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    Fostering Independence by Asking Instead of Telling

    We all want our children to become independent thinkers, to make their own decisions, and to think critically. When they are young, we still must guide them, as they don't yet have ALL the info they NEED to make the correct decisions. But sometimes I find the balance of imparting my own knowledge and wisdom while still encouraging my children to think for themselves and do what they already know, is often skewed towards my own knowledge. Maybe it's out of convenience: "If I just do it, it'll be done". Maybe it's ego: "I'm the Mom, I'll just tell them, and they'll do it". Maybe it's habit… when you have young children, you've only recently come out of the stage of having babies, who DID need you to - most of the time anyhow - instruct or DO instead of ask. But whatever the reason, I do find myself instructing my children on what to do, even while knowing they already have the information they need to make a decision.

    Example, bedtime routine: I get stuck many nights saying the same things: Okay guys! Please start teeth brushing then put on your jammies! In the midst of instruction, they usually have raced off into their bedroom, picked out books for reading, started building magformers, jumping on the bed, and… sometimes getting jammies on and brushing teeth in the meantime - but to the tune of SEVERAL "reminders". While I find myself getting a little annoyed, looking at the clock, realizing the time for books is getting short. I usually remind again: TEETH!!! This scenario plays out more nights then not. But… they DO know how to brush their teeth. And, they do ACTUALLY brush their teeth, they DO get their jammies on, they DO pick out a book and get into bed.

    So why am I still standing around telling them what to do?

    As with so many things, a simple change in approach does wonders. Instead of TELLING them what do to: "Time to brush your teeth!" or "Please get your jammies on now!", I have started ASKING them what THEY think needs to be done: "What needs to happen before we can read a book?" or "How do we make sure we have enough time before lights out to do what you want?" The answer, usually, is my kids getting RIGHT TO brushing teeth & putting on jammies. ASKING them (instead of dictating) what needs to be done - and then stepping out of the way while they figure it out - invites them to think, to make decisions in the moment, and start to develop their own sense of time management. Now, they may not do exactly what I wanted in exactly in the way I wanted it, but usually, things get done, on their own, and a great lesson in critical thinking and self-reliance has been taught (while saving my own sanity).

    It's not just bedtime for which this would work! I can think of many scenarios in which we parents may feel the need to just step in and DO or TELL our kids WHAT to do, when they are perfectly capable of figuring it out themselves. How about:

    GETTING WEATHER-APPROPRIATE CLOTHING ON: It's pretty wet outside. What do you think we should wear to stay dry?

    BICKERING SIBLINGS: I see you and your sister are fighting. How can you work together?

    TIME MANAGEMENT: Remember that you have piano lessons on Friday. What's your plan for practicing this week?

    GETTING READY TO GO: I don't like being late in the morning. What do you need to do to be ready to go on time?

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    So… Do you find yourself telling your kids what to do instead of asking them what they think they should do? Does switching from telling to asking work for you? Tell me about it!

    Posted: May 31 2012, 17:59 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Becoming A More Present and Less Judgmental Parent

    I feel I've come a long way in my parenting  journey over the last eight years.  I've developed more patience than I ever knew possible for myself, become more tolerant, open-minded, empathetic, and (sigh) better able to handle sleep deprivation. I've learned new techniques for calmly dealing with frustration, and for disciplining without punishment/reward/bribery (something prior to parenting I hadn't realized was even possible). But, though I've improved in these areas, incorporated these ideas into my parenting toolbox, that doesn't mean I've mastered them! And, still, my children change, new challenges present themselves, I find my limits being tested and I'm continually having to learn new, different techniques in order to change along with my kids. No one ever said parenting was boring, right? Something I've been working on recently, is learning how to calmly observe situations (as opposed to immediately judging what's going on and thus creating an emotion - usually a more forceful one like anger or irritation or resentment), as a way of being more present and better able to deal with things as they come up.

    When I am in a situation where I feel like my children are out of control, going wild, not listening… and I feel myself getting anxious, frustrated, or on the edge of outbursting myself, I try to stop for a moment. I take myself to a protected, quiet (or as quiet as you can get with children) spot. I breathe. I think about how I am feeling and recognize how I am (re)acting towards my children. I try to do this without judging myself - just acknowledging and recognizing. I breathe some more. I try to envision what I'd LIKE my children to be doing… AND (perhaps more importantly) how I would LIKE to respond to my children. I breathe. I try to ignore the outbursts or craziness for a little bit longer. Next, I think about what they are doing at the moment. I try to switch my way of thinking about what's going on with them from judgment to observation (something like moving from:  "I can't BELIEVE the how they've wrecked the house! I JUST straightened it up! They're out of control!!" to "There are a lot of things on the floor. My kids are full of energy."). I find that when I can move from forming opinions about what's going on to just making general observations, I feel my sense of stress about the situation greatly reduce. I go from feeling like I "NEED TO FIX" this situation to feeling like I'd just like to continue on with the day. When I'm no longer seeing what's going on as a problem and instead just being present with the situation, bringing awareness to life as it IS, then I'm no longer needing to fix it, so I can look at it more optimistically, calmly, and with a broader view.

