All posts by The Attached Family

‘I was Spanked, and I’m Fine!’

By Jan Hunt, founder/director of The Natural Child Project, www.naturalchild.org

We hear it all the time, when spanking is mentioned. Someone steps forward and says something like this:

“Well, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I was spanked, and I’m fine. We all know that sometimes spanking is necessary for solving problems with kids. And since it’s both necessary and harmless, it should be allowed and even encouraged.”

At face value, this seems to be an airtight case — a perfectly logical justification of spanking as part of the necessary discipline of children. And a lot of people see it that way. But is it really so logical? Is spanking necessary? And is it as harmless as so many believe it to be?

Let’s examine the argument:

  • “I was spanked.” (fact)
  • “I’m fine.” (opinion)
  • “Sometimes spanking is necessary for solving problems with kids.” (false assumption)
  • “Since it’s both necessary and harmless, it should be allowed and even encouraged.” (illogical conclusion)

Now let’s consider a similar argument that seems to justify smoking:

  • “George Burns smoked all his life from his teenage years on.” (fact)
  • “He was in reasonably good health all his life and lived to be 100.” (fact)
  • “Sometimes smoking is necessary for coping with life’s problems.” (false assumption)
  • “It should be allowed and even encouraged.” (illogical conclusion)

Smoking good?This analogy should help to make it clear that the spanking argument, like the one on smoking, is based on false assumptions and leads to illogical conclusions. Some children, like some smokers, are less affected than others because of a natural emotional resiliency, just as Mr. Burns must have had physical resilience. Some children, like some smokers, are less harmed than others because of mitigating factors, such as the presence of other adults who treat them with love and care. To the extent that a spanked child is really “fine,” it is in spite of, not because of, the punishments they have received. Mr. Burns must have had mitigating factors, too. Perhaps his strict regimen of daily exercise helped him to fare better than other smokers, or perhaps he inherited a strong constitution.

For many reasons, George Burns was one of the survivors among frequent smokers. And for many reasons, there are also “survivors” of spanking. But we can never know just how much happier and more fulfilled they might have been had they been gently guided instead of being punished — any more than we can know just how much healthier Mr. Burns might have been had he never smoked a cigarette or a cigar. Would he have lived even longer?

Like smoking, spanking can be harmful and it is entirely unnecessary, because there are far more effective and emotionally healthy alternatives. And these alternatives work in the long term — unlike spanking — because they establish a pattern of good behavior that is motivated by the simple, genuine desire to reciprocate love.

As Dr. Elliott Barker has written: “Kids who have their needs met early by loving parents … are subjected totally and thoroughly to the most effective form of ‘discipline’ conceivable: they don’t do what you don’t want them to do because they love you so much!”

Behavior that is based on fear can last only until the child is old enough not to fear defying the parent. Punishment builds anger and resentment within the child that will inevitably be expressed at a future time — angry teenagers do not fall from the sky! In contrast, behavior that is based on mutual love and trust will last through all the years of a child’s life, and through the entire length of the parent-child relationship. There is little that is more rewarding for a parent than the enjoyment of an enduring, loving, and close tie with their child over many years.

Given all of this, let’s revise the spanking argument:

  • “I was spanked.”
  • “I’m fine, but I wish I was happier and more productive, and better able to love and trust others.”
  • “Since spanking is both unnecessary and harmful, it should never be allowed. Our government, like those in many European nations, should actively and strongly discourage it.”

Spanking, like all other forms of punishment, such as timeout and consequences, can only bring about temporary and superficially “good” behavior based on threats and fear.

As John Holt reminded us years ago: “When we make a child afraid, we stop learning dead in its tracks.”

Gentle, loving, and respectful guidance is the only truly effective way to help a child to grow and develop to his full potential as a loving and trusting adult. Spanking is unnecessary, harmful, disrespectful, and unfair. Let’s stop doing it!

Why Timeout as a Punishment Doesn’t Work

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, www.professionalparenting.ca

Judy ArnallAre you tired of holding the bedroom door handle closed when your school-aged child is trying to leave during a timeout? Fed up with your child trashing his room during timeout? Frustrated because you can’t get your child to calm down and think about restitution during his timeout?

