Category Archives: 3. The Toddler

From 18 months to age 3.

Cultivating Attachment: Making It Easy For Your Kids to Talk to You

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

“Children should be seen and not heard” was a common attitude in generations past. Today we are more aware of the importance of making room for children’s ideas, thoughts and feelings, but children and adolescents are not always inclined to share these things with us. Even the simplest question such as “how was your day” evokes an answer such as “Okay” or “It doesn’t matter,” thus bringing the conversation to a close before it even begins1397790_83069154 flower 2

What makes some children talk openly with their parents, while others seem closed, shy or hesitant to talk? Understanding the polarity of attachment energy gives us an answer. Just as any power in the universe has an opposing force, so, too, does attachment. Just as a magnet has a north and south pole, so, too, does attachment have two opposing poles. Attachment energy is not neutral, meaning that a child will either be drawn to someone he is attached to or repelled by someone he is not attached to.

This polarity is first seen in children usually by the middle of their first year of life, when they begin to shy away from certain people. Any adult such as a grandparent, aunt or caregiver can care for the baby, but by the age of approximately 6 months, the baby may protest when those same people approach him. The attachment brain is now preparing the child to develop deeper attachment, a greater capacity for relationship, and so closes the door to people who interfere with the attachment that is already taking root. This demonstration of protest develops into shyness, which is a positive sign to see in children. It will take the child’s brain about five more years to make sure he has a deep enough relationship with his parents so that he can optimally function in a world that is quite alarming and wounding. Continue reading

Balancing Attachment Parenting and Intimate Relationships

By Kassandra Brown, parent coach, www.parentcoaching.org

Attachment Parenting International offers Eight Principles of Parenting. The eighth principle is about balance in personal and family life. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some ways to bring balance into your marriage or intimate partnership. I hope that everyone who values strong relationships can find a few insights in the ideas of finding balance offered below.SONY DSC

Attachment Parenting is wonderful for babies. It helps children feel secure and loved. These children then grow into adults who are able to form secure attachments and who do not resort to violence to resolve discrepancies.

But is Attachment Parenting good for the marriage or partnership?  When practicing Attachment Parenting, it can seem like babies and children always come first. When is the time for nurturing the relationship between parents? If the adult relationship is not nurtured, it will eventually deteriorate. The fear of this deterioration can lead parents to choose more authoritarian, distant or punitive parenting styles than they may otherwise prefer. Their motivation? To create space for the parents to still be intimate partners and individuals. If connection and attachment are correlated to loss of freedom and loss of self, it becomes much harder to embrace attachment principles.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Nurturing your children and nurturing your partnership are not mutually exclusive. Doing both at the same time does ask each parent to become more creative, loving and forgiving. It may ask each partner to grow and resolve old childhood wounds. In my opinion, this makes it more, not less, valuable as a parenting path. Let’s take a look at some ways to form and maintain strong connections with both children and adult partners. Continue reading

The “Go Away, Persona” Mystery: Helping my Young Child Adjust to a Change of Caregivers

By Tamara Brennan, Ph.D. , Executive Director of the Sexto Sol Center,  www.ourcozytime.com

In the pine covered Sierra Madre Mountains of southern Mexico we are raising our young daughter on a small permaculture farm. We keep our door open to the people from the tiny mountain communities who come here to learn how to grow their own food organically. It is work we love, but the demands of managing multiple projects through our non-profit organization make it absolutely necessary to have full-time household help.   1182571_99590542

The young women who have worked for us managing our home have been real lifesavers. Our housekeeper provides order, structure, and lunch in our busy office-school-home. She also fills in the gaps in care for Nicole when Mommy is on the computer or attending visitors.

