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.

Long Term Effects of Crying It Out (CIO)

Crying it out (CIO) has become a popular tool among Western parents seeking to get their babies to sleep through the night. It ranges from controlled crying – leaving a baby to cry for a few minutes at a time before comforting him – to extinction – leaving a baby to cry until he stops, which can take hours.

CIO is naturally a very controversial topic, and the parental blogosphere is awash in opinions and scientific research on the matter. Having co-written a book on natural baby care, I can report that almost any mainstream practice has research to back it up and research to discount it. And we can find wonderful critiques of those scientific studies and their flaws.

Most parents choose the path that feels right to them, and then find the research to back up their choice. Personally, I’m comfortable with my practice of comforting my babies every time they cry.

As my intuitive life coaching practice has evolved, I’ve incorporated into it complimentary practices, including energy healing and shamanism. And my accompanying research led me to an interesting discovery.

Shamanic journeying is a practice by which a healer, or shaman, accesses an altered state of consciousness in order to retrieve lost parts of the soul. These lost parts have fled the body – or more aptly, the unified psyche – due to emotionally or physically traumatic events, leading to a psychological condition known as disassociation.

According to the American Psychiatrical Association (APA), “Dissociation has been defined in several different ways:

  • a disruption of and/or discontinuity in the normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control, and behavior
  • a disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment. The disruption may be sudden or gradual, transient or chronic.
  • an unconscious defense mechanism involving the segregation of any group of mental or behavioral processes from the rest of the person’s psychic activity; may entail the separation of an idea from its accompanying emotional tone, as seen in dissociative and conversion disorders.

Dissociation is often considered to exist on a spectrum or continuum, ranging from normal (normative dissociation) to pathological dissociation.”

Soul loss or disassociation may sound obscure, but it’s a self-protection tool that we all use at some point. When in trauma, we have the capacity to separate from the source of pain, lifting into another mental plane. We can do this whether the trauma is severe, like loss of a limb, or moderate, like an embarrassment. The defining factor in a dissociative event that leads to soul loss is that the part of us that left our body finds the experience so painful that it chooses to flee for good. The resultant experience of a person who experienced soul loss can range from mild – a lack of energy, or a sense of not being fully engaged in one’s life, to severe – depression or suicidal tendencies. It can often be recognized by a vacant look in one’s eyes.

In most cases soul loss can be reversed, but in Western cultures it usually goes undiagnosed, and shamanic techniques are not yet mainstream enough that the average sufferer would know how to find a remedy. Psychologists have many tools to treat disassociation over time, but it’s my understanding that these methods aren’t as effective as shamanic journeying, which can cure soul loss in one session.

Let’s circle back to our original topic – crying it out. Infants are hard wired to cry out in order to have their needs met, and their little bodies get increasingly stressed when those needs are ignored. Babies who are left to cry experience the distress of 1. having a need that isn’t being met, 2. being unable to meet that need themselves, and 3. being alone in the world with those problems. Adults have the capacity to view his tears in a larger context, but to babies that is the big picture.

Is crying-it-out a significant enough trauma to cause soul loss? That depends upon the circumstances and the baby. The baby’s temperament shapes his perspective regarding his situation. Soul loss is self-protective mechanism that kicks in when trauma is experienced, and a subjectively traumatic CIO circumstance could therefore cause soul loss.

My own life coach once referred to my nighttime parenting methods as “stepping in the line of fire to protect the baby.” Sure, I’m tired. But I also have enough experience to know that this will end, which my baby doesn’t. The tears may stop, but the impacts of his hurt would live on, whether in the form of soul loss or a lesser wounding of the spirit.

When soul loss and psychological wounding are at risk, it’s worth seriously considering alternative sleep practices.  Co-sleeping and night nursing are our tools to meet nighttime needs. Those long nights with waking babies are certainly trying, yet the adage “the days are long but the years are short” holds true. The more love we provide during a child’s formative years, the better we equip them to handle life’s inevitable challenges from a place of strength.

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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 a career and life coach whose passion is to help women realize their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

Top 3 Baby Myths, Busted.

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FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz. 

Immunity boost coconut mushroom soup

This fall my family has been amping up our intake of mushrooms in order to boost our bodies’ armor for cold and flu season.

After learning that Tufts medical researchers found that even white button mushrooms (cooked) can protect us against cold and flu, we’ve been trying out different ways to eat them.

Last night my husband made quite possibly the most delicious soup I’ve ever had. So here it is for your eating enjoyment.

This soup is dairy free, and could easlily be made vegan by substituting maple syrup for honey, and Paleo by leaving out the rice noodles. Bon appetit!

