Chapter 15: How Parents Can Prevent Conflicts by Modifying Themselves
Chapter 16: The Other Parents of Your Children
Our discussions happen on GoodReads, so don’t hesitate to join in the conversation. We read a chapter a week. Sometimes you can’t get through the chapter and yet you’ll find you’ll still be able to participate in the conversation. So come join the other 500+ members who are already part of the conversation!
There are 500+ members waiting to read and discuss AP-oriented books with you. Are you already one of those members? If not, what are you waiting for?! Join the club at API’s online book club held through GoodReads.
For Siblings Without Rivalry, we will be reading chapters one to three in November. The topics for these chapters will be:
How This Book Came to Be
Chapter 1: Brothers and Sisters — Past and Present
Chapter 2: Not Til the Bad Feelings Come Out…
Chapter 3: The Perils of Comparisons
For Parent Effectiveness Training, we’ll be reading Chapters 10 to 12. The topics for these chapters will be on:
Chapter 10: Parental Power – Necessary or Justified?
Chapter 11: The “No-Lose” Method for Resolving Conflicts
Chapter 12: Parents’ Fears and Concerns About the “No-Lose” Method
Our discussions happen on GoodReads, so don’t hesitate to join in the conversation. We read a chapter a week and sometimes you can’t get through the chapter and yet you’ll find you’ll still be able to participate in the conversation. So come join the other 500+ members who are already part of the conversation!
Have you joined the API Reads movement? If not, now is your time to do so. We are still reading Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, MD, and Mary Hartzell, MEd for the general audience and for those with children under the school-age years. We will also be reading Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon for those with children who are in the school-age years and above.
For Parenting from the Inside Out, in the month of October we will be finishing up the book by reading chapters 7-9. The topics for these chapters will be:
Chapter 7 – How We Keep It Together and How We Fall Apart
Chapter 8 – How We Disconnect and Reconnect: Rupture and Repair
Chapter 9 – How We Develop Mindsight: Compassion and Reflective Dialogues
Chapter 5 – How to Listen to Kids Too Young to Talk Much
Chapter 6 – How to Talk So Kids Will Listen to You
Chapter 7 – Putting I-Messages to Work
Chapter 8 – Changing Unacceptable Behavior by Changing the Environment
Chapter 9 – Inevitable Parent-Child Conflicts: Who Should Win?
Our discussions happen on GoodReads, so don’t hesitate to join in the conversation. We read a chapter a week, and sometimes you can’t get through the chapter and yet you’ll find you’ll still be able to participate in the conversation. So come join the other 500+ members who are already part of the conversation!
This is an exciting month for API Reads in which you, the reader, get to choose which direction you’ll go in your reading.
We are still reading Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, MD, and Mary Hartzell for the general audience and for those with children under the school-age years. We will also be reading Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon for those with children who are in the school-age years and above.
For Parenting from the Inside Out, we have read the Introduction, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. For the month of September we will be reading Chapters 3 to 6. The topics for these chapters will be:
Chapter 3 – How We Feel: Emotion in Our Internal and Interpersonal Worlds
Chapter 4 – How We Communicate: Making Connections
Chapter 5 – How We Attach: Relationships Between Children and Parents
Chapter 6 – How We Make Sense of Our Lives: Adult Attachment
Chapter 3 – How to Listen So Kids Will Talk to You: The Language of Acceptance
Chapter 4 – Putting Your Active Listening Skill to Work
Our discussions happen on GoodReads, so don’t hesitate to join in the conversation. We read a chapter a week, and sometimes you can’t get through the chapter and yet may find that you will still be able to participate in the conversation. So come join the other 400+ members who are already part of the conversation!
Principle 8: Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life – Peace Within Creates Peace at Home
Chapter 10: Nurturing Children for a Compassionate World
Wrapping it all up
We will also begin our discussion of Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, MD, and Mary Hartzell, MEd once Attached at the Heart is finished. Starting on August 17, we’ll be discussing the Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2.
We have a new and exciting launch to API Reads that will begin in September! We will be launching the option of reading a book focused on the younger child set (birth to preschool) and one focused on the older child set (school-age and above) to be read simultaneously. This will allow you to focus on the book that seems of the most interest to you at the time. We are truly excited about this new offering and hope you will be too. Come check out GoodReadsto see what books are in the queue so far!
