Category Archives: Bloggers

The #1 Reason to Wash Your Baby’s New Clothes

laundryLike many things that shaped my new parenting experience, I found out quite by accident about washing my baby’s new clothes. When my daughter was a newborn, a visiting aunt said, “You know it’s important to wash her clothes before she wears them.”

Not thinking to ask why (it just made sense!) I put that into practice. Only later did I learn about the prevalence of formaldehyde in new clothes.

Formaldehyde is added to clothes for many reasons – to prevent wrinkling, resist mildew growth and stains, and to set in the color. Those who are most aware of environmental and health issues in the apparel industry are beginning talks on reducing or eliminating its use, but they’re far from being implemented across the board.

You can recognize formaldehyde by its chemical odor, which is more intense depending upon how much of it has been used in a given garment. Though for health reasons I’d advise you not to sniff it and just throw it in the laundry instead.

According to the CDC, breathing too much formaldehyde can cause sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds. And prolonged exposure can cause cancer. Because formaldehyde is a carcinogen. But your colors will be brighter, so… tradeoff.

To eliminate as much formaldehyde as possible in your child’s clothing, and yours (you’re his parent, so your health is top priority too!):

  • throw all new clothes in the washer, at least once.
  • air dry them or hang outside after machine drying.
  • dry-clean only clothes should be hung outside to dry
  • keep washing them and/or hanging outside until you can’t detect the smell of formaldehyde (a sharp chemical smell)
  • buy used clothes! wash these too to be safe, but likely the formaldehyde is mostly gone after it’s been cycled through one or more wearer.

As parents, it can be overwhelming to learn about the long list of potential health hazards facing ourselves and our kids. What’s helped me to navigate these is to take as much reasonable action as I’m inspired to do in any given moment. Throwing new clothes in the wash before wearing is a no-brainer for me.

To your health!

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Pasta Bath!

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Winter has hit us really hard this winter in Boston. And when we’re stuck indoors, it’s crucial to find new activities to keep the little ones busy, stimulated and giggling.

Enter Pasta Bath.

The idea came from our brilliant friend Tricia, who dumped a pot of spaghetti on her kitchen floor and let her kids swim in it. My husband wasn’t so crazy about the mess, so… the bathtub!

Have you noticed how cheap spaghetti is? We bought a value pack for $3.41 that let us make 4 pounds of spaghetti!

To address the food wasting issue: anyone who has kids knows that wasting materials is inescapable. If you go through a pack of construction paper, you’re wasting trees. If you go through a pack of pasta, you’re wasting wheat. Which has a smaller footprint? If you’re feeling guilty about it, you can match this activity with a contribution to the food bank.

We boiled up the pasta, dumped it in the tub, and let it cool. We brought up some kitchen utensils – nothing too sharp, and led the kids inside.

Squeals of delight! They played, they ate, they squished and scooped.

When the kids were tired of the dry pasta, we added some warm water! They loved being in a pasta bath, pretending they were pasta in a pot, playing with the now slippery smooth and squooshy pasta. I loved it too.

All in all, a fun hour of sensory play and a lifetime of memories via the camera for just $3.41. Not too shabby!

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome internal blocks to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

Team Fairy vs Team Princess

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Parents of young girls today are inundated by all things pink and frilly. It’s often taken for granted that every girl wants to be a princess.

As a tomboy who grew up with little interest in barbies; an environmentalist who seeks to minimize my footprint; and a feminist who wants to prevent my daughter from measuring her worth by her beauty, I decided to limit the impact of the “princess factor” on my daughter. Enter the fairies.

While every child has innate interests, there are also many that are developed through social interactions.  Using my influence as a parent, I subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly steered my daughter away from princesses and toward the fairies. And I’ve been very pleased with the results. Here’s why.

Values.

Fairies engage in environmental stewardship. They take care of the plants and animals, and are careful not to kill any living thing nor introduce non-natural items (like plastic) into the natural habitat. These are values that help to build a healthier future for our planet, and frankly they’re much more exciting coming from fairies than from mommies.

