Category Archives: 3. The Toddler

From 18 months to age 3.

Comparing Children

By Shoshana Hayman, director of the Life Center/Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, http://lifecenter.org.il

Comparing seems to be part of human nature. We compare ourselves to others. We compare our children to each other and to other children. We compare our spouses to others. Comparing the heart rate or blood sugar levels of a given number of people might be beneficial in determining the range in which people maintain good health – and perhaps we can even say that by comparing children’s abilities and establishing a range of “normal,” we can determine which children have difficulties and how to help them – but comparing ourselves with others, and in particular our children to other children, can have very damaging effects if it’s done in a shameful way — whether or not we actually verbalize it.

One of the most common reasons we compare children is to motivate them: “Look how nicely your sister is sitting and doing her homework. Why can’t you organize yourself the way she does?” or “You should learn a lesson from your brother. He always helps out when he’s asked.” When we compare siblings in this way, we are conveying a message that one child is worth more in our eyes. The less favored child, rather than feeling motivated to emulate his sibling, feels resentment toward him or her, while the more favored child might feel sorry for his or her sibling as well as pressure to maintain his or her status. The damage is threefold: We have inadvertently put a condition on our own relationship with our children, we have harmed the relationship between them, and we have further locked them into their respective behaviors.

Another way we compare children is by judging and grading them. We set up a standard of comparison and then see where a child fits into this standard: “This child is my good eater. He eats everything. But the others are so picky!” or “This is my responsible child. But my other daughter, well, I can never count on her for anything.” or “This child is my astronaut. I have to nag him about everything.” When we judge children and grade them in this way, we fail to see that they are capable of developing many different abilities that can grow with our help, support, and belief in them. Continue reading

Responding to Lying Positively

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Like many new parents, I naively believed that once I got past the first few years of physically intense infant and toddler care, that surely the rest of childhood would be comparatively easy. By the time my third child came along, I learned to relish those early years. Children don’t get easier to raise the older they get, and they don’t necessarily get harder either. Every age and stage has its own joys and challenges.

One of the challenges I’ve encountered lately that has really made me think has been my five-year-old daughter’s tendency to lie. My four-year-old is an expert storyteller but she tells wildly imaginative, make-believe stories to entertain (“and there was this octopus and it stood on the barn and ate cheese”) and will readily tell the truth if asked. My five-year-old, on the other hand, tells stories to try to get her sister in trouble. Not that it works. I’ve maintained since the beginning that I value truth-telling, even when the child is admitting a wrong. So, say, my daughter breaks a lamp and she tells me what happened truthfully, I look beyond the broken lamp and value the trust that’s there. I don’t react negatively; we just clean it up. But, the problem is when a child blames her sibling and her sibling blames her sister; there is no punishment, but we have to spend a lot more time talking and trying to figure out what the whole story is. I still don’t react negatively, but lying is something that concerns me because it violates my trust. I see it as a sign of a relationship issue. I give a reminder as to what lying is and why we don’t lie to one another, and ask questions to see if there is indeed a relationship issue such as that my daughter feels that I don’t give her as much attention as her sister or if she feels hurt by me for something earlier in the day. It seemed, though, that this wasn’t ever the case; my five-year-old daughter would say all was good, that she wasn’t sad or mad, but she continues to try these lies.

I pondered how my five-year-old learned this behavior for the longest time. I could not understand how she conjured up lying to avoid getting into trouble when being in trouble at our house doesn’t mean anything upsetting. The punishment she seemed to be trying to avoid, by the fear I could see in her eyes, never materialized. She would leave the conversation happily, skipping off to her next play activity. But, before long, we were talking about lying again. Puzzling.

Then, a mother whose child goes to the same preschool suggested that my daughter was learning the behavior at school – that some of her playmates lie to avoid punishment in their homes and were bringing that behavior into the classroom. My daughter was likely just trying out a behavior learned from her friends. This makes sense, as I’ve seen my daughters playing that they were putting their dolls into timeout when we do not use timeout in this family. And we’ve gone through phases when both girls were saying questionable words like “darn” and “stupid,” again words not spoken in this family.

But this lying “phase” has persisted more than a few weeks, and I was beginning to wonder if my approach was developmentally appropriate or if there was something more I could do. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wait long before I got an answer. Recently, parenting educator Patricia Nan Anderson, PhD, of Seahurst, Washington USA, held a teleclass on this topic, expanding also into cheating and stealing.