    (Photo Credit: NaturalLifeMom.com)

    Take the example of the "house being wrecked immediately after cleaning it: if I look at it as the kids going bonkers, disrespecting their space, and creating more work for me, I may find myself wanting to hurry to clean up, which stresses me out, I may dictate that the kids follow suit, but then feel angry, frustrated, or put out when they don't immediately heed my directive, or irritated that they just keep getting louder - echoing my own irritated energy.  Nothing has been resolved, nothing learned, and stress continues on. Usually multiplied. If instead, I look at the same situation (after breathing and calming and reframing) as: kids with lots of energy, and stuff on the floor, I can more easily start picking just up the stuff (because it's just stuff on the floor that needs picked up), without demanding that the kids help (because I've envisioned them seeing me clean up and want to join in to help, since picking up stuff is part of life, and kids like to be part of real life), and I don't feel angry or frustrated because there's no blame, no judgment, no expectation. In fact, maybe I put on music while I clean up - because I like cleaning to music. Maybe I make a game out of it because who doesn't like trying to "make a basket" with stuff on the floor? Without pressure or force or guilt or blame or anger directing my actions, I often find myself more calm, more creative, more present. And, when I am more calm, my kids feel my calmness and direction, and they naturally start calming down, mirroring, echoing. Things get cleaned up, people are calm, and the day moves on. I haven't yet perfected this, but I find that it's working, so I continue to work in this direction in the hopes that we all will experience more peace, calm, awareness, and presence in our lives!

    (Photo Credit: PresenceParenting.com <-- for fabulously non-judgmental tips on how to acheive more presence, peace, and harmony in your life with children, please visit my friend Amy's blog. She also wrote this lovely online guide: Nurturing Presence)

    Here's to more calm, more breathing, and less judgment in your own life. Peace. 

    Posted: May 30 2012, 16:09 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Attachment Parenting - New York City Edition

    Last Thursday, I received an email from my fellow blogger, author, and friend, Dionna Ford at Code Name: Mama. Turns out it was a good thing I checked my email before heading to work that morning. As, less than an hour later, instead of driving to work, I found myself driving to New York City where I had the opportunity to meet the lovely and eloquent Dionna (and her sweet, nom-able baby daughter) in person, fellow natural parenting blogger Rachael at The Variegated Life (whose children *may* have the coolest names ever), the exuberant attachment parenting guru, Dr. Jay Gordon, and even got to shake hands with attachment parenting advocate Mayim Bialik!

    (Me, Ailia, and Dionna)

    After a three hour drive (yes, you read that correctly. My usual 1hr 20min drive to the big apple took THREE HOURS. I hear the President was in town for the day; so I'd like to thank POTUS - I've never seen the Lincoln Tunnel in such great, and drawn-out detail.), I was more than relieved to take my wrinkly-pants self out of my car, and into the busy studio of Anderson Cooper’s daytime show. The topic of the show segment being recorded that day was Attachment Parenting and breastfeeding; as prompted by the now-infamous Time Magazine cover. While waiting for Dionna to go to “hair and makeup” and then to on stage (squeee!),

    (Dionna, getting pretty)

    we both had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jay for a good long while. He’s an amiable, straight-talker with a true passion for normalizing breastfeeding and attachment parenting. He also happens to be the pediatrician to several Hollywood stars’ children – which as a complete non sequitur, did make for even more interesting conversation. I highly recommend checking out his site – which I referenced several times myself when my kids were babies.

