Tag Archives: Gentle Discipline

Zzzzzzz

Join me, Mama!

I love naps! Who doesn’t, right? That’s a cheap applause line if I’ve ever written one.  It’s practically “It’s great to be here in Toledo, the best city in the world.”

But I do love ‘em. I used to doze in the passenger seat on the long drive from NY to Boston; doze on planes, doze on a lounge chair at the pool, doze at my desk.  Just kidding about that last one, former bosses.  Oh that reminds me – yesterday I was watching my 3 year old jump off the side of the pool about 40 times in a row and over his shoulder I could see this middle aged dude just snoozing the afternoon away, mouth agape. I was so jealous that I wished a wasp would fly into his mouth.  Somebody’s tired, eh?

Anywho, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, so I happen to be extremely committed to awesome, consistent, gentle nighttime parenting.  My motto has always been “be the same parent 24 hours/day”.  And that, my friends, is a tall, tall order.  I’ve failed, but I keep trying because I think it’s a worthy goal and I like a good challenge.

For the first 2 years of motherhood a key component to being awesome was napping with my son.  Luckily my guy excelled at naps.  I was often the envy of playgroup with tales of his 3 hour zonk-out sessions which gave me ample opportunity to refill my tank with some shut eye by baby’s side if only for 30 minutes. Sometimes I’d be the best wife in the world and and get some household chores done to boot.
When I got pregnant with my 2nd son I was in denial that those days were over.  I fantasized about all three of us napping simultaneously.  Psych!

I’d also forgotten about the topsy-turvy day-is-night-is-day schedule of the first 60 days or so.  With #1 I remember complaining to a childless friend “I’m stuck nursing all day.”  Man, I didn’t know how great I had it “stuck” in a comfy club chair, living on Baby Time, snoozing when he did.  Just one tiny being relying on me.

My point is this and sorry for burying the lede here: Nap with your child if you are EVER offered the chance.  Just do it, okay?  Don’t think about the reasons not to, because when it comes down to it, you probably have the time or energy to cross, like, one lame thing off the To-Dos if you don’t nap.  And if you’re honest with yourself, when you don’t nap you’ll check Facebook and Perez Hilton and eat a sleeve of Thin Mints because you’re starving from breastfeeding.  So push out of your mind the dirty dishes and the last time you shaved your legs and climb in the nest. Of all the parenting choices you have in a day, that’s one decision you won’t regret.

Rebecca is Mom to one napper and one non-napper.  To quote Bill Cosby, she enjoys sleep like a good steak and is starting to “get” her grandparents 2 twin beds which she used to find hilarious.  

Advertisements

The U.S. and Children: Blessing or Burden?

Whether or not you are a parent, have you ever thought or said (or heard someone else say) any of the following?

  • “Children should be seen, not heard.”
  • “Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”
  • “I wish my kids would just behave.”

Sometimes these phrases slip so easily off the tongue that it’s scary. Or maybe it’s not you. Perhaps you hear these things when out in public or from a well-meaning family member, friend, or co-worker. Either way, it sometimes seems that U.S. cultural norms, which often dictate the collective view of childhood, say that children are a big pain in the rear. And so I wanted to tackle some of these ideas, namely the phrases above, in the hopes of dismantling the viewpoint of children as a burden rather than a blessing.

“Children should be seen, not heard”

This particular phrase is old-fashioned at best, irrelevant and damaging at worst. We, as a country, have moved well beyond the Victorian age which spawned this phrase. So why do some people still toss this time-bomb around? Perhaps it’s a desire for the “old days when kids behaved and respected adults” or simply an idea that children are bothersome or annoying. Either way, the underlining message of this is disturbing. Childhood is a rambunctious, playful time of curiosity. A silent child is a child that is probably not exploring, learning, or growing. I hate to think of the ways someone might “train” a child to meet this ideal.

“Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”

Our culture is obsessed with control. We work long hours to control our bank accounts. We obsess over food and exercise to control our weight and body image. We are in control of every aspect of our children’s plans, whether it be play dates, sports to excel at, or classes to master. And many of the things we “control” are a subconscious attempt to control the opinions of others so that they think more highly of our families and ourselves. So when we place a judgment call on another child or family, we’re essentially pointing out their lack of control. The reality is that everyone parents differently, and we all have bad days. But I like to think of kids as inherently good (and who make occasional mistakes), rather than labeling kids today as: “______” (fill in the blank: lazy, silly,manipulative, stupid, disobedient, willful, etc.). And let’s hope we’re never on the OTHER SIDE of the equation where someone is judging us as our toddler has a meltdown in Aisle 9.

I wish my kids would just behave”

What does it mean to “behave?” Obviously every parent has a different idea of what constitutes “good” and “bad” behavior. But what if we move beyond viewing children as alternating between two polar opposites, defined by us or (gulp, even more frighteningly) society? Sometimes I think the desire for absolute control of everything has a negative (and often unintended) outcome on our children. When I decide my child is doing something bad, is it because she is truly doing something dangerous to herself or others OR is it because what she’s doing doesn’t fit in with my plans? Am I asking my child to do something that she is developmentally unable to do? Children are not little adults, and we must not treat them so. Having some flexibility while parenting and being realistic with expectations will make it less likely the above phrase will slip out of your mouth or someone’s else’s.

 

One more thing. Parenting is an intuitive thing, and we all have ideas of how we would like to raise our children. But our society’s viewpoint of children as a burden can affect even the best intentions. View children as the challenging but lovable blessing that they are, and I truly believe that intuitive, go with the flow parenting will follow.

 

 

Kate is the mom to 16 month old Vivi, her firecracker of a daughter who inspires her everyday to be a better parent. When they’re not practicing how to nicely pet the dogs or playing with “Baby,” Kate tries to catch a few minutes for a cup of coffee and some reading. After all, a relaxed (and caffeinated) mama is a happy mama.

Social Work Primed Me to be an Attached, Gentle Parent

I have a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree concentrated in clinical social work. When I walked across the stage in 2010 to be hooded for my MSW, snug in my uterus was the 8-week old embryonic version of the toddler who is, at this exact moment, sprawled next to me in bed, face blissfully soft with slumber.  I was clueless then just how significantly my education and career would color how I parent him.

I often say that I came to gentle, attached parenting through the back door; I ardently embraced some of its tenets long before I was ever a parent, long before I even knew there were these things called “attachment parenting” or “gentle discipline.” From the moment I saw those two pink lines on my pregnancy test, my parenting approach has been very much informed by my life as a social worker.

I  spent the 12 years preceding my son’s birth working at first in the domestic violence arena,  then in the protective services world, and, finally, in a hospital setting. When I hear or read people portraying attachment parenting as “extreme,” when I hear its practices (such as nursing beyond infancy and sharing sleep) depicted as “abuse” or “neglect,” I get downright pissed off. Because in my time as a social worker, I have been horrified by truly extreme parenting. I have cradled true neglect in my arms. I have testified against true abuse in court. There is nothing extreme, abusive, or remotely neglectful about nurturing secure attachment in your child. And people who posture otherwise need a dramatic expansion of their worldview.

Along with its extensive Code of Ethics, very specific values and principles undergird social work practice. I found that this undercurrent of values and practices naturally and effortlessly flowed into my parenting; below I’ve slightly modified some of these social work values and practices to show how they inform my parenting, swapping in the word “child” for the word “client.”

