I was at the park with my little ones yesterday and got a text from one of my older children. Not an uncommon occurrence since I have six children, all the way from a 24-year-old married father of two down to a nursling of my own. As I looked up from my phone after returning the text, I saw a young mom glance quickly away from me, obvious disapproval on her face. I suddenly realized I was a bad mom…you know, ‘that’ mom at the park or ballet lesson or soccer game who ignores her kids in favor of her iphone.
When my phone buzzed again with a return text, I hesitated for a moment before I caught myself, laughed, and responded to my son’s text. I’ve been a parent for 24 (almost 25 now!) years, and I know better. I am no longer crushed or even influenced by the occasional disapproving glances when I nurse in public or say those three controversial words, “We don’t vaccinate,” or when I don’t spank my toddler for…well, anything, ever! I am confident and comfortable enough in my parenting after all these years to neither hide nor flaunt my choices to breastfeed, cosleep, babywear, homeschool, and discipline gently.
And, on the flipside of that coin, I’ve been a parent long enough to know that you don’t give birth and suddenly just know all there is to know about parenting. My own journey to gentle parenting was just that, a journey. We’re all learning ‘on the job,’ literally, and on top of that we’re all just humans raising humans and can and will make mistakes, no matter how much experience we have.
Breast or bottle. Demand or schedule feeding. Thumb, dummy, or mama as a pacifier. Public, private, or home school. Vax’ing, delayed vax’ing, or non-vax’ing. The list of differences among good parents doing the best they know how to do with the knowledge and experience they have is endless.
No, I don’t agree with all parenting choices. Yes, I can and will share my own experiences and beliefs. And, yes, I am passionate about my beliefs.
But I didn’t get to this place of comfort and confidence in my parenting overnight. And so I can and do give grace to those who aren’t making what I consider to be the best parenting choices or who aren’t confident enough about their own parenting to give grace to me when my choices don’t agree with theirs.
So, what are my personal parenting beliefs? Glad you asked!
- I believe that breastfeeding provides not only the best nutrition for babies and the best bonding experience for mamas and babies, but also cannot be replicated by formula if for no other reason than that it is a living organism that evolves as a baby grows to meet the baby’s changing nutritional and immunity needs. I believe it is also best for our society as well as our planet for reasons you can read about here. But if you bottle feed, I won’t roll my eyes at you in public.
- I believe that cosleeping not only helps new babies acclimate to this strange, new world, but that it also aids in the establishment of breastfeeding, is protective against SIDS, and actually helps exhausted new mamas to get more sleep. You can read about safe cosleeping practices and research here. But if you don’t cosleep, I won’t de-friend you.
- I believe that wearing babies helps them acquire head control and core strength without the discomfort of ‘tummy-time,’ aids in the development of proper hip alignment, and frees up mama’s (or daddy’s!) hands for other tasks, all while keeping their sweet little baby faces close enough for lots of kisses. You can find tons of information, links, and even some instructional YouTube videos here. But if you never wear your baby, I won’t hang you out to dry.
- I believe that herd immunity is a myth, that vaccine ingredients such as formaldehyde and aluminum are contributors to the skyrocketing autism and autoimmune disorder rates, that the immune system cannot be ‘tricked’ into providing immunity with any reliable efficacy, and that the pharmaceutical industry is calling the shots rather than the medical community. You can read more here. But I won’t talk about you behind your back if you choose to vaccinate your children.
- I believe that gentle and respectful discipline models the kind of self-controlled, compassionate, and responsible adults we all would like our children to turn out to be. And I believe that harsh and rigid discipline with punitive consequences produces negative long-term effects. For some gentle discipline ideas, click here. But if you subscribe to a different discipline style than mine, I won’t lecture you…though I will try to model a gentler approach.
And one last thing. Before the advent of iphones and ipads, moms like me would often bring books to the park and read them in between pushing our little ones on the swings and catching them at the end of the slide. We’d sit and chat with other mamas and daddies at ballet and soccer practice in between watching our children become what we were sure were going to be prima ballerinas or the next Pelé. We felt no guilt reading our books and chatting with friends. We still met our children’s needs. We laughed at their antics and kissed their boo-boos. We cheered them on and called out helpful ‘tips’ and encouragement. And these days if we occasionally answer a text or update our Facebook status in between interactions with our children, that’s okay, too. “Everything in moderation”…that’s my motto!
May 14, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, motherhood, natural parenting, nonvaxing, nursing, positive discipline, positive parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, natural parenting, positive parenting | 16 Comments »
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
Wearing your baby against your heart is one of the most beautiful and bonding experiences you can have with your little one after giving birth. Studies have even shown that mamas and babies can synchronize their heartbeats with a simple smile! Clearly, wearing your baby within kissing distance, where the slightest tilt of the head brings your smile into focus for your precious new little one, is a wonderful gift of connection that has benefits far, far beyond our understanding!
I have six children, so I can testify to the extreme value of babywearing for being able to continue with a busy life after giving birth to a tiny new person. From attending sports practices to grocery shopping to making dinner to housecleaning, babywearing is a life-saver, not to mention a great source of exercise to get that pre-baby body back!
In addition to the benefits to a busy mama, babywearing can also replace tummy-time for little ones who don’t enjoy being stuck on the floor. While being worn, babies’ core and neck muscles are being strengthened by the motion of a mother’s body while she walks and bends and moves throughout the day.
I’ve been gathering resources for a babywearing post and couldn’t resist using this cute picture to illustrate it even though the little guy isn’t in the best position for hip health. But I just love seeing daddies wearing babies as well as mommies wearing babies. Check out the resources below for information about the different kinds of carriers available, different kinds of positions you can use, health and development benefits, how to make your own no-sew wrap, and more!
Informative articles and answers to common babywearing questions from Dr. Sears.
Tons of articles and resources about babywearing from one of my favorite baby carrier providers, Boba.
Lots of excellent babywearing information from an extremely versatile carrier from another favorite of mine, Onya Baby.
Peer reviewed articles, scientific studies and analysis, historical precedent, cultural influence, and more from TheBabyWearer.com
Over one thousand babywearing products reviewed…almost seven thousand reviews!
From “Don’t you ever put that poor baby down?” to “My baby did just fine in a buggy”…here are some lovely suggestions for gentle responses to negative comments.
Proper baby carrier positioning recommendations from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
And some YouTube finds…
How to make a no-sew wrap:
A mama of twins demonstrates front and back carries…
The old preacher’s slightly shaky voice and once-hearty arthritic hands spoke of life and experience and hard-won wisdom as he held up a dusty tapestry with the backside facing us. The tangle of threads that seemed to go nowhere and snarl of multicolored knots gave no hint of the picture on the other side. “This is what we see,” he said. Then he turned the tapestry around to display the intricate, painstakingly crafted, exquisite picture on the front side. “And this is what God is doing.” He looked around the room, a kind and gentle understanding in his age-dimmed gaze. “Faith is trusting that your Father’s hands are carefully weaving a beautiful life’s story, even when all you can see is chaos.”
I remember this story often when life feels overwhelming, when big things like layoffs and sicknesses hit, and when small things like cranky toddlers, piles of laundry, and broken a/c units annoy. What feels to me like an endless cycle of dishes and diapers, punctuated by the odd disaster, must look like brilliant threads of golden perseverance, scarlet sacrifice, and soft blue-grey shades of faith, all woven tenderly into my life’s tapestry in my Father’s skillful hands.
I imagine life feels this way to my children, as well. As I try to teach and guide and nourish and encourage my children to grow into the beautiful humans they were created to be, they may not see the picture I am trying to weave.
They may not understand why they’re gently redirected when they try to crawl up the stairs or why bugs don’t make a good afternoon snack. They may not be able to fathom why their new dragonfly ‘pet’ isn’t allowed in the house or why they can’t hide in “the best hiding place EVER” in a hot car on a steamy Florida afternoon. They may not agree with the no-social-media rule and lack of a cell phone in their early teen years when “everybody has one!” And they may not fully get why the mall is not an approved hangout spot and why periodic texts to check in when out with friends are part of our family rules in their later teen years.
But, while these things may seem like meaningless threads or even unnecessary knots and tangles in their lives, the trust we share helps them to accept what they don’t understand, knowing that I have a purpose for each of these things even if they can’t see it.
It is that trust, that faith in my motives, my wisdom, my love, that makes gentle parenting possible. I don’t have to enforce my ‘rules’ with punishments or control my children with threats or intimidation because they know that I have their best interests at heart and that I will always, always listen to their concerns, even if I can’t change things or give them what they want.
I start building that trust from the moment my children are born and continue building it throughout their childhood. I respond quickly and consistently to their cries, whether they are eight days, eight years, or eighteen years old. I meet their needs as fully as I am able, whether those needs are a clean diaper, a full belly, a listening ear, or a warm hug. I respond gently and thoughtfully to their behaviors, whether they are having a meltdown, whining, tattling, questioning, or even challenging me.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’m honest about my own imperfections, am willing to apologize when I make one of my many parenting mistakes, and don’t expect perfection from my very human children.
Life is messy. No one has all the answers, at least not earth-side. But we can all trust that this sometimes bewildering, sometimes joyful, sometimes flat-out painful chaos called life has meaning and purpose and beauty beyond the scope of human sight. And as we carefully and gently weave the strands of our children’s days into a beautiful childhood, we can trust that our Father is thoughtfully and tenderly doing the same for us.
On a somewhat side note, my stillborn son, Sammy’s, birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. While he’s always in my heart, as his birthday approaches my heart tightens in my chest a bit more each day until the ache becomes almost unbearable, and then finally the day passes and I can breathe again. I wonder how tragedy must look from Heaven’s side. I wonder about my Sammy and my other lost babies, gone before they even had birthdays. What colors did they add to my story? What eternal beauty did they bring that would have made my tapestry incomplete if they had not come and gone, so heartbreakingly briefly, into my life? While I feel holes in my heart, one for each much-wanted child, and an aching cavern of loss for my Sammy, would my life have been complete without them? I can’t answer these questions. I won’t even try. But I imagine that is where faith stretches its silken blue-grey threads across my story like the fragile gossamer wings of a butterfly.
“Now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see clearly, face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
May 11, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, birth, character, children, Christian, Christian parenting, communication, family, gentle parenting, life, loss, miscarriage, motherhood, pregnancy loss, teens, wisdom | Tags: adolescence, attachment, attachment parenting, Bible, children, Christian, Christian parenting, gentle parenting, sacrifice, stillbirth, teens | 4 Comments »
[Portions reprinted with permission from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost available June 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon.]
The evolution of children’s communication proceeds at a steady and relatively predictable pace, though the timing is influenced by factors such as individual personality, cognitive development, home environment, etc. Here’s what to expect through the ages and stages…
Building a trust-based relationship with your child starts, literally, at birth. Those precious moments after baby is placed on mama’s belly, the beginning days and nights spent adjusting to the newness of life, those first exhausting weeks trying to get into the rhythm of parenthood, all offer the opportunity to establish a foundation of trust to build a healthy parent/child relationship upon. Research has shown hints of the remarkable ability of newborns to communicate their needs… Read more
Every child knows the power of The No to circumvent the most well-laid plans. Even tiny babies just weeks into the world are introduced to its power when they grasp a fistful of hair while nursing or reach for some lovely, squishy stuff while getting a diaper change. That itty bitty two-letter word is packed with a force beyond comprehension to a toddler, and when they finally figure out how to wrap their little lips around those letters and form the word “NO!” themselves, the possibilities seem limitless!
Do you want a cookie? “No!”…Well, actually, yes, but how cool is it that when I said “No!” I controlled whether or not someone gave me a cookie!
Do you want Daddy to hold you? “No!” Well, yes, but I got to decide whether someone held me or not for a change!
So what’s a mommy or daddy to do when confronted with The No from their little one? Read more
Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on.
Whining, believe it or not, is an advanced skill… Read more
Tattling is, in effect, a child seeking wise counsel for a situation they don’t know how to handle. When faced with a conflict that just weeks or months earlier would have resulted in tears or snatching or hitting or some combination of all three, a child who has matured and begun to develop some self-control is learning to stop and think instead of just react. But what do they do if no solution presents itself? What if they’ve tried to reason or negotiate with the object of their conflict and been unable to come to a resolution?
What do adults do when they don’t know what to do? Well, they either respond with maturity and seek out someone they respect and trust to help them deal with the situation, or they degenerate into chaotic emotions and resort to anger, power-plays, manipulation, etc. Often their response is influenced by their own childhood and how they were taught or not taught, as they case may be, to handle conflict… Read more
“Why are oranges orange?”
“Why don’t snakes have legs?”
“Why don’t we live on the moon?”
“Why does ice have to be cold?”
“Why can’t my frog sleep in my bed?”
“Why don’t clouds come in my window?”
Why? Why? Why do they always ask why? As annoying as it certainly can be, the ‘why’ stage serves several extremely important purposes.
It is during this stage that children have fully made the cognitive shift to understanding that they are an entirely separate person from their parents, and, in healthy parent/child relationships, with that knowledge comes a need to literally ‘investigate’ their parents, find out what makes them tick, how they think, who they are. The ultimate purpose of this ‘probing’ is identifying with their parents by examining and internalizing their values, knowledge, and belief systems.
As children begin identifying with who their parents are, they are also learning problem solving skills by listening to their parents’ thought processes. Read more
Once children have a solid grasp of language and have developed more advanced reasoning and processing skills, and once they’ve examined the in’s and out’s of their parents’ thoughts and beliefs, they begin to turn their attention to discovering their own interests and gifts and personalities.
