Category Archives: The Editor’s Desk

The Age of Gentle Discipline

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

Ensuring safe sleep and striving for balance are among the trickiest of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting to follow, but probably the most challenging in many parents’ minds is practicing positive discipline.

For one reason, many parents are trying to change past parenting behaviors, including spanking and using sarcasm.

For another reason, a parent is never completely sure that how he’s disciplining is “working,” especially when the child is young. Toddlers just have a knack of pushing the limits.

What is the Right Age to Begin Disciplining?

Another challenge many first-time parents encounter is deciding when their child is old enough to begin teaching him not to touch something, rather than just moving it to a higher shelf.

Unfortunately, the advice found in books, magazines, and Internet articles do little to pinpoint this so-called ideal age. Some sources, such as, say crawling babies are old enough to hear “no.” Other sources, such as, say 18 months is the right age to introduce verbal instruction.

Talking to parents can be helpful, but confusing, too: Tom, a single father of three teens, told me he waited until his children were three or four before setting limits; Crystal, a married and pregnant said she began saying “no” to her toddler at nine months old.

That’s why Attachment Parenting International recommends parents to go to an Attachment Parenting (AP) source, such as an API Leader or an AP-friendly professional, for advice. AP sources are less likely to pinpoint a specific age to begin disicpline; rather they explain how practicing AP since birth gives babies, and their parents, a gradual transition to setting limits.

AP Naturally Leads to Gentle Discipline

In the article “Ten Ways Attachment Parenting Makes Discipline Easier” on, strengthening the parent-child bond is the natural precursor to less stressful discipline because the parent and child know each other so well that they’re able to easily communicate their feelings to each other. So, the parent can be proactive in helping her child redirect behavior and the child knows what behavior the parent wants from him. Through AP, children learn to trust their parents and, from there, to care for his parents. This, in turn, makes the child want to please his parent.

Alfie Kohn, in his book Unconditional Parenting, agrees: “…the kids who do what they’re told are likely to be those whose parents don’t rely on power and instead have developed a warm and secure relationship with them. They have parents who treat them with respect, minimize the use of control, and make a point of offering reasons and explanation for what they ask.”

Interesting, considering many parents’ natural inclination is to use power, such as spanking or timeouts, yelling, and threats. It’s difficult, at first, to reason that to get respect from their children, parents must first give respect through a close personal relationship – instead of by force.

The parent who has a strong connection with her child will gradually begin to discipline as the child grows: As the baby begins biting while breastfeeding, the mother changes her technique to discourage biting; as the baby learns to crawl, the parent baby-proofs the home; as the baby grows into a toddler and begins to have tantrums, the parent learns how to head off these tantrums or how to resolve feelings of frustration in the child. Through AP, the parent gets to know her child as well as she knows her spouse or a dear friend, and to anticipate feelings and reactions from her child to various situations.

The difference between a parent-child relationship and an adult-adult relationship is that limits must be set with the parent-child relationship, which is why it’s even more important for parents to be sure to get to know their child on a deep, personal level.

The True Essence of a Discipline Program

Through discipline, parents are striving to pass down their morals and values, trying to help their child develop self-control, and hoping to give their child skills to succeed in life. According to the article “What is Discipline?” on, “discipline is based on building the right relationship with a child more than using the right techniques.”

Happiness in life depends heavily on an adult’s emotional health and to establish and maintain close, loving relationships. As suggested by Robert Karen, PhD, in his book Becoming Attached, the parent-child connection is the child’s first model of what is normal in relationships and therefore the foundation of emotional health development in that child. All parent-child interactions, especially those related to teaching and discipline, work to shape the child’s perspective on future relationships.

The Challenge of Coming to AP Later

But, what if you’re a parent who didn’t AP right from birth? Perhaps, you’re just learning about AP and the Eight Principles of Parenting. You don’t have that security of a bond with your child. Does this lack of a strong parent-child connection change the perspective on discipline?

Certainly at first.

