All posts by The Attached Family

The “Tree Daddy”: A Parenting Metaphor

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

The rain poured down relentlessly, with winds blowing so hard that trees were being pulled from their roots and blown over. My husband watched from our window, paying close attention to the row of young fruit trees that we had planted the previous summer. As the wind whipped the mango tree, pulling its branches sideways, my husband put on his coat, found some heavy rope, and headed out into the rain to secure the trees by tying their trunks to the adjacent fence. When he came back into the house, wet and cold from the rain, I half-jokingly told him he was a good “tree daddy.”Shoshana

The idea of “tree daddy” popped into my mind as I thought about how he had protected those young, tender fruit trees.  He had planted them so lovingly in the summertime, and it remained in his consciousness to keep an eye on them to make sure they had the best chance possible to grow into big, strong trees that would bear sweet fruit one day in the future. He does not have to constantly push and pull at the branches of the trees to make them grow; he does not have to give them commands how to grow. He believes the fruit will some day come, and he simply has to make the sure that the trees have the right conditions for growth and protection from anything that could hurt them.

As parents, this is what we provide for our children. We believe in their potential for growth. Deep inside them are the seeds for becoming truly mature. They will develop the flexibility and resilience needed to withstand the harshness of the world. They have the capacity for being considerate and caring towards others while feeling secure in their own values. Their own aspirations and goals in life will take shape over time, together with the courage and resourcefulness needed to realize these goals. They can become responsible and self-directed so that they can create a life of meaning and fulfillment for themselves.

When we believe this to be true, we have but to protect this development. Just as the “tree daddy” keeps it in his consciousness to watch over the trees so they will be safe and protected, so too, we need to protect and shield our children from too much vulnerability until they can hold on to themselves in the world. We don’t need to push and pull at our children’s growth. Each child will develop in his own time at his own rate, and little by little we will see the fruits of this growth—the fine human character traits that we long to see in them.

What must be protected and shielded in our children is their hearts. Children are the most sensitive and vulnerable of all creatures. In order to not only survive in the world but also to truly blossom and flourish, children need soft hearts. They need their emotions to move them towards caring, consideration, caution and carefulness. Without these emotions, children lose the feelings and perceptions needed for their development as human beings. They fail to become adaptive and able to overcome adversity. They lose their sense of self and purpose in life and along with this their capacity to feel fulfillment. Life is seen through their eyes as being black and white, as they cannot see the dissonance in life and the many dimensions that color and characterize the events in our lives. Continue reading

Listening for Understanding

By Kelly Bartlett, author of Encouraging Words for Kids, certified positive discipline educator and Attachment Parenting leader (API of Portland,Oregon USA), www.kellybartlett.net

Parents spend a significant amount of time talking to kids. We have a lifetime of information and lessons to share with them, and we’re constantly searching for the most effective ways to talk to our kids so they will listen to all we have to say. But in parent-child relationships, it’s listening that begets listening. Kelly Bartlett

Listening nonjudgmentally to children allows them to feel accepted. When parents listen for a sense of understanding—that is, recognizing who our children are and what they are communicating beyond the presence of any adversarial words or behaviors—children feel understood and secure in the relationship. When we take the time to listen to children, our relationships deepen.

How can you communicate to kids that you hear and accept them? Here are a few tips for strengthening your relationships with your children through improved listening skills.

Don’t solve. Don’t tell your child what she should do. This takes away from her ability to figure something out for herself. When children come to a parent to talk, they’re looking more for validation and support than answers and directions. No matter a child’s age, when she decides for herself what to do, she assumes responsibility and gains confidence. Continue reading

When Siblings Hurt Each Other

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

It’s sometimes said that parents shouldn’t get involved when siblings fight, but rather let them work it out themselves. Sometimes children do settle their differences. But more often than not, they are mean and hurtful to each other. Siblings are a source of great frustration to each other. Each one is a constant reminder to the other that parents, food, clothing, toys and space must be shared. Older siblings resent younger ones because they think that the younger ones get more attention. Younger siblings resent older ones because they are more capable and get more privileges. Just about anything can ignite an aggressive attack and lots of tears.  Shoshana

Parents do need to intervene and protect children from the insults, aggression and bullying that they inflict on each other. Children depend on their parents to protect them from getting hurt. Part of parental responsibility is to give children the secure feeling that the parent is in charge and will not let the people they love the most hurt each other.

