Always a Bundle of Joy

Thursday, July 28, 2011 4 comments
Cutest Baby

Remember when you first held your newborn in your arms? So sweet. So precious. Your little bundle of joy. Recall the first time you gazed into her eyes. You remember fondly the first time your baby smiled, rolled over, and began to crawl. Your heart fluttered the first time she said "mama" or "dada." You cheered him on as he took his first step. Everyone gushes over babies. They're so innocent.

Then your baby becomes a toddler, and suddenly you're flooded with warnings. "Uh-oh! Watch out now!" "Look out! Here come the terrible twos!" In the span of a few short months on Earth, children go from innocent to trouble.


Somehow, the innocence has already been lost. Now they become almost an adversary. They start manipulating us with their tantrums! They begin testing our authority! If you're not careful, they'll even try to run the house!

Do you think this common perception of toddlers and preschoolers skews the way we view their behavior from the get-go? Do you think all the labels we have pinned on young children, such as "brats" and "terrible twos" and "tyrannical threes" may have distorted our lens through which we view them?

What if it's all wrong? What if there is no manipulation? What if innocence is not lost? In Dr. Becky Bailey's book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (which I adore, by the way), there is an entire chapter on positive intent. Here is an excerpt from that chapter.
When you attribute negative intent to others, you subtly attack them. Your attempt to make them feel bad about themselves and their choices is a form of assault. You actually implant a feeling of danger in others every time you try to make them feel bad, wrong, or responsible for your upset, and this sense of being in danger usually creates conflict, as the other person becomes defensive, not cooperative. The conflict mounts if you proceed with your own agenda without inspiring the other person to cooperate. When you learn to attribute positive intent to other people, you possess a powerful skill. It is the skill you need to transform opposition into cooperation.

Trouble in Zilker Park

The majority of "problems" we have with our young children are due to us attributing a negative intent to their actions. We perceive that they are manipulating us through tantrums. What if, instead, we perceive they are overwhelmed with emotions and need comforting? We perceive that they are testing our authority. What if, instead, we perceive that they are attempting to get a need met in the only way they know how? What if we perceive that they are developing autonomy instead of defying us? What if we can let go of negative perceptions and stop attributing negative intentions on their behavior? Dr. Bailey says a very powerful statement:
By attributing negative motives to him, you highlight character flaws that he, in turn, incorporates into his self-concept.
Of course we don't want our children to have a negative self-concept. We want them to believe they are caring, compassionate, accepted, and loved. We want them to have confidence. We want them to have a positive self-concept! How we do ensure that they do? By attributing positive intent to their actions. By providing care, compassion, acceptance, and love to them without conditions, just as we did when they were newborns.
"Misbehavior in children is an attempt to communicate, when all else has failed. Children have a drive to love other people and to be a contribution to the people around them. It is time for all children to be recognized as the magnificent people they are, and accorded the dignity and respect that is due every human being. We must establish a new way of seeing children." - The Kids' Project
Leave behind old perceptions. Change your lens. Look deep into the eyes of your 2, 4, 8, or 12-year old. Those same eyes you gazed into that first day. Look for the innocence. Look for the kindness. Look for the positives. If we choose to perceive them to be, then they will always be our bundles of joy.

Time-Outs: Helpful or Harmful?

Sunday, July 24, 2011 7 comments
Not a happy end

Here's another one of those controversial, confusing topics that even the experts don't agree on. Some positive parenting experts (Dr. Sears, for one) encourages the use of time-outs, starting at the age of 18 months. Dr. Sears says, and I quote:
This all seems so sensible, but remember, children may not think logically until around age six. If you can't sell your child on time-out, invoke your parental power. Give your child the message that he is going into time-out no matter what, so he might as well do it, get it over with, and get on with the day. For the child over five, add extra time for resistance: "Five extra minutes for protesting," announces the referee. If the child still refuses, pull out your reserves: grounding and withdrawal of privileges (such as TV for the rest of the day or week)—whatever has worked in the past. Give the child a choice: "You can either stay in your room for ten minutes or be bored the rest of the day."
Here's my question. If children may not think logically until around age 6,then why use it on a child under 6 years old? Plus, what are you going to do when it's not so easy to "invoke your parental power," on, say, a 15-year-old, and you have to keep escalating the punishment? I can see where he's going with need to show your kids who's boss. What about attachment, Mr. Attachment Parenting? Not that attached parents can't give time-outs and be attached, they can (I did), but you do have to make a repair because most likely it did cause a disconnect. But I digress. He goes on to make this point:
Time-out gives your older child a chance to reflect on her deed, and it also gives you a chance to cool off and plan a strategy. While your child is in time-out, judge whether the misbehavior is a smallie that's over and done with and needs no further discipline or a biggie that needs more intensive care. If it's a biggie (she hurt another person), after giving her a few minutes to cool off, say something like: "I want you to think about what you did. How would you feel if your friend hurt you?" Some children know intuitively the mental exercises to go through during time-out, but many do not. This is not a time for preaching or haranguing, rather matter-of-factly tell your child how you expect her to spend the time-out period. The most lasting impression is made when the child realizes the consequences of his actions on his own. That's self-discipline.
I can understand how a time-out could give an older child a chance to cool off, but I don't know how much reflecting they're doing. It all depends on the child's termperament, I would think. A more timid or intuitive child may reflect; a strong willed child may stew. On the other hand, it seems to me there would be a more productive way of instilling self-discipline than by imposing parental control, which doesn't so much come from "self," but hey, I'm no doctor. Source.

On the other hand, we have this post, which happens to be one of my favorites and makes some very valid points, like these:
When you separate yourself and your child, you are instantly demonstrating to them that your relationship is not important. When your child is misbehaving is when they need you the most, and your relationship with them is vital. You need to listen and empathize and bring them close to tell them that you still love them, but want to understand what they are feeling. Children will open up very quickly and explain the root cause of their actions when they feel loved, and secure with their parents.
"Demonstrating that your relationship is not important" seems a bit much, doesn't it? I can't really argue with the rest of this one though. It goes on to read:
For children under age 4 to 5 years old, did you know that they don’t understand consequence at all? Their brains simply aren’t yet developed enough to understand cause and effect – so any kind of discipline similar to time-outs is being completely lost of them! Their left and right brains up to the age of 4 to 5 years old are essentially operating independently. They are unable to think logically, and with compassion or empathy. They are almost primarily governed by impulse and emotions and will act selfishly when playing with others. Concepts such as sharing are foreign to them, though they may mimic or parrot this kind of behaviour back to you if driven home repeatedly.
Now that is some food for thought, isn't it? Neuroscience! Hooray!

But wait! Doesn't all that love and empathy reward them for the misbehavior? Can you ever really go wrong with love? What would make you think so? Have you ever messed up? What did you need? Scolding? A lecture? Would that help? Or what about some empathy and understanding? Do teach your child appropriate behavior! Please do! But do it in a way that leaves her dignity intact and your relationship positive. You'll need that close relationship!

Aletha Solter has this to say about time-outs in her article.
Even so, while spanking is on the wane in the United States, the withholding of love and attention has persisted as an acceptable means of control.
She also says:
According to many educators and psychologists, however, time-out is not as innocent as it seems and is, moreover, an emotionally harmful way to discipline children. In fact, the National Association for the Education of Young Children includes the use of time-out in a list of harmful disciplinary measures, along with physical punishment, criticizing, blaming, and shaming.
She drives it home with:
From a child's point of view, time-out is definitely experienced as punishment. Who wants to be isolated from the group and totally ignored? It is quite likely that children view this form of isolation as abandonment and loss of love. And while parents are often careful to provide reassurances of their love and to distinguish between the child and the unruly behavior ("I love you, but you need to go to your room for five minutes because what you did is not acceptable"), their actions speak much louder than their words.

Children under the age of seven simply do not have the capability to process words in the same way that adults do. Concrete experience and perceptions of reality impact more strongly than language. Being isolated and ignored is interpreted as "Nobody wants to be with me right now. Therefore I must be bad and unlovable," and no loving words, however well intended, can override this feeling of rejection.

