All posts by The Attached Family

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

Effects of Breast Implants on Lactation

By Lance Hugh

Breast augmentation is one of the most common cosmetic surgeries, accounting for more than 300,000 procedures per year. The average implant patient is in her mid-30s and has already had a child, but many women also receive augmentation surgery at a younger age. Breast implants can interfere with breastfeeding if the procedure is performed incorrectly, but they don’t have to.

Human lactation starts in the late part of pregnancy. The breasts begin to produce colostrum, a special type of early milk, but are prevented from excreting it until after birth. After a child is born, the mother’s hormone levels adapt, causing the breasts to fill with milk.

The milk is produced by the lactiferous ducts, which are located mostly around the nipple. These ducts drain into the nipple, where the milk is released for breastfeeding. Implants can theoretically interfere with this process if their filler leaks into the milk, if the implanting process damaged the milk ducts or nerves, or if the implant puts too much pressure on the milk ducts. 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.

How to Raise a Disrespectful Teen

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

There have been a lot of opinions published online regarding the Dad who shot his teen daughters laptop. His whole point is that too many parents are being lax and ineffective and are raising spoiled, entitled children. I view it not so much as lax parenting, but uninformed parenting – the kind that increases the likelihood of raising the kind of child that the Dad is speaking of.

So, if you want to raise a disrespectful teen, here are some sure-fire ways to do it: Continue reading

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…

An Interview with Myself: On Epidurals and Natural Birth

By Ashley Franz

Choosing to have a natural birth is such a personal decision. Everyone has their reasons to have, or not have, a natural birth. Several girls have tried to get me to talk them into having a natural birth, but I just won’t do it – because I can’t. I can’t do it for someone else; it has to be her own decision because she is the only one who is going to be experiencing the birth, and my own personal reasons for doing it might not apply.

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International invites mothers to share their birth stories. The following article has been published to give this mother a voice in telling her birth story only, without endorsement of her decisions made regarding her child’s birth. Click here for more information on our views regarding childbirth.

Why have a natural birth? I usually answer this question with another question: Why does anyone run a marathon? Why does anyone sky dive? Why does anyone climb a mountain? Natural birth appealed to my sense of adventure; I wanted to have an odyssey.

I wanted to have a natural birth, because I was always interested in and curious about birth. I wondered what it would be like, what it would feel like. I appreciated the process of birth and was amazed by the miracle that it is. I wanted to see what I was made of: How much can I take? How strong am I – physically, mentally, and emotionally? What does real pain actually feel like? I wanted to do it for connection: connection with my husband in the form of a (positive) trauma bond; connection with other women, now and from the past when they didn’t have epidurals; connection with my baby, who is experiencing the rawness of birth; connection with God, who promised I can do all things, who promised He would give me nothing I couldn’t handle.

I knew that having a natural birth was my best chance for avoiding a Cesarean section or other interventions and complications of birth, and I was desperate for a good birth.

There were spiritual reasons, too; right or wrong, I was convicted by the fact that my husband would be spending his life fulfilling the curse of Adam (to work the “fields”), so I felt somewhat obligated to experience, at least once, Eve’s punishment as well (to have “greatly increased pain in childbirth”).

I had also heard of the amazing natural high that one gets after birthing naturally, and I wanted to (and did) experience it. It lasted for weeks the first time and warded off any baby blues that might have otherwise been there. In fact, I had read that the incidence of postpartum depression after natural births was close to 0% and that really spoke to me. I had also heard that birthing naturally helps you “turn on mothering” easier and breastfeed easier, due to the hormones released during labor and birth, and success in these two things was extremely important to me.

I needed confidence. Some women are extremely confident in their abilities, going into motherhood, but I wasn’t. I was scared stiff, and I needed a boost. Birthing naturally was a way for me to literally and figuratively face and conquer my fears about being a parent. I had heard that once you’ve had a natural birth, nothing ever seems difficult again. I have found this (so far, at least) to be true. It has been extremely empowering to be able to compare giving birth to other parenting (not to mention, non-parenting) challenges, beginning with breastfeeding and continuing with sleep deprivation, disciplining a toddler, and the list goes on. I can always say to myself, “If I can give birth, I can do this.”