Princesses value material wealth and external beauty. They seek to acquire beautiful dresses, shoes, jewelry, and other princessly accessories like makeup tables and palaces. These desires are very cleverly played upon by marketing giants such as Disney, who also engage in questionable business practices like marketing “educational” videos to infants (whose brain development is harmed by screen time) and selling products to children with toxic chemicals like PVC.

Tips for parents whose girls love princesses: you may want to look to your child’s own closet for “fancy” dress up clothing and work together on creating tiaras from headbands and embellishing hair clips using materials around the house to create a fun and inexpensive opportunity for hands-on creative play.

Activities.

Fairy play involves creative activities like building fairy houses from the natural environment. You can learn more about the rules of the forest from the fairy houses books (affiliate link). Fairy play also involves using your imagination to explore what it might be like to have magical powers. It can engage children in exploring leadership challenges like being charge of the weather or animal welfare.

Princess play involves dress up, and princesses often engage in role play around traditional story lines like making themselves look beautiful by wearing the right clothes and meeting princes at balls. Princesses often need to be rescued by a prince,  which may lead to marriage. This storyline creates an idea that women need to make themselves weak in order to be loved.

Parents of princess-loving children can work with them to identify the gender assumptions behind those story lines and rescript a more empowering story.

Paths to learning.

Fairies open doorways to loving the natural world. One passion that has grown out of the fairy realm for my daughter is learning about and working with medicinal herbs. A fabulous series that we’ve been using to explore this area more deeply is the herb fairies. Another product we’ve used to cultivate her knowledge and conduct kitchen experiments is the Kid’s Herb Book (affiliate link).

Princess obsessions often lead to reading princess stories, AKA fairy tales. There are some decent newer stories out there (we like Part-time Princess), although the traditional volumes often contain fear-inducing and/or disempowering plot lines which I do my best to avoid for my 4 year old.

If your child is already interested in princesses you can discuss the roles women play as leaders, and which leadership qualities can benefit humankind. Other royal topics worth exploring are social welfare issues and conflicts between nations. Together, you and your princess can engage in creative  problem-solving through role play.

Fairies or Princesses? It’s all in the presentation.

Parenthood is a maze marked by competing interests. As parents of young children, it’s our job to get clear on our values, and shape our kids’ worlds accordingly.

I love the fairies for the gifts they’ve brought to my daughter. But even princesses have gifts to share if we can co-create them to reflect the brightest future we can imagine for our children.

 

Why favorites are not my favorite

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Like many conversations with children, it’s almost innate. “What book is your favorite?” “Which ice cream flavor is your favorite?” You like Sesame Street? Which character is your favorite?”

Harmless, right? It seemed so. But as I watched my daughter integrate the implications of this question, it created a shift in perception that was dark and disappointing.

It happened around age 3. At first, it was a total anomaly to her. What is this “favorite” they’re asking about? Initially she didn’t respond to the question. And it kept on coming.

As understanding dawned, she took some time to process this new idea. It was as if I could see the wheels turning in her head. “You want me to rank these things – to put something above something else.”

Toddlers are full of joy, wonder and amazement. They love everything – well, most things, and they shower those they trust with unconditional love.

So this shift from unconditional to conditional was difficult for me to anticipate – I’d never read or heard another parent’s account of the conceptual shift – and altogether disappointing.

Suddenly, my child, who’d embraced her surroundings with the wonder we all aspire to, had somehow become jaded. For her world had categories. And these categories not only elevated some things – the effect we’d anticipated – but they also made others worse.

Serendipitously, around the same time that her understanding of favorites took hold, we hired a fantastic babysitter. She was fun, childlike, compassionate, and she brought her ukelele with her to let my daughter play with it. And after one session with her, my 3 year old approached me, darkness in her eyes.

“Mommy,” she said, “Steph is my favorite person.” I was taken aback. Deep breath. “How wonderful that you love your new babysitter!” I managed with genuine enthusiasm. But her small, pensive face was clouded with conflict.

What could it mean to a developing toddler, to feel she has to rank someone above the person who for her whole life was her safe place? How might that compromise her feeling of safety, of attachment?

I did my best to explain that we could like “this and that.” That people didn’t need to be ranked above other people. That parents especially didn’t need to be ranked. We have special relationships with our parents, and they will always be special in ways that other relationships aren’t.

