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    Expert Parenting Advice





    I’m an expert in parenting - in a way. Not  in the official documented degree-in-a-frame-on-the-all kind of way; but rather in the nine-years-two-kids-countless-bedtime-bathtime-tantrum-growth spurt-milestone-and-birthday party-kind of way.  So in that way, here is my “expert” parenting advice.


    1) Have patience. For your kids, yourself, and the process of parenting and growth.  The tantrums or sleepless nights or biting or talking back you’re dealing with right now will go away - with time. Have patience; trust the process of time and change.  Your kids - and you - are never stagnant and every day is different.  You’re always changing, learning, growing, getting better at life. Sometimes some things just take a little longer than others.  Have patience. Whether it is patience in the moment (this, too, shall pass), or patience in the long run (okay, “this too, shall pass” also applies here), not fighting the process of time and change, just letting things flow, makes parenting - and living your life - so much easier.  


    2) Choose love. In every parenting decision, choosing love is always the path to take. When you act from a place of love - for yourself, when you decide to step away from the chaos and take that much-needed coffee break, or for your kids - when you hug them in the midst of a breakdown and say, “I understand,” (even if you don’t, quite) instead of sending them to their room, you’ve made the right choice from love.  Kids feel love, speak love, deserve love - and you do too, even if you didn’t get enough of it (especially if you didn’t get enough of it) in your own childhood. Choose love, it’s never the wrong choice.


    3) Be kind. This goes along with number two. Kindness in word and tone and deed - to yourself and your children - makes a big difference in how you and your kids feel. We parents have a tendency to beat ourselves up about decisions we’ve made. Stop doing that. Be kind to yourself, remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. Be kind to your kids; they learn from - and become - what they see and hear.


    Madame Vigée-Lebrun et Sa Fille by 
    Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, oil on canvas, 1789.

     

    Have patience. Choose love. Be kind.


    It works for everything, really.

     

    Peace.

     

    Posted: Nov 21 2013, 13:26 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    National Spank Out Day - Alternatives to Spanking





    Today is National Spank Out Day!

     

    What does that mean? It's a day devoted to NOT using physical punishment with your kids. Now, not spanking doesn't mean not disciplining. But what can you do instead of spanking, especially if you have spanked in the past? Some ideas on how to discipline gently:

     

    1) Breathe, stop a moment, focus on yourself before responding to your child. Think about the message you're about to give. Will it help your child? Will it come out in a way you'll feel good about later? Say what you want to say in a way that YOU would want to hear it.

    2) Give a hug or a gentle touch; or just get down on the floor with your child - being at the same level can be calming & give you perspective.  We adults can look really big - and scary - when we're standing up.

    3) Acknowledge big feelings: "I understand you are VERY frustrated right now". And your own, too: "I'm feeling angry too". Empathize with the feelings, and demonstrate how to move through them gently, without force. You are your child's first and best teacher. How would you WANT your child to act when they are angry? Act that way.

    4) Offer a choice, instead of an ultimatum: "Do you want to put your toys away yourself, or would you like some help?" Choice is empowering and motivating.

    5) Distract & redirect. Get everyone out the door for a walk, take a bath, make cookies. You don't need to be in "behavior correction" mode all the time. Give yourself and your child a break.  When you're back to feeling good, being connected, then you can talk about the behavior that happened earlier in the day.

    6) Fake it. Gentle discipline and mindful parenting in the face of a temper tantrum can be really REALLY hard; but it's very worthwhile. But, sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Pretend the "best parent in the world" is watching; what would you like them to see? Do that. The way you feel afterwards - knowing you were just a superhero in the face of a really difficult situation - will give you the power to do it again next time, without having to pretend.

    7) Forgive. Be gentle with yourself, as you'd like to be with your child. You won't always "get it right"; but you're trying - and your child will see that. Forgive yourself, and move on. Next time, you'll do better.

     

    I hope you'll use today to try an alternative to spanking. Keep in mind that whatever lesson you want to teach can be more effectively communicated when you are BOTH calm & connected. Cool off, calm down - you'll be more creative and your child will be more responsive.  Connection is what good relationships is all about. When you connect with your child, helping correct behaviors will be so much easier.  You can do this!

     

    Peace to you.

     

    Bedtime Connection





    Today, I'm writing at Natural Parents Network about nighttime parenting in a post called Bedtime Connection. Here's an excerpt:

    "I know it can be challenging to lie down at the end of a long day with your kids — when you may be thinking of a million and one things you’d like to get done in the limited time you may have between their bedtime and yours. But, there’s nothing so important as connection with your children.

    This evening, try taking a bit of time to relax, cuddle, and just listen after you say goodnight, but before you leave the room. Be open to what your kids have to say in the dark — without judgment, without routines and schedules, without places to be or things to do. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you learn about them — and about yourself. Remember it’s fleeting, this time with our kids. Embrace it while you can."


    (photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52193278@N00/) 

    To read the entire post, please visit the Natural Parents Network site... and have a look around. There are some really amazing mothers sharing their experiences with gentle, natural, intuitive parenting.

    For more things I've written on sleep, have a look here.

    Posted: Oct 29 2012, 11:06 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Go to Your Baby





    Don't stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby.

    ~Peggy O'Mara

     

    The latest article from Time magazine on baby sleep has me upset. (Of course, it does seem that's what they're aiming for recently. Remember the skerfuffle they caused over the "scandalous" breastfeeding cover?) The thing with this particular article however, is that it goes a step further than just ruffling feathers, or causing a stir. I'm afraid it may take what many parents may be on the edge of doing, and give them that little push over. What am I talking about? 

    Crying it out.

