Archive for the ‘development’ Category

Say “I’m Sorry”: Teaching Kids Good Manners

Well, actually, I figured out that it is not about “teaching kids to have good manners.”

It’s not about teaching my child to say please when she wants something.

It’s not about teaching my child to say thank you when she has received something.

It’s not about teaching my child to say sorry when she has hurt someone or something.

Those awkward moments grate on me, when others (or the voice in my head) expect my daughter to say or do something to show she is good-mannered. I want my daughter to feel what true compassion feels like, what true gratitude feels like, what a true request feels like. When I try to do these things we, as parents, should be “getting our children” to do, I have found these things hard to manage myself.

I have realized that my child’s manners are all about me and my most powerful parenting tool: my example.

It is about me saying please when I ask something of her.

How many times a day do you ask your child to do something or not to do something? How many times do you say please? When you are out at the store or running errands, how many times do you say please when you are asking someone to do something?

Part of Nonviolent Communication is to make requests (as opposed to demands). It is difficult sometimes to maintain a headspace where I am asking my daughter to do something instead of demanding or commanding. Saying “please” reminds me that I  want her to choose to do what I am asking, not just to do what I say.

It’s about me saying thank you when she gives me something or does something for me.

Out of the three of these, I do the best on this one, but only because gratitude is something I have integrated into my whole life. Still, I often have to make a point to stop, recognize and acknowledge the gratitude I feel for my daughter, who she is and what she does.

As parents, we give and give and give to our children. I feel joyously connected and humbled when my child says “Thank you, mama” for doing something that felt important to her. Makes it all worthwhile. (And keep my attitude in check!)

It’s about me saying I am sorry when I have done something I wish I had done differently.

Marshall B. Rosenberg, of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, has a powerful perspective on “sorry” and what we might say instead that would be more accurate and meaningful.) He describe the feeling of sorry without using the word sorry. It’s about me understanding what need I was trying to meet in the moment, doing what I did or saying what I said, and also understanding what need I did not get met by my actions and words.

It is much clearer for me, knowing and acknowledging what I wish I would have done and how I feel hurt/sad that I wasn’t able to meet the needs of myself and others, than saying “I’m sorry.” I actually say I’m sorry too much, almost without thinking. I have recognized this in myself and want to set an example for my children that is mindful.


All these efforts to use my example to show my daughter what we value as a family actually has proven to be effective in my life.

The most recent example went right to my heart:

My daughter was having feelings when I was attending to her brother for something. She hit me. (She’s been having bigger feelings, for the bigger number of years she is, perhaps.)

She stopped, her face fell from angry to desperately sad as she said, “I’m sorry I hit you, mama,” and crawled up next to me and then into my lap to sit and rock for a few minutes.

This girl knew what the meaning of sorry was. She felt that she was trying to get her need for closeness met but disrespected and hurt me in the process. She shifted to doing something that actually got her needs met, acknowledging with an “I’m sorry” that what she had done was, as Rosenberg says, “a tragic expression of an unmet need.”

We cuddled close like when she was a baby, renewing and reaffirming our bond as mother and daughter. It was a precious moment.

Spontaneous. Unforced. From the heart.

Just like “good manners” ought to be…



Toddler and Tandem Babywearing

Since the birth of her brother, my 2.5 yo has been wanting to be babied (big surprise).

I tandem nurse her and wear her, as does my husband, as much as possible. The babywearing has offered a sweet closeness that I missed. My babywearing journey has been full of unexpected twists and turns.

Just as when my daughter was little, my BabyHawk and Kozy Carrier mei tais have been doing the trick for nursing baby and walking around. (She needed walking around to sleep, but my son is an easier sleeper it seems.) The mei tais are so quick and easy and adjustable for short carries. However, I stopped wearing her in them when she was bigger and could fit the ERGObaby. I did wear her up through my sixth month of pregnancy in my Boba.