Flori was one of these indispensible helpers. Nicole, just 3 years old, adored her. She would pick up her play phone and pretend to be Flori talking to her boyfriend. I was grateful that, as the mother of a grown son, Flori understood my daughter’s needs and knew how to keep her feeling cared for. With Flori here I could get a little more sleep, knowing that Niki would happily run into the kitchen for the breakfast she would make in her predictable way.    Continue reading

The Roots of Learning Self-Control

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

I was looking forward to a pleasant afternoon on the playground with my grandchildren, only to find all too soon I had to play the part of guard, referee and advocate. There were several other children occupying the swings and slides, and the scenarios that unfolded were to be expected—young children pushing each other, shouting at each other, throwing sand at each other, sticking their tongues out at each other and calling each other names. After watching over the 2-year-old on the steps to the slide so he wouldn’t get pushed down by a rambunctious 3-year-old, it was time to put an end to the sand throwing that was taking place among the 5- and 6-year-olds.  Shoshana

In order for children to be patient, courteous and considerate of each other, they need to be flexible, recover easily from disappointment and adapt quickly to new situations. For example, the child who thought he’d have the slide to himself now has to share it with three other children, and when he runs to the swings, he discovers that they are all occupied by children who got there before him. Besides adaptability, children also need to remember that they care about others at the same time that they are trying to fulfill their own desires. These are the same abilities we adults need in our own relationships. When you think of how difficult it can be sometimes for adults in marriage or in work relationships, you can get a picture of how much more difficult it is for children who are not yet fully developed and mature.

Deep instincts and impulses drive young children’s behavior. When they can’t have something they want, when they don’t win, when someone doesn’t want to play with them, when they are not big or strong enough, when they can’t fix something, when they can’t stop time, when they have to wait, and when things aren’t going as they had planned, they are filled with frustration. This frustration drives them to be impulsive, aggressive and attacking. Their reactions are extreme and untempered. Just like an accident, the impulse to attack simply “happens to them.”  If all goes well developmentally, when children reach the age of 7 or 8, they will begin to have more self-control and consideration for others when they play.   Continue reading

Kids and Sex: Getting Comfortable with “The Talk”

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

It’s never too early to begin talking with your kids about sex. In fact, the earlier you start, the more comfortable you will feel when it’s time to talk about difficult issues. Here are some age-appropriate topics parents should bring up with their children now to pave the way for less stressful conversations about sexual health in the adolescent years.Kelly Bartlett

Ages 0-2: Positive Perception

There’s no better time to start practicing the language of body talk than when kids are infants. At this age, there’s no pressure to say the “right” thing, and your baby won’t laugh, get nervous or ask any questions. It’s important to get comfortable verbalizing words or bodily functions that may cause some discomfort for you.

According to Dr. Laura Berman, a sex educator, therapist and author of Talking to Your Kids About Sex, something crucial for parents to do while their kids are infants is to adopt a positive view of bodily functions. Shift from looking at a poopy diaper as, “Oh, isn’t that stinky!” to a perspective of, “Wow, you’ve been eating well!” Dr. Berman says many parents have likely learned from their own upbringing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about bowel movements. “When really,” she says, “it’s just a part of life!” Functions involving the genitals are healthy and normal, not something negative or problematic.

Continue reading

A Tantrum is a Choice

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.AuthenticParent.com

A tantrum can vanish before it starts if we put the spotlight on it with validation and playfulness. Six-year-old Danny (names and scenarios are changed) came into the kitchen and asked his mother for a dessert. His mother said, “If you want something sweet, there are grapes, peaches or dried fruit.” Naomi Aldort

“I want only watermelon, that’s what I want. Nothing else!” said the boy emphatically.

I was sitting close by and saw the tantrum building up. Danny stamped his foot lightly, he frowned, and his voice became tight as he was repeating his plea and was ready to explode. At that moment I said, “There is no watermelon, and you want to have some! You are getting yourself into a tantrum. Let’s have a tantrum about it together; a double tantrum, you and I.” The boy smiled and immediately relaxed. I then added, “A triple tantrum with Mom, too,” and seeing his Dad walking by, “no, a quadruple tantrum with Dad, too.”

The boy turned around laughing and looking at his Dad. Dad acted a slow walk, sneaking out of the room as though he wanted nothing to do with it. The boy went after him. His father returned to the dining room and produced an impressive tantrum. “I want watermelon,” he screamed theatrically as he stamped and jumped with a thump. Danny was so excited. He laughed and ran to tell his brother all about it. In a minute we heard the boys playing happily. Continue reading

Modern parenting may hinder brain development, research shows

By Susan Guibert, reprinted with permission, Notre Dame News, http://newsinfo.nd.edu/

Social practices and cultural beliefs of modern life are preventing healthy brain and emotional development in children, according to an interdisciplinary body of research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

“Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago,” says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children and how early life experiences can influence brain development.

“Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it,” Narvaez says. Continue reading

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