Category Archives: 4. The Growing Child

From age 4 to age 9.

Set Kids Up for Success in School

By Bill Corbett, author of the Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids book series and the founder and president of Cooperative Kids, www.CooperativeKids.com

Whether you’re reading this before your children start school or after they have started, the following guide can help you implement habits that support your child during the school year.1132275_33114655 blackboard

1. Adjust Summertime Leniencies. As school approaches or starts, set up a family meeting to discuss the rules that will change at home: bedtimes, homework, TV time, removing entertainment electronics from bedrooms, having to turn in social media devices, and friend sleepover rules  Allow your child to voice her concerns over these changes, negotiate until agreements are reached, adopt the policies, and implement them on a specified date. It’s also a good idea to document the changes and post them where all can see them as a reminder of what everyone has agreed to.

2. School Supply Shopping. Sit down with your children and determine together what supplies they are going to need for the coming school year. Take your younger children shopping and let them be in charge as they retrieve all the items on the list. Give them a set amount of money to spend to accommodate all that’s on the list. You’re the guide and the coach, so remain calm if extra items make their way into the basket. Allow your children to pay for the items at the checkout and carry the bags to the car.

3. The Work Space at Home. Collaborate with your children as to where homework will be done.  You can take turns coming up with the ideas, and if the kids suggest unreasonable locations—such as in front of the TV—allow them to be placed on the list at first. Go back through to review the list and remove any locations that are not agreeable to both of you. Collaborating with your children is a way of helping them feel respected and learn problem-solving skills, but you’re still responsible for setting healthy boundaries. Set up the space that was decided on, and help your children organize the supplies that were purchased at the store.

4. The Homework Schedule. Each child is different when it comes to doing homework, so this next exercise will require patience. Help your children individually determine when they feel that they are best able to work on homework. Some children can do it as soon as they get home, and others need a break before starting it. Coach each child into establishing his own schedule, make it clear and defined, and then document it. Your job will be to help reinforce what is decided.

5. Control of Entertainment and Distractions. If you have never previously done what I’m about to suggest, announcing it to your children could be a challenge, so remain calm and be patient. I strongly encourage you to announce a rule that any and all entertainment electronics and handheld social media devices are to remain off or be turned in to the parents during the established homework times. This new rule should be in effect on school days (Monday through Thursday), even when there is no homework, and during weekend homework time. Removing the temptation to check electronic devices during homework time can help children focus attention on the tasks at hand. I have heard many stories from parents who did not implement this rule and had their children come home after school reporting they had no homework, only to suddenly and mysteriously remember a homework assignment later that night at bedtime.

6. The Bedtime Schedule. It is not your responsibility to get your children to fall asleep. That must happen naturally, and your children are more in charge of that than you are. Your job is to create an environment and an atmosphere that is conducive to your children getting sleepy and eventually falling asleep. You can define when bedtime will occur, ensure that it happens, and remove all distractions from their bedrooms, such as video games, televisions, cell phones and computers.

7. Nutrition. Many children (and adults!) find it hard to choose broccoli over candy bars. This is where you come in as a parent. You can ensure that your children have healthy foods to eat and control and minimize the least healthy foods when possible. This means making sure that your children have healthy dinners at night and nutritious foods available to them for breakfast and in packed lunches. I have seen many families where the family dinner experience is gone and everyone fends for themselves. Even if you are not always able to eat together, you can make sure that healthy foods are available for family members to choose from.

8. Being Available. I have heard from many parents who face challenges that make it hard to implement these suggestions: single parents who work long or evening hours, families in which both parents work in another city and don’t get home before 7 p.m., families with multiple after school activities that make it hard to be home and enforce a set schedule for dinner, etc. Do the best you can to be available to ensure that agreements are upheld and, more importantly, to provide help with homework and other assistance whenever necessary. They can’t do it on their own and need you to coach and guide them.

 

Trust Your Children More; Teach Them Less

By Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed., director of Connective Parenting, www.bonnieharris.com, reprinted with permission

The more stories I hear from parents, the more I know that trusting our children’s capabilities and detours is the path to connected relationships and success. Sometimes trusting our children goes against our standards of good parenting.810896_71237717 books

But who are we to know what our children should do with their lives; who are we to know what they need in order to get there? Our job is to remove the obstacles in their way of reaching their potential and accept and support who they are so they will have a firm foundation on which to launch into their futures.

