Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

breastfeeding

‘Myths and Facts About Night Wakings’ by Tracy Cassels, Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

When you hear of most people talk of night-wakings in infancy, there seems to be a fear that somehow if they aren’t stopped (usually by a parent), one will be looking at long-term problems that will follow your infant into childhood and beyond.  It’s really rather dramatic, especially for something that is so biologically normal for infants.  After all, they biologically expect to breastfeed and the fat content of our human milk is much lower than in other mammals, meaning our babies need to feed frequently to simply stay alive and grow.  (This is why scheduled feeds with hours between are linked with a ‘failure to thrive’ condition in the short-term[1] and lower intelligence in the long-term[2].)

But what is the situation with respect to night wakings across infancy, toddlerhood, and childhood?  At what point do frequent night wakings pose a problem that will follow a child long-term?  Or is it simply a state like any other state?

awake childMyth: Your baby should be sleeping through by 3 months of age.

Fact: Night waking is normal for babies and toddlers.

I think we first need to be clear that night waking itself isn’t really the “problem”.  The “problem” is that when younger children wake, they often require parental help to fall back asleep, and so parents view night wakings as a problem[3] despite them being biologically normal and not contrary to healthy development.  We must also be clear that when people believe their baby or child “sleeps through the night”, they can only refer to the fact that they do not wake when or if their child wakes.  Babies and children can wake and fall asleep on their own again (though not all will) and so parents simply have no idea how often (if at all) these babies are rousing during the night.

How normal is night waking?  Well, in a longitudinal study looking at night wakings between birth and 3 years of age, the percentage of infants/children who did not signal their parents at night from 6 months to 3 years only rose from 29.58% to 37.94%[4].  At 3 years of age, 25.6% of toddlers were waking and signaling their parents 3 or more nights per week.  And notably, none of these children suffered any clinical problems or sleep disorders.

Myth: If your baby wakes regularly into the night, they will continue to wake in the night until you stop it.

Fact:  Early night waking does not predict later night wakings.

Sleeping toddlerWhat do I mean?  Well, I mean that night waking in infancy does not predict night waking at later ages, at least based on a very comprehensive, longitudinal study out of Switzerland[5] and there are no studies I have found that counter this finding.  In this particular study, which examined 493 children and their families, night wakings from 3 months of age onward actually rose consistently until age 4, when over half of the children were waking at least once per week and 22% were waking every night.  These numbers then declined slightly until age 10, but even at age 10, over 20% of children were waking at least once per week and around 4% were waking nightly.  Notably, night waking in infancy (< 1-2 years) was not predictive of night waking later, but later (> 1-2 years) night waking was associated with further night wakings.  Now, what the authors do not measure, and acknowledge as a limitation, is how long the child wakes, the reason for waking, does the child require parental help, breastfeeding, etc.

Notably, night wakings were not associated with other sleep disturbances, such as bedtime resistance and sleep-onset problems (i.e., the ability to fall asleep relatively efficiently).  This implies that they are distinct from other sleep behaviours that parents find problematic.  Though only my opinion, my take is that these other behaviours reflect social or emotional issues (e.g., anxiety around sleep, stress) while night wakings are more physiological or biological in nature.

[Somewhat off topic but fascinatingly, they found that increases in bedsharing in the toddler years was associated with less bedtime resistance or sleep-onset problems, suggesting that children are yearning for contact and experiencing separation anxiety which bedsharing provides a “fix” to.  The authors propose this as well as cohort effects found that children raised in an earlier time did not have the bedsharing rates later groups did and had much greater reported problems associated with bedtime resistance and sleep-onset problems.]

Myth: Night waking is a sign that something is wrong and you have to do something to fix it.

Fact: Night waking often reflects developmentally appropriate behaviour across all ages.

One of the highlights of the Swiss research mentioned above was the acknowledgement that night wakings may not be negative at all, but rather reflect the individual developmental stage of any child.  As they so wonderfully put it,

[N]ight wakings must be understood in the context of cognitive, emotional, and physical changes that occur at different developmental stages.  Some children may need parental proximity during the night as during the day depending on their developmental level, individual characteristics, and attachment behavior.[5]

In the toddler years, night wakings are often associated with children coming into bed with the parents as many toddlers are first put to sleep in their own room or bed.  The degree of separation anxiety that toddlers feel can be great and they require the proximity to parents to help feel safe again[6], leading to night wakings and moving sleep locations.  This same feeling of anxiety or security can come at all ages throughout childhood, though, and a child that still demonstrates this at 8 or 9 years of age is still in the developmentally normal range.  There is also the issue of nighttime fears and nightmares which increase with age through childhood until a peak (often early childhood) then start to decrease again; these fears are considered cognitively, socially, and emotionally normal[7], but do result in night wakings that often require parental involvement.  Then of course there are the reasons we all tend to wake at night (adults included): Going to the bathroom, too much on our mind, stress, etc.  These things can affect children as well, especially school-age children who have to cope with school, evolving relationships with friends, possible stress in the household, and more.

***

Lots of people today worry that night wakings reflect a “problem” and that they need to deal with it or else they will face long-term sleep problems.  Well, first let’s be clear that night wakings in infancy have no predictive power over later night wakings.  So you can put that little myth to rest.  Second, you can be sure that night wakings are entirely normal through toddlerhood and are not associated with any ill effects for your child.  Not all children will experience them, but those that do are not experiencing anything problematic.  And finally, many of the children who continue to wake do so for very normal, developmentally appropriate reasons; just as adults often wake at night too.  There may be times when parents need to seek help about their child’s sleep, but these will often be due to more than just night wakings.  Clusters of problems are what parents should be concerned with, not night wakings alone.

So the next time someone – anyone – tells you that you need to stop your child from waking in the night, you can – at the very least – smile, nod, and go ahead and do absolutely nothing.  Without worry.

Tracy Cassels is the founder and primary writer for Evolutionary Parenting.  She obtained her B.A. in Cognitive Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia.  She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology, also at the University of British Columbia, where she is studying how certain evolutionary factors affect children’s empathic behavior. She can also be found on Facebook here.

Related posts:

Parenting Through Cancer: Coping with Emotions

‘Patience Doesn’t Feel Patient’ by Sarah Sprague – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘Encouraging Safe Negative Emotional Expression (i.e. Stopping the Peeing, Spitting & Kicking)’ by Guggie Daly – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions: What’s Really Happening to Your Baby’s Sleep?’ by Pinky McKay – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts While She Battles Cancer

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


‘Patience Doesn’t Feel Patient’ by Sarah Sprague – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

mom and daughterThey say that bravery doesn’t feel brave or fearless because if you’re not afraid it is something other than bravery. I guess that patience is one of those things, as well.

From the outside it looks like calm and peace but from the inside it can feel more like the tested limits of self control.

Learning to be patient is learning how to separate what we feel from how we act. It is learning to accept our feelings while choosing to not act on them. It is learning to say to ourselves:

I can be angry without acting angry.
I can be impatient without acting impatient.
I can be upset without acting upset.
I can be hurt without acting hurt.
I can feel without acting on my feelings.
I can feel without reacting to what I feel.

When I choose to act patient I slow down. I speak more slowly than I normally would. I lower my volume and I pace my words so that they won’t rush together in an explosion of words that no one will understand and that will act as a precursor to yelling. There’s a rhythm to this patience that doesn’t feel patient. A slow rhythm. A careful spacing of words. A slowness to how my body moves as I make sure that no part of me will gain a momentum that will feel like hitting or grabbing or being anything other than soft and gentle.

  • When my toddler hits again.
  • When my seven year old is upset that he doesn’t understand his homework and is avoiding doing it instead of asking questions.
  • When my four year old has snuck his safety scissors into the other room so that he can cut apart a travel pillow to see what is inside, and the entire world feels like it’s covered with tiny Styrofoam pellets.
  • When the two-and-a-half gallon water dispenser has been opened by someone curious and it has flooded the kitchen.
  • When my three year old fed the fish every container of fish food all at once and the twenty nine gallon aquarium needed to have all of its water cleaned and replaced at bedtime.

I slow down to try and run in quicksand. I go slow-motion like walking through an empty room with a strobe light. I try and move my body through a thickened air. And I try to slow every word down so that it comes with a peace and gentleness that doesn’t show any of the frustration that I feel.

I grasp at all of the excuses that my child doesn’t yet have the words to offer. I try and see what positive or curious motivations they  might have, or what stresses may be driving them to this place. I try to wrap every part of my heart and brain around empathy and love.

He sits at the table fiddling with his pencil. Nothing has been done on his worksheet, not even his name. He has gotten up to do half a dozen things. I have to make dinner. I have to sweep the floors. I have to do all the things on my to-do list.

“Issac.. Can you please do your homework?” I ask.

“Okay.” He says. And he picks up his pencil and stares off into space.

I am feeling anything but patient. My daughter has not napped today and she claws at my knees to be picked up, asks to draw on his homework with his pencil, and wants no substitutes for this thing that she cannot have. So now I’m being screamed at. I tap at his worksheet and he tells me to help Keenie calm down. So I walk away to find her some playdoh so that we can work on his homework together.

I come back. Nothing’s been done.

Breathe. Slow down. Find the reasons. Seven hour days at school with fifteen minute recesses. Not nearly enough time to decompress after school. He’s having a hard time reconnecting to what he’s trying to do.

I move slowly, lay my hand on his shoulder as softly and gently as I can. On contact my own tense muscles relax. This is my child. My son. He is seven and I love him dearly.

I plant a kiss on his head, and sniff his hair the way I used to when he was tiny, when he was a toddler. It smells just like him.

My other hand comes down to his worksheet. I’m standing behind him, my body enveloping his. Supporting and soft and patient, not angry and looming. My finger pointing to where he needs to write his name. Slow voice. Quiet voice. “Isaac, what does this say?” I ask. Trying to get him to look at the worksheet long enough to begin writing.

He writes his name.

“Now what’s the next question?” I ask. Soft. Slow. Clear. Strong.

He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t move.

I tap the paper. His eyes move to where I’m pointing.

“Can you read this for me?” I ask. He reads the question out loud.

“Do you understand what the question is asking?” I ask.

The dam breaks. He doesn’t understand. He screeches frustration and tells me that he didn’t understand in class.

My frustration is gone. I understand now. We go over what he can do if he doesn’t understand something in class. I ask him if he wants me to help him figure out how he can answer the questions or if he wants me to write a note on the top so that his teachers will know he needs more help with this topic. He chooses to have me try and show him how to work out the answers.

I sit down next to him. He’s fully engaged now.

Patience did not feel patient at first.  But then. At the end of it, when I’ve responded well? When the crisis is past. When the messes have been cleaned up? When I’ve helped my seven year old slow down to re-focus and understand what he refuses to understand? When I’ve had self control and when I have acted patient?

That is when patience feels patient. When we’re past the thing that has me pulling my hair out. When we’re past the thing that has me wanting to move faster and raise my voice. When we’re past the thing that has me wanting to throw a tantrum all of my own.

That.. Is when I feel patient. Radiant. Powerful.

And it takes my breath away.

Sarah Sprague, creator of the ‘Wait-It-Out’ gentle sleep learning method (WIO), writes at Nurshable: Joy in Gentle Parenting and can be found on Facebook at Nurshable.

Related posts:

‘Encouraging Safe Negative Emotional Expression (i.e. Stopping the Peeing, Spitting & Kicking)’ by Guggie Daly – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions: What’s Really Happening to Your Baby’s Sleep?’ by Pinky McKay – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts While She Battles Cancer

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


‘The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions: What’s Really Happening to Your Baby’s Sleep?’ by Pinky McKay – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts While She Battles Cancer

baby-sleep-eye.jpgThe 4 month sleep regression, the 12 month sleep regression, the 18 month sleep regression – what is happening?