Ingredients:
1/2 oz dried mushrooms (I used shiitake)
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 white sections of scallions (or a small onion, or 2 shallots), chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 medium carrot, diced
1 tablespoon dried lemongrass (I put it in a pouch I could put into soup and later retrieve, you could also use fresh)
~2 pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
3-4 cups of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Braggs or soy sauce
1 tablespoon (or more) of honey
1-2 tablespoons red miso paste (could be any miso; some people use red curry paste instead)
Some paprika
Some salt
Some pepper
1/2 package uncooked rice noodles

Optional garnishes:
Lime juice
Parsley
Bean sprouts

Soak the dried mushrooms in the hot water for 20 minutes. Take out the mushrooms and chop, save the mushroom broth.
Heat the oil, cook and stir shallots/onions, ginger and carrot.
Turn up the heat, add the fresh and dried mushrooms, then add all the soaking liquid (mushroom broth).
Add coconut milk, veggie broth, soy sauce, honey, paprika, miso, salt, pepper and lemongrass.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Turn off heat, add rice noodles and let stand for 10 minutes.
Take out the lemongrass.

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A Homebirth Story

img_2388I’m pretty sure it never occurred to me I’d ever give birth at home. The first time around I headed straight to the hospital, hooked up to the epidural, pushed her out and breathed a sigh of relief.

After researching homebirth extensively while co-writing The Other Baby Book, my perspective on birthing began to shift. Birthing was not a medical event in most situations, I realized. It was a lifecycle event that belonged to the realm of the family, and it could be meaningful and loving and powerful.

Eight days ago I gave birth to my second child, at home in my bedroom. My three year old was watching raptly, making me laugh, bringing me presents and playing with the midwife’s birthing stool. My husband and two midwives rounded out my team of supporters, helping me to move through resistance and bring a beautiful new soul into the world.

When my midwives came by the day after the birth to check on us, one remarked that my labor was a million births in one. What did she mean by that, I asked, having only been present at two myself. It had its boring parts, she said, like when she showed up and I was laboring in the tub. It had its intense parts, like when we were all shouting “yes!” in unison and pushing the baby out. It had its restful parts, like when I fell asleep between contractions during transition. It had its calm parts and its fearful parts, and its dramatic parts – like when the baby’s head was out and he began kicking his body visibly inside me, trying to work his way out, something my midwife had never seen in her 35 years of practice. It had its funny parts, like when I initiated a round of laughter yoga, and my midwife joined in. It had its romantic parts, like when I asked my husband to kiss me as I pushed the baby out.

For me, though, the birth came down to a tremendous physical and psychological challenge – overcoming my fear of the intense sensations I was feeling and finding my way through them using tools that shifted with each contraction. One contraction could be mitigated through rhythmic breathing, another through back massage, another through hugging my husband tightly. I was afraid, not of what could happen to me, but of what was happening to me, of why I was unable to mitigate the sensation through relaxation, as I’ve been able to in yoga. My midwife wisely explained to me that my goal wasn’t to relax my uterus, that it actually needed to be clenching and tightening in order to push that baby out.

When I finally pushed, then pulled my baby out and held him on my chest, I felt a huge sense of relief, as if I’d conquered a physical challenge akin to a marathon or massive mountain climb. I felt humbled by the experience yet elated by the magnitude of what I’d achieved.

Everything about birthing in my home environment was perfect – being available to my 3 year old, even nursing her back to sleep while I was in active labor; having free range of my house, including bed and bathtub; having access to my clothing, blankets, pillows, and food; being surrounded by skilled caretakers who were followed my lead and contributed helpful suggestions when needed; and not needing to go anywhere when it was over.

My birth experience was challenging, it was exhilarating and it was memorable. I’m glad that I had the courage to stick with it while living a society which has been trained to think of birth as a medical event fraught with danger. I’ve added birthing to my personal list of mothering experiences that I’ve been able to reclaim as my own.

Given my new mommy status, The Other Baby Blog will be going on hiatus for the summer. In the meantime, please check out our active community on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheOtherBabyBook.

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Miriam 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 a career and life coach whose passion is to help women realize their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

SleepBuddy Review and Giveaway

SleepBuddy

Sleep. It’s a perpetual challenge for parents of young children. We’ve had our own share of challenges, though as my daughter ages it’s been getting much better. And yet there’s still room for improvement.

I reached out to SleepBuddy for several reasons. Partly because I was interested in giving my almost 3-year-old a tool to help her regulate her own internal clock, as I can see her itching to become more self sufficient in so many ways.

My top goal in using a “toddler alarm clock” – of which SleepBuddy was the most visually appealing I’d found – was to gently help my toddler learn to delay her morning nursing session.

Newly 3, my girl is nursing an average of twice per day, going down to sleep at night and waking in the morning. She’s deeply attached to these sessions, so any attempts to cease them altogether have been fervently denied. Encouraging her to wait to nurse until sunrise worked well in the winter, but with the spring came earlier and earlier wake-ups.

