Tag Archives: toddlers

Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters

By Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW, parent educator, www.growparenting.com. Originally published on TheAttachedFamily.com on May 4, 2012.

“What’s for dinner?”

“Ugh, I hate green beans!”

“Can I have dessert yet?”

“I’m not hungry (but I will be as soon as you clear the table)”

The list of mealtime complaints can go on and on–not to mention the mayhem that may ensue before your little one can even talk. Not many parents can forget the frustration of thrown food, the mess of the yogurt in the hair, or the game of “watch Mommy pick up my bagel over and over again.”

Food is a huge part of human life, and most parents I meet cannot wait to dive into the world of food with their babies. I am the wife of a food blogger and chef, and we must have spent weeks talking about what our first food would be! Little did we know we were in store for a whole lot more than the idyllic family meals of The Cosby Show.

Clearly, Americans seem to have a love-hate relationship with food. Scan the headlines in just about any newspaper, and it’s filled with what to eat, what not to eat, who should eat less, who should eat more. It’s enough to drive an anxious parent to confiscate Halloween candy, only to wallow in chocolate when no one is looking. Continue reading Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters

Cosleeping Reality: Your Toddler’s Bedtime May Be Yours, Too

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Q: Every night, I put my 13-month-old daughter to sleep in our family bed, but shortly afterward, she wakes up and I have to start all over – breastfeeding her and helping her fall asleep. This keeps happening, and I cannot stay up with my husband so we can have a bit of time for ourselves. She also wakes up a lot at night. How can I help my toddler to stay asleep?

A: Some babies and toddlers sleep deeply even after you leave the room, while others become anxious sleepers unless you stay with them at all times. When you leave your toddler in the family bed by herself, her experience is the same as sleeping in a crib because you are not there. Your daughter is obviously not able to sleep away from you even for a short time.

Using sleep as a “babysitter” to provide couple time works well for some families, but not for everyone. Even babies who are able to stay asleep in another room often stop being so accommodating as they grow older. Continue reading Cosleeping Reality: Your Toddler’s Bedtime May Be Yours, Too

A Lullaby Massage Riddle

By Sybil L. Hart, PhD, author of Lullaby Massage

Who would be the last parent to get voted off the island? Would our champ be the one able to take a pair of toddlers camping and return with both still smiling? Or, would she or he be the one able to bake a birthday cake that is a perfect replica of Spider-Man or Cinderella? My vote goes to the one who can take bedtime and make it the highlight of the day, even for the most challenging toddler.

It’s no secret that for some children, bedtime is enormously problematic, and for their parents, tackling it represents the Mount Everest of parenthood. Part of the difficulty finding a solution stems from the fact that bedtime problems arise for a wide variety of reasons. Some children are fearful of the dark, being alone, being abandoned, or all the fun they’ll miss if they’re asleep. Others are tightly wound up, either physically or emotionally, but have no strategy for unwinding. Some fall into both categories, and some are just unfathomable and fall into none. With so many different kinds of causes, it’s not surprising that there are so many different kinds of solutions, and so many floundering efforts to figure out why something that worked yesterday doesn’t seem to work today.

Nevertheless, certain kinds of treatments are so compelling, they work even though we don’t exactly know why. Of course, breastfeeding comes to mind. As nursing mothers the world over know, breastfeeding works for a whole variety of reasons. But most importantly, it works, period. What many Western mothers do not know, though our Eastern sisters have known for centuries, is that massage works, too.

When I developed lullaby massage, it was with the aim of making bedtime beautiful, easy, and fun, not only for children but parents as well, even Western parents who may not be familiar with massage. The technique involves strokes for different parts of the body that children (and all of us) find relaxing, and each type of stroke goes together with a poem. So, with each soft stroke that a child feels, she also receives the sound of her parent’s voice. Some of the words offer humor, others convey warmth and reassurances of love, and underneath it all, there is a message telling parents how to conduct the massage. See if you can figure out how to do the finger massage done to the words:

Five little tubes of toothpaste
Squeeze bottom to top
Then screw on the cap
Don’t waste a drop.