Of course, any time your baby’s sleep suddenly seems to go pear shaped , you wonder what am I doing wrong? Having a neat little term like ‘sleep regression’ gets you off the hook – it’s not you, it’s your baby. It’s a sleep regression. It’s normal and common and it will pass.

The term ‘sleep regression’ sounds more helpful than the patronising label ‘accidental parenting’ which implies you have done something to create your wakeful baby but you are such a half-wit you didn’t even realize you were doing something ‘wrong’. It sounds much smarter too and even a little bit intellectual, as though you have done your homework about infant sleep.

But here’s the thing: your baby isn’t having a ‘regression’. Sleep isn’t a milestone – even though it certainly feels like an achievement when your baby starts snoozing for several hours at a stretch. By the way, ‘all night’ in infant sleep studies means five hours sleep in a row –not eight hours like an adult or twelve hours like some baby books will tell you. The real, measurable, important milestones that signal your baby’s actual development can influence your baby’s sleep, or lack of it. So, when your baby, who has been sleeping in peaceful blocks, suddenly starts waking more frequently, it usually means he is approaching a real developmental milestone – he is not ‘regressing’, he is ‘progressing.’

Developmental milestones can be physical (rolling, crawling, cruising, walking), emotional (separation anxiety) and neurological. Neurological milestones are outlined in ‘The Wonder Weeks’ , a book by Dutch researchers, psychologists Franz Plooij and Hetty Van Der Rit , who observed many children in their homes over a number of years. They describe the ‘wonder weeks’ as critical periods of development that change the baby’s perception of his world. For instance, at 26 weeks, babies start to perceive distance. This means that as you walk away, your baby is now more aware of the distance that separates you and he will yell at you because the increasing distance between you and him is confusing and a bit scary.

As babies approach any new developmental phase, their perception of the world changes so, although this can be just a blip on the radar for some babies, more sensitive babies will need extra reassurance and can become quite clingy or generally unsettled at these times.

Because babies process information during their sleep – circulation to the brain almost doubles during REM sleep – it’s perfectly normal for them to wake more often as they are approaching new milestones. For instance, at around four months (the four month sleep ‘regression’ that everyone is talking about), babies are becoming much more aware of the world – they are babbling (this is the beginning of language acquisition), exploring things with their mouth (soon that will include their feet too as they suck their toes), they are recognizing familiar people (and becoming anxious around strangers – separation anxiety is kicking in), many babies are starting to roll over so they wake because they have unintentionally rolled onto their belly and this has woken them. They are confused and upset because they really wanted to be sleeping but that tiny brain processing information has resulted in some extra ‘practice’ of their new skill. All of this adds up to a very busy little brain that finds it difficult to switch off. And, as well as often having difficulty getting to sleep in the first place or resettling after being woken by their busy brains and bodies, when he wakes, confused, your baby will call for help from the most important person in his world – you.

Of course at any time if your baby suddenly becomes unsettled or wakeful, it’s important to check that there isn’t a medical reason for this or an impending illness such as sore ears or a urinary tract infection (babies generally wake when they wee if they have a UTI because it hurts), or if your baby has recently started family foods she isn’t upset by food sensitivities.

Once you have ruled out illness as a reason for sudden changes in your baby’s sleep patterns, consider your baby’s development: what new skills is your baby learning? Is she a bit more clingy during her awake times? Does she seem more sensitive right now? And try to see her wakefulness as a positive – she is not regressing, she is progressing. She is learning and developing in leaps and bounds. She isn’t waking because you have done anything wrong. You aren’t encouraging ‘bad habits’ you are helping your baby feel secure as she grows through these intense developmental stages. You don’t have to justify your baby’s behavior with fancy labels or reasons for her waking (except perhaps, to yourself if it makes you feel better).

The good news is that, as your baby masters each new milestone, there will be spells of sound sleep again – until the next developmental leap!

pinky mckayPinky McKay is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby, 100 Ways to Calm the Crying, Parenting By Heart and Toddler Tactics.  For more baby sleep tips, check out her bundle - Sleeping Like a Baby plus the recording package of interviews by leading international sleep researchers ‘The Truth About Infant Sleep – Science, Wisdom and Gentle Solutions’ 

Related posts:

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Gentle Journeys Book Club: Two Thousand Kisses a Day-Chapter One Discussion Questions

gentle journeys book clubHow it works:

We cover a chapter a week as we go through a book club selection. One discussion question is posted per day on the Little Hearts Facebook page to be discussed in the comments there and also here on the Little Hearts site to be discussed in the comments. Participants share thoughts and ask questions about the chapter and about issues they’re having at home that relate to the chapter. Everyone can chime in to answer each others’ questions and discuss their own experiences. At the end of each week a round-up of the week’s discussion (minus the names of the participants) is published on the Little Hearts website. New comments are always welcome, even after the discussion for the chapter has ended. All comments are moderated for content and relevance. Participants are automatically entered in a monthly book prize drawing.

This week we are discussing the first chapter of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages. Feel free to discuss current or previous questions here in the comments or click over to the Little Hearts Facebook page to join the discussion there. :D

Two Thousand Kisses a DayDay 1: Before reading ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages’ what was your perception of Attachment Parenting and/or Gentle Parenting, and after reading the first chapter, did your perception change and, if so, in what way?

Day 2: Attachment Parenting could also be called ‘Instinctual Parenting.’ Are there any parenting choices you instinctively made that you were surprised to discover fit naturally into the Attachment Parenting model?

Day 3: Attachment parenting concepts go hand-in-hand with gentle parenting in infancy, but some don’t believe that gentle discipline is necessary to maintain a healthy parent/child relationship. Do you feel that gentle parenting is central to maintaining the trust relationship built by attachment practices in infancy, or do you think that trust can be preserved in a punitive parenting environment?

Day 4: If you’re in the infancy stage, what benefits have you seen so far from attachment/gentle parenting? If you’re beyond the infancy stage, have you found the transition from the early attachment practices difficult or has it been a smooth transition for you and your little one?

Day 5: What conflict or criticism, if any, have you encountered in your attachment/gentle parenting journey so far, and how has reading peaceful parenting materials such as ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ helped you in your journey?

Day 6: Have you felt supported in your gentle journey? If so, share who or what has helped you most. If not, what can we do to provide the support you need here in our gentle parenting community?

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Breastfeeding: Manna from God

[Excerpt reprinted from Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhoodand The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7

breastfeeding baby sepiaJesus’ mother, Mary, didn’t practice attachment parenting when raising little Jesus. The Bible does tell us that she breastfed Jesus, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” (Luke 11:27). The culture of the time tells us that she likely coslept with him in the small, one or two room house typical of that period and that she wore him close to her heart in the daylight hours in a wrap to keep him safe from the snakes and scorpions and other dangers that populated the region. So it is certain that she was a breastfeeding mama and almost certain that she was a cosleeping and babywearing mama.

But Mary didn’t practice attachment parenting as she was growing a tiny Savior. She simply parented Jesus in the naturally instinctive way that mothers have mothered their little ones since time began. Attachment parenting is merely a term coined much later to tie these natural parenting choices and others in with the modern research of psychologists like John Bowlby who found that the healthiest emotional and relational adults tended to have strong early attachments with a parent or primary caregiver.

The Bible reinforces those research findings by not just referring to breastfeeding as providing life-sustaining nutrition, but also as a source of comfort and connection, “For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts.” (Isaiah 66:11)

God’s biological design for breastfeeding weaves a developing infant’s needs with a mother’s needs into a delicately synchronized dance, and even daddies get in on the dance! There is an inbuilt, biochemical response to the birth of a baby that affects both sexes in similar, though somewhat different ways. As the birth of a new baby nears, a mother’s oxytocin level, known as the ‘love hormone’ because of its ability to create warm feelings of safety and attachment, increases as part of the preparation for bringing a new life into the world and sustaining that life at her breast. Daddies also experience a rise in oxytocin, as well as an increase in estrogen, which results in their brains being pre-wired to love and protect their mate and offspring. Then, after birth and throughout the breastfeeding relationship, oxytocin levels in mamas and daddies remain elevated, rising and falling in rhythmic peaks and valleys in response to a baby’s ever-changing needs. This is no accident of nature. This is a beautiful biological design.

This lovely and perfect design also reveals itself in the balance of nutrients present in breastmilk. Breastmilk has the perfect composition of calories, nutrients, fats, and other components to ensure the optimal development of a growing infant. The composition of breastmilk shifts to accommodate growth spurts, sicknesses, and other needs throughout a mother and child’s nursing relationship. Interestingly, the ratios of each of the components change throughout the day to offer the most energy during the daylight hours and the highest concentrations of sleep-inducing nucleotides during nighttime feeding, so if a mama is pumping and storing breastmilk, it’s important to label the time of day the milk was pumped to avoid giving the more stimulating daytime milk at night!

Beyond the nutritional and bonding benefits of breastfeeding, there are also amazing health benefits to both mama and baby:

A reduction in the risk of SIDS, asthma, childhood leukemia, diabetes, gastroenteritis, otitis media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), necrotizing enterocolitis, and obesity are just some of the protective benefits for babies. For mothers, breastfeeding has been correlated with a significant decrease in the risk of diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name just a few.

Additionally, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in April of 2010 that concluded, “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.” 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 lives lost and billions of dollars spent unnecessarily in a two year breastfeeding scenario instead of a six month scenario. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

Some stumbling blocks in the breastfeeding relationship that mamas may encounter include the modern societal view of breasts as solely sexual objects which often leads those in public places, including many churches, to shame mothers into hiding in restrooms or vehicles or at the very least using covers that make breastfeeding far more difficult and clumsy than it needs to be. Biblically speaking, breasts are referred to half as often in reference to sexual relationships as they are in reference to the God-designed breastfeeding relationship between mothers and their little ones. Again, that is no accident!

Breastfeeding is not shameful and should not be hidden. As one of our current world leaders, Pope Francis, said during a 2014 baptism ceremony at the historic Sistine Chapel,

“Today the choir will sing, but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise. Some will cry because they are not comfortable or because they are hungry,” Francis said, according to Reuters. “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here.”

He didn’t tell them to leave or to cover up or to make their babies wait. He tenderly told the young mothers to feed their babies when they’re hungry. End of story.

Another stumbling block to a healthy, full-term breastfeeding relationship is the increasingly prevalent diagnosis of low milk supply:

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 seem to be failing in ever-increasing numbers to provide life-giving nutrition to those precious babies because of issues with low milk supply.

Why is this happening? For some, it is certainly just pediatricians using formula-fed babies’ growth charts instead of breastfed babies’ charts or family and friends who believe that all babies should be chubby and content that lead new mothers to believe they have low supply, but there does appear to be an increasing number of babies legitimately labeled as failure-to-thrive with low milk supply determined to be the cause. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

Often the low milk supply is caused by forcing babies to sleep alone and training them to sleep through the night. The fact is that babies aren’t biologically designed to sleep through the night. They are, though, biologically programmed to crave closeness with their mothers, and their proximity to and access to the breast throughout the night stimulates ongoing production of breastmilk, keeping up the mother’s supply naturally.As a simple matter of survival, it makes biological sense that God would build into babies a need to be near their primary source of safety, nutrition, and comfort:

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 (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but babies who sleep through the night are also not nursing to stimulate breastmilk production, thus their mother’s milk may begin to dry up. Clearly, that’s not a healthy biological design. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

The bottom line is that breastfeeding is a biological norm created by God to meet a baby’s needs in the healthiest and most convenient way. That said, there are certainly times when a mother can’t breastfeed due to a medical condition, life circumstances, adoption, or other factors. In those cases mamas can still achieve a healthy attachment and strong, loving relationship and even boost their oxytocin ‘love hormone’ levels by holding their little ones close to their hearts during feeding, making eye contact and exchanging smiles and coos and giggles, kissing and nuzzling their babies’ fuzzy little heads, keeping their little ones close during the day in a baby wrap or sling, taking time out for a few periods of ‘kangaroo care’ each day, and meeting nighttime needs quickly, gently, and consistently. (end excerpt)

Related posts:

Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

gentle journeys book clubStarting JUNE 1, 2014!!!

