1

Positive parenting: bits on toddler tantrums, doing chores together, and more

IMG_4544

Good morning everyone!

I am overwhelmed by how much attention you paid to my previous post on Big Feelings. I really love that we are all walking this positive parenting journey together. My brain definitely works better when I articulate my thoughts out loud, and I love hearing your thoughts on my posts.

Today I just want to share a few articles I came across that serve as a great follow-up to the discussion about big feelings and time-ins / time-outs. Below are some excerpts and links to the full articles. I’m not very familiar with these websites, but especially the first two seem like they have lots of good insights into positive parenting. If you know any of them and have an opinion to share, please do!

Transitions in Attachment Parenting: Infancy to Toddlerhood, originally posted in Aptly Said.

  • “A tantrum doesn’t need a punishment but simply some time to pass. Stay nearby. (…). When a tantrum ensues, let your toddler know it’s OK to be mad…”

How to Raise Decent Children without Spankings or Time-Outs, originally posted in Abundant Life Children.

  • “Throwing out spankings and time-outs does not mean that children run wild. If they did, we would be failing them as much as if we were using coercive methods to force behavior. (…) Guidance revolves around prevention, instruction, and remaining cool in the moment, insisting that children’s anti-social behaviors are needs in disguise. [The emphases is mine]. If we can get to the bottom of the need, and teach a new method for getting that need met, we have done our job.”

10 Current Psychology Studies Every Parent Should Know, originally posted in PsyBlog.

(I’ll post the whole thing below because it’s short and has lots of interesting bits. I particularly enjoyed the one about the parents doing chores together —this is totally true in our home!)

1. Parents are happier than non-parents

In recent years some studies have suggested that the pleasures of having children are outweighed by the pains.

“Ha!” said parents to themselves, secretly, “I knew it!”

Not so fast though: new research has found that, on average, parents feel better than non-parents each day and derive more pleasure from caring for their children than from other activities (Nelson et al.,. 2013).

Fathers, in particular, derive high levels of positive emotions and happiness from their children.

2. Putting your child first is worth it

Underlining the pleasures of having children, research finds that child-centric attitudes are beneficial.

 A study by Ashton-James et al. (2013) found that parents who were the most child-centric were also happier and derived greater meaning in life from having children.

Performing child-care activities was associated with greater meaning and fewer negative feelings.

“These findings suggest that the more care and attention people give to others, the more happiness and meaning they experience. From this perspective, the more invested parents are in their children’s well-being — that is, the more ‘child centric’ parents are — the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting.” (Ashton-James et al., 2013)

So, what’s good for your kids, is also good for you.

3. Helicopter parenting may be depressing

As with many things in life, though, it’s a fine line between caring and smothering; especially when children have grown up.

Schiffrin et al. (2013) asked 297 undergraduate students about their parents’ behaviour and how they felt about it.

The study found links between ‘helicopter parenting’ and higher levels of depression amongst the students, as well as lower levels of autonomy, relatedness and competence.

“Parents should keep in mind how developmentally appropriate their involvement is and learn to adjust their parenting style when their children feel that they are hovering too closely.” (Schiffrin et al., 2013)

4. Avoid strict discipline

Around 90% of American parents admit at least one instance of using strict verbal discipline with their children, such as calling names or swearing at them.

Rather than helping keep adolescents in line, though, be aware that this may just exacerbate the problem.

A study of 967 US families found that harsh verbal discipline at 13-years-old predicted worse behaviour in the next year (Wang et al., 2013).

And it didn’t help if parents had a strong bond with their children. The study’s lead author Ming-Te Wang explained:

“The notion that harsh discipline is without consequence, once there is a strong parent-child bond–that the adolescent will understand that ‘they’re doing this because they love me’–is misguided because parents’ warmth didn’t lessen the effects of harsh verbal discipline. Indeed, harsh verbal discipline appears to be detrimental in all circumstances.”

5. Regular bedtimes

Regular bedtimes really matter to children’s developing brains.

Researchers followed 11,000 children from when they were 3-years old to the age of 7 to measure the effects of bedtimes on cognitive function, (Kelly et al., 2013).

