The Conscious Parent


Positive parenting is hard. Why? Because you must be a conscious parent, always. Constantly. All day long. Every minute of every day. Even in the fuzzy gray of those groggy mornings after a night of restless co-sleeping–even when it’s late in the afternoon following a whirling day of no naps and fussy teething–and yes–even when it’s smack dab in the middle of bedtime and you are ready to go to bed much much more than the little one that you are struggling to soothe to sleep. You must be a conscious parent–a calm, gentle, thinking, and strategical parent, even then.

Positive parenting takes work, effort, time, energy, but most of all it takes brain power–lots of it–when you have it the least to give. As our 14 month-old son begins blossoming into a pre-toddler–that neitherland between infanthood and official toddlerhood at the age of two–we are beginning to consciously think about how we are going to handle the challenging behaviors that we know he is bound to exhibit. As we prepare by talking to other parents, reading books and articles, and attending parenting groups, our philosophy on how we are going to navigate through the wily world of throwing, kicking, biting, and tantrums is beginning to take shape.

Hitting, spanking, time outs, raised voices, and bribing with rewards are all routes we know that we do not wish to take. We know that these methods can result in a humiliated, embarrassed, isolated, externally rewarded, and defeated child and will not lead to the kinds of positive outcomes we are ultimately seeking–a confident, internally motivated, emotionally balanced, and secure child and teenager. And we know that it all starts now. We know that creating a child-friendly environment in our home is much healthier than constantly policing a home that has many things that cannot be touched, or that teaching empathy and giving tools to express frustration and anger early can curb a tantrum before it starts. We know that explaining to him now why he cannot do something is much more effective than overusing the scold “no”. Even at such a young age, we know that he is ready to learn from us and that anything but gentle conscious parenting during these challenging times will perhaps train, but not teach, him.

But during the long and fatigued days that are sure to be ahead, we also know that falling back on easier methods of parenting are just plain, well, easier–you don’t have to plan and think and explain. Using negative directives like “no” or “stop it” or “don’t do that” instead of explaining why or offering choices and alternatives obviously takes less effort and brain power. But at what expense? It will be hard to remember, always, that we will need to offer him the best of us so that he can fulfill his utmost potential–whatever he deems that to be. But we must.

Yes, it’s darn difficult raising a human, but, heck, whoever said it would be easy? And, we want a good human–a really good human.

Joni is an attached mom of one. She blogs over at her mommy blog, mama :: milieu, as well as, at her food website for families with hungry children, Feeding Little Foodies.

Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Following the Principles: Parts 7 & 8 in a series of 8

Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~  23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!
Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~ 23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!

Now that we have finally welcomed our newest addition— an 11lb son named Lazlo who was born safely at our home — I can take the time to sit down and write again. The swelling and the restlessness of late pregnancy made computer time just one more form of torture in a sea of physical discomforts. Fortunately, those discomforts are behind me now (although I vow to never, ever forget the challenges of the third trimester, just in case I am ever stricken with Baby Fever again years from now) and my recovery has been a joyous time of healing, snuggling, nursing and marveling. Well…for the most part.

Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.
Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.

There, of course, is my sweet little 22-month-old T-Bird to deal with. While she is thrilled that there is breastmilk on the menu again, she is not as enthusiastic about her new little brother trying to enjoy that milk–with or without her. Nursing them together is a terrific way to get a worry-free 20-minute power-nap, but can also backfire and result in T-Bird’s numerous attempts to unlatch the baby, to poke him the eye, to cover his face with a blanket, to elbow him… fun times. So then, I will go with the other extreme and nurse T-Bird first, or nurse her in another room, or nurse her after I get Lazlo to sleep. She then proceeds to spend that time constantly unlatching and relatching asking “Where’s Lazlo? Baby wants nursie?” while pulling, scratching and patting the unoccupied breast…more fun times. Not to mention the all-new behaviors when we are not nursing—throwing, hitting, screeching, drawing on walls, stomping food into the carpets.
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Positive Holiday Discipline

Discipline is a hot topic in my house right now.  Since I live in an intentional community and my son is the oldest of the children, it is also something of a fishbowl environment.

My now 18-month-old son is testing the limits in all new ways, challenging, finding his boundaries, and seeing how far he can push me. At the same time he is very mom-centered, demanding, and clingy. We are definitely going through another season where I frequently tell myself “this too shall pass”.

I am all about savoring the moment. To me Christmas is all about flavor. It is the culmination of the flavors of life, food, fun, family, friends, and sometimes even fights (come on it’s like the cayenne of flavors). And gifts! I am not really a huge gift person but when it comes to Christmas, I love giving and receiving gifts.  There is something about it that just makes me want to squeal, which is not really a normal Jasmine-ish response to life in general. Back to flavors. Flavors all come together in the Christmas cookies, candy, traditions, dinner, games, and music.