No is Not the Lesson: Solving Power Struggles

By Gaynell Payne

No is not the lessonA part on our dishwasher broke. I spread a towel on the counter and washed the dishes by hand, laying them on the towel to dry. While I was washing, my 23-month-old son wandered in to see what I was doing. Seeing the towel hanging over the counter, the temptation was too much for him. He grabbed the towel and started to pull.

“No, don’t pull that,” I said firmly. He fussed and objected, then reached up again. There was a coffee thermos I’d just washed, so I handed it to him to play with instead. He snatched it enthusiastically, but looked back at the towel. He reached up with his free hand and tugged.

“No, you can’t pull on that,” I repeated. He fussed, then pointed to the thermos lid still on the towel. I handed it to him and soon he was happily playing on the floor beside me.

It’s possible that some people would say that my son “won” in this scenario. I didn’t use the opportunity to drive home the word “no” and all of its negative connotations. Instead I distracted him with something else that I knew he liked to play with.

The Classic Power Struggle – Ending in Punishment

Alternate Scenario: My son grabs the towel and starts to pull. “No, don’t pull that,” I say firmly. He looks at me and cries while I continue to wash dishes. In a minute he grabs the towel again, pulling harder. “No!” I yell. “I said, DON’T PULL THAT!” Being yelled at always sends him into a crying tantrum. This time he objects by trying to pull the towel and all of its contents off of the counter. This, in turn, spurs me to have to be even tougher with him to win what I perceive as a power struggle. I have to resort to punishment.

There are several ways parents proceed from here, from spanking to yelling to time-outs. They often involve the eventual domination of the child, and the lesson to him is that he is not the power holder – the parent is.

What is Discipline?

Discipline is teaching a child about the world, and how we conduct ourselves to get along with others in the world. Power struggles are often involved when you are teaching discipline to a child, but they should not be the subject of the teaching. Too often parents get confused, caught up in the struggle. The object lesson then becomes about who is in control. It often ends with the child in tears and the parent claiming an uneasy victory in the lesson, “I hold the power, not you.” Is it any wonder that these lessons end up — by design — making the child feel powerless?

The Classic Power Struggle – Ending in Bribery

Alternate Scenario: My son grabs the towel and starts to pull. “Please don’t pull that,” I say. He looks at me and pouts. He immediately grabs the towel again, pulling harder. “Stop!” I cry, grabbing his hand. He struggles to free himself. “If you stop, I’ll give you this thermos!” I say frantically. “You always like to play with this thermos!” I give him the thermos. He looks at it skeptically and throws it down, reaching for the towel again. “How about a cookie?” I say. “If you stop, I’ll give you a cookie!” That usually gets his cooperation. He lets me pick him up and holds his hand out for the cookie. Then he holds out his other hand, wanting a second cookie. I give it to him because two cookies will keep him occupied longer while I try to finish up real fast and get the towel out of his way. On the way back to the sink, I trip over the rejected thermos.

What is Redirection?

Choices are wonderful things to give children, but there is a distinct difference between redirection and bribery:

  • Bribery is an if-then statement: “If you stop pulling on the towel, then I’ll give you this toy to play with.” This statement gives the child too much power. It tells the child he has the choice to continue to do something that you do not wish. It implies that you are desperate and begging for him to choose to stop. This continues the uneven power course in giving him all the power and you little or none.
  • Legitimate choices are given on an even basis, without taking authority away from the parent: “Which DVD do you want to watch: Movie A or Movie B?” “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” I suggest that any parent should look for opportunities to let their child make choices as often as possible. It’s their life, and they should feel as if their input matters. When they are validated in this way on a regular basis, it is easier for them to accept “no” when it’s necessary.