Perhaps it’s time to re-think the way a timeout is used. Timeout is a popular behavior modification technique designed to punish unacceptable behavior. Much like the use of a penalty box in a hockey game, the absence from positive play is supposed to teach children to stop doing the behavior that got them sent there. However, it rarely works.

The Origin of Timeout

When parenting experts advised parents not to spank, timeout grew as a replacement for spanking. It was promoted under many names: quality time, reflection time, thinking time, timeout. It is promoted for children as young as one year old up to 13 years old, because then children are usually too big to be dragged off to their rooms. Parents loved it, because it sounded respectful and it gave them something concrete to do in times of misbehavior, rather than “not doing anything because spanking is not allowed anymore.” As the popularity of timeout grew, experts turned the purpose of timeout from a punishment that extinguishes behavior into a more acceptable-sounding purpose as a tool that enabled a child to “calm down.” However, as more and more parents used timeout to help their child “calm down,” they began to use it less as a calming tool and more as punishment. Continue reading

AP with the Double-Digit Child (10+ years old)

By Gila Brown, MA, parent educator, www.gilabrown.com

AP with the double-digit childWe know the Eight Principles of Parenting are fundamental in establishing the critical attachment bond with our little ones.

As children get older, their needs evolve. Once we’ve parented through infancy and toddlerhood, whether or not we’ve followed the Principles, how can we ensure that we raise compassionate, independent, secure, and cooperative older children? As the need for discipline increases, how can we respond positively and in alignment with the Eight Principles of Parenting?

Attachment Parenting (AP) defines ways through which we can connect with our young children. From the time an infant is born, we use the Eight Principles to establish a secure bond. We prepare ourselves for becoming a parent, we breastfeed, cosleep, and keep baby in our arms. We learn to read her cues and show consistent, loving care. As she becomes a toddler, we meet her tantrums with respect and positive discipline.

For older kids, however, the window for applying some of the commonly thought-of AP practices has closed. It is too late for breastfeeding or babywearing. Tantrums are much less frequent at this age. However, it’s important to remember that AP lays the foundation for positive parent-child relationships from birth through the teen years, and beyond.

Therefore, we might consider reframing some of the Principles in order to offer parents more direction for raising attached, older children. While traditional parenting approaches dictate that we control our children through discipline tactics, AP teaches us to pre-empt the challenges by strengthening the attachment bond and thereby preventing the need for mainstream discipline tactics, empowering children to resolve conflicts independently, and eliciting more cooperation from them.

Respond with Sensitivity by…Listening without Judgment

Learning to listen to children without judging them is not an easy goal. Being able to do this consistently is even more difficult. Be that as it may, it is the single most effective tool a parent can use in order to encourage an older child to open up. When a child feels secure enough to share his thoughts and emotions regularly, the need for discipline decreases.

When a double-digit (age 10+) child sees that his parents are willing to listen to him, respectfully and without criticism, he comes to see them as people who love him unconditionally, regardless of what he has to say, how he feels, or even the actions he takes. In turn, he is increasingly willing to express his love and respect for them. As he begins to see that his family values him just as he is, he is more likely to cooperate with others and be empathetic to parents who need some extra help. He is more likely to enjoy the time he spends with parents and family, and ultimately he trusts that he is safe and loved unconditionally. Children are constantly communicating with us, either through their words or their actions. By taking the time to listen, and controlling our impulse to correct, instruct, criticize, or control, our children begin to learn that they can safely open up and express their authentic selves. Consequently, their inclination to act-out subsides.

Provide Consistent, Loving Care by…Focusing on Feelings, Not Behaviors

Rather than schedule Baby’s feedings and activities according to our schedules, we respect our baby’s needs and provide for them accordingly. For the older child, it is equally important that we do not attempt to control their needs and subsequent behaviors. It is important that we recognize when we begin to replace their needs with our own. When we respond to our children’s feelings, rather than their actions, two things occur:

  1. They feel heard and validated.
  2. Once they feel understood, the hurt feelings and resulting behaviors subside.

When a child is upset, we reflect back to them what we believe they are feeling, rather than addressing their actions, such as “You are frustrated that your little brother keeps using your toys” and “You’re feeling embarrassed that your teacher yelled at you in class.”

