and more from TheBabyWearer.com
Over one thousand babywearing products reviewed…almost seven thousand reviews!
From “Don’t you ever put that poor baby down?” to “My baby did just fine in a buggy”…here are some lovely suggestions for gentle responses to negative comments.
Proper baby carrier positioning recommendations from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
And some YouTube finds…
How to make a no-sew wrap:
A mama of twins demonstrates front and back carries…
The old preacher’s slightly shaky voice and once-hearty arthritic hands spoke of life and experience and hard-won wisdom as he held up a dusty tapestry with the backside facing us. The tangle of threads that seemed to go nowhere and snarl of multicolored knots gave no hint of the picture on the other side. “This is what we see,” he said. Then he turned the tapestry around to display the intricate, painstakingly crafted, exquisite picture on the front side. “And this is what God is doing.” He looked around the room, a kind and gentle understanding in his age-dimmed gaze. “Faith is trusting that your Father’s hands are carefully weaving a beautiful life’s story, even when all you can see is chaos.”
I remember this story often when life feels overwhelming, when big things like layoffs and sicknesses hit, and when small things like cranky toddlers, piles of laundry, and broken a/c units annoy. What feels to me like an endless cycle of dishes and diapers, punctuated by the odd disaster, must look like brilliant threads of golden perseverance, scarlet sacrifice, and soft blue-grey shades of faith, all woven tenderly into my life’s tapestry in my Father’s skillful hands.
I imagine life feels this way to my children, as well. As I try to teach and guide and nourish and encourage my children to grow into the beautiful humans they were created to be, they may not see the picture I am trying to weave.
They may not understand why they’re gently redirected when they try to crawl up the stairs or why bugs don’t make a good afternoon snack. They may not be able to fathom why their new dragonfly ‘pet’ isn’t allowed in the house or why they can’t hide in “the best hiding place EVER” in a hot car on a steamy Florida afternoon. They may not agree with the no-social-media rule and lack of a cell phone in their early teen years when “everybody has one!” And they may not fully get why the mall is not an approved hangout spot and why periodic texts to check in when out with friends are part of our family rules in their later teen years.
But, while these things may seem like meaningless threads or even unnecessary knots and tangles in their lives, the trust we share helps them to accept what they don’t understand, knowing that I have a purpose for each of these things even if they can’t see it.
It is that trust, that faith in my motives, my wisdom, my love, that makes gentle parenting possible. I don’t have to enforce my ‘rules’ with punishments or control my children with threats or intimidation because they know that I have their best interests at heart and that I will always, always listen to their concerns, even if I can’t change things or give them what they want.
I start building that trust from the moment my children are born and continue building it throughout their childhood. I respond quickly and consistently to their cries, whether they are eight days, eight years, or eighteen years old. I meet their needs as fully as I am able, whether those needs are a clean diaper, a full belly, a listening ear, or a warm hug. I respond gently and thoughtfully to their behaviors, whether they are having a meltdown, whining, tattling, questioning, or even challenging me.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’m honest about my own imperfections, am willing to apologize when I make one of my many parenting mistakes, and don’t expect perfection from my very human children.
Life is messy. No one has all the answers, at least not earth-side. But we can all trust that this sometimes bewildering, sometimes joyful, sometimes flat-out painful chaos called life has meaning and purpose and beauty beyond the scope of human sight. And as we carefully and gently weave the strands of our children’s days into a beautiful childhood, we can trust that our Father is thoughtfully and tenderly doing the same for us.
On a somewhat side note, my stillborn son, Sammy’s, birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. While he’s always in my heart, as his birthday approaches my heart tightens in my chest a bit more each day until the ache becomes almost unbearable, and then finally the day passes and I can breathe again. I wonder how tragedy must look from Heaven’s side. I wonder about my Sammy and my other lost babies, gone before they even had birthdays. What colors did they add to my story? What eternal beauty did they bring that would have made my tapestry incomplete if they had not come and gone, so heartbreakingly briefly, into my life? While I feel holes in my heart, one for each much-wanted child, and an aching cavern of loss for my Sammy, would my life have been complete without them? I can’t answer these questions. I won’t even try. But I imagine that is where faith stretches its silken blue-grey threads across my story like the fragile gossamer wings of a butterfly.
“Now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see clearly, face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
May 11, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, birth, character, children, Christian, Christian parenting, communication, family, gentle parenting, life, loss, miscarriage, motherhood, pregnancy loss, teens, wisdom | Tags: adolescence, attachment, attachment parenting, Bible, children, Christian, Christian parenting, gentle parenting, sacrifice, stillbirth, teens | 4 Comments »
[Portions reprinted with permission from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost available June 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon.]
The evolution of children’s communication proceeds at a steady and relatively predictable pace, though the timing is influenced by factors such as individual personality, cognitive development, home environment, etc. Here’s what to expect through the ages and stages…
Building a trust-based relationship with your child starts, literally, at birth. Those precious moments after baby is placed on mama’s belly, the beginning days and nights spent adjusting to the newness of life, those first exhausting weeks trying to get into the rhythm of parenthood, all offer the opportunity to establish a foundation of trust to build a healthy parent/child relationship upon. Research has shown hints of the remarkable ability of newborns to communicate their needs… Read more
Every child knows the power of The No to circumvent the most well-laid plans. Even tiny babies just weeks into the world are introduced to its power when they grasp a fistful of hair while nursing or reach for some lovely, squishy stuff while getting a diaper change. That itty bitty two-letter word is packed with a force beyond comprehension to a toddler, and when they finally figure out how to wrap their little lips around those letters and form the word “NO!” themselves, the possibilities seem limitless!
Do you want a cookie? “No!”…Well, actually, yes, but how cool is it that when I said “No!” I controlled whether or not someone gave me a cookie!
Do you want Daddy to hold you? “No!” Well, yes, but I got to decide whether someone held me or not for a change!
So what’s a mommy or daddy to do when confronted with The No from their little one? Read more
Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on.
Whining, believe it or not, is an advanced skill… Read more
Tattling is, in effect, a child seeking wise counsel for a situation they don’t know how to handle. When faced with a conflict that just weeks or months earlier would have resulted in tears or snatching or hitting or some combination of all three, a child who has matured and begun to develop some self-control is learning to stop and think instead of just react. But what do they do if no solution presents itself? What if they’ve tried to reason or negotiate with the object of their conflict and been unable to come to a resolution?
What do adults do when they don’t know what to do? Well, they either respond with maturity and seek out someone they respect and trust to help them deal with the situation, or they degenerate into chaotic emotions and resort to anger, power-plays, manipulation, etc. Often their response is influenced by their own childhood and how they were taught or not taught, as they case may be, to handle conflict… Read more
“Why are oranges orange?”
“Why don’t snakes have legs?”
“Why don’t we live on the moon?”
“Why does ice have to be cold?”
“Why can’t my frog sleep in my bed?”
“Why don’t clouds come in my window?”
Why? Why? Why do they always ask why? As annoying as it certainly can be, the ‘why’ stage serves several extremely important purposes.
It is during this stage that children have fully made the cognitive shift to understanding that they are an entirely separate person from their parents, and, in healthy parent/child relationships, with that knowledge comes a need to literally ‘investigate’ their parents, find out what makes them tick, how they think, who they are. The ultimate purpose of this ‘probing’ is identifying with their parents by examining and internalizing their values, knowledge, and belief systems.
As children begin identifying with who their parents are, they are also learning problem solving skills by listening to their parents’ thought processes. Read more
Once children have a solid grasp of language and have developed more advanced reasoning and processing skills, and once they’ve examined the in’s and out’s of their parents’ thoughts and beliefs, they begin to turn their attention to discovering their own interests and gifts and personalities.
Parents often begin to notice their children ‘becoming their own person’ during this time and we hear laments such as “She’s eight going on eighteen” and “He’s already changed career plans four times, and he’s only ten!” It is during this period in childhood that children often develop into a chatterbox or a dreamer, though most will be unique combinations of the two… Read more
Your ‘middle’ or teen’s vocabulary may be nearly as large as yours and they may talk enough to drive you batty, but their ability to process, analyze, and articulate their emotions, especially the negative ones, is still far from mature.
Expecting them to be able to use words as easily and with as much insight as adults is like someone handing us a box of computer components and expecting us to be able to assemble, program, and operate the computer like an expert, but without the expert’s knowledge and experience!