But it was too late. Sure, my ego was bruised briefly. But for her, the concept of favorites made her world a little less safe, a little less open, and a little less welcoming. For suddenly she felt compelled to make and declare a choice that somehow lessened her primary relationship.

If I could take it back I would. In our world it’s not altogether realistic to avoid the concept of favorites. It will emerge eventually. But to extend that joyful, unconditional innocence of toddlerhood; I’ll do my best to keep “favorites” out of my vocabulary the second time around.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome internal blocks to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

5 Ways to Bond With Your Baby When Baby-wearing Isn’t an Option

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I’m a huge baby-wearing fan. My first daughter literally fell asleep in the carrier, and only in the carrier, for the first 21 months of her life. She lived in a brown Boba for almost two years. She did weddings, funerals, holidays, shopping, walking, cooking with me. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. I loved wearing her, and assumed the rest of my babies would have that same luxury of living their first few years so close to mama.

Shortly after my second daughter was born though, I realized it wasn’t going to be such smooth sailing. I had incredibly painful varicose veins for much of my second pregnancy, and though they went away after birth, once my baby passed the ten pound mark, I could feel them flaring slightly. As her weight increased, my leg felt worse, and around six months postpartum, I developed pelvic pain and hemorrhoids that made it challenging to hold her, never mind wear her.

I felt guilty, sad, and at a loss. It seemed like one of my best mothering tools had been taken from me. Luckily, my daughter was an early crawler, and a very content baby so I managed to make dinners and do other tasks around the house while she played, instead of carrying her. But still, I wanted to be close to her. I’ve had to be more intentional but I’ve worked through the feelings of loss and instead try to focus on the ways we CAN bond! Here are my top five ways of staying connected to my daughter while trying to preserve my body.

1. Co-sleeping. My little one sleeps in the crook of my arm part of the night, sometimes on my chest, and sometimes, when I’m tired, on the other side of the bed. But we are always close, and I wouldn’t trade our nighttime snuggles for anything – not even an uninterrupted night’s sleep! We also spend about a half hour snuggling in the morning with her older sister in the bed, so everyone feels like they have their physical needs for love and affection met before our feet hit the ground! (If you’re concerned about safety, check out some of Dr. James McKenna’s research on safe co-sleeping, and his safety guidelines.) 

2. Co-bathing. Yup, it’s as easy as it sounds. Jump into the bath with your baby. If they are going through that distracted nursing stage, it’s a great way to gently encourage a good feed. It’s relaxing for you too!

3. Floor time! I am so much more intentional about tumbling on the floor with my second baby. She does “airplane” on my legs while I lie on my back, and crawls over, under, and around me. I barely ever sit on a couch, and when I do crafts or read with my older daughter, we always sit on the floor instead of at the table, so the baby can participate at all times. We also do lots of hugs and kisses on the floor.

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4. Use your stroller wisely. I didn’t use a stroller at all until my eldest turned 2. And even then I used it sparingly. I just felt like they inhibited our freedom to walk off the path, to get through doors, down stairs etc. I still feel that way, but there’s no way we could do museums or park trips without one now that I can’t hold my baby for more than a few minutes at a time. I try to push her to a destination, and then take her right out, and play on the floor for a bit before we need to move again.

I considered buying a stroller with a seat that faced toward me, but I knew my girl wouldn’t be in a stroller for that much longer–as soon as my kiddos can walk, they do–it just takes a bit longer to get places! If circumstances were different though, I may have bought something like this as a long term investment so I could interact and so that my girl could feel safe. (When babies face the world in their stroller, it can be stressful.)  As it is, I like to have my older daughter push the stroller when we walk around town, and I sometimes walk next to or in front of the stroller, making faces, and being silly with the baby.

5. Relax. We are an on-the-go family. We live close to downtown Boston, and my older daughter and I used to go into town weekly. We loved riding the train, exploring the parks in the city, and going to museums. It’s been really hard for me to slow down in that respect, and plan our day around home naps (rather than carrier naps, as in the past), but it’s been a sweet time for my older daughter and I to have time cooking, drawing, reading, or just resting. It’s a season! Before I know it, my baby will be walking, and it will be hard to catch her, never mind pick her up!