There is no need to advise, philosophize, judge, or expand upon their feelings. We need to look beyond any problematic behaviors and acknowledge the feelings that cause them. Acting out is simply the result, or symptom, of the underlying cause. By responding to their feelings, we can address the root of the problem rather than just the symptom. Just as we’ve learned to respond to our baby’s cues, challenging behaviors in our older children are our opportunities to identify their unmet needs.

Practice Positive Discipline by…Empowering Children to Problem-Solve

Children can handle most burdens that come their way. We tend to forget how creative and competent they can be. Once we trust that a child has the compassion and ability to make appropriate decisions on their own, we no longer need to control their behavior with rewards and punishments or force our decisions on them. By listening without judgment and focusing on feelings, we can guide our children to discover their own solutions or make restitution when appropriate. We can also engage them in brainstorming discussions to identify win-win solutions to almost any challenge.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life by…Reconnecting

Reconnecting refers to setting time aside for one-on-one time with our kids. By reconnecting, we create opportunities to strengthen the bond with our older children outside of the daily routine. Try something new together or do something special. By leaving egos, judgments, and cell phones at the door, this opportunity to let down our guards and focus on what is special about our children allows us to get to know them at a deeper level. A child who has this type of connection with at least one adult will exhibit fewer behavioral problems.

Do Consequences Work with Older Children?

By Camille North, editor of API Links

consequencesSome years ago, my oldest son forgot his shoes on a routine trip to the grocery store. We’d struggled with the “shoe issue” for a while, and I hadn’t come up with a workable solution to help him remember to bring his shoes when we had errands to run. Frequently, we’d have to double back to the house to retrieve a pair, and I’d be impatient and irritable. This day, I decided to let him take charge. We arrived at the store and, sure enough, his shoes were nowhere to be found. He ended up wearing his little sister’s flip-flops for the (mercifully short) shopping trip. He never again forgot his shoes.

Do consequences work with older children? The whole concept made perfect sense with young children. However, the idea becomes more nebulous as your children get older and become more logical, inquisitive, intuitive, and analytical.

Why Use Consequences?

What are your goals for discipline? Do you simply want your child to obey you? Or do you wish to guide rather than punish, to help your child develop the skills and tools to deal with obstacles and succeed in life? Continue reading

Stay Connected with Your Grown Children: An interview with grandmother Ruth Nemzoff

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

Don't Bite Your Tongue by Ruth NemzoffAccording to cultural standards, I am not an adult, even though I am many years out of school, own my home, have been married for nearly a decade, and have two children. The reason is, I still seek out my mother’s advice on a regular basis. I ask for tips in marriage, suggestions in managing money, and guidance in navigating life’s hardest moments. If being an adult means that you are able to live emotionally independent of the parents that raised you, I am far from grown up.

This is why it was so refreshing to read Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children by Ruth Nemzoff, a grandmother who believes that parenting doesn’t end just because your child turns 18 or 21 years old, gets married, or gives birth to her own children.

Last fall, I talked with Ruth about her views of Attachment Parenting when the kids leave home:

RITA: Ruth, your book definitely fills a need in parenting information — what to do when our children reach the age of adulthood. Your book helps fill the gap for both generations. You mention that your professional studies have mostly been with mothers of children with disabilities. How did this book come about?

RUTH: When my first child got married, everyone came up to me and said to keep my mouth shut and my pocketbook open. I thought that was terrible advice, because what was happening was a change in the relationship with my child and this new person was entering the family with whom I had an entirely new relationship. Plus, I thought that comment was terribly insulting. I didn’t want my relationships with my children to be about giving them money. That’s what first got me thinking about relationships with adult children being a mix of obligation and choice.

When I wrote the book, I wrote it definitely for the grandparent generation. What I found is that when adult children who are parents read the book, they get so much out of it.

RITA: How so?

RUTH: The three-generation relationship — grandparent-parent-child — is incredibly important, because it can either facilitate parenting or debilitate parenting.