Our middles and teens still need help communicating their inner world to us, and that takes patience and understanding on our part while we give them time to process without adding the pressure of unrealistic expectations. Stress just increases their cortisol levels (cortisol is the stress-hormone associated with the ‘fight-freeze-or-flight response’ which essentially drains their brains of the ability to think just when they need to think the most!) which results in less communication… Read more
Communication is always a huge concern for parents in the teen years. The strong, open communication channel created in the early years through Gentle Parenting, coupled with the mutual respect and trust foundation established, provide a powerful platform for a healthy parent/teen relationship. Simply put, children/teens who feel heard and understood and respected don’t need to fight to be heard, understood, and respected. Or, conversely, they don’t slip away into the sullen, angry, withdrawn teen who doesn’t bother to even try to be heard anymore because they never felt heard or understood as a young child
Again, this is not to say that the gently raised adolescent will be perfect. None of us are! But with a healthy relationship based on open, honest communication, issues can be addressed as they arise and in a respectful and timely manner instead of a teen feeling the need to go ‘underground’ with their behavior or problems.
So, that said, what are some practical tips for talking to teens? Read more
12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!) From those first terror-stricken days with a newborn to the sleep-deprived months of infancy to the challenges of toddlerhood and beyond, parenting is a journey, not a destination. And when subsequent little ones arrive, the journey starts all over again as we discover that the lessons learned from parenting one child don’t always apply to the next as each have their own incomparable personalities, quirks, and individual identities.
The principles of gentle parenting (i.e. connection, empathy, intentionality, respect) don’t change as our children grow, just as they don’t change from one child to the next. What does change is our understanding of those principles as we grow in wisdom and experience as parents and human beings. The practical application of gentle parenting principles, though, can look very different from child to child and life stage to life stage…Read more
April 28, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, birth, character, childhood, children, communication, family, gentle parenting, middle childhood, newborn, preschooler, teens, toddler | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, childhood, children, communication, gentle parenting, newborn, preschoolers, teens, toddler | 53 Comments »
In the 2004 movie, The Butterfly Effect, 20-year-old Evan (Ashton Kutcher) goes back in time to try to change events from his traumatic childhood in an attempt to change his dysfunctional adulthood. The movie’s title is based on a mathematical prediction concept in chaos theory.
“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.
Although the butterfly effect may appear to be an esoteric and unusual behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position.
The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate, or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different.” (Wikipedia)
So what does chaos theory have to do with parenting? Besides the obvious connection between chaos and parenting, it’s about understanding the concept of “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” in other words, the power of early parenting choices to affect a child’s future.
It is a well-documented fact that early childhood experiences powerfully influence later adulthood. A childhood marred by abuse, violence, trauma, has profound implications in adulthood. From continued cycles of abuse to depression and other mental illnesses to relational and life-satisfaction issues, the negative effects are often far-reaching and destructive.
Not so well-documented is how the smaller differences in ‘initial conditions,’ or early parenting choices, can have significantly divergent outcomes. In these cases, it isn’t abusive or neglect-filled childhoods versus normal childhoods that create the different outcomes, but instead more subtle differences in parenting that may have differing and often unforeseen long-term effects.
One family may breastfeed, another formula-feed. One family may bed-share, another room-share, while another sleeps entirely separately. One family may homeschool, another chooses private school, while another chooses a public education. One family may discipline through connection, another through negative or positive reinforcement, while another may focus on punitive behavioral controls. Each parenting choice is a different ‘initial condition’ which can affect the overall trajectory of a child’s life in powerful ways with the resulting ‘valley’ of adult behavior, relationships, career choices, etc. varying widely.
It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the many studies that have connected specific parenting choices with their statistical outcomes. Here are some links to studies on the long-term causal effects of breastfeeding, spanking, and a Harvard study on health as it pertains to early childhood experiences. But just the understanding that our decisions as parents do have a long-range impact on our children’s futures is enough to encourage careful consideration in making those decisions.
The goal in parenting, however, can never be perfection because we are imperfect people raising imperfect people in an imperfect world. So, while being aware of the import of our decisions and making wise, educated choices is important, it is just as important to expect and account for parental missteps. Our mistakes can, in fact, become a vital part of raising our children to be gracious, forgiving adults. If we model taking personal responsibility for our mistakes along with forgiving ourselves, then our missteps can become virtual ‘butterflies’ on the slope into adulthood, redirecting the trajectory of our children’s lives in a positive direction.
That concept, the redirective effect of the ‘butterfly’ on the slope into adulthood applies elsewhere, as well. If we find that parental choices we’ve made in the past have sent our children in a direction we are unhappy with, we can redirect by setting in motion a butterfly’s wings, in other words, we can shift our parenting style and reroute the trajectory of our children’s lives.
Here are a few illustrations of The Butterfly Effect as it applies to parenting redirections…
A young girl with dyslexia comes home from school day after day in tears, exhausted and overwhelmed, only to have to spend hours at night struggling through homework, more tears, and then get up the next day to do it all over again. Her father realizes that with his daughter’s unique learning style, traditional schooling is like teaching a butterfly to swim, with the result that his little butterfly’s wings would be forever damaged, and she’d never learn to fly. He turns his life upside down to make the time to homeschool her and find ways to emphasize her strengths and turn her weaknesses into gifts. His daughter transforms from a withdrawn child with low self-worth into a confident young lady soaring into a bright future.
A young mother brings home a precious newborn she loves with every fiber of her being. She wants the absolute best for her child and has read book after book saying that proper training of a child has to start right from the beginning. It hurts her all the way down to her soul as each night she gently and lovingly tucks her sweet baby into his crib and walks away, closing the door on his cries and sliding down onto her knees in the hallway to spend night after sleepless night crying right along with him. After the first torturous nights, she finds that her baby isn’t nursing well on the strict schedule the books suggested, and her milk supply hadn’t come in as expected. The pediatrician diagnoses failure-to-thrive and suggests supplementing with formula. As the young mother leaves the doctor’s office in tears, feeling like her body has failed her, an older mother sees her distress and approaches her in the parking lot. When the young mother pours out her story, the older mother shares her own struggles and discoveries over the years, ending by encouraging the young mother to bring her baby into her room at night and nurse him on demand to see if her milk supply increases. The young mother is relieved to hear there are alternatives to the rigid training methods she’d read about. She takes the older mother’s advice and, over the next days discovers that not only does her milk supply increase substantially, but both her and her new baby are finally getting some sleep! She tosses the parenting books and spreads her parenting wings, parenting from the heart, making every parenting decision by first asking herself how she would want someone to respond to her if she were the child. Her son grows up strong and healthy, with a deep respect and empathy for others.
A father is struggling with his three-year-old’s temper. He has poured himself into raising his daughter ‘right’ from birth, reading her stories every night, feeding her nutritious foods, getting her into the best preschool, correcting her with carefully controlled spankings dealt in love and followed by hugs and kisses. As he heads to pick up his daughter from preschool, his stomach tightens in dread. For the second time that week they’ve called him to report another incidence of aggressive behavior by his daughter, and he knows when they get home he’ll have to punish her. He sighs in discouragement. She used to be such a sweet, bubbly little girl. Now she just seems to simmer, anger hovering just beneath the surface ready to burst out at the slightest provocation. He signs his daughter out, then reaches out to help her into her coat. She flinches at his touch and flings her tiny hands up instinctively to protect herself. For one moment, their eyes meet, and the father’s heart freezes. Fear. Ever so briefly, instead of that too-familiar anger clouding his little girl’s eyes, fear had stared back at him. Feeling sick, the father gently helps his daughter into her coat and picks her up, hiding his tears by hugging her close as he walks to the car. Never again, he vows. Never again will his precious daughter look at him in fear. At home, he sits his daughter down and tells her that he’s sorry, that hands are for helping, not hitting, and that they’re going to work together to find better ways to handle things when people don’t do what they want. His daughter’s anger eases over time and trust returns. She grows into a compassionate young woman, serving her community with a gentle passion that wins hearts everywhere she goes.
In each case, the parent was faced with the reality that the track their parenting choices had placed their child was on wasn’t optimal, and each parent responded by shifting course and altering the trajectory of their child’s lives, in turn altering their child’s future in immeasurable ways.
The message here is this…our parental choices matter. They matter in life-defining ways that we can’t even imagine when we wrap those precious new lives in the cocoon of our love and set them on a path which we hope and pray will help them to spread their wings and fly. Choose wisely, parents, and don’t be afraid to change course in mid-flight if the winds are blowing in the wrong direction.