Our discussions happen on GoodReads, so don’t hesitate to join in the conversation. We read a chapter a week. Sometimes you can’t get through the chapter but you’ll find you’ll still be able to participate in the conversation. So come join the other 400+ members who are already part of the conversation!
When my children were young, it was common for me to take them when I traveled for speaking engagements. At their stages of development, they still wanted and needed to stay close to me.
I recall a psychologist friend of mine doubting my decision to take my then two-year-old with me. “If he cries it will help him to recover from past experiences of separation,” she said. She felt that the best way to get over separation anxiety is to encourage separations.
However, my child had no past experiences of separation to overcome, and I wanted to keep him free of such experience as long as he needed my uninterrupted closeness.
By nature there is no such a thing as “separation anxiety.” Instead, there is a healthy need of a child to be with her mother. Only a deprivation of a need creates anxiety. If we honor the need for uninterrupted physical closeness as long the child needs it, no anxiety develops. The concept “separation anxiety” is the invention of a society that denies a baby’s and child’s need for uninterrupted connection. In this vein, we can deprive a child of food and describe her reaction as “hunger anxiety,” or we can let her be cold and call her cries “temperature anxiety.”
My son, Lennon Aldort, says it well: “Our modern society and the nuclear family are large-scale experiments in extreme deprivation of the needs of both children and parents.” Parents are doing their best to move away from denying children their needs. Yet sometimes even the most securely attached parents, under pressure from extended family and friends, expect a child to live up to external expectations.
Some parents feel pressure to compare their children to others: “How come the other child is willing to be without his mother?” I always reassure parents by pointing out that the other child is a different person, and it is possible that the other child has, unfortunately, given up on what is best for himself. If your child is insisting on what is best for her, it is a reason to rejoice and to know that your parenting approach is empowering her self-confidence.
Stages of development
The confusion starts when we see a child as seemingly regressing. She was happy to stay without you at age two, and is suddenly back to needing you all the time at age three. But should we call this a “separation anxiety?” Or is it our own “intolerance for changing back and forth anxiety?”
Children try new things for a while only to recapture their old “baby” ways with gusto a year later. These changes are part of their steps forward. There is no rule that says that once a child achieves something, she must stick to it. In fact, observation tells us that most children go through such changes. They sometimes return to a former familiar stage to establish more confidence and gain a new momentum. Normal development in the early years may be two steps forward and one step back, a balance between exploring autonomy and feeling the need for security. They must feel secure and know that the door behind them never shuts, or they will not dare to try new territory.
Another reason children try things and then retreat is precisely because they become more aware. The world appears quite simple and safe to a toddler: Mommy, Daddy, couch, kitchen, doggy, yard, street, et cetera. As the child’s awareness grows, everything becomes larger and scarier. There is so much more unknown and so much that can happen. The child must be sure that springing out of the familiar doesn’t burn the bridge behind her. Being sure of that, she can try more new experiences with confidence.
Sonya asked for my advice about her five-year-old child’s “separation anxiety.” “Haya wants to be with me at all times,” she said. “She even joins me in the bathroom.” Such a need can be natural even in a child who was never pushed too soon to be away from mom. But in Haya’s case, there was an early attempt to leave her at a nice, small preschool for half days. She seemed to enjoy the school but was having a hard time departing from her mother in the morning. “She was fearful and clingy, and over time she started to be more whiny at home and less happy,” her mother said.
I suggested stopping taking Haya to preschool. The result was immediate and dramatic:
“I got my child back,” Sonya said. “She is happy again and self-engaged, but she is still unable to be away from me.” Haya will regain her trust and confidence. She needs time in which there is no reminder of her experience of separation. She must know that it is up to her to be without mom. When we respond to the child, rather than try to manipulate her development, she can stay content. Keep a benign attitude of trust and peace with no hints of future expectations. On the other side, stay away from drama about her need for you. With no agenda, the child will act from within.
What if parents work away from home?
In many families, one or both parents work outside the home. Regardless of what options you may have, if you leave the baby or young child before she is ready, she is likely to develop anxiety about losing you. There are ways to alleviate the hurt and reduce the anxiety. If possible, the baby or child could stay in a familiar and loved space, such as at home or in another familiar home, with one or two intimately familiar people who love her, like Daddy, a grandparent or another consistent and loving caregiver.
