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On taking a pause, and being honest with ourselves

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I have a huge amount of respect for people who know their limits. For those who recognize that sometimes taking a break is the most sensible way to go, no matter how much responsibility they feel towards their family, work, or friends. We all carry heavy loads at times, and I honestly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone felt that they have a right to say stop, please stop for a second.

This is, of course, a luxury. Not everyone has the support network or simply the choice to take a break when they need it (big or small). Frankly, there is little or no room in our society for stopping when we need to catch a breath. This is especially true at the workplace, where any sign of fatigue is simply interpreted as weakness.

And this is why I’d love to bring to your attention a blog post written by Dreena Burton, vegan cook author and super mama to three girls.

In “Pressing Pause,” Dreena says that she needs to slow down because she feels overwhelmed by her career and her motherlode. As has always been the case with her, her words were so candid and genuine that I really sympathized with her. Her call for a break seems very brave to me, and I think she’s teaching her children an invaluable lesson in self-respect. So, here’s to Dreena, for teaching us a little more than just cooking amazing food.

If you’d like to learn more about Dreena Burton, check out to her website, Plant-Powered Kitchen. And please get one of her cookbooks if you don’t have them yet. I own all of them! (The photo above is my variation on Dreena’s Super-charge-me cookies from her book Eat, Drink and be Vegan).

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Positive parenting: self-regulation

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Hi and sorry for the long absence! I really have no excuse, other than I’ve just been busy with life in general. Never too busy to listen to the radio, though. (I’m an incurable CBC radio junky).

I went for a short drive on Sunday, and I ended up idling my car at a parking lot because this documentary was playing on CBC: How does your engine run? It was a fascinating piece about a pilot project in schools in Surrey, British Columbia, where teachers are training kids to self-regulate their behaviour.

The gist of the story is that these teachers are dealing with behaviour issues driven by stress in a very interesting way: by identifying what is stressing each kid and offering individual solutions for them. For instance, one girl is so hyper that when her behaviour is spiraling out of control, she goes for a run to calm down. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of a class. Another kid just hates his chair and can’t focus, so he gets to seat on a special cushion. It has nothing to do with discipline —it’s all about observing and understanding each kid’s needs. And it’s all about each kid identifying their own tipping point at doing something about it.

But wait, isn’t this supposed to be a post about positive parenting? Yes! I found this story to be perfectly in tune with one of the principles of positive parenting that we’ve been talking about: treating children with respect. So many times, in so many instances, I feel that we look at our children from the top down, and we reach conclusions about their behaviour that in reality have nothing to do with what is going on in their minds and bodies.

I think respect means that, even from a very early age —from Day One, I’d say— we should try to listen to what our kids are trying to tell us, instead of projecting our ideas onto them. And we should really toss away that obsolete notion that kids behave badly just to make us feel bad. Treating our kids with respect means that we understand their behaviour is not about us, but rather about something they need and are trying to communicate to us.

It seems to me that respect is at the heart of this idea of teaching self-regulation to children, because it forces us to trust their ability to understand themselves; to trust that they can identify their own limits and deal with them, even from a very early age. Simply put, respecting our children empowers them.

So yes, I think positive parenting has a lot to do with teaching self-regulation. And I think I’m on the right track, because my friend E., from The Mindful Parent, also recommended the CBC doc to me 🙂

I encourage you to check it out. Read the story and listen to the doc here.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week!

 

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Positive parenting: respect and understanding

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Hello and thanks for checking in!

I was very glad to see that the topic of positive parenting got lots of attention from you. As I mentioned in my first post about it, Diving into positive parenting, I have started a learning journey about this approach to parenting, hoping that it will serve as a guide for D and I as we raise our daughter.

I have been reading a lot about positive parenting and two of its most basic principles seem especially powerful to me: Respect and Understanding. Here is how I would summarize them:

  • Respect your child – Your child is a person, capable of understanding and communicating with you. Don’t try to “trick” your child (however fun this is!) into doing things. Rather, try explaining why things are done, or not done, in a certain way.