On the importance of early childhood experiences:
March 31, 2012 | Categories: abuse, attachment parenting, birth, breastfeeding, childhood, children, cosleeping, diversity, family, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, meltdown, natural parenting, newborn, nursing, parenting guide, positive discipline, positive parenting, preschooler, rebellion, soothing, spanking, stress, toddler, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tags: attachment parenting, breastfeeding, childhood, children, cosleeping, discipline, family, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, natural parenting, positive parenting, preschoolers, sacrificial parenting, toddler | 10 Comments »
Parenting is far more a journey than a destination. As parents we are always learning, always researching, always growing, always adjusting. Sharing our journeys is one way we can support and encourage each other along the way! Here are some really unique ways mamas are sharing their attachment/natural/gentle parenting experiences you might enjoy:
The first is a video by The Single Crunch. Such a beautiful testimony of the love of a mother!
I am a single mom…I breastfeed and practice child-led weaning, babywear, co-sleep, cloth diaper, homebirth, and do whatever else my natural instincts move me to do, regardless of what others may think. I DO NOT “train” my children (using the cry-it-out method to get babies to sleep). I do not spank. I do not vaccinate. I try not to run to modern medicine for every problem I or my children have, opting instead for natural (homeopathic) solutions when possible…I LISTEN to my children. I try to pause before I react and think about life from their point of view. I HAVE NOT ALWAYS LIVED THIS WAY…I’ve had a hard time with many of the ideals of being crunchy, especially as a single mom. It takes time and patience and time. Lots of time. Sometimes I’m not all that patient. I used to spank…I yell…But mainstream parenting never felt right to me. I wanted to meet moms who didn’t think my attachment (and the level of attachment I desired to have) with my children was weird. I found AP because most of the women in my life felt my ideas were silly, unintelligent, impractical, and unnecessary, especially for a mom with no husband. I didn’t care. I knew my children needed more of me. I’ve always felt a strong connection to my children, and I’ve always wanted to parent the way THEY showed me they needed me to, not a way that was convenient for me. I am now working to apply all that I have learned from my other mom friends and the many groups I subscribe to, to make my girls’ lives as safe, healthy, and happy as possible. I want to raise compassionate, secure, intelligent young women who know, understand, and believe that beauty starts within. (Read more at The Single Crunch)
The next is a lovely and honest post from The Mule about the blessings and challenges of breastfeeding on demand:
While I nurse you to sleep…
I...rest. For the first time today, I am still. I am not lifting, carrying, holding, bending, reaching, stretching, scrubbing, wiping, hauling, or lugging. Here in this dark room I lie beside you and allow my body and mind to come to stillness after the chaos of our day. You suck, and tug, you fiddle, and fuss…and slowly come to stillness too, until we both are still, and both are resting…I wait, momentarily, and then, I slowly slide away and leave you sleeping.
While I nurse you to sleep…
I…take stock. I turn over in my mind, the contents of the fridge, the washing on the floor, the money in the bank. I count up the years I’ve had so far and the years I might have left. I work out how old I will be when you are the age I am now – thirty seven – seventy two. I hope I make it. I count the eggs you already have in your body and those I have in mine and I wonder at the people they may become. I think about the person I was before I met you, the life I led, the things I’ve gained and the things I’ve lost, I count them all. I plan the contents of my other daughter’s lunchbox
(Read the rest of this lovely post at While I Nurse You to Sleep…)
This is an excellent and entertaining look at child-led, interest-led learning from Real Child Development.
Trust the child to direct his own learning. For it seems to me a fact that, in our struggle to make sense out of life, the things we most need to learn are the things we most want to learn. To put this another way, curiosity is hardly ever idle. What we want to know, we want to know for a reason. The reason is that there is a hole, a gap, an empty space in our understanding of things, our mental model of the world. We feel that gap like a hole in a tooth and want to fill it up. It makes us ask How? When? Why? While the gap is there, we are in tension, in suspense. Listen to the anxiety in a person’s voice when he says, “This doesn’t make sense!” When the gap in our understanding is filled, we feel pleasure, satisfaction, relief. Things make sense again – or at any rate, they make more sense than they did. When we learn this way, for these reasons, we learn both rapidly and permanently. The person who really needs to know something does not need to be told many times, drilled, tested. Once is enough. The new piece of knowledge fits into the gap ready for it, like a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Once in place, it is held in, it can’t fall out. We don’t forget things that make the world a more reasonable or interesting place for us. (Read the rest of this informative post at Real Child Development)
The next post is from Dulce De Leche‘s ’Gentle Discipline Toolbox’ series which has an excellent array of topics, ideas, and links!
My 19 month old began to love hitting. He wasn’t even angry most of the time. He just got a kick out of the sensation, the noise and the reactions. We tried softly stroking our cheeks with his hands and telling him “Gentle touches”. He giggled and slapped again. My temper and frustration were building, until I recalled something I had read by Dr. Sears. We began teaching him to give us high fives. His face lit up with delight, and he began to repeat it. He still got what he was craving–the game, noise, sensation and excitement–but now it was in a socially acceptable way that didn’t hurt anyone. I would like to say that at least we got a little advance warning as he gleefully squealed, “High fibe!” before striking, but he usually didn’t say it till he was already mid-strike. Still, it was progress… (Read more of this enlightening post at Dulce De Leche)
This last honest and informative article from Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond is a great introduction to positive parenting:
Positive parenting, at the very core of it, isn’t about what you can and can’t do in terms of disciplining, teaching, and guiding your kids. It isn’t even about having the perfect relationship (as there will always be breaks and repairs; such is life). It’s not about techniques or tools, whether or not to use time outs or time ins, consequences or problem-solving. All of those things stem from the practice of what is at the very core of this philosophy, but they are not THE philosophy itself. What it’s really about is the way we view children, their emotions, their needs, their motives. It’s about seeing them as human beings, worthy of respect and unconditional love, delicate, impressionable, who have as much to teach us as we have to teach them… (Read more from Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond)
March 25, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, Bible, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, grace-based discipline, homeschooling, natural parenting, nonvaxing, play, positive discipline, positive parenting, preschooler, toddler, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, natural parenting, play, positive parenting, preschoolers, sacrificial parenting, toddler | 1 Comment »
Many people talk about how bad children are ‘these days’, how out of control they are, and how parents are too permissive and need to “go back to the good old days when parents weren’t afraid to spank their children.” Of course, since more than 90% of American parents admit to spanking their children, it’s hard to accept that a decline in spanking is responsible for the purportedly escalating rates of youth violence and crime.
Could it be that the 90% of children who are subject to violence at home in the form of being slapped, paddled, smacked, yanked, whipped, popped, spanked, etc. are taking those lessons out into the world? Is it just possible that children who are hit learn to hit? That children who are hurt learn to hurt? Perhaps the lesson they are learning is that ‘might is right,’ violence is the answer to their problems, the outlet for their stress, the route to getting others to do what they want.
But since children are literally the future of our world, our next world leaders, the future caretakers of our planet, doesn’t it make sense that if we want a more peaceful world we should grow more peaceful children?
March 23, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, character, childhood, children, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, life, positive discipline, positive parenting, rebellion, spanking, stress, teens | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, childhood, children, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, positive parenting, rebellion, spanking, teens | 17 Comments »
Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes. ~Unknown
My mother always taught me to think about things from other people’s perspective before reacting to them, a life lesson that has translated into the empathetic, gentle style of parenting I teach, write about, and follow with my own children. Discerning what other people feel isn’t always easy, of course, and our own experiences, attitudes, and emotions can get in the way. But seeking to not just understand, but to really feel what another person feels is vital to true communication and connection. To that end, I try to always ask myself, whether interacting with my children, my husband, or any other person who crosses my path, “How would I feel if…”
So come, take a walk with me~
How would I feel if I was suddenly thrust from my safe, familiar world into a startlingly new and uncomfortable world where I couldn’t function on my own, where my very survival depended entirely on beings who I didn’t know, didn’t understand, and who didn’t understand me? Would I learn to feel safe in this new world if they left me for hours on end in dark places with no way to communicate, no way to meet my own needs? Or would I learn to trust these new beings if my needs were met day and night, if they were always available, always responsive, always gentle?
How would I feel if I was a small person in a big world, a world where large beings were constantly jabbering at me in a language I barely understood, a world where everything was a challenge, from climbing out of a chair to learning to control my bodily functions, a world where every day, all day long, I was confronted with new things to taste, new things to explore, new things to discover. If I tried to communicate and no one slowed down to listen, would I learn to listen? If I got overwhelmed by all the new challenges and was punished, would I learn how to cope with my emotions? If I was snatched away from my explorations with no warning, no explanation, would I learn to respect other people’s spaces and paces? Or would I learn to listen if I was heard, cope if I was helped, and respect if I was respected?