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A few other strategies made life a bit easier too. Accept help! Dad puts baby to bed when he’s home, Nana carries her down the stairs if we are going out together, Big Sister watches her when I run to the laundry. At church, instead of carrying the baby up the stairs to Sunday School while I drop off her sister, I leave the baby downstairs with a loving friend. (One of her favorites happens to be a male friend who is at least 6’4″ with glasses and a booming voice. He’s also a trained NICU nurse.)

I’m also much more organized. All the diapering supplies are in one place. The things we need to get out the door are all by the door. I can’t afford to be running around the house looking for things with her in my arms. I also do use the Ergo back carry in a pinch!

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

A Peek into the Past – Infant Pottying and Diapering

 Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First YearThe e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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IMG_0049Americans live in a land of extremes. Our cultural norms can shift dramatically in a matter of years. In terms of elimination, we’ve gone from strict, regimented and arguably abusive potty training, to a permissive, wait-til-he’s-ready-even-if-it’s-five approach. To set the stage for our country’s infant toileting practices, we’ll give you a crash course in the last 100 years of American pottying.

Surprisingly, we found little evidence of early EC pioneers in the States. Rather than throwing off the shackles of diapers during the revolution, our ancestors focused on tea. The good news is they left the best part of the rebellion – the part with environmental, economic, and relationship perks – to moms like us!

Starting around 1900, parents were urged by family doctors to strictly toilet train babies before they could walk. Moms were doubly motivated to train their babies. With no electric washing machines, moms were eager to stop washing diapers by hand. Health concerns also played an important role. Moms feared constipation, which can lead to many health issues. Staying regular from an early age was an important way to keep healthy. So far, so good, but here’s the catch. Rather than serving up prunes, moms inserted sticks of soap into baby’s bottom. Dr. Herman Bundesen, author of Our Babies wrote,

“Before the mother begins the 10:00 morning nursing, she should place the pot, a roll of toilet paper, a soap stick, a towel, and a glass of hot water (to wet the soap stick) upon the table within easy reach….If after several minutes [on the pot], the bowel movement does not take place…the soap stick should be inserted and held into place until the bowels begin to move, but not longer than ten minutes….If this is kept up for three or four days, the baby usually will have learned to have regular bowel movements at the end of this time without the use of the soap stick.”

Are you getting a picture of early American infant toilet training? It wasn’t a feel-good rite of passage, complete with sticker charts and M&M’s. In the 1920s, our buddy Dr. Watson also endorsed early toilet training. He told parents to hold a chamber pot under their newborn, and to begin a serious training regimen by three months. Some parents strapped their infants to small potty chairs as soon as they had neck control.

These harsh toilet training methods made a lasting impression on our society. In the 1940s, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most prominent babycare authority of his time, revolted against early toilet training and recommended waiting until babies sat independently, around seven to nine months, before starting. But the biggest paradigm shift came from Spock’s successor, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, who felt children were not ready to deal with their elimination needs until 24 to 30 months.  His theory was based on observation of one-to-two year old children whose parents used rigid toilet training methods. According to Brazelton’s 1999 book Toilet Training – The Brazelton Way, fears that children wouldn’t complete training in a timely manner spurred parents to use both rewards and punishments, which traumatized young children, and resulted in constipation from withholding bowel movements; bed-wetting; and smearing stools.

Brazelton and co-author Dr. Joshua Sparrow articulated seven clear “readiness” signs. He urged parents not to begin before all seven were present. Among the signs are the ability to say “no,” bowel regularity and bodily awareness.

Brazelton’s research launched child-initiated toilet training, which is now the dominant practice in the U.S. and much of the western world. However, his work contains several flaws. He claims that bed-wetting is caused by early toilet training. Ironically, in his own study, Brazelton found that a clear majority of bed wetters were toilet trained after age two. Also, Brazelton claims that children have no sphincter control until 18 months or older. Common sense tells us this is false – if babies had no sphincter control, they would leak urine constantly, rather than releasing when their bladders are full.

