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    How to Stop a Tantrum

    When a child is having a tantrum, is it really our job as a parent to physically stop that tantrum or punish a child for having one? I say no. Our job is to acknowledge the tantruming child’s upset, to give them words for feelings they may not have experienced before (or just don’t know how to express), to help guide their anger or frustration or extra energy in a productive way, and to keep them and those around them safe in the process.  But those emotions - expressed as a temper tantrum - they BELONG to your child, not to you. You aren’t responsible for your child’s feelings, and It isn’t your job to stop them emoting. You are responsible for keeping them safe, but curtailing or punishing expression of emotion isn’t healthy in the short or long term!

    A tantrum is an expulsion of energy and emotion from a child who doesn’t yet have a full understanding of the range of human emotions, nor the knowledge or control to express them in a reasonable manner. Sometimes a tantrum comes from a child wanting to say something, but not having the right words. Sometimes they are overstimulated. Sometimes, they’re just plain tired. Kids are NEW to all of these things - excitement, fear, large groups of people, boredom, jealousy, anger, frustration, feeling super tired but not being in their bed… and the list goes on. Children are new to the WORLD! They are still learning - everything.  

    Of course, tantrums aren’t fun. And they usually aren’t convenient. But they are normal, and can be awesome learning experiences!  Here are some ideas to help you help your child navigate a tantrum:

    1) Practice patience. Both for yourself, and for your child. Seeing you calm in the midst of her storm is an awesome lesson to be teaching. Remember no tantrum lasts forever; this storm will pass - so it’s really okay to allow your child room and to express themselves. As long as they aren’t in danger of being hurt, or hurting someone else, there’s no harm in kicking the floor for a bit. If it’s upsetting to you, give yourself some space. If you’re worried about your child getting hurt, gently move them to a safer spot, or if they’re bigger, suggest they move themselves (this is something that’s great to be talked about ahead of time - when things are calm - choosing a “calming spot” or a place that’s okay to kick around in).

    2) Acknowledge their feelings. Let them know you understand through your words & actions (and in doing so, you’re giving them words to describe how they feel) by describing what you see:

    I see you are upset because I didn’t let you have a cookie.

    I can tell you’re really frustrated because the game didn’t end up the way you wanted.

    I know you’re not feeling great right now because your friend can’t come play.

    I hear you are really angry because I changed my mind about our plans.

    3) Empathize. When you’re not feeling good, it helps to know you’re not alone. Let your child know you’ve been there:

    I know how it feels to be mad; I get mad sometimes too.

    It isn’t fun when we have to stop playing; I don’t like to be interrupted either.

    It stinks to feel left out.

    4) Accept them. Let them know it’s okay, emotions are normal, and that no matter what happens, you love them:

    It’s okay to feel bad sometimes, and it won’t last forever.

    It’s alright that you’re upset, that’s normal to feel that way when something happens that you don’t like.

    It’s okay to get angry at me, I love you even when you’re angry.

    5) Wait. You DON’T have to teach anything in the middle of a tantrum. You can wait it out. Once the storm has passed… THEN you can talk about what happened. Or, you can leave it. Sometimes a kid just needs a release, and moving on can be in everyone’s best interest. A hug, a high five, or a pat on the back, then continuing with your day may be just what’s needed. Another time, apart from the emotional event might be a better point to discuss what to do next time.

    If and when you do choose to talk about the tantrum, here are some ideas:

    1) Remember the good stuff. Don’t hang on to the bad feelings or even the why’s of what happened, instead, bring up what they did right.  If your child used words you’ve been working on, praise them for that, if they took themselves to their quiet area without being reminded, let them know you appreciated that:

    I heard you say that you were really frustrated. Thank you so much for using those words, I really understood what you were feeling!

    I noticed that when you were so angry, you went up to your room. I bet you felt proud to recognize your feelings and choose to move yourself to your calming spot.

    I saw you kicked your pillow instead of your sister. That was really good self control, thank you for not hurting anyone.