The researchers found that:

“…irregular bedtimes at 3 years of age were associated with lower scores in reading, maths, and spatial awareness in both boys and girls, suggesting that around the age of 3 could be a sensitive period for cognitive development.”

Regular bedtimes are important for both boys and girls and the earlier these can be implemented, the better for cognitive performance.

6. Do the chores together

Bringing up happy children is easier if Mum and Dad’s relationship isn’t too rocky. One frequent bone of contention between parents is the chores.

A trick for achieving marital satisfaction over the chores is to do them together.

When partners perform their chores at the same time–no matter who is doing what–both people are more satisfied with the division of labour (Galovan et al., 2013).

7. Limit infant TV viewing

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no more than two hours of TV per day after two years of age, and none before that age.

Here’s why: a new study that followed almost 2,000 Canadian children from birth found that an extra hour’s TV viewing at 2.5-years-old predicted worse performance later when they attended kindergarten (Pagani et al., 2013).

The more children exceeded this recommendation at 2.5 years old, the worse their vocabulary, math and motor skills were at 5-years-old.

More on this study: One Extra Hour of TV Reduces Toddlers’ Kindergarten Chances

8. Exercise boosts kids’ school performance

Kids are increasingly sedentary and, as I frequently write here on PsyBlog, exercise is a wonderful way to boost brain power, and it has many other benefits (see 20 Wonderful Effects Exercise Has on the Mind).

A new study of 11-year-olds has found that moderate to vigorous exercise was associated with increased academic performance in English, Maths and Science (Booth et al., 2013).

These gains from exercise were also seen in exams taken at 16-years-old.

Interestingly, girls’ science results benefited the most from extra exercise.

9. Dangers of intense mothering

Some women say that taking care of children is more stressful than being at work. There are also links between child-rearing and stress and guilt.

How can we square this with the reports and research findings that children fill your life with joy and meaning?

It may be down to differences in attitudes to parenting. In particular, being an ‘intense mother’ may be bad for you.

In their study of 181 mothers of children under 5, Rizzo et al. (2012) found that mothers who most strongly endorsed the idea that children were sacred and that women are better parents than men, were more likely to be depressed and experience less satisfaction with life.

Yes, nurture your children, but don’t sacrifice your own mental health.

10. Why siblings are so different

Anyone with more than one child will have noticed a curious thing: their personalities are often very dissimilar.

In fact, according to a study by Plomin and Daniels (1987), siblings have no more in common in their personalities than two completely unrelated strangers.

This is very weird given that 50% of their genetic code is identical.

The answer isn’t in the genes at all, but in the environment in which children grow up.

Far from having the same environments, each child has:

  • a different relationship with their parents,
  • a different relationship with their other siblings,
  • different friends and experiences at school…

…and so on.

And all these differences add up to quite remarkable dissimilarities between siblings–often such that if they didn’t look alike, you’d never know they were related.

All this means, of course, that because their personalities are often so different, parenting strategies that work with one child, may not work with another.

It’s just one more challenge of being a parent!

1

Positive parenting: dealing with “big feelings”

Sandmom

So I had a challenging day yesterday. D and I went to pick up S from her daycare and she was happy, being her normal self just after waking up from her nap. When we started dressing her to leave, however, something happened and she just snapped. Out of the blue, just like that, she had a major meltdown. Tears, screaming, biting (she bit her shoe!).

Long story short, D stayed in school and I brought home a hysterical toddler that just would not settle down. I was shocked. I had no clue what to do. I stayed with her, trying to hold her but she would literally jump out of my arms. Her pain became my pain, and I began to cry too. After 35 minutes of her intense crying, S accepted my offer for boob. She slowly calmed down, as I held her tightly close to me. She nursed and nursed, while she sighed and I cried. We both fell asleep for about five minutes. We cuddled for a long time. Then she was fine.

Throughout the whole crisis, so many things went through my mind. Is she crazy? Is she sick with anxiety? Is there something wrong with her? S has her temper but I had never seen her like that. She’s had meltdowns when she’s tired, but this was the middle of the afternoon and right after a two hour nap. I had no clues as to what could have triggered her meltdown.