Was My Son Trying to Dominate Me?

To understand what’s going on, we have to get a little analytical about the situation. Once we understand the whys, it will be easier to judge how to handle it.

Why did my son pull on the towel? Because toddlers have a very strong need to explore their world. It is a pre-programmed drive that urges them to get out there and learn. As adults, we have been there and back and don’t see what the big deal is. It’s obvious to us what will happen if you pull on a towel that is loaded with dishes. Sometimes we forget that it’s not so obvious to them. We perceive their actions as if it they were adults and their actions are purposeful attempts to make a mess. Some would even go so far as to think that the child was making mischief just to provoke them or make their life harder, like some form of revenge or passive-aggressive behavior. Manipulative is a word often mistakenly associated with young children. It is sad because it invalidates the true and innocent need for a child to get a handle on the world around him.

There is a term in psychology called projecting. It’s very much like it sounds. When a person has unhealthy feelings about themselves, they expect that others have these feelings about them, too. They then project them onto someone else, even when that someone else is not really feeling that way.

It’s often the young child that gets to be the screen that the parent’s unresolved issues are projected onto. Young children, even after they’ve learned to talk, are so often unable to articulate their feelings or control their emotions. This allows ample opportunity for an insecure person to see things in their children that aren’t there. For example, instead of seeing that the child has a healthy drive to explore, their willfulness can be perceived as insolence or a lack of respect. This taps into the parent’s insecurities that say they are not good enough to be respected. This may be doubly hard to hear (though it’s not actually being said) coming from a child — their own child no less! So the parent comes down harder. They must get respect out of that child, whatever the cost.

Meanwhile the child is getting another message altogether. They are getting the message that their needs are bad, and their efforts to get those needs met will not be respected. They will be punished. They are also getting the message that they are not good enough to be respected, and that they are only an insignificant child.

Is it any wonder that a child whose parents perpetuate this power struggle, over time comes to believe that he isn’t good enough and not respectable? In the future, if he doesn’t deal with those feelings of insecurity, he may come to have a child and find their curiosity a reflection of his parents’ lack of respect for him. And so the tragic cycle continues.

The Lesson

It’s the winding path of parenthood that often makes us forget the real lesson we were trying to teach in each situation. In fact, like most parents, I hardly ever reflect on the practicality of each event in that way. But it’s important sometimes to come back to it, if only to get our bearings.

So what was the lesson? In other words, why did I say “no” to my son? In this instance, it was because pulling the towel down would have undesirable consequences. But, you may object, he did not learn that. No, he didn’t and he won’t for a while. The only way to teach him that lesson would have been to let him pull it on his head, possibly causing injury to himself, and making a lot of work for me. I trust in the course of time and more gentle experiments that he will learn the cause and effect of actions such as this. Since I was unable to help him learn what he was curious about, I still recognized his attempts as part of the base need to explore and learn. So I made a substitution. I gave him the thermos, because I knew he was curious about that also. He had been exploring it in the past few days; imitating Daddy and pretending to drink out of it. It was neither bribery nor dismissal; it was redirection.

Instead of dismissing my child’s actions, I tried to hear what he was saying to me. In this case, it was, “I want to learn. I need to explore.” Because I listened to him, he listened to me when I said “no.” Even after he was finished playing with the thermos, he didn’t try to pull the towel down again. As a mom, I consider that successful discipline.

Decoding Tantrums

By Stephanie Petters, leader of API of North Fulton, Georgia

**Originally published in the Spring 2007 annual New Baby issue of The Journal of API

TantrumWhen a parent utters the word tantrum to another parent, the reaction is either a supportive smile or a grimace of dread; I have yet to see or hear another parent respond with glee. And really, who blames her? Until recently, tantrums were considered manipulation by the child to control the parent.

Times are changing, and the subject of childhood tantrums has new meaning and insight for parents. We now understand the reasons and/or causes of tantrums, how to effectively manage them while remaining connected to our children, and how to take preventive action for the tantrums that you can control.