Parents often begin to notice their children ‘becoming their own person’ during this time and we hear laments such as “She’s eight going on eighteen” and “He’s already changed career plans four times, and he’s only ten!” It is during this period in childhood that children often develop into a chatterbox or a dreamer, though most will be unique combinations of the two… Read more
Your ‘middle’ or teen’s vocabulary may be nearly as large as yours and they may talk enough to drive you batty, but their ability to process, analyze, and articulate their emotions, especially the negative ones, is still far from mature.
Expecting them to be able to use words as easily and with as much insight as adults is like someone handing us a box of computer components and expecting us to be able to assemble, program, and operate the computer like an expert, but without the expert’s knowledge and experience!
Our middles and teens still need help communicating their inner world to us, and that takes patience and understanding on our part while we give them time to process without adding the pressure of unrealistic expectations. Stress just increases their cortisol levels (cortisol is the stress-hormone associated with the ‘fight-freeze-or-flight response’ which essentially drains their brains of the ability to think just when they need to think the most!) which results in less communication… Read more
Communication is always a huge concern for parents in the teen years. The strong, open communication channel created in the early years through Gentle Parenting, coupled with the mutual respect and trust foundation established, provide a powerful platform for a healthy parent/teen relationship. Simply put, children/teens who feel heard and understood and respected don’t need to fight to be heard, understood, and respected. Or, conversely, they don’t slip away into the sullen, angry, withdrawn teen who doesn’t bother to even try to be heard anymore because they never felt heard or understood as a young child
Again, this is not to say that the gently raised adolescent will be perfect. None of us are! But with a healthy relationship based on open, honest communication, issues can be addressed as they arise and in a respectful and timely manner instead of a teen feeling the need to go ‘underground’ with their behavior or problems.
So, that said, what are some practical tips for talking to teens? Read more
12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!) From those first terror-stricken days with a newborn to the sleep-deprived months of infancy to the challenges of toddlerhood and beyond, parenting is a journey, not a destination. And when subsequent little ones arrive, the journey starts all over again as we discover that the lessons learned from parenting one child don’t always apply to the next as each have their own incomparable personalities, quirks, and individual identities.
The principles of gentle parenting (i.e. connection, empathy, intentionality, respect) don’t change as our children grow, just as they don’t change from one child to the next. What does change is our understanding of those principles as we grow in wisdom and experience as parents and human beings. The practical application of gentle parenting principles, though, can look very different from child to child and life stage to life stage…Read more
April 28, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, birth, character, childhood, children, communication, family, gentle parenting, middle childhood, newborn, preschooler, teens, toddler | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, childhood, children, communication, gentle parenting, newborn, preschoolers, teens, toddler | 53 Comments »
[Portions reprinted from Gentle Parenting: A Christian Perspective by L.R.Knost available 2014; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon.]
Parents worldwide almost universally have one thing in common…a deep, heartfelt desire to raise their children ‘right,’ to do their best to raise healthy, responsible, happy people. And, again almost universally, those parents look to others to help guide them on their parenting journey. Sometimes they look to their own family or to close friends, but often they seek out parenting guides, trusting that what they read in a book from a parenting ‘expert’ must be right…right?
What they don’t realize is that anyone can write a parenting book, and it’s often the expertise in marketing rather than in parenting that sells the most books. Here are excerpts and quotes from and about some of today’s most widely read and trusted self-proclaimed parenting experts:
“For young children, especially during the first year, the rod is used very lightly as a training tool. You use something small and light to get the child’s attention and to reinforce your command. One or two light licks on the bare legs or arms will cause a child to stop in his tracks and regard your commands. A 12-inch piece of weed eater chord works well as a beginner rod. It will fit in your purse or pocket. Later, a plumber’s supply line is a good spanking tool. You can get it at Wal-Mart or any hardware store. Ask for a plastic, ¼ inch, supply line. They come in different lengths and several colors; so you can have a designer rod to your own taste. They sell for less than $1.00. A baby needs to be trained all day, everyday.” – Michael Pearl
“I often come across a baby who has learnt to vomit at bedtime during failed attempts at controlled crying. If you have one of these babies you will need to teach your child that vomiting will not get your attention or buy any extra time. This is hard, but it has to be done to stop the vomiting. The way you achieve this is to make the bed vomit-proof. Layer the towels in the bed and on the floor so it is easy for you to remove the vomit. When your baby vomits take the top towels away, leaving a second layer in case of a second vomit. If the vomit has gone on her clothing, undress her and put clean clothes on without taking her out of the cot by moving her to the other end. Do not make eye contact or talk to her while you do all this and be calm and confident through out, so you can fool your baby into thinking you don’t care about vomit.” – Tizzie Hall
“The baby must be awake and fed by 7am and parents must have their breakfast by 8am so they slot into the baby’s day. After that the baby must be fed every four hours and allowed to cry, for up to an hour if necessary, so they learn they will not always be picked up. Parents are advised not to make eye contact with their child when feeding it at certain times.” BBC News on Gina Ford
“Even at mealtime, be looking for training opportunities in order to avoid retraining. Don’t allow poor eating habits– such as fingers in the mouth, playing with food, and spitting out food–to become a normal pattern of your child’s behavior. It only means correcting the child at a later date”
“Chastisement (spanking) is the price paid to remove the guilt thus free the child from his burden. If the parents do not remove the guilt, the child lives under the weight of sin.” – Gary Ezzo
These self-styled parenting ‘experts’ and others mandate strict, unemotional behavioral controls, often enforced punitively, stemming from a shared core ideology that children need to be trained…trained to self-soothe, trained to sleep alone, trained to play independently, trained to instantly obey.
Much of the root of the idea that children need to be trained comes from a misinterpretation of the Biblical verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
The word translated ‘train up’ is the Hebrew word ‘chanak’ which translated literally means ‘to dedicate or to initiate.’ To dedicate means to ‘commit to a special use’ and ‘to focus on a specific purpose.’ To initiate means to ‘introduce to, create an appetite or a taste for’ and ‘to set on the path of.’ Note that the word ‘train’ doesn’t appear in the literal translation of the word ‘chanak.’ In every other Old Testament usage of ‘chanak’ it is translated ‘to dedicate or to initiate’ except for the ‘train up a child’ verse.
That verse, coupled with a handful of others such as the Spare the Rod verse, has led to an entire parenting paradigm based on Old Testament practices of rigid expectations and harsh consequences, purported to be ‘God’s Way.’ Parents are often bullied or intimidated into following these strict parenting models with dire predictions of raising ‘brats’ or rebels and threats of being in opposition to ‘God’s Will.’
Before we examine the supposed correlation of strict, fear-based parenting to positive parenting outcomes and gentle, connection-based parenting to negative parenting outcomes, let’s take a quick look at the God of the Old Testament…that seemingly distant, unreachable, merciless, commanding, harshly punishing image being touted as the parenting model we must follow.
Old Testament=Fear-based Parenting
In the Old Testament, God issued a rigid list of do’s and don’ts along with decisive and harsh consequences for anything less than strict obedience. As time went on and the people rebelled (Wait, rebelled? Strict, fear-based parenting with harsh punitive consequences resulted in rebellion instead of obedience?!?) more and more regulations were layered on the Israelites along with commensurate penalties.
The result? More rebellion!
No matter how many rules, how many threats, how much follow-thru on punishments God meted out, fear-based parenting just flat out didn’t work, even for Him. Of course, He already knew it wouldn’t work.
So why did He do it?
Well, God doesn’t do anything arbitrarily. He was showing us something and using a
called ‘The Law’ to do it…
“YOU HAVE FALLEN AND YOU CAN’T GET UP!”
Sin entered the world when mankind first had the thought planted in his mind…”You don’t need God. You can BE God!”…and man took the bait and was separated from his Father.
In the Old Testament, God used that big yellow highlighter, the Law, to show man that he isn’t God and can’t work his way or earn his way or find any other way to be God or to find God on his own, period. The Old Testament proved that definitively. And the Law, with its fear-based parenting, didn’t bring obedience or peace or reconciliation. It brought only rebellion, suffering, exile.
So, God set out to reconnect with His children.
And how did He do it? Gentle Parenting!
New Testament=Connection-based Parenting
God stepped right down in the flesh for skin-to-skin (à la kangaroo care!) time with His children. In Jesus, He lived and slept and walked with His children day and night, always available, meeting every need whether it was food, healing, guidance, or comfort.
God didn’t parent His children from a distance. He didn’t force separation on them. He didn’t respond to their sin in cold blood. In fact, He did just the opposite. He closed the distance, bridged the separation man’s sin had created, and poured out His own blood to atone for His children so they could be close to Him forever.
So…the purportedly tyrannical parent of the Old Testament who supposedly commands us to rigidly train and harshly punish our children is actually, Himself, a Gentle Parent!
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” – Isaiah 66:13
Fear-based vs Connection-based Parenting Outcomes
As to the supposed correlation of strict, fear-based parenting to positive parenting outcomes and gentle, connection-based parenting to negative parenting outcomes, here are some interesting studies…
“As 5-year-olds, the children who had been spanked were more likely than the non-spanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals”…Physical Punishment Increases Aggression in Children
“Physical punishment is also associated with a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and use of drugs and alcohol”… Canadian Medical Association Journal: Long-term Negative Effects of Physical Punishment
“IQs of children ages 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked”… Research Shows Children Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQ’s
“Dr. Brazy at Duke University and Ludington-Hoe and colleagues at Case Western University showed in 2 separate studies how prolonged crying in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. They concluded that caregivers should answer cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively.” …Dr. William Sears: Studies on the Effects of Excessive/Prolonged Crying in Infancy
“Dr. Allan Schore (1996), of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol can damage nerve connections in significant areas of the infant’s brain. His research suggests that not only does stress damage connections in these areas of the infant’s brain but when the areas of the infant’s brain responsible for bonding, emotional control, and attachment are not nurtured in a healthy way, those areas remain undeveloped or underdeveloped”…Studies on the Effects of Prolonged Crying in Infancy (see bottom of article)
Listen, parents, to your heart. Listen to your children. Treat your children how you, yourself, want to be treated. Read parenting books, blogs (like this one), articles, etc. if you need guidance, but do so with discernment. You are your children’s parents. No one on earth loves them or knows them like you do. You’ll make mistakes, for sure. We all do. But if you learn from them and do better next time…well, that’s the stuff of life, isn’t it?
April 23, 2012 | Categories: abuse, Bible, books, childhood, children, Christian, Christian parenting, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, grace-based discipline, Jesus, newborn, parenting guide, soothing, spanking, Uncategorized, wise council | Tags: attachment parenting, Bible, childhood, children, Christian, Christian parenting, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, parenting, sacrificial parenting | 19 Comments »
In the 2004 movie, The Butterfly Effect, 20-year-old Evan (Ashton Kutcher) goes back in time to try to change events from his traumatic childhood in an attempt to change his dysfunctional adulthood. The movie’s title is based on a mathematical prediction concept in chaos theory.
“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.
Although the butterfly effect may appear to be an esoteric and unusual behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position.
The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate, or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different.” (Wikipedia)
So what does chaos theory have to do with parenting? Besides the obvious connection between chaos and parenting, it’s about understanding the concept of “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” in other words, the power of early parenting choices to affect a child’s future.
It is a well-documented fact that early childhood experiences powerfully influence later adulthood. A childhood marred by abuse, violence, trauma, has profound implications in adulthood. From continued cycles of abuse to depression and other mental illnesses to relational and life-satisfaction issues, the negative effects are often far-reaching and destructive.
Not so well-documented is how the smaller differences in ‘initial conditions,’ or early parenting choices, can have significantly divergent outcomes. In these cases, it isn’t abusive or neglect-filled childhoods versus normal childhoods that create the different outcomes, but instead more subtle differences in parenting that may have differing and often unforeseen long-term effects.
One family may breastfeed, another formula-feed. One family may bed-share, another room-share, while another sleeps entirely separately. One family may homeschool, another chooses private school, while another chooses a public education. One family may discipline through connection, another through negative or positive reinforcement, while another may focus on punitive behavioral controls. Each parenting choice is a different ‘initial condition’ which can affect the overall trajectory of a child’s life in powerful ways with the resulting ‘valley’ of adult behavior, relationships, career choices, etc. varying widely.
It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the many studies that have connected specific parenting choices with their statistical outcomes. Here are some links to studies on the long-term causal effects of breastfeeding, spanking, and a Harvard study on health as it pertains to early childhood experiences. But just the understanding that our decisions as parents do have a long-range impact on our children’s futures is enough to encourage careful consideration in making those decisions.
The goal in parenting, however, can never be perfection because we are imperfect people raising imperfect people in an imperfect world. So, while being aware of the import of our decisions and making wise, educated choices is important, it is just as important to expect and account for parental missteps. Our mistakes can, in fact, become a vital part of raising our children to be gracious, forgiving adults. If we model taking personal responsibility for our mistakes along with forgiving ourselves, then our missteps can become virtual ‘butterflies’ on the slope into adulthood, redirecting the trajectory of our children’s lives in a positive direction.
That concept, the redirective effect of the ‘butterfly’ on the slope into adulthood applies elsewhere, as well. If we find that parental choices we’ve made in the past have sent our children in a direction we are unhappy with, we can redirect by setting in motion a butterfly’s wings, in other words, we can shift our parenting style and reroute the trajectory of our children’s lives.
Here are a few illustrations of The Butterfly Effect as it applies to parenting redirections…
A young girl with dyslexia comes home from school day after day in tears, exhausted and overwhelmed, only to have to spend hours at night struggling through homework, more tears, and then get up the next day to do it all over again. Her father realizes that with his daughter’s unique learning style, traditional schooling is like teaching a butterfly to swim, with the result that his little butterfly’s wings would be forever damaged, and she’d never learn to fly. He turns his life upside down to make the time to homeschool her and find ways to emphasize her strengths and turn her weaknesses into gifts. His daughter transforms from a withdrawn child with low self-worth into a confident young lady soaring into a bright future.