Nothing is more frightening for a child than the withdrawal of love. Along with the fear come insecurity, anxiety, confusion, anger, resentment, and low self-esteem. Time-out can also cause embarrassment and humiliation, especially when used in the presence of other children. In the child's realm of experience, time-out is nothing short of punitive.
Three views. One states they are needed; one that they are harmful, and one ranks time-outs right up there with spanking and abandonment.

If you've ever used time-outs, raise your hand. *Raises hand* Okay, put them down. I used to do it by the book. If my child hit or did a "biggie" he'd go to time-out for 1 minute per each year of age. I'd explain why and then do the "hugs and kisses" afterwards. Well, I tried. Time-outs were a complete failure here. He didn't want to sit and it was a case of getting up and putting back, getting up and putting back, tears, screaming, my blood pressure rising, and a big ole power struggle, lose-lose situation. I then, however, moved to bedroom time, which we called "rest time" where he went alone to "cool down" and was allowed to play with whatever he wanted to in his room and could come out when he was "ready to be respectful." It worked pretty well, actually.

When I did time-outs, I certainly didn't feel like I was abandoning, isolating, shaming, or withdrawing my love. At least, it didn't feel that way to me. How did it feel to my child, though? I'm not sure. Perhaps like Aletha described?

I don't know that I'm ready to jump on the "isolation and love withdrawal" bandwagon, probably because I'm guilty of using time-outs myself before, but that feels a little extreme to me. Certainly time-outs *can* be extremely harmful if overused in a negative home. It's not always so black and white though, is it? My completely non-professional, not-very-experienced mommy opinion is that an occasional time out for a biggie in an otherwise very loving, positive environment isn't likely to do lasting harm. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it's not likely to do any lasting good either. Given our wonderful neuroscience information and understanding that they don't truly get it, especially under age 6, then it becomes more of a training technique than a teaching technique, doesn't it? That isn't horrible, but it's not really optimal either, when you look at the big picture.

Let's say Sally grabs Jenny's doll. Jenny starts to scream. Mom immediately grabs Sally and puts her in a time-out spot for "not sharing" or "snatching" and sets the time for 3 minutes (because Sally is 3). What is Sally thinking in time-out? Mommy is mean. Mommy is mad at me. I really want that doll. Why should Jenny have the doll? I'm bad. Who knows what Sally is thinking? But she probably isn't thinking "Boy, I wasn't considering Jenny's feelings at all when I took that doll. I was selfish and that was uncalled for. I must apologize to Jenny right now. I see the error of my ways."

Now let's say that Sally grabs Jenny's doll but this time Mom goes over to Sally and says "You really want that doll." (Acknowledging intent) Sally nods. Jenny was playing with that doll, and you took it. Look at Jenny's face. She's crying." (Teaching emotional intelligence) "How can you help Jenny stop being sad?" (You've got her working on problem-solving skills) If she doesn't come up with giving the doll back, and she probably won't, then maybe say, "I think it would make her happy to have her doll back." (Working on developing empathy here) If she doesn't hand it over willingly, say "Would you like to hand it back to her, or shall I?" Either let her hand the doll back (Yay, Sally!) or gently take the doll and give it back to Jenny and apologize for Sally to model a sincere apology. Then redirect Sally to another toy.

Which scenario taught Sally the most?

Of course, there are alternatives to the traditional sit in a chair for x amount of minutes approach. There is the time-in, which is what I now use on occasion. Other variants of time-in include a cuddle corner or cool down spot where parent and child go together. Plus, let's be honest, some kids like or need to be alone to calm down. If they prefer this, fine. The key things to take into consideration are:

1. What is the lesson you want to teach?

2. What is your child's temperament?

3. What is your intent? A positive break from the action (like in a ballgame) or punishment?

FINAL ASSESSMENT: I'm not ready to put time-outs in the "evil" category just yet. I'm going to file them under "unnecessary." Problem-solving, having the child be involved in righting the wrong, is always more a valuable lesson than sitting in a chair.

Cuts, Scrapes, and Owies...A Recipe for a Good Childhood - Guest Post by Jean O'Neil

This is a guest post by PPTB administrator, Jean O'Neil.

Recently I went to the park with my sister-in-laws, their children, my own, and had a picnic. We set up not far from the play equipment so we could watch the children play and still enjoy a bit of catching up. About an hour after we finished eating I was watching my 17-month-old attempt to walk across a rope bridge.

Now I knew she wasn't actually going to do it, she was clearly testing her limitations. She kept climbing up and down the stairs wondering if she could do it. She watched other children run across it so she knew it could be done, yet she hadn't attempted it. If she had worked up the courage to walk across she may have fallen. But then again she may not have. There would have been no difference to my reaction. And that was to sit back and let her go.

As I watched I saw her little leg slide onto the rope and she stepped out. I saw in her body language her brain working out the movements and deciding if she was capable doing this.

Suddenly out of nowhere two mothers swept down, concern filtering into their reactions as they helped my daughter off the rope. I groaned. They then went about trying to find me, disgust in their eyes because I hadn't stopped her from doing something potentially dangerous.

"Excuse me? Are you her mother?"
"Do you know she tried to climb that rope?"
"Oh really?"
"By herself? No one was watching her."
"It's okay...she does it all the time." (A little white lie there.)

They walked away shaking their heads, and I watched them shaking mine. Despite their good intentions they have actually caused more harm than good. They made my daughter second guess herself. They made her fear her own ability.

I get up, hoping to salvage something of her dwindling confidence, and lead her back to the rope bridge. Low and behold she doesn't want a bar of it...fear and uncertainty lacing her little body. I don't push her, but lead her elsewhere wishing parents would just stick to parenting their own children.

Helicopter parents like those women don't realize how much they are inhibiting their children by being overly cautious. These women keep their house spotless, won't allow their children to eat food that has been dropped on the floor, or play in the mud. They have antibacterial gel in reach at all time, and refuse to allow their children to do anything they deem too dangerous.

Me? I watch my children like a hawk, but I watch them. Not just what they're doing but what they're learning. To me, children need to hurt themselves. They need to fall down and scrape knees and break bones. They learn so much from it. They not only learn how to fall, but how to pick themselves up, how to cope with the pain, how to ask for help, how to treat themselves, how far to push themselves. They learn their physical boundaries and learn if they can push them.

This ability is becoming rarer in our day and age. Children and adults are becoming more fearful and anxious. They refuse to step out of their comfort zone for fear of what exactly? It doesn't matter really, but they learnt it from a young age and just labeled it. Fear of the unknown, fear of being different, fear of being hurt.

I struggle so hard trying to explain this in a way that doesn't make me out to be a possible loon, and found the following story helped parents begin to understand:

Imagine you're three again. You've just moved into a new house, and there is an awesome tree in your back yard. You walk over to it running your hands over the rough bark and look up into the leaves. It goes quiet high and as you're watching the light filter through the leaves, your eyes land on a branch that is pretty low. Actually it looks...enticing.

You place your hands on the limb and give a little jump, instinctively testing to see if it will hold your weight. It bows gently but holds strong. Before the thought even ghosts into your mind, you find your body hoisting itself up onto the branch. You steady yourself against the trunk, wobbling slightly. You look up and grin, amazed at what you've achieved and then your mind begins to think of the possibilities. Maybe go higher? What would you see? You could see onto the roof...that would be cool!

And so you start moving through the branches ever higher. You don't realize it but your body is learning new abilities. It's learning how to counter you equilibrium so you stay balanced, how to distinguish the branches that will be best to climb, how to flex your hands and grip properly with your fingertips.

Then you hear the back door open and your mother yelling your name. You answer and smiling with pride, bursting with your achievements watch as her eyes find yours. But she's not happy. In fact she's down right petrified. Her face is screwed up in fear and for the first time you feel it as well. Her body is tense and so your body becomes tense. And then she says the worst thing.

"Oh my god, get down, you could fall and hurt yourself!"

What? You could fall? You could get hurt? This hadn't even occurred to you. But now you realize she's right. You could fall and hurt yourself. And now your mind...filled with doubt starts to second guess what you just learnt and overrides your body. Your foot slips and you fall.

And so becomes the self- fulfilling prophecy.

Your mother runs to you, concerned but also a little angry. "See, I told you." she clucks while attending to you. 'Yes,' you think, 'I should listen more.'