What is a Tantrum?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tantrum is a fit of a bad temper. Connection Parenting, by Pam Leo, defines a temper tantrum as a spillover of emotions, while the tantrum is the release of the accumulated hurts not seen by the parents. In Elizabeth Pantley’s Gentle Baby Care, a baby tantrum is defined as an abrupt and sudden loss of emotional control. Continue reading Decoding Tantrums

Modified Demand Feeding and the Weaning Toddler

By Deborah Bershatsky, PhD

Weaning ToddlerAt two years old, my son Ezra was a happy child, who seems to handle the frustrations of becoming socialized and civilized with amazing ease. If things got to be too much for him, he sought out momentary comfort at his mother’s breast, his tears were dried, tantrums were avoided, and hurts were healed.

At that time, he began the night in his own bed, and when he awakened to nurse, we took him into our bed for the rest of the night. He nursed once more before he awakened at 7 a.m., unless he is teething or ill, in which case he may nurse several times more.

By the time a child is two years old, it is appropriate to consider the approach of modified demand feeding, a technique that allows the child to nurse on demand but also allows the mother to gently nudge the child to feed on a schedule. Twos are ready to begin learning the truth that we cannot always have everything we want exactly when we want it. A child’s wants are no longer necessarily his needs.

A Budding Ability to Wait

At two and a half years old, Ezra could finally understand it when I said at 3 a.m.: “I need to sleep; no more nursing now.” Most of the time, he would roll over and go back to sleep, but occasionally his need was greater than mine and he insisted. I relented and let him nurse, but slowly I began to see that the ability to wait was developing in this little person. I recognized it as a first step toward weaning.

The Truth about the Terrible Twos

It is the struggle over learning the protection of infancy and facing the real world that has earned this age the name of “terrible twos.” It is terrible to a two-year-old to realize how small and powerless he really is in the world. If it comes upon him too suddenly or intensely, he will fight against it with his whole being and his behavior may indeed be terrible. But if his parents work with him, allowing him to regress at times and setting limits with love, and if he can find refuge in his mother’s arms when he feels overwhelmed, two can be more terrific than terrible. The two-year-old who still nurses has a wonderful way to ease the tensions and difficulties of growing up.

Also at this age, the child has more sophisticated needs of his mother. In addition to nursing, it is important that she distinguish his need to engage her in play or work from the need to merge and be close. A tired mother may be tempted to offer her breast to a toddler who wants her attention, just for the chance to have a few moments off her feet. It would be unwise to do this too often since we do want to help our children to begin the process of gradually letting go of babyhood.

Weaning Gives Way to Other Types of Bonding

Many mothers of toddlers who still nurse wonder whether they will ever wean. All children give up diapers eventually and use the toilet, babyhood, and all that goes with it. Nursing slowly gives way to early childhood, and one by one, baby needs are abandoned in favor of more mature pursuits. However, if a mother wants her child to be content with less time at her breast, she must be willing to give more of herself. A weaning child needs more, not less, of his mother’s time and attention.

If a mother wants her child to be content with less time at her breast, she must be willing to give more of herself. A weaning child needs more, not less, of his mother’s time and attention.

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 http://kidsheath.org, say crawling babies are old enough to hear “no.” Other sources, such as www.drphil.com, 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 www.askdrsears.com, 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 AskDrSears.com, “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.

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”
FoodsAndNutrition.co.uk – “Dealing with Picky Eaters”
JustMommies.com – “Tips for Dealing with a Picky Eater”
ParentingMyToddler.com – “Feeding Strategies for Toddlers – What Not to Do”
SheKnows.com – “Getting Toddlers to Eat Their Veggies”

Focus on the Simple Moments

By Nikki Schaefer, staff writer for The Attached Family


On a rainy day, I took my three-year-old son to the restaurant with the golden arches, thinking that he would love to go down the big slides. He did…one time…then stopped to take a bite of his apple dippers.