A young mother brings home a precious newborn she loves with every fiber of her being. She wants the absolute best for her child and has read book after book saying that proper training of a child has to start right from the beginning. It hurts her all the way down to her soul as each night she gently and lovingly tucks her sweet baby into his crib and walks away, closing the door on his cries and sliding down onto her knees in the hallway to spend night after sleepless night crying right along with him. After the first torturous nights, she finds that her baby isn’t nursing well on the strict schedule the books suggested, and her milk supply hadn’t come in as expected. The pediatrician diagnoses failure-to-thrive and suggests supplementing with formula. As the young mother leaves the doctor’s office in tears, feeling like her body has failed her, an older mother sees her distress and approaches her in the parking lot. When the young mother pours out her story, the older mother shares her own struggles and discoveries over the years, ending by encouraging the young mother to bring her baby into her room at night and nurse him on demand to see if her milk supply increases. The young mother is relieved to hear there are alternatives to the rigid training methods she’d read about. She takes the older mother’s advice and, over the next days discovers that not only does her milk supply increase substantially, but both her and her new baby are finally getting some sleep! She tosses the parenting books and spreads her parenting wings, parenting from the heart, making every parenting decision by first asking herself how she would want someone to respond to her if she were the child. Her son grows up strong and healthy, with a deep respect and empathy for others.
A father is struggling with his three-year-old’s temper. He has poured himself into raising his daughter ‘right’ from birth, reading her stories every night, feeding her nutritious foods, getting her into the best preschool, correcting her with carefully controlled spankings dealt in love and followed by hugs and kisses. As he heads to pick up his daughter from preschool, his stomach tightens in dread. For the second time that week they’ve called him to report another incidence of aggressive behavior by his daughter, and he knows when they get home he’ll have to punish her. He sighs in discouragement. She used to be such a sweet, bubbly little girl. Now she just seems to simmer, anger hovering just beneath the surface ready to burst out at the slightest provocation. He signs his daughter out, then reaches out to help her into her coat. She flinches at his touch and flings her tiny hands up instinctively to protect herself. For one moment, their eyes meet, and the father’s heart freezes. Fear. Ever so briefly, instead of that too-familiar anger clouding his little girl’s eyes, fear had stared back at him. Feeling sick, the father gently helps his daughter into her coat and picks her up, hiding his tears by hugging her close as he walks to the car. Never again, he vows. Never again will his precious daughter look at him in fear. At home, he sits his daughter down and tells her that he’s sorry, that hands are for helping, not hitting, and that they’re going to work together to find better ways to handle things when people don’t do what they want. His daughter’s anger eases over time and trust returns. She grows into a compassionate young woman, serving her community with a gentle passion that wins hearts everywhere she goes.
In each case, the parent was faced with the reality that the track their parenting choices had placed their child was on wasn’t optimal, and each parent responded by shifting course and altering the trajectory of their child’s lives, in turn altering their child’s future in immeasurable ways.
The message here is this…our parental choices matter. They matter in life-defining ways that we can’t even imagine when we wrap those precious new lives in the cocoon of our love and set them on a path which we hope and pray will help them to spread their wings and fly. Choose wisely, parents, and don’t be afraid to change course in mid-flight if the winds are blowing in the wrong direction.
On the importance of early childhood experiences:
March 31, 2012 | Categories: abuse, attachment parenting, birth, breastfeeding, childhood, children, cosleeping, diversity, family, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, meltdown, natural parenting, newborn, nursing, parenting guide, positive discipline, positive parenting, preschooler, rebellion, soothing, spanking, stress, toddler, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tags: attachment parenting, breastfeeding, childhood, children, cosleeping, discipline, family, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, natural parenting, positive parenting, preschoolers, sacrificial parenting, toddler | 10 Comments »
Parenting is far more a journey than a destination. As parents we are always learning, always researching, always growing, always adjusting. Sharing our journeys is one way we can support and encourage each other along the way! Here are some really unique ways mamas are sharing their attachment/natural/gentle parenting experiences you might enjoy:
The first is a video by The Single Crunch. Such a beautiful testimony of the love of a mother!
I am a single mom…I breastfeed and practice child-led weaning, babywear, co-sleep, cloth diaper, homebirth, and do whatever else my natural instincts move me to do, regardless of what others may think. I DO NOT “train” my children (using the cry-it-out method to get babies to sleep). I do not spank. I do not vaccinate. I try not to run to modern medicine for every problem I or my children have, opting instead for natural (homeopathic) solutions when possible…I LISTEN to my children. I try to pause before I react and think about life from their point of view. I HAVE NOT ALWAYS LIVED THIS WAY…I’ve had a hard time with many of the ideals of being crunchy, especially as a single mom. It takes time and patience and time. Lots of time. Sometimes I’m not all that patient. I used to spank…I yell…But mainstream parenting never felt right to me. I wanted to meet moms who didn’t think my attachment (and the level of attachment I desired to have) with my children was weird. I found AP because most of the women in my life felt my ideas were silly, unintelligent, impractical, and unnecessary, especially for a mom with no husband. I didn’t care. I knew my children needed more of me. I’ve always felt a strong connection to my children, and I’ve always wanted to parent the way THEY showed me they needed me to, not a way that was convenient for me. I am now working to apply all that I have learned from my other mom friends and the many groups I subscribe to, to make my girls’ lives as safe, healthy, and happy as possible. I want to raise compassionate, secure, intelligent young women who know, understand, and believe that beauty starts within. (Read more at The Single Crunch)
The next is a lovely and honest post from The Mule about the blessings and challenges of breastfeeding on demand:
While I nurse you to sleep…
I...rest. For the first time today, I am still. I am not lifting, carrying, holding, bending, reaching, stretching, scrubbing, wiping, hauling, or lugging. Here in this dark room I lie beside you and allow my body and mind to come to stillness after the chaos of our day. You suck, and tug, you fiddle, and fuss…and slowly come to stillness too, until we both are still, and both are resting…I wait, momentarily, and then, I slowly slide away and leave you sleeping.
While I nurse you to sleep…
I…take stock. I turn over in my mind, the contents of the fridge, the washing on the floor, the money in the bank. I count up the years I’ve had so far and the years I might have left. I work out how old I will be when you are the age I am now – thirty seven – seventy two. I hope I make it. I count the eggs you already have in your body and those I have in mine and I wonder at the people they may become. I think about the person I was before I met you, the life I led, the things I’ve gained and the things I’ve lost, I count them all. I plan the contents of my other daughter’s lunchbox
(Read the rest of this lovely post at While I Nurse You to Sleep…)
This is an excellent and entertaining look at child-led, interest-led learning from Real Child Development.
Trust the child to direct his own learning. For it seems to me a fact that, in our struggle to make sense out of life, the things we most need to learn are the things we most want to learn. To put this another way, curiosity is hardly ever idle. What we want to know, we want to know for a reason. The reason is that there is a hole, a gap, an empty space in our understanding of things, our mental model of the world. We feel that gap like a hole in a tooth and want to fill it up. It makes us ask How? When? Why? While the gap is there, we are in tension, in suspense. Listen to the anxiety in a person’s voice when he says, “This doesn’t make sense!” When the gap in our understanding is filled, we feel pleasure, satisfaction, relief. Things make sense again – or at any rate, they make more sense than they did. When we learn this way, for these reasons, we learn both rapidly and permanently. The person who really needs to know something does not need to be told many times, drilled, tested. Once is enough. The new piece of knowledge fits into the gap ready for it, like a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Once in place, it is held in, it can’t fall out. We don’t forget things that make the world a more reasonable or interesting place for us. (Read the rest of this informative post at Real Child Development)
The next post is from Dulce De Leche‘s ’Gentle Discipline Toolbox’ series which has an excellent array of topics, ideas, and links!
My 19 month old began to love hitting. He wasn’t even angry most of the time. He just got a kick out of the sensation, the noise and the reactions. We tried softly stroking our cheeks with his hands and telling him “Gentle touches”. He giggled and slapped again. My temper and frustration were building, until I recalled something I had read by Dr. Sears. We began teaching him to give us high fives. His face lit up with delight, and he began to repeat it. He still got what he was craving–the game, noise, sensation and excitement–but now it was in a socially acceptable way that didn’t hurt anyone. I would like to say that at least we got a little advance warning as he gleefully squealed, “High fibe!” before striking, but he usually didn’t say it till he was already mid-strike. Still, it was progress… (Read more of this enlightening post at Dulce De Leche)
This last honest and informative article from Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond is a great introduction to positive parenting:
Positive parenting, at the very core of it, isn’t about what you can and can’t do in terms of disciplining, teaching, and guiding your kids. It isn’t even about having the perfect relationship (as there will always be breaks and repairs; such is life). It’s not about techniques or tools, whether or not to use time outs or time ins, consequences or problem-solving. All of those things stem from the practice of what is at the very core of this philosophy, but they are not THE philosophy itself. What it’s really about is the way we view children, their emotions, their needs, their motives. It’s about seeing them as human beings, worthy of respect and unconditional love, delicate, impressionable, who have as much to teach us as we have to teach them… (Read more from Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond)
March 25, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, Bible, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, grace-based discipline, homeschooling, natural parenting, nonvaxing, play, positive discipline, positive parenting, preschooler, toddler, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, natural parenting, play, positive parenting, preschoolers, sacrificial parenting, toddler | 1 Comment »
Many people talk about how bad children are ‘these days’, how out of control they are, and how parents are too permissive and need to “go back to the good old days when parents weren’t afraid to spank their children.” Of course, since more than 90% of American parents admit to spanking their children, it’s hard to accept that a decline in spanking is responsible for the purportedly escalating rates of youth violence and crime.
Could it be that the 90% of children who are subject to violence at home in the form of being slapped, paddled, smacked, yanked, whipped, popped, spanked, etc. are taking those lessons out into the world? Is it just possible that children who are hit learn to hit? That children who are hurt learn to hurt? Perhaps the lesson they are learning is that ‘might is right,’ violence is the answer to their problems, the outlet for their stress, the route to getting others to do what they want.
But since children are literally the future of our world, our next world leaders, the future caretakers of our planet, doesn’t it make sense that if we want a more peaceful world we should grow more peaceful children?
March 23, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, character, childhood, children, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, life, positive discipline, positive parenting, rebellion, spanking, stress, teens | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, childhood, children, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, positive parenting, rebellion, spanking, teens | 17 Comments »
Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes. ~Unknown
My mother always taught me to think about things from other people’s perspective before reacting to them, a life lesson that has translated into the empathetic, gentle style of parenting I teach, write about, and follow with my own children. Discerning what other people feel isn’t always easy, of course, and our own experiences, attitudes, and emotions can get in the way. But seeking to not just understand, but to really feel what another person feels is vital to true communication and connection. To that end, I try to always ask myself, whether interacting with my children, my husband, or any other person who crosses my path, “How would I feel if…”
So come, take a walk with me~
How would I feel if I was suddenly thrust from my safe, familiar world into a startlingly new and uncomfortable world where I couldn’t function on my own, where my very survival depended entirely on beings who I didn’t know, didn’t understand, and who didn’t understand me? Would I learn to feel safe in this new world if they left me for hours on end in dark places with no way to communicate, no way to meet my own needs? Or would I learn to trust these new beings if my needs were met day and night, if they were always available, always responsive, always gentle?
How would I feel if I was a small person in a big world, a world where large beings were constantly jabbering at me in a language I barely understood, a world where everything was a challenge, from climbing out of a chair to learning to control my bodily functions, a world where every day, all day long, I was confronted with new things to taste, new things to explore, new things to discover. If I tried to communicate and no one slowed down to listen, would I learn to listen? If I got overwhelmed by all the new challenges and was punished, would I learn how to cope with my emotions? If I was snatched away from my explorations with no warning, no explanation, would I learn to respect other people’s spaces and paces? Or would I learn to listen if I was heard, cope if I was helped, and respect if I was respected?
How would I feel if I was an adult-sized person, my body flooded with a consistently inconsistent rush of mind-altering hormones, in a world of adults who demanded adult maturity from me, but treated me like a child? Would I learn to cope with the huge life changes taking place if my awkwardness incited conflict instead of compassion? Would I be willing to share my struggles if my still-growing communication skills were taken at face value instead of my heart being heard? Would I desire to make good choices if the most important people in my life didn’t trust me enough to let me make them? Or would I learn confidence by being understood, trust by being truly heard, responsibility by being trusted to be responsible?
How would I feel if I was a new parent, struggling with exhaustion, overwhelmed by newness, desperate to make the right decisions for my precious new baby, but was surrounded by conflicting advice and head-shakers and nay-sayers? Would I learn to trust my instincts if every choice I made was the subject of commentary and unsolicited advice? Would I grow into my new role if I was pushed and shamed and coerced into following other people’s parenting choices? Would I learn to share my fears and concerns if they were met with negativity, ridicule, and debate? Or would I find my own path in the world of parenting if I was allowed to listen to my heart? Would I discover my parenting niche if I was trusted to make my own choices? Would I be open to new ideas and find support if my struggles were met with reassurance and compassion and acceptance?
How would I feel if I was a strong, wise, gifted person in a body that was beginning to fail me with age? Would I feel valued if others only saw my frailty and not my strength? Would I offer wisdom if my life experiences were ridiculed? Would I share my gifts if no one bothered to slow down and recognize them? Or would I still feel I had life to live, something to give if my stories were heard, if my wisdom was received, if someone, anyone, took the time to sit with me and talk for awhile.