A parent in my group put trust to the test. Her son didn’t like to read. He figured out a loophole in the school’s point system for reading. If he performed poorly, he would be put in the achievement bracket that required fewer points to get by. “He basically was reading See Spot Run books,” his mother told us. Her husband, who does not read, was furious and kept on him to no avail. She supported his decisions and left the process up to the school, although she did share her own experience of pleasure from reading. Allowing him to fail and trusting his reading capability, she maintained connection. With her trust, he discovered Harry Potter and everything changed.

When my daughter was little she begged to play the violin for a couple of years before I found a teacher. Practice turned grueling. When we reached the point where our relationship was at risk, I allowed her to stop. A year later, of her own accord, she took it up again. At 13, she bought herself a $1,700 violin. Today she is a professional composer. Who knew?

When we support and trust who our children are and know it is not up to us to find their gifts and talents, we learn that all they need is self-confidence to find their way.

Children resist with all their might when they think we are against them—when we criticize, blame, threaten, lecture—when they don’t trust that we understand and accept them. To find their way, they need to trust us to trust them.

We parent by the misconception that our job is to teach our children how to act and perform in the world, and if they don’t do it right (according to whom?) then they must be forced with some kind of manipulative, punitive tactic to get them on track. What track? Whose track? What if your child is meant to establish a new track or a track you don’t approve of? What if it’s a track that public schools don’t teach?

We are fraught with the anxiety of parenting, fearing our children will fail unless we teach them … What? How did you like your parents telling you what to do and when to do it? Did you ever think, They’re clueless, they don’t understand me, they don’t trust me?

What children need from us is our guidance and leadership. They need us to keep them safe and to make the big decisions they cannot be expected to make—to know that they should not be expected to act like a grown-up to know better, to understand tooth decay, to want them to do their homework, to hurry to get out the door in the morning.

We must trust that they want to be successful, that they want to please us, the most important people in their lives. They want to learn; they want to find their paths. It’s when we get in their way with our own agendas, our critical tones, and our disapproving eyes that they come to the conclusion there is nothing out there for them and that the most important people in their lives can’t be trusted.

Guidance and leadership does not mean engaging in power struggles to prove our rightness and put down their arguments. It does not mean punishing them, taking away their favorite things, isolating or grounding them—making them feel miserable and thinking that will motivate them to do better. Likewise, it does not mean manipulating them with bribes and rewards. Our intentions are well-placed; the methods we use to motivate are misguided and wrong. They send our children in the direction we most fear. They leave our children floundering in a world of unpredictability where they turn to their peers for guidance and leadership.

Practice trusting. Start by simply listening and truly hearing what they are trying to tell you, even and especially when you don’t like the noise they are making.

 

Summer Vacation: Freedom From or Freedom To?

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, the Center for Attachment Parenting in Israel, www.lifecenter.org.il and an international faculty member of the Neufeld Institute, Canada www.neufeldinstitute.com

“There’s nothing to do!  I’m bored!” is the battle-cry of children everywhere during summer vacation. Yet after weeks of counting the days for school to end, children are at a loss for what to do with their newly found freedom.180180_2234 bucket

When I asked a number of children what they were looking forward to during summer vacation, their answers were revealing. They all said freedom from …  a schedule, homework, boring lessons, tests, bullying from classmates and getting into trouble with teachers. Although they were looking forward to having some control over their time, their activities and who they chose to be with, they didn’t express any clear ideas about what they would do with the luxuriously long days that were about to stretch before them. When we respond to “I’m bored” by filling our children’s time with activities, we miss an important point. Children need times in their lives that are unstructured, when there is “nothing to do.” Continue reading Summer Vacation: Freedom From or Freedom To?

