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How to Train Your Dragon: Yell at it?

This week, I’m happy to bring to you my first guest post from Kelly Bartlett. Kelly is a mother of two children living in Portland, Oregon, the assistant editor of The Attached Family magazine, an API leader and a certified Positive Discipline Educator. You can follow her blog at Parenting from Scratch.

“Maybe,” [Old Wrinkly] said, “you can train a dragon better by talking to it than by yelling at it.”

“That’s sweet,” said Hiccup, “and a very touching thought.  However…from what I know about dragons…I should say that yelling was a pretty good method.”

“But it has its limitations, doesn’t it?” Old Wrinkly pointed out.

–From How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

It does. Yelling is effective at pretty much two things: intimidating someone into doing what you say, and making them feel bad. No one, children or adults, likes to be yelled at.

Yelling, while an instinctual stress-reliever, doesn’t do anything to actually educate a person about the point you’re trying to make.  I had a teacher once who yelled a lot, and what I remember most about her class is the crummy feeling I had when I was in her room.  I remember feeling uncomfortable and sad when she yelled at other students, and I became so afraid to ask questions or talk to her about anything, for fear of her then yelling at me.  One time, I thought my book report was late, and oh, the fear I felt then!  Just imagining what she would say to (yell at) me turned my stomach into knots.  Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember anything about that book report, not even the title of the book, nor any other academic lessons I learned in her class.  I actually can’t even remember this teacher’s name; it’s like a traumatic memory, suppressed. (By the way, my book report did not end up being late, so crisis averted.  I do remember the joy of that moment of realization.)

As a parent, it’s easy to have my buttons pushed by my kids, yet difficult to remember that yelling doesn’t actually do anything to help them meet their behavioral goals.

“We can’t teach kids to behave better by making them feel worse.” –Pam Leo, Connected Parenting

“Children do better when they feel better.” –Jane Nelsen, Positive Discipline

I am nowhere near perfect at this…the yelling thing.  It takes a lot of practice to recondition the way we respond to anger, and I am in the midst of working on this.  It’s a many-years-long journey. What I’m working on first and foremost is reconfiguring my “buttons”; trying to take the triggers that usually make me angry and change them so that they, well…don’t.  This is a matter of understanding and perspective.  The more I understand about my children’s behavior–how their brains develop and why they do the things they do–the less they trigger my anger reflex.  And the more perspective I have over “the big picture”–the foundational aspects of raising children that are truly important–the more I realize that in-the-moment yelling doesn’t work toward meeting the long-term goals I have for myself, my children, and our family as a whole.

Yelling at kids doesn’t help them learn a lesson.  Just like my book report experience, what kids remember most is the feeling brought on by the yelling; the fear. That’s the piece of information that our brains hold onto and shape our future interactions and behaviors.  Even the joy I felt when I realized my report was not late and I was not going ot be yelled at was a positive feeling, but still brought on by fear.  Was I then motivated to make extra sure that I was never late on an assignment in this teacher’s class again?  Of course.  I do think fear is a very effective motivator…no argument from me there.  But that’s not the motivation on which I want my parenting, thus my relationship with my children, to be based.

Our most prominent memories stem from feelings around events: succeeding, failing, solving a problem, making mistakes, having fun, going through a difficult time, being held, getting yelled at.  After many years, the details of events are likely to become foggy, but the feelings remain. What do I want my kids to remember when they think back on their childhoods?  Less yelling and feeling afraid, more understanding and feeling supported.  Teaching by yelling does have its limitations.  Teaching through connection is limitless.

 

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Another Attachment: Let Others Bond with Your Children

As we spend time with various family and friends over spring break, I thought I would share an old post about loosening up your strings a little. As I watch my three little ones run to greet their father, grandparents and friends, it’s a nice reminder that these relationships started when they were babies. Enjoy.

Giving Dad some room to make mistakes and take on the mundane chores of childcare really strengthened their bond.

During my first few months caring for our very fussy first-born daughter, my exhaustion had reached its peak. My husband urged me to use the breast pump that sat unopened on the counter. He was able to take the first late night feeding on weekends, allowing me to get four to five hours of uninterrupted sleep — something I desperately needed. Just as important, my husband was able to bond with our daughter in a new way. After a long week at work, he savored these late night feedings alone with his baby girl.

What is Attachment Parenting?

I’m a contributing blogger for Attachment Parenting International’s blog; API Speaks: The Voice for Gentle Parents Everywhere. They advocate eight principles of parenting that promote healthy connections with your children, helping them to become confident, compassionate adults. Read the summary of the eight principles to get the general idea.

The principle I choose to write about most often is “Strive for Balance.” One of the easiest ways to achieve balance as a mother is to let others lighten your burden so you can take a break. If you are constantly worried that no one else is capable of caring for your child (even your spouse), or you are afraid to ask for help, your child has no opportunity to form an attachment to anyone else.

Are you allowing others to bond with your child?