Several readers have asked about a virtual book club for gentle parenting books like ones they’ve seen on other sites. I asked for some input on Facebook to see if there was enough interest and it got a great response, so we’re on!

How it will work:

We’ll do a chapter a week, and I’ll post one discussion question per day on the Little Hearts Facebook page to be discussed in the comments there as well as sharing the questions here on the Little Hearts website to be discussed in the comments onsite. Participants will share thoughts and ask questions about the chapter and about issues they’re having at home that relate to the chapter. Everyone can chime in to answer each others’ questions and discuss their own experiences. At the end of each week I’ll publish a round-up of the week’s discussion (minus the names of the participants) here on the Little Hearts website. I will update this post with a list of discussions as they become available.

We’ll start with Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages which lays the connection foundation for gentle parenting, then we’ll move on to Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood which provides the communication component, then The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline which shares specific tools for working cooperatively through common behavior issues, and then Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting which addresses misconceptions about the supposed Biblical commands to spank, demand instant obedience, assert absolute authority, demand submission, etc. After that we will spend a couple of weeks going through the Little Hearts workshops together starting with Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey and then moving on to Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing from Your Past so You Don’t Pass it Along to Your Children.  (More info about each of the books below)

After that we’ll move on to other positive parenting books, each of which I’ll preview to make sure they are in line with gentle parenting philosophies before I select them for our book club.

The result will be an awesome resource for parents…an ever-growing ‘library’ of positive parenting book recommendations with chapter by chapter discussions for parents to have free access to as they navigate their own personal gentle parenting journeys.

As a bonus, and just for fun, I’ll draw a random name from the participants on the last day of each month and give away a ‘door prize.’ So fun!

Here is more info about each of the books we’ll be going through together to begin with:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day-Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesTwo Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages Calm, Reassuring, Likable ~ Written in L.R.Knost’s signature easy-to-read and conversational style, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ offers an overview of gentle parenting from birth through young adulthood along with concrete suggestions and insights into how to implement gentle parenting in each stage of childhood. Her seasoned and practical approach based on extensive child development research and years of parent mentoring as well as over twenty-five years of parenting her six children is as likable as it is reassuring. Parents with children of any age will find this information-packed book with its bite-sized chapters and practical approach to parenting a helpful and encouraging addition to their home library, as well as a welcome gift for new or struggling parents. ~The Parenting Review

 

Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of ChildhoodWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood Sweet, Funny, Insightful ~ Award-winning ‘Whispers Through Time’ by L.R. Knost is destined to be a dog-eared favorite, passed down from generation to generation. L.R. Knost shows parents how to find their own answers for their own children and their own families in this guidebook as she challenges conventional thinking with a wisdom born of experience and a healthy dose of research to back it up. Written with the same unique blend of sweetness and humor, grit and honesty, reassurance and insight that made L.R. Knost’s first book, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages,’ a best-seller, ‘Whispers Through Time’ has become a runaway hit in its own right. ~The Parenting Review

 

 

The Gentle ParentThe Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline Relaxed, Reassuring, Practical ~ Written by L.R.Knost, best-selling, award-winning author of ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ and ‘Whispers Through Time,’ ‘The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline’ shares the simple secrets of a peaceful, happy home in the Three C’s of gentle discipline–Connection, Communication, and Cooperation. In her signature relaxed and poetic style, L.R.Knost gently guides parents through the steps of applying the Three C’s in real-life scenarios from tantrums to defiance to parenting a strong-willed child to healing a broken parent/child relationship. Practical and proven, this newest installment in the Little Hearts Handbook parenting series will be tucked into diaper bags, kept handy on nightstands, and shared with good friends for its research-backed, experience-based, and humor-rich insights, ideas, and inspiration. ~The Parenting Review

 

Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverJesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting Intelligent, Well-Researched, Compassionate ~ L.R.Knost has done it again. With her compassionate tone, relational style, and intelligent, well-researched writing, Jesus, the Gentle Parent is like a refreshing, peaceful walk through the scriptures with a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide. This book differs from Two Thousand Kisses a Day, Whispers Through Time, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline in that it takes a Christian approach to parenting as L.R. takes on big names in the Christian child-training sect such as Dr. James Dobson, Tedd Tripp, Gary Ezzo, and Michael Pearl, breaking down their doctrine and reexamining such issues as spanking, instant obedience, submission, free will, and more in light of the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the scriptures. As always, L.R. offers gentle parenting alternatives along with real-life examples of their applications, but in Jesus, the Gentle Parent she goes even further and shares parenting insights based on the life of Jesus that will turn the mainstream Christian world on its head. This is truly a grace-based parenting book which shows parents how to be “their children’s first taste of God” by following in the gentle, wise, grace-filled footsteps of Jesus. ~ The Parenting Review

Back cover: In this examination of mainstream Christian parenting practices and the doctrinal beliefs behind them, best-selling author, L.R.Knost, debunks common cultural and theological beliefs about spanking, original sin, sin nature, submission, authority, obedience, breaking a child’s will, and more, along with providing grace-filled, gentle solutions to behavior issues.

 

Gentle Parenting Workshop 1 Getting Started on Your Gentle JourneyGentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey The Gentle Parenting Workshop series from award-winning author, L.R.Knost,  is a companion series to her best-selling parenting books, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day,’ ‘Whispers Through Time,’ and the newest release, ’The Gentle Parent.’ This first workshop in the series, ‘Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey,’ will help you set your gentle parenting goals, identify specific parenting problems, and target practical solutions to help you along on your journey to gentle parenting.

 

 

 

Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing From Your Past So You Don't Pass It Along To Your ChildrenGentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing from Your Past so You Don’t Pass it Along to Your Children, will help you walk through the steps of recovery from a painful past, leading you on a journey of healing and forgiveness, of unloading negative emotional baggage into the past where it belongs instead of unloading it onto your children and passing it along to the next generation, and of renewal to open the pathway to a more peaceful and gentle approach to parenting.

“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean telling them that hurting us was okay. It means telling ourselves that it’s okay to stop hurting. It doesn’t mean we have to trust them again. It means we can learn to trust ourselves again because we deserve it. It doesn’t mean we have to give them a free pass back into our lives. It means we are free to take our lives back again. Forgiving is letting the hurts of the past go so that we can move freely into the future.”

The Gentle Parenting Workshop 2 walks you through five stages of healing and emotional freedom, including multiple action steps for you to take along the way from making the decision to change to identifying your triggers to forgiving your own mistakes of the past to coping when life hits hard.

“When a tragedy strikes in the form of a death or a life-changing illness or an accident, or when our lives are suddenly turned upside-down due to a divorce or other major life event, we need to grieve the loss of our old lives, our old ‘normal,’ our younger, more carefree, and unwounded selves, so that we can embrace our new normal and learn to live fully and joyfully again. Just as if a person had hurt us, we are hurting humans and we need to take the time and make the investment in self-care to work through the hurt and emerge a wiser, more mature, and more compassionate human.”

Available discussions:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Chapter One Discussion