This, until two hours later, when I saw it: S had a huge, red bee sting on her wrist. A stupid bee had stung her, probably as we were getting ready to leave the daycare. That was all!! While I was going mad with speculation, S was in pain, and she kept biting her wrist because it probably hurt like hell, not because she had some weird anxiety disorder like my crazy mom brain was suggesting.

Which brings me to the heart of this post: Big Feelings. Reading about positive parenting, I’ve come across a few articles about Big Feelings. About how toddlerhood is the time when children can feel overwhelmed with new and big emotions because they simply don’t know what they are, or whether they are fleeting or permanent. I did what the articles had suggested, which is to stay close to your child while they sort through the big feelings, even if they are trying to push you away. And I’m happy I had read that, because it did feel right as I did it.

Though yesterday’s crisis was a lot less about S’s big feelings and a lot more about mine —I will have to learn not to follow S’s meltdowns with another meltdown of my own—I still think it’s immensely useful to know how to approach any show of big feelings from our children. Even if that feeling is simply pain from a damn bee sting.

Here are a couple of quotes I like about positive parenting and dealing with big emotions:

  • Children need to be able to “self-soothe” to manage their behavior; and they only learn to self-soothe by being soothed by parents. That’s because the neural pathways that release soothing biochemicals are formed when the baby is soothed by the parent.  Leaving little ones alone with their big emotions does NOT teach them to self-soothe; it undermines their neural development so it’s harder for them to calm themselves throughout their lives. Self-soothing is essential for children to manage their anxiety, emotions and behavior.  Children who are explosive, anxious, or “dramatic” need extra support in the form of parental calming. (Original post here).
  • Children can only manage their behavior when they can manage their emotions, and they learn to manage their emotions by having parents who accept their emotions, even while limiting actions as necessary.  Human emotions need to be felt so they dissipate and leave us; feelings that are repressed pop out uncontrolled and cause “bad” behavior.  But children need to feel safe to experience their big upsets and let them go.  Kids who are uncooperative, angry or fearful are signaling that they need us to “witness” their feelings by letting them cry or rage in our loving presence.  Children who know their feelings are “allowed” don’t store them up, so they’re better able to manage their emotions and behavior. (Original post here).

Positive parenting encourages parents to try “time ins” instead of “time outs.” I don’t think S is quite old enough to experience a time out anyway, but I bring this up because this deals exactly with what I’m talking about: staying with your child while she’s experiencing a big emotion. These two articles explain it really well:

How To Transform Your Time-Outs To Time-Ins

Positive Parenting Tools: Time In vs. Time Out

I hope you find all this info useful. I definitely will try the time ins when the time comes… I know soon enough I’ll be writing about it.

Have a great week everyone. Do share your thoughts here or on the FB page anytime. xoxo

2

Christmas: more fun, less stuff

IMG_2546

Are you already stressing out about Christmas? I am, but not entirely for the same reasons you might be.

I love Christmas. I love the songs (I know, everyone hates them. But I love them). I love the snow, I love the warm spiced coffee and wine and, above all, I love Christmas parties. Buying presents is definitely a source of stress, especially in financially-not-so-great times, but I love giving presents, too.

Getting presents, however, makes Christmas stressful to me. No, I’m not an ungrateful little brat. It’s not that I don’t appreciate gifts. I usually love them. And of course I’m grateful for having thoughtful friends and family who get me presents. But I don’t like clutter. I don’t like having too much of something, and I don’t like feeling wasteful. Christmas excesses, in my view, should be limited to food and wine —not stuff.

For a number of years now, D and I have tried and failed to convince our families to do a small-presents or no-presents Christmas. To engage in celebrations that are a lot more about the time we spend together and less about the stuff we buy each other.

This year, my biggest source of stress is toys. We have a toddler now, and three sets of grandparents. And, as I’m sure you know, Grandparents love toys. I’m anticipating a bit of craziness, so I decided to get creative this year.