For instance: I was eating a piece of chocolate the other day, and S wanted to have some. I tried to distract her and put the whole thing in my mouth, and then she wasn’t too happy about it —obviously. So the next time I wanted to have a piece of chocolate in front of my toddler, I didn’t act all weird about it. I just held it in my hand, ate it normally, and when S approached me to get some, I told her: “I’m having a chocolate. Do you want to see it?” She looked at it and touched it. I told her, “You can taste it but this one is just for mommy, ok? This has too much sugar for you.” I let her put a small corner of the chocolate in her mouth, just enough to satisfy her curiosity. Then I ate it in front of her, and she didn’t react at all. We just kept playing normally, without making a big deal of it.

  • The second concept is understanding your child: our brains are not developed in full until we reach our early twenties. Children do what they can with the tools they have. Sometimes that means that screaming is a tool to call your attention, not an evil ploy to destroy your nervous system. Always try to see a situation from your child’s perspective, and respect that they are experiencing real emotions, even if they seem silly to you.

This one is a work in progress: Sophie is terrified of my gloves. They are red and kind of furry, so I can understand why she’s a bit apprehensive about them. It is getting very cold in Ottawa and I need to wear my gloves. More importantly, S needs to wear her mitts. But she hates them, too. She looks at their purple fuzziness with contempt and screams if I get them anywhere near her.

So I could do one thing: ignore her apprehension towards my gloves, and impose the mitts on her even if she cries. Or, I can acknowledge that S has a point in being scared of gloves. And then I will explain to her every time I can that, you know, gloves and mitts are inanimate objects that might look like crazy hairy monsters but are totally friendly and keep your fingers warm.

This morning I put on my gloves and they talked to S in a nice, funny voice. I put them on and off several times so that she could see that I control the gloves. She wasn’t too impressed but she wasn’t entirely hating them. So I call that progress. She still didn’t let me put her mitts on.

So, respect and understanding. I know I will be coming back to these two concepts as my parenting challenges become greater than chocolate and mitts!

Meanwhile, I’m reading The Whole Brain Child, a good book about positive parenting. I’ll post a review on it soon!

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Diving into positive parenting

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For the first few months of S’s life we were so immersed in the let’s-keep-this-baby-alive mode that we didn’t really approach the subject of actually raising our child. But in the past few months, as S has begun to interact with us and others, throwing little fits here and there and adorably throwing her food off the table when she’s done eating, it has become pretty clear that we need to have a discussion about how we are going to actually raise her; how we are going to give S the tools she needs to feel secure and thrive in her own way, to grow up a strong, healthy individual.

Of course, we have already set a tone and gotten used to doing things in a certain way in our family. But I don’t feel like playing by ear this whole parenting thing. Like breastfeeding, I feel that this is 80% instinct and a good 20% having an action plan based on good information. So I have really started observing others, reading, and asking myself: what kind of parents do we want to be?

From what I have gathered so far, positive parenting (or some variations of it, like mindful parenting) really resonates with me. So I’m going to start a new series on the blog called positive parenting in which I will try to figure out what this really means and whether it will work for us.

I will have to be a little academic about this, since I’m a new mom and I have no clue, really, how much of my research will turn into actual behaviour in our household. But I want to share this road with you because I know you might be asking yourself the same question and because I anticipate that this will be an ongoing conversation –And because I’ll be asking you all for advice. A lot.

To get started, I asked my friend and fellow mama Erin, the wonderful founder of The Mindful Parent, to give me a clear definition of mindful parenting. And I asked her to include an example of what it means when used in real life situations. I loved her answer and copied it in full for you below.

I hope this gets you thinking. And please do share your thoughts! I want this to be a lively discussion.