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

[Reprinted from Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood; and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

~~~~~~~

baby mommy handsThe 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 back facing us. The tangle of threads that seemed to go nowhere and the 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 refrigerators 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 by my Father’s skillful hands.

I imagine life feels this way to my children, as well. They may not see the picture I am trying to weave as I teach and guide and nourish and encourage them to grow into the beautiful humans they were created to be.

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’ can’t live 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 be entirely thrilled with the agreement on no laptops in their rooms or no cell phone in their tween years, and they may not fully get why the mall is not a safe hangout spot and why periodic texts to check in when out with friends are part of our family dynamic in their teen years.

As my children grow old enough to participate in the decision making, though, we share our thoughts about these things, discuss them together, and come up with mutually agreed upon boundaries. While these things may seem like meaningless threads or even unnecessary knots and tangles in their lives, the trust that we share helps them to accept and cooperate with what they may not fully 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 ‘lay down the law’ or enforce ‘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, consistently, and with empathy to their cries or whines or troubles 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 try to always 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. I’m willing to apologize when I make one of my many human parenting mistakes, and I don’t expect perfection from my equally human children.

Motherhood is very simple to me. It’s a gift to me, but it’s not about me. I’m the one who chose to bring these little people into the world, so the pervading belief in our modern culture that somehow they have the responsibility to fit into my life, and work around my schedule, and not disrupt my pursuits completely mystifies me. They aren’t interlopers; they are guests, invited guests. And how do we treat our guests? Do we ignore their needs or make incomprehensible demands on them or ridicule, name-call, and hit them when they misstep? Of course not. We welcome our guests with special dinners, make accommodations for their needs, and forgive their lack of knowledge of our ways. And our children deserve no less. In fact, they deserve much more.

In our home, when our newest little invited guests arrive, they are welcomed with open arms that are always available, day or night. They are provided nature’s best provision for their nutritional needs. And they are gently guided by example and lovingly encouraged to become a part of a healthy family dynamic. In short, when I invite these little people into my life, it stops being my life, and it becomes our lives.

Parenthood is, very simply, a beautiful sacrifice that mothers and fathers willingly and lovingly live for their Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverchildren, day after day, night after night, as a reflection of the sacrifice Jesus made for his children on the Cross. Parenthood is a lovely, lively retelling of the Cross played out in the arms of mamas and daddies, again and again and again.

Consider the young mother who gives up night after night of sleep to soothe her little one’s cries, or the middle aged man who still gets up before dawn each day to provide for his family, or the elderly parents who give up the peace of their golden years to welcome the child of their youth back into their home when life hits hard. This laying down of self, this giving up of comforts and rights and dreams, these are losses, sacrifices, even hardships, but they are lovely, beautiful beyond belief. Their loveliness lies in the soft warmth of a sleepy baby with a full belly and a trusting heart. Their beauty lies in the joyful chaos of a messy, noisy, welcoming family to come home to each night. Their beauty lies in the spark of hope in the tear-filled eyes of a weary adult whose life has turned dark, but who finds that home is still a safe refuge.

My children, all six of them, are precious gifts straight from God’s heart to my home. I have had other precious gifts, babies whom God gave for a time to fill my womb, but who weren’t meant to fill my arms, and one He gave to fill my arms for a just a moment in time, but who wasn’t meant to stay. My stillborn son, Sammy’s, birthday is in just a few 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 comes and goes and I can breathe again.

These times always make me wonder how tragedy must look from Heaven’s side. I wonder about my Sammy, and I wonder about 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. Each one of them brought with them the unique knowledge of how breathtakingly exquisite every living, breathing child is and how priceless and fragile and brief life itself can be. I do not take this knowledge lightly. I have learned to treasure the moments of life with my children. I’ve learned that it’s not about me; it’s about us. And I’ve learned that sacrifice lights up the dark places in the world, making it a more beautiful place for all of us to live.

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.

“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

Related posts:

Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Breastfeeding: Manna from God

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Forever Friends: A Marriage of Equals

[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting  available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

married lifeCelebrating 27 years of marriage to my amazing, talented, generous, kind, hard-working, insanely intelligent, gentle-giant, burly-bear-of-a-hubby! Who would have thought that small, scared, unmarried, teenage girl of yesteryear who married her young love under all the wrong circumstances would have ended up still deeply-in-love and always-in-like with her forever-best-friend after six children and all the ups and downs and joys and tragedies of nearly three decades of marriage?!?!

Here’s a bit about our gentle journey (so far!) and about this amazing man who has blessed our lives with his love and loyalty for so many years…

In addition to fixing our vehicles, finding the deal of the century on a new-but-broken front loading washer/dryer set and fixing them (yay!) so I’ve got a top-of-line set for a not-staircase bookshelvestop-of-the-line price, and reupholstering some old leather furniture for no other reason than that I love it and can’t bear to let it go, my hubcap is also remodeling our stairs into staircase bookshelves and creating a reading nook under the stairs for our little ones. All of that is amazing, but take a look at what else he’s been up to..

 

We’ve coslept with all of our little ones, but my cancer battle, surgery, and a recent flare of a birth injury has me in constant pain and my tossing and turning has been waking our toddler up multiple times a night. cosleeping sidecarNeither I nor my toddler is ready to stop cosleeping yet, so my hubby started sketching and measuring and pulling out stacks of wood he’d saved from other building projects, and the next thing I knew I had a custom cosleeper sidecar for our toddler! He matched our bed’s design and even built it in a loft-style so we could put our ‘welcome mattress’ (for our 7-year-old if she needs to sleep a bit closer to us after a nightmare or if she’s not feeling well or for whatever reason :) ) under it. Both of my smallest children are enthralled with it, and I love it! I can sit nearby after getting everyone to sleep and work on my next book into the depths of each diy cosleeper sidecarnight, so grateful for an understanding hubby who is supportive of cosleeping and so incredibly resourceful and talented.

Of course, all of that is on top of working ten hour days, sometimes six days a week, to support our family. And here’s a bit more about this amazing man…

 

 

 

An Ordinary Man My husband is a hero. Maybe not the Superman kind of hero or the war veteran kind, but to the stranded motorist, to the struggling mother who can’t pay her grocery bill, he’s a hero of the best kind. He’s the kind of hero who is there in the moment of need with a calloused set of hands always ready to help, a quiet, friendly grin always ready to reassure, and a servant’s heart always ready to shrug off thanks or reward. He’s the kind of hero John Wayne played in his famous westerns…clear-eyed honesty, strength of character, courageous compassion…only in a real-life, flesh-and-blood man of honor, decency, and integrity… Read more

 

Mona Lisa Smiles In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone. And, of course, all of that’s in addition to him running to the store, helping out around the house, fixing what’s broken, grilling dinner occasionally (okay, often!), etc… Read more

 

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting Our journey to a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, gentle disciplining, homeschooling, happy family of eight! Well, including our awesome son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and brand new grandson, I guess I should say family of 12! One boy, one girl, and one baby sure have come a long way, Baby! Read more

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Hubby & the Incredible Bicycle Transformation! Yes, that is me with my two littlest on a european-style cargo bike, and yes, my hubster built it for me! Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

beautiful old married coupleAnd it is my prayer that we will end up here, Beautiful Old Souls,  many years from now…An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier. His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life. Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. They are a living love story, two hearts time-stitched into one, beautiful old souls stepping in tandem toward eternity… Read more

Related posts:

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

I live. I laugh. I love. And, sometimes, I run away…

Parenting Through Cancer: Coping with Emotions

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

Our 7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy

[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost. Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

mom and daughterFrom kicking and rolling and stretching to being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic cadence of a mama’s heartbeat, little ones spend the first months of their existence wrapped in a warm, dark, gently swaying cocoon, a life-giving embrace, the ultimate hug, readying themselves for their grand entrance to the world.

Then, in those first moments of life beyond the womb, when the muffled sounds of the outside world become clear and the muted lights become glaringly bright, a warm chest with the scent of life-sustaining milk and the sweet sound of a familiar heartbeat welcome the little one to the comfort and safety of a mama’s arms.

In the days, weeks, and months following, little fingers and toes are counted and kissed again and again and again. Soft cheeks are snuzzled and a fuzzy little head is nuzzled, and two thousand kisses a day seems a reasonable number to a mama’s heart overflowing with tenderness for this tiny new member of the family.

Then comes the rolling and sitting and crawling and walking, and soon the two thousand kisses dwindle to brief morning cuddles before a toddler is off to explore the world, healing kisses on boo-boos, and goodnight snuggles with a bedtime book.

Time passes and the little one grows in independence, getting up and dressed and ready on their own, grabbing their own band-aid for a scrape, and reading themselves to sleep. Gone are the snuzzles and nuzzles of infancy, and the two thousand kisses a day are simply sweet memories.

Growing independence, though, doesn’t have to mean growing separation. Humans were created to be relational beings. We may outgrow our dependency, but we never outgrow the need for community, interaction, appreciation, reassurance, and support.

Infants, children, and adults alike all share this life-long need for connection. While over time that need will also be met through friendships, business engagements, social interactions, and the like, family relationships are the steady and sure bedrock of secure connection and belonging that ground us and assure us that our needs will not go unmet even in the darkest of times.

Attachment parenting is often misconstrued to be simply about breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. But, while those are possible choices for creating and maintaining a secure parent/child connection in the early years, they are just a small sampling of the relationship-building choices that parents can make throughout their children’s lives.

As little ones outgrow the ‘two thousand kisses a day’ stage, parents can begin consciously creating ‘two thousand connection points a day’ to replace those tender expressions of love with age-appropriate expressions of appreciation and approval, love and support.

From responding empathetically to a preschooler’s whine, to paying attention to a seven-year-old when they tell their endless stories, to listening ‘between the lines’ to the angst of a teen, maintaining a secure parent/child connection beyond infancy is simply about meeting emotional needs consistently, intentionally, and relationally.

Creating two thousand connection points a day isn’t about quality time, and it isn’t even about the quantity of time spent with our children. It is, instead, about being there in the small moments, the moments that matter to our children, and consciously meeting with them right where they are. It is about…

    • Simply smiling and letting our eyes light up with welcome when our children walk in the room
    • Maintaining eye contact when our children talk to us instead of letting our eyes constantly stray back to our laptop/iPhone
    • Voicing our sincere appreciation for their latest ‘masterpiece’ or victory or achievement
    • Expressing our affection physically in whatever way our children are comfortable with, whether it’s a wrestling match, a knuckle pound, or a hug
    • Giving our children our undivided, wholehearted attention when they share their latest treasure or sing a never-ending song they make up as they go or just want to sit and be close for awhile
    • Listening to what our children need to say without the threat of repercussion
    • Inferring what they aren’t able to express verbally
    • Welcoming our children into our daily lives, whether we are discussing politics or cooking dinner or fixing the toilet
    • Allowing our children to express their emotions, even when they aren’t pretty
    • Validating their anger, hurt, frustration, or embarrassment instead of minimizing or dismissing their feelings
    • Helping them to process those emotions by listening and reflecting back what we hear
    • Guiding them toward understanding of their own feelings and empathetically equipping them with coping mechanisms for the future
    • Sharing our own hurts, disappointments, and mistakes in age-appropriate terms so they’ll know it’s okay to be human
    • Honoring our children’s intense need to avoid embarrassment by offering guidance privately and respectfully, even if their behavior issue is public and/or disrespectful
    • Sharing their interests even if the life-cycle of a snail wouldn’t be our first choice of dinner conversation
    • Offering choices so they can grow in independence and confidence
    • Supporting them even when their choices lead to disappointment or failure
    • Being gently and kindly and completely honest about our own disappointment or hurt when their behavior negatively affects us so they’ll know they can trust us to be truthful, even in the hard things
    • Helping them whenever and wherever they express a need for assistance so they’ll know they never have to go life alone

These connection points are all about maintaining and enriching a strong parent/child relationship through all of the ages and stages of childhood so that, through a foundation of trust and mutual respect, parenting takes the form of guiding instead of punishing, encouraging natural growth instead of forcing independence, and creating a strong, intimate, interwoven family fabric that will stand the test of time.

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Baby on the Way! 25 Tips to Prepare Children for a New Sibling

[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