Three Simple Communication Tips for a Happier Vacation

By Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling, www.sunnybrookcounseling.com

If you are anything like me, it is so easy to overdo it on a vacation. I am known among my friends for squeezing all I can out of a day, and sometimes it’s just too much. On the last Disney trip we took, when I thought my daughter would remember all of the rides, the shows and the interviews with fantasy characters, her favorite memory was sitting on her daddy’s shoulders watching the fireworks in the rain. Yes, the pouring rain. I could have done that in my backyard.3ä illustration: Travel rest from work.

Nevertheless, we will return to Disney this year with Grandpa. I’ve determined to remember that there isn’t a perfect day, not even at Disney. Each day holds beautiful moments and frustrating moments, moments of glory and moments of defeat.  It is realizing that we live in this blend that keeps me in check, keeps me in reality, even at the Magic Kingdom. I have found that keeping the balance and digging for gratitude in each beautiful or frustrating moment makes all the difference. That, and a few key phrases like the following: Continue reading Three Simple Communication Tips for a Happier Vacation

The Opportunities of Summer Vacation

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

I love summer vacation. I remember picnics at the beach and playing in the sand. On very hot days my older sister and I would run through the sprinklers and make up our own original games. During the long summer evenings my father would play ball with us, and we’d all enjoy family dinners outside on the porch after nightfall when the heat of the day finally gave way to cool breezes. My granddaughter just told me that she has already begun to count the days when school is over. Like most children, she can’t wait for summer vacation to begin.526913_44076249 butterfly kite

But what is it like for parents? The approach of summer vacation is mixed with feelings of worry about how to fill the long hours, what to do about the constant complaint that “there’s nothing to do,” how to handle the endless bickering and fighting between siblings, and how to find adequate supervision for children while parents are working outside the home.

Since the most important influence on a child’s development is parental love and healthy parent-child interaction, summer vacation is an opportunity to make sure that children have large doses of loving connections with the adults who love them.  During the summer, children are free from the pressure of structured schedules, homework and extra lessons, and parents can seize this as an opportunity to create stronger attachments with their children and provide them with the kind of rest that frees a child’s vitality and creativity. Children also need freedom from the pressure of being in large groups with so many other children. Summer vacation is an ideal time to give them a large dose of attachment to home base and limit separation from home and loved ones. This allows the child’s sympathetic nervous system to come to rest, and the processes that lead to calm and creative endeavor can be restored.

It is frustrating to face the fact that our modern culture does not support the health and welfare of parents and children, and as a result, it has become more difficult to be with our children and help them grow up. Still, we have to move from thinking that children need to fit in with the needs of adults and instead think in terms of how to take care of children’s developmental needs, our primary responsibility. We need to ask ourselves a lot of questions.

  • If I need child care during the summer, is there a grandparent or other relative who can be with my children?

  • Is there a summer camp with groups small enough so that the counselors will interact with my child in a warm and caring way?

  • What kind of activities can I plan with my children that will give us opportunities to talk, laugh and enjoy being together? Examples may include cooking and baking together, arts and crafts projects, making decorations for the house, putting together family history and photo albums, making gifts for other family members, playing outside together, board games, becoming involved in the child’s interests, etc.

  • How can I turn mealtime into a festive family occasion?

  • When I’m at work and not with my child, how can I give him a sense of connection with me?

The primary answer we are looking for is how to create deeper attachment—deeper feelings of closeness, sameness, belonging, significance, love and being known.

When parents are empowered with the understanding of the significance of their role in their children’s lives, they can look forward to summer with more confidence and enthusiasm. The more parents find within themselves how they can be the answer to their children’s need for love, frequent loving interactions and deeper attachment, the more they can enjoy each day with their children. Parents will come up with their own unique answers that are most appropriate for their own families, so that they can be the parents their children need. Summer vacation has the potential to become a haven of nurturing, love and new growth for parents and children together.

You can also read Keeping a Schedule When There is No Schedule for some ideas about managing the endless free hours of summer.