For example, when a new baby comes, it’s very important to clarify roles ahead of time. The grandparent may come in and expect to care for the newborn, but the mother wants them to be the cook and dish washer. Or, the mother may say she wants to spend all of her time bonding with her baby but finds she needs a little time to herself here and there, and the grandparent was expecting to clean the house. The grandparent needs to be open to suggestion from the parent. What the mother can do is to voice her expectations but stay flexible, perhaps saying something like, “I want to take care of my baby, and would rather that you help around the house instead. But I may want you to hold the baby sometimes, when I take a shower or lay down for a nap.” If there are multiple children, the parent may want the grandparent to care for the older child, but the older child may only want to be around the mother. So, the parent may want to say to the grandparent, “It’d be most helpful if you could spend time playing with Suzy but know that she may feel the need to spend time with me, too, and that’s OK.”

Another example is when the grandparent is providing childcare for the parent. The key here is to be sure the grandparent is given as much respect as an employee is given, that the grandparent isn’t expected to provide free babysitting just whenever the parent asks. This is easier when the parent is paying the grandparent for babysitting, but even with free babysitting, it shouldn’t be a problem if the grandparent wants to go on a vacation. If you called your mom wanting her to come over to watch the kids and she couldn’t do it, it’d be inconvenient, yes, but just as you would with any other babysitter, you would have to find a way around the problem without putting your mother in the middle. Grandparents and parents need to communicate on each of their expectations when it comes to babysitting, especially when it comes to discipline. If grandparents are babysitting regularly or frequently, the parents need to give them the right to discipline in their own way, just as they would with a daycare provider. And if the parent has a real problem, she or he needs to talk about it. For example, say you don’t like your mother giving your child candy when she’s potty-training, you need to first identify whether it’s the concept of a reward or the candy that you don’t like and then talk to your mother, but do that just as you would with a daycare provider. Accord the grandparents the same respect as you would an employee.

Parents and grandparents need a process to clarify roles but then a way to re-negotiate them, too.

We all parent either exactly the way our parents parented us or in opposition to our parents, unless we consciously acknowledge the parenting practices we do and don’t want to use. When we become aware of how our parents raised us, we have to remember that no parent is the perfect parent. We all make mistakes. We all have the right to our own feelings, but you have to be forgiving in families.

RITA: Does your book address situations in which the grandparent is raising their grandchildren?

RUTH: Custody is not the same as grandparenting. I’m not talking about when grandparents raise their grandchildren; that is a whole topic to itself. What the book focuses on is the normal storms in life between parents and their adult children.

RITA: I understand. What potential do you see in your book?

RUTH: The grandparent-parent relationship is an international problem. I spoke in China to a group of expats from around the world, and in India. In every society, grandparents and their adult children are struggling in their relationships. Grandparents, no matter what country, have the same issues as American grandparents: Kids doing something different than what they want.

Everywhere I go, parents are saying, “Thank God! Someone is talking about this!” It’s been a topic ignored for too long. Parenting books used to end at age three, years ago. Now, we’re up to the teen years. But, there aren’t any books besides this one that goes beyond into the adult years.

RITA: Why do you think there is so much interest in this topic now?

RUTH: All the baby boomers are coming into this grandparent age group. They want to keep the relationships with their kids. They have spent so much time and energy and money on their children that they don’t want to lose that relationship as their children grow into their adult years. They don’t want to let go.

I don’t like to say that grandparents are supposed to let go of their adult children. They are just changing the parental role. They’re realizing that their child has developed new skills and are adjusting in the way they relate to their children.

Attachment goes on forever. We need each other at the beginning of life and at the end of life and in every crisis in the middle. We never outgrow our need for cheerleaders.

That — cheerleading and helping each other out in the crisis, and being able to depend on each other for mutual solace and support — that, to me, is what Attachment Parenting is in the adult years. The grandparent-parent relationship is complicated because of the ambiguity of trying to figure out where adulthood begins and childhood ends and because many of us think that being grown-up means being disconnected from our families rather than being engaged with them as friends, as supports, and caring beings. The aim is not to let go but, rather, to constantly recalibrate the relationships so that both the grandparent and parent have more joy than aggravation from being connected.

RITA: What are the areas of conflict that most often come up in this three-generation dynamic — grandparent-parent-child?