    2) Suggest alternatives. If your child tends to be destructive during a tantrum - throwing or breaking things or kicking, think about some things that they could physically do that would be OKAY with you, like (suggesting SOFT stuff ahead of time may help direct their behaviors towards those things):

    Hitting a pillow or punching a punching bag

    Lying on the bed or couch & kicking

    Tossing/kicking stuffed animals into a laundry basket

    3) Talk about prevention. It’s amazing to see a child recognize they are getting angry or upset, and refocus their energy BEFORE they have a tantrum. It is possible! Giving your kids some ideas for getting their feelings out without hurting themselves, others, or damaging things around them. Let them know those feelings are real, but they will pass, particularly if they are able to focus them onto something else. Some ideas:

    Building a fort with pillows and blankets

    Rolling, pounding, sculpting clay or playdoh

    Drawing - can be about how they feel or not - just the action of drawing can help

    Weaving potholders or rainbow loom rubber band bracelets

    Stacking blocks or building legos

    Acting out how they feel or what happened to make them feel angry/sad with dolls/Barbies

    Meditating or reading

    When we are tired as adults, we take ourselves to a place we can rest. We we are frustrated or angry, we say so. When we’re overstimulated, we say goodnight, and leave the party. ;) We’ve had years and years of practice at recognizing how we feel, and learning how to curb it, act on it productively, or express it without hurting others or ourselves - emotionally or physically (and sometimes, we even fail). Your kids are new at all of this. Give them the tools to succeed and... give them time to figure it out. Work with them to find solutions, and things will get easier.



    Posted: Nov 25 2013, 23:45 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Wordless Wednesday: World Breastfeeding Week

    We're in the midst of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 – 7th)!
    To celebrate, I’m sharing some awesome & inspiring breastfeeding photos, a moving video, and a cute tandem-nursing comic. Enjoy!

    Ontario's Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign Poster. Love this slogan!
    (source: Ontario Human Rights Commission - http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/issues/pregnancy/en/issues/pregnancy/pgac/document_view)

    Dar las teta es dar vida - To give the breast is to give life
    (source: Puerto Rico Breastfeeding Promotional Commercial - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=942FRjAJhxU)

    Older babies love to nurse, too! And what better place than the bath?
    (Source: http://www.breastfeeding-problems.com/breastfeeding-photos.html)

    New Zealand's National Breastfeeding Promotion Campaign - such positive messages in these posters!
    (Source: http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/indexmh/breastfeeding-resources-newsletter8)

    A comedic look at the sweet - and very real - side (pun alert) of tandem breastfeeding.
    (Source: http://www.breastfeeding.com/lighter_side/lighter_side_images/mccartney/200.html)

    Yoga + Breastfeeding = Awesomely Wow.
    (source: http://daughterofthesun77.blogspot.com/2011/04/naia-and-i-doing-our-daily-yoga.html )
    Posted: Aug 03 2011, 00:01 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Weaning and the Changing Role of Mothering

    My baby has weaned. He’s three an a half years old. A big boy, yes. But my baby – my last baby.

    I still vividly remember nursing him . . . my little snorting, grunting, squeaker. Snuggled up to me, tiny feet against my belly, filling his own. When he was full, he’d pull his head away with an audible POP!, purse his lips to the ceiling, then settle his tiny head on my breast and sleep, fulfilled, satisfied. My little one. So long ago, but I can still easily bring to mind the feel of the top of his head pressed against my upper arm, and my breathing in the warm, sweet, milky smell of his baby fine hair as we’d drift off to sleep. Breastfeeding mama-and-baby bliss.

    His weaning marks the close of one of the most amazing parts of my life, so far: breastfeeding my children. The six years I have spent nursing were some times when I felt most needed, most helpful, most challenged, most useful, most utterly female.

    To think of the years I spent nursing my two children and that I will likely never nurse another baby again nearly brings tears to my eyes. It’s not all sadness, those tears, not really . . . it’s a strange feeling. A bit of loss, wistfulness, pride, remembrance, transition. The transition was easier for me with my first, because when my daughter weaned herself at nearly four years old, my son was still nursing. But now that they are both done, now that I am no longer nourishing and healing and comforting my children with my breasts, my mothering role is changing.

    Certainly, what it means for me to be a mother has been in continual flux for years – changing ever since my first baby was born – you really do grow along with your children. And the role of breastfeeding itself changes too – from the constant need for physical nourishment of an exclusively breastfed infant to much less frequent emotional comfort needs of a nursing toddler. Thankfully, Mother Nature makes those changes gradual: when babies and children self-wean, they do so in a way that lets you, your body, and your mind (and that of your children) more gracefully accept and adapt to the changes. But still, it’s not easy. Even though its been months since I’ve nursed, the real thought that I’m no longer a nursing mother – that I’ll no longer be able to use that valuable mothering tool of breastfeeding – for soothing, comforting, feeding, nourishing, healing – feels a bit uprooting.

    (My two littles... nursing their "babies")

    But breastfeeding was, and always has been, primarily about what my children needed. They no longer need my milk; they’ve both transitioned out of their baby stage. And thus, I’ve been transitioning myself out of my baby-nurturing stage.