I won’t tell our family not to buy toys for our daughter. That would take away from the genuine enjoyment I know they derive from finding something cool for her. But I have decided to offer some other options, too, so that at least all the money and attention isn’t all spent on toys.

  • First, I have set up an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) for S. We hadn’t done it yet, and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to ask people who will be giving presents to S to consider donating any amount they want to her fund. Even better, this can become a family tradition used over the years, also for birthdays.
  • And second, I will casually mention that I would love Sophie’s gifts this year to be meaningful, and not necessarily objects: it would be great if she gets a trip to the museum of Nature with grandma, or a registration for music class, swimming lessons, etc. I would love Sophie to receive meaningful experiences, rather than gifts. These are, by the way, my favourite gifts to receive. Hint hint 😉

There’s a website called SoKind Registry where you can get lots of gift ideas along the lines of what I mention above. Below is a good list taken from their ideas page. I hope it will get you thinking about your own gift-giving and receiving for the holidays. And if you have any other ideas, please do share!

sokind_logo

Gifts of Time
and Skill

Lessons: art, cooking, language, guitar/piano/music, woodworking, knitting, canning, carpentry

Household help: organizing, cleaning, gardening, yard work, help with errands, repair work, sewing/tailoring, catering, house sitting, interior design help, landscaping/playscaping

Personal care: massage/bodywork, personal training, double-date night

Child care: babysitting, playdates, doula support hours, babyproofing, lactation consult

Pet care: dog walking, pet sitting

Career: résumé help, advice session, shadow opportunity

Family photography session

Gifts of
Experience

Entry passes/memberships: museum, local/national park, zoo/aquarium, gym/pool/rec center, climbing gym, spa/hot springs, campground, running/bike race, local CSA, rail pass, AAA

Event tickets: movie, concert, opera, play, Broadway show, comedy show, music festival, lecture series, sporting event

Classes/lessons: art, photography, cooking, sports, yoga, dance, music, kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, fly fishing, jewelry making, letterpress, floral design, pottery, glass blowing, writing/journaling, summer camps

Adventures: skydiving, hot air ballooning, bungee jumping, ziplining, whale watching, deep-sea fishing

Outdoor pursuits: rafting, horseback riding, skiing/snowboarding, rock climbing, sailing, hang gliding, caving, camping, backyard camping

Tours: winery/brewery, farm/petting zoo, berry picking, historic/cultural site, scenic railroad, local/ethnic food, birding/wildflower/naturalist

Travel: contribution toward a dream vacation, airline miles, hotel points, city tours

Gifts of
Charity

Donations to your favorite charity

Volunteer hours for a local organization

Carbon offsets

Handmade
Gifts

Artwork/photography

Recipe book

Baked goods

Homemade meals

Homegrown fruits and vegetables

Spice mixes

Natural cleaning supplies

Homemade blanket or quilt

Knitted or crocheted items

Secondhand
or New Gifts

Household tools

Camping/sports gear

Commuter bike and/or accessories

Kitchen supplies

Gently used clothing

Board games

Secondhand or wooden toys

Gift Cards/
Funds

Locally owned restaurant/bar

Local bookstore

Home improvement store

Car sharing site

Music venue

Local music store

Contribution to a child’s college fund

Contribution fund toward family
vacation trip

Day-of-Event Help

Set-up and/or clean-up crew

Wedding organizer

Catering

Musicians

DJ

Day-of coordinator

Photographer

Videographer

Reception/Party site

Guest housing

Rehearsal dinner hosting

0

Recipe: avocado cocoa pudding

photo

I’m not the most spontaneous of cooks. But last night was one of those nights when you really, really want a piece of chocolate after a nice curry dinner, and then you realize that you’re all out of Green and Blacks. Panic ensues, and you must come up with something, quick.

So I did! and I have to share this with you because I inadvertently created a ridiculously easy and delicious chocolate pudding. It’s not like I was taking notes while trying a new recipe so the amounts below are approximate. In any case, this pudding is totally forgiving so please go ahead and create your own version.

