Normalizing Extended Breastfeeding

The Momosphere is all atwitter over Time Magazine’s cover story: “Are You Mom Enough?” From its “shocking” cover photo to its provocative title, it’s obvious Time was shooting for “mommy war” controversy (something I work hard to stay away from).

If I shy away from controversy, why would I ever agree to the possibility of being on the cover of Time? Because I want to normalize breastfeeding past infancy. Extended does not equal extreme.

People have said that my son (and moreso Jaime’s son, who is on the cover) will be upset or embarrassed someday by this article. But that is the attitude we are trying to change – we do not want the sight of an older nursling to cause a stir ten years from now. By agreeing to be a part of this photo shoot, we wanted to create opportunities for conversation and education about how normal and natural it is to nurture our little ones by nursing past infancy. We want our children to never bat an eye at the sight of a mother breastfeeding past infancy.

So how can one photo stir up such controversy and negativity? And why would any mother choose to nurse for longer than a year?

The Decision to Breastfeed – For Three Months or Three Years – Is Culturally Influenced

Western culture tends to focus on the sexual aspect of the female breast much more than on its biological role of breastfeeding, despite the fact that we are mammals. The word “mammal” is derived from mammary glands. Mammary glands are those amazing parts of our breasts, the primary purpose of which is to feed our young. So while we often hear about nursing moms being asked to leave or cover up, you rarely hear about petitions to have Victoria Secret ads removed from evening television or city billboards. Go figure, eh?

In addition to our culture’s fascination with breasts as sexual objects, breastfeeding is also “modified by a wide variety of [cultural] beliefs, not only about infant health and nutrition, but also about the nature of human infancy and the proper relationships between mother and child, and between mother and father1.”

That must explain many of the objections I’ve read whenever there is an article about nursing past infancy. There are vague complaints about it being “too sexual.” That it encourages children to be overly dependent on mothers. That it is somehow at odds with a child’s development (ever heard the one about children old enough to “ask” should not be nursing?).

Nursing older children, however, is not a new thing. Not only is there evidence that mothers have nursed past toddlerhood throughout human history (and have been recommended to by physicians!), but cultures around the world continue to nurse to three years or beyond today2. If nursing past infancy were a harmful practice, the human race would not have flourished so.

And so while the “median age of weaning throughout the world is between ages three and five[,]” here in North America we are weaning our children when they are far younger.

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy Benefits Children and Mothers

The biologically normal benefits of breastfeeding do not magically disappear once a baby turns a year old. Breastmilk still provides nutrition that is far superior to cow milk. It contains an abundance of antibodies. “In fact, some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process3.”
Think about it like this:

Suppose you have an oil well in your back yard. Like all oil wells, its yield is highest in the first year. You get a check for $100,000 dollars. Great! So now do you cap the well? The next year you get a check for only $10,000. Do you cap the well? The next year you get a check for $1,000. Do you cap the well? The next year you get a check for $100. Do you cap the well? [The] point [is], the well will *always* yield a benefit. . .

Breastfeeding works something like that. Its nutritional and immunological importance wanes over time. But there’s never, never a time when it’s not a good food or a good source of antinfectives. And, of course, this analogy doesn’t address the emotional value, the place breastfeeding has in the mother-child relationship4.

For the record, the American Academy of Family Physicians has said: “As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years.

So this idea of a mother breastfeeding her three or four year old as unnatural? It’s incorrect.

Breastfeeding can continue to be a normal, healthy part of your relationship with your child into toddlerhood and beyond. It has been one reason that my son counts my embrace as the most secure, loving place he knows. (He told me!)

Did you breastfeed past infancy? Why or why not?

References, and for more information

1. Jen Davis, <a href=”http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbsepoct07p196.html”>Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: exploring benefits, cultural influences, and more</a> quoting Dettwyler, K.A. “A Time to Wean” in Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1995.

2. For more on these studies, check out Breastfeeding Beyond a Year and the studies cited therein (along with the reference to physicians recommending extended breastfeeding), A Natural Age of Weaning by Kathryn Dettwyler, Natural Weaning by Norma Jane Bumgarner, and ChildInfo.org.

3. Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet (citing Goldman AS. et al., Immunologic Components in Human Milk During Weaning, Acta Paediatr Scand. 1983 Jan;72(1):133-4; Goldman, A., Goldblum R.M., Garza C., Immunologic Components in Human Milk During the Second Year of Lactation, Acta Paediatr Scand 1983 May;72(3):461-2; Hamosh M, Dewey, Garza C, et al: Nutrition During Lactation. Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1991, pp. 133-140)] The longer you breastfeed, the less risk you have of developing breast cancer, endometrial cancer, or ovarian cancer.[6. See Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet and citations therein, and 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child and citations therein.