toddler kissing mommy's pregnant bellyPregnancy is a time of introspection, excitement, and, often, anxiety for most new mamas. When those new mamas also have other small children at home, that anxiety can become overwhelming as they worry about how they’ll cope with more than one child and how the current little loves of their life will cope with a new sibling. While these are very valid concerns, there are steps you can take to prepare your child for a new sibling and help them to adjust when the new baby arrives that will also help you to cope with life as a mama of more than one little blessing.

Once you discover you’re expecting, you’ve got months and months to prepare your child for the arrival of a new sibling, so here are 25 tips for during your pregnancy and after the new baby arrives to make the new baby transition a smoother and sweeter journey for everyone:

  1. Help your older child make their own ‘sister/brother on the way’ announcements so they feel like they are part of the transition from the beginning.
  2. Bring them along to sonograms, doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby things, etc.
  3. Reassure them that parents’ love multiplies instead of divides and that they will always be loved and important. Point out other families with more than one child so they can see that truth for themselves. If they’re old enough to understand, try a simple illustration such as letting them put different colors of water beads, one for each family member including the baby-on-the-war, into a glass of water. Tell them the water is like love, and it grows the beads into a rainbow of beautiful colors just like love grows our hearts bigger and bigger so there’s plenty of love for everyone.
  4. Present the new baby-on-the-way as ‘theirs,’ a special gift sent just for them so they will have a best friend for life. Talk about their friends who have siblings and how they always have someone to play with and someone to help them when they need it.
  5. Find children’s books about welcoming a new sibling, taking care of a new baby, when mommy breastfeeds, etc. to read to them before the birth. Here is a great list to get you started.
  6. Let them help decorate the nursery, put together the stroller, pack up the hospital bag (or prepare for your homebirth), buckle in the car seat, etc.
  7. Ask the person giving your baby shower to let your child ‘co-host’ and help with the party planning, set-up, serving snacks, and playing games.
  8. Help them make a special ‘welcome’ gift for the new baby and wrap it in paper they’ve decorated with stamps or finger paint.
  9. Buy them a special ‘welcome’ gift that you give them when they visit their new sibling for the first time. One idea is to buy them a child-sized baby carrier along with a doll, some diapers, wipes, mini baby blankets, etc. so they can take care of their baby while you take care of yours.
  10. Help them make their own family scrapbook with places to put the new baby’s pictures and pictures of them with their new little sibling when the new baby comes.
  11. Tell them stories about when they were born and show them pictures of their homecoming and first weeks of life.
  12. Let them help you work on updating their baby book.
  13. Take them to pick out a baby book for the new baby.
  14. Begin an open-ended conversation about how they’re feeling about having a new baby in the family to allow them to express their natural worries about how their role in the family might change, if they will still be able to play with their own toys, if the baby will cry a lot, etc. Continue this conversation throughout your pregnancy and after the new baby arrives to keep the communication lines open and your connection intact.
  15. Take them to visit the hospital and stop at the gift shop to buy a baby gift and a little treat for them to build excitement.
  16. Have lunch at the hospital cafeteria two or three times leading up to your birth to help them get used to the environment.
  17. Work on building other attached relationships with significant adults in your child’s life (spouse, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) so that your little one is used to having their needs attended to by someone other than mama at times and so they can play and get one-on-one time with another caregiver while mama is busy with the new baby.
  18. On their first visit with their new sibling, let them sit in bed with you and hold their new little sibling. Have a ‘big sister/brother’ t-shirt for them to wear and take lots of pictures of both of them together and with other family members. Ask whoever you have caring for your older child to stop on the way home to print out a few of the pictures and then help them put the pictures in the scrapbook they created with you at home.
  19. When the new baby arrives continue to present the baby as ‘theirs’ to love and enjoy and care for. Include them in helping with diaper changes, snuggling on your other side with storybooks for you to read while nursing/feeding the new baby, singing the baby to sleep, etc. Make sure you invite them to participate instead of insisting because they may need some time to adjust to the newness of everything before they’re ready.
  20. Keep your expectations in line with your child’s developmental stage and make accommodations whenever possible. For instance, expecting a toddler to willingly give up their crib to a new baby is probably unrealistic. Moving your toddler to a new bed early in your pregnancy and then involving them in getting the crib ready for the new baby later on, after they’ve adjusted to their new bed, might be more successful.
  21. If your older child is a toddler or preschooler, you can expect some regression into babyish behavior as they work to adjust to their new role and find their place in the new family dynamic. Don’t respond with punishment, shaming, or pressure to ‘be a big boy or girl.’ Instead allow them the space and time they need to explore how it feels to be a baby again while at the same time drawing their attention to the benefits of being the older sibling (i.e. “Look how you can walk on your strong legs wherever you want to go! Your baby sister can’t walk yet, can she?” or “Wow, you can pick out your own shoes and even put them on yourself! Your baby brother can’t do that yet, can he?” or “Look at all the yummy foods you get to eat. It’s nice being bigger so you don’t have to just have milk, isn’t it?”)
  22. Be specific about how your child should treat the new baby. Instead of “Be nice!” try “Can you use a kind voice with your brother?” and instead of “Don’t be so rough!” try “Can you give your sister a gentle hug?”
  23. Make sure your child’s boundaries are clear and consistent. If you let them hop around the baby’s bouncer to make the new baby laugh one day, you can be sure they’ll try bouncing around the baby’s bouncer again and again and again. If you think that’s dangerous, set a clear boundary, explain the reason for the boundary, and give them an alternative (i.e. “Hopping next to the baby is dangerous. You might fall on the baby and hurt him! That would make you sad, and the baby would be sad, too. If you need to hop, you can hop like a bunny over here next to me.”)
  24. Keeping a consistent, familiar routine for your older child will help them to feel less out-of-control as they adjust to all of the other changes going on in their life. Make sure you’re flexible and in-tune with your child’s changing needs, though. They will most likely communicate their natural anxiety at this big transition in the family with some acting out behaviors, clinginess, whining, and/or resistance to bedtime and other normal routines. For instance, they may have been fine with one story and a hug at bedtime before the new baby arrived, but after their new sibling comes home they may need extra cuddles, time, and the reassurance of your love and ongoing commitment to their wellbeing before they’re able to go to sleep.
  25. Talk, talk, talk to your little ones throughout each and every day. Your hands may be busy more often than not, but you can still maintain that all-important connection through communication!

Keep in mind that nothing will completely eliminate the possibility of some jealousy, regression, or acting out when a new baby arrives because it’s a huge transition and it will take time for everyone in the family to adjustment, but these suggestions will go a long way toward setting the stage for the smoothest transition possible.

quote new second babyRelated posts:

Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Custom Cosleeper Sidecar!!!

[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

cosleeping sidecarIn addition to fixing our vehicles, finding the deal of the century on a new-but-broken front loading washer/dryer set that had been hit by a power surge and then fixing said washer and dryer (yay!) so I’ve got a top-of-line set for a not-top-of-the-line price, and reupholstering some old leather furniture for no other reason than that I love it and can’t bear to let it go, my hubster is also putting up ballet bars and big (free!) mirrors in the playroom for our little ballerinas. All of that is amazing, but take a look at what else he’s been up to!

We’ve coslept with all of our little ones, but a recent flare of a birth injury has me in constant pain and cosleeper sidecarmy tossing and turning has been waking our toddler up multiple times a night. Neither I nor my toddler is ready to stop cosleeping yet, so a few days ago my hubby started sketching and measuring and pulling out stacks of wood he’d saved from other building projects, and the next thing I knew I had a custom cosleeper sidecar for our toddler! He matched our bed’s design and even built it in a loft-style so we could put our ‘welcome mattress’ (for our 7-year-old if she needs to sleep a bit closer to us after a nightmare or if she’s not feeling well or for whatever reason :) ) under it. Both of my smallest children are enthralled with it, and I love it! I sit nearby after getting everyone to sleep and work on my next book into the depths of each night, so grateful for an understanding hubby who is supportive of cosleeping and so incredibly resourceful and talented.

Of course, all of that is on top of working ten hour days, sometimes six days a week, to support our family! And here’s a bit more about this amazing man…

An Ordinary Man My husband is a hero. Maybe not the Superman kind of hero or the war veteran kind, but to the stranded motorist, to the struggling mother who can’t pay her grocery bill, he’s a hero of the best kind. He’s the kind of hero who is there in the moment of need with a calloused set of hands always ready to help, a quiet, friendly grin always ready to reassure, and a servant’s heart always ready to shrug off thanks or reward. He’s the kind of hero John Wayne played in his famous westerns…clear-eyed honesty, strength of character, courageous compassion…only in a real-life, flesh-and-blood man of honor, decency, and integrity… Read more

Mona Lisa Smiles In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone. And, of course, all of that’s in addition to him running to the store, helping out around the house, fixing what’s broken, grilling dinner occasionally, etc… Read more

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting Our journey to a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, gentle disciplining, homeschooling, nonvaxing, happy family of eight! Well, including our awesome son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and brand new grandson, I guess I should say family of 12! One boy, one girl, and one baby sure have come a long way, Baby! Read more

My Amazing Hubby & the Incredible Bicycle Transformation! Yes, that is me with my two littlest on a european-style cargo bike, and yes, my hubster built it for me! Read more

And it is my prayer that we will end up here, Beautiful Old Souls,  many years from now…An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier. His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life. Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. They are a living love story, two hearts time-stitched into one, beautiful old souls stepping in tandem toward eternity… Read more

Related posts:

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

Our 7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


11 Reasons Breastfeeding my Toddler ROCKS!

[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost available on Amazon and other major retailers.  Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline now also available.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

breastfeeding toddlerAs 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

Related posts:

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

And Baby Makes Three~Surviving the first three months with a newborn!

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

Baby Led Weaning

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Picky Eater? Here’s Help!

Practical Gentle Discipline Guide

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

Two Thousand Kisses a Day Book Cover 2Two 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

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Homemade Infant Formula~An Alternative to Commercial Formulas?

At Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, we promote and support breastfeeding as the best source of all a baby’s nutritional needs for the first year and beyond. But we also recognize that there are cases in which a mother has a legitimate supply issue, a medical issue, has to be on medications that are contraindicated in breastfeeding, or is an adoptive mother, etc. In those cases, a mother may feel that formula is the only alternative. But commercial formulas, with all of their additives, possible contaminants, BPA-laden packaging, etc. may make mothers who are already disappointed because they can’t breastfeed feel even more upset and worried.

There are other alternatives, though. Donor breastmilk is one, but can be expensive and difficult to obtain, and there is some concern that the pasteurization process the donor milk is subjected to may reduce its nutritional value. Another little-known alternative is homemade infant formula.

While there is nothing that can match breastmilk in nutrients, immunity factors, and digestive ease, if you or someone you know is in need of an alternative, homemade formula may be an option. Below are several links to sites that offer variations on homemade infant formulas. (Please be sure to always consult with your baby’s healthcare provider when deciding what is best for your little one’s health and well-being!)

The first link is from one of my favorite sites, The Healthy Home Economist:

On her page you can find a complete ingredient list along with a ton of other useful nutritional information.

The second link is from Dr. Mercola, another of my favorite sources for natural health and nutritional information.

The third link is from Holistic Squid which has a baby formula recipe as well as an excellent rundown on the potential problems with commercial formula.

The fourth link is Easy Homemade Baby Formula from Hubpages. (This one should only be used with babies over a year who are also eating solid foods.)

For babies with milk allergies, the fifth link is a goat’s milk formula recipe from nutritionist, Joe Stout,  President of Mt. Capra.

*Keep in mind that breastmilk is biologically designed not only for babies in general, but also, incredibly, a mother’s body will adjust her milk to meet her baby’s changing needs, as well, something no formula can ever match. Formula feeding, including with homemade formula, should be carefully considered, and the decision about how to feed your baby should be made with careful research and consultation with your baby’s healthcare provider.

Links to breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing resources:

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Baby Led Weaning

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Baby Talk

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

Four Ways Attachment Parenting Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS

The Science of Sleep: Newborns

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids~An Interview with Dr. Laura Markham

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?

Choose love.

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.

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


A Very Toddler Christmas~24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

*********************

a little elfWhat do you get when you cross a curious toddler with a Christmas tree covered with glittering, dangling ‘toys’ and enticing, shiny lights? At the very least, a season of toddler chasing and redirecting, and at the worst a season of shattered-glass hazards and tree-scaling, toppling nightmares. So what’s a parent to do? Must we scrap the tree so we can have a merry Christmas while we have little ones in the house? Not at all!