On a whim, I tied my Didymos woven wrap on and threw her in it. Without a diaper even. I was surprised how comfortable and easy it was. I am not yet skilled at tying wraps, so I think I could do better. (I also need help with ring slings, although I’m not a fan of one shoulder weight.) Still, it worked.

That's her "smiling."

One random day a few months ago, I got out the frame backpack carrier from the closet. As soon as she saw it she wanted in. I, of course, had baby, but I was excited that my husband could wear her in that. My daughter expressed my excitement when she said “me and baby are in the sling together!”

The frame carrier was great when we took a train adventure just for family fun a few weeks ago.

Daddy has the shoulders for this thing, but I find it comfortable, too.

Recently, I thought I’d try her in one of my mei tais just to see because it’s so easy to put on (especially since I’m already wearing it a lot for baby). It was so awesome! I just swung the body around to the back and had her climb in.

Wow, comfortable. Just have to watch those long legs...

The back carry was super easy since she can understand getting in and can cooperate from her vantage point. I found the weight distribution with her on my back comfortable. I loved that it was easy to get her in and easy to get her out (which she wants sooner than she did as a baby). Plus, I don’t have to change carriers for my children. Same carriers, same diapers…a streamlined life!

So, yes. I was completely surprised and excited to find that I have a full range of babywearing options back in effect with her. Wouldn’t have expected that with a toddler when most folks stop babywearing. It’s almost the most versatile stage, though, it would seem. Just goes to show you.

To end, then, speaking of late stage babywearing, I’ll leave you with this post from a mama wearing her “baby” through to age 11 and beyond! Rock climbing adventure? No problem! An inspiring and uplifting must-read….

Wear your “babies” proud, mamas, papas, grandparents and all caregivers!

Sensory Bin: Beans and Buttons!

It was rainy, slushy, dark and cold out.

I knew was taking care of the kids alone  for a chunk of the afternoon. I didn’t want to take the baby out in messy weather (my baby boy is one month old!). I decided throw together a sensory bin I had been thinking about for a bit.

My daughter played with it for the entire two hours my husband was gone. Yet another confirmation that simple is best. I did play with her and share some of my own play ideas. It was easy and fun to practice sharing language and have quiet moments to just watch and play.

I put a bunch of black beans and a few handfuls of black-eyed peas in a bin. I added buttons of various colors and sizes.

I threw in some spoons and containers for scooping and pouring, stirring and dumping (toddler favorites!).

When she woke up from her nap, I let her get to work! She found all the buttons quickly. (Note to self: Use more, smaller buttons next time.)

She discovered things and buried things.

And even climbed in!

Talking with a Toddler about Feelings

Having a toddler has made me realize more and more about feelings.

She has big feelings, and I have big feelings. The more real I try to be with my daughter, the more I find that we keep running into feelings…everyone’s feelings. My two-year old daughter is rather verbal and socially inclined. Sometimes she brings up her feelings or talks about the feelings other people are having; sometimes I bring up mine or talk to her about ways to handle hers.

Mind you, we talk about feelings a lot in this house. Someone gave us a set of feeling books — angry, scared, happy, lonely, kind, jealous, sad. As she got into both reading and feelings, I got them out one at a time, starting with her current favorite When I’m Feeling Angry. (After a several weeks, I still haven’t gotten them all out.) As far as feelings go, she mostly knows and talks about being angry, sad, scared, frustrated and happy. We use the ASL signs for the various feelings, and she does as well.

Here are some stories of our feelings talk in action:

One day, she wanted to use the scissors and cut paper:

We’re trying to let her find her own way of doing things, something I’ve been thinking about since reading this article “Would You Let Your Baby Do This?” This is a new skill for her, and the method she is using makes coordination more challenging.

“Daddy, I feel frustrated Daddy. Because I try to use the scissors. I tried to do it. I tried to do it like this.”

[Tried some more.]

“I’m feeling frustrated and angry. I have to be patient.”

Earlier in the day, while I was doing something, I heard her have the following conversation to herself:

“I’m frustrated! I need to breathe.” [Breathed…Tried again and was successful. Smile ensues.]