Parents can attempt to discipline without having a secure bond, but for discipline to be effective, the parent-child connection created through AP is essential. So, if a parent doesn’t turn to AP until his child is three years old, the reality is that there are likely to be many challenging moments as the parent and the child re-learn patterns of interacting with one another but the good news is that it’s not too late to develop a strong emotional bond. The wonderful thing about AP is that working to create and strengthen the bond between parent and child can begin at any age.

Limits must be set with the parent-child relationship, which is why it’s even more important for parents to be sure to get to know their child on a deep, personal level.

The Long-Term Effects of Bullying on the Victim, the Bully, and the Bystander

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

Even as late as a generation ago, teasing was considered almost a rite of passage for school-age children. It was seen as the natural establishment of the childhood “pecking order” – either you were teased or you became the bully, at least once.

Within the last decade, more attention has been directed to the severely negative effects of this “normal” part of childhood. Research has found that bullying – which can include name-calling, teasing, spreading of rumors, threats, stealing possessions, and other forms of intimidation, even as extreme as hitting, pushing, and additional physical violence – has long-term effects on the emotional well-being of children and teens, well into their adult years.

The Effect of Bullying on the Victim

In her article “Teasing and Bullying: No Laughing Matter,” published on, author Diana Townsend-Butterworth warns of how bullying can distort emotional and mental development, not only through the psychological torture of being a victim but also because the fear of being bullied can take a toll on academic and social success through loss of concentration and reduced class attendance. School becomes a place to be feared for many children who are bullied. Bullying also affects self esteem development and may cause depression, both of which can last well into adulthood, hurting their professional achievements and personal relationships.

The Effect of Bullying on the Bully

Bullies, too, often have difficulty in forming positive relationships in adulthood, reports Townsend-Butterworth. Bullies are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol, to become abusive in their marital and parental relationships, and to engage in criminal activities.

The Effect of Bullying on the Bystander

Even children who are not directly involved, either as bullies or as targets, may be adversely affected, Townsend-Butterworth continues. Academically, these innocent bystanders suffer from disruption in the classroom created by a bully or by the teacher disciplining the bully or attending to the victim. These children can also be traumatized by witnessing the bully in action, fearing that they be the next victim or feeling guilty for not helping the target, according to James Garbarino, PhD, author of Lost Boys and Words Can Hurt Forever.

Bullying Hurtful No Matter the Form…or the Age

Bullying is also not limited to boys or girls, either. It used to be that only boys could be bullied; girls were teased. Actually, teasing and bullying are one in the same. What is different is how they are expressed by the different genders. As Townsend-Butterworth explains, boys are typically physical in their bullying. They might push each other or steal someone’s backpack. On the other hand, girls are usually more subtle and indirect. A young girl may threaten not to be someone’s friend unless that friend gives her something in return, and an older girl will tell other girls not to be friends with someone or say a hurtful remark and then pretend they didn’t mean it.

Incredibly, bullying can begin as early as preschool. Bullying is also common around the world, in all cultures, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes. Townsend-Butterworth reports research that estimates as many as a third of all school-age children are involved in bullying, either as bullies or victims. In some schools, such as those with students of mixed ethnicities or socio-economic classes, this number may be higher. Bullying often intensifies at certain transitional stages, such as starting elementary school, middle school, or high school. While bullying is no longer considered customary, and most schools have adopted some form of anti-bullying policies, children can’t be fully protected since bullying can take many forms and can occur elsewhere.

Where Children Learn to Bully

The goal of Attachment Parenting (AP) is to raise children to be empathetic, compassionate, loving people. Instilling these values in children early, and continuing to nurture these qualities as they child grows, is an inoculation against them becoming bullies. Children learn to bully from their peers, and even from adults and media influences, writes Townsend-Butterworth. Even unconsciously, parents may teach bullying behaviors by the way they speak to or treat their children.

“If children experience put-downs or physical punishment at home or in school, and if they see emotional and psychological abuse go unchallenged, they believe this behavior is acceptable,” Townsend-Butterworth writes. “Bullies like to feel powerful and in control. They are insensitive to the feelings of others and defiant toward adults.”