RUTH: When you’re talking about grandparent-parent-child relationships, particularly with young children, the top two issues are:

  • Gift giving — a parent may object to a grandparent’s gift of toy guns or Barbie dolls. The problem is not so much the toys but the philosophy behind it. The parent objects to the guns, because she doesn’t want her child to be exposed to violence, or to the Barbie dolls because of the image of women they perpetuate. One way around this is for the grandparent to give to his or her grandchild the gift of time. They can still spend money on their grandchild but do it in the context of spending time with the child, such as a visit to the zoo.
  • Discipline — it’s very different when grandparents come once a year than when they babysit frequently. It is easier for parents to allow grandparents to break the parents’ rules when the grandparents come only sporadically than when they babysit regularly. In either case, all three generations need to understand what the rules are and why each generation might want them to be different. For example, a parent who does not usually allow TV might suggest to the visiting grandparent that if they are totally exhausted, to sit and watch an educational TV program with the child. In this way, the grandparents get the rest they need and the parents get the relief they need, and the child gets a terrific snuggle!Grandparents also often have concerns with the parent’s approach to discipline. Some people prefer that their children learn through experience; others want more of a part in teaching them. Discipline is on a continuum, and involves varying amounts of justice and mercy. It’s important that grandparents allow parents to choose their own way to discipline. Most kids grow up reasonably well either way.

Reframing is a useful life skill. Reframing is looking at a situation in a new way, so instead of seeing a certain action as a breaking of the rules, one might view it as an opportunity for children to learn that different people have different expectations. We need to realize that the grandparents’ generation entered a world very different than the parents’ generation did, and that each generation required different skills.

Both sides would do well to be a lot less judgmental when it comes to discipline. Kids learn and kids can cope with many different rules. That’s one of the skills you need to learn in life. Your child will get to the point where, when she hears that Grandma is coming, she says, “Yeah, I can go to bed an hour later,” or “Oh no, Grandma makes me go to bed an hour earlier.”

So, first, I’d say grandparents and parents both need to be less judgmental. Second, they need to know themselves and their own parenting styles. And third, they need to be forgiving.

RITA: You emphasize the need for open communication between grandparents and their adult children. How do you suggest grandparents and their adult children go about resolving strong feelings?

RUTH: To give an example, a common problem is that people tend to be taken for granted in families. So when you feel hurt, it’s time to talk about it. Use “I feel…” statements rather than “You…” For example, “I feel taken for granted” rather than “You’re taking me for granted.” Then, problem-solve for a resolution agreeable to both of you.

You can take a lot of lessons from other relationships, such as work relationships and friendships, and apply them to the grandparent-parent relationship. One of the big things in families is learning timing — when to bring up a concern. For example, try to avoid situations where either one of you is hungry or tired.

RITA: Thank you for your time, Ruth. Do you have any closing thoughts?

RUTH: So much of the grandparent-parent relationship is putting yourself in the other’s shoes, seeing the situation from the other’s point of view. This really helps resolve tensions.

An Attached C-section

By Catherine McTamaney, EdD, society and education lecturer at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee USA

Catherine MctamaneyIt never occurred to me that anything might go wrong.

My partner and I had asked all the big questions as we got ready for the birth of our son. We’d prepared ourselves both physically and spiritually for what we expected to be a smooth, beautiful childbirth assisted by our midwife. It just never occurred to me that we would need anything besides each other to welcome our child into this world.

Okay, okay. I can hear the knowing chuckling of mothers everywhere. Yes, we should have known better. But we didn’t. We were first-timers.

The day before our son was born, a check-up indicated far less movement in utero than our midwife felt was healthy. Because we knew the baby would be large, Deborah recommended a c-section, and we resigned ourselves to surgery.

I didn’t want to sacrifice rooming-in with the baby, however, and the hospital had never tried a rooming-in with a C-section family before. Deborah phoned ahead to let them know of our request. The first nurse we spoke with said she felt it was unwise and that my recovery would be hindered. We asked Deborah to keep calling. She reached the head nurse for the ward, promised that either my partner or another family member would always be with me, and was given the go-ahead for us to room in.

From the moment we were admitted to the hospital, we were the knowing subjects of an unusual experiment. One of our nurses believed strongly in Attachment Parenting and was an enthusiastic supporter. Another believed just as strongly that my body would not heal properly if I were under the additional responsibility of caring for my child. Each of us, naysayers and supporters, waited to prove ourselves right.