It’s worth noting that Brazelton has profited from his opinion, which has in turn fed the $25+ billion disposable diaper industry. In 1998, Brazelton starred in a Pampers commercial to launch a size 6 diaper — fitting children up to 70 lbs! Though each child is different, the average 70 pounder is 10 years old! Brazelton was also reportedly chairman of the Pampers Parenting Institute, and his book Touchpoints is recommended repeatedly on Pampers’ website.

Given the “determination” of their parents in the roaring 1920s, children were using the bathroom independently at 12 months. In the 1940s, the average shifted to 18 months. By the 1960s, the average age was two years. And now, in the 21st century, the average is over three years. One third of children are still in diapers after their third birthday.[ii] Yes, America is a very progressive nation. But as we’ve seen with many babycare trends, sometimes progress is, in fact, backwards.

In the meantime, several modern pioneers have launched a small but thriving movement to gently respond to baby’s pottying cues – a practice called Elimination Communication, or EC for short – in the U.S. and other western societies. In 1980, Laurie Boucke published the first “how-to” guide, a pamphlet which she has since expanded into a book, Infant Potty Training. In 2001, Ingrid Bauer published Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.

In 2004, the international organization DiaperFreeBaby was launched by Melinda Rothstein and Rachel Milgroom, two Boston moms passionate about educating and building community among ECing parents worldwide. A media blitz in the mid-2000s drew thousands of new ECers, who began forming local groups around the world to support each other. In 2007, author and DFB active member Christine Gross-Loh wrote the user-friendly EC guide, Diaper Free Baby.

Interested in learning how and why our babies were using the potty from birth, and out of diapers around their first birthday? Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s post for a more practical look at EC!

Do you practice EC? If not, what holds you back?

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Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year. The e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

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Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Make Your Own DIY Baby Changing Pad

There are so many expenses that come into our lives with a new baby. Lots of “must haves” too. But as we at The Other Baby Book have found, not all of these “must haves” are actually a must.

I’m going to give you the scoop on how I created my own baby changing pad with household items in about 5 minutes.

To answer the obvious question: why not just buy it?
1. It’s an unnecessary expense
2. It will take up precious space in your house between babies
3. It will take up precious space in our landfills once someone decides to retire it.
4. Flame retardants. That’s right, some Schmo thought that you might leave your roly poly baby on a diaper changing pad long enough to allow the flames to engulf it. Not only are these harmful for the environment, they’re also bad for us and our babies. So why even bother?

Here’s how I made mine, step by step:

1. Find a stack of old towels and/or blankets
2. Identify a waterproof layer (could be a waterproof crib sheet, a chux pad, or even a plastic garbage bag.
3. Top layer: if you have a changing pad cover, it’s a great, elasticized tool to hold the whole thing together. Otherwise, a soft blanket (flannel receiving blankets are ideal) will work.
4. Take your thickest layer and fold it to the height of a tall baby (2-3 feet tall). Leave the sides long.
5. Either fold or roll the sides in from both sides to create a raised layer on each side with a valley in the middle. The valley is where your baby will lie during changes.
6. Fold the remaining layers to match the height and width of your bottom layer. Stack them on top of each other.
7. Put the waterproof layer at the top of the pile. Fold it to match the size of the whole pad.
8. Put on your top layer. If you have more than one changing pad cover, just stack them on top of each other. If one gets soiled you can just pull it off and have a clean one underneath. Same goes for soft blankets, you could have anywhere from 1-3 on top of the pile.
9. I usually add a prefold diaper on top of the whole stack for extra protection, to minimize laundry needs.

Voila, you’re done!

A safety reminder – never leave your baby unattended on a baby changing pad that’s been placed on a high surface.

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How Praising Gives us the “Gimmes”

img_9891I’ve been on board with limiting praise for my kids ever since reading the compelling book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn (affiliate link). I understood it in theory, I learned to apply it in parenting, and I was happy with my decision.

But I didn’t understand the internal impact of praise until recently.

The Back Story.

My good friend is a yoga teacher, and while she’s relatively new at it, she’s also a total rockstar who’s managed to pack her schedule with enough yoga classes to more than compensate for the corporate job she left behind.

Recently she received feedback on her teaching from the owner of one of the studios where she works. We sat down to process the feedback, which shook her confidence a bit.