Keeping a Schedule When There is No Schedule

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

One of the best things about summer vacation for children is that there is no fixed schedule. Kids don’t have to get up early to be in school on time. There is no homework that has to be handed in before a deadline. There are no school bells that compel children to change activity or location each hour. Summer vacation is a chance to breathe and enjoy the freedom from being forced to conform to someone else’s schedule and demands.1386821_77277854 garden clock

If they could have their way, children might spend summer vacation doing exactly as they please. Waking up in the morning at 11 a.m., staying in their pajamas until well past noon, eating breakfast cereal out of the box followed by a popsicle, sitting in front of a screen—computer, TV or iPad—with no time limit, coming inside from playing outside according to their own whim, and staying awake past midnight. In truth, some of us adults wouldn’t mind getting a break from our intense schedules and spending the summer this way, too!

The more mature a child is, the more he can see the value of keeping a sense of order and routine to his life. The more he can develop balance and the ability to overcome his feelings of “I don’t feel like it” with the tempering feelings of “I want to do what’s good for me and/or others,” the more he can take control of his life and create healthy habits and routines for himself. Since children lack maturity and the tempering feelings that come with more mature thinking, they depend on us to take responsibility for them. It’s up to us to create order for them, help them keep healthy daily habits, and give them a sense of routine, even during summer vacation. While the schedule does not have to be as intense as it is during the school year, we still want to take care of them in a way that’s in their best interest and give them a feeling of security from knowing that their parents are in charge and taking care of their needs.   Continue reading Keeping a Schedule When There is No Schedule

Spotlight On: Spark of Amber

API: Tell us about how your business began. What was the inspiration? What are your goals?

Julie Zorgo: Spark of Amber was founded in early 2013, after I was introduced to Baltic amber jewelry through a friend. I did some teethingankletsonline research and found out how Baltic amber has been used for years in children as a natural teething aid and pain reliever. The succinic acid in Baltic amber is scientifically studied and is an active ingredient for pain relief, calming properties and anti-inflammation. I discovered that adults also use Baltic amber for calming, pain relief and as a natural immune builder.

My inspiration to do this came from my husband and three children. My family is my biggest fan club.

My goals are many. First, I hope Spark of Amber grows to the point where it can be a full-time job from home for me. I believe in being there for my children, even as they get older. My other goals are to be able to donate to different charities and raise awareness for worthwhile causes through my business, and to make Baltic amber accessible and affordable to other families.

API: How does your business contribute to society?

Julie: My business currently spotlights a different charity or cause each month. For May, I picked End It, which seeks to raise awareness of and end the current blight of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. As my business grows, I would like to pick a day each month to donate a portion of sales to the cause of the month. Other charities and causes that I would love to contribute towards are breast cancer, child abuse awareness, positive parenting, breastfeeding support, and adoption awareness and help.

Another way Spark of Amber helps contribute to society is that, whenever possible, we work with different women in Lithuania to help craft our jewelry rather than buying from large factories. I feel it is important to help these women to feed and support their families by creating beautiful amber jewelry.

API: How does this business benefit families?

Julie: Spark of Amber benefits families by making beautiful amber jewelry available at affordable prices. I love promoting natural (rather than chemical) remedies for families. Several mothers have already written me about how much the jewelry has helped their headaches and pain or made them feel less stressed during the day, so they can be better mothers. We offer something beautiful and beneficial for the whole family, from children to teens to adults!

API: What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How can we work together with your project?

Julie: I think API is doing a very valuable service. Every day millions of children are living in abusive or very harsh environments, and this can scar them for their entire lives. We need to do so much better. I think there is such value in educating the public on natural and loving parenting practices. I am completely supportive of API and hope more families become aware of the value of attached parenting. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so API does a great job in spreading the positive message of Attachment Parenting.

My husband and I were totally unaware of Attachment Parenting when we had our first son, but we just sort of fell into it. My son hated the bassinet (I think it lasted one night), so we started cosleeping and continued for years. In fact, we have co-slept with all our children, and are now cosleeping with our 2-year-old daughter, while the boys share a bed together. I breastfed both boys until they self-weaned. I am doing the same with my daughter. Slings never worked out for us. I did try! Instead my babies preferred to be held. Both my husband and I sacrificed so one of us could be at home raising our children.

As far as how you can work together with me through Spark of Amber, I just appreciate the opportunity to share my business and a bit about my family with you. Any support I get helps me work from home so I can spend more time with my children, while still helping to contribute to our family income.