Celebrate Lying?

I have heard from some parents and parent educators alike that lying should be celebrated in a way, because it signals that the child has reached an appropriate developmental milestone. I’m not throwing a party, but this does mean that parents don’t have to fear lying as the basis of future juvenile delinquency. Lying is normal and a sign of positive brain development.

“Once a child understands that others have thoughts of their own, they understand that others can do something on purpose but also that things can happen accidentally,” explained Anderson. This ability doesn’t happen until at least age four. Somewhere between age four and seven, depending on the child, guilt and shame develop. And that’s when children are able to lie.

Furthermore, the ability to delay personal gratification, otherwise known as patience, develops by age two in some children but not until age eight. This plays into why some children have the propensity to lie more than others.

Lying, as well as cheating and stealing, in children older than age nine may be a sign that the child feels powerless on her own. Parents can help the child empower themselves.

“All of this stuff is normal,” Anderson said. “Every parent encounters these behaviors. Every child has a normally over-developed sense of greed and a normally under-developed sense of ethics. Your job is not so much to squash the bad thoughts than to strengthen the good thoughts.”

How to encourage moral development:

  • Model moral choices out loud – This is more than leading by example, which is important in itself; this is talking to your children about your thought process in making choices. Children see their parents as perfect, never tempted and never making mistakes, Anderson said. They need to know that you, too, have to play tug-of-war between greed and ethics. For example, say you’re eating cookies: While you’re dividing the cookies among you and your children, say out loud “Mmm, I love cookies. I could eat all of these cookies myself, but I love each of you and want you to have a cookie, too.”
  • Analyze media-based dilemmas together – This not only pertains to managing screen time or discerning which media programs to view or games to play or books to read, but also to discuss what is going on with characters’ choices in the story plot. For example, say you’re watching a TV show about the three little kittens that lost their mittens: “Oh, those kittens are so sad that they lost their mittens. And when they told their mother, she said they couldn’t have any pie. Oh, that makes them sad. What do you think they should do?”
  • Ask the child’s opinions about moral dilemmas – This isn’t a guess-what-Mom’s-thinking exercise, Anderson said; there isn’t one answer. Parents can use the child’s answer as a clue to his current moral development. For example, say your son and daughter are arguing over a toy: Ask each of them “What do you think you should do?”
  • Celebrate your child’s good moral choices – This is just as it sounds. Recognize your child when she makes a choice that aligns with your family values.

Discipline for Lying

Guilt and shame are two of the most uncomfortable feelings that a person can feel, and lying is a natural reaction to not feel guilt and shame, said Anderson, as well as to avoid punishment. But, by viewing lying as part of normal development, punishment doesn’t have to be the rule. How to respond positively to lying:

  1. Never try to catch your child in a lie – If you know the truth, don’t act like you don’t. This only sets him up to lie. And if you don’t know the truth, phrase the question differently: Instead of asking “Who broke my lamp?” say “I see that my lamp has been broken. Tell me about that.”
  2. Never punish your child for telling the truth – Parents who practice Attachment Parenting strive not to punish for any reason, but it’s especially important not to react negatively to a child telling the truth, no matter what that truth is. This is especially important with older children and teens, said Anderson.

And what if your child does lie? Positive discipline techniques depend on the child’s age and development, explains Judy Arnall, parenting educator from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in her book, Discipline Without Distress.

Preschoolers, ages three to five, are typically just learning the difference between reality and fantasy. This age group doesn’t so much tell out-right lies than use story-telling to explain their wishes. Parents can help preschool children by teaching them how to get their needs met without lying, as well as reading books about lying. Anderson’s advice in rephrasing questions is helpful, too. Instead of asking “Did you take that toy from John’s house?” say “I see you have one of John’s toys. We need to give it back.”

Children age six to 12 lie to avoid consequences or to fit in with peers, said Arnall. Teaching by example is important in this age group, as is teaching problem-solving to get needs met. She agrees with Anderson to never punish for truth-telling, no matter what the truth involves. She emphasizes for parents to avoid labeling and over-reacting, but also to avoid dismissing the behavior. Telling the child that while telling the truth can be hard, you appreciate it and reassure the child that he won’t be punished for it.

With teenagers, Arnall advocates being straightforward. Parents should continue not punishing for truth-telling and to teach problem-solving for the original issue, but I-statements are effective in communicating why lying is not acceptable, such as “I’m upset when I’m not told the truth. I find it hard to trust you.”