On April 22, my son was born, weighing 10 lbs. 15 oz. and healthy as could be, in a delivery room crowded with my midwife, the perionatalogist performing the surgery, a team from intensive care, the delivery nurses, the recovery nurses, the neonatal nurse, and, somewhere in the crowd, my partner and me. Not certain of how to combine a c-section and nonseparation, the hospital had simply sent everyone from their own departments into surgery with us. And so our quiet, natural birth turned into a fabulous, well-attended party, complete with a local Nashville radio station playing in the background. My partner was able to be with our son while my surgery was completed, then brought him to my arms, where he lay comfortably sleeping as my stitches were tied.

From that moment, our son never left us. All the necessary tests were performed in our room. He was bathed, measured, and clothed within my reach. He nursed easily and on demand; I had no engorgement and my milk came in less than 30 hours after surgery. I walked unassisted the morning after his birth. I had little pain or discomfort around my incision, which healed beautifully. I listened to my own body, ate when I was hungry, walked when I needed movement, and never noticed myself healing because I was too busy attending to my child.

Mothering is an obviously generative process, but it is just as importantly regenerative. I had an exceptionally easy recovery from my surgery, and I believe the reason is that it is very difficult to focus on and perpetuate our own pain when we’re admiring our children. I did not have time to think about whether I hurt, because I had a new child to care for. I did not have time to fear mothering, because I had to mother. And the overwhelming joy, the pure and incomparable wonder, the love that makes you smile so hard tears are forced from your eyes, shadowed any discomfort I might have felt. I don’t claim not to have had pain — but I know I didn’t notice it.

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, a day earlier than expected, I was required to attend an orientation meeting. Sitting in a classroom across from the nursery, I watched a young mother pushing a plastic hospital bassinet in which a tiny pink bundle slept. At her side was an older woman, probably her own mother. They stopped at the door to the nursery and pushed it open with the far end of the bassinet. The young mother motioned with one hand to the nurses inside, then she and her mother turned and walked back down the hall.

She never said goodbye to her child, never kissed her or patted her head. She didn’t tuck the blanket in before she left or stop to catch one more glimpse of those tiny fingers. She was already disconnected from the life she’d had within her only a day before. I wondered how different that family might be if, instead of offering drop-in childcare, the hospital had offered instead a supportive environment for attachment. An opportunity was lost, as that family detached, to protect and nurture the bond of mother and child that nature requires of us while we are pregnant, and hospitals so easily regulate out of us once our babies are born.

In retrospect, I believe the reason my partner and I were so blasé about birth classes was because, although we never articulated it, there exists a trust between us that our love for our child would guide us. It is a promise that we have, in turn, given to our son — not that we would make no mistakes, but that we would be guided by love. We didn’t choose Attachment Parenting because we had done long research about its benefits; we chose it because, when we knew our son was coming, we couldn’t bear the thought of not being with him all the time. We didn’t choose to sleep as a family because of scientific research on cosleeping; we chose it because we loved the way our son felt beside us.

How joyous, then, that our instincts, our love for our child, led us to the best practice! We needed the support of our doctors to welcome our child safely into this world, to overcome the practical limits of my own body. But this experience has taught me that, however limited my physical being, my spirit is strong. My spirit heals. My spirit mothers. And when I look down at my happy little scar smiling up at me from across my belly, I know we still had a natural birth. We’ve kept our promise.

The Playgroup Altercation: Part 2, Your Child is the Victim

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, ProfessionalParenting.ca

Judy ArnallYou hear a loud thud, an ear-piercing scream, and then your child appears before you wearing a tear-stained cheek and red eyes and is pointing to another child. Apparently, your son was hit by another parent’s daughter in the playgroup and you are wondering what to do. The mother is busy chatting away to another parent and is missing the whole scenario. What is the best way to handle playgroup altercations that leaves everyone feeling content and supported?

Hear are seven easy steps:

Calming Down

  1. Comfort your child. Attend to any first aid necessary. Acknowledge his feelings. Say, “You are sad and hurt because you were hit.” Wait until he is done crying. Keep comforting him until he is fully calm and able to listen to you. Ask him what had happened and what he would like to occur. Remember to stay calm yourself! Continue reading

Early Weaning: A Time of Transition for Baby…and Mom

By Chandra Hamilton

Ryan and ChandraAs each new talent emerges, toddlers get busy and forget to do lots of things: watch in front of them when moving, pick up toys before stepping on them, and eat. They fight the fork, the spoon, and even self-feeding in an effort to get back to their most important work: play.

