Archive for the ‘natural parenting’ 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…

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RESOURCES:

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!

Committed to Cloth, but….

Welcome to the “I’m a Natural Parent – BUT…” Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. During this carnival our participants have focused on the many different forms and shapes Natural Parenting can take in our community.

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Continuum Family side snap training pants

Cloth diapers. Cute. Eco-friendly. The frugal choice.

I love cloth diapers. Like baby slings, I can see how easy it is to slip into addiction, wanting to collect a wide range of prints, brands and styles. Modern cloth diapers are both stylish and functional; gone are the days of pins and plastic pants, we now have PUL and Velcro.

Everyone chooses cloth for different reasons. I committed myself to cloth diapering when my first was born because it seemed to make sense health-wise, for the child and the planet. I found myself doing hours of research online, weighing all of my choices. Should I go for natural fibers or synthetics? Prefolds, pockets or all-in-ones? Snaps or Velcro or Snappis? How well does a one-size diaper really fit? I embraced all the choices available for me with joy.

I tried a number of cloth diaper companies, getting a few of various styles. As my daughter grew and changed, so did our diapering needs. Continuum Family had the smallest diapers with snaps I could find (had a tiny first child and wanted to practice EC–elimination communication), and I fell in love with them for a long while. The Little Beetle wool covers from Better for Babies (who have now closed up shop) were a great nighttime choice for a time. By then we were really getting somewhere with EC, so we got a couple of Ecapants training pants through EC Wear. We even had her in prefolds with a prefold belt at one point. The longest lasting favorite, aside from the Continuum Family in the pictures, were the Imse Vimse wool covers.

Over time, I learned firsthand the stinky side of cloth diapers:

  • Continuum Family side snap training pants

    Cloth diapers are picky about what they want to be washed in.

  • Cloth diapers are like toddlers in that they will smell louder and louder till they get their way.
  • Cloth diapers prefer to take up a lot of room in a bag rather than share space with snacks, wipes, and spare clothes — it’s called a diaper bag for a reason.
  • Cloth diapers don’t wash themselves.
  • Cloth diapers flatter (or pinch!) each baby differently.

Still, I travelled happily along cloth diapering journey for well over a year, knowing I made the right choice, thinking there would never be a day…

Fast forward to the present.

Goodbye Better for Babies....

After months of battling ammonia diapers and irritated skin, I caved and got disposables for my daughter. They ended up not causing her the rashes that folks worry about with disposables. It was in this way that I found myself staring at the last diapers in the package wondering if I should get more. I ended up getting her some basic prefolds and Flip diaper covers, thinking I could use them with the second baby.

I found myself learning all over again with my son who is shaped completely differently from my daughter. My cutest of cute cloth diaper covers with prefolds leaked every time because he is too small yet and the prefolds would scootch down and scrunch up. I went to the all-in-one cloth diapers my daughter had used, but then we got hit with thrush and the wet fabric on his skin seemed to be on the side of the yeast. When my washer broke for a week and a half, to top it all off, I turned to disposables.

It was during this time that I realized that disposables have advantages I hadn’t considered.

  • Disposables don’t need to be washed.
  • Disposables are compact.
  • Disposables give a trim bum line.
  • Disposables come in a wider range of sizes for a more accurate fit.

Some parents use disposables to handle the sticky, staining meconium in the earliest newborn days before switching to cloth diapers. Some parents use disposables at night and cloth diaper during the day. Many parents find disposables more convenient during travel. Alternate caregivers might find disposables easier or more familiar. Thankfully, there are some brands that leave out the chemicals, dyes, perfumes and other unhealthy stuff.

Continuum Family pull up training pants

Honestly, I can now understand the allure of disposables.

In the end, though, cloth diapers are worth any special thought and care required. Perhaps the struggle is precisely what creates loyal cloth diaper users. What piece of plastic could accomplish that?

Despite any inconvenience, I persist in my cloth diapering. I have got my son back in plain prefolds (size up, big guy!) and a Snappi — simplest and best yet. I’m working on my daughter’s skin health so we’re mostly diaper and pants free (less accidents now!) with disposables at night. Trying to figure out what would be a good move for her to pull down on her own. The search for the next cloth diaper solution continues….