Why have an epidural after you’ve already done natural twice? The same reason everyone else gets an epidural. It hurts! And, no, it doesn’t get less painful each time…easier and faster, maybe, but not less painful.

I was gripped with fear about the birth, due to a less-than-ideal experience with my second birth, and I felt I had to plan an epidural birth in order to let go of the fear. After my second birth, I swore to myself (and others present) that I would never have natural birth again unless I was in a better setting for natural birth, like home, a birth center, or at least a natural-friendly hospital (which doesn’t exist where I live). I also swore off natural birth unless I was to be surrounded by doulas, midwives, or at least other women who had birthed naturally. I was so tired of fighting to the death for my natural births and having people stare at me like “Why, you idiot?” while I was trying to focus on getting through a contraction, to still just be hooked up to pitocin after the baby was out in order to…what, deliver the placenta? Because that’s hospital protocol? After working so hard to birth naturally, it sucks when they hook you up to pitocin and kill your birth high.

I had also been having multiple dreams about the actual birth, and in the dreams, there was no pain or struggle of any kind. I’m a big believer in dreams and that some of them can be telling you something or explaining something, so I took it as a hint that this is the direction I should go.

With two other very small children, I just didn’t feel like my husband and I got to prepare, let alone even talk about, the upcoming birth. I wanted a free pass, a freebie – a get-out-of-jail-free card. And I felt fine about it, since the reasons that I had a natural birth in the first place didn’t really apply anymore: Mothering has been turned on and locked in the “on” position; breastfeeding almost couldn’t fail if I tried after more than three years’ experience; and I felt confident that my body was experienced enough at birth to be able to birth with an epidural. In summary, I just wasn’t up for it this time. And you have to be up for it, at the very least, in order to succeed and enjoy natural birth.

What is the difference? There is absolutely no comparison. Apples to oranges, people!

Bad birth versus good birth? No! Birthing naturally is a wonderful experience. The difference is having to labor versus not having to labor at all! Laboring with an epidural is like sitting here typing on the computer – there is no labor. Whereas, feeling one’s labor is actually really hard work, intense, pretty much indescribable. It’s just a totally different experience.

Did I like the epidural? I liked not feeling the pain and not having to struggle and work through the labor. I did not like getting the epidural. It was just as scary as I thought it would be; it seemed so unnatural to be getting a procedure done when there was no medical problem, and it felt really weird. I also felt funny not having complete control over my body and having ports and things going into me from everywhere (the previous two times, I didn’t even have an I.V. drip or monitors, so I was free to roam). And I hate needles, especially ones that go into your back. But, again, it was an experience to be able to sleep through centimeters six to ten, and then be completely mentally aware during pushing.

Do I wish I had had an epidural with the first two? No. All three births have been wonderful and memorable in their own ways. However, if I had my wishes, I would have had an epidural with my second birth and gone natural with this one, because the hospital I was in this third time had a better bathtub and my water wasn’t broken from the beginning (labor hurts more after the water is broken). I felt like I could have done it again once I reached my goal of getting to five centimeters, but I didn’t want to be fickle and I had made my mind up not to change my mind about the epidural once I got there.

Am I going to have an epidural next time? Everyone assumes that I will now be an epidural convert, but I would say that, now that I’ve had a little break, I will be more ready to face another natural birth next time. I don’t promise anyone anything, because it’s not about proving anything to anyone, but time will tell.

Parents Need Play, Too

By Carrie Kerr

When my daughter was named Student of the Month recently, an interviewer for the school newspaper asked her, “Who inspires you?” She said, “My parents inspire me because they take care of us, work hard, and have fun with us. It’s inspiring to know that it’s possible to work hard and still have time for fun.”

As her mother, I have a long list of things I believe I need to teach her before she turns 18. What a relief to learn that I could cross off “Adults need to make time to play” from that list!