Here is an Advent list with a twist…24 Christmas safety tips for parents with tiny people who love to explore:

Christmas tree play yard (2)1.) A Christmas tree plopped down right in the middle of a child’s playspace (i.e. family room, living room, den) is just too much temptation for any little person, so one solution is to place the tree in a lesser-used room such as a study or office or even a covered porch where the tree can be seen but is less accessible to little explorers.

2.) Another option is to place the Christmas tree in a play yard like the one pictured to keep the tree safe while still having it in a central location in the house for everyone to enjoy.

3.) A tabletop tree is also an option. Keep the tree away from the edges and watch out for dangling tree skirts and light cords so little hands can’t pull the tree down on top of little heads.

4.) For families like ours who have lots of little ones toddling around year after year, a child-proof tree may be the answer. We used fishline to anchor our tree to the ceiling after one tiny climber toppled the tree over on herself a few times. Non-breakable ornaments (homemade ornaments are great alternatives) tied to the tree with ribbons instead of metal hooks (choking hazard!) are the solution to our current little spelunker who loves to crawl under the Christmas tree and lay looking up at the sparkling lights from her little hidey-hole.

5.) Be sure to check that your artificial tree is fire-rated or your real tree is fresh (i.e. easily bendable branches, no dropping needles) and keep your real tree well-watered to reduce fire danger.

6.) Always check lights for broken, loose, or missing bulbs, and make sure wires aren’t frayed and sockets aren’t cracked. Turn lights off when leaving your home or going to bed.

7.) For outdoor lighting/decorating, be sure to use extension cords rated for outdoor use, and don’t overload the outlet by stringing together more lights than the instructions allow. Elevate cords to avoid them sitting in water or on dry leaves. Have lights on a timer or turn lights out when leaving your home or going to bed.

8.) When decorating, place figurines and keepsakes out of reach of little hands to avoid constantly chasing giggling toddlers who find your reaction to their snatch-and-run game a great source of holiday entertainment.

9.) Avoid decorating with real holly or mistletoe in areas accessible to small children, as both are toxic if eaten.

10.)  Never decorate your tree with candles, and keep candles separated from pine branches on tabletops and mantles by placing them in deep glass votives. Never leave a small child alone in a room with a burning candle.

11.) Keep snow sprays out of reach as they can be toxic if inhaled and can cause injury if sprayed into eyes.

12.) When entertaining, keep hot plates away from the edges of tables and remind guests not to leave hot or alcoholic beverages within reach of small children.

13.) House guests may not be used to having small children around, so be extra vigilant about medicine bottles, unattended purses, open luggage, and other dangers that may visit along with your guests.

14.) When purchasing gifts, check labels for age recommendations. Keep in mind that even if you think a little one is advanced enough to enjoy a toy that is recommended for an older child, the toy may contain choking hazards or other dangers to a small child.

15.) Unless you like wrapping presents over and over and…well, you get the picture, avoid setting wrapped packages out under the tree if the tree is accessible to small children. Keeping your expectations in line with your child’s developmental stage is a key element to avoiding conflict in your parent/child relationship and making your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable!

16.) In the flurry of gift opening on Christmas morning, small objects from ripped open packages (like the 42 little plastic tabs to hold a $5 rattle in a cardboard box!) can end up scattered amongst the toys and boxes and paper, creating a sea of choking hazards. Keep a big box handy to throw packaging and wrapping paper into, and choose one or two toys to remove from their packaging for immediate play while putting the other opened presents away in another box to be opened later.

17.) Never let children throw wrapping paper into the fireplace, as this can cause a dangerous flash fire.

18.) Keep a close watch on your little one’s diet throughout the holidays. In the busyness of the season, nutrition often takes a backseat to convenience, and an overload of junk foods and sweets can cause tummy aches and crankiness which won’t help them or you to have a jolly holiday.

19.) Another nutritional danger of the season is unintentional weaning. If you’re nursing a little one, the constant changes in schedule, the busyness, the stress, and the baby being passed from one relative to another can result in missed feedings and reduced milk supply. Making a conscious effort to take regular nursing breaks in a quiet room with your little nursling will give both of you a chance to reconnect and de-stress a bit and keep your nursing relationship intact.

20.) Also, be very aware of your little one’s sleep patterns during the holiday season. All of the disturbances mentioned in #19 can wreak havoc on a small child’s sleep schedule and, along with the almost inevitable over-stimulation of the music, lights, and visitors, that can make the holidays a miserable time for a little person.

21.) Fireplaces should be regularly inspected to prevent chimney fires, and protective fire-screens and/or baby gates should be used to keep little ones safe.

22.) Space heaters are a well-known fire hazard. Make sure you are using them according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that they are in good working order. Never leave a small child unattended in a room with a space heater.

23.) Keep in mind that, while you know and love those visiting relatives your little one has never met, expecting a small child to instantly let a person who is a total stranger to them hold and kiss and play with them is unrealistic. If we want our children to exercise restraint and caution with random strangers at the santa picpark/mall/etc., we need to allow them to set limits they are comfortable with when it comes to physical contact and interaction with the ‘strangers’ in our homes, as well.

24.) And, last but certainly not least, while pictures of their little ones with Santa may be every parent’s heart’s desire, small children often don’t share that desire. Instead of forcing your child to sit in a strange man’s lap (not exactly a precedent we want to set for our children!), if your child isn’t comfortable with the idea, get creative and try getting pictures of your toddler standing near Santa while he plays peek-a-boo with them or try kneeling on one knee next to Santa, yourself, with your little one on your other knee. You never know, those pictures may end up being your all-time favorites!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More ideas about how to make the holiday season fun-filled and meaningful, as well as keeping the joy and wonder of childhood alive for your little ones year round:

The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate

Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

The Reason for the Season… Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy

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

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

From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques. Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Mona Lisa Smiles

[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve been ‘single-parenting’ it for almost two months now as my amazing husband has been gone day and night, working his day job and then heading nearly an hour away to help his family renovate an old home. It’s for a single mom who needs a place to move with her son because she’s losing her home to foreclosure, so there’s a time pressure involved. My husband is a skilled builder, so the renovation has fallen mainly to him, and with the narrow time frame he has to work with, the pressure has been pretty intense.

Nearly every day after work he heads straight to the reno house and works late into the night, often just staying there and sleeping so he can get up and go straight to work again. Between all of his extra driving and the times the children and I have driven over just so we can see him for a few minutes and get a tour of the work he’s doing, our gas budget has nearly doubled. That’s just not sustainable for a one-income family, so we’ve had to stop going to see him.

What that’s meant for me is a hubby who’s absent most of the time (read: no breaks for mama!) and who, when he does come home, is stressed and tired and tapped-out. Now, by ‘breaks for mama’ I don’t mean time away from my children. I don’t want or need to leave my little ones. But normally along with all of the sacrifices, compromises, and hard work that goes into keeping a long-term marriage healthy, there is companionship, caring, support, and a sharing of responsibilities.

In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone. And, of course, all of that’s in addition to him running to the store, helping out around the house, fixing what’s broken, grilling dinner occasionally, etc.

But for the last two months all of the myriad details that go into running our home…homeschooling, juggling teenagers’ schedules, shepherding a high-spirited kindergartener, keeping up with a toddler, handling the bills, doing the banking and shopping and cleaning, coping with a broken dryer, and on and on and on…have all fallen entirely to me. Add to that some pretty hefty life-stressors we’re dealing with at the moment outside of our marriage and home…

And I’m tired.

And my hubby is tired.

And we’ve unconsciously fallen into the ‘my needs vs. your needs’ vicious cycle. You know the one:

First volley: “This is what I did all day.” (Translation: I need you to acknowledge me.)
“Well, this is what I did all day.” (Translation: I need you to acknowledge me.)

Second volley: “These are the reasons I did what I did all day.”
(Translation: I need you to understand me.)
“Well, these are the reasons I did what I did all day.”
(Translation: I need you to understand me.)

Third volley: “This is why what I did was harder than what you did.”
(Translation: I really need you to hear me.)
“Well, this is why what I did was harder than what you did.”
(Translation: I really need you to hear me.)

Fourth volley: “You didn’t do this.” (Translation: I’ll make you hear me.)
“Well, you didn’t do this.” (Translation: I’ll make you hear me.)

Unmet needs result in an ever-escalating cycle of attempts to get those needs met. And, as long as those two little letters ‘vs’ stand between ‘my needs’ being met and ‘your needs’ being met, the cycle will continue. Someone has to break the cycle, and the solution is always the same: Sacrifice.

Someone has to step up and stand down. Someone has to let go of their own needs and focus on meeting the other’s needs, not in an attempt to manipulate that person to meet their own needs, but with an honest generosity of spirit, a choosing to lay down self, a living expression of love.

And ‘someone’ will. :) Our marriage wouldn’t have lasted for twenty-five years and counting, otherwise! But I wanted to share some of the dynamics of breaking the ‘need standoff’ in a relationship while they’re fresh in my mind.

There are endless contributing factors to who stands down and when, from the differences in love languages, to past hurts and experiences, to upbringing, to the circumstances of the conflict itself. And standing down can take many different forms. It may mean moving on without receiving the apology you believe you deserve. It may mean letting go of the need to explain your position. It may take the form of an apology from you or a verbal indication that you are choosing to let go of the conflict. Or it may take the form of a favorite meal, flowers, a back rub, a gift, or some other loving act.

Sometimes the one who chooses (note: an active choice, not a reactive/self-protective response as in an abusive/controlling relationship) to stand down in a relationship is the same person most, if not all, of the time. This is often the result of a peacemaking personality. If you feel you are ‘always’ the one to stand down, consider these two things:

1.) Are you really the one to always stand down or is that just a perception you need to work through?

2.) Do you have a peacemaking personality? In other words, do you tend to be the calming factor in most of your relationships?

If you do, in fact, have a peacemaking personality, be aware that it is a rare gift that comes with great responsibility. Someone once asked me why they always had to be the one to “put out the fires” in their relationship. Knowing this person to be a peacemaker in all of their relationships, I said, “Because God gave you the hose.”

While it can certainly be frustrating to be in that position, instead of letting it cause resentment to take hold, imagine how difficult life can be for those who don’t have that inner calm, and try to focus on the strengths they do have rather than fixating on the gifts they don’t have. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on people’s strengths (as well as being aware of our own weaknesses!) helps us to give them grace for their weaknesses.

*Take note, when it comes to parent/child relationships, the parent must always take the role of peacemaker, regardless of personality or gifts. Children not only don’t have an adult’s capacity for self-control, but they also don’t bear the responsibility for maintaining the relationship.

And so, in our home, with both parents tapped-out, tired, and out-of-sorts, we’ve found ourselves in that place of competing to get our needs met. Our children have, of course, joined in the ‘needs games,’ little reflectors that they are. It’s made for a less-than-joyful interval in what we typically refer to as the joyful chaos of our lives.

Then, last night as my miserably teething little milk monkey woke me up for the zillionth time with her crying and whimpering and tossing and turning and climbing from one side of me to the other and nursing and nursing and nursing and nursing until I thought I might explode, she suddenly stopped mid-climb, mid-cry, and pressed her ear against my heart. And then, with her tiny body draped across my belly and her head cradled between my breasts, she sighed and relaxed, a little Mona Lisa smile curving her sweet mouth as she finally succumbed to a peaceful sleep.

And in that moment, that tiny, mysterious, contented smile called me to surrender. To surrender to heart-meltingly sweet moments. To embrace again the extraordinary loveliness of ordinary life. To marvel at the littleness of the issues that set us apart and the bigness of the love that holds us together.

Love is a choice, not a feeling. Feelings shift, flowing now hot, now cold. They lead nowhere, and instead are misleading with their mercurial, capricious nature.

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. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13

I choose love.

Related posts:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

Your Baby isn’t Trying to Annoy You; He’s Trying to Communicate!

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

An Ordinary Man

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Breastfeeding, Babywearing & Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is no such thing as a ‘miracle’ weight-loss plan, but living a healthy, active life and eating nutritious meals doesn’t have to be all about sweat, sacrifice, and self-discipline, either. It can be about having fun, eating foods you love, and, best of all, it can fit right in with your lifestyle! By following a few basic nutritional guidelines and finding ways to fit exercise into your daily life, you can create your own ‘life plan’ and start moving toward your weight-loss and health goals.

1.)    Practice the 3 B’s

Breastfeeding~Did you know that one of the best ways to lose weight after giving birth is to breastfeed? Breastfeeding uses about 300-500 of the calories you eat each day. That means if you eat the full amount of daily recommended calories for your weight, you’re actually dieting! I don’t recommend calorie-counting as a means of weight loss, but that’s a pretty cool fact, anyway! And when you add the fact that breastfeeding significantly reduces your risk of breast cancer and is super healthy for baby…win-win-win!

Babywearing ~Did you know that in addition to all of the amazing benefits to your baby, babywearing also offers you an excellent opportunity for a daily workout?  Wearing your baby works your core and glutes specifically and gives you a full body workout, as well! Who needs a gym when housecleaning, walks on the beach, strolls through the mall, and just daily life in general are an excellent workout, all while keeping baby next to your heart and close enough for kisses?!?