We so much want our children to respect and care about each other. For this to happen, a child needs three things from us.

1. Parents must stay in the lead. The parent-child relationship must be hierarchical, with the child dependent on the parent.  The child needs to feel cared for, nurtured and significant in the eyes of her parent. When a child is generously cared for, she develops within herself the capacity to care for others.

When a parent is busy taking care of younger children, the older child is often expected to be responsible and do the things for herself that she knows how to do.  It’s important for us to remember that even though she’s older, she still needs affection, to feel cared for and nurtured, and to feel that she matters and brings delight to her parents.  Even when she can dress herself or in other ways take care of herself, she still needs the comforting feeling of mom or dad occasionally doing these things for her. When she is filled daily with these expressions of love, she will more naturally have caring feelings towards her younger brother or sister. Continue reading

Talking Parent-to-Parent

By Jake Cunningham, parent

Sometimes no matter how hard I try, I just can’t find the emotional room to comfort my 2-year-old son, Jack. I try, as we all do, to be the best parent I can be based on the principles of Attachment Parenting (AP), but 1206728_21045799sometimes I just can’t cope when I know Jack needs me, but I can’t be there for him psychologically. I can try and comfort him, but he knows I’m not really “with him”. That can make him even more distressed, which makes me more resentful about the tantrum he’s having! I feel like sometimes we feed off each others’ deeper negative vibe. Even if I’m smiling, he knows I’m not happy—he just does. Little people are so attuned to our emotions.

It’s hard to be honest about this lack of connection I sometimes feel, but I wanted to try and acknowledge it for Jack’s sake, and I think that brings us both some relief. I have to accept that it’s part of our human condition to be emotional wrecks sometimes. Reading Kelly Bartlett’s article, “What Happens When We ‘Lose It’,” gave me the impetus I needed to do my homework on understanding this dynamic between me and my son and how to best deal with it. The article provides a good snapshot of what is happening mentally that is affecting the situation emotionally.

Even just admitting these feelings to myself has actually been a huge help. I felt a huge sense of relief when I said to myself, “Jack is right, you aren’t coping with this situation.” It just got rid off my defensiveness and defused the emotions. Continue reading

Minimizing Power Struggles: Ten Tips for Fewer Battles and More Peace with Your Preschooler

By Kelly Bartlett, author of Encouraging Words for Kids, certified positive discipline educator and Attachment Parenting leader (API of Portland,Oregon USA), www.kellybartlett.netkelly bartlett

If you’ve ever tried to get your young child to do something you want, chances are that you’ve been adamantly informed with gestures or words, “No!” As children outgrow babyhood, simple tasks begin to turn into battles. As frustrating as this can be, it helps to understand what’s going on so we can find ways to work with kids instead of against their natural development.

By the age of two, children are beginning to assert their autonomy. This is an important stage of development, as the need to explore the world away from mom and dad becomes pressing. Children learn what they are capable of doing themselves. Equally important, they are also learning what they are willing to do—and not do—themselves.

When they reach about four years old, kids also begin to develop a sense of initiative. They learn to plan and do things on their own and experience a sense of accomplishment and purpose. However, when they’re not able to achieve a goal as planned, frustration ensues. Continue reading

Visiting Family for the Holidays

By Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, www.ahaparenting.comDLM_183 crop (1)

We all want our relatives to see how wonderful our kids are.  Unfortunately, taking children to visit over the holidays often doesn’t really give them a chance to shine.  The kids get off their routines, overstimulated and disconnected from us.  At that point, they crash and burn.

But there are some tips that will make a smooth visit more likely.