Breastfeeding is nature’s magical way of telling you to stay close to your baby and toddler. When you go to work without your baby, do express milk for her but also minimize the time you are away. If after you return home your baby cries a lot, or your child is cranky and clingy, give her your full attention, validate her feelings and let the tears flow so she can heal.
Always validate and give outlet to self-expression. “You want mommy to stay with you. I know. I miss you too. I love you so much. Tell me about your day.” Make peace with your child’s anxiety about your absence, so you are not anxious yourself. Your child needs a secure parent who can listen to her.
Denial teaches denial
Some parents believe that by denying the child’s need repeatedly and consistently, the child will develop the “muscle” and learn to be comfortable away from mom. Unfortunately, the child does learn to be away from mom, but in doing so, she must detach emotionally and ignore her own inner voice. The process is not one of developing inner strength, but of resignation and of losing trust.
What we see externally is not always what the child experiences inside. As one three-year-old said to her mother: “At daycare I look smiling outside, but I am crying inside.” The innate drive of the child to please us and seek our approval causes her to comply rather than choose authentically. She learns to deny her own inner voice and follow external expectations instead because she yearns to fit in with our world. In order to do this, she must shut down her feelings and her sense of connection. Training your child to give up on herself and follow others leads to insecure teenagers and adults who, thoughtlessly, follow peer pressure, media and other external influences.
Each family must make the child care choices that they feel are best, and we must learn to love the life we have so the child will develop emotional resilience. But do allow for crying, validate the feeling and know that she may develop a separation anxiety that you will want to keep healing.
Rejoice in your child’s connection
When children rage and refuse to separate, I always celebrate. “Your child is not a tameable one,” I say. “You must have done a wonderful job of protecting her authentic being.” The more the child is rooted in herself, the less you can sway her away from who she is. We call it confidence.
When your child tells you confidently in words or actions, “I want to stay with you all the time,” and you respond to her need, she learns, “I can trust myself. My mom trusts me and takes my cues seriously.” The child who relies on herself and does not deny herself in an attempt to please you is developing self-reliance and confidence. She stays connected not only to you but to herself, creating bridges of love and inner independence.
By Tamara Parnay. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine.
Birthing is a hugely important subject for parents and parents-to-be. We have a great deal to learn from and share with others, but with this subject, due to its potential contentiousness, we may struggle in our attempts to tap into our collective wealth of knowledge and experience. While the purpose of this article is not to sway readers one way or another about where and how to give birth, it does intend to point out the availability of a wide range of firsthand birth stories, which—perhaps more effectively than any other form of childbirth education—encourages and enables expectant parents to inform and prepare themselves.
Cultivating an empathetic environment for the sharing of our birth stories is a first step towards returning to women the wisdom and control of giving birth. These stories are powerful and empowering. Childbirth is one of life’s most marvelous, miraculous experiences. Giving birth is not only about having babies; it’s also about motherhood. In the same light, sharing birth stories is not only about providing or collecting information; it’s also about community.
As for anything so personal, we need to start by providing a non-threatening environment conducive to open, heart-to-heart participation.
The topic of birthing is highly charged. The contention seems to arise mainly between those who have had natural births or homebirths and those who, for whatever reason, haven’t. One side may come across as patronizing, smug and self-serving. The other side may seem insecure, defensive, envious and even ill-informed.
The Best Birthing Option
Expectant parents who have researched and considered all the birthing options available to them, while taking into account their own values and beliefs, are making an informed, proactive decision. They may plan on any combination of options, such as an assisted or unassisted homebirth, a birth center birth, a natural hospital birth, a hospital birth with minimal pain relief, a hospital birth with maximum pain relief, and even a planned Cesarean section. Of course, there may be unforeseen events that could change Plan A to Plan B, and these changes may be completely out of anyone’s control. So, for instance, those planning on a natural homebirth would need to consider the possibility, remote as it may be, of ending up in a hospital having an emergency Cesarean section.
Maternity care providers in all steps of the process, from pre-pregnancy through postnatal care, need to move more in the direction of assisting people in having personalized birth plans and helping them to safely realize these plans. In other words, maternity care providers must consider the family to be an integral part of the decision-making process.