Put It in Perspective

Parents often fear that lying is a sign of a larger psychological problem in their children. In a small percentage of children, there is a pathological reason, but this is rare; Anderson advises parents to only consider it if your child’s behavior appears compulsive. For the great majority of children, lying is simply a normal part of growing up.

“Think of the times you were tempted as a child or now,” Anderson said. Virtually every person has told a lie at one point in their life. Lying may be morally wrong, but it’s common. Be understanding of your children.

Cheating

Cheating happens because winning feels good. While cheating can be done with the intention to deceive, children typically resort to cheating simply as a way to level the playing field, Anderson said – when she feels at a disadvantage, is frustrated with the situation, and feels in need of an accommodation. Think of a younger child playing a game with older siblings. How to respond positively to cheating:

  1. Provide your child a script to opt out of an activity when tempted to cheat, without admitting that he finds the game difficult, such as “I’m not having fun, so I’m going to go do something else.”
  2. If your child cheats on a school exam or assignment, talk to the teacher about it being a sign that your child is frustrated with the material.

Stealing

Stealing in children age eight or younger often occurs when a child is seeking boundaries, during which she steals something in plain sight or tells you about taking something, or as a result of poor impulse control. With a younger child, it could be a misunderstanding of what it means to borrow. Parents should view stealing in these years as an exploration of relationship rules, and to react by explaining the rules for each incidence.

It’s when stealing becomes intentional that parents need to take notice, said Anderson. Children who are at least nine years old may use stealing as a way to fit in with his peers, to boost self esteem, on a dare, as a form of revenge, or as recreation. Children don’t develop the full ability to consider the consequences of their actions until their late teens, so if your child is stealing intentionally, the first step to resolving it is to figure out why. Second, parents should use the event to teach family values.

What Attachment Parenting is…and is Not

Maybe you never knew there was a name for it – the unique way you raise your child – but it’s in tune with your child’s needs and with your own needs, and your family lives it out daily. Or, perhaps, you do know there is a name for it, with many synonyms and variations, but you live it out without being defined.

It’s hit the news, blogs, social media, and forums where parenting approaches are more contentious than politics or religion.

Some may know what they know about it from a critique or a comment. But, every day, growing numbers of parents find the name and the communities that come with it – and breathe a sigh of relief to find welcome, encouragement, information, and freedom from judgment.

From professionals to media, it’s not just parents who are discussing Attachment Parenting.

The Latest Fad, or Something More? Time for some clarification and a reality check…

Baby Signing a Practical Way of Communicating

By Jamie Birdsong Nieroda, attachment parenting leader (API of Suffolk County-Long Island, New York, USA)

I was never one of those people, pre-kids, who romanticized parenting. I worried instead about how my baby and I would communicate and how I would deduce from her cries the action required to meet her needs.

My sister had used some basic baby signs with my niece Dakota, teaching her to sign “more” and “milk,” but the significance of this seemingly simple form of communication didn’t hit home until one afternoon when my sister was trying to help Dakota fall asleep by giving her a backrub. When she stopped, Dakota sat up and signed “more.”

I was fascinated by how she had extrapolated a sign previously used only to request more food to ask for more massage. In that moment, I realized the potential that signing had for a deeper level of communication.

We’ve used it twice now, with two different approaches, both times with success, connection, and unimaginable delight. It allowed our sweet ones to communicate their needs and interests while providing us with ever-amazing glimpses into their complex minds. With each sign, it was evident that our recognition and understanding of their communication gave a sense of confidence to our preverbal children as well as showed them we were interested in what they had to say. I’ve come to realize that it is not only helpful in understanding my baby’s basic needs but has opened up a rich and ever-rewarding vehicle of sharing my child’s excitement for the world.

When our firstborn, Aviv, was about six months old, we began showing her a couple baby signs, following the advice in Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. At eight months, Aviv signed “flower” for the first time and began to use it to point out flowers everywhere. A week later, I sat nursing Aviv in my in-law’s home where we had been staying for an extended visit. We had talked often about the vase of silk flowers sitting on our room’s dresser. I sniffed loudly to clear my nose. Aviv stopped nursing immediately and turned to look at the bouquet. She smiled and signed “flower” and then laughed. This was our first adorably brilliant signing miscommunication, opening the door for more communication: “You thought when I cleared my nose I was talking to you about the flowers! My nose is stuffed up and I need to blow it, so I was sniffing.”