By the way, did you know that people in Brazil eat avocados sprinkled with brown sugar for dessert? I know. It’s delicious.

Quick avocado cocoa pudding (Yields two small cups)

Half an avocado
2 Tbs agave nectar (or sweetener of your choice, to taste)
About 1 to 2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
About 3 Tbs almond milk (or other milk of your choice)

In a small bowl, mush the avocado with a fork until pretty soft. Add agave and cocoa powder and whisk. Slowly add the milk until you think it’s soft enough but careful not to water down the mix too much. Whisk vigorously until all the ingredients are integrated and the mix looks like a soft pudding. Taste and adjust sugar and milk amounts if necessary. Pour on two small cups. Done!

0

Positive parenting: Independence, we’ve got it all wrong

IMG_2344

One of the first conversations I had with my good friend Ang, last year when we were sleep deprived and drinking coffee at the community centre (wait: we’re still sleep deprived. Where is my coffee?!), revolved around children’s sleep —what else do new moms talk about? Chatting about the sought-after “self-soothing” of babies so that they learn to sleep through the night, Ang said something that stayed with me: “I feel that there is a lot of pressure for babies to be independent.”

If you’re a mom you simply know this is true. But if you have any common sense, you should flinch when you see the words “baby” and “independent” together. Why on earth do we want our babies to be independent? They’re babies. They’re supposed to be dependent. Yet we do feel that pressure, from the moment our babies are born, to teach them to fend for themselves. Because, our narrative goes, if we don’t do so they will become spoiled, entitled mooches in adulthood.

Which brings me to this article I stumbled upon yesterday. I’d love you to read this carefully, and think about it, and share it with other moms and dads. I agree with almost every single word on this article –and I have a tendency to disagree, so this says a lot!

(Original post at Evolutionary Parenting)

Six Ways to Allow Your Child to Become a Responsible Adult

By Tracy G. Cassels

Lately there seem to be many parents yelling about how much they hate our current generation of entitled children or young adults who can’t function on their own and don’t take responsibility for their actions.  They seem to argue that it’s parents who are responsive that are a problem, something I’ve heard first hand (because didn’t you know that letting my child breastfeed at 2 means she’ll be a spoiled, rotten brat??).  They often push for things like bullying being okay or leaving your child to cry because the real world is harsh: The problem is that we just haven’t been harsh enough with our kids and that’s why they can’t cope.  I think it’s bullshit.  You want to raise responsible adults?  Here are six things you should allow your child to do if you want them to grow into adults who understand responsibility, will work hard, and be self-motivated…

Maddy_card_Jpg

Allow your baby to be totally dependent on you.  Our society focuses far too much on trying to make babies independent but quite simply, it won’t work.  Think of your child as a house or tree, without the right foundation or roots, you will have problems.  Attachment is absolutely necessary to children’s well-being.  Although historical or evolutionary practices are very easy ways to get this attachment (because of the constant proximity between baby and a caregiver – typically mom but certainly not always given the high prevalence of alloparenting in these societies), as I’ve written about before it’s really all about responsiveness.  Whereas leaving your baby to cry or refusing to feed or comfort at certain points is non-responsive, you simply cannot spoil a baby with too much love and you will not create “bad habits” or “clingy children” by responding to them.  You just won’t.  In fact, you’ll raise children who feel secure enough to go out and explore the world on their own, knowing they have a safe place to return to if necessary.

Allow your child to grow into his/her independence.  You see, we have it backwards.  We force independence in babies and then restrict it as our children develop and are yearning for independence.  Does this mean we hand our 2 year old a knife and wish them luck?  No, it means that we allow them to explore.  In the younger years, it may be as simple as just letting them climb on the play structure themselves.  In the older years, it’ll be letting them go on bike rides or walks to friends’ houses by themselves.  You can always make sure your child is doing something as safely as possible but if you remove the chances for them to practice their independence out of fear of anything happening, you will stunt them.