Over the years you do return to that tree and climb it many times. Yet you never quite reach the top and there is always that doubt, that fear that settles in the back of your mind and controls your decisions. You'll find that as you enter adulthood you never really can decide immediately. You never really rely solely on your instincts and find that you'll second guess yourself on pretty much everything. And even if you do something on impulse there is always a flash of guilt or fear that comes along with it. You may not even realize this...after all isn't this exactly how humans are supposed to feel, how adults are supposed to act?


Do you see? Do you understand? Children believe they are invincible. This only changes when fear is introduced externally. If the mother had instead trusted her child’s innate self- preservation the child would have found great achievement in her own ability. The child would have learnt to trust herself, her instincts which have been honed over eons of evolution. That right there is so important to human development. Sure the child may have fallen...but that wouldn't have dented the belief of invincibility. In fact it would have cemented it. A child free of fear, having fallen from the tree and hurt oneself has realized that they didn't die but lived. Scars become trophies shown to fellow children with pride and looked upon with awe. Those children are the ones that strive forward purposely while others sit back and watch, wishing they had the courage.

Many mothers I talk to tell me that children can't be trusted, that they are clumsy and need to be protected from themselves. But children aren't born suicidal. Why would Mother Nature do that? In fact Mother Nature has provided them their instincts to protect them. It's the well -meaning parents that undermine their child’s self- preservation skills and possibly place the child in self- inflicted danger.

Now just to be clear I'm not saying you should just allow your child freedom to do whatever they wish. I'm just saying that maybe try siting back a little and watching your little one at'll be surprised at what they can achieve :)

The Road To Nonpunitive Parenting

Saturday, July 23, 2011 6 comments
Road blocked by landslide

We are all on a journey. If you're reading this blog, you must be somewhere on the spectrum of positive parenting, or at least interested in it. Nonpunitive parenting is, I believe, on the right end of the spectrum.

It took me nearly a year to travel the positive parenting road before I reached my destination of nonpunitive parenting. This may not be your destination, and that's okay. It's quite a change from traditional thinking, and you may not be comfortable with such a big leap. If so, then your destination may somewhere else along the spectrum.

Positive parenting, to me, means:
1. Treating children respectfully.
2. No physical punishment.
3. Basic understanding of child development.
4. No shaming, name calling, or screaming.
5. Use of natural plus logical consequences.*

Nonpunitive parenting, to me, means:
1. No physical punishment.
2. Focusing on relationship above all.
3. Treating children respectfully.
4. Allowing natural consequences.**
5. A focus on problem-solving in place of logical or imposed consequences.

Conscious parenting means: (Thrown in just for good measure)
1. All of the above.
2. An awareness of how your past has shaped your own actions and reactions.
3. Knowing your triggers and working to deactivate them.
4. Focusing on being present in the moment, responding instead of reacting.

I began on the left end of the spectrum. I was looking for positive methods to control my children's behaviors. I started with the traditional advice on many of the "positive parenting" sites. I put my kids in time outs on a bench in the hallway for 1 minute per each year of age, just like all the articles said I should. That didn't work! Hello power struggles!! So I picked up the book 1-2-3 Magic. It sounded positive to me, as all I knew was that I didn't want to spank or yell. Counting to 3 and sending them to bedroom time seemed like a positive way of disciplining my kids. That really seemed to work! I got to 3 a few times at first, but then I never got past 2. Magic! At first. One negative behavior stopped but another popped up, and I felt more like I was training a puppy than raising a child.

Cue Love and Logic. If nonpunitive is too extreme for you, I actually recommend Love and Logic. It's a respectful approach that focuses more on teaching and on natural consequences than on punishment. However, L&L does suggest "The Uh-Oh Song" for young children where you sing "Uh Oh" and put the child in their room for a couple of minutes and tell them to come out when they're ready to be sweet. For older children, they recommend bedroom time. I found some of it to be little harsh***, but the focus is on connection and relationship, so overall, its a good "method" and I had good results using it.

So if I had good results, why didn't I just stay there? Well, because I kept reading what I was posting on PPTB. Thanks to Love and Logic, I had the "seed planted" of connection and relationship, and this pulled at my heart strings. I wanted to know more. My search naturally lead me to conscious parenting and nonpunitive parenting. Then, of course, one neuroscience article and I was hooked on that. This is where my mindset shifted. I began to understand more about their developing minds and more about the importance, the necessity, of relationship. I began to understand that my influence came through our connection, not through my consequences.

These were MY revelations. This was MY paradigm shift.

Your story could be different. I now believe nonpunitive/conscious parenting to be the optimal philosophy. I also know that not everyone can or is willing to reach this destination, though I think that many will. Wherever you are on the positive parenting spectrum, you have my respect and my support.

Most of us have the same goal in mind. We want children who are able to discipline themselves. We want children who are happy. We want children who are respectful and kind. We want children who come visit often after their bedrooms in our homes are empty. I believe positive parenting (anywhere on the spectrum) gives us a good shot at seeing that come to fruition. I believe that nonpunitive/conscious parenting gives us the best shot at seeing that come to fruition.

Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you find PPTB and this blog to be helpful. I hope you are seeing positive changes in your homes and in your children. Please comment and let me know if you are. Your comments make my heart happy. :)

*A logical consequence relates to the behavior. For example, taking a toy away that the child has thrown or leaving a playdate if the child hits someone.

**A natural consequence is what naturally occurs as a result of the action, without the influence of a parent. For example, if you don't wear a sweater, you get chilly. If you leave your toy outside and it gets destroyed, you've lost that toy.

***Love and Logic suggested, at one part in their book, to let a child slip on rocks and fall instead of warning them they are slippery in order to let the "natural consequence" teach the child. (Sorry, I'm not going to let my kid fall if I can help it! The book also suggested doing things like picking up their belongings they refuse to pick up themselves and putting them up in the garage, in view but where they can't reach them, to remind them of the consequence. To me, that crossed over to a little rude.

10 Things That Are More Important Than Discipline

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 22 comments

10 Things More Important Than Discipline by Rebecca Eanes

Parenting is a very complex task. If we're not careful, we will become too focused on one aspect and let the others fall by the wayside. Many times, I see parents who are intently focused on discipline, and I'm talking about the traditional use of the word here with regard to modifying behavior. Sometimes we get very caught up in "What do I do when..." or "How do I get my kid to..." and we lose sight of the bigger picture.

The truth is that there are many things that are more important in shaping our children than the methods and techniques we use to modify their behavior.

Here are 10 things that are more important than any method you choose, in no particular order.

1. Relationship. The relationship that we have with our children is the single biggest influence on them. Our relationship sets an example for how relationships should be throughout the rest of their lives. If we have a healthy relationship based on respect, empathy, and compassion, we have set a standard. They will grow to expect that this is what a relationship looks like and will likely not settle for less. If, however, our relationship is based on control, coercion, and manipulation, well you see where I'm going with this.

In addition to that, our influence comes from a good relationship. Children are more likely to listen to and cooperate with an adult who they are connected to. In other words, if we build trust and open communication when they are small, they will come to us when they are not so small. Our attachment helps wire healthy brains, and our responses set the tone for how they respond to us (they're little mirrors).

2. Your lens. When you look at your child, who do you see? Do you see the positives or the negatives? The way you think about them influences the way you treat them. Your thoughts also influence the way you feel emotionally and physically throughout the day. "He is in the terrible twos" will cause you to look for terrible things, to focus on them, and therefore try to correct them...constantly. Try to turn negative thoughts like this into positive thoughts, like, "He is inquisitive and fun!" Try to start seeing misbehavior as a clue that calls for help rather than something that needs squashed immediately. Correction is not needed nearly as often as you might think.

Also watch your tone and language. "Be mindful of the language you use to describe your children. They will come to see themselves through that filter you design." -Lori Petro, TEACH Through Love. Be careful not to place labels such as "naughty" or "clumsy" on your child. They will come to see themselves the way you see them.