At 10 months, Aviv began signing “dog.” The first time she used the sign, we were taking an evening stroll and she “commented” on the incessant barking of a neighborhood dog. She began signing “dog” to communicate about anything related to our pooch, like when she played with Maya’s leash or passed her water bowl. “Milk,” “eat,” “fan,” and “hat” soon followed. We were amazed at how much of the world she understood without our full comprehension minus this under-used communication device. When, compelled by our own fascination, we would note to a stranger that she was signing “water” because she saw a river in a painting, the question inevitably asked was if she was deaf. Most people have never heard of baby signing. One friend commented that our babies seemed so aware, and what we were learning is that they all are in degrees both staggering and easily discovered with American Sign Language (ASL).

Baby Signing with Aviv

Aviv was signing five signs at one year old when my husband’s boss told him how her daughter had been slow to talk and that learning to communicate through sign language had decreased her frustration and limited tantrums. She offered to loan a video series called Signing Time to us if we were interested. I hesitated as I wanted Aviv to be media-free, yet I also recognized the value and impact of sign language not only on her ability to communicate but also on our relationship with her. She was no longer unable to communicate what she saw. For instance, when she was 11 months old, I had my hair wrapped in a towel. Aviv signed “hat,” which gave me the insight needed to explain, “Yes, this towel goes on my head just like a hat does. I put a towel on my head to dry my hair some before I brush it.”

When Aviv was 12 months old, we were driving along in the car and she pointed out the window and signed “tree.” As we talked about the newly leafed trees, she signed “gentle” and “flower,” identifying our past discussions of being gentle with flowers and allowing me to link all of these thoughts together. At 14 months, she signed “potty” emphatically as I pulled the trashcan down to the curb. I looked around, knowing there was a clear reason if I could discover it. Our dog was peeing on the lawn behind me, so we got a laugh together and I told her, “Yes, Maya sure is going potty! We go inside on the toilet, but she waits until she is outside to pee in the grass.” So many conversation-starters and continued language acquisition began through our children’s ability to allow us to enter their world with a reference point. Continue reading

Celebrate Your Toddler’s “No!”

By Judy Arnall, director of Attachment Parenting Canada, www.professionalparenting.ca

I walked into the kitchen and discovered my two-year-old blonde-haired daughter, dressed in her little pink fleece sleeper with the padded feet, standing on top of the chair next to the counter.  She was preoccupied with dipping her fingers into the butter bowl and then into the sugar bowl before they headed into her waiting mouth. When she saw me enter the kitchen, a potential threat to her wonderful activity, she formed a very concise pointed finger at me, and firmly delivered “No!” at my astonished expression.

“No!” It’s probably the most commonly used word in toddlerhood! It flies out of our children’s mouths before they even have time to really think about what they are saying “no” to.

When my five children were young, they were allowed to say “no” as much as they wanted to. I would always try to respect their “no” as much as I could within the parameters of the particular situation, and especially in circumstances such as when they didn’t want to be tickled by me or didn’t want to hear me sing or didn’t want to be kissed by Grandma or didn’t want to share their prized possessions. I think “no” is an important word for asserting their feelings and desires and, unless it is a matter of safety, they have the right to have their opinion listened to and respected. Here is why children should be allowed to say “no”:

  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is three and her daddy might want to put her in the front seat and not the carseat because it is less hassle.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is five and her little five-year-old friend might want her to cross a busy street without an adult.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is nine and her uncle might want to touch her in her private places.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is 12 and her friends might want her to steal a candy bar from the grocery store.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is 14 and her friends might bully a fellow student.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is 15 and a friend’s drunk parent might want to drive her home from a sleepover party.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is 16 and her boyfriend might want to “show” her how much he loves her.
  • I want my daughter to say “no” when she is 18 and her buddies might want her to try some “ecstasy.”

So, when she is two years old, my daughter can practice saying “no” as much as she needs to. And I won’t take it personally.

What Happens to the Brain When We “Lose It”

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and attachment parenting leader (API of Portland, Oregon USA)

Learning neuroscience isn’t something every parent has time for, so Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell, authors of Parenting from the Inside Out, developed a simple and surprisingly accurate model of the brain that parents can make with their own hands, which helps us understand what goes on in there. When we know what’s going on in our children’s brains (and in our own), we are better able to respond sensitively and appropriately when emotions run strong.