4. Nursing Past a Year at The Compleat Mother

Gentle Parenting Ideas Series: Diaper Changes

This post is the fifth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, grocery shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.

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toddler cloth diaper

Ideas to Make Diaper Changes a Positive Experience

Let Your Toddler Choose the Location: since you probably aren’t using a changing table anymore, let your toddler pick the place. Remember that our toddlers are learning how to exercise their independence – so giving them some control is a theme that runs throughout this “gentle parenting ideas” series.

Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays: occupy their hands by doing songs, rhymes, and fingerplays with (or without) hand motions: Itsy Bitsy Spider, Two Little Birds, Hickory Dickory Dock, etc.

Read a Book: some toddlers might want to hold a book and read to themselves, others might want to grab a favorite book that they can look at while you read (from memory).

Tell a Story: one of my biggest potty learning helps has been to ask Kieran to tell stories while he is using the potty chair. We have a notebook near the chair, and I actually write down his stories and read them back to him. If your little one doesn’t want to hold a book, this might be another way to occupy his attention while you change a diaper – you tell a story or help him make one up of his own.

Call for Reinforcement: there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, particularly if it will help everyone involved feel better about the outcome. Get someone else in there to entertain while you get down to the business end.

Practice Signing: if you are signing with your toddler, try practicing some sign language during diaper changes. If you aren’t doing sign language with your toddler, I whole-heartedly recommend that you start!

Let Them Help: trust your toddler with certain responsibilities: getting the wipe and new diaper ready; spreading out the changing mat; putting the used diaper in the pail; climbing up to the sink to wash hands; etc.

Presto, Chango: for easy changes, do it on the fly – standing up! Or on your lap. Or while your toddler is playing. Just do it fast!

Special Toys: save a few special toys/objects for diaper changing time only. Of course this will only work if you can then get the object back gently without causing a huge ruckus.

Consider Cloth: if you’ve never tried cloth diapers, consider making the switch. You can still save money and do your part to help the environment. More importantly, I know for a fact that many kids would choose cloth over plastic for the comfort factor alone. When I try to put plastic on Kieran, he pleads and begs with me, “cloth, mama, cloth!”

Nurse: there have been many occasions where I nurse while papa changes. It’s awkward, but it makes for a very peaceful change.

Naked Time: if you haven’t instituted some regular naked time in your household, now might be a good time to start. Toddlers love to be naked. I was worried that I would end up cleaning lots of accidents, but Kieran was surprisingly good about going on the potty chair when he didn’t have a diaper on. Plus, sometimes it helps to just walk away from a stressful situation – as long as the bottom is clean and it is safe for your toddler to run around without a diaper, it might be easier for everyone to forgo the new diaper until you’ve had a chance to breathe and get into a more playful mood.

Warn Them First: it’s hard to be ripped away from a fun activity to go get a clean diaper. Instead of picking your toddler up like a piece of furniture, respect her feelings by asking her if she’s ready for a change. If she’s not ready, give her a warning. Some kids do well with a timer, others just want the verbal signal.

Try a Snack: grab a snack safe for little fingers and let your little one chow down (this might work better for standing-up diaper changes).

Make a List: how many animals can your toddler name? How about animal sounds? Colors? Shapes? Make diaper time a fun recall activity time – but make sure it’s fun and not stressful for your little one. If they are uncomfortable being put on the spot about their recall abilities, it won’t make diaper changes any better.

What ideas do you have to help make diaper changes a positive experience? Please share them in the comments.

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This post has been edited from a previous version published at Code Name: Mama.

10 Ideas to Help Children Learn to Say “Thank You”

I do not believe in forcing or shaming children into reciting social niceties when they don’t mean them, (1) but I can appreciate that children who practice those niceties can find it easier to function among peers and adults. And while I think that modeling is the most effective (and easiest!) way to impart the importance of “please,” “thank you,” and the like, here are a few more ideas on how to help children learn how to express their appreciation. (2)