How would I feel if I was an adult-sized person, my body flooded with a consistently inconsistent rush of mind-altering hormones, in a world of adults who demanded adult maturity from me, but treated me like a child? Would I learn to cope with the huge life changes taking place if my awkwardness incited conflict instead of compassion? Would I be willing to share my struggles if my still-growing communication skills were taken at face value instead of my heart being heard? Would I desire to make good choices if the most important people in my life didn’t trust me enough to let me make them? Or would I learn confidence by being understood, trust by being truly heard, responsibility by being trusted to be responsible?
How would I feel if I was a new parent, struggling with exhaustion, overwhelmed by newness, desperate to make the right decisions for my precious new baby, but was surrounded by conflicting advice and head-shakers and nay-sayers? Would I learn to trust my instincts if every choice I made was the subject of commentary and unsolicited advice? Would I grow into my new role if I was pushed and shamed and coerced into following other people’s parenting choices? Would I learn to share my fears and concerns if they were met with negativity, ridicule, and debate? Or would I find my own path in the world of parenting if I was allowed to listen to my heart? Would I discover my parenting niche if I was trusted to make my own choices? Would I be open to new ideas and find support if my struggles were met with reassurance and compassion and acceptance?
How would I feel if I was a strong, wise, gifted person in a body that was beginning to fail me with age? Would I feel valued if others only saw my frailty and not my strength? Would I offer wisdom if my life experiences were ridiculed? Would I share my gifts if no one bothered to slow down and recognize them? Or would I still feel I had life to live, something to give if my stories were heard, if my wisdom was received, if someone, anyone, took the time to sit with me and talk for awhile.
March 10, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, birth, character, childhood, children, communication, cosleeping, elderly, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, life, meltdown, newborn, play, preschooler, soothing, tantrum, teens, toddler, wisdom | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, childhood, children, communication, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, newborn, parenting, play, tantrum, teens, toddler | 4 Comments »
You’ve all heard the story of the industrious, magical little elves who went behind the poor, but good-hearted, shoemaker and finished his work for him, saving his shop and rewarding him for his hard work. This is not that story…
Once upon a time there was a kind, hard-working homemaker named Elvimama. She had five children, Elvin, Elvira, Elvish, Elvis, and Baby Elvie. Elvimama worked hard every day to feed her five children Elftritious foods, teach them their Elfessons, make sure they practiced on their Elviolins, take them to their Elfootball and Elfallet practices while she grabbed an hour at Elfercize (wearing Baby Elvie, of course!), and then rushed back home to put a healthy, home-cooked Elfalicious meal on the table for dinner. Life was busy, but good…except for one thing.
Their Elfhouse was a mess! No matter how hard Elvimama worked, no matter how carefully she organized her day, or how little sleep she got, her Elfhousekeeping ended up looking rather…well, unkept.
She’d start with the bedrooms each morning, straightening and sweeping and organizing, then move on to the kitchen and work her way through the morning dishes and then sweep and mop and take out the trash, before heading to the Elfamily room to polish and vacuum. But she was plagued by a strange phenomenon every single day…as soon as she was finished with one room and had moved on to another, the first room mysteriously returned to it’s former state of disarray! And when she finished the second room and moved on to the third, the second room was also suddenly back to a disheveled mess!
This pattern when on throughout her day, with each bedroom cleaned, then miraculously uncleaned, the kitchen spotless, then instantly a sticky stack of unwashed dishes appearing when she headed for the Elfamily room. And, even there, when she’d polished and vacuumed and straightened, the second she walked out, piles of toys walked right back in!
Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, this phenomenon continued, with Elvimama starting every day with a messy house, spending every day cleaning and cleaning and cleaning, only to end every day with a still-messy house!
It was frustrating and exhausting, and sometimes Elvimama would head to the bathroom for a long soak in the tub and a good cry. But, inevitably, little elf-hands would come knocking on the door and little elf-voices would be calling out for Elvimama’s attention. Her long soak always turned into a quick wash, and she’d mop up her tears and emerge with a smile and arms ready to gather her little elf-loves close.
Time passed, and Elvin and Elvira went off to college. Elvish joined the Elf-Corp, and Elvis made the big-time in Nashville. Baby Elvie grew up and opened a little bookstore called The Elf Shelf.
One morning, Elvimama got up and started with the bedrooms, straightening and sweeping and organizing, then moved on to the kitchen and worked her way through the morning dishes and then swept and mopped and took out the trash, before heading to the Elfamily room to polish and vacuum and straighten. When she was finished, she stopped and stared in shocked silence. Everything was…spotless…pristine.
No jumbled piles of clothes had unfolded themselves in the bedrooms. No sticky stack of dishes had reappeared in the kitchen. No toys had marched back into the Elfamily room.
Her house was finally clean, but her heart longed for jelly fingerprints and funny little dirt-smudged elf-faces, muddy footprints and sticky little giggle-grin kisses. Elvimama sighed and headed to the bathroom for a long soak in the tub. Now, no little elf-hands came knocking on the door and no little elf-voices called out for Elvimama’s attention.
And Elvimama had a good cry.
A mother’s love is strong enough to hold her children close when they’re young and she longs for rest, and to let them go when they grow up and she longs for the past.
February 27, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, bookish, books, childhood, children, family, food, homeschooling, life, love | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, childhood, children, family, food, gentle, homeschooling, parenting, sacrifice, sacrificial parenting | 4 Comments »
There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. Gone are the days of making mud-pies and playing in piles of leaves. They’ve been replaced with flashcards, language immersion (even in the womb!), educational dvd’s, and the like. Preschool has become the new kindergarten, with parents rushing to get on waiting lists for the ‘best of the best’ preschools, often even before their first prenatal appointment!
Therapists in New York have reported an increase in parents seeking psychiatric services for stress related to the intensely ”cutthroat” admissions process for top-rated private preschools and kindergartens. “Parenting is a competitive sport,” says Dr. Lisa Spiegel. And that competition is leading parents to ask if their three-year-old should wear suits to preschool interviews, which designer purses are best to carry on school tours, and even if they should be induced into early delivery so their child ”could be considered for kindergarten before the Sept. 1 cutoff date.” (New York Post, see link below)
One would assume, with all of this emphasis on independence and education, that we would be moving forward as a society to a more self-sufficient, competent, and well-educated populace which, by extension, might reasonably be assumed to have less need of welfare programs and prisons. One would assume wrong, unfortunately.
By way of comparison, in 1960, welfare spending in the United States was $48.20 per capita with 1.7% of the population receiving federal assistance. (infoplease.com) By 2010 it had increased to $2256.40 per capita (usgovernmentspending.com) with 8.0% of the population receiving assistance. (wiki.answers.com) In 1960, 0.18% of the US population was imprisoned, whereas in 2010 that number had climbed to 0.74% (businessinsider.com) with drug use, rape, and assault rates skyrocketing.
So what happened? Obviously, there are many contributing factors, but one often overlooked, powerful contributor is how we parent our children. Study after study has confirmed that early childhood experiences have a profound impact on adult behavior, achievement, and satisfaction with life. The modern emphasis on ever-earlier independence and academics seems to inadvertently be sacrificing the very things they are designed to accomplish, and the modern view of parenting as a “competition” is setting the stage for stress, conflict, and failure.
Perhaps it is time for parents to reevaluate their priorities and realize their children are blessings to be cherished and nurtured, not pawns in a cut-throat game of strategy and intrigue. Perhaps it is time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…perhaps it is time to let children be children again:
1) Let babies be babies~in other words, baby them! Babies are completely and totally helpless in every way. Medical experts agree that it isn’t possible to spoil a newborn, so responding promptly to cries will simply help them learn to trust that their needs will be met. Babies left to cry-it-out often do end up sleeping through the night earlier than babies whose needs are responded to because they have learned to give up on their needs being met. But that gain of sleeping through the night is accomplished at the loss of trust, and the resultant stress and long-term consequences simply aren’t worth it. (Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn) Stress causes our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol which, when present for prolonged periods, can dramatically undermine brain development in babies and permanently impair brain function for life. Some causes of stress in babies are extended illnesses, detached parenting, and separation from their mothers, which has been linked to long-term anxiety and anti-social behavior. (News, Science and Environment)
2) Let human babies drink human milk~in other words, nurse them! Breastfeeding beyond the typical 6-12 month period has been shown to improve not only overall IQ’s in children, but also improve health and social outcomes. Children who are breastfed for 24+ months are less likely to have allergies and more likely to have healthy immune systems. (kellymom.com) Also, according to the World Health Organization, “a modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five,” due, in part, to tainted water supplies, but also due to the immunity factors. And, socially, studies have shown repeatedly that, “Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence.” (Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. ‘Extended Breastfeeding and the Law.’)