3. Your relationship with your significant other. Your kids are watching and learning. The way you and your partner treat each other again sets a standard. Happy parents make happy kids. Read How Your Marriage Affects Your Kids.
The foundation of a happy family is a strong, loving relationship between the two of you. The single, most important thing that you can do for your children is to do everything in your power to have the best possible relationship with your spouse. If they see the two of you getting along and supporting each other, they will mirror you and will likely get along with each other and their friends. Every single ounce of energy that you put into your relationship will come back to you tenfold through your children.

4. The atmosphere of your home. All of the things mentioned above come together to create the atmosphere in your home. If you have loving and connected relationships, you likely have a warm atmosphere in your home. If there is discord between you and your spouse, or you and your child, or your child and your other child, then the overall atmosphere will suffer. Have you ever gone to someone's home and could just feel a negative atmosphere? You want your home to be a haven, a safe, warm, inviting, and loving place for all family members. Dorothy Parker said, "The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant--and let the air out of the tires." You don't have to let the air out until they're 16 though. ;-)

5. How you relate to others. How do you treat the bank teller, the store clerk, the telemarketer? What about your parents and your in-laws? They are watching your example. “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” -Albert Einstein

6. Community. Are you involved in your community. Aside from setting an example, there are valuable lessons to be learned from volunteering, supporting a local cause, attending church, or donating items. Seeing a bigger picture, how their acts can influence many lives, will give them a sense of responsibility and reinforce good values.

7. School. Whether you choose private school, public school, homeschooling, or unschooling, your choice will have an impact on your child. Choose with care. Peers have a big influence on children, but if our relationship is where it should be, our influence will still be stronger.

8. Your cup. How full is it? You have to take care of you so you can take care of them. If your cup is full, you are more patient, more empathetic, and have more energy. Not only that, but a child who sees his parents respect themselves learns to have self-respect. Put yourself back on your list.

9. Media. Television. Video games. Social media. They are always sending messages to your kids. Now, I let my kids watch TV and play computer games, so I'm not taking a big anti-media stance here, but just be aware of what your kids are getting from what they're watching. My son said something out of character for him a while back that came directly from a cartoon character. I knew where he'd gotten it and we had a talk about the differences between cartoon land and the real world. I'm just glad they don't have a Facebook account yet!

10. Basic needs. Adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise are not only essential for the well-being of your child but also influence behavior. Dr. Sears addresses nutrition here. Also read this article, Sleep Better for Better Behavior. Finally, Exercise helps children learn to focus their attention, limit anger outburst and improve motor skills.

“If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later. I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging.“ - Diane Loomans

Nonpunitive Discipline Isn't Always Easy! -Guest Post by Tribal Mama

Guest post by Tribal Mama of Sausage Mama and the Sausagettes, reprinted with permission.

-Please note…this blog is written with older children in mind and with parents who have not always been practicing attachment parenting but can still apply to every parent.

So you’ve done it. Chucked out the spanking spoon, kicked the naughty chair out the door and stopped using words like “naughty girl” and “bad boy”. When your child is having a tantrum you hug him, seemingly placating him and he becomes much calmer. When they do something unacceptable you use your kind and loving words. But what happens when your child starts to pick up that there is no longer any punishments for their behavior? And they will, very, very quickly.

So many experts say “But your child will do as he is told because you respect him and love him.” Hogwash! This statement leaves so many parents wondering why their child is not doing like they are told, and if the parents themselves got it wrong in the first place.

Children are not dumb. In fact they are very smart creatures with more intellect than we give them credit for. For the first few weeks of adopting the AP style you will notice better behaved children, more cuddles, more smiles, and generally a more peaceful family dynamic. And then it all comes crashing down.

At a certain point your child will realize that they can do whatever they like and not get punished for it. In fact they will get a hug. So in a way they are getting a reward for inappropriate behavior.

Some parents will use their words to try and make the child understand what they did was not acceptable. But use them too much and they will begin to ignore you. Children (and husbands) will switch off when the same words are thrown at them time after time.

After the words don’t work the parents resort to yelling. Once again children can and will ‘switch’ you off, and pretend they can’t even hear you. In one ear and out the other as the saying goes.

And now you’re at the end of your rope. Hugging and telling them you love them doesn’t work, explaining their behavior doesn’t work, and yelling doesn’t work. So you are led back into the fold of the naughty chair and the bribe. You, of course, feel guilty. How could you not? You have changed your whole way of thinking. That your children deserve love and respect, that punishment has potential dangers that can cause your child significant damage. It’s terrible to be given these facts about punishments (even the more lenient ones), and then not be given any answers to how to discipline without discipline.

Here are my rules:

There are three people you have to be to successfully AP. The Leader, The Clown and The Mother (or Father).

You are the leader:

A friend of mine had just recently changed to the non-punitive parenting style. Giving out hugs instead of time outs really benefited, and she was amazed that the tantrums pretty much became a thing of the past. Of course this made her believe even more so that she was on the right track. So she was at a loss at why suddenly weeks after changing her whole outlook on punishment, her child suddenly went crazy. Hitting, yelling and blatantly ignoring mama. She thought she was a terrible mother because everything she had read on non-punitive parenting told her she shouldn’t be experiencing this.

When asking a child to do something, you should not be asking from the body of the mother but of the leader. Look at your body language, you facial expressions, the choice of words and the tone behind them.
80%-95% is all body language. And children subscribe to this in way adults don’t. As children do not have the access to vocabulary in their early years, a lot of learning and communication is done non- verbally.

So make sure your shoulders are back, your posture is straight, your face is serious, your tone even, and your words polite yet firm. Make sure you have your child’s attention. Without their attention they will not ‘see’ your instructions. Also makes sure they have your full attention…if you are giving instructions while making dinner they will not be followed through.

You may need to get down on their level (something most AP’s are used to doing), but that doesn’t mean your body language has to change. Remember when talking to them to keep eye contact. Children who don’t want to listen will look away and most parents will continue to talk away not realizing the child has switched off. If your child looks away a simple “Look at me please,” should get their attention. Do not begin again as this will bore the child. Continue to tell the child your instructions.

Your words should be simple and arranged properly. “Ethan, go clean up the milk you just spilt please,”. Understand that where the words are placed is very important. The child’s name first- to get attention, the instruction- so the child cannot weasel their way out, the politeness- it’s a given.

You may need to hand the child a cloth and point to the mess. Most children will whine and stomp (which is fine) but they will clean it up. Make sure you are watching them do it so they do not slack off. Once again use your posture (you could have your arms folded) to ensure the child will not run off. When they have finished praise them for cleaning it up but keep your tone even. Making a big fuss out of it will make it seem like they have done something super when in reality they should do this out of respect for your house.

If your child refuses to do it (and some children will, do not think that you are a bad parent) be adamant, keep giving them the cloth and pointing at the mess. Some children will resort to “It’s your job, you do it,” to which you explain that it’s their mess and therefore their responsibility. No other words are needed. Children hate being harped at, especially when it is in the nonverbal way. If they turn away, gently turn them back, point them to the mess, and tell them to clean it up. They’ll do it just to get you off their proverbial back.
In time you will notice that your children will start to clean up after themselves without any asking. Some children need a nod of the head, or a look to get them doing what they need to do.

My children are young (a four year old and a two year old) so they still need guidance. But my words are rarely needed anymore. Simply a point at the mess or giving them the dust pan and brush is enough to get them cleaning it up. And they do not complain. My four year old packed up her and her sisters play doh yesterday putting it in a zip lock bag and placing it in the fridge. I did not tell her to, she did it on her own.
Mind you there are times (and there will be) when I need to remind them but it’s expected. They’re kids after all.

Remember as well that there are places that this will not work. Asking them to clean their bedroom is a huge mistake most parents make. Their bedroom (and their play room) is their domain. The lounge, family, dining, kitchen, den are all communal areas and therefore maintained by everyone in the family. Should you wish them to clean their rooms, you need to help and you need to leave the leader at the door. You need to now be a clown.

Be the clown:

Being the clown is actually harder for most parents than being a leader. So many parents come from an authoritarian background and have forgotten what it is like to be a child. And being childlike is important to understand the child and the reasons behind their behavior.

Putting yourself into the mindset of the clown isn’t hard. Think of the funniest thing your child has ever done and you should be there. Don’t try to be the clown when children are tired or hungry. In fact you should never be anyone but the mother when children have needs to be met.

