WBW 2015: Who is the woman in pink?

martha with viola from LLL and baby stephenWhen this photograph was taken, 26 years ago, there was no such thing as the Internet. Cameras were film only. There were no cell phones or laptops. If you wanted to make a phone call while on the road, you had to first find a pay phone booth. And if you wanted to make a phone call at home, you had to stretch the cord connecting you to the wall around the corner to get any privacy. Mainstream parenting advice wasn’t particularly warm, fueled by a widespread fear of spoiling children, but parents who wanted another perspective could get it through a print subscription of Mothering magazine.

And while more mothers were breastfeeding back then than a couple decades before, lactation consulting was still gaining a foothold in medical practice. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, which certifies lactation consultants, was still in its infancy, having been founded in 1985. Really, the only reliable source of breastfeeding education and support anywhere was La Leche League (LLL) with its expansive network of mother-to-mother support groups, many in small and rural communities.

This image was captured in 1989 at a LLL conference in Anaheim, California, USA. The young woman in this photograph — do you recognize her? (Keep reading to find out who this mystery mom is!) — was breastfeeding Stephen, the baby in the arms of Viola Lennon, one of LLL’s seven cofounders and coauthor of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

The world said a sad goodbye to Viola in 2010 when she passed away at the age of 86. She was the mother of 10 children and had learned how to breastfeed from her own mother before attending the founding meeting for LLL in 1956. She went on to serve LLL in many ways, including Board chairman and Development Director. LLL quotes Viola saying:

“Breastfeeding…led me to self-discovery and to a greater appreciation of the full humanity of the babies who were entrusted to me. Each woman needs to trust her own instincts, her own feelings and her own sense of what will work for her with each baby. Women in the 1950s had forgotten the wisdom of previous generations in relation to breastfeeding. Mothers who tried to breastfeed on their own were almost always destined to fail. The neighbors sent their children to watch me breastfeed, because they knew the children would not see it anywhere else!”

LLL, from the beginning, nudged parents toward a gentler, more biological way of relating to their children. Breastfeeding itself is rooted in a secure parent-child attachment bond; breastfeeding cannot be successful in any other way. No doubt, the very beginnings of the Attachment Parenting movement are rooted in LLL. Very significantly,  Attachment Parenting International (API) credits LLL as part of our foundation. API’s cofounders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson were LLL Leaders before they conceived the idea of API in 1994, most influenced by a speaker they heard at an LLL conference about the importance of secure attachment on child development: Dr. Elliott Barker of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children explained how every violent criminal he had encountered had a history of extreme separation and insecure attachment as a child. As LLL continued to focus primarily on breastfeeding as its mission, API was able to take up Attachment Parenting as its mission.

LLL influenced others apart from Lysa and Barbara to educate and support parents in Attachment Parenting, many who soon joined in encouraging API’s growth and development. Among them is pediatrician and API Advisory Board member Dr. William Sears and his wife, API Board of Directors member Martha Sears, a nurse and mother to their eight children. Bill and Martha Sears had first published The Baby Book — considered a parenting bible by families around the world — in 1992, and would go on to become two of the most recognized names in parenting.

MSears159Three years before, in 1989, a young Martha was sitting on a couch with Viola as they admired Stephen. I wonder if Martha had any idea at that point what her future would hold?

Thank you, Martha, for breastfeeding your babies…for becoming a LLL Leader…for coauthoring parenting books that questioned the status quo…and for going on to encourage mothers worldwide to reclaim the wisdom of previous generations in both breastfeeding and parenting in a sensitive, wbw2015-logo-mnurturing, gentle, attachment-minded way. You have made a difference in the world! And we recognize you this World Breastfeeding Week!

Tantrums are opportunities to connect

 75197_angryEditor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 2, 2008, but offers timely tips to parents of toddlers.

Before I became the mother of a toddler, I remember listening to other parents describe their little one’s behavior with the term “terrible twos.”

To be honest, I had no idea what kind of behavior was meant by the term except that whatever was going on during this stage in a child’s development was somehow “terrible” or at the very least, challenging for the parents.

As my high need baby grows into an almost 2 year old, I am — and believe me, I am not bragging — now the enlightened mother of a child who is going through her terrible twos. My dear Annabelle is, one instant, a cheerful little girl who listens to mom and dad — and likes them — and the next, she is a take-charge, march-to-the-beat-of-her-own-drum rebel who has little patience for her pesky parents.

Since we practice Attachment Parenting, I often turn to other parents in my local API Support Group as well as books on Attachment Parenting. My favorites are those written by the Sears family; right now, The Discipline Book is helping me make sense of those intense “terrible twos” moments with my toddler, who the Sears might describe as a “tantrum-prone child.”