March 10, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, birth, character, childhood, children, communication, cosleeping, elderly, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, life, meltdown, newborn, play, preschooler, soothing, tantrum, teens, toddler, wisdom | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, childhood, children, communication, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, newborn, parenting, play, tantrum, teens, toddler | 4 Comments »
You’ve all heard the story of the industrious, magical little elves who went behind the poor, but good-hearted, shoemaker and finished his work for him, saving his shop and rewarding him for his hard work. This is not that story…
Once upon a time there was a kind, hard-working homemaker named Elvimama. She had five children, Elvin, Elvira, Elvish, Elvis, and Baby Elvie. Elvimama worked hard every day to feed her five children Elftritious foods, teach them their Elfessons, make sure they practiced on their Elviolins, take them to their Elfootball and Elfallet practices while she grabbed an hour at Elfercize (wearing Baby Elvie, of course!), and then rushed back home to put a healthy, home-cooked Elfalicious meal on the table for dinner. Life was busy, but good…except for one thing.
Their Elfhouse was a mess! No matter how hard Elvimama worked, no matter how carefully she organized her day, or how little sleep she got, her Elfhousekeeping ended up looking rather…well, unkept.
She’d start with the bedrooms each morning, straightening and sweeping and organizing, then move on to the kitchen and work her way through the morning dishes and then sweep and mop and take out the trash, before heading to the Elfamily room to polish and vacuum. But she was plagued by a strange phenomenon every single day…as soon as she was finished with one room and had moved on to another, the first room mysteriously returned to it’s former state of disarray! And when she finished the second room and moved on to the third, the second room was also suddenly back to a disheveled mess!
This pattern when on throughout her day, with each bedroom cleaned, then miraculously uncleaned, the kitchen spotless, then instantly a sticky stack of unwashed dishes appearing when she headed for the Elfamily room. And, even there, when she’d polished and vacuumed and straightened, the second she walked out, piles of toys walked right back in!
Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, this phenomenon continued, with Elvimama starting every day with a messy house, spending every day cleaning and cleaning and cleaning, only to end every day with a still-messy house!
It was frustrating and exhausting, and sometimes Elvimama would head to the bathroom for a long soak in the tub and a good cry. But, inevitably, little elf-hands would come knocking on the door and little elf-voices would be calling out for Elvimama’s attention. Her long soak always turned into a quick wash, and she’d mop up her tears and emerge with a smile and arms ready to gather her little elf-loves close.
Time passed, and Elvin and Elvira went off to college. Elvish joined the Elf-Corp, and Elvis made the big-time in Nashville. Baby Elvie grew up and opened a little bookstore called The Elf Shelf.
One morning, Elvimama got up and started with the bedrooms, straightening and sweeping and organizing, then moved on to the kitchen and worked her way through the morning dishes and then swept and mopped and took out the trash, before heading to the Elfamily room to polish and vacuum and straighten. When she was finished, she stopped and stared in shocked silence. Everything was…spotless…pristine.
No jumbled piles of clothes had unfolded themselves in the bedrooms. No sticky stack of dishes had reappeared in the kitchen. No toys had marched back into the Elfamily room.
Her house was finally clean, but her heart longed for jelly fingerprints and funny little dirt-smudged elf-faces, muddy footprints and sticky little giggle-grin kisses. Elvimama sighed and headed to the bathroom for a long soak in the tub. Now, no little elf-hands came knocking on the door and no little elf-voices called out for Elvimama’s attention.
And Elvimama had a good cry.
A mother’s love is strong enough to hold her children close when they’re young and she longs for rest, and to let them go when they grow up and she longs for the past.
February 27, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, bookish, books, childhood, children, family, food, homeschooling, life, love | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, childhood, children, family, food, gentle, homeschooling, parenting, sacrifice, sacrificial parenting | 4 Comments »
There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. Gone are the days of making mud-pies and playing in piles of leaves. They’ve been replaced with flashcards, language immersion (even in the womb!), educational dvd’s, and the like. Preschool has become the new kindergarten, with parents rushing to get on waiting lists for the ‘best of the best’ preschools, often even before their first prenatal appointment!
Therapists in New York have reported an increase in parents seeking psychiatric services for stress related to the intensely ”cutthroat” admissions process for top-rated private preschools and kindergartens. “Parenting is a competitive sport,” says Dr. Lisa Spiegel. And that competition is leading parents to ask if their three-year-old should wear suits to preschool interviews, which designer purses are best to carry on school tours, and even if they should be induced into early delivery so their child ”could be considered for kindergarten before the Sept. 1 cutoff date.” (New York Post, see link below)
One would assume, with all of this emphasis on independence and education, that we would be moving forward as a society to a more self-sufficient, competent, and well-educated populace which, by extension, might reasonably be assumed to have less need of welfare programs and prisons. One would assume wrong, unfortunately.
By way of comparison, in 1960, welfare spending in the United States was $48.20 per capita with 1.7% of the population receiving federal assistance. (infoplease.com) By 2010 it had increased to $2256.40 per capita (usgovernmentspending.com) with 8.0% of the population receiving assistance. (wiki.answers.com) In 1960, 0.18% of the US population was imprisoned, whereas in 2010 that number had climbed to 0.74% (businessinsider.com) with drug use, rape, and assault rates skyrocketing.
So what happened? Obviously, there are many contributing factors, but one often overlooked, powerful contributor is how we parent our children. Study after study has confirmed that early childhood experiences have a profound impact on adult behavior, achievement, and satisfaction with life. The modern emphasis on ever-earlier independence and academics seems to inadvertently be sacrificing the very things they are designed to accomplish, and the modern view of parenting as a “competition” is setting the stage for stress, conflict, and failure.
Perhaps it is time for parents to reevaluate their priorities and realize their children are blessings to be cherished and nurtured, not pawns in a cut-throat game of strategy and intrigue. Perhaps it is time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…perhaps it is time to let children be children again:
1) Let babies be babies~in other words, baby them! Babies are completely and totally helpless in every way. Medical experts agree that it isn’t possible to spoil a newborn, so responding promptly to cries will simply help them learn to trust that their needs will be met. Babies left to cry-it-out often do end up sleeping through the night earlier than babies whose needs are responded to because they have learned to give up on their needs being met. But that gain of sleeping through the night is accomplished at the loss of trust, and the resultant stress and long-term consequences simply aren’t worth it. (Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn) Stress causes our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol which, when present for prolonged periods, can dramatically undermine brain development in babies and permanently impair brain function for life. Some causes of stress in babies are extended illnesses, detached parenting, and separation from their mothers, which has been linked to long-term anxiety and anti-social behavior. (News, Science and Environment)
2) Let human babies drink human milk~in other words, nurse them! Breastfeeding beyond the typical 6-12 month period has been shown to improve not only overall IQ’s in children, but also improve health and social outcomes. Children who are breastfed for 24+ months are less likely to have allergies and more likely to have healthy immune systems. (kellymom.com) Also, according to the World Health Organization, “a modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five,” due, in part, to tainted water supplies, but also due to the immunity factors. And, socially, studies have shown repeatedly that, “Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence.” (Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. ‘Extended Breastfeeding and the Law.’)
3) Let children know they matter~in other words, listen and respond to them! Strong, healthy attachment in parent/child relationships has been linked to increased success rates in future marriage, greater career satisfaction, and overall stability and emotional health in adulthood. Children raised with detached parents tend to be forced into premature independence through sleep training, rigid discipline, and too early and/or prolonged separation from parents, often resulting in long-term dependency, attachment, and satisfaction issues. “Decades of research, including longitudinal studies, have shown that as securely attached babies get older, they form better relationships with others, have higher self-esteem, are more flexible and resilient under stress, and perform better in every aspect of life, from schoolwork to peer interactions.” (Dr. Laura Markham)
4) Let children see you being ‘good’~in other words, model the behavior you desire! Children are born observers and the first people they observe, with an almost scientific intensity, are their parents. Modeling appropriate and desirable behavior to children such as self-control, compassion, helpfulness, listening, respect, etc is a powerful tool in passing along these qualities to the next generation. “Discipline is everything you put into children that influences how they turn out…Whatever your ultimate objectives, they must be rooted in helping your child develop inner controls that last a lifetime. You want the guidance system that keeps the child in check at age four to keep his behavior on track at age forty, and you want this system to be integrated into the child’s whole personality, a part of him or her.” (Dr. William Sears)
5) Let children play~in other words, don’t rush them into growing up! Study after study has shown that children learn more, retain knowledge better, and maintain their natural curiosity and love of learning when they are allowed to learn through a combination of unstructured and guided play. The trend these days is to start children in academic-centered preschools as early as two years old and then move them into academically rigorous kindergarten programs, often while still four years of age. “While many children do fine in kindergarten and first grade, by the time they reach second grade, ‘they can’t hold it together — they fall apart and really struggle.’” (Colvin) “Newspapers and magazines across the country are reporting that kindergarten is the new first grade—full of pressure and short on play.”(What to Expect in Kindergarten) “As the parent of a child entering kindergarten, you’re sure to be shocked and amazed by what’s changed since your days on the story rug. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be…many of the changes you observe make kindergarten a more challenging and potentially pressuring stage, it’s all in the name of teaching your child more effectively.”(Kindergarten Assessment) However, effective teaching is a subjective subject. Is teaching effective if it results in children who are capable of rote memorization and passing standardized tests, but lack imagination, curiosity, and a love of reading? Or is teaching more effective if it results in children who are innovative, pioneering, and life-long learners?
Do you think my little dirt magnet enjoyed her homeschool day?
February 22, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, gentle parenting, kindergarten, life, literacy, love, marriage, newborn, nursing, play, positive parenting, preschooler, reading, soothing, stress, toddler | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, breastfeeding, childhood, children, communication, gentle parenting, kindergarten, nature, newborn, outdoors, parenting, park, play, playground, positive parenting, preschoolers | 29 Comments »
Building a trust-based relationship with your child starts, literally, at birth. Those precious moments after baby is placed on mama’s belly, the beginning days and nights spent adjusting to the newness of life, those first exhausting weeks trying to get into the rhythm of parenthood, all offer the opportunity to establish a foundation of trust to build a healthy parent/child relationship upon. Research has shown hints of the remarkable ability of newborns to communicate their needs as shown in the groundbreaking video below.
Whether or not you feel that you can confidently distinguish between your baby’s cries for every need, the real message here is that staying tuned-in to your little one and offering immediate and loving attention are key to developing communication, security, and trust!
Here are some things you can do to start off on the right track:
Ten Steps to Surviving the first three months with a newborn…
So, your precious baby has finally arrived! After a perfect pregnancy and blissful labor and delivery, you’ve come home (in your pre-pregnancy clothes, of course!) with your beautiful baby, ready to start life as the perfect parents of a perfect child. Yeah, right! Actually, after a pregnancy in which you threw up more times than you can count and yet still managed to gain an embarrassing amount of weight, and where your feet swelled to unrecognizable lumps at the bottom of your legs, you finally suffered through a hideously long, painful labor and delivery only to arrive home (in your largest maternity outfit which barely fit!) with a screaming, vomiting, miniature human being who can’t tell you why he’s upset and who poops what can only be described as TAR! What are you going to do now?!? Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn
January 13, 2012 | Categories: attachment parenting, communication, gentle parenting, newborn, soothing, Uncategorized | Tags: attachment parenting, gentle parenting, newborn, positive parenting | 5 Comments »
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
As babies grow from the newborn stage, through infancy, and into the toddler years, there is a natural and healthy progression toward independence that blossoms when a secure trust-foundation is in place. That trust-foundation is forged through the consistent meeting of a baby’s needs lovingly, gently, and empathetically by a primary caregiver.
When a baby is breastfed, his mother is naturally close and available and, when parenting by following her maternal instincts, tends to be in tune with her baby in a beautiful symbiosis of unspoken communication. At some point, a baby will begin to ‘taste-test’ foods, learning through oral exploration about the textures and tastes of foods other than breastmilk. This progresses to a decrease in need for mommy’s milk for nutritional purposes, but is often accompanied by an unexpected and dramatic increase in demand to nurse which can be quite disconcerting, not to mention annoying!
Parents have a tendency to assign motives to their children’s behavior, typically based on their own childhood experiences and/or their adult perception of the circumstances. In the case of the increased demand for nursing which seems inversely proportional to the need for nursing, the motives parents often assign to their toddlers are ‘testing’ or ‘pushing boundaries.’
But think of it from the toddler’s perspective. They have been gradually moving away from their ‘source’ of all things and exploring what can be a big, scary world for a little person. No longer are they completely helpless, entirely dependent on another person for everything, but, as their independence has increased, so has their awareness of the world around them and their smallness by comparison. It is at this point that the all-important source of nutrition shifts into a support role, becoming, literally, a touchstone of security. A toddler’s increased need to nurse is, in fact, a need for reconnection and reassurance, not discipline!
Obviously, nursing every five minutes isn’t practical and can be downright uncomfortable, especially with the accompanying toddler ‘gymnurstics.’ But this is an excellent time for a parent to learn how to remain in tune with their child as the ages and stages go by. Paying attention to the needs behind the behaviors is an essential element in a healthy parent/child relationship, and, once a little one progresses beyond the basic needs stage, that learning curve can get pretty steep. This is a time when parents can begin experimenting with new ways to engage with their children to meet those reconnection needs in age-appropriate and relationship-building ways, an important skill that will serve parents well in the teen years!
Here are some things to try when faced with a toddler insisting on nursing every few minutes:
- Babywearing is one of my best tools, and I have a sling nearby for any time my toddler seems to need some closeness.
- Reading picture books is also a daily (actually, multiple times a day!) standard at our house, and when my little one toddles up to me, book in hand, I’ll plop down on the floor in whatever room I’m in and take a few minutes to read a book and talk about the pretty pictures.
- Sitting down together in the chair my toddler is used to nursing in and cuddling, reading, playing pat-a-cake, watching a DVD together, or even offering food or snacks to share, gives them a sense of sameness that is very reassuring.
- Playing games, making silly faces in the mirror, playing dress up together, taking walks, going to the park, anything that assures my toddler that I’m still available to her and enjoy being with her helps to meet the underlying need driving the nursing demands.