    (Me, Ailia, and Dr. Jay)

    (backstage view - that's Mayim in the light)

    I was able to watch - with one eye - much of the filming from backstage with babe-on-hip (note to self: everyone wants to talk to you when you are holding a baby). However, I've yet to see the episode in its entirety. Once a full video can be found online, I'll be sure to post a link here! I've been told that, unfortunately, much of Dionna’s articulate responses to Anderson’s and audience member’s questions about breastfeeding and attachment parenting were left on the editing-room floor. I can attest in person, she did a fabulous job of representing the very normal side of extended nursing and natural parenting, and she did so with an air of confidence - in front of a large audience; including some celebrities (speaking of celebrities… while we were waiting backstage, Ailia and I took this photo):

    (Billy Bob Thornton)

    After the show, I was able to talk with Rachael a bit, took a few photographs of the city, then headed back home (a far shorter experience on the way back!). It was an excellent trip, all around. It felt so good to be able to talk attachment parenting in depth with real people - who really got it. I'm hoping, in spite of the shock-value nature of the Time cover, the subject of attachment parenting and breastfeeding will become more a part of the landscape and conversations of parenting in general; less a fringe "extreme" style, and more understood for what it truly IS: a natural and easy way of relating to our children. I'm grateful for mothers who stand up and speak out for what they believe in; together we can change the "norm" of parenting!  

    (Rachel & Dionna - city gals!)

    Posted: May 22 2012, 17:55 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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    What Attachment Parenting Is (and What It's Not)

    What attachment parenting IS:

    A way to form a lasting, loving connection between you and your children.

    A nurturing, gentle, and compassionate method of parenting and relating to your babies and children.

    A way to build a foundation of trust, understanding, and mutual respect between yourself and your baby that will last throughout childhood and into adulthood.

    A natural and instinctual method of responding to and interacting with your babies and children.

    A validating approach to parenting that encourages you to follow your baby's cues and trust your own innate ability when responding to your child.

    A way to help fulfill your baby's needs through nurturing touch, responsive feeding, close physical contact, gentle guidance, and empathetic communication.

    A style of parenting which fosters security, self-esteem, inner harmony, and independence in your children.


    What attachment parenting is NOT:

    A strict set of rules you have to follow.

    Attachment parenting has several guidelines suggested to help you foster the natural connection you already feel for your child. They aren't rules, and you don't have to do all of them in order to be an attached parent! The spirit and basis of attachment parenting is cultivating a deep and trusting connection between you and your children. Things like breastfeeding, babywearing, and cosleeping are all tools which can help you feel closer to your baby and to be naturally and more easily responsive to their needs; but you needn't practice all of them in order to practice attachment parenting.

    A method of parenting that you can only practice with babies.

    The ideas behind attachment parenting transcend babyhood. You don't have to start only when your child is a baby, nor feel like you've missed out! The principles of nurturing touch, empathetic communication, and gentle discipline can be put into effect at ANY TIME in your child's life. EVERYONE benefits from being truly listened to, understood, and respected. You may even find yourself attachment partnering! ;)

    A parenting method only for at-home mothers.

    While having consistant, loving care is critical for every baby and child, there's no reason that care needs to come from ONLY mom! Fathers, grandparents, siblings, and care givers can all care for babies in an attached way. You only need the desire for connection, a willingness to honor baby's cries as valid communication, and the ability to respond with sensitivity, empathy, and love to the wide range of childhood emotions - even the more challenging ones. Babywearing can actually HELP caregivers more effectively and responsively care for babies, while getting other things done! I know many parents who brought their babies to work in a sling (myself being one of them!), or who were able to reconnect lovingly at night after work, through breastfeeding and a family bed.


    Attachment parenting is, at its core, a method for relating to babies and children in gentle, nurturing ways, in an effort to form a lasting, loving, joyful connection with them. It's easy to do, feels good, and is wonderful for your children - AND for you!


    For more information about attachment parenting - what it REALLY IS, and how you can bring it into your life with your own children, grandchildren, or other children you care for, please check out these wonderful articles (listed alphabetically, except for NPN... because I write there, too!):


    NaturalParentsNetwork.com: What is Attachment Parenting? 

    AskDrSears.com: What AP Is: 7 Baby B's

    Attachment Parenting International: What is Attachment Parenting All About?

    TheBabyBond.com: Bonding Matters… The Chemistry of Attachment

    DrJayGordon.com: Flower Shop (Why You Should Attachment Parent)

    GreenChildMagazine.com: How Does Attachment Parenting Foster Independence?

    GreenMomHappyMom.com: How to Balance Work & Attachment Parenting

    The Hippie Housewife: Attachment Parenting (Series)

    MommaJorje.com: WHY Attachment Parenting?

    Our Crazy Corner of the World: What AP Looks Like

    Radical Ramblings: Attachment Parenting is for Everyone - Really!

    True Confessions of a Real Mommy: 7 Principles of "Too Lazy"

    TheVerigatedLife.com: Five Truths About Attachment Parenting 

    VibrantWanderings.com: Why Practice Attachment Parenting (Series)


    Do you have a favorite post that describes attachment parenting in an uplifting and positive light? Please share!


    Posted: May 17 2012, 19:25 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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    Derision and Scorn: How Time Dropped the Ball on Attachment Parenting

    What comes to mind when you think attachment parenting?