How Children Become Targets of Bullying

But, what about not becoming a victim? Some AP parents may worry that if their child isn’t aggressive, he will get bullied himself. But, as Townsend-Butterworth explains, children who repeatedly find themselves the target of bullying are similar in that they have a shy personality, low self-esteem, poor social skills, and less physical strength.

“Bullies consider these children safe targets, because they usually don’t retaliate,” Townsend-Butterworth writes. In addition, repeated targets inadvertently “reward” bullies by giving in to them, according to a 1997 article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Teaching Children Not to Be, or Be Victims of, Bullies,” reprinted on the Focus Adolescent Services website, which works to support families of troubled and at-risk teens.

Unfortunately, as this article points out, targets of bullying are not helped by adults speaking for them; sometimes, this can actually make the bullying more aggressive. The goal for parents is not to teach aggression, but assertiveness. According to Focus, while parents can’t solve the problem of bullying, they do hold the key to teaching their children to avoid becoming victims.

“Children must learn that they have the right to say ‘no,’” according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children article, “not only when they are threatened, but in a wide range of everyday situations.”

While parents can’t solve the problem of bullying, they do hold the key to teaching their children to avoid becoming victims.

Extracurricular Activities Should Be Fun, Not Work

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

Kids today are busier than any generation before.

School-aged children and teens have ample opportunities to fill their free time with extracurricular activities, and many parents encourage their children to participate in these activities. These activities are fun; they help children find talents and build up skill sets; and they give children additional ways to socialize and make friends. Children as young as early elementary can now participate in  myriad activities, from soccer to scouts to theatre.

But parents have to be careful that these fun activities don’t become burdens to their children, that they don’t inadvertently or purposely place their child in a position where the child is feeling pushed to excel in order to gain parental approval, and that they don’t schedule too many activities so that children simply don’t have time to play, relax, connect with others, or just be children.

Rick Wolff, chairman of the Institute for International Sport’s Center for Sports Parenting, spoke in 2005 at the University of Rhode Island about the unreasonable expectations parents can be tempted to place on their children’s athletic futures. His presentation was covered in the article “Parents Pushing Children into Sports a Problem, Growing in Culture” by Meghan Vendettoli, published by the University.

Activities are for Children, Not the Parents

Wolff noted that children want to participate in extracurricular activities because they find them enjoyable, but that some parents see these activities – particularly sports – as a “foundation” for their future, most often in hopes of getting their child a college scholarship. Never mind the fact that less than four percent of high school athletes end up playing collegiate sports.

Wolff was most bothered by the trend of more and more parents pushing their children as young as five or six years old to excel in a sport, at the expense of the child’s happiness.

“A lot of parents don’t get it, and the kids become the victims,” he said.

No Pushing, Please

In the article “Don’t Push Your Children Too Hard in Sports or Other Activities,” published in 2000 on, Anthony D. Meyer, MD, warns parents of how easy it is to “push” a child into an activity even as they try not to.

“As pre-teenagers, children are completely egocentric, meaning they believe that whatever they do is responsible for what actually happens. If they miss the goal or strike out and the team loses, they believe they are solely at fault,” Meyer wrote. “They also have a very, very strong need to please adults, and a coach or parent who feeds into that need may very easily push a child beyond his or her breaking point.”

How does Meyer advise parents to avoid this pitfall?

“A skillful coach or concerned parent will watch for signs of stress, including difficulty sleeping or eating, total preoccupation with one activity and nothing else, or moodiness,” he said.