    I’ve been putting out some new mothering roots, trying out new tools, and am feeling excited to continue venturing into this next stage of independence with both of my children. I will always treasure – and be eternally grateful for – those years of breastfeeding that I was blessed and lucky to be able to share with my children.

    I watch them now – nursing their own “babies” – and I hope that their current belief and understanding of breastfeeding as normal, natural, nurturing, and wonderful stays with them through their lives; that they will have the privilege and good fortune to breastfeed (or support their partner in breastfeeding) their own children in the future.

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

    This was cross-posted at Natural Parents Network - please take a moment to visit!

    Posted: Jan 06 2011, 08:46 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    Keeping it Positive - Alternatives to No

    I believe children are better able to grow and flourish when they are in a positive, "yes" environment in which they can safely explore. Yet, often, as parents, we end up using the word "no" to guide our children's behavior, far more often than we may want to, which can lead to a negative environment where children are prohibited from exploring and growing to their full potential. Using the word no is easy and can become habitual - a knee-jerk response, and also can quickly become a toddler’s favorite word, and/or the word least paid-attention to by your children. This, in turn, leaves parents feeling ignored and children feeling stymied. Yet, children do need limits, and as parents, it’s our duty to keep them safe. 


    So what do you do when you want to keep your child away from something dangerous/fragile/breakable or need stop an undesirable behavior... but you don't want to say no?



    Here are some alternatives to using the word No:


    - Keep baby-unfriendly items out of reach and/or locked away until baby is able to carefully handle them, while keeping a few safer "adult" items out for baby to explore with you.


    - Redirect the "no" behavior. If baby keeps going for the extension cord, and you keep saying no, and she keeps going for it, instead, get down on the floor with her, and redirect her with another intruiging (yet safer) object.


    - Use the words "We don't..." and describe the undesirable behavior.  For example, "We don't throw balls in the house." instead of just No! and taking the ball away.


    - Go one step further and give a "We do..." alternative. For example, "We don't throw balls in the house.  But we do throw trash in the garbage can - here, you try!"


    - Use an alternate word like STOP! to keep a toddler from running into a dangerous situation or HOT! to keep toddler from reaching up to the stove. Stop and Hot actually give more specific, yet, quick instruction as opposed to No, which is more generic, and more likely to be ignored. 


    - Practice the Stop! and Go! game with your toddlers in a danger-free zone, like a back yard, where you have the kids run when you say Go! and stop right away when you say Stop!


    - Use a weird word - HALT! or SLAM! or BEEP! or BOOGER! The word itself matters less than the tone of your voice, which is usually enough to get your baby or toddler to stop what they are doing long enough for you to intervene. Just keep a few surprise words in your back pocket - don't use them often, only when absolutely necessary to get immediate attention.


    - If you must say no, modify it with an alternative, like, "No, but you CAN (fill in the blank)". For example, toddler is about to hit the baby, instead of just saying no, say, "No hitting baby, but we can hit the drum!"


    - Take a breather. If your child is asking something that you're tempted to say no to right away, like, "Can I get a pair of shoes like that?" you can say, "Let me think about it", and then, do think on it.  Maybe an alternative solution can be reached when you've had some time to think.


    - Offer options as an alternative to no. Instead of, "No, we can't go to the zoo today" say, "How about we have a picnic in the back yard?" or "I just got a great movie in the mail; would you like to watch it?"


    - Give an informational answer to a question that you might otherwise be tempted to answer with a no. Like, "Can I have a snack?" could be answered with, "Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes."


    - Rephrase No to Yes. Instead of, "No, we can't go bike riding right now because I have a lot of work to do", try, "Yes, as soon as I finish my work. I should be ready to go in a half an hour."


    - Have a Yes day (or hour, or minute)!  Allow yourself to answer all of your child's requests for an allotted period of time with a positive answer, instead of a negative one.  Certainly, if the request is, "Can I poke the baby with a pencil?" you've got to draw the line there (maybe with a fun redirection or No, but you CAN... statement), but if the request is, "Can I play with your phone?" or "Can I pour the juice myself?" or "Can I wear flip flops with socks?", try saying Yes, (and offering assistance if needed) instead of immediately saying no. I've found behavior turns around quickly and no's are more quickly responded to, when more yeses are used on a daily basis.



    Do you have any other alternatives to saying No?  I’d love to hear!