Being the clown can help out in situations that don’t need direct instructions. Like cleaning a room: make a game out of picking up toys. And remember your children will never do the job as well as you can so don’t make them live up to your standards.

It also helps when out shopping. Pretend to be aliens and space men picking out moon food and placing it in the rocket ship. Ignore the strange looks other people give you…they are better than the looks of disgust they’d give you if your child was running wild. And besides you’re both having fun!

Be the mother (or the father):

Being the mother is the easiest. This is what you first learnt when you decided to be an AP. Hug when your child gets frustrated or has a tantrum, tell them you love them when they are upset about not getting their way, and verifying their feelings when they feel sad or angry.

Over time switching to and from these three people will become easier. You will begin to understand which person to use in which situation and eventually you will use them less and less as your child gets older.

Some notes for you to consider:

Make sure your child is calm before asking them to help you clean something. If they are playing wait for them to finish, ensure they have had adequate sleep and food.

- Remember whining is a part of a child’s repertoire, as long as they are doing what you want/need them to do ignore the whining as it will go away on its own.

-Don’t spring things on children. Tell them in advance what you would like to do. For example after lunch you would like to help them clean their room and only remind them again ten minutes before the room clean. And follow through.

-Age appropriate behavior should have more lenience than inappropriate behavior. If you are waiting in the Dr.’s office, explain to your children that it is a quiet place (before entering) and they need to respect that. Let them walk around as a child sitting for long periods of time is unnatural. If you know you will be waiting for a while bring snacks, a coloring book and pencils and be ready to play I spy a million times. Do not give these out as soon as you get to your seats…wait til they get antsy so they are less likely to get bored as quickly.

-It’s okay to have rules, routines and schedules.

I Can't Be Your Friend; I'm Your Wife

Saturday, July 16, 2011 5 comments
Bride on a Path
"The best friend is likely to acquire the best wife, because a good marriage is based on the talent for friendship." - Friedrich Nietzsche

"I can't be your friend; I'm your wife." Sounds absurd doesn't it?

My husband and I have been together for more than 15 years. Would we have had such a long-lasting relationship without friendship? Indeed, our relationship was built on friendship first, but he became more than just a friend, which is why I married him. However, now that I am his wife, if i were just his friend, our marriage would fail because being a wife involves much more than just friendship. We've moved beyond the boundaries of friendship into something even more beautiful, more sustaining. I am also his lover, the mother to his children, and I provide some housekeeping services (LOL). Being a wife means unconditionality. It means accepting him and loving him for who he is. It means intimacy and understanding that just a friend cannot provide. I am his friend. Friendship is the foundation for all great and lasting relationships. Yes, I am his friend, and I am so much more.

The same is true for my relationship with my children. "I can't be your friend, I'm your mother." This statement sounds just as absurd to me as my first statement. Of course I have a friendship with each of them. It is that friendship that fosters connection, trust, and cooperation. It is that friendship that will sustain our relationship when they are grown. However, I can't be just a friend. I think this is where some parents run into a problem. No, I'm not just a friend. Our relationship also moves beautifully beyond the boundaries of friendship. I am their mother, and being a mother involves more than just friendship. It means I am their example, their teacher, and their guide. Being a mother means unconditionality. It means accepting them and loving them for who they are. It means a love and understanding that just a friend cannot provide. Let us not say "I can't be your friend; I'm your mother." Let us say "I am your friend, and I am so much more."

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." -Washington Irving

Positive Parenting In Action: Aggressive Behavior

Friday, July 15, 2011 10 comments

"Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield /".

This is the 3rd post in my Positive Parenting In Action series. The last post was in regard to tantrums. Today, I'm going to address a very common and concerning issue for parents - aggressive behavior - and how to handle this aggression the Positive Parenting way.

First, it is important to understand that children who are aggressive are children who are scared, hurt, or feeling disconnected. Aggression is a cover-up of those more vulnerable feelings. Hand in Hand Parenting has written a wonderful article about this, which you can read here. This article notes:
The child who lashes out feels sad, frightened, or alone. She doesn't look frightened when she is about to bite, push, or hit. But her fears are at the heart of the problem. Fear robs a child of her ability to feel that she cares about others. Children get these feelings of isolation, no matter how loving and close we parents are. Don't blame, shame, or punish. These actions further frighten children, and further isolate them. They add to the load of hurt that makes children aggressive.
I would like to also add that, going back to our brain science, children under the age of 6 don't yet have full access to higher brain functions which allow them to pause and reason. When a young child becomes scared or hurt or is feeling disconnected, they go into that "fight or flight" mode, operating out of their brain stem, and have little control over their actions. It is for this reason that an aggressive child needs help, not punishment.

Dr. Laura Markham of AhaParenting offers this advice to a mom whose toddler is hitting her.
1. Set a limit (“We don’t hit”)
2. Offer empathy and acceptance of her feelings (“You are disappointed”)
3. Let her discharge her feelings by crying with your comfort.
4. Help her explore ways to shift her mood.
You can print this and hang it up if you'd like, because these are the basic steps we'll follow in handling aggression.

Let's get right into the scenarios.

Scenario #1
Your 3 year old has become aggressive toward her baby sister. She tries to hit her and push her over. You're concerned she's really going to hurt the baby.

Reason behind the behavior: Jealousy, probably. It's hard sharing mom and dad, especially when you used to have them all to yourself.

:ACTION: Follow the above list.
1. Set a limit. (“We don’t hit”)
2. Offer empathy and acceptance of her feelings. (“You are disappointed”)
3. Let her discharge her feelings by crying with your comfort.
4. Help her explore ways to shift her mood.

To expand on this a bit, you will take her safely away from the baby, get down eye-level with her, and set the limit - we don't hit (or push, or bite). It is important to acknowledge her feelings of anger or frustration or jealousy that caused her to hit. "You're feeling upset at the baby. Are you upset that I was holding her?" or "She grabbed your toy and that made you angry." Your child is hurting, even though she may look like she isn't. She needs to know it's safe to show her feelings. Tell her it's okay to be angry, and its okay to cry, and that you will keep everyone safe. If she melts down in your arms, she is healing. Let her get her emotions out while you provide comfort. After the incident is over and everyone is calm, address the reason behind the behavior.

1. Spend special one-on-one time with each child. Let her pick the activity. Connect with her. She needs to know that she is still just as loved as before.

2. Teach appropriate ways to handle anger. You can do this by talking it through, modeling it, role-playing, puppet shows, books, or stories.

3. Don't punish her for hitting. At 3, remember she didn't have the cognitive resources to stop and think about her actions logically.
"Punishment is not actually an enforcement of the limits. That's our rationalization for punishing, because we're frustrated that he isn't respecting our limits. Punishment is actually retaliation, and retaliation always sabotages your relationship with your child (or anyone else.)" - Dr. Laura Markham.
Teaching her how to handle her anger will serve her much better than punishing her for handling it wrong.

4. Read books to her about the baby and about being a big sister. For a list of such books, click here.

Scenario #2
Your 19-month-old is a biter. He has just bitten another child at a play date.

Behind the behavior: It depends on what was happening at the play date. It could be frustration, anger, hurt feelings, or fear.

:ACTION: Remember the steps above. Remove your little biter to safety, make sure the child bitten is okay, and then set or reinforce your limit. "We don't bite." Validate his feelings, empathize with his upset. "You got mad because he took your truck. I see you're mad, but we don't bite. Biting hurts." Let your child express his emotion safely, and problem-solve later. The reason I suggest not talking about appropriate alternatives during the time it happens is because children do not take information in well when they are in "fight or flight" mode or are upset. They are much more likely to learn and retain information when they are calm. For more on toddler biting, read this article at TEACH Through Love.

Don't bite him to show him how it feels. You'd be surprised at how many parents would advise you to do this. Remember, you are the model for appropriate behavior!

Scenario #3
You got a call from school. Your 8-year-old son punched another student for calling him a bad name.

Reason behind the behavior: Anger, obviously. Lack of ability to control his actions.