If parents fail to recognize these signs, not only will the child grow to dislike the activity but may also become resentful toward his parents. Here are Meyer’s tips to parents to avoid inadvertently pushing their children:

  • Get to know your child – Spend time with your child, especially “unconditional time” in which there is no teaching involved. Do whatever the child wants to do, and observe him for 45 minutes. Be open and encouraging, and take delight in what your child enjoys. Learn to empathize with your child.
  • Ask the right questions – Is this activity good for your child at this time? Is your child enjoying herself and, perhaps, growing from the experience? Can your child enjoy participating, win or lose? Put what you want for the child out of your mind, and focus on your child’s needs and desires from her level.
  • Talk with your spouse or partner – Your spouse may have good insight into how your child is feeling, especially if your spouse’s interests differ from yours; for example, if the wife is interested in volleyball and the husband is interested in choir.
  • Help your child find a place in the activity – Not every child is going to excel in the activities they enjoy. For example, a child may enjoy softball but not be very competitive, so instead, the parent can encourage her to serve as the team manager or cheerleader. Show your child that there are many ways they can enjoy an activity, even if she isn’t as talented as her peers.
  • Introduce your child to other types of activities – Your child will be drawn toward the activities he enjoys and will be more likely to find his talent. He will also develop a balanced appreciation for many things in life. Children allowed to participate in a variety of activities are able to better handle wins and losses and challenges, and feel that their interests and desires have been recognized.

For More Information
The Sports Parenting Edge by Rick Wolff

Medical Reasons for Fear of the Dark

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

Being scared of the dark is a widespread nighttime issue for young children, and in the great majority of the time, the root of this fear is grounded in a very active imagination with only a budding, limited ability to reason. But, in some occurrences, the fear of the dark can actually point to a more serious, chronic medical reason requiring the attention of a health professional.

Medically significant sleep disorders in preschool and school-age children, and teens, include:

  • Earaches – Sleeping is uncomfortable with an ear infection because the change in position creates increased pressure.
  • Asthma – A nighttime cough is a common symptom of asthma, as is if your child wakes up crying and unable to breathe normally.
  • Parasites – Pinworms, which are tiny and thread-like worms on the bottom, are active at night and cause itchiness.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea – Sometimes, enlarged tonsils or adenoids in the throat partially obstruct the airway, causing the child to stop breathing temporarily.
  • Bed-wetting – Children as old as 12 can have difficulty not wetting the bed at night, due to physical development of the bladder and bladder muscles as well as immaturity in the part of the brain that communicates when it’s time to empty the bladder.
  • Restless legs syndrome – “Creepy,” crawling sensations may affect the legs or the arms.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder – Usually affecting the legs, there is an overwhelming feeling that the limbs must be moved several times throughout the night, as often as every 30 seconds.
  • Stationary night blindness – An inability to see at all in the dark, the eyes never actually adjust to the dark.

When It’s OK to Induce Labor, and When It’s Not

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

One in five pregnant women will have her labor induced, for varying reasons. Some of these reasons are valid; others are not. Catherine Beier of weighs in.

When it’s OK to induce labor:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions in the mother – These may include heart disease, a seizure disorder, hypertension, cancer, or another serious health issue, although many women with these disorders can still give birth vaginally.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions in the baby – If the baby is known to have a congenital or other medical condition that requires intervention or intensive care immediately after birth, induction may be the safest way to ensure the baby gets the care that’s needed.

And when it’s not OK to induce labor:

  • Overdue pregnancy – While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warn against induction before 39 weeks, the average pregnancy worldwide lasts 42 weeks. For medical doctors who don’t want to wait that long, they should consider accuracy of a woman’s due date, which is calculated on a 28-day menstrual cycle with ovulation on day 14; for women with long or irregular cycles or late ovulation, this due date can be significantly inaccurate. For these women, a reliable estimate of the due date, within one day, can be obtained with a transvaginal ultrasound at eight to ten weeks of gestation. As the pregnancy progresses, ultrasound becomes a less reliable predictor of the due date, as the weight estimate can be off by as much as two pounds.
  • The baby is too big – The vast majority of women are able to give birth vaginally to their babies, even those who are larger. Because hormones during labor relaxes and stretches the hips and pelvis, for those very few whose pelvis is too narrow to birth a full-term baby, it’s impossible to know until the time of childbirth.
  • The mother is too tired or uncomfortable – Remember, it’s called labor for a reason. Labor can be rather long and hard with the first baby especially, but it is normal.
  • It’s more convenient to know when the baby will be born – Whether induction on a certain day is better for the baby’s family or the medical provider, this does not take the baby into account and not a true reason.