1. Check your own expectations. If your toddler is teething, he won’t suddenly become less whiny. You can expect your difficult relative to be difficult again this year. But life doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Your children can act terribly, and it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible parent— it means they’re kids!  I bet your parents remember you acting terribly once or twice, and you came out ok.  Continue reading

Grief in Children

By Margie Wagner & Callie Little, Child Development Media, www.childdevelopmentmedia.com, reprinted with permission

It goes without saying that the grieving process is a complicated and intensely personal one. It is difficult enough for adults to deal with the loss of a loved one, but it can be even more difficult for children, particularly if their adult caregivers are working through their own grief. Understanding how grief affects children at various developmental stages and knowing the best ways to assist children as they grieve can help children to process their grief in the most healthy way possible. Keep in mind that, while grief is usually associated with a death, there are many circumstances under which children grieve. Separation due to the dissolution of a relationship or due to a military deployment or job-related separation can also cause grief in children.

Reactions to Loss and How to Help

How old a child is at the time of loss certainly affects the child’s perception of the event.  Although babies are unable to express themselves verbally, they will certainly exhibit reactions to loss. They may seem more fussy, inconsolable, or have changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. Very young children, ages 2 to 4, are egocentric: they think the world revolves around them, and their concept of death is limited. They may think that death is reversible, and their main reactions to death may be that their daily routine and care are altered. The adult whom they have lost, or who is also grieving, will be either absent or unable to care for the child in the accustomed manner. At this age, reactions are often regressive, exhibiting themselves in eating, sleeping, or toileting disruptions. Children this age need reassurance and consistency. Try to maintain regular routines and to be comforting, giving hugs and kisses and lots of gentle touches. Keep the discussions of death short, but keep interactions with the child frequent. Even if you feel like the baby or young child cannot understand your words, they will understand your interest in their feelings and your wish to console them. Keep talking – it will help you to get used to the discussions that will become longer and more detailed as the child gets older, and it will help you to figure out what to say.

Continue reading

Why You Should Talk to Your Kids About Death

By Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW, www.growparenting.com, reprinted with permission

As a parent educator, I rarely use the word “should.” As a matter of fact, I cringe at the idea of giving parents one more SHOULD, almost as much as many parents cringe at the idea of talking to their kids about death.sarina natkin

But after a spate of violence and random death in Seattle, I realized how few parents discuss the topic of death with their children before they are forced to. This is where the SHOULD comes in. We should talk to them because it will help our children and us move through the pain of loss just a little bit easier. For those of us who have lost loved ones, even the tiniest bit easier is worth it.

Many parents say they don’t talk to their kids about the concept of death because they don’t know what to say. While that may be true, I suspect that belief is coming from the idea that we don’t want to scare our children or worry them. But we do our children a disservice if we let those hard emotions stop us from sharing something that is as much a part of life as life itself.

Imagine your child’s first day of school. What if, because you didn’t want them to feel scared or worried, you avoided the word “school” for years? What happens when the first day of school arrives? How might that first drop-off feel for them? For you? My guess is with no framework or understanding of where they are and what they are doing there, our kids might feel pretty scared, alone, and quite anxious.

Of course we don’t do this! Many parents spend a great deal of time carefully preparing their child for school. It’s not usually a sit-down formal conversation about the history and theory of elementary education. It’s many small moments throughout early childhood that help them build a mental model for this concept of school. Those mental models are what help decrease fear and anxiety, and more importantly, normalize a part of life for most Americans. Continue reading

Looking for Love at Toys”R”Us

By Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, www.ahaparenting.com

“Television advertisements for toys and games often exploit children’s underlying needs and desires.  Many commercials show a child playing with a game or toy with her parents.  The message is clear to young children: Ask for this product and your mother and father will pay attention to you. It is an offer they cannot resist.”  –Lawrence Kutner

DLM_183 crop (1)

Worried that your child seems to get a bit greedy at the holidays? Consider that maybe something deeper is being triggered—a longing for that happy, perfect life when he’ll feel completely enveloped by your love.  We adults have the same fantasy, of course.  It’s part of the wonder of the holidays— that promise of transformative love.

The human mind has a tendency to crave more, more, more.  Kids (like many adults) haven’t yet learned how to manage those yearnings and direct them toward what will really fulfill them, which is connection, creativity and spirituality (whether your definition of that is God, Nature or Love).

