Let’s begin March by talking about Giving the Love That Heals by Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD. Just a few of the topics we’ll be discussing in March will be :
The Unconscious Parent
The Child as Teacher
The Conscious Parent
Growing Yourself Up
Through this book, you will learn how to heal your own wounds as you nurture your child. As you will see, you can have a very fulfilling relationship with your child no matter what their age. Our discussions happen on GoodReads. We’ll be discussing Giving the Love That Healsthis March and April.
By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, senior contributing editor to Attached Family magazine
When my friend, a mother of one, found out her nine-year-old daughter wanted to become a vegetarian, she didn’t know what to do. She and her husband had never considered a meal complete without chicken, beef or fish, so her initial worry was whether her daughter would be healthy. The worry was quickly replaced with wonderment at the person her daughter was becoming.
Parents of adolescents and teens may find that their child’s growing awareness of the world and their part in it may lead them to choose vegetarianism. Some parents may worry that their child’s choice is a reflection of some mistake they have made, but parents should instead be proud that they have raised an empathetic child.
For my friend’s daughter, the shift occurred on a family trip to Mexico, while walking through an open market. When her daughter saw the meat hanging in the butcher’s stall, she decided then and there she would never eat meat again. She has been a vegetarian for two years and remains committed.
For parents who were raised on the idea that meat is essential to health for its vitamins, nutrients and protein, vegetarianism may seem like a nutritionally inferior way to eat. On the contrary, a vegetarian diet is often lower in fat, cholesterol and calories, and higher in fiber than a diet that includes meat. Eliminating meat, however, is not a sure path to health. A vegetarian who eats large amounts of potato chips, cookies and cheese will, of course, not reap the same benefits as one who focuses on wholesome, plant-based foods. Dr. William Sears encourages parents to ensure their vegetarian child does receive proper amounts of calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12, nutrients found in high concentrations in the meat and dairy the child may choose not to eat. Continue reading Feeding a Vegetarian with Love and Respect→
By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids, and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.cooperativekids.com.
We’re all trying to get more done in less time and with less money. When it comes to our kids, we do our best to spare no expense to give them the world. Then, without warning, they hurt us with words because they don’t like a limitation or boundary we’ve set or the word “NO.” Here are six things to do the next time your child screams, “I hate you!”
1. Remain calm. In order to do the next five things, you’ve got to keep your emotions from getting the best of you. It’s also an opportunity to model self-control for your child.
2. Acknowledge that the words stung. It’s hard to think of anything more hurtful that our children can say to us than hearing them say these words. Accept the hurt, but don’t let it determine your behavior at that moment.
3. Avoid the urge to hurt back. It is a normal human reaction to become defensive when someone attacks or hurts us. Remember that it’s your child in front of you at the moment, and know that he doesn’t mean what he has just said.
4. Say to the child, “You look like you’re mad at me.” A child either loves or hates us, there is nothing in between for her. Our children do not know hate as we do. Help them put into appropriate words what they are feeling at the moment.
5. Remain silent, and let them express their anger without retribution or defensiveness. Here’s one of those opportunities I’m always talking about—talking less. If a child is allowed to express his anger, it is emotion released and not forced back inside to build up and explode sometime later.
6. Examine what it was that triggered your child to get angry to begin with, and take responsibility for your part. Children need plenty of advance notice to help them transition from one activity to another, and visual cues (something they can watch for) work best. Also, giving in to a child’s demands just to get her to calm down only teaches her to repeat the demanding behavior whenever she wants something.
One more thing—our parents would not have tolerated hearing us say those words when we were kids. That was a different world and a different time. Don’t let your parents’ voices in your head control your own parenting in today’s modern world. Ignore their voices, and do what you know is right.
When educational television tries to teach young children to share, it’s helpful for parents to know how the desire to share reallydevelops in children.
My two granddaughters, five and three years old, recently watched a program that talked about sharing. No sooner did the show end, when the girls had a fight over a game they didn’t want to share. Oops! So much for the half-hour lesson on sharing! If I hadn’t learned from Gordon Neufeld, PhD, how children develop the capacity and desire to share, I would have been very frustrated, wondering why the girls weren’t implementing what they had just “learned” five minutes ago from the colorful and engaging television program.
Sharing isn’t something that is learned. True sharing comes from feelings of caring, together with the ability to think about the “yes” and “no” feelings of sharing. In other words, when you care about someone, you will want to share with him.
Ah, but that is not enough! There may be reasons why you don’t want to share at this particular time, and now you must weigh these considerations and decide if you will share, when you will share, and how much you will share. There are sophisticated emotions and thoughts, contradicting each other, that must mix together in the brain during this process: “On the one hand, I’d like to give it to him. On the other hand, I haven’t finished using it myself. Oh, but what if he breaks it? Now I remember I promised my little brother I’d let him use it first!”
In fact, a child’s brain is not even ready for this task of taking all of these things into consideration before the age of five years old, and then, like a muscle, this part of the brain must be exercised so the growing child can take into consideration many things at once. This is called integrative thinking – a level of maturity that takes time to develop, and requires of parents to be patient and trust in the process.