Kieran draws thank you pictures for his birthday and Christmas presents.
  1. Turn thank you into artwork: If your little one enjoys arts and crafts, then help her say thank you through artwork. Any kind of craft will do, and you can jot a little note to include with it that explains what the intent is (if it’s not readily apparent).
  2. Say it in a different language: Make saying thank you educational and fun by teaching your little one how to say thank you in different languages. This article gives us “thank you” in 28 languages.
  3. Replace “good job” with “thank you”: Instead of saying “good job” when your little one does something helpful, try “Thank you for _____, it helps me _____.” Saying thank you regularly to your child is one of the best ways to teach him how to thank others – be his role model!
  4. ________________
    Discover your child’s “love language”: Some people believe that “Every child gives and receives love in their own unique and special way . . . . There are basically five different ways children, and all people, speak and understand emotional love: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service.” (3) Here are a few ideas that build on the idea of “love languages”:

  5. Hugs and high fives (“Physical Touch”): I don’t know about you, but a child’s genuine excitement when he opens a gift, plus that impulsive hug (or high five), is enough thank you for me. I don’t need the ritual of a thank you card to reinforce for me that the child enjoyed the gift.
  6. Saying “thank you” in different words (“Words of Affirmation”): Let go of tradition – encourage your child to use whatever words come to mind to express appreciation for a gift. Instead of the bland “thank you for my bike” note, try “We put playing cards on the spokes of my bicycle wheels, now whenever I ride it, you can hear me coming! My friends thought it was so cool, they all put cards on their wheels too. This bike is so fun!” A child’s authentic enthusiasm will shine through so much more in their own words than in any of the more traditional words we could force them to use.
  7. Share the fun (“Quality Time”): If your little one is happy sharing toys and time with others, why not set up a play date with the thank-ee? Playing with a gift with the gift giver might be more appreciated than any thank you note.
  8. Make something to say thank you (“Gifts”): Some little ones love to create – whether it is painting a picture, baking cookies, or putting a collage together, a gift from your child’s heart is an incredible token of thanks.
  9. Do something nice (“Acts of Service”): When I lived at home, one of the ways I would tell my parents “thank you” for all that they did for me was to clean the house. I still occasionally go over and clean while Kieran is playing – simply because I know it will make my parents smile. If your child’s love language is service, find ways that they can lend a hand to someone who has done something nice: decorating for a holiday, weeding the garden, odd (and easy) chores; there are many ways a child can be helpful, and it can turn into a learning experience too!________________
    And a couple more ideas, just in case you have a little one who has not yet caught on to this social grace:
  10. Say it yourself: Really, when adults ask children to say “please” or “thank you,” all we’re doing is proving to the other person that we have manners. If you’re that concerned about making a good impression, say thank you yourself: kindly, genuinely, without the tone that you wish your child had done it instead (because all that will do is shame your child, which will not motivate them to say thank you – from their heart – in the future). Your gracious modeling will make a big impression./li>
  11. Don’t force the issue: Finally, relax. Don’t force thank you’s, they’ll come in time. Shaming or forcing a child into saying a grudging thank you may make you feel better in front of others, but it can backfire by making your child feel resentful. Make saying “thank you” a fun learning experience, not an unpleasant task that must be complied with reluctantly.

How does your child like to say thank you?

(1) See, for example, Seven Alternatives to Forced Apologies or Focusing on Children’s Needs
(2) Remember, none of these ideas will be very effective at turning “thank you” into a positive experience if they are forced. Watch for your child’s cues, keep trying until you find something that resonates with her!
(3) Finding Out Your Child’s Love Language

Gentle Parenting Ideas Series: Shopping Trips

This post is the fourth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, grocery shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.
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Ideas to Make Shopping a Positive Experience

Give Your Toddler Input: involve your toddler when you are creating your shopping list. Talk about the fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. you will need to make meals for the next few days. Let them decide what vegetables (or whatever) they want to eat. Use it as an opportunity to talk about healthy foods. If you don’t have time (or your toddler doesn’t have the desire) to plan ahead, let them make a few healthy choices at the store (or take them to a farmer’s market, where almost everything is healthy!).

Try Stickers: if your little one is dexterous enough to peel stickers off of a sheet, set them up with room to peel and stick onto a grocery store ad. You could make it similar to a game of BINGO – put a sticker on every item from the ad that you pass.

Scavenger Hunts and Treasure Maps: cut out pictures from the ad and hand them out – see who can help you find their items. If you really want to get fancy, you could make a map of your regular grocery store and laminate it. Then you could use a dry erase marker to write the items you need on the map for each shopping trip. Your toddler can help you find them using her “treasure map.”

Play the Quiet/Tiptoe Game: make a game out of who can use sign language/pantomime to communicate, who can whisper the longest, or who can walk on their tiptoes the longest.