Some toddlers make up by nursing even more at night. Sometimes this continues to work for both mother and toddler. Sometimes, however, Mother chooses to night wean.

In this case, night weaning led to day weaning, and soon, my toddler was completely off the breast long before I ever considered the idea.

Our Story

When Ryan was 15 months old, we decided to move. (May I just point out, this is total chaos and I never recommend it!) We packed up everything we owned and drove four hours north. This move from the familiar into the unknown turned my toddler’s world upside-down. He didn’t know where he was, where any of his toys were, where his dogs were, and most importantly, he didn’t understand why Mommy had been less than 100% attentive in the weeks leading up to the move. Since he was mobile, self-feeding, and easily entertained, my attention had been focused on working and packing.

So, slowly but surely, one feeding would slip through the cracks, then another and another.

At the same time, we gave up night nursing. As a family, we decided that Ryan’s continued and constant night nursing wasn’t working. As he became a busy toddler, he became what I like to call a “full-body” nurser. What I mean by this is that he no longer just nursed with his mouth, he rubbed my belly with his hand, kicked with his feet, and screamed every time I even considered taking him off the breast so I could roll over and sleep myself. When he was an infant, night nursing was a joy. But as he grew more adept with his body, it became a challenge.

One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, my toddler had not asked to nurse and I had not offered in several days. He did take a few weeks to wean completely; it was a gradual and gentle weaning.

But I found myself missing the time we spent together. My baby was gone, and a cranky toddler had replaced him. And though I love the new skills and fun this age provides, I missed my little boy.

I felt rejected — that I was less than the mother I used to be. How can I possibly be an attached parent if I didn’t breastfeed past the 16th month? And the guilt — oh, the guilt! I’ve selectively vaccinated my son — is he now set to get polio since he’s weaned? Do I have to skip ahead and vaccinate like crazy to catch up now that he won’t be getting breastmilk anymore? These are just a few of the questions bouncing around in my mind.

Nursing had always been my go-to fix for anything Ryan needed. Fell down and bumped your knee? Nurse. Bored and cranky because we’ve had to wait too long for an appointment? Nurse. Tired and distracted and just need some time to get centered? Nurse.

With weaning, like all transitions, I had to learn how to interact and care for this new person in my life. This independent, yet fragile, little boy still needed my love and support, and I had to figure out some other way to be there for him without offering the breast.

Easing the Transition

Here are a few tips that have worked for us:

  • Make up for the missed breastfeeding time by having extra cuddle time — Sleep with your toddler even after the nursing is gone.
  • Have special before-bed and wake-up time — that involves singing, cuddling, and the same undivided attention you would have given had you been nursing.
  • Consider bottle nursing — If you are comfortable with it, cow’s milk or water in a bottle can be tempting enough for some toddlers to allow lap time, even if it is only once a day.
  • Pick a special song or two just for boo-boos — When Ryan gets hurt, I pull him onto my lap and sing very softly and close to his ear the same song every time. He seems to get a sense of comfort from this. He knows that he has been upset or hurt before, and by the end of the song everything seems a little bit easier to handle.
  • Acknowledge and mourn the passing of one stage, but celebrate and rejoice in this new one — It is okay to feel sad and miss that small bundle who depended on you for everything. It is also normal to feel happy and relieved that you are no longer the only one who can provide this comfort for your child. Allow yourself some time to just stop and feel.

I know that Ryan still loves me, needs me, and can’t imagine a day without me. And I know that like all things in life, this too shall pass. Sometimes, though, I wish some things — like breastfeeding — wouldn’t pass so quickly!

The Dead Balloon: Resolving Sibling Rivalry

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

Shoshana Hayman is director of Life Center, Israel's Center for Attachment Parenting. She is also a faculty member of the Neufeld Institute Canada, and a lecturer at the Lander Institute Jerusalem Academic College.
Shoshana Hayman is director of Life Center, Israel’s Center for Attachment Parenting. She is also a faculty member of the Neufeld Institute Canada, and a lecturer at the Lander Institute Jerusalem Academic College.