- Oddly enough, offering to nurse my toddler several times a day is very reassuring and actually decreases the frequency of the demands!
The main message here is to try different things until you find what works for you and your child, always focusing on staying connected and responsive to your little one’s needs. Change can be difficult for both parents and children, but it can be an exciting time, too, as you get to grow with your child into the next stage of life!
December 15, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, books, breastfeeding, children's books, communication, food, gentle parenting, natural parenting, nursing, toddler | Tags: attachment parenting, baby led weaning, babywearing, breastfeeding, Christian children's books, food, gentle parenting, nursing, parenting, play, positive parenting, toddler | 7 Comments »
Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people. ~ Fred Rogers
Coining new terms for parenting styles seems to be all the rage these days, from ‘helicopter parenting,’ defined as overprotective and over-involved parenting (often associated with over-indulgence and passive parenting), to ‘tiger parenting’ which is defined as strict, authoritarian parenting with rigid expectations (often associated with harsh consequences for not meeting those expectations). So, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, and offer a new term to describe the 99% of us who fall somewhere between those two extremes.
And so, with no further ado, introducing~Reasonable Parenting!
Reasonable Parenting is so popular because it’s just so very…well, reasonable! The Reasonable Parent is available to their children and responsive to their needs, but doesn’t smother them, take over every project, stymie independent thought or creativity, or screen potential employers with background checks and fingerprinting via their FBI contacts (contacts made, of course, for just such a purpose!). On the other end of the spectrum, the Reasonable Parent does have certain expectations about their children learning to cooperate, adopting common courtesies, and achieving an education, but doesn’t force independence, control every aspect of their children’s behavior, punish every infraction, impose excessive pressure to succeed, or start preparing their future Ivy Leaguers for filling out those do-or-die college applications with occasional ‘pop quiz’ applications on evenings and weekends.
Now, in that ‘somewhere’ in between these two extremes, there is a lot of space for individuality and flexibility. Some Reasonable Parents, myself included, cosleep (aka bedshare) while others practice an arms-reach approach and still others are comfortable running back and forth to a separate nursery to meet their little person’s needs at night. Some of us breastfeed for two plus years, others don’t for various reasons. Some use time-ins, some time-outs. Some circumcise. Some don’t. Some babywear. Some homeschool. Some spend lovely days filled with crafting and nature walks and making wonderfully healthy meals together, while others must work outside the home and instead spend lovely evenings piled on the couch under flannel blankets watching a movie and eating popcorn and having tickle fights.
My point is this; we in the parenting community agree that children are individuals and should be treasured for their uniqueness, but then so often act as if parenting is a one-style-fits-all approach. The truth is that families are as unique as the individuals who create them, and parenting is a living, growing, evolving relationship that is only successful when it is molded to fit that uniqueness.
If there are any ‘rules’ to Reasonable Parenting, they are
1.) Listen, really listen to your children.
2.) Stop, Think, and then Respond. Don’t just React.
3.) Never, ever hurt your children. (No hitting!)
There are many parenting tips about how to accomplish those three core Reasonable Parenting values (see Related Posts below), but the main point here is to understand and accept and support each other as we share this parenting journey together. We have so much we can learn from each other, but in the end we each need to discover our own unique parenting styles for our own unique families!
December 12, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, communication, family, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, life, positive discipline | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, childhood, children, cosleeping, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, parenting, positive parenting | Leave A Comment »
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three. ~Grantly Dick-Read
Breastfeeding, like exercise, is one of the most highly preventive and cost-effective ways to protect the health of mothers, babies, the population, and the planet. Yet, the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding among industrialized countries and one of the highest rates of infant mortality. Our rates of breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and asthma are growing at an alarming pace. It is estimated that normal breastfeeding rates could save the U.S. $13 billion and 911 lives annually on health care & associated costs for just 10 diseases.
Sweet, milky giggles
Baby’s trusting eyes look up
Forging bonds that last. R.H.
Excellent information from Kellymom about how to get a comfortable latch and position for nursing.
We have breasts to feed our young but we also have brains that tell us this is more than nutrition.. this is comfort, bonding, the original Soul food!
“Breastmilk, unlike formula is a living organism. When one looks at breastmilk under a microscope there is plenty of movement. Contrast that with formula, where the petri dish reveals a stagnant state. Formula is dead. It cannot change to meet the needs of a particular infant. It does not change during a feed…”
Lovely thoughts from a breastfeeding mama.
An amazing array of women from every walk of life who share their breastfeeding journeys~Compiled and shared by The Mule
Low Milk Supply~Set up for failure
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), Asthma, Childhood Leukemia, Diabetes, Gastroenteritis, Otitis Media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), Necrotizing Enterocolitis, Obesity, and other potentially life-altering or fatal conditions…
If you knew that there was one medicine or vitamin or herbal supplement that has been proven, PROVEN, beyond a shadow of a doubt in study after study by mainstream, published, respected doctors, researchers, and scientists, to significantly reduce the risk of every single one of those things listed above, would you give it to your baby?
Breast cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity…
What if that wonder drug could also drastically reduce your risk of each of these health threats?
13 billion…BILLION…dollars lost in the U.S. alone in PREVENTABLE medical costs.
If you knew that there was one thing you could do to save billions of taxpayer dollars that could go to feed the hungry, house the homeless, research cures for other devastating diseases, provide health care to the poor, would you do it?
The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in April of 2010 detailing just what that one medicine/vitamin/herbal supplement is…and the ‘miracle drug’ is none other than BREASTFEEDING. The study concluded that, “The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations.” And those numbers are only based on breastfeeding benefits for the first six months of life! The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and others recommend breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life. Imagine the tally if the researchers had looked at the little lives lost and billions of dollars spent unnecessarily in a two year breastfeeding scenario instead of a six month scenario!
In 2009, the CDC released a Breast Feeding Report Card which showed that, while 74% of women start off breastfeeding, only 33% continue to three months and just 14% are exclusively breastfeeding by six months.
Clearly, then, the majority of women at least begin with the desire to breastfeed!
So why are breastfeeding rates so dismal in the United States? For one thing, U.S.hospitals scored a low D (63%) in their compliance with recommendations to provide breastfeeding support for women in a 2007 CDC survey. One issue is that hospitals routinely send home ‘failure’ packets of formula with new mommies “just in case,” which sit temptingly in pretty, complementary diaperbags waiting for the inexperienced new mommy to face her first breastfeeding hurdle, her first feeding worry, her first sleep-deprived need to find any reassurance that she’s doing a good job feeding her baby during those first weeks. Another issue is that hospital lactation consultants are typically stretched far too thinly amongst many patients and are only available for a few minutes to get new mommies started, and then most insurance companies don’t cover follow-up lactation support after mommies leave the hospital. Other issues in the hospital include delaying the new mommy’s ability to begin breastfeeding immediately by removing the baby to a warming bed instead of laying the baby on the mommy’s tummy, and too early interventions such as eye ointment, bathing the baby, and taking the baby to the nursery to be evaluated in the absence of medical necessity.
But, even so, 74% of American women triumph over these issues and leave the hospital having established breastfeeding with their newborn. So what happens then? Why does that number fall so dramatically by more than half to 33% by three months and by nearly 80% down to only 14% of women by six months?
Some contributing factors are mothers who must return to workplaces which don’t support breastfeeding with long lunches to return home to breastfeed or flexible schedules which allow for frequent pumping, and insurance companies which don’t cover lactation consultants or breast pumps, and, in a small percentage of cases, health issues with the mother or baby.
All of these issues certainly need to be addressed by hospitals, insurance companies and businesses, and the government can be of service in these areas by providing tax incentives, education, and support.
But there are still more subtle issues that negatively affect breastfeeding rates. Some of these include older mothers relishing in telling horror stories about cracked nipples, thrush, clogged ducts, etc; pediatricians who use weight charts based on formula fed infants and scaring new mothers into thinking their babies aren’t gaining enough weight; and the pervasive, but false, belief that formula is just as good as breastmilk for babies.
One issue, though, that seems to crop up far more than others is low milk supply. Somehow, even though mothers’ bodies are capable of miraculously growing a human being for nine months and bringing that precious new life into the world, those same life-giving bodies are failing to provide life-giving (and saving!) nutrition to those precious babies. Why? For some, it is certainly just fear-mongering by those pediatricians using the formula fed babies’ charts or by grandmothers who believe that all babies should be chubby that lead new mothers to believe they have low supply, but there does seem to be an ever-increasing number of babies legitimately labeled as failure-to-thrive with low milk supply labeled the cause.
One crucial piece of false information can be blamed for the vast majority of low milk supply issues in the absence of a documented medical cause.
That false information? New mothers are told their babies should sleep through the night.
That is one of the most pernicious lies ever foisted on new parents. Babies biologically should NOT sleep through the night. Not only is the deep sleep required to sleep through the night actually a recognized factor in SIDS deaths, but babies who sleep through the night are also not nursing to stimulate breastmilk production, thus their mother’s milk begins to dry up. Clearly, that’s not a healthy biological design!
Here is a picture of what this vicious cycle can look like:
Lydia battles the lack of breastfeeding support at the hospital and triumphantly goes home a breastfeeding mother, formula ‘fail’ packet tucked securely in the chic little complementary diaperbag in the trunk along with stacks of information about how healthy formula is and lots of lovely formula coupons.
She gets her precious baby home and settles in for her twelve week ‘babymoon’ before she has to return to work because that’s all the time her work allows. She’s already nervous about how she’s going to handle the return to work, leaving her sweet baby in someone else’s care, and trying to pump to maintain her milk supply and provide milk for her baby while she’s gone, but she pushes those thoughts aside and suppresses the anxiety as much as she can. The first few nights are pretty easy because her baby sleeps most of the time, so Lydia is able to get a little rest in between feedings. She reads up on some parenting advice in a couple of popular magazines and discovers that she should be working to schedule her baby’s feedings at 3-4 hour intervals. That makes her feel a bit worried because she’s just been feeding her baby whenever he seemed hungry, so she gets a notebook out and writes down a schedule.
Over the next couple of weeks, things get a bit more difficult as she walks and bounces and rocks her baby, anxiously watching the clock until she can satisfy her baby’s cries and nurse him. Her baby seems to be crying more and more often. As her stress level increases, she pours over parenting books and magazines, trying to find solutions to her baby’s distress. Over and over again, she reads that babies need to be on a strict schedule and be trained to self-soothe and sleep through the night.
Lydia desperately wants to be a good mother, so she braces herself and begins to stop nursing before her baby falls asleep and laying him down on his own to fall asleep alone. She cries listening to his screams, but confines herself to occasionally stepping into the room to pat him gently for a moment, tears streaming down her cheeks as she leaves him to cry himself to sleep.
A few weeks later, her pediatrician expresses some concern about her baby’s slowing weight gain, but cheerfully assures her that she has just become a ‘midnight snack’ for her little one and needs to begin cutting out night feeds so her baby can learn to sleep through the night.Lydia feels sick to her stomach as she leaves the doctor’s office, but is determined to put her feelings aside and be a good mother.
Lydia experiences some engorgement issues for the first few nights, but the discomfort is nothing compared her heartbreak at listening to her baby cry. Over the next few weeks, she notices a perceptible decrease in the volume of her breasts and her let down reflex feels weak. Her fears are confirmed when she takes her baby back to the pediatrician who is alarmed to find that Lydia’s baby has actually lost weight. Lydia leaves the pediatrician’s office with a diagnosis of failure-to-thrive for her precious baby, low milk supply for her, and a feeling of utter failure as a mother.
At home, Lydia searches for the chic little diaperbag with the formula ‘failure’ packet and mixes up a bottle, tears falling as she becomes just another statistic.
Feeling forced to ignore her natural mothering instincts because of prevailing mainstream parenting practices, Lydia’s anxiety steadily increased in her baby’s first weeks, negatively affecting her milk supply. Nursing on a schedule prevented her from receiving the stimulation of milk production inherent in the frequent suckling of a baby allowed to nurse on demand. But the breastfeeding coffin was sealed when night nursing ended and with it the loss of hours and hours of milk stimulation resulting in that modern epidemic ~ low milk supply.
November 22, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, Bible, birth, breastfeeding, Christian parenting, cosleeping, food, gentle parenting, natural parenting, pregnancy | Tags: attachment parenting, Bible, birth, breastfeeding, Christian parenting, food, gentle parenting, natural parenting, nature, newborn | 16 Comments »
I am thankful for fruit!
~By Their Fruit They Will Be Known~
Love ~ Many parents say they make their parenting choices out of love, and I believe that is so very true, but if God is love as He says He is (and He is!), then our love needs to reflect His in every way, including in our parenting. And how does God show His love? Sacrificially, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Modeling God’s sacrificial love in our parenting is reflected by making parenting choices based on our children’s needs, not our convenience. Responsive parenting is truly a picture of God’s sacrificial, unconditional love in that, as we respond to our children where they are, (“This is how God showed His great love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners [emphasis added]” Romans 5:8) comforting their cries, guiding their choices, providing for their needs, encouraging their individuality, we are, moment by moment, day by day, sacrificing our lives for them.
Joy ~ Parenting can be a challenge (Ask God. He’s got a lot of children, and they don’t behave all that well!) but taking joy in the journey and in our children makes all the difference. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’” (Luke 10:21) Take time out each day to enjoy your children, or, better yet, to tell them what joy they bring to your life and specifically what unique things you enjoy about them!