Yes, I may have strayed to disposables, but I remain committed to cloth.

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RESOURCES

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I'm a Natural Parent — But … Blog CarnivalThis carnival was created by The Artful Mama and Natural Parents Network. We recognize that “natural parenting” means different things to different families, and we are dedicated to providing a safe place for all families, regardless of where they are in their parenting journeys.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 9: Choices for Children

BIG IDEAS

  • Autonomy: “a feeling that we are the initiators of much of what we do”
  • The act of choosing is more important than the choices themselves. (169)
  • Drawbacks of constricted autonomy (169)
    • aggravation
    • depression
    • physical illness
    • see Chapter 3
  • Benefits of choice (168-9)
    • Young children are more likely to do what is asked and less likely to misbehave.
    • Teenagers are more apt to share, feel better about themselves, like school more, and stay out of trouble.
    • College students are more likely to feel confident about themselves and persist in the face of difficulty or failure.
  • Summary of research: “The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.” (169)
  • Not just freedom to choose that makes a difference, it’s the parent-child interactions and conversations that have an impact. (172)
  • When children know that things can be negotiated they tend to stop challenging decisions. (176)
  • Children are less likely to to resist decisions they helped to make. (176)
  • Children really respond when they are treated with respect, involved in problem solving and assumed to be well-intentioned. (174)
  • Choice should be given in more than just trivial matters.
  • When they have to do something, but don’t want to….
    • Use the least intrusive strategy.
    • Be honest.
    • Explain the rationale.
    • Turn it into a game.
    • Set an example.
    • Give as much choice as possible.
  • Dealing with tantrums
    • Rule #1: Ignore everyone around you.
    • Rule #2: Imagine the situation from your child’s point of view.

QUESTIONS to CONSIDER

  • What are some specific situations or trouble spots that come up in which you can offer choices or work with your child to set limits?
  • What do you observe when you give choices versus times when you don’t?

 

* Summaries of chapters 1-8 

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 8: Love without Strings Attached

Approaching (shifting to) Unconditionality (p. 141)

  • Be mindful of parenting unconditionally, thinking and reflecting.
  • Consider yourself on the other end of your words and actions. Would you feel loved and accepted unconditionally?

To Minimize (p. 143)

  • Limit the number of criticisms. (Be choosy.)
  • Limit the scope of each criticism. (Be specific.)
  • Limit the intensity of each criticism. (Be gentle.)
  • Look for alternatives to criticism. (Say what you see and ask questions.)
  • Move beyond tit for tat (and winning).

To Maximize (p. 146)

  • Help them see effects on others.
  • Stay positive as much as possible.
  • Keep in mind why the child is acting that way. See the “vulnerable child behind the bothersome or menacing exterior.”
  • Keep at it.

BIG IDEAS

  •  Our words and actions can be instruments of control or expressions of love (not both). (p. 153)
  • A spoiled child means they have too much of what they want (stuff) and not enough of what they need (unconditional love). (p.153)
  • Children need your affection, attention (regardless of mood or circumstance), to feel you are delighted to be with them, to know you care no matter what.
  • Praise is more what parents need to say than what children need to hear. (p.155)
  • “When unconditional love and genuine enthusiasm are always present, “Good job!” isn’t necessary; when they’re absent, “Good job!” won’t help. (p.155)
  • When thinking of giving a compliment, consider 3 things (pp. 158-9):
    • Why: Intended to make someone feel good or to control or influence an outcome?
    • To Whom: Adult to adult is more equal than adult to child, so we need to be more careful speaking with children.
    • What Effects: Watch for the effects of your words and actions.
  • Children most need love when they fall short.
  • Generally, school is a conditional environment which may clash with your goals to be more unconditional.

QUESTIONS to CONSIDER

  • How does your child seem to take your words and actions?
  • What is your goal in praising or complimenting your child?
  • If you had to pick your battles, which would you choose?

Tips for Encouraging Independent Play with Toddlers

How can I encourage my son to play independently more often? 