3) Let children know they matter~in other words, listen and respond to them! Strong, healthy attachment in parent/child relationships has been linked to increased success rates in future marriage, greater career satisfaction, and overall stability and emotional health in adulthood. Children raised with detached parents tend to be forced into premature independence through sleep training, rigid discipline, and too early and/or prolonged separation from parents, often resulting in long-term dependency, attachment, and satisfaction issues. “Decades of research, including longitudinal studies, have shown that as securely attached babies get older, they form better relationships with others, have higher self-esteem, are more flexible and resilient under stress, and perform better in every aspect of life, from schoolwork to peer interactions.” (Dr. Laura Markham)
4) Let children see you being ‘good’~in other words, model the behavior you desire! Children are born observers and the first people they observe, with an almost scientific intensity, are their parents. Modeling appropriate and desirable behavior to children such as self-control, compassion, helpfulness, listening, respect, etc is a powerful tool in passing along these qualities to the next generation. “Discipline is everything you put into children that influences how they turn out…Whatever your ultimate objectives, they must be rooted in helping your child develop inner controls that last a lifetime. You want the guidance system that keeps the child in check at age four to keep his behavior on track at age forty, and you want this system to be integrated into the child’s whole personality, a part of him or her.” (Dr. William Sears)
5) Let children play~in other words, don’t rush them into growing up! Study after study has shown that children learn more, retain knowledge better, and maintain their natural curiosity and love of learning when they are allowed to learn through a combination of unstructured and guided play. The trend these days is to start children in academic-centered preschools as early as two years old and then move them into academically rigorous kindergarten programs, often while still four years of age. “While many children do fine in kindergarten and first grade, by the time they reach second grade, ‘they can’t hold it together — they fall apart and really struggle.’” (Colvin) “Newspapers and magazines across the country are reporting that kindergarten is the new first grade—full of pressure and short on play.”(What to Expect in Kindergarten) “As the parent of a child entering kindergarten, you’re sure to be shocked and amazed by what’s changed since your days on the story rug. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be…many of the changes you observe make kindergarten a more challenging and potentially pressuring stage, it’s all in the name of teaching your child more effectively.”(Kindergarten Assessment) However, effective teaching is a subjective subject. Is teaching effective if it results in children who are capable of rote memorization and passing standardized tests, but lack imagination, curiosity, and a love of reading? Or is teaching more effective if it results in children who are innovative, pioneering, and life-long learners?
Do you think my little dirt magnet enjoyed her homeschool day?
February 22, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, gentle parenting, kindergarten, life, literacy, love, marriage, newborn, nursing, play, positive parenting, preschooler, reading, soothing, stress, toddler | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, gentle parenting, kindergarten, nature, newborn, outdoors, parenting, park, play, playground, positive parenting, preschoolers | 29 Comments »
The Measure of Success
- Mother Teresa never went to medical school, never married, never had children, begged for food at some points in her life…and won a Nobel Peace Prize, established 610 Missions in 123 countries before her death in 1997, and brought hope, healing, and comfort to millions.
- Steve Jobs dropped out of college after only one semester, returned soda bottles for money to buy food, got fired from a company he helped to found…and, by Forbes estimates, was worth $8.3 billion dollars at the time of his death.
- Thomas Edison spent a total of three months in public school before being labeled ‘addled’ and removed to be homeschooled, never attended college, bounced from one job to another, often being fired due to work accidents…and at the time of his death in 1931 held more than 1,093 patents including the phonograph and motion picture camera and had founded four companies including General Electric, which is still in existence today.
The perception of success is multifarious: professional standing, educational accomplishments, athletic achievement, celebrity status, humanitarian impact, political clout, financial freedom, personal fulfillment, etc. But what is success, exactly?
Success, put simply, is the accomplishment of a purpose…which leads us to the definition of purpose.
Purpose is defined as the reason for which something exists. The eternal question…. “Why are we here?”
Those of us who believe in a Creator may be said to have an edge in deciphering the matter, but even then there are endless debates about what our Creator’s purposes are for His creation, how those purposes are to be fulfilled, etc, etc, etc…
The definition of success…
The determination of purpose…
These are not simply matters for philosophers and theologians to discuss.
Every moment of every day, we live out what we believe. Every decision is based on an inner set of values that guide us and determine our direction in life. If we don’t consciously evaluate our inner guidance system and make informed, intentional choices about what we believe, we end up operating on the ‘default setting,’ a reactive position dictated by our past. Childhood experiences, adult traumas, things we’ve read and heard, things we’ve done and things that have been done to us, what we’ve witnessed and what we’ve participated in, all combine into a mishmash of knee-jerk responses to circumstances that often take even us by surprise!
When it comes to parenting, our definition of purpose dictates our definition of parental success, which, in turn, determines our daily parenting choices.
The Tiger Mother –
This term, popularized by Yale Law School professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, reflects the belief that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” a belief held by the vast majority of Asian parents. Based on this, the Tiger Mother believes that “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” If a child comes home with a B on a test, “there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.” The Tiger Mother believes that children owe their parents everything and “must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.” Success to a Tiger Mother equals perfect performance, period. Amy Chua shares an example of this mindset in “The Wall Street Journal” essay, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.
Here’s a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called “The Little White Donkey” by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it’s also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.
Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.
“Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.
“You can’t make me.”
“Oh yes, I can.”
Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.
Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn’t even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn’t think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn’t do the technique—perhaps she didn’t have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?
“You just don’t believe in her,” I accused.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of course I do.”
“Sophia could play the piece when she was this age.”
“But Lulu and Sophia are different people,” Jed pointed out.
“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”
I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.
Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.
Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.
To the Tiger Mother, the performance is what matters, not the process or the person. Success equals perfect performance, period.
The Helicopter Parent-
Coined by Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay in the 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, the term Helicopter Parent refers to the over-protective, over-involved, over-indulgent parent who seeks to ‘bubble wrap’ their children to protect them from every possible danger, every potential failure, and every conceivable disappointment. The Helicopter Parent is heavily invested in the emotional health and safety of their child based on the belief that success equals comfort and ease in life.
The Cadre Parent-
Loosely defined by author Pamela Druckerman in her book Bringing Up Bebe, and summed up in “The Wall Street Journal” essay, Why French Parents Are Superior, the Cadre Parent is one who compartmentalizes parenting into routines and rhythms. There is adult time and child time, eating time and snacking time, interaction time and play-alone time, etc. The Cadre Parent believes that successful parenting equals autonomy, and they train their children toward independence by maintaining a distant authority, a cadre (framework) of non-negotiable boundaries and schedules within which their children have the freedom to operate independently and with little to no adult interaction.
There are, of course, many other distinctive parenting types as well as endless possible combinations of attributes from the different styles. The key to choosing a parenting style (or falling into one, as the case may be) is the basic belief system of the parent(s) as to what constitutes parental success based on their definition of purpose…in other words, their personal answer to the question, “Why are we here?”
Parenting On My Terms
For my part, I am a Gentle Parent based on my personal belief system. Success, to me, is defined as contributing to the world according to the gifts we’ve been given, which leads to my definition of parental success as raising children who are aware of their unique gifts and are able and willing to use them to benefit others and not just themselves. All of this is based on my belief that we are here for a higher purpose than any of mankind’s achievements could possibly reach, a purpose rooted in my belief in God’s personal involvement in and care for the world as evidenced by His sacrifice on the Cross.
So what does my parenting, based on this belief system, look like? Well, there’s a whole blog written about that subject! But for reference sake, my parenting can be summed up like this:
The Gentle Parent-
I model my responses to my children based on Jesus’ interactions with His disciples. I live what I want my children to learn. I want my children to respect me, so I show them respect and model respect in my interactions with others. I want my children to be compassionate, so I treat them and others with compassion and empathy. I want my children to honor God, so I model His unconditional love for them and for others. I want my children to love to learn, so I encourage their natural curiosity and joy of discovery. I want my children to listen, so I actively listen to them. I want my children to serve others, so I serve others with and in front of them. I want my children to actively engage in our society, so I participate with and in front of them in civic activities. I want my children to practice self-discipline and restraint, so I stop and think before I speak or act. I want my children to enjoy the life they’ve been given, so I enjoy the life in each of them.