Bouncing~Did you know that kegels can actually do more harm than good? Shallow knee bends like the ones mommies use instinctively when they bounce to soothe a fussy baby are the preferred method of improving the pelvic girdle! So say goodbye to the sneezing/laughing ‘leakies’ and hello to buns and thighs of steel!

2.)    Healthy Eating, It Does a Body Good

Did you know that a low fat diet can actually make you fat? A diet of full-fat milk, real butter, real cane sugar, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, fat-marbled meat, eggs, nuts of all kinds, cheeses, fruits, veggies, and whole grain pastas and breads is far more likely to help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight for life.

Along with enjoying these yummy foods, you’ll lose weight faster and be overall healthier by avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS – it’s in practically everything…breads, juices, jellies, etc…so you’ll have to read labels carefully!) and other corn-derived syrups and sugars, along with food dyes, margarine, vegetable/canola/safflower oils, and artificial sweeteners.

If you’ve got a sweet-tooth, denying yourself a treat can lead to overeating as you try to satisfy that urge with other foods. One way to combat that is to indulge in a small amount of ice cream (without HFCS or other corn syrups!) or dark chocolate, preferably in the evening because raising your blood sugar earlier in the day tends to increase your appetite for the rest of the day.

Keep in mind, letting yourself become hungry is one of the surest paths to overeating! It’s far better to eat multiple, small, snack-type meals throughout the day than to wait for meals when you’ll be hungrier and more likely to eat too much. Other benefits to ‘snacking’ instead of eating three full-on meals are 1.) Maintaining a consistent blood sugar, which aids in appetite control and helps your body escape the ‘survival’ instinct to store fat; 2.) Reducing your appetite naturally by eating smaller amounts at a time which helps your stomach to shrink; and 3.) Increasing your metabolism by consistently keeping your digestive system heated up in ‘burn mode.’

Sample meal plan:

1st Breakfast~

¼ cup almonds & ¼ cup raisins

2nd Breakfast~

1 whole egg (Yes, eat the yolk, too! That’s where most of the healthy nutrients are.)

1 Whole wheat English muffin with real butter and ¼ cup natural fruit preserves

8 oz. cottage cheese

Elevensees~

½ cup pretzels & 2 oz. whole-fat cheese

Lunch~

Spinach salad with ¼ cup shredded carrots, ¼ cup dried apricots or cranberries, 2 oz. whole-fat shredded cheese, 4 oz. shredded pork,  2 tbs. minced almonds or sunflower seeds , and 2-4 tbs. Balsamic Vinaigrette (Read the label and watch out for HFCS!)

Tea~

8 oz. yogurt & ¼ cup granola & ¼ cup berries

Supper~

Fettucini Alfredo, Meatball Sub, Pizza, whatever you want! Just fill up your plate as you normally would, then put back half. After you eat, wait 20 minutes and, if you’re still hungry, eat ¼ of what you put back. (Supper is where most people ‘fail’ because that’s the time most social eating occurs. Rather than denying yourself and setting yourself up for failure, this plan allows you to enjoy the foods and social life you’re accustomed to, while still cutting out ¼ to ½ of the calories you’d normally eat at this meal.)

Dessert~

For those with a sweet tooth, after supper is the best time for a few ounces of dark chocolate or ice cream! Pastries and cakes aren’t good choices for a treat, but if you indulge occasionally, no worries :)

Bedtime snack~

¼ cup almonds & ¼ cup dried pomegranates or cranberries

You can take this sample plan and switch out items from the same food group so it fits your tastes. For instance, if you don’t like salads, you could switch out the lunch salad with a baked whole grain pork burrito and top it with lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc. Just try to make sure that for every protein/fruit/veggie/dairy you take out, you put the same amount back in. (Sorry about The Hobbit reference. I couldn’t resist!)

3.)    A Grateful Heart is a Healthy Heart

Science has proven that a good outlook on life improves not only the quality of a person’s life, but also the length and health aspects of their life. Taking time to intentionally focus on the good things in your life will improve your health, satisfaction, and overall happiness. Here are some ideas:

A.)  Get outdoors! Heading out into the sunshine has been shown to improve a person’s mood as well as their health. There’s something about standing in the midst of towering trees or watching butterflies flutter by in the garden that makes stress just melt away. (And a daily dose of sunshine-induced Vitamin D is good for your bones!)

B.)   Walka-Walka-Walka! Walking improves circulation and deepens breathing, both of which will make you feel more alive and ready to take on the world!

C.)   Count your blessings! Taking time each day to list and be thankful for the good things in your life helps to create balance, making life feel more manageable when it begins to feel overwhelming.

D.)  Volunteer! Reaching out to help your fellow humans in need is a great way to make your life feel a lot more purposeful and to help you get a healthy perspective on the stresses in your life.

E.)   Laugh out loud! We all type that little ‘lol’ all the time when we’re online, but did you know that actually doing it, really and truly laughing out loud, releases stress-relieving, feel-good endorphins in our bodies? So watch a comedy routine, catch a funny old sit-com rerun, or just sit and enjoy a child playing for ten minutes, and you’ll be sure to laugh away the blues!

*Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. This is a guide (not a diet) that I created to return to my pre-pregnancy (Well, pre-pregnancies, actually, since I have six children!) shape and weight in a healthy and swift fashion and that I continue to follow for weight maintenance and healthy nutrition. This guideline is not designed for special health needs. Be sure to check with your doctor or other health professional if you have any health concerns.

Related posts:

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Picky Eater? Here’s Help!

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

Parenting, Trickery & The Great Obesity Lie

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Picky Eater? Here’s Help!

[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost.  Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was one of those children who was incredibly picky when it came to food and, despite my mom’s gently enforced ‘one bite rule,’ I went on to become an incredibly picky eater as an adult, as well. I vividly remember as a young child gagging as I tried to force down a bite, my throat feeling like it was closing up, and like there was no way food was going to fit through there. As a very compliant child, it bothered me immensely to disappoint my mom, and, being the logical person that I was even at that young age, I remember feeling that her expectations were very reasonable and being frustrated at my own inability to comply.

Fast forward a few years to when I began having children of my own and needed to make parenting decisions about everything from breastfeeding to cosleeping to discipline. On my journey to gentle parenting I revisited my childhood memories often, finding myself appreciating my mom’s gentleness and her way of using silliness to help me see the ‘silver lining’ in life when things were hard. In some things, I chose to follow the parenting path my mom took, and in others I took a different course and blazed my own trail.

When I was at university, I worked as a certified nutrition consultant with a focus on natural approaches to nutrition, health, and fitness. I took that knowledge, along with my studies in developmental psychology, human behavior, and communication, and incorporated all of it into my parenting decisions.

As I muddled through the toddler years with my firstborn, I decided to take an approach to nutrition that was unheard of, as far as I knew. I would offer to nurse, offer the food on my plate, and offer food I’d made specifically for him, and then let my little man decide. That was the beginning of our baby led weaning, though I didn’t know that term at the time.

What I discovered then and have seen proven time and again through the years with my own six very different children as well as with the families I’ve worked with is that, given the freedom to choose, children will generally experiment with more textures and tastes than if they are forced to eat their parents’ choice of food for them. It’s simply human nature that, if a child (or an adult, for that matter!) knows that they don’t have to try a new food and that they can run to the trashbin and spit it out if they do try it and don’t like it, then they are far, far more likely to give it a chance. And if they don’t try it the first time it’s offered, or if they do try it and don’t like it, making it available again off and on in the future will give them more opportunities to try the food and perhaps end up liking it when their tastes mature a bit more.

In our home, my children know that if they don’t like what’s being served for a meal there is always an alternative in the form of a PB&J or a reheat later if they just aren’t hungry at mealtime, though if we’re sitting down together I do expect them to sit with the family and chat with us while we eat. Even if they like the food being served, they may not feel hungry for a heavy meal just then or perhaps the last time they ate that meal their tummy got upset or maybe there are other reasons they don’t want the meal that they simply can’t articulate. As the adult, I can choose to make an issue out of it and end up in an unnecessary power struggle, or I can choose to offer my children the same respect I offer myself, because you can bet your bottom dollar that if I don’t want to eat something, I’m not eating it!

Among the many benefits of this approach, beyond the greater propensity for a child to experiment with tastes and textures and beyond the elimination of mealtime battles, I also saved myself a ton of mommy guilt through the years. I had no way of knowing early on that my renaissance girl had Sensory Processing Disorder which was strongly affecting her ability to eat or that my little caboose was missing an enzyme and couldn’t eat meat. Had I spent their toddler years forcing foods on them and engaging in coercive or punitive mealtime parenting, the damage to our relationship, not to mention their health, could have been disastrous. Additionally, children who feel powerless over their lives can begin trying to recapture a sense of power by exercising excessive control over their eating with the danger of a resulting eating disorder when they get into their teen years.

So, on a practical level how do you get a toddler or preschooler to eat? Well, first and foremost, rigidly scheduling mealtimes creates a battleground in and of itself. Toddlers’ and preschoolers’ ever-shifting growth patterns cause them to go through slow-growth periods where they simply aren’t hungry and other periods where they’re hungry 24/7! Grazing, or eating multiple small meals and snacks throughout the day, not only fits these growth patterns better, but is actually a much healthier way for all of us to eat because it stabilizes blood sugar which, when low, leads to overeating as does simply eating because ‘it’s time.’ Teaching our little ones to listen to their bodies’ hunger cues is a hugely positive step toward avoiding obesity later in life, as well!

Secondly, a combination of keeping little ones active so they work up a good appetite (which also sets them on the path toward an active physical lifestyle!) and offering a variety of healthy foods throughout the day will typically be all it takes to meet their nutrition requirements. As a general guideline, toddlers and preschoolers need:

  • Two to three servings of dairy (i.e. 1 oz. cheese, ½ cup milk, ½ cup yogurt);
  • Four to six servings of grains (i.e. ½ slice bread, ½ cup non-sugared cereal, ¼  cup pasta, 2 crackers);
  • Two servings of protein (i.e. two 1” squares of chicken, fish, or beef);
  • Two to three servings of veggies (i.e. 2 tbs peas, corn, cauliflower, etc);
  • And two to three servings of fruit (i.e. ½ banana, apple, orange, etc., ¼ cup raisins, blueberries, raspberries, 3-4 strawberries or grapes, etc)

Here are some fun ways to invite your little ones to make healthy eating choices:

 

~Breakfast ideas~

  • Need an easy and healthy breakfast for little ones? Try an ice cream cone filled with almonds & bite sized chunks of fruit & cheese!
  • Start little people’s day healthy & happy. Make a smiley face clock on their plate with almonds, cheese & fruit with yogurt to dip them in!
  • Try making ‘apple cookies’ (apples sliced into round discs) into faces with almonds, raisins & cheese!
  • Sundae breakfast! Yogurt sprinkled with granola & raisins & nuts & drizzled with local honey (helps control seasonal allergies, too), yummy! *Note: Never feed honey to a baby under a year old.

  • Here comes the sun! Make frozen pancakes more healthy by surrounding them with fruit & topping with berries & almonds & drizzling with local honey!

 

~Lunch ideas~

  • Banana Boats~Slice of whole wheat bread spread with peanut butter & local honey & wrapped around a banana. Top with just a sprinkle of brown sugar for a treat!
  • Double Trouble~Celery, carrot & pretzel sticks with a scoop of cottage cheese & a scoop of peanut butter for double dipping!
  • Picasso PB&J’s~Round whole wheat flat bread with small dollops of peanut butter, fruit preserves & yogurt around the edge in a colorful palate with pretzel sticks for paint brushes!

 

~Dinner ideas~

  • Boil some cauliflower, carrots, zucchini & yellow squash until a bit mushy & puree.

1) Mix with your favorite meatloaf recipe for a hidden veggie serving!

2) Mix with spaghetti sauce & freeze in single serving containers.

 

  • Spaghetti Twisters~Make rotini noodles instead of spaghetti noodles for a cute ‘twist’ and add your special spaghetti sauce for a tornado of veggie goodness!
  • Pizza Racers~Use rectangular flatbread & lightly coat with olive oil and broil for a couple of minutes to crisp it up, then add your souped-up spaghetti sauce & let your little ones top with mozzarella ‘racing stripes’ & pepperoni ‘racing tires’ for a super-charged dinner!

 

  • Pureed cauliflower also works great mixed with mac & cheese, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for a hidden veggie to round out any meal!

 

Related posts:

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!

Practical Gentle Discipline Guide

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

A Place to Rest~Becoming Your Child’s Safe Harbor

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

I Am Your Parent

The Butterfly Effect

Your Baby isn’t Trying to Annoy You; He’s Trying to Communicate!

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


I Spy…A Bad Mom

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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 26-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 26 (almost 27 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 homeschool. 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 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!

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

Motherhood~The Timeless Tapestry

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Love in the Time of Cosleeping

[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost. Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

Last night I had a horrible nightmare. I woke up in the middle of the night, shaken and scared, heart pounding, and instinctively reaching out for my husband’s hand. I just needed that warm, human connection for a moment to reassure me, and then I’d be able to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t reach him.

My hubby is all elbows and knees when he sleeps, so we’ve got a mini-mountain out of a rolled-up comforter down the middle of the bed to protect my little nursling, who sleeps tucked against my side every night. Last night she was a bit restless from teething, poor thing, and I couldn’t reach around her far enough to touch my husband’s hand. I tried shifting her, but she started waking up. I tried stretching my leg out just to touch his foot…well, his knee, actually, since he’s about a foot taller than me. But I just couldn’t reach him, no matter what I tried.

As I lay there, trying and failing to reach him and too scared to go back to sleep, I thought about how it would be to be a helpless baby or small child, scared and alone in the dark, unable to reach out for the comfort of human contact from those I trusted and loved the most. And my heart broke at the thought of parents who’d been misled and intimidated by self-proclaimed parenting ‘experts’ into sleep-training their precious babies instead of responding to their cries.