I asked him, “Do you want to go down the slides again?”

“No,” he replied emphatically. “All done!”

He began to gobble down a few more slices. Having trouble believing that a child would not want to play in Playland, I asked him again, “Do you want to go down the slides?”

“NO,” he said, “ALL DONE!”

He began to run around in circles yelling, “Circle! Circle!” His blond curls bobbed up and down with a toothy smile across his face as he continued to run around, over and over again.

Amused, I watched my son closely. “This is why I love being a mom,” I thought. “What a joy it is to watch this little person take such delight in something so simple.”

It was in that instance I was reminded that, it is not in the jungle gyms of life but in the daily cycles of being where the greatest joys are found.

In a culture that teaches that a child needs Disneyland, a dance class, and a soccer team at age three to find satisfaction, my child reminded me that what he needs most is the space to “be.” My call as a mother of a young child is to allow him the freedom to run, spin, laugh, dance, chase a bug, touch the rain, paint a mural, or just “be.” My job is to create the margins in my life to hold him, talk to him, delight in him, mend an ouchie, pour a glass of milk, and share the wonders of God.

Sometimes, the Playlands of life have their place. It is good to get out of the house, move our bodies, change the scene, and experience some of the greater amusements…from time to time. Yet, instead of always ordering the Big Macs, we are called to “supersize the ordinary.” By consciously choosing not to focus on the highs of life, but instead on the simple moments, we as parents choose a love for our families that is extraordinary indeed.

My call as a mother of a young child is to allow him the freedom to run, spin, laugh, dance, chase a bug, touch the rain, paint a mural, or just “be.”

Beyond Babies…Promoting Attachment Through Feeding of Older Children

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

Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting calls parents to feed their children with love and respect. With infants, this easily translates into breastfeeding or “bottle nursing.”

But what does this mean once children transition to solid foods? How do parents continue AP as their children grow?

An Act of Love

First, parents need to remember that providing food to their children, no matter the age, is an act of love and a way to strengthen their emotional bond. By feeding them, parents are fulfilling a vital physical need. When children’s needs are met, they feel closer to their parents. This doesn’t change as babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into older children.

More than simply offering food, parents reveal how much they care for their children by offering healthy foods and modeling healthy food selection. This may mean that parents, themselves, have to change their eating habits, which can be difficult. This may also mean disagreements between parents and their children as they grow and are exposed to more models of unhealthy habits, especially as teens when peer influence begins to compete with the parental attachment.

Not Always Easy, But Worth the Work

Feeding with love and respect may seem to be one of the easier Attachment Parenting tools offered by Attachment Parenting International – that is, until the first time a weaned toddler decides to refuse all solid foods offered, except graham crackers, for a week. It’s the first sign of independence in the feeding department, and it can make parents worry about whether their child is getting all the nutrients he needs to thrive.

The advice for these parents, in dealing with challenges in feeding their children, is to explore strategies that are attachment-friendly. Forcing a child to eat a food she doesn’t want to eat doesn’t promote attachment; encouraging her to be a picky eater by not offering a variety of foods is unhealthy. Parents often have to be creative in coming up with AP solutions and may have to try several ideas before finding one or a couple that work.

Be Creative in Problem-Solving

It’s important to remember that one size does not fit all, and what may work for one parent may not work for another. Some parents say to simply not worry about a picky eater, that the child is eating as much as he needs and will eat more if he needs to; others find that if they don’t encourage their child to eat more foods that she consistently refuses to try new foods. Some parents trust their teens to make healthy food choices when they’re with their friends; other parents find that talking to their teens about the potential medical consequences of unhealthy food choices what works best.

No one knows a child, and what strategies will work to encourage healthy eating, better than her parent.

The advice for these parents, in dealing with challenges in feeding their children, is to explore strategies that are attachment-friendly.