Enter the SleepBuddy. We set it to be active (meaning that its blue light, which has replaced her nightlight, is on) from 7:30pm to 7:30am, which approximately matches her sleep schedule on a good day. Her early morning nursing schedule, on the other hand, typically began at 5:30 or 6. Could the clock help her learn to delay nursing by 2 hours each morning, bringing more restful sleep to her and her co-sleeping mama?

I have to say, I believe it really could have, had I not made a critical error in judgement. I began using the SleepBuddy two days before a trip away for a long weekend. For those first two nights, I witnessed an eagerness to integrate and master the new information provided by the SleepBuddy. By the second night, she was willingly waiting to nurse until the clock hit 7:30am, and I thought I was home free.

As any parent of young children knows, vacations and schedule interruptions can wreak havoc even on deep-seated routines. So it would have served me well to anticipate and delay use of the SleepBuddy until after our trip. I brought it along for the ride, then back home, and in the month since we began using it, it’s become a focal point in her room. The challenge is, it didn’t solve the problem I intended.

Here’s what the SleepBuddy has done for us. It’s given our girl a concrete sign that she (and we) can point to in order to validate our claims that it really is time for bed. This makes it easier to get upstairs and into our nighttime routine. It gives her some sense of ownership over her sleep schedule, knowing that she goes to sleep when the light goes on and gets up when it goes off, approximately.

Here’s what it could do, if I felt like it was worth the tears. It could be a marker of what time it is appropriate to nurse in the morning. Yet now that the SleepBuddy is helping motivate her to get into bed earlier, and with age her nighttime wakings are becoming fewer and fewer, I’m less motivated to initiate a struggle over an extra 1.5 hours of sleep. Also, she’s developed such fond feelings for her clock that I’m not eager to break her trust in it.

Do I appreciate the benefits the SleepBuddy has brought to our household and to my little girl? Absolutely.

Do I regret how I initiated its entry into our nighttime routine? Yes. I feel that I could have had a gentle, empowering sleep tool that would have maximized sleep by minimizing tears. But I know these years are short and the days of nursing will soon be behind us. I know that others can learn from our experience and reap benefits unique to their own families.

Altogether, I’ve found the SleepBuddy to be a positive experience and an empowering tool for my eager, independence-seeking child. I’m excited that we’re able to give one away to one lucky family out there. Interested? Read on for details.

The Other Baby Book fans: Want to win a SleepBuddy?

To enter, leave a comment below with the reason you’d like a SleepBuddy, and your email address, by June 16th at 11:59pm.

If you’d like additional entries, leave separate comments after completing each of the following:

1. Like SleepBuddy on Facebook

2. Like The Other Baby Book on FB. (Let us know if you already like us!)

3. Follow @otherbabybook on Twitter.

4. Subscribe to our blog.

5. Post a link to this giveaway on your FB or Twitter.

 

Also, check out Blog Giveaway Directory.

4 Things I’ll Do Differently – Preparing for Baby #2

img_6116I’m two weeks away from my due date, anticipating the birth of my second baby. Since becoming a mom, making my way through the first three mystifying years of parenthood, and sorting through mountains of research while co-authoring The Other Baby Book, my perspective has shifted. As a result, so have my decisions. I’ll give you a brief run down of what I plan to change this time around.

1. Birth. We’re preparing a natural home birth, a huge departure from the epidural hospital birth I planned the first time around. After sorting through the data, I found that home births were as safe or safer for healthy moms and babies, and I relish the thought of being surrounded by family and caring midwives who see birth as a empowering natural process. I also value being able to call the shots about how I labor and what happens to my baby immediately after birth.

2. Sleep. The first time around, I famously said that the baby would sleep in her crib, in her own room from day 1. I had all sorts of illegitimate fears about how bringing a baby into my bedroom might negatively impact my marriage, and misconceptions about healthy and appropriate sleep environments for newborns. This time we have a co-sleeper on hand, but we now know that the best way to optimize sleep and care for our baby will be to bring him/her safely into our bed from the start. (For a safe bed-sharing checklist, click here.)

3. Diapers. The first time around, I was afraid of the stigma and workload involved in cloth diapering. We used disposables for the first 4-5 months, though we pottied our baby beginning in her first week of life. This time around, I plan to use cloth from the beginning, and to be a bit more pro-active about pottying the baby both at night and when out on the town. With a 3 year old who’s very nurturing and attuned, I’m hoping that my little helper can help me keep our baby attuned to his/her pottying needs.

4. Baby Wearing. The first time around, I was terrified of putting my newborn in a carrier, and spent many hours holding her and sitting. With an active toddler to care for, this time around I’m planning to make a lightweight cotton wrap that I can use to tote the baby to all our activities. I’ve learned that there’s little cause for shlepping those heavy carseats everywhere, that the freer my hands are and the closer my baby is to me and to milk, the happier we all will be.