Peace ~ It’s so, so hard making parenting choices, knowing our actions (or inactions!) will have an incredibly profound effect on a precious little life. God knows and sees and cares about every detail of our lives and our children’s lives. And, in the same way that we want our little ones to trust us with their needs and concerns and desires, God wants us to trust Him and to have peace in Him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Patience ~ “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Children come into our lives as small bundles with big needs who don’t speak or understand our language and then proceed to grow into little people with their own temperaments, plans, and desires. Having patience as a parent should qualify as an extreme sport! But having and modeling patience with our children not only helps us to guide and grow them gently, but also encourages them to exercise patience with themselves and others throughout life…a rare, but lovely gift we can give the world through our children.
Kindness ~ My grandmother’s favorite verse was “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1Corinthians 13:4-5) This is a beautiful example of how the Bible encourages us to treat others…including our children! Taking time out on occasion to examine our parenting practices and evaluate them in terms of how loving and patient and kind we are to our little ones is a vital part of effective parenting. It’s also important to make sure we aren’t parenting ‘for the neighbors,’ in other words, we aren’t making parenting choices based on a ‘who has the best kid’ competition (envy, boastful) or out of embarrassment over our children’s behavior (pride). Are we easily angered by our children? Do we dredge up their mistakes time and time again? If so, consciously working to break those bad habits and replace them with love and patience and kindness will have a dramatically positive impact on our parenting.
Goodness ~ “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” (Mark 4:8) Of all things, shouldn’t our very first desire in parenting our children be to till the soil of their little hearts so tenderly, so carefully, so intentionally that their hearts are “good soil,” ready, eager, and willing to receive the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection for their sins? Instead of focusing on punishing our children’s mistakes, their ‘sins,’ thus negating the Gospel and undermining the very purpose for Jesus’ suffering, shouldn’t we model the grace and mercy and forgiveness we ourselves have been given? So what, exactly, is “good soil”? Agriculturally speaking, which is what the parable Jesus told was based on, “good soil” is well-drained (not bogged down by over-watering, i.e. over-indulgent parenting), fresh (not over-used or over-worked, i.e. over-bearing parenting), fertilized (filled with good nutrients, i.e. needs met), composted (mixed with rubbish, i.e. sinful!), and enriched (earthy minerals intact, i.e. connected to their source~their parents).
Faithfulness ~ “The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.” (Isaiah 38:19) God is faithful in His promises, faithful in His love, faithful in His parenting. In all things we need to reflect His character to our children so that when we tell them about ‘His faithfulness’ it isn’t only in words, but also in deeds. And what is faithfulness, exactly? It is defined as constancy, dependability, care, trustworthiness, devotion, honor, attachment, commitment. So let us parents, as reflections of God, be faithful to exhibit constancy, dependability, care, trustworthiness, devotion, honor, attachment, and commitment in our parenting choices!
Gentleness ~ “Let your gentleness be evident to all”…except your children. No, of course the Bible doesn’t say that! God actually instructs us to “Let your gentleness be evident to ALL (emphasis added)” in Philippians 4:5. Tender, compassionate, merciful, warmhearted, sensitive, approachable, good-humored…these are all synonyms for gentleness, and gentle parenting reflects all of these qualities. Let’s take a look at the antonyms (opposites) of the word gentle in the thesaurus~harsh, tough, violent, sharp, rigid, severe, unrelenting, unforgiving, punitive, unpleasant, pitiless, stern. “Let your gentleness be evident to all” including (especially!) our littlest, most defenseless, and truly precious gifts from God~our children!
Self-control ~ “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28) City walls being broken through was a tragedy of great proportions in the Bible, whereas a city gladly throwing open its gates to welcome its King was a time of rejoicing. The ‘city walls’ were used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to a person’s will. Many times the words ‘break a child’s will’ are thrown around and spoken as if directly from the mouth of God. But God, as our heavenly Parent, doesn’t seek to break our wills. Instead, He teaches us to trust Him by His own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and by His self-control in not stomping us out of existence as we deserve by our sinfulness. And, after building that trust-relationship with us, He gently calls us to joyfully and voluntarily lay down our wills out of trust and gratitude and to open our hearts and minds and lives to Him, welcoming in our King. This is the heart of trust-based obedience!
November 21, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, Bible, birth, Christian, Christian parenting, food, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, natural parenting, newborn, parenting guide, positive discipline | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, Bible, Christian, Christian parenting, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, parenting, positive parenting, sacrifice, sacrificial parenting | Leave A Comment »
The concept of using consequences, physical or otherwise, as a deterrent for hitting is based on the misconception that small children have the capacity for forethought (i.e. If I hit, I will get in trouble. Therefore I will not hit.) and that they are choosing to disobey. The fact is that the prefrontal cortex, where reasoning, logic, and forethought take place, is highly immature in toddlers and preschoolers and actually doesn’t develop fully until the mid-twenties! Small children act instinctively and impulsively even when not stressed simply because that is what they are developmentally capable of, but when they are stressed even the small amount of self-control they may have attained flies right out the window, and before they know it (literally!) they’ve reacted physically to their stress. Read more
Typically, I advise parents to use Time-Ins instead of Time-Outs in order to connect-to-correct, but there is one area that I advise the use of Time-Outs…the ‘Time-Out Toy Box!’ When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, drawn on, fought over, etc) and a gentle redirection has been given, the next step for the toy is to be put in the ‘Time-Out Toy Box.’ Little ones generally find the concept of a toy being put in Time-Out rather humorous and go along with the removal without a fuss (the toy can be returned after an exaggeratedly stern warning to the toy letting it know what is expected of it and that it must listen to ‘the boss’ ~the child, lol. They love that!), but remember to communicate, listen, and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, it may be that the inappropriate behavior was more than just…Read more
Few things ignite a parent’s temper like defiance. It feels like a slap in the face, a direct challenge to our authority. Power card…played. Gauntlet…thrown. Challenge…accepted?
Time out! No, not time-out as in punish your child, but time out as in hit the parental pause button, take a step back, assess the situation, and get some adult perspective.
There are three things to consider…Read more
Punishing them, yelling at them, sending them to their room, or putting them in time-out disconnects them even further from their source of security and not only delays a resolution of the issue, but misses an opportunity to equip them with the tools they need to handle future problems.
One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar…Read more
I-spy Water Jars, Quiet Bags, Calm-Me-Jars, Cozy Corners, Punch Bags, and more…Read more
Almost from the moment a baby is born, parents teach them not to share. “No, no, sweetie. That’s mommy’s” and “That’s daddy’s, not yours” accompanied by the removal of whatever the forbidden item is are daily realities for little ones. This is unavoidable, of course, since bacteria-ridden keys don’t belong in little mouths and iphones don’t work well when soaked in drool.
But the challenge comes when our little ‘reflectors’ are expected to share their toys with anyone and everyone who takes a liking to them…Read more
One of the hot-button issues when it comes to discipline and children is spanking, and the more Christian and conservative the audience, the more hot the debate becomes! There are no verses in the New Testament that support spanking, flogging, whipping, or otherwise hitting children. In the Old Testament there are…Read more
Your Baby isn’t Trying to Annoy You; He’s Trying to Communicate! From the moment a child enters the world, they are trying to communicate. Crying, grunting, making eye contact, mirroring expressions, all of these things are the instinctive tools built into infants to reach out into a brand new world and make contact. They can do no more. It is entirely up to the parent to make the connection, to respond, to build those all-important ‘lines of communication’ that will be so vitally important to parents in later childhood. Communication is not something that just happens. It is not something that begins when a child becomes verbal, and it’s not a product of a child’s advancing maturity. Communication is a process, a relational building block, a result of intentional and responsive parenting. Read more
The evolution of children’s communication proceeds at a steady and relatively predictable pace, though the timing is influenced by factors such as individual personality, cognitive development, home environment, etc. Here’s what to expect through the ages and stages…
Babes and Boundaries~A Gentle Parenting Perspective Gentle parenting doesn’t mean parenting without boundaries! Believe it or not, the foundation for discipline (guiding, leading, teaching…NOT punishment ) begins in the newborn and infancy stages. When parents respond quickly, consistently, and gently to their baby’s cries, the trust relationship that the parent is establishing becomes the cornerstone for later discipline. Boundaries need to be established for a child’s safety and growth into a successful citizen of our world. A child who is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight to be heard or to have his needs met is more open and adaptable to limits. And when the ‘limit-setter’ is a person the child trusts, the enforcement of those boundaries becomes a matter of connection and communication instead of conflict and struggle. So, what might setting and enforcing boundaries using gentle parenting look like in real life? Read more
Parenting in Public~What’s in Your Quiet Bag? More and more public places are becoming child un-friendly with snarky signs saying they’ll give your child an espresso and a pony if you don’t control him or charge you extra if you dare to enter their establishment and support their business with your hard-earned money or even flat out ban you altogether if you bring ‘the beast’ out in public with you! So what’s a parent to do? Read more
Discipline & Behavior via Dr. Sears
You probably never thought of attachment tools, such as breastfeeding and babywearing, as being acts of discipline, but they are. Attachment parenting is like immunizing your child against emotional diseases later on. Your knowledge of your child becomes like a sixth sense enabling you to anticipate and control situations to keep your kids out of trouble. Discipline is based on building the right relationship with a child more than using the right techniques.
Parenting toddlers made simple. via T.E.A.C.H. Through Love
Toddlers can be loud, boisterous, erratic, funny, messy, witty and smart all at the same time. They soak up everything they see and hear and that includes our reactions to their actions.
What Children Need Most When They Deserve It The Least via Happy Families
Parents prefer not to have their authority questioned. So rather than considering why a child may be resisting, they up the ante, doing their best puffer-fish impersonation, and make threats.
Positive Parenting in Action: Exploration/Danger via Positive Parenting
Don’t mistake independence for defiance. Some toddlers are more strong-willed and independent than others. My first son was very mellow and content under my wing, while my second wanted independence early. He doesn’t want to hold my hand in parking lots (we’ll address that one!) because he says “I can walk by myself!”
With a healthy relationship based on open, honest communication, issues can be addressed as they arise and in a respectful and timely manner instead of a teen feeling the need to go ‘underground’ with their behavior or problems. Here are some practical tips for raising teens in a respectful and peaceful manner.
Gentle Discipline: So what DO you do? via The Path Less Taken
Some people, for any number of reasons, do not know about alternatives. They don’t know that there’s another way. Some people want to do things differently, and want to break their cycle, but they honestly do not know where to start.
Proactive Discipline and Well-behaved Children via Gentle Christian Mothers
Most people seem to think that physical punishment is the only way to elicit good behavior and assume that children who aren’t given prompt and regular spankings will be out of control “monsters”. Well, my kids are not perfect little robots. They have to be reminded to do things and they fight with each other. But my focus is not so much on obedience (do what I say right now!) as you might have expected. Instead my focus is on raising kids who are generally polite and content and care about how those around them feel. And that’s what I’ve got, kids who are noticeably considerate to adults and other children alike.
6 Steps to Stop Yelling Dr. Laura Markham/Aha Parenting.com
We all know that our kids respond better if we don’t yell. Instead of escalating a difficult situation, if we can stay calm, it settles everyone else down. Our relationship with our child strengthens. They cooperate more. They start to control their own emotions more. Bottom line: How can you expect your child to control his own emotions if you don’t control yours?
The One Thing You Can Do That Will Drastically Improve Your Interactions with Children via Real Child Development
If there was one thing you could do differently that would drastically improve your interactions with children would you want to know? Would you like to know the key that would increase cooperation, reduce tantrums, fighting and negative behavior?
Gems via Mothering by Grace
This is a FAST way of making your child feel loved, valued and secure. GEMs help your kids feel affirmed and noticed, so their need to get your attention in negative ways decreases. Your energy levels will rise as you enjoy your child and remember what it’s all about. By focusing on your child and meeting their emotional needs for connection you are actually taking care of yourself at the same time. It takes only a few minutes to have a GEM, yet the positive effects last for ages.
Why Spanking is Never Okay via Peaceful Parenting
Scientific research shows that physical punishment does not work in the long run, is associated with an increased risk for many behavioral and psychological problems, and is simply unnecessary given that we have non-violent discipline techniques that are very effective.
Gentle, effect tools for your parenting toolbox!
November 21, 2011 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, babywearing, Bible, birth, breastfeeding, children's books, Christian, Christian parenting, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, parenting guide, positive discipline | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, babywearing, Bible, breastfeeding, childhood, children, Christian, Christian parenting, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, Jesus, newborn, parenting, play, positive, positive parenting, rebellion | 38 Comments »
I am thankful for motherhood!
Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. ~William Makepeace Thackeray
In the Arms of Motherhood~Reflections of the Cross
Motherhood is very simple to me. It’s a gift to me, but it’s not about me. Period. I’m the one who chose to bring these little people into the world, so the thought that somehow they have the responsibility to fit into my life, and work around my schedule, and not disrupt my pursuit of self 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! When our littlest invited guests arrive in our home and hearts, 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 becomes our lives!
Motherhood is, very simply, a lovely sacrifice. The Bible says, “Women will be saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). I believe God is referring to the sacrifice of self that mothers willingly and lovingly live for their children as a reflection of the sacrifice Jesus made for His children on the Cross. It is a lovely retelling of the Cross played out in the arms of motherhood, 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 older mother who gives up the peace of her golden years to welcome the child of her youth back into her home when life hits hard. This laying down of self, this giving up of comforts and rights and dreams, these are losses, sacrifices, but they are lovely, beautiful beyond belief. Their loveliness lies in the soft, warm weight of a sleepy baby with a full belly and a trusting heart. Their beauty lies in the spark of hope in the tear-filled eyes of a weary adult who’s life has turned dark, but who finds 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 who 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 just a moment who wasn’t meant to stay. 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.