I grew up in a very intense house. My parents were high-achieving professionals who worked very hard. As a kid and young adult, I was critical of their choices, but the older I get, the more I appreciate their focus. I now marvel at how there was always a homemade hot meal that we ate together for dinner, even if it happened at 8 p.m. I appreciate that from March until mid-April, my mom reserved the dining room table for tax papers. I’m simply amazed that my dad woke up at 4:00 every morning to go to work and returned with the same consistency every evening at 5:00. What’s more, he didn’t come home, kick off his shoes, pour himself a drink, and boss everyone around. He came home, put on his running shoes, and headed back out the door. That was the example, and that was the expectation.

We witnessed hard work and a strong focus all week long. But the weekends were “play city,” and kids were invited. We tagged along with my mom and dad and watched them complete one triathlon or cross-country ski race after another. In the summer, we went sailing and learned how to dive at the pool. We went for bike rides on the path, crashed community bonfires in the forest preserve, and went to drive-in movies. Yes, the school and work weeks were intense, but the weekends and summers were intensely fun.

It took a while to notice the impact that this model of “play” had on my life. As a child and an adult, I always kept up some type of maintenance fitness program or found time to swim in the lake, but I was never a hard-core athlete. During my first phase of motherhood, I rarely took more than an hour or two to myself for any leisure. I was mostly busy being pregnant or nursing, which in itself seemed like a ten-year-long marathon.

But slowly, and without my conscious intention, the example from my parents — the seeds of my childhood play — began to take root and bloom. Now that my children are a bit older, it’s a lot easier for me to take some time to myself for a bike ride, find a river to kayak on, or even train for a few races. Some of my recreational time is just for me, but much of it is for the whole family. To me, this is play.

How we spend our time will indeed have an effect on how our children spend their time, even if that effect takes a while to make itself known. So go ahead…make a date with your spouse. Sign up for a gardening class. Train for a race. Go fishing. Treat yourself to a membership at the art museum. Read a novel or go to a movie. Your recreation — your play — will make you happy, bring you balance, and set a wonderful example for your children.

The Technology of Attachment

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

Grandmother Naomi, now well into her 80s, still remembers the excitement she felt the first time she used the newly invented mop that allowed her to wash her floors without bending down on her hands and knees.

Change has come fast in 50 years – from the mop to electrical gadgets, cell phones, ipods, computers, blackberries, and internet. In fact, the upgrade in technology is so fast that new systems are designed before we have even mastered the use of the older versions.

For parents, this is not necessarily good news. “Attachment technology” is very powerful. It was originally designed for use in business, but in recent years has fallen into the hands of the young, and today teenagers and children often know more about cell phones, ipods, sms and icq than their parents. Why is this called “attachment technology,” and why is it cause for concern for parents and teachers?

The greatest need of children is attachment. The more secure the attachment, the more the child can rest in it and be free to express and come to define his own individuality. Only a secure relationship with an adult can provide this. Today, however, more and more children and teens are having their attachment needs met through relationships with other children or teens. The problem with this is that children and teens are not yet mature enough for true, deep relationships and so these relationships are rarely secure. Friendships are formed and broken easily; friends tease each other, talk behind each other’s backs, and betray each other’s secrets. There is no true fulfillment from this kind of relationship. It is shallow and creates a strong energy that drives a child to restlessness, conformity, and preoccupation with how to be accepted and fit in with the group. As a result, the child’s own individuality, creativity, and originality are trumped.

If children and teens were using their cell phones and computers to stay in contact with their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, we would have no problem. But they are using them to stay in touch with each other. Even worse, they are being pulled more deeply into an artificial youth culture that never existed before and that does not offer them anything of true and lasting value. As the ties to parents, family, and teachers weaken, the rebellion against family and school grows stronger and the normal processes of maturation into adulthood become more and more stuck, creating aggression and other social problems.

Adults today need to create a culture, rules, and habits around the use of attachment technology. When all we had was the telephone, we knew where our children were when they used it. We knew who they were speaking with and about what they were speaking. The whole family shared one phone and phone calls were limited. Cell phones have changed this. Parents at home and teachers at school need to create new rules and rituals to protect our children and teenagers from the addiction that they lead to. And even more than this, we need to strengthen our own attachments to our children and students so they will not have to continue their futile search to satisfy this hunger in ways that hurt them.

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.