Efforts in creating programs to teach sharing to preschoolers may be doing more harm than good. We are setting up an expectation that children are capable of mature behavior that is not realistic for their age. This creates frustration for parents, which they may dump onto their children. We put pressure on children to make them share by telling them it “makes Mommy happy,” “you’re the big girl now and you should know better,” or “if you want people to share with you…” without realizing that this hijacks the child’s own budding spirit of wanting to share with others. Now, he may be sharing, not because he cares and wants to, but rather because he wants to gain approval. This kind of sharing turns the quality of giving to others into a selfish act rather than an altruistic one. The child’s own ability to decide if he can indeed share and still respect his own limits has now been compromised.
It’s important to remember that when we expect a child to share before he is developmentally ready, we may be inhibiting his true spirit of caring. Instead of sharing because he cares, he now shares because he wants to gain approval, thus turning sharing into a selfish act rather than an altruistic one. We can be assured that if we are caring toward our children and guide them in a spirit of caring, their own spirit of caring will develop, and as they mature and develop integrative thinking, we will see the fruits: caring that comes naturally and spontaneously from their hearts.
**Originally published in the Winter 2006-07 Balance issue of The Journal of API
When I was a child, I was fascinated by people and characters like “The Empath” on the Star Trek television series, who showed great empathy. I wanted to be like them but I was unable to think much beyond my own needs.
Now that I’m a mother, I find myself experiencing the mighty feelings of unconditional love that an attached mother has for her little ones. It is a type of love I once thought I was incapable of giving.
By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)
**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API
One year, two years, five years, ten years – just what is the ideal spacing between siblings?
Every mom contemplating their second child wants to know the answer. But just try to look up an exact answer on the Internet, in a magazine, or in a book. Most of these resources, if they choose to pinpoint an age gap, promote anywhere from two-and-one-half to five years as the best range, but no one can say for sure just what is best when it comes to the appropriate spacing between brothers and sisters.
The answer from many experienced parents is it all depends on what you think you’d like. Some say that closely spaced children, those with only a couple of years or less between them, will be more work in the early years but give siblings a playmate. Others claim that widely spaced children will give parents a break from the energy-intensive early years, but the siblings may not be as closely bonded. Continue reading Considerations of Sibling Spacing on the Family Dynamic→
By Heather T. Forbes, LCSW, founder of the Beyond Consequences Institute
**Orginally published in the Winter 2007-08 Adoption issue of The Journal of API
The typical scenario of a young married couple adopting an infant from birth has changed dramatically and has been redefined. Historically, a traditional adoption was defined as a healthy infant placed with an infertile, middle-class white couple.
Today, adoptions can be characterized from a much broader spectrum. Many children being adopted are not infants, but are older children of various races being adopted from either the public foster care system or orphanages overseas. Often, children in these groups have suffered abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect.
Due to a history of trauma, these children are considered “special needs” and require special parenting once adopted into permanent homes. Many of these children are dealing with mental health issues such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), reactive attachment disorder (RAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or depression. Continue reading Issues Facing Adoptive Parents of Children with Special Needs→
Looking back at life often brings understanding. As I look back at my life as a mother, I have more questions than answers. I don’t really know what made me mother the way I did, and I know at the time it often seemed I was swimming against the stream. However, I felt there was no other way to approach it.
Researching Parenting Approaches
It was 1981. I was living in Melbourne, Australia, and expecting my first child. My husband and I had moved back to Australia the year before. I had met my husband while he was flying to Sydney, and he was living in Papua, New Guinea. I followed him to New Guinea for six months before he decided it was no place for a young wife – just 21 at the time – and we returned to suburbia in Melbourne. Within months of being settled in a home of our own, I felt a huge need to have a baby. I was always into researching and set about finding out all I could about having babies and raising them. It was hard to find much information – sadly, no internet then – and even harder to find any books I agreed with.
Even then, I had some ideas on how it should be. Attachment Parenting (AP) had not been heard of in Australia at that time – not sure it was being talked about anywhere. Having been briefly in New Guinea, I was aware of how simple life with a baby could be if they were breastfed and being carried in some way. Even the poorest children seemed happy. It was actually illegal to sell formula in New Guinea without a prescription! This had been introduced by the World Health Organization to save the babies’ lives from a suspect water supply.
Beginning with Breastfeeding
I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I had suffered from terrible allergies as a child, and in order to reduce the chance that my child would develop allergies, I wanted to breastfeed for at least six months and hopefully longer. My mother had only breastfed me for the then-prescribed three months, and whether or not this was the cause of my allergies, I believe it may have contributed.
Armed with my well-read Nursing Mother’s Handbook and a will to succeed, I set off to hospital full of hope and expectation.
Nothing really went as planned with the birth, and once I had a healthy little boy, Guy, in my arms, I found that although the hospital was encouraging breastfeeding, it was by no means really supporting what my was told to me in the book. I found that although rooming-in was allowed, babies were whisked away if any sign of problems occurred and given complimentary formula feeds to settle them down. The nurses were much more concerned with the welfare of the new moms than the babies. I became obsessed with keeping Guy with me, only leaving for a shower if my husband was there. I escaped the hospital as quickly as I could – five days back then!