Long-Distance Grandparenting

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

For many people, grandparenting comes as easy as the love they felt for their own children.

But not all grandparents live close enough to visit their grandchildren frequently, often thought of as a key to developing a strong emotional bond. Furthermore, some grandchildren, or their parents, have very full schedules that can make visits by even nearby grandparents challenging. Here are some tips adapted for grandparents wanting to stay in touch with their grandchildren:

  • Visit regularly, if not often – Visiting your grandchildren doesn’t have to be frequent, as long as it’s meaningful. Have a good time with your grandchildren when you visit them or when they come for visits. Help them to look forward to the next visit by planning a loose schedule with their parents.
  • Stay in touch between visits – Use the phone, e-mail, and letters through the postal mail to provide a personal way to stay in touch with grandchildren between visits. Send photos and cards.
  • Show your grandchildren how much you miss them – Put photos of your grandchildren in frames on the shelf or on the fridge. Make a special photo album of special times spent with your grandchildren, and allow your grandchildren to flip through it when they visit.
  • Share a hobby, teach a skill – When your grandchildren visit, engage them in helping your with chores or get them started with one of your hobbies. Help them make a craft they can take home. When you call them next or send a letter, you can ask them about what they learned or thank them for their help around the house.
  • Chart a family tree – Tell your grandchildren stories about their relatives, especially their parents. Tell them about their ancestors and their heritage. Help them to create a family tree or scrapbook.

AP Teaches Assertiveness

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

Most parents who practice Attachment Parenting (AP) aren’t concerned about their children becoming bullies. After all, the goal of AP is to teach children empathy, compassionate, and respect for others – qualities not usually afforded to bullies. But some AP parents may be concerned that their child could become the target of a bully.

In the Spring 2008 issue of Attachment Parenting International’s The Journal of API, in the “Ask the Founders” feature, API Co-founder Lysa Parker answered a question from a parent about her three-year-old son being the target of bullying by his playmates. This mother’s concern was that his friends were mistaking her son’s kindness and sensitivity for weakness. Parker recommended that the mother use the situation to teach her son and his friends about friendship and how their actions can be hurtful. Parker also said, at this age, talking with the bullies’ parents would be appropriate.

As this boy grows older, the mother does need to teach him how to deal with bullying, Parker said – which can start now: “When your son runs to you for help, he is communicating his need for support, but he also needs to be empowered by learning the words to say to express his feelings.”

This advice is right on target, according to a 1997 article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Teaching Children Not to Be, or Be Victims of, Bullies,” reprinted on the Focus Adolescent Services website “The key to promoting positive interactions among young children is teaching them to assert themselves effectively. Children who express their feelings and needs, while respecting those of others will be neither victims nor aggressors.”

AP Prevents Bullying

AP parents, while they may be concerned, are a step ahead of non-AP parents in preventing bullying. As outlined in API’s Eight Principles of Parenting, responding with sensitivity is a critical component of AP. By responding to our infants’ cries, we teach them to trust us as their caregivers and to trust themselves as communicators of their needs.

As children grow, we gradually learn how to let our children become more independent, at their own pace, by watching for their cues. We can encourage them to make their own choices, and therefore learn to become confident in themselves and their abilities, by beginning to allow toddlers to choose what they wear, what game or activity to play next, and so on.

With older children and teens, we can help them discover their talent and develop skills in an area of interest, and let them begin to make larger decisions for themselves, both of which add to a healthy self esteem.

In all of these ways, parents provide their children with tools to thwart bullying incidents.

“Adults must show children that they have the right to make choices – in which toys they play with, or what they wear and what they eat,” according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children article. “The more children trust and value their own feelings, the more likely they will be to resist peer pressure, to respect warm and caring adults, and to be successful in achieving their personal goals.”