Then one night, while my daughter was in the bath…

I apologized to her for getting angry earlier in the day. On a whim, I decided to ask her how she feels when mama and daddy get angry.

When mama and daddy get angry, how do you feel?

“I feel frustrated and angry because mama and daddy loud.”

When mama and daddy get angry you feel frustrated because we are loud?


[Later, she continued from this point.]

“I wonder how mama and daddy loud.”

Why are mama and daddy loud when they get angry?


Well, when I get angry I feel “a boiling hot volcano in my tummy that is about to explode” (a line from the book she mentioned earlier in the conversation). I just feel angry and frustrated and I start getting loud. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you.

[Her face relaxed into a smile, and she began talking about how she wants to “stand (up in the bath) but doesn’t understand how” and how we should “listen to mama’s belly — shh! be quiet!”]

One last story: She had a hard morning, and we were having a cuddly close calm moment. I thought I would see if she could tell me her side of things.

You seemed upset this morning. Can you tell me what happened?

I feel frustrated and angry (notice these go together often) because mama and daddy don’t hear me.

[Remembering that my husband and I were having a conversation, and she was yelling something at us…] You felt frustrated because mama and daddy weren’t listening?


You were trying to tell mama and daddy something, and we didn’t hear you and you felt frustrated?

Yes. I felt frustrated and angry because mama and daddy don’t hear me.

I’m sorry, Uma. I will try harder to listen to you when you have something to tell me.

These conversations both moved and struck me.

Is this evidence that children are capable of complex conversation around such abstract ideas as feelings?

Though it does feel better to be able to talk about things when they get hard, I am not sure if I am doing the “right” thing, or if she is “ready.” I do feel like I am following her lead. I try to not tell her how she is feeling. Yet, I go back and forth between thinking I should be waiting on these discussions and feeling like they are helping us.

Regardless, my daughter seems to have integrated both the language and the strategies. When either my husband or I are angry she says “You need to breathe?” and we breathe together. It truly does help, and what more powerful reminder or encouragement do we need? She can breathe herself through frustration trying new things which leads her to more success at whatever she is trying to do.

I guess only time will tell what the impact of our feelings talk will be…

My Experience as a Tandem Nurturer: Part 3

[Part 1 and Part 2 of my journey were raw and rough, I know. I definitely was feeling more off then than I do now. Is this because I’m taking my placenta pills again? Not sure, but here’s an update with some better news about my journey to become a tandem nurturer……]


I was at the lowest point in my mothering “career” so far. I knew my daughter needed me badly. I just did not feel I was coming from a place that was helpful. It felt hard to know what to do.

Here are some things I knew I didn’t want to do:

  • threaten or use distrustful language
  • raise my voice or get loud to make a point
  • use that ridiculous “stern” voice
  • disrespect my daughter’s personal space
  • plead or demand
  • …….. whatever else wasn’t working

However, I read some of the articles below and reflected on our situation. I talked to my husband about our treatment of our daughter and ways to move towards respecting her. I reflected more on my past and upbringing (things that reading Unconditional Parenting
for our online Book Club has made me consider).

I looked more closely at my child, so small and so very big all at the same time.

I watched her face, her gestures, her actions and reactions. I saw her curiosity, her desire for autonomy and competence. I started to see her need for closeness, her new feelings of vulnerability and fear.

I saw my daughter through new eyes, and my heart swelled once again with love and compassion for my little blessing.

For a few days now, I have been working on:

  • keeping my mouth shut if I don’t have something good to say
  • asking my daughter regularly if I can give her lovings or if she needs lovings
  • giving my daughter opportunities to interact with her baby brother without my comments or interference

As I filled my heart with trust and my head with patience, she has had more space and scope to be and to feel and to live.What I noticed is that my daughter is having feelings and feeling sad sometimes, and sometimes this leads to her nose touching obsession. I realized that she does need extra cuddling and closeness right now, sometimes wanting to be carried like a baby.