Make a fist with your thumb tucked inside your fingers. This is the model of your brain; your fist is the brain, and your wrist and forearm are the spinal cord, carrying nerve impulses to the rest of your body.

The bottom of your palm is the brainstem. This is where the brain connects to the spinal cord and is where our instinctive behavior and involuntary functions are regulated. The brain stem controls things like breathing, heart rate, hunger, digestion, body temperature, etc. It is our basic, “primitive” brain.

Your thumb, tucked in the middle of your fist, is the midbrain. This is where our emotions and memories are created and processed, as well as where the fight-or-flight reflex is triggered. The midbrain is our “emotional brain.”

The back of your hand and fingers, encasing everything, is the cerebral cortex. This is where higher functioning occurs. This part of our brain allows us to think logically, act with kindness and empathy, and it houses our reasoning and problem-solving abilities. The cortex is our “rational brain.” It is in this part of a child’s brain that Attachment Parenting has a profound impact.

The brain is structured to communicate. It sends messages from section to section within itself about what our bodies are feeling and needing. When a child screams, “No!” and lashes out to hit because he is angry, a parent’s brain interprets this data as, “Hmm, I don’t like this, and I need to be treated differently.” Only we don’t always react so calmly, right?

Take another look at your brain-fist. See where your fingernails are? That’s the prefrontal cortex, the very front part of your brain that sits behind your eyebrows. This is where logic and reasoning originates. It’s the part of the brain that kicks into gear when we have a problem to solve. Now, sometimes the emotional brain (thumb) and the rational brain (fingers) don’t communicate so well. The emotions of the midbrain are simply too overwhelming, our fight-or-flight reflex triggers, and we “flip our lids.” Now make all four of your fingers stand straight up. Flip.

Of course, our brains don’t actually change shape like this, but this simple demonstration is a valuable tool in understanding how our brains function during emotionally charged situations. See your fingertips now? See how far away from the midbrain they are? When we “flip our lids,” our rational brains have a very poor connection with our emotional brains. Our feelings are intense, and we’re not able to access the logical, problem-solving part of our brain. We need to calm our anger and ease our fears in order to restore our rational brain to its coherent state (close fingers over thumb again).

Children and adults alike experience a flipped lid. But as the human brain isn’t fully mature (that is, all parts communicating effectively) until sometime between 21 and 30 years old, children flip their lids much more often. They need a lot more help “re-connecting” the prefrontal cortex with the midbrain; that is, calming down and learning how to respond to strong emotions.

Here are a few tools taken from Jane Nelsen’s “52 Positive Discipline Tool” Cards that help during “flipped lid” moments:

  • Hugs – When your child flips her lid, a hug may be the last thing you want to offer. But it might be the thing she needs most. The mirror neurons in her brain are hard-wired to assess the emotional state of the people around her and influence how she’ll react. When her brain picks up on the loving composure in a hug, its chemistry begins to return to a calm state. If your child is not ready for a hug when she’s immediately upset, just let her know you’re available and would love a hug when she is ready. See what happens!
  • Focus on Solutions – This is for when you’re about to flip your lid. Yes, there’s a huge mess on the floor. Yes, your two-year-old is bothering his older (and now very annoyed) sibling again. Yes, someone lost an important item again, or someone else is dawdling to get ready…again. But rather than get mad and yell (again), focus on practical solutions to these problems. Instead of thinking, “What can I to do to get through to you?” think, “What can I do to help you succeed with this? What solutions can we come up with?”
  • Positive Time Out – This is perfect for when either you or your child has a flipped lid. Before addressing your child, take a positive timeout for yourself to calm down and restore your brain chemistry. The problem—the one that triggered your flipped lid—will still be there, ready to be addressed when you’re feeling better. With time and practice, you can also teach your child how and when to take a positive time-out for himself, so he can learn how to calm down before doing or saying anything inappropriate.

As emotionally responsive parents, we help our children develop efficient communication between their emotional brains and their rational brains, though this is not easy! In the face of a highly emotional “flipped lid” (our own or our child’s), it is most helpful if we remember that the reaction is not personal or purposeful; it’s simply the normal result of our brain chemistry and just needs some loving restoration.