    Crying it out, or controlled crying, is the practice of leaving your baby to cry herself to sleep - usually at gradually increasing timed intervals - in an effort to "train" her to sleep on her own. Forced independence. There are myriad books and websites and doctors and parents and websites that will help steel you against your babies cries, encourage you to "be tough", and "not give in", leading you to believe that overriding your natural, instinctual NEED to GO to your crying baby, is the right thing to do... in order to "prevent spoiling your baby".

    (photo source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/iskir/)

    Have you ever listened to your baby cry, when you couldn't get to her? Maybe you were in another room, helping an older sibling, or driving your car. It's uncomfortable, physically difficult, painful even. If you're breastfeeding, your breastmilk may letdown, you start breathing faster, your heartrate picks up, you sweat, feel nervous, uncomfortable, unable to focus or settle down. You have those responses because you NEED to go to your baby - it's biologically part of your make up, that connection with your infant. She needs to communicate, just like you need to listen. She's not manipulating you, and you're not giving in, you're both just doing what you're supposed to do to help this tiny human thrive and survive. Without that inadvertant response, our species might be in danger. So, why does this Time magazine article suggest that it's OKAY to leave your baby to cry?

    Because I believe as a society we've come to lose faith in ourselves as baby interpreters. We don't trust our baby's ability to communicate, nor our ability to respond. We don't believe that they'll learn how to sleep unless WE  "do something" to get them there. And yet… we don't actively TEACH our children to talk. We don't TRAIN our children to walk. We trust they'll come to do that on their own. I believe it is time to start trusting that our babies will learn to sleep just as they learn to walk and talk - with gentle encouragement, empathy, guidance, honor, and love.

    It comes down to trust. It's time to start trusting yourselves again, parents. Trust your baby. She knows how to communicate, and you know how to listen to her. You know deep down what FEELS right. Honor that feeling, don't ignore it! You WILL learn each others' language, and baby WILL sleep; it doesn't take training or timers or turning a deaf ear.

    (photo source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dianabeato/)

    Believe me: this short time when she's not sleeping as much as you'd like…It WILL be gone in a flash. And you will feel SO GOOD to know you LISTENED to her when she cried for you, that you HONORED her feelings, that you TRUSTED yourself AND her. Don't let "studies" sway you.

    You want to go to your baby. So, go to her.

     

    Posted: Oct 23 2012, 23:39 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    Connection and Attachment Beyond Babyhood





    Attachment parenting is often associated with babies and very young children. But what happens when your baby is too big for a sling or your preschooler has weaned? Does attachment parenting have to stop? Not at all. The basis of attachment parenting is getting tuned-in to your child, learning to communicate effectively, and staying connected.  You may not be able/want to breastfeed your five-year-old, but that doesn't mean he no longer wants - and needs - the gentle nurturing touch that you and he shared when he was a sweet, chubby baby. Here are some ways to help strengthen those connections you built in babyhood, and stay in-tuned with your older kids:

     

    Get down on the floor and play.

    Sometimes it's really a challenge to shake the stiff realities of life as an adult and loosen up. Sometimes kids play seems boring. Sometimes all you can think about is what you're "not getting done" while playing with your kids. Maybe you're just not the playing kind? I get that. It can be hard at times, to get down and really play with kids, but it's worth it! Even a bit of an effort makes a difference. Every ten minutes spent helping construct a Lego tower, tossing a ball back and forth, or throwing a blanket over the kitchen table to make a fort adds to your connection bank. We can all find ten minutes. Remember, play is kids' language. We need to speak it now & then.

     

    Hug, cuddle, and use gentle touch.

    Not only babies like and benefit from gentle touch. Keeping attached to our children means cuddling up with them - even when they're nearly as big as we are! Offer hugs whenever you can (wrestle  if kids say they are "too big" for hugs & kisses), offer  a gentle massage to help kids relax before bed, cuddle up on the couch when watching a movie or reading a book, use gentle, reassuring touch (like a pat on the back) when your child is working hard at a task, offer to brush or braid your children's hair (and then have them do the same for you!). Gentle touch is a great way to reconnect and show love without having to say a word!

     

    Write a love note.

    My daughter has told me many times how much she enjoys reading the notes I've left in her lunch during the school year. Jot down a happy poem, an inspiring phrase, or a note from the heart and leave it somewhere your child will be sure to see it - in their lunch box, on their bathroom mirror, or in their sports bag. If you're not the flowery words type, try something simple like a smiley face or "Have a great day!" (I created a few "staying connected" cards - feel free to print & include them in your kids' lunches). Just a few words of encouragement or cheer, reminding your children that you're thinking of them - even when you're apart - can really mean a lot to your child.

     

    Actively listen.

    Listen to your kids when they talk. Simple, right? But I know how challenging it can be to stop what you're doing and pay close attention when your child is in motor-mouth mode, or telling you the details of the latest Harry Potter book, which you both have already read, many times. Keep in mind that while the little details may not be important to you at that moment, what they are telling you is important to THEM. By making eye contact and actively listening, you're letting them know how important THEY are to YOU. Good listening is crucial to keeping your connection strong. And while the stories NOW may seem simplistic or boring, as they grow, if they're used to telling you their feelings and experiences, you'll be the first person they come to when the stories are scary, complex, or they're facing challenging decisions as teenagers. Listening now reverberates.

     

    Attachment parenting doesn't have to stop with breastfeeding, babywearing, or cosleeping. Staying connected our kids doesn't take much effort, and can make a world of difference in maintaining that close relationship you established in babyhood. Go ahead, give your big kid an extra hug today & see how good it feels!

    Posted: Jun 14 2012, 00:00 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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