If they have the secure foundation of responsive parenting in their early years, they know they can come to you if they run into problems and they most likely will.  They may face problems that you wish they didn’t, but you’ll be there to see them through it, from cuts and broken bones to broken hearts and lost dreams.  Remember that each child will grow into their independence in their own time – you can’t actually force independence.  You can force independent-like behaviour, but if a child isn’t ready, it will be done with extreme anxiety which is not good for future exploration.  (Also remember that a child who is set on being independent will find ways and if you make it too difficult for them, expect them to start doing it behind your back and probably not in the safest or sanest of ways.)

IMG_1923

Allow your child to play, and play rough (if she/he wants).  Until the age of around 6 or 7, children should spend most of their time playing (and still a lot of time after that).  Outdoors when possible, but at least playing.  In our world of daycare and preschool and kindergarten readiness tests, we are so focused on trying to teach our children, I’m not sure that there’s any room for them to learn.  Will they memorize things?  Sure.  But are they learning about their interests, the world around them, and how to engage with it?  I don’t think so.  Play is key to this process of learning and we need to allow them to cultivate it far more than we currently do.

One more thing, many kids (yes, girls included) will want to play rough – toy swords, toy knives, wrestling – and we should let them.  Every bit of play is learning, including roughhousing, and from it they can learn a lot about safety, respect for others, and the appropriate ways to use tools.  I know many people panic when their child shows an interest in rough play, especially those that identify as “gentle parents”.  Remember: Gentle parenting is not about restricting play to gentle play, it’s about how you respond as a parent to your child.

Allow your child to take responsibility for his/her actions.  There are two different problems in our society in this realm.  Either parents, in an effort to avoid seeing their child in pain or suffering any type of punishment, cover for them or they offer harsh punishments that don’t fit “the crime”.  In more traditional societies where groups are small and people have to work together, it is common for people to know how to make amends and if they don’t, allow the group or the elder to decide what actions should be taken while all accept the outcome to move forward.  As we don’t have such small groups, we’re not used to that type of awareness of how our actions influence or affect other people, thus parents are used to either doling out punishments or hiding their child from responsibility.

What does taking responsibility look like?  Well, at the basic level it’s letting your child take part in figuring out how to make amends if they’ve hurt someone, fix something they’ve done “wrong”, own up to any behaviour that hurt someone, or accept the natural consequences of their own behaviours.  It’s bringing them into the fold and having them come up with solutions with you (to help guide them, but not tell them what to do).  You should also be giving them things to be responsible for, whether it be a chore in the house, cleaning up after themselves, or being in charge of whatever toys they bring out in public.  If they don’t have ways to practice responsibility, they can never learn it.  Children as young as 2 or 3 can help come up with ideas and the more they do, the better they get at it and the more they learn to be responsible for themselves.

Allowing responsibility does not mean never helping them when they ask for it out of fear that they will not learn to be responsible.  You also want to teach them to help others if they can and when the request is reasonable, so be prepared to do the same for them.  It does not mean covering for them or fixing their problems without their input and work or helping when the request is not reasonable.

[My own personal take is that when we instill this, we are helping reduce bullying.  If you are consistently aware of how your actions affect other people and become used to having to take responsibility for that, you don’t intentionally hurt others and certain apologize when you do.]

Allow your child to say “no”.    If you were to actually step back for a day and observe your interactions with your child, how often do you think you’d allow them to say “no” to you?  How often do you allow yourself to say “no” to them?  It’s inherently going to be unequal, but in our society it is so skewed that we might as well be honest that we seem to have the primary goal of obedience, not raising children to think for themselves.  Sometimes allowing them to do what they want will lead to failure for them (something I know we hate seeing) and that’s okay.  They need to fail.  We all do.  With failure we learn: We learn what doesn’t work and we learn we need to change our plan if we want to reach our goal.

We also need to allow them to say no to develop their own voice.  If they can’t feel safe saying “no” to a parent and having it be respected at least once in a while, how can we expect them to feel confident saying it to someone else?  We worry about our kids running off with the wrong “crowd”, doing drugs or drinking too much, saying “yes” to sex when they aren’t feeling truly ready themselves.  Although these behaviours stem from a multitude of issues, part of it comes down to kids who just don’t believe their “no” has a voice.  And finally, how can we expect them to respect our “no” when we don’t respect theirs?