One of the recommendations was to stop praising. Not that she does it very often. She asked for my thoughts on the matter.

As a coach, I know that praise moves us from a place of unlimited support to a place of judgement. By saying something is good or bad I limit my clients’ experience, so I’ve learned to leave praise out.

As a parent I also know that praise takes a child’s focus off of himself and directs it to praise-seeking activities.

But as a yoga practitioner? I actually enjoy having the occasional “good job” or “nice pose” thrown in there. It gives me a lift and makes me feel good.

I shared my feedback, and trusted my friend to process the issue on her own.

My Experience of Nonjudgment

At my friend’s next class (I attend one of her classes weekly whenever possible), I noticed that she didn’t praise. Not once. And I noticed a shift within myself. As I adjusted and knew not to expect the praise, my attention began to focus more on my internal experience of my yoga practice.

What I began to realize was that those “good jobs” gave me a momentary high, but it was the kind that fizzles on the next pose when I wonder why I’m not receiving more of them. Am I not as good at this one as I was at the earlier one? Is someone else better than me?

In the absence of praise I was able to understand the freedom of not being judged as good or bad. An authority person’s feedback, be they a teacher or parent, has a gravitational draw that brings our attention out of our own experience and focuses it on their assessment of us. The ego then kicks into high gear, measuring us and comparing us to others. In yoga that type of thinking is precisely beside the point. It’s taken me years of practice to learn to keep my eyes on my own mat. But in the process of eliminating praise, my friend helped me bring my full attention to my own experience.

The Implications

By focusing on my own experience I suddenly am liberated to be present with my practice, noticing any tension or emotions arising that need my attention. I  am freed by being in the present moment by feeling connected to everything that is happening, in exactly the moment in which it happens.

By stepping into my ego, which I know experientially know is activated by praise, I step into a state of lack, of wanting or needing attention in order to be okay. This is what I call the “gimmes.” That place where you think you need stuff in order to be okay, be it praise or things. This gimme state just feeds on itself, creating a gimme monster.  I don’t want to disservice my children by shifting them into this mindset of lack.

I stand by the advice we included in the Relate chapter of The Other Baby Book. Limit your praise, and free your children.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome internal blocks to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

 

3 Tools to Leverage Parenting as a Spiritual Path

img_9649Raising children is hard work. It’s deeply trying, physically and emotionally. Many studies have confirmed the drudgery of parenting, finding that the work itself is more tiring than chores or paid work . For those of us who have little ones, whether we care for them all week long or after hours, that’s no mystery.

Parenting is an all-in occupation, with every bit of us being needed for the job, including those parts of us we’d rather forget about. Parenting pushes all of our buttons on purpose. It’s our second chance to dig up and heal all of those old traumas we’ve buried. And depending upon how many kids we have, it’s also our 3rd chance, 4th chance etc. Because with each new character in our brood those feelings emerge as freshly as we experienced them in childhood.

How do you react when you hear your child screaming? It hits you deep down, right? And you’d do anything to make it stop. And that’s by design. By observing how you handle that feeling, and your reaction to your child as they get bigger and push your buttons, we get a unique window into our own childhood, into our parents’ experience, and theirs before them.

We are the inheritors of a unique legacy. All of us come out of childhood with some form of baggage. And we spend an outsize amount of our lives burying it so that we can “function normally”. But normal functioning isn’t dancing on top of a garbage mound and pretending we’re at a beauty pageant. It’s digging down and finding out who we are under all that garbage. It’s allowing and even welcoming all the experiences of life, and all the messy emotions that come with them. And if we have children, we’ve signed up for the messiest of those duties.

Childcare is physically challenging, but as babies turn into children, we find that the emotional challenges feel far more difficult than those early months when our bodies ached from constant carrying and personal hygiene fell low on our priority list.

Parenthood holds up a huge mirror that helps us see our stuffed feelings, our ideas about what’s wrong with us and our beliefs about who it’s acceptable to be in the world. Dealing with that gracefully is difficult on a good day, much less when your charge has smeared peanut butter in your hair and peed on the carpet.

3 ideas to get you through.

