API Leader Wisdom: How to respond to other parents punishing their children in public?

Q: My family went to a restaurant the other night, and there was another family there with a toddler who was crying. The father roughly took the boy outside and came back a few minutes later. I assume the boy was punished in some way, as he was very upset and crying loudly that he wanted his mother, but the father didn’t allow him to do so. Our own children didn’t seem to notice, but the scenario was very upsetting to me and my husband. We didn’t know what to do, so we didn’t do anything. I worry about the example our lack of response sets for our children, and what — if anything — we could have said or done?

Q: My family went to the park recently, and there was a father yelling at his preteen son. The father then grabbed the boy’s wrist. They boy was yelling at his father to let go, and his father then twisted the boy’s arm in a way that we thought it might break. I stepped in and told the man he had to stop, and the man became very angry with me, telling me to stay out of his business and that he can parent however he likes. I was so scared that it was going to escalate, but thankfully after that, the man walked off. The boy with him was very quiet. Did I act inappropriately? I worry whether this was a wake-up call to that man, or if his son would be punished later for it.

A: We have all been in public and seen an overwhelmed parent losing her temper with her child — and many of us have been in that position ourselves!

It is tough to know how to respond when we witness this happening with another parent. In both of these situations, the parent losing his cool was the father. It may be most helpful that the person responding to another father is a father himself.

Mothers responding to other overwhelmed mothers often goes well — we have been there, and we know intuitively what to say to be both compassionate toward the mother and toward the child. But think about if the parent approaching you in your overwhelmed moment was a man. You may be thinking, what does he know about being in a mother’s shoes?

If your husband or another man was able to, he could respond in a way that would be both non-confrontational and effective. In the first scenario, the other family’s father took his son outside. It could’ve been very timely if your husband needed to go out to the car to grab something at the same time. Many parents who hit their children won’t do it if they’re around other people, and it might have given the man a moment to calm down and see the situation in a different light. Your partner could also offer an encouraging word if given the opportunity.

It doesn’t seem life-changing, but these kinds of subtle actions and words can be seeds of change that may cause others to think twice or pique their interest into other parenting approaches.

Likewise, in the second scenario, it may have helped if your husband was the person to approach the father, although we understand the urgency of the situation. This is a tougher situation, because the boy could’ve been badly injured. It should be addressed in a more direct manner. Depending on this situation, it may have been appropriate to report to authorities — as what you witnessed could be categorized as overt abuse. However, sadly, even this situation will likely fall under “none of your business” in the United States where corporal punishment is legal.

It is awful to watch, and while you definitely want to talk to your children witnessing it — and perhaps talking to your children about how your family does not do that and how you want to help other parents to find other ways to teach their children, may just prick the other father’s ears — the best response may be just offering your presence and the opportunity for the other parent to calm down his immediate response.

Many parents have found that even in these tough situations where the other parent is not open to support, we can still offer support to the child. Making eye contact with the child, which a child often can’t do with their angry parent if they feel shamed, can be empowering to the child. Another idea is to involve the child, if you’re given the chance, such as through a compliment, which can help the other parent regain perspective.

A mom once shared with Attachment Parenting International (API) about how an older couple offered her children a quarter each because “they were working so hard on being patient waiting for their food.” At the time of this unexpected compliment, their mom begged to differ, and she was struggling to keep her cool, but the older couple’s actions gave her encouragement and helped her remember that her children were acting their age and she needed to adjust her expectations.

It was a turning point for her that helped her see her children’s behavior for what it was and started her on the way to eventually find and gain support on how to relate to her children appropriately for their normal child development expectations, rather than how she herself was raised.

It just goes to show that even the seemingly smallest gesture toward a stressed-out parent can have an incredible ripple effect for her family.

Have a parenting question? Contact your local API Support Group to speak with an API Leader, or if you’re not located near a parenting group, submit your question through the API Warmline.

Want to help parents discover and find support in attachment parenting? Consider becoming an API Leader.

A fire in my heart

kendra godfrey 1I came upon Attachment Parenting by accident.

While 8 months pregnant, I searched the Internet for ideas on how to clean cloth diapers by hand. Yes, you read correctly — by hand. We had no washer or dryer and felt too cheap to pay the 75 cents required to wash them.

During my search, I discovered Attachment Parenting, Attachment Theory, the history of breastfeeding, and the vitality of human touch. I was sold.

Attachment Parenting — unlike washing diapers by hand — spoke to me.

No, it actually shook my core and lit my fire.

Upon discovery of Attachment Theory, I defended my master’s research thesis and graduated with a degree in marriage and family therapy. My daughter was born 2 days later. Four weeks after her birth, we were stocked with $20 worth of quarters at a time.

I soon began to see Attachment Theory everywhere. I saw it in my adult client whose mother abandoned her as a child. I saw it in my children clients whose parents suffered greatly.