For the record (and to forestall the “that’s great in theory” comments!) of my six children, I have raised a 24 year old Pastor and a 22 year old Family Therapist, and I have a 17 year old in his third year of pre-med, 12 and 6 year olds I’m homeschooling (as I did the others), and a 21 month old toddling around delighting all of our hearts.
As to the age-old question… “Why are we here?” …my answer is quite simple, “I believe we’re here for the same reason my own children are here. My children are here because I wanted to bring into the world children to love and to care for and to share with the world, and we are here because our Father wanted to bring into a world He created children He loves and cares for and through whom He has special gifts to share with the world.”
February 7, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, cadre parent, character, childhood, children, Christian, Christian parenting, communication, diversity, family, food, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, grace-based discipline, helicopter parent, homeschooling, Jesus, life, positive discipline, positive parenting, tiger mother | Tags: adolescence, Bible, childhood, children, Christian, Christian parenting, communication, discipline, family, food, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, Jesus, parenting, positive parenting, sacrifice | 30 Comments »
Building a trust-based relationship with your child starts, literally, at birth. Those precious moments after baby is placed on mama’s belly, the beginning days and nights spent adjusting to the newness of life, those first exhausting weeks trying to get into the rhythm of parenthood, all offer the opportunity to establish a foundation of trust to build a healthy parent/child relationship upon. Research has shown hints of the remarkable ability of newborns to communicate their needs as shown in the groundbreaking video below.
Whether or not you feel that you can confidently distinguish between your baby’s cries for every need, the real message here is that staying tuned-in to your little one and offering immediate and loving attention are key to developing communication, security, and trust!
Here are some things you can do to start off on the right track:
Ten Steps to Surviving the first three months with a newborn…
So, your precious baby has finally arrived! After a perfect pregnancy and blissful labor and delivery, you’ve come home (in your pre-pregnancy clothes, of course!) with your beautiful baby, ready to start life as the perfect parents of a perfect child. Yeah, right! Actually, after a pregnancy in which you threw up more times than you can count and yet still managed to gain an embarrassing amount of weight, and where your feet swelled to unrecognizable lumps at the bottom of your legs, you finally suffered through a hideously long, painful labor and delivery only to arrive home (in your largest maternity outfit which barely fit!) with a screaming, vomiting, miniature human being who can’t tell you why he’s upset and who poops what can only be described as TAR! What are you going to do now?!? Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn
January 13, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, communication, gentle parenting, newborn, soothing, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment parenting, gentle parenting, newborn, positive parenting | 5 Comments »
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
As babies grow from the newborn stage, through infancy, and into the toddler years, there is a natural and healthy progression toward independence that blossoms when a secure trust-foundation is in place. That trust-foundation is forged through the consistent meeting of a baby’s needs lovingly, gently, and empathetically by a primary caregiver.
When a baby is breastfed, his mother is naturally close and available and, when parenting by following her maternal instincts, tends to be in tune with her baby in a beautiful symbiosis of unspoken communication. At some point, a baby will begin to ‘taste-test’ foods, learning through oral exploration about the textures and tastes of foods other than breastmilk. This progresses to a decrease in need for mommy’s milk for nutritional purposes, but is often accompanied by an unexpected and dramatic increase in demand to nurse which can be quite disconcerting, not to mention annoying!
Parents have a tendency to assign motives to their children’s behavior, typically based on their own childhood experiences and/or their adult perception of the circumstances. In the case of the increased demand for nursing which seems inversely proportional to the need for nursing, the motives parents often assign to their toddlers are ‘testing’ or ‘pushing boundaries.’
But think of it from the toddler’s perspective. They have been gradually moving away from their ‘source’ of all things and exploring what can be a big, scary world for a little person. No longer are they completely helpless, entirely dependent on another person for everything, but, as their independence has increased, so has their awareness of the world around them and their smallness by comparison. It is at this point that the all-important source of nutrition shifts into a support role, becoming, literally, a touchstone of security. A toddler’s increased need to nurse is, in fact, a need for reconnection and reassurance, not discipline!
Obviously, nursing every five minutes isn’t practical and can be downright uncomfortable, especially with the accompanying toddler ‘gymnurstics.’ But this is an excellent time for a parent to learn how to remain in tune with their child as the ages and stages go by. Paying attention to the needs behind the behaviors is an essential element in a healthy parent/child relationship, and, once a little one progresses beyond the basic needs stage, that learning curve can get pretty steep. This is a time when parents can begin experimenting with new ways to engage with their children to meet those reconnection needs in age-appropriate and relationship-building ways, an important skill that will serve parents well in the teen years!
Here are some things to try when faced with a toddler insisting on nursing every few minutes:
- Babywearing is one of my best tools, and I have a sling nearby for any time my toddler seems to need some closeness.
- Reading picture books is also a daily (actually, multiple times a day!) standard at our house, and when my little one toddles up to me, book in hand, I’ll plop down on the floor in whatever room I’m in and take a few minutes to read a book and talk about the pretty pictures.
- Sitting down together in the chair my toddler is used to nursing in and cuddling, reading, playing pat-a-cake, watching a DVD together, or even offering food or snacks to share, gives them a sense of sameness that is very reassuring.
- Playing games, making silly faces in the mirror, playing dress up together, taking walks, going to the park, anything that assures my toddler that I’m still available to her and enjoy being with her helps to meet the underlying need driving the nursing demands.
- Oddly enough, offering to nurse my toddler several times a day is very reassuring and actually decreases the frequency of the demands!
The main message here is to try different things until you find what works for you and your child, always focusing on staying connected and responsive to your little one’s needs. Change can be difficult for both parents and children, but it can be an exciting time, too, as you get to grow with your child into the next stage of life!
December 15, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, books, breastfeeding, children's books, communication, food, gentle parenting, natural parenting, nursing, toddler | Tags: attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, breastfeeding, Christian children's books, food, gentle parenting, nursing, parenting, play, positive parenting, toddler | 7 Comments »
Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people. ~ Fred Rogers
Coining new terms for parenting styles seems to be all the rage these days, from ‘helicopter parenting,’ defined as overprotective and over-involved parenting (often associated with over-indulgence and passive parenting), to ‘tiger parenting’ which is defined as strict, authoritarian parenting with rigid expectations (often associated with harsh consequences for not meeting those expectations). So, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, and offer a new term to describe the 99% of us who fall somewhere between those two extremes.
And so, with no further ado, introducing~Reasonable Parenting!
Reasonable Parenting is so popular because it’s just so very…well, reasonable! The Reasonable Parent is available to their children and responsive to their needs, but doesn’t smother them, take over every project, stymie independent thought or creativity, or screen potential employers with background checks and fingerprinting via their FBI contacts (contacts made, of course, for just such a purpose!). On the other end of the spectrum, the Reasonable Parent does have certain expectations about their children learning to cooperate, adopting common courtesies, and achieving an education, but doesn’t force independence, control every aspect of their children’s behavior, punish every infraction, impose excessive pressure to succeed, or start preparing their future Ivy Leaguers for filling out those do-or-die college applications with occasional ‘pop quiz’ applications on evenings and weekends.
Now, in that ‘somewhere’ in between these two extremes, there is a lot of space for individuality and flexibility. Some Reasonable Parents, myself included, cosleep (aka bedshare) while others practice an arms-reach approach and still others are comfortable running back and forth to a separate nursery to meet their little person’s needs at night. Some of us breastfeed for two plus years, others don’t for various reasons. Some use time-ins, some time-outs. Some circumcise. Some don’t. Some babywear. Some homeschool. Some spend lovely days filled with crafting and nature walks and making wonderfully healthy meals together, while others must work outside the home and instead spend lovely evenings piled on the couch under flannel blankets watching a movie and eating popcorn and having tickle fights.
My point is this; we in the parenting community agree that children are individuals and should be treasured for their uniqueness, but then so often act as if parenting is a one-style-fits-all approach. The truth is that families are as unique as the individuals who create them, and parenting is a living, growing, evolving relationship that is only successful when it is molded to fit that uniqueness.
If there are any ‘rules’ to Reasonable Parenting, they are
1.) Listen, really listen to your children.
2.) Stop, Think, and then Respond. Don’t just React.
3.) Never, ever hurt your children. (No hitting!)
There are many parenting tips about how to accomplish those three core Reasonable Parenting values (see Related Posts below), but the main point here is to understand and accept and support each other as we share this parenting journey together. We have so much we can learn from each other, but in the end we each need to discover our own unique parenting styles for our own unique families!