Connecting with Older Children during Pregnancy

By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, contributing editor to The Attached Family

When I was pregnant with my first child, I wrote in my journal nearly every day about what I felt and the changes I was experiencing. Once a week, I went to a prenatal yoga class and I listened to special meditations to connect with my baby. If I wasn’t at work or caring for the home, I used to just lie down and feel my baby sweep her elbows and knees across my belly.

Pregnancy with my second child brought an entirely different experience. In nine months, I went to one yoga class, took my older child to my prenatal visits with me, and had an extra set of hands on my belly whenever the baby kicked. And while I enjoyed the few moments before I slept, feeling the baby alone, my prime focus during pregnancy was to prepare my older child for the arrival of a new sibling.

Knowing that the nine months of pregnancy before baby’s arrival would be my last nine months of parenting a single child, I tried, like all mothers of second babies, to include my older child in preparations for the baby in a way that made her feel valuable and important.

When parents find out they will be expecting a second child, they often wonder when and how to tell their first. Experts agree that the way in which parents tell their older child the news depends on the child’s age. The nine months before baby’s arrival may be an abstract idea for a younger child that doesn’t quite understand time; in this case, it sometimes helps to connect the birth to a holiday near which the baby should arrive.

A preschooler or kindergarten-aged child is bound to ask where babies come from. A child this age doesn’t necessarily want to know about sex but about where in the body the baby literally comes from. “The baby comes from the mommy’s uterus,” might be a good answer, especially if a parent has access to a developmentally appropriate, illustrated book about the body. A family’s religious or other values might lead to another response entirely; what matters most is that the answer be respectful and genuine.

When parents decide to tell their child about the new baby may depend on a past history of miscarriage. Some families may decide to wait until the second trimester, while others may not be able to contain their excitement and decide to tell their older child immediately.

During pregnancy, maintaining a strong bond with the older child is crucial. It may seem like everybody outside the home is focused on the mother’s belly and will constantly ask the older child what he thinks about having a new baby brother or sister, which may make the older child feel excluded or replaced. To keep an older child feeling important, spend ample time focused on him as an individual, rather than as a big brother-to-be. Spend time each day doing activities the child enjoys, like trips to the park or pool, family game time, and art projects. By allowing an older child to have time with Mom and Dad, doing the things he enjoys without talking about the baby, parents will maintain their child’s sense of his vital and valuable role in the family.

To lay the foundation for a loving relationship between siblings, parents can include their older child in preparations for the baby. Kids may have fun choosing potential names for the baby, picking out furniture and clothing, and helping assemble toys and furniture.

In order to prepare an older child for the shift to life with an infant, parents and their older children can look through pictures of the older child as a baby or go through her baby book. Talk to the child about special memories, silly things he did or said as a baby, how happy his mother and father were and still are to have him. It may also make the transition easier if parents talk about the attention a new baby needs, and if parents show pictures of the older child as a baby having a bath or snuggling with Mom or Dad, she can see how fun and tender life with a new baby can be.

Most bookstores and libraries have books about becoming a big brother or sister that can help a child understand what he or she can expect, such as The Big Sibling Book: Baby’s First Year According to ME by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby or The Berenstain Bears Baby Makes Five by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain, and Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes. There are also big-brother and big-sister journals in which the child can draw pictures for his sibling and record his hopes for the fun games they can play together and what he wants to teach his little brother or sister to do. Kids may even enjoy assembling their own journals or scrapbooks from scratch.

Once the baby arrives, older siblings often enjoy helping to change diapers and give baths. Other children may prefer to have their own “baby,” a doll or animal that they diaper, bathe, and carry in a sling. There will, of course, be times when the older child asks Mom or Dad for something when the parent must feed the baby or change a particularly dirty diaper. At these times, parents should avoid saying that they will help the older child after they have helped the baby; instead, something like, “When I have a free hand in just a minute, I will help you,” may prove a more acceptable answer to an anxious older child.

There will be times, too, when the family must wait for the baby to wake up before going on an outing. In this case, blame the wait on an expected phone call or urgent load of laundry rather than on the baby’s nap. In the meantime, play a game the child enjoys, draw a picture, or bake cookies; after all, naptime may be the only time of day when an older child can have Mom or Dad all to herself.

Many parents of only children wear the baby in a sling to keep the baby close and content. When parenting an older child and a younger one, wearing a sling or carrier becomes all the more essential, because the parent can then have her hands free to push the older child on the swing or help him tie his shoes. And having children who feel happy and loved is all a parent can ask for.