  • My child has inherent worth, dignity and strengths: My child is unconditionally worthy of my respect, and that respect is the centerpoint of my parenting. My actions as a parent are designed to nurture my son’s sense of worth and safeguard his dignity. I do not view him through a lens of deficit (what he cannot do), but rather from a perspective that acknowledges his strengths.
  • I begin where my child is: For me, this means I recognize that my child has unique needs, and these needs might vary from month to month,  day to day, even hour to hour. For example, my toddler has never slept through the night.  I remind myself that he is waking for a need, that this is simply where he “is” right now. I could  measure him against other children who were sleeping through the night significantly earlier, frustratedly and desperately wondering why he can’t string together a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Instead, I try to remind that this is where he “is” developmentally. Sleep is a developmental milestone like any other, and he will achieve it at his own pace.
  • I respond to my child with empathy. I’m sure you’ve seen this compelling statement before: My child isn’t giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time.  This view is grounded in empathy. Very little is as powerful as the feeling of being understood. When I respond with empathy to my child–to a hurt, to a behavior I’d like to curb, to a tantrum–I am not only acknowledging and reflecting his emotions, I am also helping to gently and naturally cultivate his own sense of empathy. I am modeling an effective, compassionate way to navigate interpersonal dynamics.
  • I respect my child’s right self-determination and autonomy. Within carefully constructed limits, obviously. A toddler’s favorite word? “No,” right? And that’s because he’s taking his autonomy for a test-drive and learning to assert himself. Engaging my child’s choice-making–however simple it may seem–fosters feelings of empowerment, stokes feelings of competence, and honors his voice. It can be this simple: “Would you like strawberries or bananas with your breakfast?” or “Would you like to put that lotion back in the cabinet, or would you like me to help you put the lotion back in the cabinet?”
  • The human relationship is…everything. The relationship I am nurturing with my son is, essentially, the blueprint for his future relationships. This is  the crux of attachment parenting, isn’t it?

And, of course, social work education is also chock full of other worthy, parenting-applicable insight, such as the stages of human and growth and development and theories surrounding attachment, family functioning, and the like.

I chose social work more than a decade ago out of passion for social justice and advocacy, and I full-heartedly feel it has made me a kinder, gentler, and saner parent than I would have been otherwise.

Rhianna returned to her social work career after the birth of her son…and lasted a whole three days before submitting her letter of resignation. She’s been a stay-home mama ever since, way more fulfilled in her role as mother than she ever was in her role as social worker. And that’s saying a lot.

The Tale of Mrs. No

On Sunday, Mothers Day, I did something awesome- I walked down the street to the supermarket all alone.  Just me and my reusable shopping bag in the sunshine to pick up 1 single item.  Heavenly.

I normally shop pushing a double stroller or pulling a wagon, and I load the food on top of and under the boys and then squeeze into the only checkout line that fits us. Freebie post partum weight loss tip– 2 kids + double stroller + heavy groceries like a watermelon and a gallon of milk = great workout.
Some days it’s fun; some days Jack runs his kid-sized shopping cart into my ankles.

Next to the registers there are rows of DVDs at kid eye level; brightly colored boxes with Diego and Thomas on them.  Well played, A&P.

Mrs. No is behind me in line and has 2 enormous potted flowers in her hands.  In my imagination, the poor lady is probably steamed already because it’s 2pm on Mothers Day and her spouse was like “oh, btw can you get a present for my Mom, too?” Her shopping companion is 3 feet tall and clutching a Diego video.  “Mom?” he asks with a grin shaking it from side to side.  “No.”  Then for the next 3 minutes, with no further peep out of the boy, the woman says No about 20 times with escalating intensity and no eye contact.
She could have said a million things that may have affirmed their relationship AND got him to put the DVD back.  What a missed opportunity.

That’s the whole story.  I was finished paying so I left.  I can only assume that they checked out with 2 orchids and 0 Diego videos.

I live happily in a bubble of like minded families, so I don’t hear 20 “Nos,” ever. Maybe it’s common? When I was a newbie, seasoned Mamas from LLL and an online parenting group shared stories of Gentle Discipline.  I was so psyched and surprised that you could parent without spending your days saying No.  I devoured the excellent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen long before Jack’s first words.

Nos have their place and trust me, there are limits galore in this house.   But I‘ve always liked Martha Sears’s idea of saving “No” for special situations–a toddler hand approaching a hot stove, for example– so that it is both rare and taken seriously. I love the challenge of finding alternatives to “No” that are respectful and/or silly.  Sometimes in the instance of a child wanting something that they’re not going to get, a simple “yeah that stinks” can go a long way.

Next time “No” is on the tip of your tongue, consider this: Can you think of any instance in your life where hearing “No” doesn’t totally suck?  Pitching an idea at work? Inviting a friend out for drinks? Making a pass at your husband? We know as grown ups that the thoughtful thing to do is let people down easy, soften the blow.  Children deserve that, too.

Rebecca is Mom to 2 butt-kicking,  limit-testing little boys.  She only likes hearing “No” when the question is “Does this nursing tank make me look fat?”

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

Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
***************************************************************************************************************