:ACTION: We're not dealing with a toddler or preschooler now. An 8 year old should have access to those higher brain functions. In other words, he should have been able to pause and think about his actions. This is sometimes hard for adults to do, however, so it isn't surprising that a child hasn't mastered this yet. When you pick him up from school, you're going to have to control your own anger. Model! Reserve judgment and ask him what happened. Empathize with his hurt feelings at being called a name. It does hurt! Now, because this is an older child, you may be tempted to punish or give him a consequence, but that isn't going to solve the problem or teach him how to handle a situation like this better the next time. It's time to problem-solve. Remember the problem-solving post? Let him do most of the problem-solving with your guidance as needed. You might ask:

1. How can you fix what you've done, because the student you punched is hurt too? If he doesn't come up with an answer, offer a few alternatives, such as call and apologize or write an apology letter.

2. What can you do the next time you get called a name or there is a confrontation? Let him brainstorm. It's good if he comes up with alternatives on his own. If he draws a blank, help him out. You may suggest he walk away, work it out with words, get help from an adult if the situation requires it.

I'd like to leave you with one more wonderful piece of advice from Laura Markham, Ph.D. She left this response on PPTB for a mother whose 3 year old was acting aggressively, and it is a wonderful connecting game to play with children to get rid of those nasty feelings underneath that cause aggression.
Children who act aggressively are always acting out of fear. Your 3 year old is afraid. Maybe she's afraid that he's loved more? In that case, I would address that fear directly and try to heal it.

For instance, play this game with her every single day for the next week, to let her giggle off her fear and convince her you adore her. Every day, spend 20 minutes playing the bumbler as you chase her, hug, kiss, let her get away and repeat again and again: "I need my 3 year old fix....You can't get away...I have to hug you and cover you with kisses....oh, no, you got away...I'm coming after you....I just have to kiss you more and hug you more....You're too fast for me....But I'll never give up...I love you too much...I got you....Now I'll kiss your toes....Oh, no, you're too strong for me...But I will always want more 3 year old hugs...."

This kind of game accomplishes at least 3 wonderful things:

1. Giggling discharges the same stress hormones as crying or tantrumming and thus makes kids happier and less stressed, thus less likely to "act out" aggressively.

2. Kids are less aggressive and more cooperative when they have a daily chance to vent.

3. This game also deepens your relationship with your daughter and convinces her on a deep level that she is truly loved, dissolving her fears and allowing her to be generous to her brother.

That generosity is what makes your daughter care about the natural consequence of hurting her brother, and gives her the competing impulse of empathy to control her aggression.

Make sense? There are, of course, many ways to address your three year old's big feelings, but I love this game. I have never seen a child who did not respond to it. -- Laura
Aggressive behavior is very common in young children, and peaks from ages 2-6. While this is a common phase kids go through, it is our responsibility to set appropriate limits and teach alternatives. Discipline is always about teaching them right, not punishing the wrong. With empathy and loving guidance, your child will learn appropriate ways to handle her emotions, and this phase will become a distant memory.

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Parent the Child You Have

Thursday, July 14, 2011 1 comment

Parents have an ideal of the child they want to have in their mind...and what happens is they don't get that ideal child. Parents have to learn to parent the child they have, not the child they wish they had. - James Lehman

Mr. Lehman is referring to how to address behavioral problems in this quote, but I'm going to take it in a bit of a different direction. I think it is true that most of us have a preconceived notion of what our child will be like. It's natural to come up with this ideal while we are pregnant or waiting to adopt. We imagine how our child will look; will she have mommy's curls and daddy's eyes? We imagine what his temperament will be; will he be easygoing or high strung? We might imagine an energetic, outgoing daughter or a son who is sweet and shy. By the time our child arrives, we often already have an ideal in our mind of how he is going to be. We may have come pretty close, but often we are blessed with someone entirely different than we imagined.

Personal story: When I was pregnant with my first, I was sure I was having a girl. Sure right up until the moment of the ultrasound when it was announced BOY! I immediately switched gears, elated to be having a son, and I began to imagine that he would have daddy's black hair and brown eyes. I imagined he'd be rough and tumble (boys are, right?), energetic, and outgoing. My son has brown hair and hazel eyes. He is also highly sensitive. Tags, sticky hands, surprises...these things bother him more than the average child. He puckers up at sad commercials, and I have to skip over sad parts in movies or slow, sad songs. The smallest scrape is a dire circumstance. Some parents might be inclined to toughen him up. I think a sensitive boy, with the right care, will blossom into a sensitive man. Who doesn't want that?

My second son is quite the opposite of my first. He has his daddy's brown eyes. He is much more rough and tumble. He's sensitive in his own ways, but not to the extreme as my first son. He is also much more independent. I had to learn to step back and allow his independence to blossom. Because of the high sensitivity of my first, he was much more dependent. I have to parent my second differently; he has different needs.

Parenting the child you have isn't just about using different tools or "techniques" for each child according to his temperament or abilities. It is about understanding and nurturing the spirit that has come to you. Each child born into this world is unique. She has her own gifts, her own purpose, her own spirit. Her own self. Our job, as parents, is to give her the care and environment she needs to blossom into SHE IS. Part of unconditional love is not trying to change our children or mold them into our ideals. They are exactly who they are meant to be.
We cannot fashion our children after our desires, we must have them and love them as God has given them to us.- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
When we fully accept our children just as they are, we give them a tremendous gift, but they give us an even better gift in return. They give us an opportunity to grow, to heal, to learn, and to love. When we learn to love them without condition, we can expand that to ourselves, our spouses, our friends. Our relationships become better. Our lives become richer. Our children are able to fulfill their purposes and pass along the gift of unconditional love to their children and families, who pass it on to theirs, and this is how we build a more tolerant, compassionate society. It all starts just by parenting the child you have.

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” - Pablo Casals

What's Wrong With Kids Today?

Sunday, July 10, 2011 38 comments

"Before you go and criticize the younger generation, just remember who raised them." - Unknown

We've all heard the complaints. Today's children are more disrespectful, undisciplined, and have a greater sense of entitlement than ever before. But do they? Alfie Kohn talks about this in his article Spoiled Rotten: A Timeless Complaint. He notes that "Parents today, we're informed,either can’t or won’t set limits for their children. Instead of disciplining them, they coddle and dote and bend over backward to shield them from frustration and protect their self-esteem. The result is that we’re raising a generation of undisciplined narcissists who expect everything to go their way, and it won’t be pretty -- for them or for our society -- when their sense of entitlement finally crashes into the unforgiving real world."

Sound familiar?

He goes on to give 3 examples from authors stating the same concerns, published in 1962, 1944, and 1911, respectively.
"The revelation that people were saying almost exactly the same things a century ago ought to make us stop talking in mid-sentence and sit down – hard. In fact, the more carefully we look at the cranky-wistful conventional wisdom about how children are raised, the less there is to be said in its favor." - Alfie Kohn
I've heard it over and over again. Kids need more discipline! Parents today are too soft! Well, depending on where you look for statistics, anywhere between 65% to 90% of American parents are spanking their kids. Here are some statistics I found:

- 68 percent of American parents think spanking is not only good but essential to child rearing;

- 90 percent of parents spank their toddlers at least three times a week; two-thirds spank them once a day;

- One in four parents begin to spank when their child is 6 months old, 50 percent when their child is 12 months old;

I'd say it's pretty clear that a lack of discipline is not "what's wrong with kids today." So what is wrong with kids today? Could it be that the only thing wrong with them is our perspective of them? Perhaps so.

But I have another theory.

I believe the problem is not a lack of discipline, but a lack of connection. For decades upon decades, we have raised children with fear (Do you want a spanking?), punishment (You're grounded for a week!), shame (You're such a naughty little girl), and coercion (If you don't pick up your toys, I'm throwing them in a trash bag!). We've become so wrapped up in "raising them right" that we've forgotten how to love them right. We've bought into the so-called experts advice of not spoiling them with too much attention, letting them cry it out, and not sparing the rod, and we've pushed aside our own instincts. Thus, parents have drawn a line between themselves and their children that dare not be crossed. "I'm your parent, not your friend!" This has been so ingrained throughout the generations that many don't even question it. (I'm questioning it, are you?) Naturally, we love our children. We give them hugs and praise, conditionally. We buy them the latest gadgets. But are we connected?

For too long, children have been seen and not heard.