A simple question asked by a mama friend, but it sparked so many thoughts. I’m on this tandem nurturing journey, too, so I can only share what I’ve experienced. Of course, what works for me won’t necessarily work for others. Regardless of the various situations people can find themselves in and despite my lack of credentials, here’s my two cents on independent play:

To be clear: I believe children can play independently through their own direction without special “tasks” or “toys,” but I think a mama/caregiver who needs a few minutes can get her needs met with well-designed activity

When training to be a reading specialist, a professor told me that an activity is good for a child if they can feel both challenged and successful. In this instance, the caregiver also needs the child to be independent and safe. The following are a few things to consider when designing activities to meet these goals.

1. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate for and of some interest to the child.

Scoop and Pour

Developmental stages come with their own interests that can be used as a foundation. For instance, toddlers are working on understanding open and close as well as pouring and dumping. Stirring (mixing) and sorting, tearing and toppling are also stimulating to many toddlers. (Notice these are physical activities as opposed to reading a book.) These will be probably be favorite activities and have the potential to hold a child’s focus as they learn through play. Some children will also exhibit a strong interest in or knowledge of a particular topic. This background can be used to create a theme for an activity, such as a sensory bin, or could be helpful if they are trying something for the first time or need an extra boost.

2. Consider your own mental and emotional attitude when choosing materials. 

This seems silly but is actually pretty important in my estimation. Some folks just lose it if a mess is made, whereas others just don’t feel so triggered by a mess. I believe the more mess that a parent can tolerate the better off their child probably is, within reason. This is because children are learning everything for the first time, and exploratory research is most effective when done freely and creatively. This means a messy process. So, my point is, if you are feeling short-tempered one day, get out the dot markers instead of the finger paints, use beans instead of water. Same activity/idea with sanity-maintaining materials…

3. Create an appropriate amount and type of space to do what is necessary along with a helpful amount of containment to keep the mess to a sane level. 

"My hands!"

Again, that’s mama’s sanity I’m talking about because children would probably learn a great deal by painting on every surface available. I put an old coffee table in my daughter’s playroom so she would have a big enough space to finger paint and create. This allows me to say to her that the paint stays on the paper, knowing she has some good space to move. I also add that she needs to stay on the mat (a tarp) I laid down under the table that covers a wider space, again so she feels freedom but has limits that feel good to me also. [Note: Most adult intervention will probably be around defining use of space in the form of reminders. “Paint goes on the paper.” See post on discipline resources for helpful suggestions for setting limits in a loving, respectful and effective way.]

4. Encourage confidence, creativity, and curiosity when you do play together with your child. 

Confidence, creativity and curiosity will help a child play independently even through moments of frustration. Going along with your child’s imaginary play and game ideas can build confidence. Generate play possibilities for later independent play while encouraging your child’s creativity with open-ended statements and questions such as “I wonder where the ducks are going,” or “What should we do with the stick?” Model curiosity and independent play by actually getting into your own games and adventures. I love what Janet Lansbury has to say about playing in a way that allows for a child to feel that “I did it” feeling. The more a child feels like they can do, the less they need you to do, including play. Balancing times where you are a fully engaged participant with times where you are a quieter observer will make the jump to independent play more natural.

5. Talk with your child about feelings, especially frustration.

I wrote a post on feelings about my own experiences talking with my daughter, particularly around frustration. I believe that this talk and the breathing we often do together has led her to be able to take a moment to gather herself and try once again. Sometimes she will ask me for help out of clear frustration, and I might say “You seem frustrated. It is hard to pick up the bike by yourself. If you need to you can take a breath and try again or take a break.” This allows me to find out if she really needs my help physically or if it’s more emotional help that she is needing to keep playing. It also communicates to her that I am confident she can handle the task. The more she can try again independently, the more chances she has to explore, be creative and problem solve….all independently.

……

Again, I’m working on these things, too, but I hope these tips help others. I have found that with these things in mind I can design an activity that my child loves and can play with independently. This has been particularly helpful these last few weeks because I can breastfeed baby or get a meal going with minimal supervision.

Sometimes, though, I find myself just sitting and watching her play even when I have goals to do other things, just because watching a child play is fascinating, inspiring and beautiful…. especially when it’s you’re own child!