Breastfeeding on Demand is OK

By Ashley Franz, attachment parenting leader (API of Central Arkansas, USA)

Once upon a time, there was a magical land where babies never cried…

A couple of friends asked me lately how to avoid running low on, or running out of, milk when breastfeeding. My answer is: Quit scheduling. Easy as pie. Yet, why is it so hard for us?

I am reading this totally inspiring book called Simplicity Parenting, and it’s all about eliminating all the clutter from our lives that causes us to run on such a cram-packed, tight schedule. I think the book is meant for those with older kids in school, with extra-curricular activities, computers, video games, TV, etc. But even with tiny kids who stay at home, it still applies because it’s hard not to pack things and activities in and get obsessed with our “routine” and our “schedule,” because we think that’s what we are supposed to do, because our society values punctuality and order so highly and we are used to having it, so it makes us comfortable.

At my daughter’s first doctor’s visit, this old man pediatrician who has seen about a zillion kids in his career, did all of the usual stuff, then sat down at his laptop to enter the information. (Poor guy…switching to electronic records in his late 60s has to be frustrating!) He is getting quicker now, but still just learning how to use the new program.

He asked, “Breastfed or Formula?”

I said, “Breast.”

He said, “How often?”

Me, “I don’t know.” Continue reading

Creating a Village

By Jenni Pertuset, parent consultant, API Leader in Seattle, Washington USA, http://apiseattle.org

The life of a parent can feel very isolated. Warm relationships with caring adults can sustain us when we’re struggling and help our children feel at ease when they’re away from home. So, how do we build the village we need to raise our children?

What is a Village?

My working definition of a “village” is that it is a connected community of caring adults who support us in nurturing our relationships with our children. A village isn’t just a set of friends. It is those friends, neighbors, extended family members, and acquaintances who, whether it’s intentional or even knowing, help deliver us as a parents to our children. We are of course not just recipients of support, but full participants, offering our caring and support to others.

Principles

Building a village requires effort and persistence. It is rare to stumble into a ready-made community where you are and feel immediately welcome. Even in inclusive and inviting organizations, it takes reaching out, showing up frequently, extending invitations repeatedly, and having patience.

It also requires vulnerability. This is apparent in the effort itself — extending ourselves and making invitations that may not be accepted can be challenging. And the challenge doesn’t end once we’ve established relationships, either. Opening our homes and our lives to other people also opens our heart to hurts, but we can hardly find genuine relationships without that willingness.

Building a strong village also requires accepting differences. While we’re all looking for people who share our values or who are otherwise like us, true community allows for diversity, where our connection is deeper than our similarities. (Although there is of course a point at which we will not sacrifice our values for the sake of connection.) Continue reading

Reflections on Motherhood

By Barbara P. Benjamin, poet and author of Beneath the Surface (as Barbara Scott), children’s author of One White Christmas in Alabama and My Best Friend Millie

I am the mother of a 26-year-old daughter. I received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Auburn University in 1979. While my daughter was young, I happily chose to be a stay-at-home mother. When the school days arrived, I became a substitute teacher in the local school system where my daughter attended.

Homeward Bound
By Barbara P. Benjamin

Why, they ask, do you stay at home,

Where no one pays you, where you remain unknown?

Why, they ask, do you waste your degree,

In this world of ours, where knowledge is the key?

It opens the door to success…so they say,

As they rush out the door, day after day.

Looking in their eyes, face to face,

It’s as if happiness left, without leaving a trace.

Why, they ask, do you waste your degree?

If only, if only…they’d see what I  see.

I was raised in a military family. My father was a General and his career took him away from the family unit a lot. In this regard, my mother was my major hands-on parent on a day-to-day basis. She was (is) my complete role model from the feminine side of things. She is 88 and still my very best friend.

My family was (is) everything to me. As an Army brat, you move all the time. The only “constant” in your life is your family. You’re always the “new kid,” so the first friends you have in your new environment are always your own family. My parents were always there for me emotionally and physically (except where the job prevented my father from doing so).

I learned love and nurturing from day one. Our home was always peaceful and loving. There was no shouting or spanking. Friends were always welcome.

My mother was there 24/7…before school, after school, etc. I was a priority, and I felt very secure in that fact. She was a great homemaker and provided a warm “nest” time and time again, with each move we made. Continue reading