Don’t Buy That!: one time when Kieran was in perpetual whiny “I want” mode, I started joking with him by saying “I do NOT want to buy that!” “Ew, let’s not buy that!” Soon he was giggling and playing along, pointing at different items and saying “don’t buy that mama!” We’ve played this game almost every shopping visit since then. I’d like to incorporate something about healthy choices into the game: “don’t buy chips, they aren’t healthy!”

Let Them Help: trust your toddler with certain responsibilities: putting items in the cart (model for them how to do it gently, but remember they probably will never be quite as gentle as you are), finding and putting fruit/vegetables in bags, holding the shopping list (use the opportunity to talk about letters if you’d like), etc.

Play I Spy: take turns “spying” different colors (“I spy something blue”), different materials (“I spy something made out of paper”), items for different rooms of the house (“I spy something that belongs in the bathroom”), and more.

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Take Snacks: have you ever noticed that toddlers want whatever they see? Going into a grocery store without something to snack on can be a disaster waiting to happen. I try not to use food as a hush tactic or bribe, but in a grocery store it is almost necessary (for Kieran, anyway). A bag of trail mix or dried fruit can occupy little fingers for quite awhile.

Set Them Up for Success: what’s better – a rested toddler with food in her tummy at a relatively calm grocery store, or a tired and hungry toddler bewildered by the chaos during a store’s rush hour? When possible, set your toddler up for a successful shopping trip by going when your toddler and the store are at their best. For Kieran, that means I don’t shop when he’s tired (whining rapidly transitions into crying); and we always try to hit Costco when they have samples out (ha).

Play “What Doesn’t Belong”: if you have a short shopping list, talk to your child in advance about what you will be getting. Then grab one extra item that is not on your list. Help your toddler figure out which item does not belong in the cart before you put it on the counter.

Make It an Adventure: take your kids on a tropical (or safari or deep space) adventure. This works especially well when it’s time to leave the store and the toddler is resisting. For example, Kieran sometimes wants to hide under clothing racks when it’s time to go. Several times he has willingly (eagerly even) come with me when I say in an excited voice “Kieran, let’s go on a journey together! We have a long way to walk to the car, and I need your help chasing away the lions!”

Wear a Carrier: If you are able to wear your toddler, bring a carrier to the store with you. Lots of kiddos are content on a parent’s back where they wouldn’t be content in a shopping cart (I know! Kieran is one of them). If you thought babywearing was just for infants, think again! We love our ABC Carrier and our Ergo – at 31 lbs Kieran is still comfortable in a front or back carry, and he loves to go for a ride.

Shop Fast: when all else fails, don’t prolong the agony for yourself or your kids. Get in, get out, and get on with your day.

What ideas do you have to help make shopping a good experience? Please share them in the comments.

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This post has been edited from a previous version published at Code Name: Mama.

Gentle parenting ideas: Meals and eating

Editor’s note: This post is the third in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, grocery shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. We welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.

I2010-03-05 01deas to make mealtime a positive experience:

  • Make Dinner Pleasant and Comfortable — Remember to make meals a relaxing time for your family. Save arguing and stressful conversations for later. Concentrate on sharing stories about everyone’s day, talking about the food and flavors, making plans for the coming week, etc. Additionally, you might rethink how you have your toddler sitting. If she is in a hard chair with her feet dangling, it might not be the most comfortable way to enjoy a meal. For an extra fun dinner, add party hats and candlelight — an instant dinner party!
  • Let Toddlers Help — Toddlers often love to help out, so let them have a part in meal selection and preparation. Take them to the farmers’ market and let them help you select fruits and vegetables. Let them do age appropriate tasks in the kitchen, and/or ask them to help set the table — they can put out napkins, silverware, etc. Let go of any expectations of perfection – if all of the napkins land in the same chair, so be it! You can sort it out later.
  • Be Grazing-Friendly, Serve Small Portions — Toddlers don’t often need big meals, their body chemistry works better when they can graze throughout the day, eating small portions to keep their blood sugar stable. Don’t get hung up on having everyone in the family sit through the whole meal. If it is a constant struggle to get your toddler to sit for longer than 3 minutes, what do you win by having her stay unwillingly in her chair — resentful and unhappy? Give grazing a try. And don’t worry, your toddler will learn to sit for longer periods of time eventually.
  • Make Room for Baby — Set a place at the table for your toddler’s favorite baby doll or stuffed animal. Let her “feed” the baby from an empty bowl/spoon.
  • Dinner Music — Let your toddler select some dinner music from a few options you give her. Talk about the music during dinner: “How does it make you feel? What instruments can you hear? Can you hear the beat?”
  • Food is Fun — Eating can be a fun experience all by itself. There is no need to force utensils too early. There’s really nothing wrong with using fingers, and your child will eventually learn how to use a spoon. There’s no test to pass! Skewer your kids’ veggies and fruit — with toddler-appropriate tips, like a chopstick or popsicle stick. Let your little one try chopsticks! Use dips and wraps. Try cookie cutters out on a variety of foods, such as sandwiches, pancakes and omelettes. Try serving a meal made entirely of one color: “Look, we’re eating a yellow breakfast! An omelet with yellow squash, yellow bell peppers and yellow tomatoes, served with a side of golden potatoes.”
  • Don’t Force-Feed Them — Similar to the suggestion about grazing above, please do not force your toddler to clean her plate. Don’t withhold privileges until he has taken a bite or finished his plate. It’s not even necessary to tell them “Good job!” for eating all of their veggies. You might thank them for trying everything, if that is important to you. Research has shown that forcing children to finish food interferes with a child’s ability to tell when they are full and their development of self-control.
  • Talk About the Food — Americans eat entirely too fast. We don’t take time to savor our food, much less think about it. Make it a practice to start talking about the food you are eating. Talk about the food groups, what each food does for our bodies, how it grows, How food prevents anxiety, where it comes from. Perhaps talking about your food will motivate you to improve your eating habits. It can also lead to a lifetime of healthy eating habits and attitudes toward food for your children.
  • Offer Healthy Options — Remember you hold the keys to your own destiny when it comes to eating healthy. If you stock your cabinets with chips, cookies and soda, chances are your kids will opt for the junkfood more often than you would like. But kids will eat healthy food when they are presented with healthy options! Resist the urge to buy that bag of cookies, and reach for a bag of apples instead. It is your responsibility to teach your children healthy habits. They cannot do it alone. And let’s be honest: You can’t get angry with your child for wanting to eat unhealthy foods if you are buying them.
  • Don’t Stress — Most importantly, don’t stress. Continue to offer healthy choices throughout the day that your toddler will eat! If you maintain a relaxed attitude around food, there will be no reason to get into a power struggle over it.

What ideas do you have to help make eating a good experience? Please share them in the comments.

Gentle Parenting Ideas Series: Getting Into the Car Seat

This post is the second in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, picking up toys, traveling, transitions, and more. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.

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In case you’re arranging for a vacation outing or a business trip, you would like to form proper bookings and reservations in order that the trip are often successful. you’ll got to arrange for transportation, including the airport taxi, among other transport reservations. Considering that a lot of companies offer taxi services, it’s important to perform some online searching about the services available within the region, because of the web , which has made the method of finding the proper taxi company easy. By reserving a relaible taxi perth company before time it’s possible to decrease the travel complications particularly to unfamiliar locations.

Ideas to Make Getting Into the Car Seat a Positive Experience

Build Time In: if you know your toddler is always going to ask to “steer” the car for a minute before leaving, build an extra 5 minutes into your getting-ready routine so that you will have time to indulge her. And take heart, it won’t go on forever. They’ll be excited by the idea of steering (or climbing in the back, or honking the horn, etc.) for a few weeks, and then they’ll get over it. Ask yourself this: if all it takes to make your toddler’s face light up is to let her steer the car for two minutes a day, why would you not want to do it? (A story about the picture on the right: when Kieran was about 9 months old, every time we got in the car, he had to play peek-a-boo with papa. Every.Time. If we didn’t do it, he would SCREAM. It got old, but after about 5 weeks, the game lost its allure. That’s happened over and over in various forms, and I’m sure each variation is sparking some new set of neurons in his brain, which is why we play along.)

The most common purpose vehicle wraps serve is definitely advertising. But they’re useful for other applications as well. They’re a great way to personalize a vehicle in a way that is less permanent than paint. For example, in the United Kingdom, trains are often transferred from one company to another. Vinyl wraps are used there as an easily-updated way of applying each company’s livery. Also – cool fact of the day – race cars use vehicle wraps because they’re lighter than paint. Click here if you want to know more about the commercial vehicle wrap new orleans louisiana.

That’s actually one of the major benefits of vehicle wraps: they’re really easy to deal with. Nowadays, they’re made from special types of vinyl with features like air channels to prevent bubbles. They can even come with microscopic glass beads, which block the adhesive and prevent it from taking hold until the decal is in perfect position, at which point it can be squeegeed down. That means the vinyl can be applied and taken back up as many times as needed during the process without ruining the adhesive. Vehicle wraps are the huge graphics decorating the cars, buses and even subways you’ve seen around. Typically used for advertising, they’re everywhere, but not a lot of people know exactly what they are. Here are some things you’ve probably been wondering about vehicle wraps.