December 12, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, communication, family, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, life, positive discipline | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, childhood, children, cosleeping, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, parenting, positive parenting | Leave A Comment »
I am thankful for humor!
Humor is a powerful parenting tool. Don’t leave home without your funnybone!
You know you have six children when~
~Finding chopsticks in the hamper doesn’t make you blink an eye
~Seeing the baby eat an old fishie cracker she had stashed in her bouncy seat just reminds you it’s time to start dinner
~Stuffed animals multiply as mysteriously as socks disappear
~Skipping one day of doing laundry equals TWO mountains of dirty clothes
~You have the happy meal prices memorized
~When people find out you homeschool, they DON’T ask about socialization
~When you say, “Guess what?” everyone assumes you’re pregnant
~You need a dayplanner just to remember your own children’s birthdays
~When you pull up to the bank drive-thru in your 15 passenger van they ask, “How many have you got with you today?” while pulling out the whole jar of lollipops
~The basket for shoes by the door disappears entirely when everyone’s home
~You grocery shop from an inventory list and dishing up dinner looks like a food line
~Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches uses an entire loaf of bread
~When people talk about a savings plan your mind immediately goes to the change jar on your kitchen counter
~Sticky is the predominant designer texture in your house
~The bathroom is your preferred reading room
~Going out for a ‘nice’ meal with the whole family sends someone ELSE’S kids to college
~Entering a building requires the use of both doors and lets out at least $25 in a/c
~Your pediatrician schedules an appointment ‘block’ for you
~You identify your children to other people by ordinal numbers
~A Seussical List of Parenting Tips!~
If you have THINGS in your house
The way that I do
Then this is the place
For BIG PEOPLE like you…
~Little THINGS need BIG PEOPLE to heed!~
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~Seuss
~Little THINGS matter!~
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” ~Seuss
~Little THINGS best thinks are thunk outdoors!~
“It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.” ~Seuss
~Funny is a little THING’s firstest and bestest language!~
“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!” ~Seuss
~Be your little THING’s bat-a-ma-ram!~
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” ~Seuss
~When THINGS are small, even little stuff seems tall!~
“This mess is too big and too deep and to tall. We can’t clean it up! We can’t clean it up at all!” ~Seuss
~Little THINGS think the bestest thoughts when SOMEONE BIG lets them out of the box!~
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” ~Seuss
November 26, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, children's books, communication, family, gentle parenting, parenting guide | Tags: childhood, children's books, gentle parenting, positive parenting | Leave A Comment »
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three. ~Grantly Dick-Read
Breastfeeding, like exercise, is one of the most highly preventive and cost-effective ways to protect the health of mothers, babies, the population, and the planet. Yet, the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding among industrialized countries and one of the highest rates of infant mortality. Our rates of breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and asthma are growing at an alarming pace. It is estimated that normal breastfeeding rates could save the U.S. $13 billion and 911 lives annually on health care & associated costs for just 10 diseases.
Sweet, milky giggles
Baby’s trusting eyes look up
Forging bonds that last. R.H.
Excellent information from Kellymom about how to get a comfortable latch and position for nursing.
We have breasts to feed our young but we also have brains that tell us this is more than nutrition.. this is comfort, bonding, the original Soul food!
“Breastmilk, unlike formula is a living organism. When one looks at breastmilk under a microscope there is plenty of movement. Contrast that with formula, where the petri dish reveals a stagnant state. Formula is dead. It cannot change to meet the needs of a particular infant. It does not change during a feed…”
Lovely thoughts from a breastfeeding mama.
An amazing array of women from every walk of life who share their breastfeeding journeys~Compiled and shared by The Mule
Low Milk Supply~Set up for failure
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), Asthma, Childhood Leukemia, Diabetes, Gastroenteritis, Otitis Media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), Necrotizing Enterocolitis, Obesity, and other potentially life-altering or fatal conditions…
If you knew that there was one medicine or vitamin or herbal supplement that has been proven, PROVEN, beyond a shadow of a doubt in study after study by mainstream, published, respected doctors, researchers, and scientists, to significantly reduce the risk of every single one of those things listed above, would you give it to your baby?
Breast cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity…
What if that wonder drug could also drastically reduce your risk of each of these health threats?
13 billion…BILLION…dollars lost in the U.S. alone in PREVENTABLE medical costs.
If you knew that there was one thing you could do to save billions of taxpayer dollars that could go to feed the hungry, house the homeless, research cures for other devastating diseases, provide health care to the poor, would you do it?
The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in April of 2010 detailing just what that one medicine/vitamin/herbal supplement is…and the ‘miracle drug’ is none other than BREASTFEEDING. The study concluded that, “The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations.” And those numbers are only based on breastfeeding benefits for the first six months of life! The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and others recommend breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life. Imagine the tally if the researchers had looked at the little lives lost and billions of dollars spent unnecessarily in a two year breastfeeding scenario instead of a six month scenario!
In 2009, the CDC released a Breast Feeding Report Card which showed that, while 74% of women start off breastfeeding, only 33% continue to three months and just 14% are exclusively breastfeeding by six months.
Clearly, then, the majority of women at least begin with the desire to breastfeed!
So why are breastfeeding rates so dismal in the United States? For one thing, U.S.hospitals scored a low D (63%) in their compliance with recommendations to provide breastfeeding support for women in a 2007 CDC survey. One issue is that hospitals routinely send home ‘failure’ packets of formula with new mommies “just in case,” which sit temptingly in pretty, complementary diaperbags waiting for the inexperienced new mommy to face her first breastfeeding hurdle, her first feeding worry, her first sleep-deprived need to find any reassurance that she’s doing a good job feeding her baby during those first weeks. Another issue is that hospital lactation consultants are typically stretched far too thinly amongst many patients and are only available for a few minutes to get new mommies started, and then most insurance companies don’t cover follow-up lactation support after mommies leave the hospital. Other issues in the hospital include delaying the new mommy’s ability to begin breastfeeding immediately by removing the baby to a warming bed instead of laying the baby on the mommy’s tummy, and too early interventions such as eye ointment, bathing the baby, and taking the baby to the nursery to be evaluated in the absence of medical necessity.
But, even so, 74% of American women triumph over these issues and leave the hospital having established breastfeeding with their newborn. So what happens then? Why does that number fall so dramatically by more than half to 33% by three months and by nearly 80% down to only 14% of women by six months?
Some contributing factors are mothers who must return to workplaces which don’t support breastfeeding with long lunches to return home to breastfeed or flexible schedules which allow for frequent pumping, and insurance companies which don’t cover lactation consultants or breast pumps, and, in a small percentage of cases, health issues with the mother or baby.
All of these issues certainly need to be addressed by hospitals, insurance companies and businesses, and the government can be of service in these areas by providing tax incentives, education, and support.
But there are still more subtle issues that negatively affect breastfeeding rates. Some of these include older mothers relishing in telling horror stories about cracked nipples, thrush, clogged ducts, etc; pediatricians who use weight charts based on formula fed infants and scaring new mothers into thinking their babies aren’t gaining enough weight; and the pervasive, but false, belief that formula is just as good as breastmilk for babies.
One issue, though, that seems to crop up far more than others is low milk supply. Somehow, even though mothers’ bodies are capable of miraculously growing a human being for nine months and bringing that precious new life into the world, those same life-giving bodies are failing to provide life-giving (and saving!) nutrition to those precious babies. Why? For some, it is certainly just fear-mongering by those pediatricians using the formula fed babies’ charts or by grandmothers who believe that all babies should be chubby that lead new mothers to believe they have low supply, but there does seem to be an ever-increasing number of babies legitimately labeled as failure-to-thrive with low milk supply labeled the cause.
One crucial piece of false information can be blamed for the vast majority of low milk supply issues in the absence of a documented medical cause.
That false information? New mothers are told their babies should sleep through the night.
That is one of the most pernicious lies ever foisted on new parents. Babies biologically should NOT sleep through the night. Not only is the deep sleep required to sleep through the night actually a recognized factor in SIDS deaths, but babies who sleep through the night are also not nursing to stimulate breastmilk production, thus their mother’s milk begins to dry up. Clearly, that’s not a healthy biological design!
Here is a picture of what this vicious cycle can look like:
Lydia battles the lack of breastfeeding support at the hospital and triumphantly goes home a breastfeeding mother, formula ‘fail’ packet tucked securely in the chic little complementary diaperbag in the trunk along with stacks of information about how healthy formula is and lots of lovely formula coupons.