November 20, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, birth, breastfeeding, Christian, Christian parenting, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, motherhood, newborn, positive discipline, pregnancy, stillbirth | Tags: attachment, attachment parenting, babywearing, birth, breastfeeding, Christian, Christian parenting, cosleeping, discipline, gentle, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, homeschooling, loss, miscarriage, natural parenting, newborn, parenting, positive, positive parenting, pregnancy, sacrifice, sacrificial parenting, stillbirth | 5 Comments »
[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
So, your precious baby has finally arrived! After a perfect pregnancy and blissful labor and delivery, you’ve come home (in your pre-pregnancy clothes, of course!) with your beautiful baby, ready to start life as the perfect parents of a perfect child. Yeah, right! Actually, after a pregnancy in which you threw up more times than you can count and yet still managed to gain an embarrassing amount of weight, and where your feet swelled to unrecognizable lumps at the bottom of your legs, you finally suffered through a hideously long, painful labor and delivery only to arrive home (in your largest maternity outfit which barely fit!) with a screaming, vomiting, miniature human being who can’t tell you why he’s upset and who poops what can only be described as TAR! What are you going to do now?!?
First, call your mommy! No, really, if you have a mom or a grandma or an aunt or a good friend who has any experience with babies, ask for help! As long as there have been babies being born, there have been women gathering around to help new mamas through those first intense weeks with a newborn. Experienced helpers can make all the difference in how well you survive the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, and vast uncertainties that come with being a new parent.
Beware, though, the experienced helpers who are a bit too helpful and try to push you out of the way even to the extent of trying to guilt you into leaving your baby behind to go on a walk or a date-night ‘for the good of your marriage.’ In the first place, having to leave your baby behind to preserve your marriage isn’t a great precedent to set with your husband. You two are in this together and setting a precedent of family first is a good idea! And secondly, the whole point of having help is not only for you to recover, but also so you can become experienced yourself in taking care of your baby. And on that note…
Second, while accepting help is vital, make sure that everyone knows that this baby is YOUR baby and YOU will decide what is best for you and your child. Listen to all the advice; take what makes sense to you; and chuck the rest. Let your helpers do the housework and the cooking and the errands while you take care of and get to know the new little addition to your family. If your instincts tell you to hold your baby, even while she sleeps, then hold your baby even while she sleeps! If your instincts tell you to nurse your crying baby even though you just nursed fifteen minutes ago, then nurse your baby! God gave you those instincts for a reason, so don’t ignore them!
Third, I know we’ve all heard the ‘sleep when your baby is sleeping’ advice. Listen to that advice! Short little naps may not seem all that helpful in theory, but they can be lifesavers when getting used to the rigors of new parenthood. And keep reminding yourself that it will get better, because it will!
Fourth, whether you’ve chosen to breastfeed or bottle feed, expect your little one to eat erratically right at first. Remember, babies nutritional needs were met with a constancy and lack of effort in utero that can’t be fully replicated outside the womb. Their tummies are only about the size of a walnut in the first days, so they can’t eat enough at a feeding to last them more than two or three hours at most, and often far less! Also, if you’re breastfeeding it’s common to worry that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, but if you keep in mind how itty bitty their little tummies are, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take much to fill them up. Things to consider with breastfeeding are getting a good latch and establishing your supply, among others, and it’s often helpful to consult a lactation specialist for guidance. There are excellent resources available in most communities through your local hospital as well as online resources such as La Leche League and Kellymom.com.
Fifth, while bathing baby may be fun, it really isn’t necessary and might be rather traumatic for them. ‘Topping and tailing’ is a term that means taking a warm, wet cloth (no soap) and gently washing their eyes (inner corner to outer corner to avoid infection), face, ears, head, and neck, and then washing their bottom, being careful to clean out all the little cracks and crevices. Follow that with cord care (gently cleaning the cord area with a cotton swab moistened with alcohol), and you’re done!
Sixth, birth is a huge transition for a baby. From a warm, dark, weightless environment where all their needs are met, sounds are muffled, and mama’s heartbeat lulls them to sleep, they are abruptly ejected into a cold, loud, bright world where they experience hunger and discomfort and loneliness and fear for the first time. You can help your little one cope by easing the transition for him. Keeping the lights a bit dimmer and the sounds a bit more muted right at first is helpful in welcoming your baby to your world. Also, it’s helpful to wear your baby in those first transitional weeks (and often far longer when you discover how convenient it is!). Babywearing is a term that refers to using a baby carrier, wrap, or sling to keep your baby close to you where he can hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth and closeness in an approximation of your womb. All of these things will help to reduce your baby’s stress as he acclimates to his new environment, and a less stressed baby tends to result in a less stressed mommy!
Seventh, there is a big divide in parenting circles between the ‘co-sleepers’ and the ‘crib-sleepers’ so be aware that whichever choice you make will probably be challenged by more than one of your friends or relatives or even complete strangers who seem to have no issues with giving advice to someone they don’t know! Bottom line, if you choose to co-sleep, check here for ‘safe co-sleeping’ options, and then follow your instincts! If you choose to put your little one in a crib or bassinet, do yourself a favor and put it next to your bed to reduce your travel time in the middle of the night. You’ll thank me, I promise!
Eighth, your baby is completely and totally helpless in every way. Her main mode of communication is crying. Medical experts agree that it isn’t possible to spoil a newborn, and you are just at the beginning stages of building a trust relationship, so respond promptly to your little one’s cries! Your immediate response to your baby’s needs will help her begin to learn that she can count on you when she needs you and that she doesn’t have to ‘fight’ for your attention. Babies left to cry-it-out often do sleep through the night sooner 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 long-term consequences of a child giving up on her parents simply aren’t worth it.
Ninth, baby yourself! Whether you’ve had a c-section or a vaginal birth, your body has been through the wringer; your hormones are all over the place; and your lack of sleep is not helping matters! Have someone make you a ‘survival basket’ with water bottles, granola bars, minty gum, hand sanitizer, diapers, baby wipes, burp rags, and, most importantly, chocolate! It needs to be small and light enough for you to take from room to room with you while carrying your baby. Also, have someone make a comfy area in your living room for you to nurse (with your survival basket within reach!) and a changing area so you don’t have to go back and forth to the bedroom or nursery throughout the day. Take showers when you can. Accept casseroles and other offerings of meals from friends and church members and co-workers. And, if you don’t have help for the housework, just do the bare minimum so you can rest and recover and focus on getting to know your precious new baby!
Tenth, baby your marriage! This is a huge, huge, huge transition for you and your husband, so both of you apologize to each other in advance for any temper tantrums, thoughtless words, or unmet needs that might (will!) occur in the foreseeable future. You are going from ‘the two of us’ to ‘we three’ and, just as with anything else, change isn’t easy. Husbands, it’s not about you right now, period. Yes, you have your own issues to deal with in becoming a parent for the first time, but you need to put that aside for the first weeks and concentrate on your wife and child. Your wife isn’t just having to deal with becoming a mommy, but her body has been through an incredible transition during the previous nine months followed by the trauma of labor and delivery followed by crashing hormones, the trials of learning to breastfeed (or deal with engorgement issues if choosing to bottle feed), and the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn’s erratic sleep patterns. If she’s also had a c-section, you can add major abdominal surgery to that list! So, husbands, put your own issues aside and baby your wife and baby for the time being! Wives, a little verbal acknowledgement goes a long way with husbands, so try to muster up enough energy to tell your husband that you appreciate him and understand that he is trying to figure out this new life just like you are, and assure him that eventually you will be you again! (Yes, you will. It just takes time!)
Final thoughts: One of the things that has kept me going through giving birth to six children (and losing several others along the way) is the assurance that ‘this too shall pass.’ As with all changes in life, it takes time to adjust, but reminding yourself that this ‘will pass,’ and you will adjust, and life will go on is very, very helpful! Also, take time to enjoy the little things–the sweet smell of your newborn’s tiny head, the soft sounds of his breathing as he sleeps, the sight of your spouse staring into your beautiful baby’s eyes–because too soon this time will pass and these precious moments will become mere memories. Congratulations and God bless!
November 20, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, Christian, cosleeping, natural parenting, newborn | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, Christian, Christian parenting, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, natural parenting, newborn, positive parenting | 23 Comments »
[From Messages in a Bottle: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost available June 2013; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon.]
On a recent trip to the park, I overheard a parent ranting and raving about a little one “being a brat and always pitching fits.” It took me less than two seconds of looking at the child to realize his mother had put him down on hot asphalt without shoes on, and his ‘fit’ was actually cries of pain as he danced around trying to keep his poor little feet off the asphalt while trying to push past his mommy to get back into the car. In a few years this mother will wonder why her ten-year-old is always so sullen and silent.
Later the same day in Wal-mart, a three-year-old asked her mommy what plastic wrap was for. The mother rolled her eyes and snapped, “For wrapping food in plastic, duh.” A few years from now, this mother will confess to a friend that she has no idea why her nine-year-old is so mouthy and rude.
Minutes later, a two-year-old riding past me in a shopping cart pointed at a toy and babbled in her cute baby language, looking at her daddy with a delighted smile. Her father ignored her first few attempts to get his attention, then finally barked, “Shut up!” without ever looking at her. In a few years this father will complain to his co-workers that his teenaged daughter never talks to him.
Communication in my son’s Tae Kwon Do classes is called, “The link between the world and me.” In the parent/child relationship, communication is entirely…hear this…ENTIRELY the responsibility of the parent. From the moment a child enters the world, they are trying to communicate. Crying, grunting, making eye contact, mirroring expressions, all of these things are the instinctive tools built into infants to reach out into a brand new world and make contact. They can do no more. It is entirely up to the parent to make the connection, to respond, to build those all-important ‘lines of communication’ that will be so vitally important to parents in later childhood. Communication is not something that just happens. It is not something that begins when a child becomes verbal, and it’s not a product of a child’s advancing maturity. Communication is a process, a relational building block, a result of intentional and responsive parenting.
Crying is often mischaracterized as manipulation, and adults are certainly capable of using it that way. But to project such motivations on a baby is to grant them a level of skill and control far, far beyond their capabilities, and that is a potentially disastrous mistake. A parent’s perception of the motivation behind their child’s behavior is often the single most powerful determinant of the parent’s response. And the parental response or lack of response to a nonverbal child’s cries either builds or damages their communication and connection. There is no in between, no neutral.
Hear this well, parents, your relationship with your teenager is being established NOW, while your child is still a toddler. Your discipline issues with your nine-year-old are being minimized or intensified right now, while he is reaching out to you in infancy. Preschooler’s tantrums are being moderated or exacerbated at this moment by your response or lack of response to your baby’s cries.
And the responsibility for building communication and connection with your child doesn’t end when your child becomes verbal. There is a reason children aren’t classified as adults until they are, in fact, adults. They simply do not have the judgment, experience, or maturity of an adult. Parents, you are the center of your child’s world for many years, and they WILL model themselves after the example you set. If you listen to them, they will learn to listen. If you are rude to them, they will learn to be rude. If you treat them with respect, they will learn to be respectful. If you are angry, demanding, and harsh with them, they will learn to be angry, demanding, and harsh. And so on. Live out how you want your children to turn out. That, parents, is what it means to “train up a child in the way he should go.”
November 19, 2011 | Categories: adolescence, Bible, Christian parenting, communication, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, parenting guide, positive discipline, rebellion, teens | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, childhood, children, Christian parenting, communication, connection, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, parenting, positive parenting, rebellion, teens | 55 Comments »
I am thankful for my parental rights!
“Protecting parental rights is not a right wing movement or a left wing movement…it is the correct movement.”
John Patrick Julien
This video is very uncomfortable to watch, but if you do watch it, watch all the way to the end. It’s not about what you believe…it’s about your right as a parent to raise your child in accordance with your beliefs~ whether those beliefs are homeschooling or cosleeping or extended breastfeeding or holistic medicine or spiritual, religious, or moral beliefs. It’s not about giving parents the right to abuse their children…it’s about not lumping good parents in with abusive parents. It’s not even about deregulation…it’s about strong, directed laws to protect children from abuse and neglect instead of blanket laws stripping parents of their rights and giving those rights to faceless government officials who don’t know or love your child.
My purpose in sharing this is simply to raise awareness of how precious, and how vulnerable, our rights are. If we don’t continually seek to learn and grow and understand the world around us, it won’t just leave us alone. The decisions made across the ocean cause ripple effects that can and will affect our lives. If you support those decisions, so be it…that is your right. If you don’t support those decisions, do something about it…that is your responsibility.
November 18, 2011 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, breastfeeding, Christian, Christian parenting, communication, cosleeping, family, homeschooling, Jesus, natural parenting, teens | Tags: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, breastfeeding, Christian, Christian parenting, cosleeping, homeschooling, Jesus, natural parenting, parental rights, parenting, teens | Leave A Comment »
In Milwaukee, the local government has declared war on cosleeping. Billboards and signs with scary images of babies next to huge knives, surrounded by mounds of pillows and comforters, no adult in sight, proclaim that cosleeping is dangerous. Of course, the signs belie the message since there are no adults actually sleeping with the babies in the pictures, just knives and suffocation hazards and babies sleeping on their stomachs, all fear-triggering images for parents.
This campaign against cosleeping was launched after the release of the 2010 Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIRM) Report detailing the statistics behind Milwaukee’s shocking infant death rate. According to Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health, Bevan K. Baker, “The infant mortality rate in Milwaukee is worse than in almost any other developed country.” (pg 4) The idea that an American city could have such a tragic distinction is certainly staggering. Looking at the statistics reveals some sobering facts:
Infant Death and Stillbirth in Milwaukee
2005–2008 Stillbirths and Infant Deaths
- Of the 807 infant and prenatal deaths from 2005 to 2008, 308 were stillbirths and 499 were infant deaths from all other causes combined.
- 38%, more than a third, of all of the deaths were attributed to one cause, stillbirth. Poor medical care was cited as the overriding contributor.
- Of the 499 infant deaths, 53.7% were due to prematurity. Poor medical care was cited as the overriding contributor.