API: Anything else you’d like to share?

Julie: I’d like to encourage other moms who have a dream for a business or venture to go for it! I am really glad I started Spark of Amber. I would also encourage everyone to do what they can to make a difference in the world. Even if we can’t contribute money, we can be kind to a child, show love, and use gentle words and actions with our own children. It all helps!

API: Thank you so much! Where can people get more information?

www.sparkofamber.com

A limited selection of items is available in the API Store

 

New Sibling, New Behavior! How To Respond When Children Act Out

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

Having a new baby is an exciting time. Even the older siblings will feel this excitement and will be delighted to hold their new baby brother or sister for the first time. They finally get to see who has been inside of mom’s growing belly all these months!Kelly Bartlett

That excitement may fade, though, as the weeks go on and the reality of a baby’s needs sets in. Many parents see changes in behavior in their older children sometime during the first year after a new sibling is born. Children may act out, become defiant or begin to show behavior struggles at school. This is normal, since a child’s natural growth compounded with the stress of adjusting to a new family member can be overwhelming. It can cause a child to think differently about himself and to behave differently as he tries to find his place in the family.

Parents frequently turn to books, friends, articles or classes to learn how to handle a child’s difficult behavior and to discipline appropriately. The first question a parent asks is, “What should I do?” They seek tools, techniques and strategies—a concrete approach to solving behavior problems. But what parents need to understand is that the tools are secondary to the relationship.

The relationship of the child to the parent is the foundation for all “good” behavior. Children inherently want to behave well for those to whom they are emotionally connected. Without a strong attachment relationship, there is no desire to be like, please, take direction from or otherwise follow a parent’s lead.

What this means for parents, in regard to getting through our kids’ difficult phases of behavior, is that we must focus on connecting to them—checking in on our relationship and doing any work to build a closer, stronger relationship—before we focus on what tools to use. It needs to be ongoing, and it needs to be the first thing considered when responding to a behavioral situation. Before asking, “What should I do?” we need to ask, “How is our relationship? Am I emotionally available? Does my child feel connected to me?” When we address the relationship first, those answers to “What should I do?” fall into place much easier.

Though it can be difficult with a new baby in the house, it is critical to focus on maintaining a supportive and responsive relationship with older siblings. This is the key to helping them adjust to big changes. With their burgeoning autonomy, older children’s needs are less about physical connection, such as holding, nursing, or co-sleeping, and more about emotional bonding and understanding. Children need to know that they still matter, that they will always belong and that they have an important place in their parents’ hearts. Here are 11 ways to build connection and communicate to kids that they are valued in the family, after the birth of a new sibling or anytime.

1. Listen. This might be the most effective way to strengthen connection with a child. Listening leads to understanding, which strengthens attachment. Whatever kids communicate, make sure you hear them out without interrupting, making assumptions or giving them answers. Even when there are angry actions or loud tears present, prove that you understand their message by repeating it and reflecting their feelings about it. “You are mad! You are feeling very angry that you can’t do what you want right now.” Children will listen after they feel listened to. Don’t try to fix the problem or provide solutions. Just listen, validate and accept. Empathy communicates understanding, and children who feel understood feel safe and loved.

2. Do “special time.” Dedicate uninterrupted time with your older children every day. This will go a long way toward supporting their secure attachment with you. You get to know them, and they get to feel known.

3. Show faith. Have confidence in kids to make their own decisions, fix their own mistakes and accomplish their own goals. Your faith in your children generates confidence in them and a trust in your relationship.

4. Allow mistakes. By allowing and accepting mistakes, instead of yelling or criticizing, you are facilitating trust. There are fantastic opportunities for bonding and learning together, when you let your child know it’s OK to make mistakes and you are going to help her succeed.

5. Hug. Not just hugs, but any kind of positive physical touch helps connect parents and kids. Every touch, pat, massage, hair stroke, squeeze, handhold or full-body bear hug is a physical reminder to a child that says, “I love you and I’m here—right here—for you.” Do this often.