How to Teach Assertiveness

The best way to teach assertiveness is by modeling it and accepting it from your children. Parents need to remember that assertiveness is not the same thing as aggression. Instead, as outlined in The-Self-Improvement-Zone’s article “Teach Your Children to Be Assertive” on, assertive behaviors communicate:

  • No one has the right to make me feel guilty, foolish, or ignorant.
  • I do not need to make excuses for everything I do, although I do need to be accountable to my immediate family and close relatives and myself.
  • I am allowed to change my mind, and not feel bad about it.
  • It is not necessarily my fault if things go wrong.
  • I do not have to know everything, it is OK to say “I don’t know,” and I shouldn’t feel inferior because of that.
  • No one is perfect, and it is not the end of the world if I make a mistake.
  • Not everyone has to be my friend, and there is nothing wrong with me if someone doesn’t like me.
  • If I don’t understand something, it’s OK and I shouldn’t feel inferior.
  • I don’t have to prove myself to anyone else.
  • I don’t need to be perfect, rather I should strive to just be myself.

Social Skills are Key

Besides teaching these attitudes to their children, parents can also help their children improve their social skills through role-playing to practice social conversation and teach children how to initiate and sustain conversation through both asking and responding to questions and careful listening.

“Teaching them social skills is the first step to making them more comfortable in just about any given situation,” according The-Self-Improvement-Zone. “The more comfortable they feel in these situations, the easier they will learn how to be assertive. The better they understand themselves, the more they will know and articulate their needs.”

Learning How to Handle Frustration Important, Too

Another area where children may need help is in learning how to handle frustration. Parents should teach their children not to use anger as a tool for asserting themselves, as anger creates negative reactions in other people and contributes to communication breakdown. Parents themselves – especially in response to tantrums, hitting, and breaking toys – should never use yelling and punishment as forms of discipline. Instead of anger, parents can teach children how to work out a win-win compromise when appropriate, and when not appropriate, how to relax and let the situation bother them less.

“Keep in mind that the only way you will be able to teach your children how to assert themselves is by learning how to be assertive yourself,” according The-Self-Improvement-Zone. “It is up to you, as the adult, to set the example for your child. No means no. You do not need to become a doormat to ensure that your child becomes assertive. Be a good role model for your children. Children learn what they see and experience. If you are assertive and fair, they will learn to become one, too.”

The best way to teach assertiveness is by modeling it and accepting it from your children.

Gently Persuading the Picky Toddler to Eat

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

It can be shocking to parents when their voracious eater suddenly begins refusing food when he enters the toddler years. Sometimes, he even skips a meal. All kinds of thoughts may go through your head: Is he sick? Does he have an ear infection? Does he have an upset stomach or food allergies?

If your child acts healthy when not sitting down to eat, more than likely, your child feels just fine. Toddlers – the development stage from one to three years old – are naturally picky when eating. Their weight gain begins slowing around their first birthday, and many parents will notice their children’s weight stalling. The child begins to grow taller, rather than putting on weight, gradually transforming from the compact body of a baby to the proportions of a young child.

Still, it can be difficult for parents not to worry when their child only eats cheese and peas for a week, or if she regularly refuses to eat lunch. Here are some tips to make sure your child is getting the nutrition she needs to thrive in his first years:

  • Allow your child to graze – Due to his nearly constant activity and curiosity, sitting down to eat can get in the way of your toddler’s wanting to explore his world. A great solution is to allow him to snack in between meals. Cheese, crackers, cereal, and fruit slices are easy-to-prepare and easy-to-clean-up options.
  • Don’t worry – Your child won’t starve; she’ll let you know when she’s hungry. Toddlers, like babies, are comfort-seeking creatures, and when they need to eat, their bodies will signal them to seek out food. Just remember to think “hunger” as a possibility when your child becomes cranky a few hours after lunch.
  • Consider a vitamin supplement – Many children seem to get stuck on one or two foods, refusing to eat anything else even if they tried and liked it in the past. Eventually your child will move on to different foods, but if you’re concerned, talk with your child’s health practitioner about giving your toddler a vitamin supplement to be sure he’s getting all her nutritional needs met.
  • Turn off the TV – Just as television can encourage older children to eat too much food during the day, television can be a distraction from eating for young children. Encourage your child to play without the television on. She’ll be more cued in to her own hunger signals, and with more activity, she’ll be more likely to be hungry at meal times. The same holds true about turning off the TV during meal times, so your toddler focuses on eating.
  • Don’t snack right up until meal time – Allow some time between mid-morning and afternoon snacks and meal times. Otherwise, your child won’t be hungry enough for a big meal. To defer snacking, engage your child in playtime or another busy activity.
  • Offer a variety of foods – If your child doesn’t seem to want to eat, she may be wanting to try something new. Don’t assume she’s not hungry; move on to another food group. If she consistently refuses new offerings, then she’s probably not hungry right now.
  • Limit liquids during meal time – Try offering your child’s cup or your breast after he’s eaten. Liquid takes up room in the stomach, so if your toddler is drinking a lot of milk or water or juice during the day, he won’t be as hungry. However, if your child insists on drinking or breastfeeding, let him.
  • Let your child eat on the go – For many children, it’s the act of having to sit still to eat that’s the problem. During snack times, and even some meal times, consider letting your toddler munch on something while she’s playing.
  • Instigate meal time – Get your child interested in eating by eating in front of him and then offering to share. For many toddlers, the food on Mommy and Daddy’s plates looks better than what is on their own plates, even if it’s the same.
  • Let your toddler “help” make dinner – Young children love to do what Mommy and Daddy are doing. Mixing up a bowl of cookie dough can be fun for older toddlers. For a younger child, give her a clean bowl and spoon, and let her mix up some of her small toys and then pretend to serve the food to all the family members. She’ll enjoy doing something grown up, plus she may be more interested in getting to eat for real at meal time.

The key is to let your child guide you. Respect her hunger cues and don’t try forcing her to eat when she’s not hungry, even if you know that she’ll be hungry in only an hour or two. Offer nutritious foods, so she isn’t tempted to fill her tummy with unhealthy choices when she is hungry. And, most of all, don’t worry! Toddlers’ appetites come and go; if he’s not eating much this meal, this day, or even the past couple of days, be patient. Another meal, or another day, he’ll make up for it. Everything balances out over time.

For More Ideas
– “Feeding Toddlers: 17 Tips for Pleasing the Picky Eater” – “Dealing with Picky Eaters” – “Tips for Dealing with a Picky Eater” – “Feeding Strategies for Toddlers – What Not to Do” – “Getting Toddlers to Eat Their Veggies”

Morning Sickness as an Attachment Education for Baby’s Father

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

Pregnant women know better than anyone how connected they can feel to the new, little life growing inside them – even if the baby is so tiny that its kicks can’t be felt. From the moment, a woman learns she’s pregnant, she begins counting down the months and days until she can meet her baby face-to-face.

Morning sickness, while irritating, is a sign that the pregnancy is going well, according to the American Pregnancy Association – which is especially assuring to a particularly anxious mother-to-be or someone who experienced a threatened miscarriage early on.

Morning sickness also provides a time for fathers-to-be to connect to their babies…by way of better connecting with their wives. After all, one of the best models of a healthy relationship for a child, in addition to the parent-child bond, is the mother-father interaction.

Just as new fathers often enjoy putting a hand on the mother’s pregnant belly and reading stories to the unborn child, they can begin bonding by providing comfort to the mother-to-be, which will also keep the adult-adult relationship close during a time when exhaustion and mood swings may threaten to push them apart.

Australian filmmaker Troy Jones explored this in his documentary Being Dad: Information and Inspiration for Dads to Be, as reported by Tara Taylor of “A few topics always came up in the group conversations. The first was how to help your partner with morning sickness. Many expecting fathers felt helpless in the face of nausea.”