How did I find all this out? I asked her.

We have come such a long way in a short time, with my attitude adjustment and shift of perspective making all the difference. Still, things are not perfect or settled. I still apologize and have unhelpful thoughts and frustrations. Overall, I am finding myself in a more peaceful, loving, compassionate place. Whew! Am I ever glad. It feels so much better to be filled with gratitude for my amazing little girl. A much better way to mother…..


Inspiration to Keep Me on the Path

Some Blogs to Follow on Respecting Children

My Experience as a Tandem Nurturer: Part 2

From the time a parent finds out there’s another baby on the way, one question that hangs in the air is: How will the sibling relationship be?

The stories told of reactions to new siblings span the spectrum, from instant affectionate love to secret and overt hitting and hurting. (Please feel free to tell your stories in the comments!) When I was a baby, my own brother was kind to me when my parents were looking and hit me when he thought they weren’t. Or so I’m told.

Having been surprised by my baby boy’s recent arrival, I didn’t get to finish all the activities and special big sister things I wanted to have in place for her before the birth. I had a sense, though, that even without those things my two-year old daughter was already in love with “her baby.” (The giveaway? The kisses and hugs and I love you’s my pregnant belly received.) Even so, I wasn’t sure how she would feel when baby actually came out and was demanding that this new family member’s needs be met as well as everyone else’s.

Turns out she does indeed love her brother….sooooo much, as she says. She wakes up and wants to see him. She loves to give him kisses and hold his head and hand and “tosh the nose.” The problem we have run into isn’t in having her come around to care for him but in having her give him (and mama) some space.

Believe it or not, my daughter’s displays of love and affection toward her sibling have sent me over the edge many a time.

I realize things could be worse. However, our situation was complicated by the fact that we had to deal with jaundice which required me to stay in bed under bright full spectrum lights pretty much round the clock. Many of my parenting strategies that I would normally use if I was up and about I could not because I was stuck in a room that had more of her things instead of little other than books and her “new baby brudder.” This meant that pretty much constantly there were things that she couldn’t touch (pump parts, feeding syringe, homeopathy and more) near the bed in addition to her mama telling her she couldn’t be leaning over baby in baby’s face to give kisses when mama is trying to do something important (like nurse, syringe feed, change dirty clothing, and so on).

In a fit of desperation I came up with the idea that when we really really want to touch baby we can give baby lovings from our heart instead (put hands on heart). She was into it, but still insisted on coming over, leaning in and touching her hands to his body. No matter how many times I talked about and modelled being gentle and used alternatives and empathy, this girl continually insisted on being up in baby’s face.

I found myself losing my calm and getting angry and using my one free arm to hold/keep her back. This led to my two year old daughter telling her mama “don’t push me.” I was so frustrated and exhausted from dealing with baby’s jaundice (and possible tongue tie) that all I could do was have a dead end conversation with her about how I don’t want to push her and I don’t mean to get angry but I’m frustrated that she won’t stop touching baby.

Wake up call: I was not handling this well. I was not considering my daughter’s perspective. I was not diving deeply enough into my resources to find a solution.

I realized a few things after calming down and seeing things from her vantage point. She has been responding incredibly positively and lovingly to the pregnancy, birth and arrival of her brother. Instead of the potty regression that many talk about (and that may still occur), she has been more clear more often about having to go. (Part of this may be because we got a new travel potty seat that she decided she loves and enjoys putting on herself. We also got a potty step so she can climb up by herself and do the whole process except wash her bum.) This in baby’s face must stand up on the bed business is the one area in which she may be trying to show me the challenge of transition. I also realized that it must be completely unclear and seemingly arbitrary when she can touch baby and when she can’t.

This last realization about her not being able to clearly tell when I can allow her to touch baby and when I need her not to led me to a possible solution.