Once home, I felt free to do what felt right: I put him in our bed and relaxed. Our son was thriving; he hardly slept and fed almost continually! Feeding was a challenge, as Guy decided that he would only feed from one breast at a time, and for the first few weeks, he sucked so hard that he created blisters and one breast was constantly engorged and leaking. I was constantly feeding: He would sleep for 30-minute intervals and would feed again. I just accepted this, and we slept together – when we could.
Choosing to Co-Sleep
Co-sleeping was not considered a good idea. People in those days said it was unhealthy and the child would not get over it. Also, husbands were supposed to be threatened by a baby in the marital bed; my obstetrician warned me it would break up the marriage. So, I just did not tell anyone I was doing it. The baby health nurse was of the old school and told me to put my baby into a cot and let him cry, that he would soon learn!
This nurse also suggested, at six weeks, that I should give him orange juice. When I asked why – after all, he was putting on a pound a week and was happy – she just said that is what we do! I ignored her and found another community nurse.
My husband was often flying at night, so he did not really care how I managed, so long as I did. And when he was there and sleeping in the day, my husband was happy when Guy and I would join him for naps. The rest of the time, I found that the easiest way to cope was to wear Guy in a sling. All was peaceful. If my husband came home at 4 a.m. and found a baby to play with, this pleased them both.
Other mothers around me adhered to schedules, and their babies must have read the right books, as they slept much more than mine did! Or maybe they just kept up the story to be good moms?
Encouragement from an Unlikely Source
The next year, we moved to Houston and found that people there were even more hostile about nursing babies. Most mothers nursed briefly, if at all. The fact that Guy was nearing his first birthday and still happily nursing I kept to myself. I was even told by some mothers that it was indecent to nurse babies of that age! I did not even bother to tell the doctor until Guy got pneumonia and I managed to nurse him though the whole thing, saving a trip to the hospital and an I.V. drip. The doctor said I probably saved his life!
That doctor gave me some good advice, saying: “A mother knows her child better than anyone, and if the doctor does not understand that, find another doctor!”
I nursed Guy until his second birthday, when one day, I suggested that big boys do not nurse and he promptly stopped. I was shocked and a little sad.
Guy continued to sleep with us most of the time until after his fifth birthday when his little brother arrived. In his first five years of life, we moved six times and lived in three different countries. I am not sure he would have coped with all the moves and changes to his life without the security of sleeping with his parents. He was, by this stage, an extremely sensitive, mature, and intelligent child! He had been high need and would continue to be for many years, but he was a delight to know and be with.
The Beginning of a Cultural Shift, Sort of
During my pregnancy with my second son, Dean, I found a book by Dr. William Sears, Nighttime Parenting. Finally, someone who agreed with what I had done instinctively.
This time, I was having our son in Brisbane, Australia. Everything had changed! Suddenly, my ideas were greeted with support, and I was considered an enlightened mother. Wow, it felt good to be appreciated and even better not to have to hide my beliefs.
My husband was now working in Hong Kong, and two weeks after Dean’s birth, I flew to Hong Kong with the baby and a five-year-old. Hong Kong, it turned out, was not at all friendly toward breastfeeding. The first few days there, I went to a doctor for the beginning stages of mastitis. This doctor was embarrassed by my condition, refused to look at my breasts and prescribed me Valium – even though I had explained I was nursing!
Very few mothers in Hong Kong nursed babies. There was a small group of La Leche League mothers, but they lived in another part of the country. Everyone around me bottlefed. Breastfeeding women were removed from restaurants, and there were no mothers’ rooms available anywhere.
Once again, I was back in an environment where what I was doing was considered all wrong. At least, this time, I had a book that agreed with me. If only we had had the internet back then…back when fax machines were new.
I did not really care what anyone thought. I was exhausted and prepared to do whatever I needed to do for my survival. I was lucky to find a doctor who agreed with my ideas – sadly most did not. Dean happily slept with us and fed nearly all night for more than two years.
Today, my husband and I have been married for 29 years, and we are enjoying being a couple again, although when the time comes, we would love to be involved and supportive grandparents. I am always hoping that young parents will choose to experience the joys of what is now commonly referred to as AP.
I spend my time giving young pregnant women lots of good information from my experience and through books I have collected on birth, breastfeeding, and parenting in general. There is so much more information available today, so many more studies and experts proclaiming the benefits of all that I instinctively knew was right. I like to think it is easier for mothers to follow their instincts these days, but there are so many other pressures competing for their time that I know that AP is just as big a challenge as it was in my day.
Attachment Parenting had not been heard of in Australia at that time – not sure it was being talked about anywhere. Having been briefly in New Guinea, I was aware of how simple life with a baby could be if they were breastfed and being carried in some way. Even the poorest children seemed happy.
Connecting with our children for a more compassionate world.