Love has many faces, I think we can all agree. Sleep-training parents love their little ones as much as cosleeping parents, of that I have no doubt. All of us are simply trying to do our best, with the knowledge and experience and belief system we have, to give our children the best start in life possible.

In our home, love dances through our days in many forms, from a hard-working man to a homeschooling mama, to a gaggle of silly, messy, adorable children who make every day an adventure.

And at night, love takes the form of cosleeping. Love whispers quietly in the soft snores of a big bear of a man I’ve coslept with for more than 25 years now and in the snuggles and dream nursing of our newest little blessing. In the deep of the night, love is a six-year-old stumbling sleepily into our room and settling onto the always-available pallet beside our bed or a teenager, woken by the 4 am thumping and bumping of their father getting ready in the dark to head out for work, slipping into my room with a quiet, “Mom, are you awake? Can we talk?” (The best conversations with teens always seem to be those wee-hours-of-the-morning talks :) )

It does my heart good to see that, as science reveals new facts about the dangers of crying-it-out (CIO) and the value of cosleeping (whether it’s bed-sharing, a side-car, or room-sharing) in improving breastfeeding success, more and more parents are turning away from the separation-style parenting popularized in the 1950’s with its forced-independence and baby-training emphasis and are moving back toward following their God-given instincts in raising their children.

Just as I, an adult mother of six, yearn to have my needs met even when that need is a simple touch to soothe me back to sleep after a nightmare, I want to always try fill those spaces for my children, day or night. Cosleeping with our children won’t be forever. It’s a brief season in a lifetime of ever-changing needs. But it is one face of love that, for us,  meets so many needs simply and naturally that I can’t imagine life without it!

Interested in learning more about safe cosleeping? Check out the links below. If you’re looking for ways to gently wean your little one into their own sleeping space, here are a few ideas:

1.) Place a mattress beside your bed and start out each night there with your little cosleeper, then move up to your bed when they are fully asleep. When they wake, be sure to either take them back into your bed with you or join them on the mattress to make the transition as seamless as possible. (You can also start out the night in your bed as usual and move them to a small toddler bed beside your bed once they fall asleep fully if that works better for your space.)

2.) When you feel they are comfortable with the new arrangement, move the mattress a bit farther from your bed, either against the wall or at the foot of your bed, and repeat the same process of starting the night with them and welcoming them into your bed or joining them on the mattress if they wake.

3.) The next step is to move the mattress into their room and repeat the process.

4.) When you feel they are spending enough time in their room each night to feel comfortable with it, you can try staying with them until they are almost asleep and then telling them you are going to the bathroom or to brush your teeth (make sure you actually do what you say you’re going to do!) and will be right back. Come back quickly so they will be reassured that you can still be trusted. If they follow you or get upset, wait and try this step again in a week or two.

5.) When they are happy to stay in bed waiting for your return, start letting them spend a bit longer alone. Always tell them what you are going to do, and always do just what you said. Make sure to return when you are done so they know they can trust you and don’t need to come get you.

6.) Over time, this gradual weaning will result in them falling asleep on their own, and you can move on to the stage of books and cuddles and hugs and telling them goodnight, then leaving them with the reassurance that you’ll be back to check on them in a bit. Of course, always come back and check like you said you would!

7.) I can’t emphasize enough that this is a trust issue. The more that you honor what you say and stay in tune with their needs, the smoother and easier the process will go for both of you. :)

 

SIDS: The Latest Research on How Sleeping With Your Baby is Safe | Dr. Sears Official Website | Pare
Dr. Sears is considered the leading authority on gentle/attachment parenting and is a proponent of co-sleeping. Here he examines the research linking decreased SIDS risks with the increase in co-sleeping rates. Dr. Sears~ ”Here are some ways to educate parents on how to sleep safely with their baby.”

 

Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone
“In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. For breastfeeding mothers, bedsharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions while permitting both mothers and infants to spend more time asleep.”

 

Sleeping with Baby: Breastfeeding, Night Waking, and Protection from SIDS

Why frequent night-waking is normal and protective.
Sleep Safety from Dr. Sears

Links to research and safe cosleeping guidelines.

 

Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple – Breastfeeding Reporter – Unintended Consequences
“By emphasizing how to create a safe sleeping environment—rather than trying to browbeat parents into avoiding bedsharing—more babies’ lives would be spared.  And as an extra plus, more families would also get a better night’s sleep!”

 

 Baby Brain Science: How Excessive Crying Can Be Harmful

Related posts:

Toddler Fighting Sleep? 20 Peaceful Sleepy-Time Tips

25 Tips to Prepare Children for a New Sibling

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

Transitioning from Cosleeping: A Toddler’s Own Space

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

The Terrible Trouble with Toothbrushing: A Toddler’s Perspective

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Shared Journeys~Attachment Parenting

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…

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.

Our Learning Lately

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!

Redirection and Mutual Solutions

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:

Skeptical About 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)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Related posts:

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Baby Led Weaning

And Baby Makes Three~Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

Bizarre Anti-Cosleeping Ads in Milwaukee a Red Herring?

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

The Measure of Success~Chinese Parents and French Parents Can’t BOTH Be Superior!

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

In Cold Blood

 

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


In the Best Interests of the Child

You are peacefully breastfeeding your 15 month old baby, cuddled up together in bed like every other night, when a hard pounding on the door jolts your little one awake. As you try to soothe her tears, two police officers and a social worker come into the room. The police read a warrant while the social worker snatches your little one out of your arms and marches out of the room, and the sound of your precious baby’s traumatized screams fade into the night.

 

Your homeschool year has ended and your family is boarding a flight, happily anticipating an exciting move back to your family’s country of origin. Suddenly, a fully armed police unit storms the plane and snatches your son out of his seat. You rush after them, begging them to give your son back to you, only to watch helplessly as your son is taken away by social services, bewildered tears running down his face.

 

You arrive to pick up your preschooler from daycare and are suddenly surrounded, handcuffed, and taken into custody where you are strip-searched with no explanation. Meanwhile, a contingent of officers has stormed your house, and Social Services has seized your children and is interrogating your pregnant wife, again with no explanation

 

While these scenes may seem like they’re straight out of a made-for-tv movie script, they are actually based on real events. In 2011, fifteen-month-old baby Alma was taken from her young mother when Spanish officials decided that breastfeeding and cosleeping were not acceptable forms of parenting. In Sweden in 2009, seven-year-old Dominic was snatched off of a plane and taken into protective custody where he remains to this day. His parents were accused of homeschooling him. And in Canada in March of 2012, little four-year-old Nevaeh set off a firestorm in the life of her family when she drew a picture of her daddy fighting monsters with a gun.

 

Scenes like these and others are played out in nations around the world when parental choices come into conflict with governmental controls. In nations governed by dictatorships, military rule, and communist parties, the abuses of the power wielded by officials are unfortunate facts of life, and parental choice is a foreign concept. But in democratic nations, parents expect to be able to exercise their rights to make life decisions for their family, including their underage children, without undue interference from their government. Increasingly, however, these parents are discovering just how vulnerable they are to governmental incursion into the heart of their homes. 

 

The desire to give every child a safe, healthy, and happy upbringing and stellar education is certainly a worthy cause. However, the belief that government, that faceless entity populated by an ever-shifting power base and mercurial agenda, should have the final say in what is ‘best for the child’ is an idealistic hope at best and a dangerous arsenal at worst. Enacting and enforcing laws to protect and provide for children is a wise course, but cultures vary world-wide in what is defined as child abuse, what is viewed as proper housing and provision, and what is considered effective education.

 

In Bali, a thatch, open-air bungalow would be considered perfectly acceptable accommodation, while in the United States a home with no windows or electricity would be grounds for removal of a child into protective services. In Finland, children aren’t expected to even begin formal education until a minimum of age seven, whereas in Japan such educational standards would be considered seriously deficient and even harmful. In the Middle East, young boys are often subject to physical punishment in their religious training, but such actions in Switzerland would result in prosecution.

 

Having a one-world standard is, then, clearly problematic. But even on a smaller scale, the idea that government is a better caretaker and decision-maker for a nation’s children than their parents is insidiously taking root. Children in the U.K. have been removed from their homes due to educational choices that were once considered the prerogative of parents. Parents have gone into hiding in Australia for making vaccination choices for their children that went against their government’s edicts. U.S. children not old enough to see a pediatrician for an ear infection without having a parent present have been given access to abortion and vaccination without parental consent or notification.

 

In an era where cultural diversity has become a cultural icon in and of itself, one would expect the idea of whitewashing childhood into an institutional lunch-line to be rejected out-of-hand. But the emotional tug of sensationalized stories of child abuse and neglect is powerful and a far too alluring force for power-mongers to ignore. Harnessing that emotional train to usurp parental choice and enforce government controls is a pattern used to great and terrible effect in the past in Nazi Germany and more recently in The People’s Republic of China, among others, with human rights always, always, suffering in the process. The idea of allowing the same ideology of governmental controls to be implemented to protect human rights, specifically children’s rights, is counter-intuitive and doomed to the same misuse of power history has revealed time and time again.

 

There is absolutely no doubt that laws and regulations need to be in place to protect children. The question is, should the power to define what constitutes the rights of a child be given to an unelected global council which does not and cannot share a common culture? Even on a national level, how much power and control should government have over the private lives of its citizens?

 

Clearly there must be some norm, some agreement on what constitutes a safe and healthy childhood. But how far should it be permitted to go? Should government be given the power to co-parent, as claimed by the Canadian officials in the case of little Nevaeh? Should they be allowed to determine whether the turkey sandwich you sent to school with your child fits their standards and replace your choices with chicken nuggets as occurred in a North Carolina elementary school or send your five-year-old home with welts on his bottom from being paddled with a 16″ board without your knowledge or permission as happened to a Florida preschooler? And who should decide? A faceless global council? A distant national committee? Local government officials? Parents?

 

There are no easy answers, and yet the stakes are huge. We must protect those who can’t protect themselves…these small humans who come into the world so perfect and so helpless, who contain the next generation of scientists and sculptors in their ranks, who will one day run our world.

 

The question is this: Who has ‘the best interests of the child’ in their hearts and minds for your child? Should you have the right and privilege of deciding if and for how long to breastfeed, whether or not to vaccinate, how and where your child should be educated? Or should the government have the right to dictate those choices and more for you and your child?

 

Abuses of rights will always exist as long as humans are human. But taking away those rights from the many because of the abuses of the few would be a crime in and of itself. We so often hear, “I’ll make my choices and you make yours and we’ll all get along.” But just as often we hear, “There ought to be a law…” And the truth is that there do need to be laws, laws to protect the helpless and laws to enforce those protections. But who do you want those laws to be written by? Someone you elect and can un-elect if they become power-hungry and corrupt? Or someone distant, unconnected, unaccountable who can and, historically speaking, will misuse their power because they, too, are human?

 

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to have the conversations, explore the possibilities, and evaluate the options so I can do my part to contribute an educated and thoughtful voice to a global issue that is sure to be an ever-evolving and ever-controversial dialogue. And I’m willing to do the ‘boots on the ground’ work of educating parents about the needs of their children and about gentle, effective parenting choices. I’m willing to step up and step in if I see a child in need. I’m willing to spend my time and resources helping organizations such as Bead For Life empower women in third world countries to become strong, independent people so they can provide food, shelter, and an education to their children. And I’m willing to stand firmly and openly against so-called ‘parenting experts’ such as Gary Ezzo and Michael Pearl who promote rigid child-training and corporal punishment of small children. 

 

If we as individuals, the grassroots ingredients of change, commit to support and educate families, protect and speak up for children, and provide a helping hand to those in need, we can shrink a global mountain into a local molehill. I’m in. Are you? 

 

Related posts:

The Measure of Success~Chinese Parents and French Parents Can’t BOTH Be Superior!

A Return to Childhood

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

 

A Mile in Their Shoes

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


A Return to Childhood

[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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?

quote reach for the stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think my little dirt magnet enjoyed her homeschool day?

 

Related posts:

The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!

Raising Bookworms

The Measure of Success~Chinese Parents and French Parents Can’t BOTH Be Superior!

If You Give A Toddler A Book…

Alphabet Fun~Imagination From A to Z!

Live to Play~Play to Learn~Learn to Live!

One Slippery Sock & Other Silly Tools for your Parenting Toolbox!

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.