With informed planning, financial considerations need to be taken into account: Some families may not be able to afford private care. Risk factors must also be considered: It may not be advisable to plan a homebirth for a high-risk pregnancy. Some women might desire pain relief, even considering it to be a crucial part of their birth plan. They may not want to experience the pain of birthing. Pain sensitivity may vary greatly from one person to the next, which would mean that some women may not be able to cope with pain as well as others. If pain relief wasn’t available to some women during labor, their birth experience could be overshadowed, even complicated, by their overwhelming inability to cope with the pain. We can never know what another’s experience is truly like. Parents-to-be need to be realistic about their circumstances and thus deserve to be free to make informed and unfettered decisions about their birth plan. Once they have become informed, the best combination of options for any family is that which they feel best suits them at the time.
Natural vs. Medicated Birth, Hospital vs. Home
Some mothers who have experienced a natural birth may find it difficult to understand why others have not, cannot, or do not desire to do so. Some natural birthers have described to me how they were successful at getting themselves into the right zone, pointing out that they had made the right choices; they emphasized that they hadn’t given up when the going got tough; and they described how they felt in complete control during their birth experience.
For some who chose or needed medical intervention, doubts and “what ifs” may creep into their thoughts when they hear natural birthers’ stories, even if they have processed their birth experience and have come to terms with any disappointment they may have felt, assuming they were disappointed at all. I have heard comments such as, “I must not have been able to get myself into the right frame of mind,” “I think I made some bad choices,” and “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.” Their insecurities and defensiveness may actually end up reinforcing and perpetuating the attitude that all women can control every aspect of their birthing experience and its outcome if they really want to.
For some who choose a homebirth, they may feel misunderstood, even humiliated, by hospital birth advocates who consider home birthers to be reckless with their baby’s and/or their own well-being. Comments such as, “It’s risky business to birth at home” or “Something could go wrong, and then your baby’s and even your own life could be in jeopardy,” may undermine the confidence of those who are considering a homebirth.
Competition at the Root of Contention?
What might cause these misunderstandings and ill feelings to develop? Perhaps the answer lies in our culturally driven need to compete.
Western society emphasizes individual competition. Competition is not only prevalent in mainstream settings, it also exists in alternative communities and social circles. Society instills in us the need to compare the many things in our lives in order to determine what’s better or what’s best. Then we generalize that “What’s best for me must be best for you, too.” In setting up a better than/worse than dichotomy, competition stifles our ability to empathize with each other.
According to the article “Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict” by Brad Spangler on BeyondIntractability.org: “Obstructiveness and lack of helpfulness lead to mutual negative attitudes and suspicion of one another’s intentions. One’s perceptions of the other tend to focus on the person’s negative qualities and ignore the positives.”
Unspoken irrational comparisons might take place, such as: “I had the shortest and least complicated natural birth,” “Oh! My natural birth took longer than hers” and “Oh no! How can I share my birth story? I didn’t even have a natural birth!” For many reasons, everyone loses in competitive situations like this. One unfortunate consequence is that non-natural birthers may feel uneasy about sharing their birth stories. We may all lose out on their valuable input, because we don’t end up having the chance to view the bigger picture.
A competitive atmosphere that develops surrounding the sharing of birth experiences is a clear sign that on an individual level, everyone needs to reflect more on their own birthing experience. If individuals find themselves proving others wrong in order to make themselves feel right, then they need to have a look at possible reasons why. They need to give themselves—and then each other—credit where credit is due, as well as acknowledge their good fortune.
According to Spangler, cooperative conversation is characterized by “‘effective communication,’ where ideas are verbalized and group members pay attention to one another and accept their ideas and are influenced by them. These groups have less problems communicating with and understanding others. … Friendliness, helpfulness and less obstructiveness is expressed in conversations.”
Sharing with Empathy
A practical idea for encouraging a less competitive environment is to discover what we do have in common. So, it would make sense to emphasize the ways we have promoted bonding with our newborns from the time they entered into our lives. It is helpful to “fast forward” to the present time and talk about what we are doing now—and tomorrow—to remain securely attached to our children.
When we can get beyond our feelings of competitiveness, we are able to foster a healthy dialogue because we are more receptive to what others have to say. In a cooperative setting, “members tend to be generally more satisfied with the group … as well as being impressed by the contributions of other group members,” writes Spangler. Through empathic listening, we are less likely to make assumptions about others’ views, motives and feelings and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are able to:
Reflect on others’ birthing experiences
“Try on” their situation—their “truth”—by imagining ourselves in their place
Give validation and empathy, but not in the form of an unsolicited therapy session
Increase our own knowledge of and sensitivity to birthing issues
Help each other move on to our current parenting situations by sharing ideas for remaining as securely attached as possible to our children today, tomorrow and in the years to come.