1. Laugh. A sense of humor can get you through just about anything. Another benefit is that laughter is healing, in that it lets us release tension and it tells our brain to celebrate. And celebrating is definitely the correct response to useful information that will help you to free your inner child so that you can actually enjoy watching your kid splash in the puddles while wearing her sneakers. or better yet, join in!

2. Take notes. I know it’s difficult to find time to journal when you have a kid, but some of us somehow find ways to send texts. So text yourself when you notice a pattern, when you’ve caught a glimpse of yourself (good bad or ugly) or when you find something you’d like to ponder later. These truths about ourselves are gems, and it’s worth taking a few minutes to jot it down if you can.

3. Roll with it. Yes it’s difficult. And it’s hysterical. And it’s sad. And every other emotion you can imagine. When we open ourselves to our inner experience, as we’ve detailed in the Flow chapter of The Other Baby Book, we can be present to what’s happening in this moment with our child, which is all there ever is.

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome obstacles to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

3 Easy Tools to Build Kids’ Self Esteem

img_8201Today I was listening to a podcast on brain function that led to a Huge aha moment for me as a parent.

I learned that children before age 7 are predominantly in a theta brain state. This is the hyper-suggestible state that is used in hypnosis, one of the few ways to override the subconscious brain’s programs and incorporate new instinctive ways of being in the world.

The implications of this are enormous. The reason we “turn into our parents” when we grow up is because our brains have downloaded their words to us and to themselves and made them our own.

It follows that we can consciously create our children’s internal dialogues. We can plant the seeds of a healthy self esteem and positive outlook that cycle through their subconscious minds.

The steps we can take to make this happen are:
1. Seeding our children with positive statements about who they are
2. Practicing and vocalizing our own positive statements about ourselves
3. Demonstrating our belief in those statements by acting as if they’re true.

Let’s break these down a bit.

1. Seeding our children with positive statements about who they are. Affirmations, or positive belief statements, have been shown to be effective when they’re repeated in a theta brain state. So you have a huge window in the years especially between age 2-5 when kids are entirely in theta, and up until age 7 when that’s their predominant state.

It’s crucial that the affirmations are unlimited statements that affirm who your child is rather than what your child did. Why? Affirming what they did sets them up in a cycle of needing to perform in order to feel good about themselves. There’s much to say about this form of limited praise (which is actually judgement), but I’ll just refer those who are curious about it to the best resource on the topic: Unconditional Parenting (affiliate link).

The best unconditional affirmations I’ve found that you can use with your kids are copied below, excerpted from here: http://www.positive-parents.org/2014/01/nourish-your-childs-mind-with-positive.html

You are valuable to us.
You are so loved.
You are going to do great things in this world.
I’m so happy to have you.
We are lucky to have you in our family.
I will always love you, no matter what.
You can do anything you set your mind to.
The world is a better place because you’re in it.
Your smile lights up my whole day.
I love to hear you laugh.
Your brother/sister is blessed to have you.
Your kindness and compassion amaze me.
You are a wonderful person.

2. Practicing and vocalizing our own positive statements about ourselves. How often do we make negative statements about ourselves (I’m so stupid) our bodies (I’m so fat) or even our partners (Why don’t you ever listen) in front of our children? These all get downloaded into our childrens’ brains, too. The most effective way we can shift our negative self-talk is by shifting our internal dialogue, which we can do when we’re in the hyper-suggestible theta state, just before we go to sleep. We can find affirmations that resonate with us and record them to play back just before sleep, or we can find programs that do this for us. One free resource that I plan on trying out is this affirmation meditation from Louise Hay, available as an iphone app.

3. Demonstrating our belief in those statements by acting as if they’re true. Affirmations have been shown to be effective only when they’re believable. For kids, this means that your behavior must back up your talk. When using affirmations on your kids, it is helpful to ask yourself “how would I behave if this were true” for any given affirmation. For example, if you’re saying “You can do anything you put your mind to” then you’re likely to let your child take risks and figure things out on his own rather than taking over when he’s in the middle of a difficult project. I’d recommend doing this step through journaling, so that you can really play out the scenario and it’ll be easier to walk your talk in the moment.

I’ll be reporting back on my experiences using these steps, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences below!

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Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome obstacles to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.