Ticket to Ride: have a hard time getting them to move toward the car? Give them a “ticket” for the train (or the boat, airplane, etc.). Make a show of it. Say “all aboard!” as they’re climbing in. In our house, Kieran is the conductor and I am the engineer. Modern used cars also have the benefit of history reports, on used cars Ottawa services can find quality used cars. Are you a car fanatic? Are you obsessed with how your car looks? Then you will hire the best detailing for cars services, this section on finish and damage repair topics is very popular. These reports will show you its ownership history, any accidents, and any title issues. This can help you avoid vehicles that might have some big underlying issues.

Buckle a Baby in: let your toddler buckle his favorite doll or stuffed animal into another seat belt. Sometimes letting the toddler “mother” another baby will help them feel better about things.

Choose a CD: have a CD selection accessible in the car or on the way out the door. Let your toddler pick the drive time music.

Make Her Look Forward to the Drive: try making your car rides fun and something your toddler will look forward to. Play “I Spy” on the way to the grocery store. Sing silly songs in traffic jams. See how far you can count while waiting for a red light to turn green.

Blast-off: buckle your toddler into the “spaceship,” then do a countdown as you blast off (out of the driveway). You could also make a show of putting on your space suits before getting into the car, talking about the planets you are passing, etc.

Musical Car Seats: if you have more than one toddler and they are in the same car seats (both rear/forward facing, straps in the same slots), let them choose what car seat they’d like to sit in.

Snacks: for when things really get tough, keep an arsenal of healthy (and non-messy) snacks handy.

Let Him Buckle Himself In: there will come a point when your toddler wants to do everything by himself. Buckling themselves into their car seats can be a very empowering experience. Just make sure that the straps are fit securely/properly on your toddler after he has buckled them.

Sing Silly Songs or Songs with Hand Motions: sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Head Shoulders Knees & Toes, anything that lets your toddler sing along, move in a silly way, and/or laugh while you get the car seat buckled.

Race: On your mark, get set, go! See who can get to the car the fastest (but be careful of little fingers trying to close doors). See who can buckle their seat belt the fastest (this often works for us when we’re trying to leave and Kieran simply does not want to go). See who can buckle their seat belt and sing the ABC’s the fastest. You get the picture.

What ideas do you have to help make getting into the car seat a good experience?

Gentle Parenting Ideas Series: Brushing Teeth

This post is the first in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. (1) Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, picking up toys, traveling, transitions, and more. If you want take care of you teeth read articles of a best dentist, here is additional reading. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.

Parenting a toddler or preschooler can be tough. Here we have these little people with minds of their own, and their wants often don’t mesh with our ideas of what is good for them. Thus power struggles are born. Parents have three options in the face of a power struggle:

1) force your will onto your child by power, coercion, or duress;
2) give in to the child;
3) use love and patience to come to a solution with the child.

The goal in our house is to use the third option. We do not believe that forcing our child into compliance, or alternatively never having expectations of him, teaches him how to function in society. We would rather use love and communication so that everyone comes out of potential power struggles with their needs met.

2009-03-09 01

Ideas to Make Tooth Brushing a Positive Experience

Start early: from the time your baby cuts his teeth, get in there every day with a toothbrush. Good oral hygiene is necessary from a young age as plaque can build up. You don’t need toothpaste – just wet the bristles. This will help get your child accustomed to the feel of the brush and the routine of brushing. The teeth could also be a little misaligned. A good idea would be to get the toddler shown to a professional like NicerSmile.com, to align the toddler’s teeth at an early age. However, don’t force the brush into his mouth though, ask him. Let him hold and play with the brush, let him help. Make it fun – smile, sing, playfully tap his nose with the brush. Make the experience a fun one, but at some point try to get in there and tell him “and now we’re brushing your teeth! Let’s get them nice and clean.” (or something to that effect). Whenever you notice any abnormalities in your child’s teeth you should definitely search for general dentistry services for medical help. At WestCobbDentistry we provide several different services in cosmetic dentistry. Children’s teeth are very sensitive and prone to getting diseases, that’s why it’s important to get a check up with your local orthodontist so you make sure they are healthy throughout their next few years of growing up.

Let them see you brush your teeth: I know, we never get the bathroom to ourselves. But in this case it might help establish good habits. Brush and floss in front of your child – be a role model, this way they will get used to it and soon you’ll be able to take them to see a kids dentistry professional!