Christmas can also be a tricky season as far as discipline goes. Come on now, I know that you know what I am talking about. There are presents stacked under the tree, there are cookies and sweets everywhere, there is family, noise, and activity.  It is very hard to stay disciplined during this season and it is the same for our children.
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Attachment Parenting and the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing and as families get together for celebrations, they might find themselves faced with several challenges: co-sleeping while traveling, maintaining balance with so much going on, nurturing a new baby, and much more. There have been several posts here at API Speaks related to the holidays and so today, I thought I’d compile them all in one place – Attachment Parenting and the Holidays.

Thankful – Even young children can learn how to be thankful for what they have this holiday season.

Attached During the Holiday – Learn how one family stays attached during the busy holiday season.

The Giving Tree – One mom shares her family traditions and asks you to share yours.

Creating Holiday Traditions – Every year you have the opportunity to create a new holiday tradition, what do you have planned for this year?

Attachment Parenting Makes the Holidays Easier – Babywearing leaves you with two hands free! What other ways has attachment parenting made your holiday season a little bit easier?

Holiday Expectations Denied – How do you handle it when your holiday plans don’t go as expected?

A Foundation of Trust – Santa or no Santa? Weigh in on this issue.

Guiding Children to Associate the Holiday Season with Giving – The holidays are more about giving than getting; help your children embrace this idea.

AP Picture Books Make Great Holiday Presents – What holiday list would be complete without a gift recommendation?

Ringing in the New Year – A New Year’s Resolution for each of API’s Principles of Parenting.

If you have an attachment parenting-related holiday post that you’d like to submit to API Speaks, please email apispeaks [at] attachmentparenting [dot] org.

Melissa is the mother of two children and has been an API Leader since 2004. Melissa blogs about raising eco-conscious children at Raising Them Green.

Attachment Parenting Makes the Holidays Easier

I am now into my fifth holiday season as an attached parent. Over the years my family has changed and grown, but one thing has remained true. Attachment parenting practices, like breastfeeding, babywearing and positive discipline, have made the holidays easier. They have smoothed the rough patches, helped me get things done, and provided everyone with a touchstone in the midst of the craziness that can happen at this time of year.

One of my big challenges over the holidays is my long to-do list. I am baking, crafting, shopping, wrapping gifts and on and on and on. A good baby carrier (or, you know, 14 good baby carriers, as the case may be) really helps me get through that list. When my toddler is on my back he’s happy and I have two free hands. It is much easier to mix up a batch of cookies when I know that my child is safely strapped to me, and not climbing on to the dining room table yet again.

Hannah and Amber try out the Storchenweige
My 10-month-old and I try out our new wrap in 2005
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Redirection as a Discipline Tool…For Parents!

Victoria Parsons
Victoria Parsons

victoria 2

The beautiful little girl in these pictures is my niece Victoria. I will never forget the day Victoria’s mom called me and I could hear the panic and anger in her voice. As the story unfolded I could also tell that she called me as a means of protecting her daughter from the anger she was feeling more than anything else. She was mad. And although she asked for advice, that was secondary. She needed redirection. And I don’t blame her! Oh the mess!

My brother, Victoria’s dad, and his family had only recently moved into their new home. They had picked new paint colours and a vibrant pink was chosen for Victoria’s room. The cans of paint were left in each room waiting for the time when mom would get around to painting the walls. As you can see Victoria couldn’t wait. My very clever niece used a kitchen butter knife to pry open the paint and went to work painting the room herself. A smaller knife with a sharp edge is the perfect in-between knife for children 6 to 10 years old. Their hands aren’t quite large enough for a full-sized knife, but they have the hand-eye coordination required to yield a real knife blade. A paring knife might seem like a good transitional knife, but its dainty size doesn’t allow enough clearance between handle and a cutting board for tiny hands. A brightly colored knife, and one with a sheath for covering the blade, is a beautiful way to create a sense of ownership for your tiny chef. You can also check out the best knife reviews before buying. There’s no got to wait until they will argue with us to urge the ball rolling. Giving kids responsibility for his or her actions, their belongings, and their home helps combat the prolific creep of entitlement so evident in much of today’s society. One of the foremost difficult hassles to affect is an insect infestation within the home. Among the various insects which will enter your house, pesticide for roaches and ants are the foremost despised. Just one roach can cause you to want to tear your hair out. And if ants find food in your kitchen or within the remainder of your house, you’ll quickly find yourself with many them marching in and out.

When her mom discovered the mess she called me. “What do I do?” she asked desperately. My reply was “take pictures.” She was a little taken aback at my reply. But it only took a short while to convince the photographer in her that this was worth shooting. So she did. And I’m ever so grateful she did. These are treasures.

Of course she did have a conversation afterwards with Victoria about what she was thinking and why she decided to paint her room. And her reasons were quite logical. First of all, her mom hadn’t yet. Plus, she wanted to play “Trading Spaces” a HGTV home decor show where neighbours decorated a room in each others homes. Her brother refused so she went ahead herself and got started. Perfectly logical in the mind of a 3 year old! The show was a favourite of mom’s and the kids enjoyed it as well. In fact, mom later sent them off to the Life Network where they gave such joy there that my niece was rewarded with a t-shirt from the network!