I also saw it within myself.

My passion for Attachment Parenting grew stronger after my daughter was born. I was fortunate to discover 2 new moms who also shared my passion. We met every week. We supported each other by exchanging ideas and stories, read books such as Vital Touch by Sharon Heller, and dreamed of bringing an API Support Group to Long Beach, California, USA — an urban city crawling with people eager for support and education.

These women understood firsthand the importance of attachment. Like me, they lacked a secure attachment with their own mothers.

We needed Attachment Parenting International (API) to lead the way for us. We needed API to validate what we felt in our hearts, yet had no model of our own. We needed API to give us permission to trust ourselves.

But even more, we needed each other. These women were my lifeline. Their presence provided a cushion for me to land on and a sounding board for my heart. Their support proved to me the importance of interacting with other parents who could relate to my experience.

When my daughter turned 1, we moved to Iowa City, Iowa, USA, in order for my husband to attend medical school. I said “bye” to my tribe, and this proved heavy on my heart.

I longed for the company and support of like-minded moms and embarked on my API Leadership process. Almost 3 years later, I completed my training and started a new support group, API of Iowa City.

The women who embarked on my API journey with me remain close to my heart. We share a passion and fire that continues to drive me today.

This fire will not die — my heart will not let it. My fire is fueled by others who are burdened with the troubles of life and need tools to cope as a parent. My fire is fueled by parents seeking a better way, yet who feel at a loss for ideas and resources.

Mostly, my fire is fueled by families practicing Attachment Parenting. The closeness and security surrounding these families expands my heart and allows me to stretch even further to better myself as a mother and to continue to help others.

It is families such as yours that give me hope for this world, and hope for my daughter. Our hearts thank you.

Happy Peace Day from API!

international peace day 2015International Peace Day — today, September 21, as declared by the United Nations — advocates the theme: “Partnerships for Peace: Dignity for All.”

This observance aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace — asking us all to create a more just, stable and peaceful world.

API Leaders and staff take this to heart, every day passionately working to carry out Attachment Parenting International‘s mission:

to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world.

Happy Peace Day!

Making a difference one leader at a time

“Reedy Hickey is one of those people who lives her beliefs and commitments in many profound ways. Her belief in the dignity and humanity of all babies inspired her and her husband to be foster parents to more than 30 newborn infants — not only nurturing them, but teaching the adoptive parents about API’s Eight Principles of Parenting and related practices that gave the new family an incredible beginning in their parenting journey. This same commitment is what we’ve experienced in her loving support to API. We have been friends since all of our children were babies, and we couldn’t imagine our journey without her!” ~ Barbara and Lysa, API’s cofounders and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

It was 21 years ago on June 6, 1994, when mothers, La Leche League (LLL) Leaders and special education teachers Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker would make a decision that would go on to influence families worldwide in raising their children more compassionately by founding the nonprofit organization Attachment Parenting International (API).

One of the major influences of API has been providing local support to parents through in-person API Support Groups. Today, there are API groups located in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. These groups regularly serve a few to more than 100 families per month in their local communities at no cost to parents, through in-person meetings and classes, online support and one-on-one sessions with the group leader.

All API Support Groups are led by accredited API Leaders, trained by API in theory, research and application of Attachment Parenting as well as compassionate peer counseling techniques and Nonviolent Communication. The entire API Leadership training process takes on average 6 months to 1 year and is coordinated through volunteers, to keep the cost to API Leader Applicants as low as possible.

Still, for some potential API Leader Applicants, the small fee for the training process is prohibitive. That’s why API established the Reedy Hickey Scholarship Fund during API’s 20th Anniversary Celebration — to support parent applicants dedicating themselves to voluntarily lead groups who cannot afford to pay application fees, leader dues or support group dues. Please consider contributing by designating your API donation to the “Reedy Hickey Scholarship Fund.” To apply for a Reedy Hickey Scholarship, contact API’s Leader Applicant Liaison Lisa Feiertag for more information.

reedyhickeyIn celebrating API’s 21st Anniversary, we want to honor the Fund’s namesake: Reedy Hickey.

Reedy is the mother of a son and a daughter and son-in-law, and the grandmother of two grandchildren, as well as the foster mother to 32 babies as they awaited adoption, one at a time. She practiced Attachment Parenting with all of her children and now grandchildren.

API is grateful to Reedy and her 20 years of guidance and service, and her contributions to establish this Fund will continue the work of API to make a difference in families worldwide by supporting future generations of leaders.

“Over the years, she has helped us not only financially but as a member of API’s Board of Directors. Her insights as an a foster mom, LLL Leader including serving as Area Professional Liaison for LLL of Georgia, IBCLC and grandmother have been invaluable! We are thrilled to honor her in this way, as she is a treasure to API, and of course a treasure to us as a true soul sister.” ~ Barbara and Lysa

Reedy is an inspiration to us all, as a tireless advocate for Attachment Parenting, and we are privileged to be able to honor her in this lasting way.