Let them brush your teeth: turn about is fair play, right? Let your child have some control, give them a chance to brush your teeth with the toothbrush you got from the dentist at your pediatric dental clinic of trust, If you do not have one yet you better Check This Out for high quality service. Having someone brush your teeth can induce a feeling of helplessness or loss of control (think about what it’s like to sit in the dentist’s chair!). Your child might feel better if she can regain some of that control by being in the brusher’s position.

Try fun toothbrushes: toothbrushes come in a variety of colors and designs advertised through dental marketing. You can find toothbrushes that spin, toothbrushes that talk, and toothbrushes with your child’s favorite character.

Allow your toddler to choose a flavor: once you start using toothpaste, get a variety of flavors and let your child choose which one to use at each brushing. Again, this gives him some control of the situation. (2)

Get a special cup to rinse with: Our son uses his Jayhawk cup, and it’s only for rinsing. He loves standing on his step stool to fill the cup, take a drink, and dump it out. Getting a minute to play in the water is definitely part of the draw.

Use a timer or have a special song: if your main gripe is the amount of time your toddler lets you brush, get a timer (find one that doesn’t scare your toddler when it rings) or try singing a long (and silly) song.

Tell stories: create happy, magical stories about brushing teeth. Please, don’t tell scary stories about “the kids who don’t brush.” Make the stories something your child will look forward to – let him be the star of the story. If your toddler is old enough to help narrate, let him fill in some of the details of the story as you brush.

Brush a doll: get a doll or stuffed animal, and let your toddler brush the doll’s teeth. Pay attention while she acts it out – you can learn what parts of tooth brushing might be scary or uncomfortable for her, and you can talk to her about ways to make it more comfortable. For ideas on how to use make-believe a time to reconnect and work through problems, pick up a copy of Playful Parenting.

Make a schedule: if your toddler gets comfort from seeing her schedule, create a chart of what activities you do each morning and evening (those are the two times of day we brush). Using pictures, show a typical sequence – wake up, go potty, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth. It might be comforting for your toddler to know “what comes next.”

Take special shopping trips: make your toddler part of the toothbrush and toothpaste decisions – take him shopping and let him help you pick out his special supplies.

Have a “toothbrush hunt”: When its time to switch brushes hide the new toothbrush and give your toddler clues where to find it and don’t forget to give him or her clear braces at an early age.

Brush the food away: As you brush, pretend that you are brushing away all of the food your toddler ate that day. Let your toddler help you “find” bits of food. “Whoa – did you see that back there? Blueberry pancake! Wait – I see some of the carrots we had at lunch!”

For all of these ideas, I would caution parents not to use any of them as “rewards” for good tooth brushing.  You don’t want to turn brushing teeth into a “rewards” v. “punishment” experience. Try to make it positive each time, even if it takes longer than you’d like or it doesn’t go exactly as planned. Have faith that your toddler will learn how to brush her teeth eventually, it just takes patience and kindness from you now, just please don’t forget about the importance of doing monthly visits to the children’s dental care specialist in burnsville mn.

What ideas do you have to help make brushing teeth a good experience? Please share them in the comments as many already did about the cavity fillings and how to take care of them.

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(1) This post was originally published on Code Name: Mama.
(2) For information on why you should consider choosing fluoride-free toothpaste, read “Fluoride: What Every Parent Should Know” by Paige at Baby Dust Diaries.

10 ways to gently respond when children say “I can’t!”

2010-08-12 03Our son, Kieran, has been struggling with a bout of the “I cannot’s” lately.

I cannot take my shirt off, you do it mama.”
I cannot ride my scooter! I cannot!
I cannot glue the ribbon on.”

Before teach a toddler to ride, I tried to isolate the problem:

Am I asking him to do too much? His “can’ts” are sometimes, but not always, in response to something I’ve asked him to do, so I don’t think they are the result of request overload or mere unwillingness. And they are usually in reference to a skill or activity that I know he can do, so they are not based on inability or even fear of failure.

Are the “can’ts” related to a mood or condition? I have not connected them to a time of day (i.e., when he is tired or hungry) or an emotional state (i.e., when he is upset). Nor do they appear to be a matter of disinterest.

Does he really think he can’t? The frequency of the phrase made me worry about his developing self-esteem. It is important to my husband and I to respond in a way that will acknowledge Kieran’s feelings as well as empower him, but we weren’t sure how to address the “can’ts.” After researching, reading, and soliciting the advice of some wise mama friends, I came up with the following list of ideas parents may use to respond to a case of the “can’ts.”