    Posted: Sep 21 2010, 17:58 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Ten Things To Do While Breastfeeding

    Breastfeeding is the perfect opportunity for true multitasking! Here are ten things you can easily do at the same time as you are nursing your baby:


    1) Read. This is always my favorite thing to do while nursing! With my first baby, I finished many books in our marathon nursing sessions from the rocking chair. Clever pillow arrangement allows your hands to be free, or if you need a hand to support baby or your breast, you can get a book holder.  Set up a little table right next to your rocking chair, set the book in, and you only need one hand to turn the page! You can also read in the side-lying nursing position – just prop the book on a pillow, behind baby, and you’re golden. I don’t think I’ve read as voraciously as I did those first couple of months; I used to hope my daughter would KEEP nursing a little longer so I could finish my chapter! :)  


    2) Sleep. Make sure your bed is baby-safe, and get yourself & baby comfortable in the side-lying nursing position. The hormones released during breastfeeding are naturally relaxing and sleep-inducing. What better way to catch up on much-needed rest than while nurturing your little one?  Behind reading, this was definitely my favorite thing to do while nursing.  If you can get older siblings to nap at the same time, fantastic!  I found the best way to do this was to side-lie nurse, and have my then 2-year old cuddle up against my back.  She could reach over & snuggle me, and her movements (if she wasn’t sleeping) didn’t disturb baby.


    3) Play Poker. Yes, I have breastfed my newborn at the poker table! Really, with the right pillow or sling, you can nurse anywhere, doing pretty much anything. I’ve nursed while playing board games with friends, and I don’t think anyone knew the difference – not even my little one.  He was just happy to be with Mommy.


    4) Get on the Computer.  Just bring a comfy pillow to put below baby for support, latch baby on, and voila – both hands free to surf the web, work, or blog. The first few months of both of my childrens’ lives, when I was working from home, I did a lot of my computer work with a nursing (or sleeping) baby on my lap. With the dawn of smart phones, getting out on the internet while nursing is simple – you can do it anywhere – one handed!


    4) Have a Snack or Drink. I’ve always felt it is so important to have a drink of water with me while breastfeeding – I even kept a bottle in my bed, behind my pillow, for those nights when baby was asleep on me, and I’d wake up thirsty, but didn’t want to move (and wake baby!).  In the early days, a healthy snack (or snackS for those extra-long nursing sessons) next to my favorite chair was just what I needed to keep me energized.  Fresh fruit, whole grains, veggies are always the best choice. Try oatmeal – tastes great, is nutrient-dense, and helps boost supply!


    5) Cuddle Baby’s Siblings. If you have older children, nursing presents a unique opportunity for cuddling ALL your babies! There’s always an extra arm (or hand or leg or foot) available for snuggling up to while Mom is nursing.  You can read to older siblings.  Or play simple games – like Go Fish, or Memory. Or watch a movie together. My oldest used to pat her brother on the head while he was nursing and we were reading together. I know this quiet time helped their bond – they are still so close!


    6) Eat at a Restaurant. Breastfeeding has never kept me home. When we wanted to go out to eat, I’d just grab my sling, and hit the road.  In a restaurant, you can arrange baby in your sling, latch her on, scoot into the table, and hands are free for your fork & knife! If you don’t have a sling, you can support baby with one hand (or use your diaper bag on your lap like a Boppy pillow).  If I was ever feeling self-conscious, I always found a cloth napkin tucked & draped at just the right angle to be a perfect solution!


    7) Attend a La Leche Meeting. If you’ve never been to a LLL meeting, I strongly suggest you try it – at least once! I was nervous to go at first, having heard some strange things over the years about LLL.  But once I went, I was so very glad I did! Being able to breastfeed around other women who are all breastfeeding, all going through the same things, having the same worries, and the same questions as I did, was so comforting, and empowering! It also helped me to learn to be more comfortable with nursing in public. You can find a local group by visiting La Leche League’s site:


    8) Go Shopping. Once I learned to nurse on the go – in the sling, life became so easy! You can place a fussy baby in the sling, latch her on, and continue down your grocery shopping list, without having to stop to find a place to sit (and keep toddler occupied at the same time).  There’s always online shopping too! :)


    9) Write, Paint, Draw. Get those thank you cards finished! Channel your creative energy! Breastfeeding is a perfect time to do those one-handed tasks that may not otherwise get finished in the whirlwind of new parenthood. Take advantage of the quiet downtime, and keep your hands & mind busy!


    10) Gaze at Your Baby. Particularly in the early months, when baby nurses quietly, without too much motion or distraction, gazing lovingly at baby increases the bond you have with baby.  Gentle touches, stroking her hair, talking or singing softly, are all wonderful ways to get to know your baby better… all the while reveling in the miracle of her being and your breastfeeding – you’re the reason your baby is here, and you are the reason she’s growing! Yay mama!


    Posted: Sep 12 2010, 12:30 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Babies | Breastfeeding