6. Use encouragement, not praise. Focus on acknowledging your child’s efforts rather than judging the outcome of his actions. It shows him that you value who he is internally, rather than simply what he can do or give you. There’s a very different message communicated in, “I noticed you got all our things ready to go! You really remembered a lot,” than in saying, “You’re such a good boy.”

7. Connect eye-to-eye. Get down to a child’s level to speak to her. It is respectful of her development and shows that you value even this most basic level of connection.

8. Empower. Sharing control with kids—as opposed to trying to have control over them—helps them develop their own skills and confidence. It lets them know that you trust their judgment and allows them to exercise their autonomy. One way to empower children is by giving them new responsibilities and opportunities to contribute to the family. You can also empower them by asking, “What ideas do you have for solving this problem? What do you think we should do?” and telling them, “I’m confident you’ll find a solution that works.” Depending on the situation and the child’s age, the parent may need to help generate solutions.

9. Appreciate. Letting kids know what we appreciate about them or their actions helps bring us closer together. “I appreciate you letting your sister play with that toy this morning. I know it’s yours, but she really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing it!” Children feel a sense of significance and belonging when we recognize their helpful gestures and good deeds.

10. Recover. Recovering from our own mistakes is important for letting kids know that we do want to be the best parents we can for them. What better way to tell your kids how important their feelings are to you than with a heartfelt apology for a mistake and an offer to work on a cooperative, respectful solution? This can be one of the most effective ways to connect with your kids.

11. Foster. You can model and teach listening, empathy and respect to the eldest child to strengthen his connection to the infant, which will help with the transition of adding a new person to the family. As the children grow older, engage in shared activities and dialogue that foster a respectful and warm relationship with each other.

Keeping all of these ideas in mind, remember that every child will respond differently to the presence of a new sibling in the family. It is not always a fairy tale! Even the most securely attached children will feel a disruption in the family balance and may act out that disruption through their behavior. Consider your child’s individual temperament and unique needs to find a combination of connective parenting tools that work for your family. Instead of asking, “What should I do?” ask, “How can we connect?” It is this connection that will guide you through the transition of helping older children adjust to a new family dynamic. It is this connection that tells children, “You matter. You have an important place in this family, and you have an important place in my heart.”

 

You Are a Good Parent

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator, API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska)

There are many ways of raising children. Of course.

Photo: (c) Helene Souza
Photo: (c) Helene Souza

Some parents breastfeed, some don’t, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents stay at home with their kids, some parents put their kids in daycare, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents enroll their children in public school, others homeschool, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. There certainly are parenting styles that are in need of improvement, to say it lightly, such as those that tend to be so strict that they could be labeled as abusive or those that are permissive enough to border on neglectful. But there is no one right way to parent, if your goal is to raise children who are functioning members of society.

That said, there are certain parenting goals—and therefore, strategies—that can give a child an edge as a functioning member of society, and secure parent-child attachment is one of them. Secure attachment, the wholesome and strong bond between a parent and a child, offers an advantage to a person by helping him handle stress more easily, from everyday garden-variety stress to major adversity. Essentially, secure attachment lends itself to good self-esteem. Couple this with problem-solving skills and a general knowledge of healthy versus unhealthy coping skills, and you’ve got an excellent set of stress management skills. Good stress management is helpful not only for mental health but also for physical health and overall well-being. Continue reading You Are a Good Parent

An Attached Education: Can Attachment Parenting Enhance Learning?

By Rebecca English, PhD, education lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, www.rebeccamenglish.com

I speak to many parents who want to continue through the school years with the loving, child-led, engaged parenting that they practiced when their children were younger. I also speak to many teachers and soon-to-be-qualified teachers who yearn to develop strong attachments with their students and encourage them to be effective learners. What these two groups have in common is that they are focused on child-led learning.1107036_97836458 education

In their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner advocate for what they call an inquiry approach to learning. The authors argue that, rather than what they call lineal/mechanistic approaches to teaching and learning, a more effective approach to education is child-led and allows children freedom to learn in their own time, at their own pace. This approach, unlike many current practices of education, is one that considers children’s needs and supports children in developing a love of learning, which is surely a great gift to give them. Continue reading An Attached Education: Can Attachment Parenting Enhance Learning?