10 Ways Parents Can Respond Gently and Constructively When Children Say “I Can’t!”

1.Brainstorm Solutions: Rather than rushing to fix your child’s upset, engage him in the problem-solving process. Be attentive and validate your child’s emotions, and then empower your child to come up with his own solution. Trusting him to figure out conflict will help him develop lifelong coping skills and a healthy self-esteem.
“It looks like your blocks are having a hard time staying stacked up on this carpet, and I understand why you are frustrated when your blocks fall over. What do you think we could do so that you can enjoy building with your blocks?”

This idea is based on Naomi Aldort’s S.A.L.V.E. method, which you can read more about in her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.

2. Help: And then there are the times that your child is feeling tired, hungry, or overwhelmed and just needs some assistance. Your simple offer to help may make things seem a little more bearable. Depending on the age of the child and her level of frustration, your offer to help may be specific or open-ended.
“I can see that you are getting frustrated dressing your doll. Would you like me to hold her for you while you dress her?” or
“I can see that you are getting frustrated dressing your doll. Would you like me to help you? What can I do to make it easier?”

3. Offer a Break: If your child has been working at a task for a long time, they might just need to step back from it for awhile. This is especially helpful for a mentally intense activity (i.e., building a model or reading a difficult book) or an activity that is developing a new skill (i.e., tying shoes or riding a bicycle).
“Would you like to help me water the flowers for a few minutes? You can finish your puzzle after we are done if you’d like to.”
“Sometimes when I am frustrated it helps me to do something else for awhile. Would you like to take a break from your book and play some music?”

4. Identify and Redirect: If your child is making negative generalizations about his abilities, he may be setting himself up for failure and poor self-esteem. “I can’t hit the ball. I will never be able to play baseball.” Instead of hushing him and dismissing his fears, identify the irrational belief and reassure him. With young children, it is also a good practice to identify their feelings.
“You can hit the ball, I’ve seen you! It seems like you are feeling discouraged right now. I know you can play baseball, it just takes practice. Would you like me to throw you a few balls?”

5. Be Present: Some kids might express frustration or inability just to see if you are listening and available. By being actively present for them – especially when they are doing a challenging activity – your attention might be enough to get them on the right track.
“I can see that you are working hard on it. I’m here if you need me!”

6. Focus on Their Effort: The old adage to “focus on the process, not the product” rings true with a case of the “can’ts.” Help your child shift her focus to the process. Comment on her effort or concentration.
“You’ve been concentrating very hard on that drawing!”

7. Give Some Extra Attention: If it seems like your little ones are regressing – four year olds who suddenly “can’t” get undressed alone, three year olds who have lost the ability to feed themselves – it may be that they just need a little extra TLC. Give out lots of extra hugs and cuddles, remind her she will always be your baby, make an extra effort to show her she is your most precious gift.

8. Reassess Your Requests: Are you asking him to do too much? The authors of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” recommend that parents make a list of everything they ask of their children – all of the things we ask them to do and all of the things we ask them not to do. You may be shocked by the number of requests you make of your child any given morning or throughout the day. Similarly, are you asking your child to do something when he is hungry, tired, or preoccupied with his own problems? Kids are more likely to feel overwhelmed if their bodies are low on sleep or fuel or if they are under stress.

9. Be Silly: Instead of getting exasperated when your child feigns inability, turn it into a playful parenting moment. After you both dissolve into giggles, you may be surprised when your little one forgets that she “can’t” do something.
“I can’t take off my shoes, either! I forgot how to untie my shoelaces. Whatever will I do? I will have to wear them to bed! In the shower! Heeeeeelp!”
(While putting her shirt on her feet) “This is how you do it! You put one foot in this hole, and one foot in this hole – voila! What a cute pair of pants! But where is the zipper and snap?”

For more ideas on how to connect with your kids through play, read Lawrence Cohen’s excellent book Playful Parenting.

10. Ask What They Need to Succeed: If your gut reaction is to feel annoyed when you hear your child say “I can’t,” take a moment before responding. Breathe and remember that what your child is feeling is a normal part of the human condition. A friend of mine shared a story to illustrate this point: it is common to hear a woman in labor say “I can’t do this anymore!” Her support person will inevitably respond with “but you are doing it!” We all feel like that sometimes – tired, burnt out, exhausted. When you are at the end of your rope, would you rather someone say “get over it!”, or does it help more to hear “what can I do to help you feel more confident?”
“It looks like you are having trouble tying your shoes. What can I do to help so that you can do it?”

There is usually something more going on behind a child’s “I can’t” than meets the eye. Taking the time to gently respond is an investment in helping our children grow in confidence.

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