If you are a parent of a toddler who is short-tempered, you may be reading this post, nodding your head in understanding. If not, then consider yourself the lucky parent of a mellow toddler.

Whatever your experiences with your child, I hope you will understand that I love my daughter very much, am attentive to her, hold her, nurse her and do my very best to parent her from my heart. That said, there are times when I feel overwhelmed by her tantrums, and on those days when I am especially sleep-deprived and the world is foggy, I simply don’t know what to do…although I often consider these the best days to rest, lay low and let my little one read books in bed with me.

My own responses to my daughter’s tantrums range from giving in to her demands — for example, when she says “mine,” I passively tell her “okay” — to firmly saying “no,” which I really really dislike saying since it reminds me of own authoritarian father.

At a recent play date where Annabelle insisted on bringing her helium-inflated balloon, I foresaw the balloon triggering a tantrum or perhaps a power struggle with another child and then I observed the accuracy of my intuition when Annabelle pushed her playmate down as the child attempted to touch the balloon. In the past, I simply removed toys that triggered power struggles between children at our playgroups. This time, I apologized to the parent of the child who Annabelle pushed and then asked Annabelle to sign her apology to the child. I then told my daughter that the balloon needed to take a break. Perhaps because of the commotion, Annabelle completely melted down.

In The Discipline Book, the Sears devote an entire chapter to tantrums that they call “Taming Temper Tantrums.” Underlying the advice in this book is the Sears’ ideal that parents encourage “desirable actions” and discourage “undesirable behavior.” Below, I’ve listed several techniques that the Sears recommend for discouraging tantrums and other undesirable behaviors that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Practice Attachment Parenting — By practicing Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, we can establish a strong bond with our children and stay in tune with their emotions and thoughts.
  2. Identify triggers — As I mentioned earlier, I notice that certain situations will upset my daughter to the point that she feels like she is going to lose control, like sharing a favorite toy or leaving the park when she is having lots of fun. At the same time, I find myself surprised at times that she has become upset or needs some quiet time to herself. The Sears recommend making a behavior chart and noting what kinds of circumstances encourage desirable behavior versus undesirable behavior.
  3. Know yourself — A child who is prone to getting upset may have a parent who is also highly sensitive. By learning healthy ways to respond to a tantruming child, a sensitive parent may avoid making the situation worse by acting quickly. The Sears also suggest that parents who throw tantrums seek professional help so that they may move beyond their own undesirable behavior.

Even the most attentive of parents who are totally in tune with their children may find themselves with a tantrum-throwing child. Since our children are expressing their frustrations by throwing a tantrum, according to the Sears, parents can use these moments as opportunities to connect with their child. The Sears suggest that parents help give a word to what their children may be feeling while tantrumming, to gently hold and talk soothingly to the child, and to reassure the child that things will be okay.

With these approaches for managing tantrums, I feel more confident that I will be prepared to help my daughter the next time she gets upset and overwhelmed by her emotions.

What experiences have you had as the parent of a tantrum-prone toddler? What suggestions do you have for helping a child (and parents) manage overwhelming emotions? Have you found any books on Attachment Parenting to be helpful to you when your child was going through the “terrible” and “terrific” twos?

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What is Misbehavior?

“Children don’t misbehave, they simply behave to get their needs met.”

This quote comes from Dr. Thomas Gordon, but other psychologists and parent educators have said the same thing. Dr. Jane Nelsen devotes a whole section of her book, Positive Discipline, as well as lessons in her parenting classes to understanding children’s mistaken goals of behavior. The underlying concept is that behaviors like crying, whining, tantrums, lying, hitting, destroying property, etc. all stem from a child’s unmet need. There is something that child is needing that they’re not getting, so they behave in a way to try to meet those needs. Dr. Nelsen calls them “Mistaken Goals” because the child is often mistaken about how to behave in a way to meet their need

Last week, I saw a lady set a full cup of iced coffee next to her on the bench near where her 1-year-old daughter was toddling around. The little girl kept going over to it and picking it up, wanting to turn it over. The mom continually called her “naughty” and asked if she needed a time-out. If this mother understood the relationship between needs and behavior, she’d know that her daughter was not being naughty and that a time-out won’t solve anything. At one year old, this child’s need is to explore her environment using all of her senses; she is not misbehaving, she’s doing exactly what a one-year-old needs to do.

Looks like someone "needed" to see if the cake was cool!

We all behave in ways to get what we need. If I need something to eat, I’ll go to the kitchen and make myself some food. If need some order in my life, I’ll clean my house. If I need a renewed sense of community, I’ll turn on my sociability as I make an effort to connect with friends and neighbors. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated, I might subconsciously distance myself from others as I attempt to carve out some alone time for myself (if I don’t realize what I need), or I might just say, “Hey, I need some alone time,” (if I do).
Continue reading “What is Misbehavior?”

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