And it is possible to fill our children’s deep longings.  Not with excessive presents—which always leave kids feeling unfulfilled—but with deep meaning and the magic of love. How?

1. Explain to your child that your December holiday is about “presence” or time together, not about “presents” – and then keep your promise! When he asks you to do something with him, why not leave the dishes in the sink or your email unanswered for now? Sure, you were going to make that homemade wreath or menorah, but if you can’t do it with your child, who cares about it? (If you do it with your child, it won’t look perfect, but you’ll treasure it forever. As will she.)

2. Manage Expectations. Ask your child to carefully consider his desires and tell you four gift ideas:

  • A store-bought gift that is within your means (this may take some back and forth discussion)
  • A book he wants to read.
  • A “together” present that you will do with him, like going to the zoo.
  • A “giving” present that he can gift to someone else, like making cookies for the senior citizen home or stuffing stockings for kids in a shelter.

3. Model your values by prioritizing family activities that savor the deliciousness of your holiday. Every day, do one thing to bring your family together, whether baking, gift wrapping or simply enjoying the twinkling holiday lights together in the dark. Read and discuss books on holiday themes.  Minimize the focus on shopping and store-bought presents.

4. Give your child the experience of abundance in simple ways. You can let your kids revel in that feeling of abundance while still sticking with your values and your budget. If you’re gifting him with a trip to the zoo, print out a photo of his favorite zoo animal and a simple certificate, and wrap it, complete with ribbon. If she loves lip balm, buy four flavors and wrap each one separately.  If you baked and decorated cookies together to take to all the older folks when you visited Aunt Sue, be sure to take photos. Then print out a certificate of Commendation for Generosity with his name on it, along with a photo of a happy cookie-eater and your child, and wrap it with a ribbon and a cookie in a plastic bag. That will probably bring as big a smile to his face as a toy, especially when you regale everyone present with a story about how happy he made the senior citizens.

5. Give your child the gift of playful responses to things that you’d normally get irritated about.  When she resists your instructions, be mock horrified. Scoop her up and throw her around, making a rambunctious game of it. Interpret every “misbehavior” as a request for fun, loving connection.  (If you need to “teach” appropriate behavior, do it later.) This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.  You’ll be so pleased by how much more cooperative she is that you might adopt this approach permanently.

6. Minimize stress and fill your own cup so you’re in a good mood, living the spirit of the season and spreading love and good cheer. Your kids don’t want a magazine-spread holiday.  They want your love and appreciation and joy. Prioritize getting sleep and taking care of yourself so you can give your child your best—not just what’s left.

No matter what they think, kids don’t need the latest toy from Toys“R”Us or the latest electronic gadget.  Those are just strategies to feel good inside themselves. And the only way that feeling lasts is when it comes from love.

Consider the memories your kids are shaping this December. When they look back, will they describe a parent who communicated the spirit of the season with laughter, warm embraces, gracious patience?  You ARE that parent, inside.  Do you need to let go of anything so you can express all that love and joy? What could you do to make it easier for you to be that parent

Ten Tips for Raising a More Peaceful Child

By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits & Lessons, www.cooperativekids.com

The General Assembly of the United Nations declared September 21st as the International Day of Peace. Since the first year of celebration, many schools around the country have used that commemoration to influence children on the importance of world peace. So this past September 21st, I took a film crew with me to an amazing Montessori school deep in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, to see what they were doing.

Meagan Ledendecker, the school’s director of education, asked each of the classes to create a project that would represent their own celebration of world peace. I thought this was an awesome day at the school and featured Meagan and some of the school projects on my television show. You can watch the clip on my website.

Everything I teach in my parenting program and all that I feature on my television show are dedicated to increasing the peacefulness in families and classrooms. If we hope to have less war and conflict in the future, and more love and compassion for one another, then it’s up to us to cultivate that in our children, who will be responsible for carrying out the plan. Here are ten things any parent or guardian can begin doing immediately to raise more peaceful children.

Continue reading