First and foremost, mothers-to-be must understand this feeling from their partners and to focus on ways he can stay connected during the pregnancy, especially when the women are not feeling their best. Here are some ideas to help you better involve your husbands’ or partners’ desire to help when morning sickness, fatigue, mood swings, backaches, and other pregnancy discomforts begin taking their toll on your relationship:

  • Encourage honest and open communication – This was the most important tool offered by R. Morgan Griffin’s 2003 article “Advice for Expectant Fathers” on Not only will talking help you release your frustrations and fears about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, but it provides a way for men to voice their anxieties, too, and be able to help you by providing emotional support.
  • Put him on nutrition duty – According to, the father-to-be can be a pregnant woman’s personal cheerleader, not only in reminding you that morning sickness is a good thing but also in encouraging you to drink enough water and helping you to choose healthy foods – when you’re able to keep food down. The same encouragement may be needed when it comes to taking the prenatal vitamin and letting the mother-to-be know that it’s OK to go to bed early or take a mid-day nap, rather than continuing to try to do everything you could do before getting pregnant.
  • Give him specific requests – Also according to, if you know of something your husband can do to help you feel better, let him know. Perhaps, it’s bringing toast to your bedside in the morning or giving you a backrub or making sure that the fridge is cleaned out of odorous foods.

Morning sickness also provides a time for fathers-to-be to connect to their babies…by way of better connecting with their wives.

Discouraging School-Age Children and Teens from Junk Food

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

Sadly, the challenge of encouraging your child to eat nutritiously doesn’t get any easier as he grows. As they become more independent thinkers, school-aged children and teens are exposed to more people modeling unhealthy behaviors: their peers and friends, other adults in the community, television commercials, even school vending machines promoting quick, easy, and tasty sweets and fatty foods.

Role models don’t have to openly discourage eating nutritiously; ignoring healthy options and choosing junk food first is powerful persuasion.

As children grow, eventually what peers teach begins to compete with the importance of parental guidance. But, in a family that values strong parent-child attachments, the parent will continue to be the top role model. So, even if your teen’s friends are choosing candy bars and pop over healthy snacks and beverages, she’s still learning most of her life lessons from what’s going on at home.

Here are a few ways parents can positively influence their children’s food choices:

  • Lead by example – Your child, even a teen, is learning how to live life by watching what you do and doing it, so if you’re snacking on chips and candy, your child will be, too. Also, actions speak louder than words. Your child learns more from watching what you eat than by listening to you advocate for the apple while you’re munching on a cookie.
  • Cheer up! – Many people, children and adults, learn to eat when they’re unhappy. Help your child find other ways to work through their feelings, such as talking with you or a friend.
  • Beat the boredom – Some children eat when they’re bored, especially while watching television. Turn off the TV and turn on family time with games, outings, or other activities together. In addition to discouraging your child from eating while viewing, turning off the television will reduce the time your child is exposed to junk food advertisers.
  • Moderation is the key – An occasional sweet is OK, but limiting the portion is a must. Teach your child to limit junk food by eating chips only with healthy meals and only offering one or two cookies during one snack time. Be consistent and resilient against protests, especially if you’re starting to change your child’s eating habits.
  • Make your own “junk food” – Bypass the store-bought processed foods by making your own candy, ice cream, sweet breads, and chips. Learn ways to make recipes healthier, such as using skim milk instead of whole milk and using applesauce instead of sugar.
  • Prepare quick foods for your busy teen – Many older children and teens have extremely full schedules, running from sports practice to dance class to church activities before coming home to do schoolwork and getting ready for bed. Junk food is notoriously easy for them to get quick energy, even if it’s not healthy energy. Encourage your child to eat well when they’re looking for quick meals by preparing healthy, tasty snacks for them. Cheese and crackers, a banana, celery sticks with peanut butter are all easy to pack together and don’t have to be refrigerated.

There will still be times when your child or teen opts for a bag of chips and pop instead of a healthier choice, but the goal is to teach her to make the right choice from how you model what to eat. And be creative! Healthy food choices can compete with the sugar- and fat-packed junk food. Find recipes that appeal to your child’s sweet tooth but still give her some nutrition, like a fruit-nut trail mix or multi-grain cookies.