In the course of all this, many people would suggest that my niece should have been punished. In traditional discipline I cannot imagine what would have happened to a child who had gotten up to such mischief. In fact I suggest that many of us, as children, would have been severely punished for this sort of thing. I’m sure I would have. But what would that have truly accomplished that wasn’t accomplished by a different reaction? My niece understood by the severity of her mother’s emotions when she was discovered that she had done wrong. She didn’t need punishment. She felt bad enough. Even though she was eventually photographed and fussed over, at just under 4 years old, she understood that this was not something she should attempt again. She watched her parents pull out the carpet in her brand new bedroom and work to remove paint where necessary and repair the damage that was done. She understood and she felt remorse.

And the parents, particularly Victoria’s mom is probably much prouder of her reaction at the time than if she’d lost control and spanked Victoria instead of calling me first to talk her down. Who knows how that would have gone? In such an angry state, hardly anyone would have blamed her for using corporal punishment, but not using it took greater self-control and strength and that is something to be very proud of.

And what of Victoria? Without punishment has she gone into a life of destruction? Is she a vandal now, wreaking havoc wherever she goes? Of course not. She’s a wonderful, well-behaved, well-loved and loving child. She’s delightful and sweet these many years later. She has not repeated the behaviour at all. She felt remorse, learned a lesson and I’m confident she will not repeat this or similar actions. Even without punishment! Imagine that.

We speak of redirection for children when they are young, to remove them from the temptation to do wrong, steering them gently in the direction we’d have them go, instead of allowing them to hit a playmate or snatch a toy.

As parents we need sometimes to redirect ourselves. We need to grab a cup of tea, go for a walk, call a friend, or grab the camera to help us through those angry moments when we’ve lost our tempers and feel like lashing out at our children for their antics. Long term the memories will be happier, the final outcome will likely remain unchanged, but the most important thing is that our relationship and attachment with our children is undamaged by our behaviour in the heat of the moment.

Do you have any examples of ways you redirected yourselves when tempted to slip back into the punishment style of discipline? They don’t have to be quite as dramatic as my neice’s little escapade!

Carolyn R. Parsons is a writer. She is married to Kent Chaffey and they have four daughters, aged 3 to 18. She blogs at BreezeDaze. Her first book, a poetry collection called Wind Rhymes will be published at the end of September.

Discipline as Play

Like many families with small children we have come to possess rather a lot of sidewalk chalk. You buy some for the kids and a grandparent buys some for the kids and then a friend thinks your kids would like chalk, and pretty soon you have tons. And the chalk is so huge it just lasts forever and ever and ever.

Using her foot as a paintbrush
Hannah ‘painting’ with her foot on the garage door

Sidewalk chalk has a way of getting everywhere. My own child’s ‘finger friends‘ love to use chalk on the side of the house, in particular. And that stuff doesn’t wash away, since the overhang prevents water from ever coming into contact with it. So the side of my house has been decorated for like 2 years because in spite of my plans to clean it I just never get around to it.

Hannah and her art
Hannah posing with her art work

Recently, the finger friends struck again. I was in the back yard and I noticed some letters on the side of our house. They said ‘HAN’, and then whoever was writing it ran out of room. So I asked my daughter HANnah about it, and she blamed her one-year-old brother. I pointed out that it was her name. She said, “Oh yes, it was the finger friends. They’re so sneaky!” I was frustrated, because I have spent the last 2 years discussing the appropriate use of sidewalk chalk. I decided that Hannah should wash it off. In fact, she should wash off every decoration she’d added to our house, ever. Because I didn’t want to, and maybe that would make her think first next time. Hmph.
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Impulse Control; How to Gently Encourage Your Child to Develop It!

Should we go in?
Should we go in?

Everybody has heard the adage “When we know better, we do better,” and everybody also knows it’s not always true. We as parents are not perfect. While we know and understand that corporal punishment is wrong, even parents who subscribe to this belief slip into this behaviour sometimes. In life we all make decisions to do something that we know isn’t the right one. We eat the chocolate cake we know is detrimental to our diet goals, we drink the soda pop with aspartame although we know the chemical content isn’t healthy to our bodies, we know better but we don’t always do better. And we console ourselves that we’re being moderate and that it’s alright to occasionally indulge ourselves in our impulses.

Somehow though, we expect our children to have a higher level of impulse control than we as adults have. Children, like adults, have a full range of impulse control development. Some children are born sensible, with sober second thought a part of their nature. Other children fall on the other end of that spectrum where thought and action are almost simultaneous! Most children fall somewhere along the spectrum and have occasional bounces to the other end. I was shocked when my normally extremely sensible 6 year old cut her three year old sister’s bangs. I was even more surprised when my normally highly impulsive 3 year old stopped suddenly at the edge of the sidewalk before I had the opportunity to stop her and looked three times up and down the road to see if there was traffic and then looked back at me to ask if it was safe!

What is normal behaviour? How do we curb impulsiveness that is destructive, dangerous or out of control? What do we as parents do to protect our property and others from our children’s normal impulses? What do you do if your child does something that is extreme when you know they should know better?
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