A few months ago my daughter recognized that when the stoplight turns green the car gets to go. This excites her and she often says when a light is green and exclaims “we get to go go go!” We also, then, have talked about what red means. We have to stop and wait. When I realized she didn’t know when she could come in close and when she couldn’t a lightbulb went off that maybe using red and green and her “go go go” excitement would make it much more clear to her what my needs (and baby’s) are at any given moment.

So, I made two cards: one red card that says “Stop and Wait” inside a heart and one green card that says “Touch and Kiss.” I explained that green meant she could touch and kiss gently and that read meant she had to wait and if she was having trouble waiting the heart symbol meant she could give baby lovings from her heart. At first they didn’t seem to work too well because she ignored them and did what she always did.

We kept trying the red/green wait/kiss cards, though.

She did start responding by waiting and saying/asking if she could give baby lovings. I also found that I could stay more calm because I had a chance to give her permission to come over and could focus on giving her as much “green card” time as I could manage. This led to both of us getting our needs met more.

It’s not a perfect solution (she was excited about the cards and wanted to hold and play them which doesn’t really work out well). However, whereas before my negative attitude was setting up power struggles that no one could or should win, I definitely feel that I shifted my own energy towards the positive which allowed her to do so as well. This simple card system has allowed us to get through a tough period of transition for all of us.

I hope that I can keep bringing myself back to “finding solutions” as my husband said so that we can support a loving and respectful relationship between these new siblings……and keep our sanity and respect as well.



Posts on related topics with resource lists:

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 3: Too Much Control

This chapter really hit me because, as I describe in my Tandem Nurturer posts, we are facing major control issues here with a new baby in the house. If you are willing and able, please share a situation or solution around control that you have experienced as a parent or caregiver. Then we can work together to come up with ideas for each other. Thank you!


  • Observe other parents/caregivers next time you are out (playground, store, etc.). What tone and words are parents using with their children? What are children getting in trouble for? Is the parent response reasonable?  [The point is not to judge but to see and reflect. No one can know all the circumstances of a person or situation from looking for a few minutes from the outside.] (pp. 46-7)
  • Children whose experience is of feeling controlled may only feel loved if they conform to demands. (p. 47)
  • “For every example of a child who is permitted to run wild in a public place, there are hundreds of children being restricted unnecessarily, yelled at, threatened, or bullied by their parents; children whose protests are ignored and whose questions are dismissedout of hand; children who have become accustomed to hearing an automatic ‘No’ in response to their requests, and a ‘Because I said so!’ if they ask for a reason.” (pp. 47-8)
  • “The dominant problem with parenting in our society isn’t permissiveness, but the fear of permissiveness. We’re so worried about spoiling kids that we often end up overcontrolling them.” (p. 49)
  • Children who do what they are told generally have parents who respect them and their feelings, minimize use of control, offer reasons and explanations, listen to objections, and give children more say (especially in how to play). (pp. 51-20)
  • Excessive control leads to a feeling of powerlessness in the child which leads to anger. (p. 55)
  • Overcontrol can lead to a loss of self-regulation in a child. This can negatively affect relationship with food, moral conscience and internal compass, interest level and ability to deal with frustration. Children who have parents who do things for them that they can do for themselves can end up with a lower skill level. (pp/ 57-61)
  • Structure is needed by children, but should be reasonable, flexible, and with the child’s participation if possible. (p. 61)
  • Main question: How can we, as caregivers, offer guidance and set limits without overcontrol? (p. 49)
  • THE GOAL: To help children gain control of their own lives. (p. 62)


  • When do you find yourself leaning towards a more controlling approach to your child? What do you think leads to that reaction? Do you notice any patterns?
  • How important do you believe it is to talk about feelings with your child, for them to know about feelings? How (often) do you talk about feelings in your home? (with your partner or housemate or other family member/friend if you don’t have an older child) (p. 55)
  • Do you agree that children are born able to self-regulate? How does that belief fit (or not) with the parenting advice you have read/heard? (around eating, sleeping, pottying, etc.) (p. 58)
  • When do you find it hard or easy to let go of control and give your child control and power?
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