- More than 77% of the total deaths were due to stillbirth or prematurity with poor medical care cited as the overriding contributor.
- More than 85% of the total deaths were in the African-American community with poor medical care cited as the overriding contributor.
- Of the remaining deaths, 19% were due to congenital abnormalities, 18% to SIDS or accidental suffocation (refers to the sudden unexpected death of an infant due to overlay[adult accidentally smothering an infant], positional asphyxiation, or mechanical asphyxiation, [pg 2]~no breakdown of the numbers of SIDS, positional asphyxiation, or mechanical suffocation vs. overlay were provided in the report), 4.4% were due to infection, 2.4% to murder, and 2.4% to other.
- Note: The report’s ‘Findings,’ or summary, provided at the beginning of the document transposes the 18% of infant deaths from SIDS and accidental suffocation with the 19% of infant deaths from congenital abnormalities. (see pg 6)
- Of the 499 infant deaths, 329 were in the African-American community, and of that 193 were due to prematurity, 65 to congenital abnormality, 39 to SIDS and accidental suffocation, 16 to infection, 8 to murder, and 8 to other.
- Note: The report’s glossary defined accidental suffocation as “… overlay, positional asphyxiation, or mechanical asphyxiation” but throughout the rest of the document used the phrasing “SIDS, overlay, or accidental suffocation.”
- In summary, in excess of 85% of the total deaths were in the African-American community. More than 77% of the total deaths were due to stillbirth or prematurity. Poor medical care was cited as the overriding factor in these deaths. Of the 807 total deaths, 88 were due to either SIDS or positional asphyxiation or mechanical asphyxiation or overlay with no distinction in the causes provided.
- Note: Risk factors for stillbirth, prematurity, SIDS, etc. were listed and provided in multiple generic tables, but no tables or statistics about actual risk factors found in the Milwaukee deaths were provided.
So, with no actual numbers of how many of the 88 out of 807 deaths were due to ‘overlay,’ or adults laying on top of and smothering an infant, and with the overwhelming majority of deaths being related to poor medical care in their own report, the local Milwaukee government launched a multi-faceted campaign to…blame the grieving parents.
Not only are they spending taxpayer money to pay for advertising, consulting, billboards, etc in their attack on cosleeping, effectively shifting the limelight away from the real issue, but they also blamed smoking and maternal obesity for the extreme numbers of deaths due to stillbirth and prematurity. Their report, in contrast, showed maternal infection or medical condition to be the primary culprit (read-poor medical care).
Why the red herring? The report, while clearly skewed (see notes), still offered a look at the real issue plaguing Milwaukee: POOR MEDICAL CARE. The report recommended increased access to medical care and improvements in the quality of that care, and yet the focus of the economic and personnel resources of the city in response to the report have been blame-shifting, fear-mongering, and slight-of-hand. Without access to the city’s internal records, we may never know what really brought about Milwaukee’s dangerously substandard medical care implicated in the Fetal Infant Mortality Review, or discern the cause of the extreme bias toward African-American babies dying in Milwaukee, or discover the root of the subsequent bizarre publicity campaign by the local Milwaukee government against cosleeping, but we can be sure of one thing, “Something’s rotten in Denmark…er, Milwaukee.”
Here are some cosleeping research and safety resources:
And a petition to remove the offensive ads:
November 16, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, breastfeeding, cosleeping, family, loss, natural parenting, newborn, pregnancy loss, stillbirth | Tags: attachment parenting, bedtime stories, breastfeeding, cosleeping, loss, newborn, pregnancy, stillbirth | 4 Comments »
I am thankful for freedom!
~Facets of Freedom~
We are a co-sleeping American family. Our newest little family members go from my womb to my room, from being held in warm comfort inside of me to being snuggled up beside me. We follow safe co-sleeping guidelines, of course, but feel our tiny new additions are far safer sleeping in our family bed than in isolation. Most naps are taken right in my arms or a baby sling after being nursed peacefully to sleep. Is it inconvenient? Yes, sometimes. But we didn’t have children for our convenience, and this time is so fleeting I miss it already as my sixth baby slumbers contentedly on my chest while I write these words. Conversely, in Spain young mama Habiba only recently had her baby, Alma, returned to her after Spanish authorities removed the 15 month old for concerns over ‘chaotic’ breastfeeding and co-sleeping patterns. The Spanish authorities first tried to coerce Habiba into weaning Alma and using a crib, but were angered when Habiba continued to “use breastfeeding as comfort” and “sleep with Alma in her bed while using the cot [crib] to deposit items such as toys and clothes.” While I’m thankful that little Alma is safely back in her mama’s arms, my mama’s heart can’t stop hurting for all the other Habibas and Almas whose lives are being ripped apart by intrusive and restrictive governments worldwide.
We are a homeschooling American family. For about 14 years now, my husband and I have made the decision to educate our children at home. I have full autonomy to choose their curriculum, to make (and break!) our own schedule, and to center our school on our Christian faith and conservative values. We can spend an entire school year solely exploring space and the next immersed in archeology. We can take the month of December off and then ease back into school with short days and abbreviated weeks as we recover from the holiday whirl. I can let my children read what they love, write creatively, and pursue their talents and interests. Conversely, in 2008 a 17-year-old girl, Melissa Busekros, was forcibly removed from her parents and placed in the child psychiatry unit of a Nuremberg, Germany clinic. “Homeschooling was first banned under Adolf Hitler, and that ban is still enforced today,” says the homeschool legal defense association (John-Henry Westen). And that is just one case among many of a parent’s choice to homeschool being met with government interference in, or outright severing of, families.
We are a non-vax’ing American family. I, like the majority of young mothers, trusted my children’s pediatrician and suffered through injection after injection and ‘mild’ reaction after ‘mild’ reaction to vaccinations (none of which were ever reported to the CDC as required by law~just another drop in the massive under-reporting bucket), believing I was doing what was best for my children’s health and well-being. Then came the terrifying seizures when my #5 was six months old. And then came the brick wall. None of the doctors at the hospital, including our pediatrician, would even consider the multiple vaccinations my baby had received a couple of days before as a cause of the seizures. They put that poor baby through test after test after test, and even when no other explanation could be found, they still wouldn’t look at the vaccinations as a possibility and just listed the seizures as “of unknown cause.” That experience taught me to be wary of the medical establishment and set off a massive vaccination research project in my life that resulted in two words: NEVER AGAIN. And I am so very thankful to live in a nation where I have that right, that freedom to make informed choices for my family! Conversely, in 2009 seven year old Domenic Johansson was snatched from his parents’ custody by officials of Gotland, Sweden. They were accused of not vaccinating him and of homeschooling him. No other accusations or charges were brought against them, but to this day he has not been returned to their custody. Once every five weeks they are permitted a one hour, supervised visit. Unbelievable, and so heartbreaking!
We are a church planting American family. Through the years our family has been involved in planting several new churches~from helping to grow one or two-year-old churches, to being a part of core groups starting a new church, to actively hosting a brand new church in our own home. In the United States, this is our right, and we have the freedom to exercise it without fear of reprisal or government intervention. Conversely, Iranian pastor, husband, and father Youcef Nadarkhani has been in prison in Iran since October 2009, sentenced to die for his Christian activities. The appeal of his death sentence was rejected by the Iranian Supreme Court in June of this year. He is to be executed by hanging (Voice of the Martyrs). Stories of religious persecution and the restriction of religious freedoms can be found from every corner of the globe, and the stories are chilling.
We are an American family. Our nation is by no means perfect and our freedoms are by no means free, but here in the United States our Constitution stands resolutely proclaiming, and overseas our troops stand tirelessly protecting, our precious freedom. We thank God for our country and our military. God bless our troops, and God bless the U.S.A.!
*Originally written for Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered‘s blog carnival, Parenting in America
November 13, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, Christian, cosleeping, homeschooling, natural parenting, newborn, nonvaxing | Tags: attachment parenting, babywearing, breastfeeding, Christian, cosleeping, homeschooling, natural parenting, newborn, nonvaxing | 1 Comment »
[Portions reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon]
The things that challenge us are the very things that refine, strengthen, and grow us. Each of my children has stretched and molded and defined my parenting beliefs in their own unique way through the years. And, as is so often the case in life, it is times when I am not at my best that my children seem to need the most from me. Here is a recent ‘mommy fail’ that has reminded me of my blessings and redefined, once again, my priorities and purpose.
~~A Confession and a Challenge~~
This adorable little person has been a royal pain in the ‘caboose’ for the last few weeks. She has whined, cried, ignored direct requests, climbed on me, hung on me, played with her food, snatched things from the baby, been in my face and space incessantly, and on and on. And the more difficult she got, the more I ‘powered up’ on her. Oh, I didn’t yell or punish. No, I pulled out all my gentle parenting techniques, spoke calmly and respectfully to her, offered diversions and alternatives, read her books and provided lots of reasonable and kind council. She occasionally responded with a half-hearted attempt at cooperation or humorously declined to cooperate, but more often than not just dug in her heels and determinedly upset the normally peaceful and happy timbre of our home.
And then it happened. A few nights ago, I stood in the shower listening to the goings-on outside the door (A mama’s ears are the proverbial ‘eyes in the back of her head’ you know!), and it hit me. Over and over, I heard my older children tell my little caboose, “No,” as she made one unfortunate decision after another. Over and over, I heard her whine and argue and cry. Over and over, I heard the older ones correct her, not hatefully or harshly, but repeatedly, gently, and firmly. And, over and over, I realized I was hearing myself as my older children reflected what they were seeing and hearing from me…repeated, gentle, firm correction…but no listening…none. And my heart broke. I realized that I had been parenting from a position of disconnect from my precious little caboose. Between jumping through all the hoops necessary to get a homeschooler into a pre-med university program to working with my publisher on the super slow and cumbersome process of getting my books onto store shelves, to writing an upcoming book, my busy schedule had overtaken my parenting.
How many times had I told my little caboose “Just a minute” when she needed me? How often had that ‘minute’ stretched into an hour? How many times had my eyes strayed back to my computer screen in the middle of one of her stories about how terribly painful the invisible scratch on her pinky toe was or how pretty the light looked as it danced through the dust motes in front of the window? How often had she fallen asleep waiting, waiting, waiting for me to come and read her a bedtime story? (Oh, my mommy’s heart hurts.)
And so I took my own advice…advice I’ve given umpteen times to other mamas who were experiencing a ‘parenting disconnect.’ I took my disgruntled, whiney, clingy, disruptive child (who I felt like sending to her room just so I could get a break and to make her think about her actions and to get her behavior ‘back in line’) and I pulled her closer than close, under my mama’s wing. I took her everywhere with me. I let her sleep on a pallet next to my bed. We cooked dinner together and made a museum out of her paintings and folded towels together. And I listened and listened and listened…intentionally and thoughtfully and responsively. And my little caboose and I reconnected. In just a matter of days, life returned to its normal cadence of what we affectionately call ‘joyful chaos.’ People see the difference and ask me, “What did you do?” And I simply respond, “I listened.”
Here’s a little story to illustrate…
~The Little Caboose Who Almost Came Loose~
The little caboose chugged along, clickety-clack, clickety-clack, happy as could be as she followed her mama engine and brother and sister cars along the tracks. Up and down hills, around curves and through tunnels they went, all strung together with their secure couplings. And at the end of each day, they headed back to the station to get all fueled up and rested for the next glorious day. One day, the little caboose was startled when mama engine took off extra early without checking to make sure all the couplings were tightened. As they chugged forward, the little caboose could feel her coupling slipping a bit, and she ‘choo-chooed’ loudly to get mama engine’s attention. But mama engine was too busy to notice and kept picking up speed as they began their journey up and down the hills. Alarmed now, little caboose tried to pull backwards and slow the train down, but mama engine chugged on, ‘choo-chooing’ encouragingly. Little caboose felt her coupling getting looser and looser as mama engine sped toward the dangerous curves and tunnels ahead. In a panic, little caboose screeched ‘choo-choo’ over and over and tugged and pulled backward frantically. Mama engine just chugged on, this time ‘choo-chooing’ firmly and giving a gentle extra tug forward. Little caboose spent the rest of the day screeching ‘choo-choo’ and pulling and tugging backward until they finally arrived back at the station, everyone exhausted and cranky from the difficult day. Little caboose was so overwrought from the fear of being disconnected all day that she continued to screech ‘choo-choo’ and pull at her coupling even after they were stopped for the night. Mama engine chugged ominously in her direction, determined to restore order, but suddenly paused, hearing for the first time the fear and exhaustion in little caboose’s ‘choo-choos.’ She looked carefully and noticed the loose coupling. Pulling little caboose closer than close, mama engine tightened the coupling and ‘choo-chooed’ a soft, reassuring lullaby, and little caboose finally stopped her screeching and tugging and relaxed gratefully into her mama engine’s embrace.
If you have a parenting issue right now, any parenting issue at all for any age child, take a mental snapshot of what a typical day looks like at the moment. Then take one week, just a single week out of your life, and listen to your child. Listen intentionally. Listen consciously. Create opportunities for your child to talk. Open conversations to get them started, then stop talking and stop planning your response and stop mentally going over your to-do list and just listen. Take your child with you whenever you can, wherever you’re going. Involve them in your day. Invite them into your life. ENJOY them and get to know them, get to really KNOW the unique and remarkable person they are. They are a precious, priceless gift, and their childhood will be over before you know it. And, at the end of that week, take another mental snapshot of what a day with your child looks like. Then you can decide which path to take. Will you go backward or forward? Is connecting with your child worth your time and effort? What will you choose?
November 12, 2011 | Categories: attachment parenting, children's books, Christian parenting, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, parenting guide, positive discipline | Tags: attachment parenting, bedtime stories, childhood, Christian parenting, cosleeping, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, positive parenting, sacrificial parenting | 11 Comments »