It's time to hear them.

For too long, we've raised our children using fear tactics.

It's time to use love tactics.

A century's worth of complaints is more than enough evidence that we're doing something wrong. Depression and mental health issues are a major problem because adults have to put so much into healing their childhood wounds, and some never do heal.

Let's stop wounding them. Instead of punishing, teach. Instead of hitting, hug. Instead of isolating, get close. Instead of coercion, cooperate. Instead of conditional love, love unconditionally. Let's build strong relationships with our children, set good examples for them, and allow them to feel all of their emotions. Let's say "I'm right here with you" instead of "Go to your room!" Let's say "I hear how upset you are" instead of "Quit your crying." It's time to change the way we raise our children.
"There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation in the way we raise our children." - Marianne Williamson
Learn about what positive parenting really is. Learn how to set loving limits. Learn how to elicit cooperation through relationship. Learn how to break the cycle of fear, and begin a new cycle of love and connectedness.

If we do this, I guarantee our story will be different a generation from now. Imagine where we could be in a century...

Nonpunitive Discipline ≠ Lazy Parenting

Thursday, July 7, 2011 18 comments

I realize that nonpunitive discipline can be hard to wrap your head around at first. It was for me. After all, the vast majority of us were raised to believe that children need punishments and consequences in order to learn better behavior.

There is apparently this myth that parents who do not punish their children are lazy parents who are not fulfilling their duties. I saw this prevalent myth when I read LZ Granderson's article Permissive Parents: Curb your brats and the comments that followed.

Here I go myth busting again.

Nonpunitive discipline does not mean no discipline. In fact, keeping in mind that, in Positive Parenting, discipline means to teach, nonpunitive discipline requires MORE discipline.

Let me explain.

Punishment is not a good teacher. Imagine for a moment that you have just started a new job. You have had no training, and you are expected to produce a report using a program you've never used before. You try, but you get it wrong. Your new boss yells at you for doing it wrong and tells you to come in an hour early the next day to start on it. The next morning, you try again to get this report out, but you still haven't been taught how to use the program, so you try and figure out for yourself, but you get it wrong again. Once again, your boss threatens you and tells you if it happens one more time, you're fired.

How are you feeling about your boss? Are you feeling a lot of respect for her? How are you feeling about yourself? Incompetent? Like a failure? Disrespected?

Now imagine that, on your first day, you had been shown how to work the program. Let's say you didn't quite master it the first day, but your boss is understanding that you're new and tells you that she has confidence in your abilities. The next day, she shows you how to work the program again.

How are you feeling about your boss now? About yourself?

It makes absolutely no sense to punish a child for doing something wrong that he didn't know how to do right. Sitting him in the time out chair does not teach how to do right.

But what if the child already knows what the right thing to do is, but does the wrong thing anyway?

I had this conversation with my 4.5 year old son yesterday after his grandmother put him in time out for hitting while he was at her house.

Me: How did you feel when she put you in time out?
Him: Mad!
Me: While you were sitting there, did you think about why you shouldn't hit?
Him: No! I was just mad!
Me: Did the time out teach you not to hit again?
Him: No. I already know not to hit. I didn't mean to do it.
Me: Let's think of what you can do next time you're upset so you don't hit. You can walk away, count to 10, or take deep breaths.
Him: Yeah. I'll try that next time.

Do you see why the time out was still pointless? He already knew hitting was inappropriate; however, because he is still developing his frontal lobe, he doesn't always have the cognitive ability to stop himself from reacting and to think it over. Does that mean he "gets away with it?" Well, no. I reiterated that to him that it was inappropriate, and I gave him new tools to try next time he's upset.
"Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?"
— Jane Nelson

What if I'd spanked him instead? Well, that would just taught him that it is, indeed, okay to hit people. What about taking away his favorite toy or show? Those kinds of made-up consequences don't teach lessons. Do you know what does? Problem-solving. You can read more about that here.

I'd like to make another quick point. I'm a medical transcriptionist by day, and I type for a neurology account. One of my doctors specializes in dementia, and often these patients, who range from mild cognitive decline to severe dementia, will have behavior problems such as lashing out, aggression, agitation, and inappropriate language and manner. They also often have sleep problems. Never ONCE has the doctor indicated to the caregiver that the patient needs to be punished for his behavior problems. Why not? Because it is widely recognized and accepted that these behaviors are caused by a lack of cognitive ability. Neuroscience has now proven that children (especially under age 6) do not misbehave out of defiance, but rather out of lack of cognitive ability because of their underdeveloped brains. It takes the brain 20+ years to fully develop, but particularly before age 6, children literally do not have full access to the frontal region of the brain which handles logic, sequential thinking, self-awareness, and self-regulation.

Let me get back to my original point. Neuroscience has also given us the valuable information that every interaction with our children is developing neural pathways that will ultimately determine how he reacts to situations and handles problems. Nonpunitive discipline focuses on understanding development, teaching the child what is appropriate (and this can be done through play, role-playing, modeling, setting a good example, etc.), giving the child the tools to do better, and building a strong relationship with your child.

So, when I say that nonpunitive discipline requires more discipline, what I mean is that we are *always* disciplining (teaching) our children with every interaction, every word, everything they see. We are mindful that, above all, who we are to them is more important than what we do to them. A very wise friend of mine once said
"The power of your influence does not come from the force of your will or the fierceness of your punishments, but the strength of your relationship." - Lori Petro of TEACH Through Love
I never spanked, but I used to do time outs and take away toys or cartoons. I thought that was how my kid would learn not to misbehave again. A whole lot of reading and reflection later, I realized that our relationships with our children are based on the same things that all healthy relationships are based on: Respect, kindness, compassion for the other person, love.

Love. Not fear.

How do you respond to people you're afraid of? People who hold things over you?

I thought one day, why does my husband come home from work after 12 hours and do the dishes for me? He surely doesn't fear me. He does it out of love. Why do I lug the trash across the road when he's running late? Love. Why would my child tidy his room if I asked? There are 2 choices. He could tidy up because he's afraid of his punishment if he doesn't, resenting me all the while, OR he could do it for the same reason hubby does the dishes and I take out the trash. Love.

I choose love.

"I choose love" reminder wrist bands are available in my shop in red or purple.

Positive Parenting In Action: Tantrums

Monday, July 4, 2011 6 comments

This is the second post in my Positive Parenting in Action series. The first post was about exploration and danger.

In this series, I will present several scenarios that could occur, look at the possible reasons behind the behavior (this is important!), and then give an example of how the parent can handle the scenario positively.

If you've had a toddler, chances are you've experienced a tantrum. I've been blessed in that neither of my children have ever been big on tantrums, but we've seen a few. In fact, just 2 nights ago, my 2-year-old threw himself on the floor of the grocery store and stiffened up so that he was hard to lift up. I love the looks people gave me. The teenagers smirked and giggled. The younger moms nodded. The elderly smiled. One mom stopped to tell me, "Enjoy it, even now, honey. It's harder when they're bigger." It's bound to happen to you sooner or later, so how do you handle these fun little scenarios the Positive Parenting way?

Scenario #1
Your 18-month-old is happily stacking blocks. Suddenly, the blocks fall over, and he begins to wail and flail. What? He was happy 4 seconds ago.

Behind the behavior: Frustration. Most likely, a lot of little frustrations throughout the day have been building, and the blocks falling was the last straw. Look for what could be causing unnecessary frustration throughout the day. Does he hear "no" 500 times? Is he still mostly non-verbal? Imagine how annoying it must be to not be able to communicate what you're needing or feeling. Is he getting enough rest? Lots of things can cause frustration to build. Look for the causes and address them.

:ACTION: All he needs from you at this point is understanding. He's got big emotions, and he needs to release them. Depending on your child, hold him, rock him, or just stay near. You might say "You're so frustrated! It's okay. I'm right here." Wait with him until it passes. If it's a minor upset, you may be able to improve his mood with humor, but if it's major, he needs to get it out. Just love him through it. It will pass, and not only this tantrum, but this entire stage, and pass quickly.