Beans and Buttons: Revised (bigger bin, more beans, glass marbles)

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RESOURCES

Activities I Have Tried

  • Open and Close — clean, anywhere activity that required no real supervision
  • Sensory Bin of Beans and Buttons — required some supervision in form of reminders, especially the second time when I added new items
  • Sound Shakers — not such a hit with my daughter…yet?
  • Water in a bin or bucket + some spoons and a little bowl or glass (recommend towels at the ready and/or on the floor)–requires half an eye on things
  • Scoop and Pour (beans, nuts, buttons, whatever!) — required almost no supervision
  • Play Dough (“making pie”) — winner, almost every time, especially if you add a rolling pin, spoon, knife, fork, bowl or other fun utensil — someone made my daughter some, but here are 3 recipes

Unconditional Parenting: Chapter 7: Principles of Unconditional Parenting

MAIN POINT: Shift from asking “How do I get my child to do what I say” to asking “What does my child need and how can I meet those needs? (p. 118)

BIG IDEAS

  • There is no formula, so every parent/caregiver needs to “decide whether each idea sound reasonable, and, if so, how it may apply to raising your own child(ren).” (pp. 117-8)
  • It is challenging to “work with” children, as it asks more of an adult than “doing to” requires. (p. 118)
  • Must commit to taking children seriouslyto focus on their needs and to work with them to find solutions. (p.119)
    • express unconditional love
    • give children more chances to make decisions
    • imagine how things look (and feel) from your child’s perspective

The Guiding Principles

  1. Be reflective. (The more you understand “what drives you crazy and why,” the more you can understand how your needs and beliefs affect how you are with your children. pp. 120-1)
  2. Reconsider your requests. (Before working to get your child to do what you want, consider whether your request is as reasonable, necessary, valuable or desirable as you seem to think it is. Sometimes the problem is with the request, not the child. pp. 121-2)
  3. Keep your eye on long-term goals. (When you focus on more than getting your child to obey, you can use better parenting skills and get better results. Example: Problem solving with your child who has spilled a drink moves you closer towards your goal of helping them be a compassionate person than just getting them to not make a mess through a range of punishments or rewards. (pp. 122-3)
  4. Put the relationship first. (Being right, being in control, and having kids do what we want is not as important as having children feel safe and trusting. In fact, when children feel safe and trusting, and have a sense of autonomy they are more likely to tell about their mistakes and listen when we say something important. p.123)
  5. Change how you see, not just how you act. (Misbehavior can be either a teachable moment to involve the child in problem solving or a call for punishment/consequences. p.124)
  6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Loving a child does not necessarily mean respecting them. Respecting their ideas, opinions, feelings, questions and concerns goes a long way towards taking children seriously. pp. 124-5)
  7. Be authentic. (You have needs, feelings, thoughts. You don’t know sometimes and do the wrong thing sometimes. Apologize. Acknowledge your humanity. pp. 125-7)
  8. Talk less; ask more. (Step one is to figure out what children need. Ask questions that have more than one answer or that you are unsure how your child will answer. Sometimes children just need a hug or a kiss or a loved one to stay close. pp. 127-9)
  9. Keep their ages in mind. (Yes, children are incredibly capable, but some things are unrealistically high expectations. pp.129-130)
  10. “Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts. (First, we don’t know for sure why a child acted as they did. Second, our beliefs create a self-fulfilling prophecy. pp. 130-3)
  11. Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily. (Pick your battles, and say yes as much as possible. Try to think through the reason for your answer of “yes” or “no.” pp. 133-6)
  12. Don’t be rigid. (Flexibility and spontaneity allow parents/caregivers to meet the needs of different children and to have the freedom to respond uniquely to each situation. Consistently unreasonable reactions, limitations and expectations are undesirable, despite a child’s need for predictability. pp. 136-7)
  13. Don’t be in a hurry. (Work and think ahead to reduce the limitations of time constraints that often lead parents to coercive tactics. This also means enjoy your children while they are at the stage they are because they change quickly and childhood goes by fast. pp.138-9)

QUESTIONS to CONSIDER

  • Which of these principles seems to pose the toughest challenge for you? Which might come easier to you?
  • What are some requests that parents (yourself included?) usually make of children that may actually be unreasonable or unnecessary?
  • What are your needs, and how might they come up during interactions with your child?
  • What do you believe your child needs? How can you help them get their needs met?
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