In a fully accepting and flexible atmosphere, people are safe to make themselves vulnerable by sharing their feelings, needs, disappointments, triumphs and dreams. Natural birthers are able to view non-natural birthers’ experiences and concerns with sincere, unbiased interest and empathy, and they will softly share their own birthing experience. Mothers who did not experience the birth they had hoped for will feel understood because their own birthing stories are validated, and they will be able to share in the joy of other parents who had the birth experience they had hoped for. Feelings of satisfaction we derive from feeling superior are fleeting; the good feelings we receive by helping other people feel good are long lasting.
Even the most informed people can run into unplanned, and sometimes serious, complications during the birth process. By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated. Through our positive and non-judgmental contributions to this contentious topic, we create a collective harmony that enables everyone to leave the discussion feeling good. We bring these good feelings home to our families. Thus, the empathy we have given to each other touches the greatest gift we all receive in our birthing experience: our own children.
To read our growing collection of birth stories–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached Family.com.
World peace, for many, may seem like an unattainable ideal. Not so for families finding support through Attachment Parenting International (API), whose research-backed parenting approach promotes healthy relationships rooted in nonviolent communication and respectful interactions, extending a model of peaceful living into the community.
API cofounders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker celebrated the organization’s 20th anniversary during a teleseminar hosted by parent educator and author Susan Stiffelman, as part of an online parenting conference on March 18-21. A Shift Network event, the API-cosponsored Parenting with Presence Summit gathered together 25 parenting experts and visionaries to share their perspectives on parenthood. The event was available to the public at no cost.
“Ultimately, we’re wanting world peace,” said Nicholson, who presented a session sharing the title of the book she coauthored with Parker, Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children. “The mother-father-baby: that little unit is really the core of it all.”
Stiffelman agreed, concluding that many people who are moved toward furthering world peace can make a profound impact without ever leaving home: “The fact is, under our own roofs, if we have children, we can make a dramatic difference in our world.”
Throughout their session, Nicholson’s and Parker’s core message echoed what API has promoted from its beginning—that parents can be nurturing, warm and sensitive while raising emotionally healthy, responsible children. API can provide the guidance and support for parents who need it.
“We didn’t want to spank our children,” said Parker about what inspired API’s foundation. “We wanted to practice more positive discipline, but we were still at the beginning stages. We were each other’s support. The essence of API is parent support.”
Leading up to 1994 when API was first organized, there was a budding awareness in the professional community regarding the importance of attachment research on child development. However, there were no widely circulating resources offering this information to the public.
“We felt there needed to be an organization to get all this information to parents,” Nicholson said.
Fast forward 20 years: Parent education, rooted in attachment science and neurobiology, has permeated much of Western society. API continues to educate and support parents and professionals in adopting healthier approaches to raising children, as well as to introduce new areas of research that further validates API’s Eight Principles of Parenting.
“The Eight Principles are not rules you have to follow, but there is science supporting each of them,” Parker said.
For example, the latest edition of Attached at the Heart covers new information on ultrasounds during pregnancy as well as a new scientific field called epigenetics, which intersects the nature-nurture debate to demonstrate that the choices that parents make can influence the genetic expression for their grandchildren.
“We’re now beyond learning the importance of nurture,” Nicholson said. “It’s exciting but also very daunting. Who we hang out with, what we do, how we eat—everything affects our genetic code.”
During the Parenting with Presence Summit session with API’s cofounders, Stiffelman also explored myths of Attachment Parenting and practical tips to help parents and grandparents bond with a baby beyond breastfeeding, and how API strives to empower parents in following their biological intuition, rather than going along with conflicting conventional wisdom, in raising their children.
“The message is about knowing what’s best for you and your child,” Parker said.
We’ve started talking about Giving the Love That Heals by Harville Hendrix, PhD and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD. The topics we’ll be discussing in April will be:
Growing Yourself Up
The Stage of Attachment
The Stage of Exploration
The Stage of Identity
The Stage of Competence
So far we’ve learned how our unconscious mind has controlled most of our parenting based upon our own upbringing. We do have the power to change these unconscious decisions though. We can do so through our actions and our intentional dialogue with our children. We’ve been having a few deep discussions. Our discussions happen on GoodReads.