Allow your child to be a child out in public.  I have to qualify this by being clear that I’m not talking about all places, as there are areas where we need to be aware of how we all act and kids need to learn that too; however, we seem to look askew at anyone with a child who is being a child anywhere.  Folks, public is public and it’s for everyone, children included.  I don’t like the behaviours of many of the adults around me, but I acknowledge their right to behave that way in these spaces.  My child has the same rights to behave like a child (arguably more because they don’t have the neurological capacity to always behave as others’ might like).  That may mean being a bit too loud, running around, squealing with delight, and yes, sometimes breaking down.  These are all normal behaviours.  It’s how we handle things when they go too far that we must be aware of.

A child who is screaming at the top of her lungs should be reminded that it hurts other people’s ears and to be quieter or to find a place where that won’t bother people.  Running around and crashing into people without regard is also something children need to learn not to do.  And breaking down often requires gently removing a child from the situation until he or she is calm and figuring out what happened while offering comfort and understanding.  Adults in our society need to be exposed to children as children are.  Children need the exposure to public places and adults to learn how to behave, while also being allowed to be themselves in a respectful way.  When we hide them from it or force them to behave in ways that aren’t aligned with their developmental level, we are making it harder and harder for them to learn to consider others (because they’re too focused on their own behaviour) or to take responsibility and learn about thinking of others.  It also tells them that they are not worthy of respect but others are and frankly that’s not a lesson that’s going to serve anyone well if we want them to grow up to feel confident and secure in themselves.

***

There we have it.  Six things you can allow your child to do that will help them be responsible, independent, caring grown-ups.  You don’t need to force them to toughen up or even force them to be independent because they’ll get there on their own.  The problem isn’t that we haven’t been “harsh” enough, the problem is that we’ve been harsh when we should be gentle, permissive when we should encourage responsibility, and driven by fear to restrict our children’s growth into independent beings.  Let’s end that.

1

Positive parenting: The Whole Brain Child book review

WholeBrainChild_NameItToTameIt

The Whole Brain Child, By Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

I’ve been (slowly) reading The Whole Brain Child, a book written by two incredibly accomplished brain doctors, which offers strategies to help you develop your child’s brain in a positive way. The book was recommended to me by my good friend Mel when I expressed interest in learning more about positive parenting. Mel’s husband is a psychologist and a big part of his job is to counsel parents and help children with behavioural issues. He often recommends The Whole Brain Child to his patients.

The book sits really well with the whole concept of positive parenting, because it encourages parents to practice mindfulness and to treat their children with respect. It also explains through brain science why children do the things they do –and why us parents react the way we do.

There’s a lot of science in this book, but all of it explained in extremely easy language. Overall, what you really take from the book is a series of “strategies,” or examples of what to do in very specific situations. (I list some of my favourite below).

If there’s one thing I find us parents always need is to know that we are not alone in experiencing a challenge; to hear from others that what our child is doing, and the way we feel about it, is normal. The Whole Brain Child offers huge relief in this respect, because it unravels the mysteries, among other things, of those irrational outbursts. Like when your toddler is mad at you and bites your cheek. (True story. It hurt!).

What I like most about this book is that you can use it almost like a manual. And I say “manual” in the best possible way. This is not a prescription for perfect parenting, but rather a guide that you can use when you feel stuck. And some strategies are simply good reminders of using common sense in everyday situations.

Here are some of my favourites. I love the last one because it reminds you not to take things so seriously all the time!:

Instead of command and demand: A kid gets out of bed and says: “Mom, you never leave me a note in the middle of the night and I hate homework!” The mom responds: “What are you doing out of bed? Get back to your room, and I don’t want to see you until morning.”
–> Try connect and redirect: “Mom, you never leave me a note in the middle of the night and I hate homework!” The mom kneels down to hold her kid, looks him in the eye, and says: “I get frustrated about things like that, too. Want me to leave you a note tonight? And I’ve got some ideas about homework, but it’s late now, so let’s talk tomorrow.”