    Perhaps you envision a young, lithe, white woman, standing in bold contrapposto, staring unapologetically into the camera, her nearly four-year-old perched on a chair, hanging somewhat awkwardly from her one perfectly exposed breast, also staring - though less boldly, and more confusedly - into the same camera?

    It isn't what would come to my mind, nor, likely most parents who practice attachment parenting.

    But, with that very image, accompanied by a purposefully provocational headline and subtext, Time Magazine would like to convey the message that this pose/interaction (whether breastfeeding, breastfeeding an "older child", breastfeeding without cover, or perhaps, simply, a woman staring unabashedly at the viewer) is extreme (which, extreme, it's not. Perhaps, in 1863, when Edouard Manet first shocked the world by painting a bare-breasted woman staring unrepentantly at the viewer, "extreme" might be a suitable description, but in 2012, when sexualized breasts are the advertising norm, no),

    that it represents attachment parenting (which, considering how deliberately unengaged the two are in this photograph, it doesn't), and/or, that breastfeeding is the epitome of being "mom enough" (which, a child fed and clothed - all that's represented without dispute in this image - may be indicative of mom enough, but, I'd argue being a mom - a PARENT - takes far more than open mouth, insert milk; and the last time I checked, parenting wasn't a contest - at least not to anyone other than the media). In other words (through all my parenthesis) Time failed miserably with this cover.

    In truth, the only thing Time managed to do with this photograph, was to present a lovely woman with her cherubic child in an awkwardly stylized pose; slap an outlandish headline on the front which practically screams for people to get up in arms about - take your pick: attachment parenting, nudity, breastfeeding, mommy wars - and sell lots of copies of an otherwise less-than-unbiased and far-less-than thorough news magazine gossip rag.

    Certainly Time wasn't going for normalizing breastfeeding - which, could have served mothers and children everywhere. I say certainly, as, if that HAD been their intent, they would have chosen the alternate photograph for the cover - same mother and child, in a far more natural, comforting pose. With THAT photograph, they could have showed how breastfeeding is as much about nurturing as it is about nutrition, and that gentle, loving touch between mother and child doesn't have to end simply because a child is able to walk, talk, and get themselves dressed. They COULD have chosen an image that didn't reinforce the confounding and insidious public belief that breastfeeding beyond infancy, or exposing breasts for breastfeeding at all, is somehow sexual. They could have taken the road less travelled. Instead, they followed the path of least resistance: sex and shock value sells.

    Look, Time wasn't attempting to bring any real understanding of attachment parenting. If THAT had been their intent, certainly such martyr-esque language as was used to describe one featured attached parent would've been left behind in editing. Case in point:

    "[Joanne & her partner] ended much of their social life when they became parents. There are no date nights. Joanne doesn't get away for afternoons to have lunch with her girlfriends. In fact, the only time Joanne has ever left either of her children in anyone else's care was when she was in labor with her second child.... the child-rearing philosophy Joanne subscribes to, It's called attachment parenting ... a style that's more about parental devotion and sacrifice than about raising self-sufficient kids. ... Attachment-parenting dogma also says that every baby's whimper is a plea for help and that no infant should ever be left to cry."

    In fact, the accompanying article (The Man Who Remade Motherhood) was positively fraught with blatently obvious stereotypes, judgments, and purposeful overstatements:

    "…for months, Beauregard sat on the couch in her Denver-area living room, nursing her infant from sunup to sundown"

    (ALL that BREASTFEEDING - can you even IMAGINE? Oh, the OPPRESSION!) - and -

    "So is attachment parenting a misogynist plot to take women out of the workplace and put them back in the home full time?"

    (yes, yes, responding with empathy and gentleness to your infant is a "misogynist plot". But wait, where does it say only women may attachment parent, or that women must not work, or must breastfeed in order to attachment parent? That's right, nowhere. One wonders, after reading this article, if the author did any research but for the most cursory Google search on "Attachment Parenting" before writing.)

    I can't help but believe Time's sole intent was pure derision and scorn of an already beleaguered and misunderstood method of parenting.

    I praise Jamie Lynne Grumet, Dionna Ford, Jessica Cary, and Melinda Larson for taking such a brave step towards bringing greater understanding and acceptance to attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding. In all, it's terribly sad that Time missed a grand opportunity to present to its wide audience a nurturing, loving, gentle way of relating to children. By miring breastfeeding and attachment parenting in phony controversy and manufactured scandal, they really dropped the ball.

    Posted: May 11 2012, 22:31 by kelly | Comments (10) RSS comment feed |
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