Mindful parenting is simply about being mindful of our actions and how we interact with our children and environment.
Pausing to breathe before responding (not reacting) to understand or investigate the cause of actions rather than just the action itself. It includes finding simpler ways to achieve goals that are respectful of the child and childhood process.
For example, my daughter has always been cooperative during diaper changes because we made them interesting and engaging. Rather than a mobile above her crib we installed a larger, homemade elaborate tree with birds and small mirrors above the diaper changing station. There was always something to observe and discuss.
At some point we moved and the tree was dismantled. Diaper changes were no longer as exciting and she began to protest. She would say she was “sleeping” and when that didn’t work the screeching would begin. It was the loud girlie screech that pops ear drums!
Our conversation about options started. “If you don’t want to change diapers anymore we can buy a potty”. This dialogue lasted close to two months. Included were books about potty time, trips to the bathroom with potty and even ‘help’ when we used the washroom ourselves. She would supply the toilet tissue for us and we would wash hands together. We endured the diaper difficulties for a period of time (two months) so that she would decide when it was time to switch to potty. We waited for her to be ready. We let her tell us rather than force it on her.
And she did. At diaper time one day my daughter said, “potty mommy”. “Potty time?” I asked in return. “Yes” she replied. Done! We went to the computer, logged on and ordered the potty we selected together. During  the week it took to arrive we talked endlessly about the future use of potty. We planned potty parties.
It arrived. We unpacked it. She used it immediately. No encouraging from me required. Our diaper time now is simply “change or potty?” She picks the potty. “Potty Tiiiiiime” she says.
To keep her engaged while “waiting for the pee to arrive” we stocked the shelf with her potty books and, for some strange reason, a stuffed bunny.
Mindful Moments: we listened to her cues, waited for her to arrive at her own conclusion while providing clear options, provided support material throughout the process and said yes when she was ready. Most importantly we made it fun and stayed positive. We all achieved our end goal without any negativity. We mindfully guided her to make her own choices. We are mindfully growing a mindful child….we think.

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Breastfeeding my toddler

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As my daughter looks more and more like a toddler and less like a baby (she’s 15-months-old), I’ve been hearing this question more often: “So… when are you going to wean her?” There is probably an element of genuine curiosity here but, mostly, I think, this question is popping up because for some people it is starting to get a little weird that I am still nursing my daughter.

So yes, the time has come for me to talk about breastfeeding.

I have no patience for the media-fuelled “mommy wars” so no, this is not a post to judge or sway anyone’s opinions about breastfeeding. I only want to share my experience because my own opinions about this have changed. A lot.

When I was pregnant last year, there was no question for me that I wanted to breastfeed. Whenever I had a conversation about how long that would last, I used to say, “a year.” I had met, many years ago, a mom who breastfed her three-year-old. I remember my look of shock when I saw this little guy asking mommy for her boob–and getting it! I talked about it with lots of other people. I made fun of this mom. I thought it was ridiculous. I thought (and this opinion I held until last year), “I would never breastfeed a talking toddler, let alone one that can remember the boob when he grows up!”.

When Time magazine issued that famous front page article titled “Are you mom enough?” with the woman breastfeeding a kid standing on a stool, I laughed about it with other pregnant women. We thought it was gross. We thought that would never be us.

Fast forward a few months and I’m nursing my 15-month-old daughter a few times a day. When she turned one I weaned her to two feedings a day, first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Those two feedings would be the last to go, sometime soon. That’s what I thought. Then she started waking at night a bit more and I resorted to nursing her occasionally. Then she had a cold and I nursed her occasionally to help her get better. Then she was teething badly and then she got quite sick, and now I’m pretty much nursing her once or twice during the night (day feedings are still just morning and evening, with very rare exceptions).

You would think I’m complaining, but it’s actually the opposite. Over the last few weeks, S has gone through lots of changes. We moved cities; she has been teething; she had roseola; and she started daycare. And I’ve been so grateful that I can still offer her the comfort of the boob through all these challenges. Sure, it’s not always fun at night. And I do want to eventually wean her of the overnight feedings again. But I’ve been happy, not annoyed, at the fact that I still have the best tool to help S when she really needs it. It has helped that my amazing husband has been encouraging me all along.

What I’m trying to say is this: I have done what has felt right, both for my daughter and for me, and it has worked for us. I haven’t been fretting about what others would do. I haven’t been thinking, “is this gross? should she be off the boob by now”? I honestly have not.

What has changed is how I see other moms’ breastfeeding relationships with their own kids. I don’t judge them anymore. I celebrate that they are doing what is best for them. I feel bad for what I thought about them before, and I am happy that my own experience has made me approach this with a lot more kindness and humility.

I still love nursing S and I don’t plan on weaning her anymore. It will happen when she is ready, when I am ready.