Instead of how was your day: At the dinner table, mom asks her daughter: “How was your day?” She says: “Good.”
–> Try remember to remember:  Mom starts a conversation to avoid a “yes” and “no” Q&A:

– What was the best part of your day?

– When I played with Cali and I painted.

– I know you love painting. What was the non-the-best-part?

– When Diego bited me.

– Ouch. What happened after he bit you?

– My teacher talked to him and I went on the swing with Cali.

Instead of command and demand: In the tub, a girl tells her mom: “I want daddy to wash my hair!” Mom responds: “Daddy is helping your sister go to sleep right now, but he can wash your hair next time.” The girl screams: “I want daddy!!!!” Mom says: “Yelling isn’t going to work. If you don’t stop, we won’t read any stories tonight.”
–> Try playful parenting: “I want daddy to wash my hair!” Mom puts on a “daddy” face, and says: “Hello Samantha, were you calling me? It’s me, Daddy. Shall I give you the special shampoo?”

There are many many more examples like these throughout the book. I definitely encourage you to check it out, hopefully with your partner!

What do you think? Any other books you think about positive parenting I should read and review here?

Have a great day everyone.

2

Veggies! How joining a delivery service changed our meals

veggies

Today is delivery day and I can’t wait. For about a year now, we’ve been members of Ottawa Organics, a food delivery service that focuses on organic and mostly local products. Shortly after Sophie was born I realized how hard it was to do groceries. It was the biggest deal just to get out the door, and then the meltdown would hit right after I stepped into the store! Or, if I had S in the baby carrier, I wouldn’t have much room to carry heavy bags… And one thing I really hate doing is carrying heavy stuff.

Because I was nursing, and anticipating that S would start eating solids at six months, I was also giving some serious thought to eating mostly organic foods. So I got curious about joining a veggie box service and, luckily, I met a fellow mama who recommended Ottawa Organics to me. We haven’t looked back.

Lots of veggie-box services are springing up everywhere across Canada. If you have been on the fence about joining one, I can tell you what I love about it:

  • My delivery is all organic. I love that because sometimes it’s hard to find organic produce (or it’s ridiculously expensive). Not all delivery boxes are organic. Many of them, however, focus on local produce.
  • Which brings me to my second point: the produce is local, or as local as possible depending on the season. I get the odd tomato from Mexico, but mostly everything I get in my box is grown in the Ottawa Valley or in Quebec. This is the main incentive for you to join a delivery service. Buying local doesn’t only guarantee that your produce is a lot fresher, it also means that the money you spend is directly helping out farmers and businesses in your area. It makes you think and learn a lot more about the food you eat.
  • Freshness is a huge plus here. We get our veggies every two weeks (more on that later) and it’s crazy how much longer these veggies last in the fridge compared to what we buy in the store. Think about it: The store-bought veggies sometimes have been frozen, packed, and sitting in the store for many days. With the fresh veggies, in turn, you get the shelve life at home. We’ve been eating fresh parsley for almost four weeks now and it is still intact! (It was a huge bunch). I usually have to throw away fresh herbs within about one week.
  • Variety. Since the vast majority of the produce is local, you get to with seasonal ingredients. I love the variety we get in our box. I was introduced to purple cauliflower and celeriac, two things I would have never thought of buying by myself in the store. I’m also now addicted to Boston lettuce.
  • The price is a tricky calculation. I won’t say it’s cheap, because it’s not (we pay $35 for a medium box, every two weeks). But if I think in terms of value, it’s worth it. Organic, local, delivered to my door? Yes, I love it! Plus, the produce is absolutely delicious.
  • Now, notice that we don’t get a weekly delivery. We used to, but in order to save some money we decided to switch to a bi-weekly option. We buy any other veggies we need at the store, and we don’t worry about buying organic since most of the veggies we eat come from the box.

If you’re in Ottawa, check out Ottawa Organics. They’re awesome. And I know it’s easy to find similar services across Canada. So, veggie up! I hope you’re at least curious to learn more about veggie boxes now.

Happy Halloween!