Q&A: Baby dislikes car seat

690096_silent_screamQ: I have a 2-month-old son who suddenly really dislikes being in his car seat. He cries inconsolably during car rides. I have tried talking soothingly to him, singing and offering a pacifier. When able, I have sat in the backseat with him, and this works best. But most of the time when we’re in the car, I am driving and there isn’t another person who can sit back there with my son. It’s heart-breaking to hear him cry and cry. Short of buying ear plugs, do you have any ideas?

A: I know from personal experience how nerve-wracking and upsetting this can be.

It presents a tricky conflict between of needs between comfort and safety. My daughter went through a similar stage when she was a baby. What worked for us was for me to sit in the backseat to nurse, comfort and hang out with her.

A: Your son sounds like mine.

He hated his car seat. It was a drastic difference from his older sisters who would usually sleep during a car ride. It didn’t matter how short or how long the car ride was, my son would cry the entire way. Like your baby, my son was comforted best when I was able to sit in the backseat with him, but like you, I was usually doing the driving.

I tried many different things, and what ended up working the best was to cover him up in one of my sweaters so it has my comforting smell and to have a night light on when it was dark. I also only went on long car rides when someone else could be in the backseat, like his sisters, who could talk to him and comfort him. My son’s car seat discomfort lessened as he grew older and finally went away completely when we were able to switch him to a forward-facing car seat.

A: This happened with my son, too, and it was very stressful.

We took baby to the chiropractor’s, but what ended up working best for us was switching to a rear-facing convertible car seat and using a white-noise machine. Still, whenever possible, I would ask my husband to drive so I could sit in the backseat with baby.

A: My daughter also hated her car seat, but we learned it was because she was suffering from acid reflux.

The combination of the seat belt pushing against her stomach and the angle of the seat worsened the reflux. To ease the ride for her, I rolled up a baby blanket and placed it in the groove of the back of the car seat, as directed by her health care provider, and also adjusted her car seat harness so it’s not too tight (keeping it within safety standards of no slack). This helped. Another thing is that my daughter had motion-sickness, so driving slower around turns also helped. Another trick was singing, and as she grew older, she liked to join in on the singing.

To get her into the car seat, I would allow an extra 10 minutes so she could explore the car seat first before trying to buckle her in, explaining at the same time that she needs to be in the car seat for safety and that she would be out of the car seat as soon as possible once we arrived at our destination. I would then transition her into “car seat mode” by inviting her to sing a song with me.

I also limited my driving during the week, and then ran errands on the weekends when my husband was home and available to stay home with her.

Q: It seems like most babies go through a phase of disliking the car seat.

I would limit unnecessary driving. It seemed to get better when my babies were tall enough to see out of the window.

Cherishing our API Leaders

By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader and editor of the Connections blog for API Leaders

Kathryn Abbott FamilyWhen thinking about this year’s Attachment Parenting (AP) Month theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — I wanted to be sure I really understood the meaning of “cherish” and “flourish.” I love the sound of those words, but what do they really mean?

“Cherish” is a verb that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means: to hold dear; to feel or show affection for; to keep or cultivate with care and affection; to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.

We when are cherished we feel secure. We are able to regulate our emotions and our behavior. Our value is recognized by others, and we are able to give of ourselves more fully — because we are supported.

“Flourish,” also a verb, is defined by Merriam-Webster as: to grow well; to be healthy; to be very successful; to do very well.

We can flourish when our attachment needs are met. When our attachment needs are met, we are able to be joyful and empathic. Our family is strong, and compassion is brought into the world.

These concepts of cherish and flourish are easy to write about, but for many parents knowing what to do and actually being able to do those things are a daily struggle.

All parents everywhere need support, need to be cherished, to realize their full potential as parents and help their children flourish. The difference that API Leaders make within their communities is immeasurable. The support they provide in cherishing parents each month may be the one thing that makes the difference.

apm logoSo in honor of AP Month, API Leaders, please grab yourself a cup of tea (or other relaxing beverage) and receive a little cherishing yourself…

Thank you, API Leaders, for making a difference within your own family and within the circle of your community. Each day, you are making an incredible difference, with passion, within your own family and within the families of your community. This is no small feat.

Your contribution to Attachment Parenting International (API) and to the AP community is so valuable, that we simply would not be here without you. Please know in your heart, API Leaders, that your commitment to the mission of API is what sustains all of us in our endeavors to support parents in raising children who flourish, and that, ultimately will change this world.

You are changing the world, one family at a time. Please keep doing it. You are so brave, so caring, so loved. Thank you.

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