It was a typical birthday party: Balloons, ice cream, games, and party favors filled the day with happiness and excitement for Karen and the group of friends she invited to celebrate her eighth birthday. Her older sister went to the neighborhood gift shop to surprise Karen with a special helium balloon in her favorite colors.

While Karen wasn’t looking, her younger sister pierced the prized helium balloon with a pin. Her mother caught her daughter in this mischievous act but decided to handle the situation after the party. When all the guests went home, she went with balloon in hand to find Karen in her bedroom.

“I have something to tell you that’s going to make you very disappointed and sad.  All the air came out of your helium balloon,” she said sadly, showing her the limp balloon.

Karen’s eyes opened wide. She immediately knew the culprit was her little sister. “I’m going to beat her up!  I’ll kill her!  I’ll smash her face in!  I hate her!”

Mother continued: “You’re so furious at your sister that you can’t think of enough bad things to do to her! But you’re mostly frustrated that there’s nothing we can do about the balloon. It’s dead.” Continue reading

Nature Therapy

By Carrie Kerr

Carrie Kerr and her childrenI have always been of the opinion that days which are 70 degrees and sunny should be declared “National Hooky Days.” After all, what could be more important than getting outside on such a perfect day?

The kids are in full academic mode, complete with homework, projects, concerts, and tests. For many children, their days and weeks are heavily scheduled, irrespective of 70 and sunny.

As 3 p.m. approached on one of these flawless days, I put aside my projects and began preparing for the children to come home. Usually their arrival is a flurry of motion, commentary, questions, and requests. It is my job to gather them in, listen to them, support them, and direct them toward what needs to be done in the final stage of the day. On this particular day, however, I had an additional task. My job was to wipe tears.

Two of my children came home with what resulted in, simply…a tough day. I had to think fast of what we would do to take an emotionally trying day and make it better.

Adults and children alike, this is a common scenario. We have responsibilities and schedules that often push us over the edge. As a culture, we are having trouble dealing with stress. We see trends of overeating, overspending, and overindulging in drugs or alcohol as a response to a difficult day or phase in life. Do I want to teach my children that when they’ve had a hard day they should go ahead and indulge in an unhealthy pick-me-up? Am I concerned about reinforcing habits that will lead to a sedentary lifestyle? Will these habits, in turn, set them up for a higher risk of poor health and depression and, thereby, actually set them up for failure? How is it that we are stuck with this as our mindset, and how do we change it? One solution could be surprisingly simple.

My firstborn was a fairly high-strung baby, but the solution to helping her deal with her tension was easy: She loved anything outdoors, and the simple act of stepping outside calmed her down. I remember one rainy evening in particular; she was maybe six weeks old and was in the colicky phase of crying for several hours every evening. My husband was walking her around, waiting it out. When he stepped outside, her crying ceased and she cooed; inside, she screamed. So, he paced, under the eaves of the house as it poured down rain. We laughed, having pegged the needs of this child so early on.

It quickly became our habit to spend as much time outside as possible. That winter, our pediatrician was concerned about my eight-month-old baby’s chapped cheeks. “Do you really need to go outside so much?” He asked me. “Yes, we do,” I responded.

This coping technique evolved into a lifestyle for our growing family. All of our children spent endless hours gazing around the woods as we hiked them through local trails in the Kelty backpack. As they aged, they wiggled and begged to be set down and run the trails. It was, and continues to be, a free place for them — a place where they can forget their worries and use their imagination; a place where they can explore, discover, and learn with few rules or boundaries; a place where they can truly play in the name of wholesome childhood fun; a place of pure and real escapism.

It has quite the same effect on me.

Setting positive examples and guidance about how to handle life in general is the basic job of any parent. The solution to a stressful day must be something that has an overall positive impact on our physical, emotional, or spiritual health. I want my children to be able to understand and apply that concept. On this particular day, when my children were struggling and forlorn, I knew what they needed: Bookbags, homework, and practice time aside… We grabbed our hiking shoes and nets and headed for the woods. Within an hour, my children were thinking nothing of their stressful day and only of the number of minnows they had caught.

This, I call “nature therapy.” It is an often-overlooked, yet readily available and free program. Feel it, breathe it, and pass it onto the people in your life.