Mothers and fathers (and grandparents) have very different ways of holding, playing and interacting with their babies. Research shows that babies recognize and thrive on these differences. Do you constantly correct others on the proper way to hold, feed or comfort your baby or do you let them develop their own technique? It’s great to let others know what your child prefers, but hovering and immediately taking over once a baby cries is not really the best answer.

If you’re caring for an infant or young toddler, this is the week to work on loosening your strings a little. You won’t be giving up the connection that you have with your child, but allowing someone you love to form a stronger bond. Whether it’s your spouse, a grandparent or a trusted friend; let them spend time with your child without you swooping in for the rescue.

Give yourself some time off and let your child understand that there is a whole village of loved ones to whom they can turn. You will see over time how relaxed and joyful a child can be when they form loving connections with the people around you. (And trust me, you will feel the same relaxation and joy knowing that your community of support is loved by your child.)

Grace and Peace.

 

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Shocking Realization: I Married Pa Ingalls

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be married to your childhood celebrity crush? If you’re as old as I am, you may have fantasized about Bon Jovi, Rick Springfield or even Patrick Swayze. But who embodied the ideal husband or perfect family for you?

I grew up in the Seventies in the Midwest, a time before cable television. My youthful obsession was the prime-time series Little House on the Prairie. I read all the books and I was seriously smitten with Michael Landon. I did not realize until recently just how much I must have admired him.

Our three little girls have just discovered the wonder of this show, and anxiously await Friday movie nights so we can watch a few more episodes. While watching the first season again in adulthood, I came to the awesome realization that I had fulfilled my childhood fantasy life. Not only do my three girls look remarkably like Mary, Laura and Carrie, but my husband and I eerily resemble Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

Often in parenthood, we put all our time and energy into our children with very little thought left over for how we got these children in the first place. My “baby Carrie” turned three years old this month, so I guess I’ve had a little more time to devote to my partner, who as it turns out, is the manifestation of Pa. He is loving but firm with the girls, an extremely hard worker, amazing at remodeling and woodworking, plays folk tunes on his guitar and is a fun-loving, affectionate spouse. He is also kind enough to read my blog posts, so I imagine he is completely embarrassed right now.

But, let me be clear about my role as Ma. I still love my (unnaturally) pretty shade of blonde hair and brightly painted toenails. I do not make clothing for myself or my children, with the minor exception of a few Halloween costumes. What I do relate to is her resilience, views on motherhood, devotion to God and family, tireless work ethic and her ability to withstand the misguided arrogance of Mrs. Oleson with dignity and grace.

I wrote last week about how lack of sleep during the baby years can negatively impact your marriage. And recently, my friend and marriage researcher, Lori Lowe, wrote a fascinating post called The Formula for Unhappiness is U = I – R about how our earliest memories about relationships play into our current state of happiness or unhappiness in our marriage.

The amount of unhappiness equals images minus reality. This can be measured for relationships, careers and even how we feel about parenting. If we created an image in our minds during childhood that has not become a reality in adulthood, our happiness decreases.

I have to say that I did not consciously create this life that so closely matches my ideal family image from my youth. My husband admitted that the Ingalls were such a huge part of his childhood that he also unknowingly carried this image into adulthood. We both manifested a life that conjures up happiness for us. We have even joked about wanting to live “off the grid”, the modern equivalent of living on the prairie.

Our realization has been joyful and even divine. We are so grateful for all the stages of our lives, even the less happy struggles when we were not living as we truly desired.

So, what images did you create in your mind during childhood? If you are currently unhappy in your partnership, can you attribute it to lack of sleep (see link above) or a large gap between your images and your reality?

Has motherhood turned out the way you imagined or are you simply recreating your own reality from childhood for better or worse? And most importantly, do you have a plan to lessen the gap between your ideal images and your current reality?

Grace and Peace.

 

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Fussy Babies Lead to Marital Dissatisfaction

While most first-time parents are prepared to some extent for the sleepless nights with a new baby, I’m guessing that the ensuing relationship discord comes as a huge surprise. Research published last year by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reveals that marital dissatisfaction in first-time parents is directly related to daily sleep duration. In other words, less sleep equals less marital satisfaction.

Having survived our two very fussy babies and one easy one, I can certainly attest to the relationship strain that occurred during those years. My girls all had digestive problems and two had a severe dairy protein intolerance. I could not consume any dairy food while nursing them and they were also sensitive to soy proteins. One of the unfortunate side effects of an upset stomach was the inability to sleep for long stretches.

My husband and I had been married for five years before embarking upon our parenting journey. Yet, that first year left our tensions raw and exposed. Three children and nine years later, we can laugh about our first years and the drastic changes in our married life.