Scenario #2
Your 3-year-old wants ice cream for dinner. (Sounds yummy to me, too!) You, however, have dinner on the stove, and you know ice cream doesn't exactly cover the 4 food groups. *You might be able to side-step the tantrum with a "Yes! You can have ice cream after dinner" instead of just "No" but, then again, maybe not.* Realizing she is not getting ice cream right now, she has a meltdown of her own.

Behind the behavior: This is getting trickier :) At 3, she may want a little more control, and deciding what she wants for dinner seems perfectly reasonable to her. If she has been grappling for independence recently, you can give her control over all the areas you don't need control over. Let her decide her snacks. Let her pick out which plate. Let her match (or mismatch) her own outfits. This will help fill her need for autonomy, and she'll be more likely to cooperate when you need the control.

Or, this could just be another case of frustration. Being 3 isn't always a walk in the park. Look for ways to ease her frustration levels through the day. Do you have too many unnecessary limits? Is she constantly spatting with a sibling? Is there tension in the home? Address the reason behind the frustration, and she won't be melting down so much.

:ACTION: Empathy will always be your first step in addressing tantrums. She doesn't need the ice cream, but she does need to know that you "get her." If you send her away for tantruming, it will just build more bad feelings on top of what she already has. It's okay to be upset that you can't get what you want. Be present for her. You might say, "Wow, you're upset. You really want ice cream right now!" Truly empathizing with her upset is likely to reduce tantrum time, but remain present and calm (just breathe!) until she lets it all out. Explaining why she can't have the ice cream mid-tantrum is futile. She's in flight or fight mode (throwing in some brain science here) and it's best to save the lesson for when she's regulated (calm). Later, you can explain why ice cream isn't a good dinner choice, but during the tantrum, she just needs your presence and empathy.

*Note* If she has aggressive tantrums (i.e. kicks or hits) or tells you to go away, keep at a safe distance, but don't leave. Let her know you accept her, big emotions and all.

Scenario #3
You've taken your 2-year-old with you shopping. You've been out for a few hours now, and the crankiness has been increasing over the past hour. She grabs her sippy, but it's empty, so she hurls it to the floor and begins to cry. Hard. You're already noticing "the looks" from the other shoppers.

Behind the behavior: Hunger? Tiredness? Over-stimulation? Boredom? Could it have been prevented? Fill the need, whether it be food or a nap or a break, once the tantrum has passed, and chalk it up to a learning experience for the next trip.

:ACTION: What's the word of the day? EMPATHY! Who cares if everyone is staring and judging? Focus on your baby and maybe they'll learn something. "I know you're so tired! I'm sorry, sweetie. I've kept us out too long today, and you've missed your nap. It'll be okay." By now, I bet you've got this down pat. Stay with her through the tantrum, empathize with her upset, remain calm.

Scenario #4
Your 7-year-old asks you for a new scooter like his friend has. You tell him you can't afford it right now. He yells back at you that he never gets anything he wants, his friend's parents buy him everything, and then he goes into full-on fit mode, stomping, slamming doors, throwing things.

Behind the behavior: At 7, he should probably be past the tantrums, so you might need to do a little detective work. Perhaps there is peer pressure of some kind, or maybe even bullying that you're not aware of. His desire to fit in may be why he wants the scooter, and may be driving the tantrums. Or perhaps he just hasn't learned how handle his emotions very well yet. It's time to teach him how. How do you teach him? You guessed it!! EMPATHY.

:ACTION: It doesn't matter if your child is 1, 7, 15, or 35, when he is upset, he needs understanding and empathy. The lessons can come later, but during the time of extreme upset, he needs you to be the rock.
Brain development requires little ones to be soothed by someone else, and from that they develop the neural network to soothe themselves. If they don't develop this neural network in infancy, whether because they are left to cry or for some other reason, they will need your help to develop it during childhood. -Dr. Laura Markham
The drill is the same. Let him know that you see that he is upset and that you're there for him.

For more on tantrums in older children, read this post by Dr. Laura Markham, which explains in depth how to handle this issue.

Once the storm has passed and your child is calm, address the behaviors of kicking, hitting, slamming doors, or throwing things. Explain that the feelings are acceptable but these actions are not because they could cause injury. Talk about better ways of handling anger and frustration with your child; counting to 10, going outside to throw a ball, or for younger children, clapping releases that energy, or perhaps an optional cool down spot filled with books or soothing music. Punishing him for kicking won't teach him a more appropriate way to handle his frustration, but only add to his bad feelings. Until we give children better tools to deal with tough emotions, we can't expect them to do better.

Also, read Managing Your Toddler: TANTRUMS! for more great tips.

Permissive parents give in to tantrums by giving the child ice cream or buying the scooter, authoritarian parents may punish the child for having a tantrum, but positive parents stay within their set boundaries while empathizing and helping the child deal with her emotions.

It is also important to realize that being loving and present through a tantrum doesn't teach your child it's okay to have tantrums. Tantrums are a result of built up emotions that need released. Think of a time when you've been extremely upset. Perhaps your spouse or a friend was there with you while you cried or ranted, holding you, squeezing your hand, listening. It didn't send the message to you that it's good to be upset and rant, and it didn't cause you to rant more frequently. When someone is present and comforting through our upsets, it helps us recover faster and makes us feel connected and loved.

We want to show our children that we accept them all the time, when the waters are calm AND through the raging storms. This is unconditional love.

Why Co-Sleeping Didn't Ruin My Marriage (Or My Kids!)

Sunday, July 3, 2011 12 comments

Basically every choice you make as a parent can be controversial, and co-sleeping is no exception. My own children have always co-slept, either in the same room or in the same bed, with my husband and I. I've met several co-sleepers who discuss it in a hush-hush tone, as though it were shameful to admit that you let your children sleep with you.


Let me say that I have no problem with children sleeping alone. My belief is that children should sleep wherever they feel comfortable, safe, and happy. If a child feels that way in his bed in his own room, great! It just so happens that mine never did. What I intend to do, however, is do a little myth-busting. (I enjoy doing that.)

Once, on my personal Facebook page, I mentioned that we were a co-sleeping family (no shame here!) and one friend asked the ever-popular question, "But doesn't that put a damper on your intimacy with your husband?" My response to her was this: "I have 9 other rooms in this house."

If you and your partner feel the only place you can have sex is at night in your bedroom, dare I say that having your child in your bed may not be your biggest hurdle in the sex department. That's all I'm saying.

Let's examine for a minute what makes a happy marriage. In the book called The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts by Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, these are among the list of things that go into making a happy marriage:

1. Respect between the partners.

2. Each person cherishes the other.

3. Each finds pleasure and comfort in the other’s company.

4. Emotional support of each other.

5. Mutually satisfying physical intimacy.

6. Expression of appreciation between the partners.

7. The creation of fond memories.

8. A feeling of safety, friendship, and trust.

9. An equitable division of household tasks and child rearing.

10. A sense that the success of the marriage is attributable to both partners.

11. An ability to express both positive and negative emotions.

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Nothing on that list is hampered by having your child(ren) sleep next to you.

Let me go a step further. I believe being a co-sleeping family has not only NOT HAMPERED our marriage, but STRENGTHENED it. There's something to be said about looking at your husband, both of you looking down at your sleeping children, looking back up at each other, and smiling with pride and love. In my opinion, it has strengthened our bond as a family unit. My husband works long hours, so co-sleeping provided an opportunity for him to be close to them, to hug them and stroke their cheeks, even if they were sleeping.

But what about the children? Won't co-sleeping make them clingy FOREVER?

Probably not, although I'm not going to lie and say my kids are super independent. They're now 4 and 2, and they still need someone to lay down with them until they fall asleep, and they need one of us if they wake at night, and you know what? It is my privilege to do so. You see, I realize that, in 10 years, I'm not going to be so cool to them, or so needed. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

There have been a slew of studies on the benefits of co-sleeping, but I'm not going to be linking them up here. Chances are, if you're on a Positive Parenting blog, you've probably seen them anyway. The truth is, I'm not concerned with what the studies say. I'm concerned with what what I feel is right. Whenever I tried to get them to sleep alone (yes, I did try), I felt bad. When they are sleeping close to me, I feel good. I'm not selfish though, I see it makes them feel good, too. So, if we all feel good, and we're all happy, well I'd say we're all pretty far from "ruined."