She gets her precious baby home and settles in for her twelve week ‘babymoon’ before she has to return to work because that’s all the time her work allows. She’s already nervous about how she’s going to handle the return to work, leaving her sweet baby in someone else’s care, and trying to pump to maintain her milk supply and provide milk for her baby while she’s gone, but she pushes those thoughts aside and suppresses the anxiety as much as she can. The first few nights are pretty easy because her baby sleeps most of the time, so Lydia is able to get a little rest in between feedings. She reads up on some parenting advice in a couple of popular magazines and discovers that she should be working to schedule her baby’s feedings at 3-4 hour intervals. That makes her feel a bit worried because she’s just been feeding her baby whenever he seemed hungry, so she gets a notebook out and writes down a schedule.
Over the next couple of weeks, things get a bit more difficult as she walks and bounces and rocks her baby, anxiously watching the clock until she can satisfy her baby’s cries and nurse him. Her baby seems to be crying more and more often. As her stress level increases, she pours over parenting books and magazines, trying to find solutions to her baby’s distress. Over and over again, she reads that babies need to be on a strict schedule and be trained to self-soothe and sleep through the night.
Lydia desperately wants to be a good mother, so she braces herself and begins to stop nursing before her baby falls asleep and laying him down on his own to fall asleep alone. She cries listening to his screams, but confines herself to occasionally stepping into the room to pat him gently for a moment, tears streaming down her cheeks as she leaves him to cry himself to sleep.
A few weeks later, her pediatrician expresses some concern about her baby’s slowing weight gain, but cheerfully assures her that she has just become a ‘midnight snack’ for her little one and needs to begin cutting out night feeds so her baby can learn to sleep through the night.Lydia feels sick to her stomach as she leaves the doctor’s office, but is determined to put her feelings aside and be a good mother.
Lydia experiences some engorgement issues for the first few nights, but the discomfort is nothing compared her heartbreak at listening to her baby cry. Over the next few weeks, she notices a perceptible decrease in the volume of her breasts and her let down reflex feels weak. Her fears are confirmed when she takes her baby back to the pediatrician who is alarmed to find that Lydia’s baby has actually lost weight. Lydia leaves the pediatrician’s office with a diagnosis of failure-to-thrive for her precious baby, low milk supply for her, and a feeling of utter failure as a mother.
At home, Lydia searches for the chic little diaperbag with the formula ‘failure’ packet and mixes up a bottle, tears falling as she becomes just another statistic.
Feeling forced to ignore her natural mothering instincts because of prevailing mainstream parenting practices, Lydia’s anxiety steadily increased in her baby’s first weeks, negatively affecting her milk supply. Nursing on a schedule prevented her from receiving the stimulation of milk production inherent in the frequent suckling of a baby allowed to nurse on demand. But the breastfeeding coffin was sealed when night nursing ended and with it the loss of hours and hours of milk stimulation resulting in that modern epidemic ~ low milk supply.
November 22, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, Bible, birth, breastfeeding, Christian parenting, cosleeping, food, gentle parenting, natural parenting, pregnancy | Tags: attachment parenting, Bible, birth, breastfeeding, Christian parenting, food, gentle parenting, natural parenting, nature, newborn | 16 Comments »
I am thankful for fruit!
~By Their Fruit They Will Be Known~
Love ~ Many parents say they make their parenting choices out of love, and I believe that is so very true, but if God is love as He says He is (and He is!), then our love needs to reflect His in every way, including in our parenting. And how does God show His love? Sacrificially, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Modeling God’s sacrificial love in our parenting is reflected by making parenting choices based on our children’s needs, not our convenience. Responsive parenting is truly a picture of God’s sacrificial, unconditional love in that, as we respond to our children where they are, (“This is how God showed His great love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners [emphasis added]” Romans 5:8) comforting their cries, guiding their choices, providing for their needs, encouraging their individuality, we are, moment by moment, day by day, sacrificing our lives for them.
Joy ~ Parenting can be a challenge (Ask God. He’s got a lot of children, and they don’t behave all that well!) but taking joy in the journey and in our children makes all the difference. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’” (Luke 10:21) Take time out each day to enjoy your children, or, better yet, to tell them what joy they bring to your life and specifically what unique things you enjoy about them!
Peace ~ It’s so, so hard making parenting choices, knowing our actions (or inactions!) will have an incredibly profound effect on a precious little life. God knows and sees and cares about every detail of our lives and our children’s lives. And, in the same way that we want our little ones to trust us with their needs and concerns and desires, God wants us to trust Him and to have peace in Him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Patience ~ “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Children come into our lives as small bundles with big needs who don’t speak or understand our language and then proceed to grow into little people with their own temperaments, plans, and desires. Having patience as a parent should qualify as an extreme sport! But having and modeling patience with our children not only helps us to guide and grow them gently, but also encourages them to exercise patience with themselves and others throughout life…a rare, but lovely gift we can give the world through our children.
Kindness ~ My grandmother’s favorite verse was “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1Corinthians 13:4-5) This is a beautiful example of how the Bible encourages us to treat others…including our children! Taking time out on occasion to examine our parenting practices and evaluate them in terms of how loving and patient and kind we are to our little ones is a vital part of effective parenting. It’s also important to make sure we aren’t parenting ‘for the neighbors,’ in other words, we aren’t making parenting choices based on a ‘who has the best kid’ competition (envy, boastful) or out of embarrassment over our children’s behavior (pride). Are we easily angered by our children? Do we dredge up their mistakes time and time again? If so, consciously working to break those bad habits and replace them with love and patience and kindness will have a dramatically positive impact on our parenting.
Goodness ~ “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” (Mark 4:8) Of all things, shouldn’t our very first desire in parenting our children be to till the soil of their little hearts so tenderly, so carefully, so intentionally that their hearts are “good soil,” ready, eager, and willing to receive the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection for their sins? Instead of focusing on punishing our children’s mistakes, their ‘sins,’ thus negating the Gospel and undermining the very purpose for Jesus’ suffering, shouldn’t we model the grace and mercy and forgiveness we ourselves have been given? So what, exactly, is “good soil”? Agriculturally speaking, which is what the parable Jesus told was based on, “good soil” is well-drained (not bogged down by over-watering, i.e. over-indulgent parenting), fresh (not over-used or over-worked, i.e. over-bearing parenting), fertilized (filled with good nutrients, i.e. needs met), composted (mixed with rubbish, i.e. sinful!), and enriched (earthy minerals intact, i.e. connected to their source~their parents).
Faithfulness ~ “The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.” (Isaiah 38:19) God is faithful in His promises, faithful in His love, faithful in His parenting. In all things we need to reflect His character to our children so that when we tell them about ‘His faithfulness’ it isn’t only in words, but also in deeds. And what is faithfulness, exactly? It is defined as constancy, dependability, care, trustworthiness, devotion, honor, attachment, commitment. So let us parents, as reflections of God, be faithful to exhibit constancy, dependability, care, trustworthiness, devotion, honor, attachment, and commitment in our parenting choices!
Gentleness ~ “Let your gentleness be evident to all”…except your children. No, of course the Bible doesn’t say that! God actually instructs us to “Let your gentleness be evident to ALL (emphasis added)” in Philippians 4:5. Tender, compassionate, merciful, warmhearted, sensitive, approachable, good-humored…these are all synonyms for gentleness, and gentle parenting reflects all of these qualities. Let’s take a look at the antonyms (opposites) of the word gentle in the thesaurus~harsh, tough, violent, sharp, rigid, severe, unrelenting, unforgiving, punitive, unpleasant, pitiless, stern. “Let your gentleness be evident to all” including (especially!) our littlest, most defenseless, and truly precious gifts from God~our children!
Self-control ~ “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28) City walls being broken through was a tragedy of great proportions in the Bible, whereas a city gladly throwing open its gates to welcome its King was a time of rejoicing. The ‘city walls’ were used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to a person’s will. Many times the words ‘break a child’s will’ are thrown around and spoken as if directly from the mouth of God. But God, as our heavenly Parent, doesn’t seek to break our wills. Instead, He teaches us to trust Him by His own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and by His self-control in not stomping us out of existence as we deserve by our sinfulness. And, after building that trust-relationship with us, He gently calls us to joyfully and voluntarily lay down our wills out of trust and gratitude and to open our hearts and minds and lives to Him, welcoming in our King. This is the heart of trust-based obedience!
November 21, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, Bible, birth, Christian, Christian parenting, food, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, natural parenting, newborn, parenting guide, positive discipline | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, Bible, Christian, Christian parenting, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, parenting, positive parenting, sacrifice, sacrificial parenting | Leave A Comment »