But not all marriages make it through the transition to parenthood. In another study of marital satisfaction, 45 percent of men and 58 percent of women reported a decline in marital satisfaction during the first year of parenting.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these tips to help new parents get a good night’s sleep:
  • Breastfeed your infant. This will help prevent sleep-disrupting problems such as ear infections and diarrhea.
  • Reserve the bed for your own sleep.  Put your baby to sleep in a nearby bassinet, cradle or crib.
  • Try your best to keep your baby on a consistent schedule. Both you and your baby will be able to sleep better.
  • Take naps when your baby is asleep.
  • Make caring for the baby a team effort. Create an “on-duty” and “off-duty” schedule to share tasks with your spouse or other caregiver. This will give both of you opportunities to rest.
  • Recruit family members or friends to help care for the baby when he or she is awake. Use these breaks to get some sleep.
  • Ask family and friends to help with meals and household chores. This will give you more opportunities to nap.

In addition to these tips, I would add a few of my own from our years in the trenches:

  • Make a new date night ritual with your spouse. Carry out a favorite meal, eat in your home wearing your pajamas and snuggle up in bed for the sole purpose of sleeping. Allow each other to take long naps on the weekends, without judgment or resentment.
  • Become friends with your breast pump. I hated to pump, but after enduring our first baby who would not take a bottle, I quickly changed my ways for the next two. Because of our dairy and soy problems, formula was not an option. But pumping in the morning allowed me to express enough milk for a full bottle. This allowed my husband to give a full feeding at night so I could go to bed earlier.
  • Talk about how you are feeling. For moms who give up a career outside the home or cut back on freelance hours, you are dealing with the loss of your old identity. Your spouse may be dealing with new challenges, but mostly his life is still about getting up and going to work. New moms often lose friends and business associates (I was promptly released from a long-term client immediately after giving birth.) It’s important to work through these changes together to avoid feelings of resentment. If you’re not sure about how to discuss these feelings without arguing, seek out a trained pro-marriage counselor.

Most importantly, keep your experience in perspective. The baby year is literally just one year in what should be a long and supportive partnership. But during that one year, make sleep your top priority. Lack of sleep not only kills a marriage; it can also kill a job, a friendship and cause a multitude of health problems. So, seriously, shut off the computer and get your sleep!

Grace and peace.

 

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Love Yourself this Valentine’s Day

Reflections of Motherhood asked moms what they would tell themselves if they could go back to the days before they had their first baby. They created this video of the responses. I thought it was perfect to share with other moms, especially on Valentine’s Day. Please take a few minutes to watch.

Now take some time today to love your life as a mom; to love your children and to express that love to all the people in your life that matter.

Grace and Peace (and love sweet love)

Brought to you by Nummies Maternity Bras http://www.Nummies.com

Song is “Days Away” by InAshton http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/days…

Photography by Sara Collaton http://www.SaraCollaton.com

Produced by UnMarketing http://www.Un-Marketing.com

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Weekly Bits of Baby Love

 

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Battle Hymn of the Chicken Mama

According to the Chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the rooster, but I prefer to think of myself as a chicken. I couldn’t help musing recently at how I would measure up in the much talked-about book about Chinese parenting, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. I have not read the book, and while she writes with style and wit, I have no desire to read it. If you have not heard all the hoopla, I encourage you to read the response from her daughter, who admits that her mother is not quite as ferocious as the book implies.

As a mother raising three daughters in the United States, I have no problem being a chicken. Persons born in a rooster year are characterized as sharp, practical and tenacious. We are also hard-working, eccentric, a bit show-offish, loyal, charming and we really hate any viewpoint that disagrees with our own. Hence, many roosters own our own businesses or pursue careers in art or entertainment or you know, blogging. We like to be noticed, and probably care about our hair just a tad too much. I am totally a chicken.

But a Chicken Mama has a different code of ethics and expectations. Much like a Tiger Mother, we are very proud of our flock, and do not care to hear anything (at all) negative about them. However, when my daughter brings home anything less than an “A”, we assume rightly that she has a slight learning disability, was placed on the wrong side of the classroom, or simply failed to properly learn the material because of faulty teaching.

And, also like the Tiger Mother, this Chicken Mama does not allow TV (on week nights), we do not subscribe to cable television nor do we own video games. Personally, I am not a fan of play dates, but I do give in on a case-by-case basis. (Mostly to moms who are artsy or eccentric like me.)

As for musical prodigies, I have a much different stance. I spent about 5 minutes researching the Suzuki method when my firstborn was in preschool, and nearly fell off my nest when I realized how much of my own time would be spent teaching the piano or violin. Forget about it. Our piano teacher’s primary qualification is that she has a car and comes to our house. My eight-year-old is musically gifted, that’s for sure, but hates to practice. I set a timer when necessary, and we get about 30 good minutes of practice each night.

Will she ever play Carnegie Hall? I really don’t care, but if it’s important to her she will make it happen on her own and not by my constant pecking. I will completely support and encourage her, but I won’t be the one who pushes her in the direction of my own dreams.

As for defiance or unruly behavior at home, I also take a much different approach. As a Tiger Mother, Amy Chua once (or more often) called her daughter “garbage” when the girl acted disrespectfully. I’m not into shaming or name-calling to get my children to obey. I do not see the value in this. My children are expected to act respectfully and are often complimented on their good behavior. I have many strategies that make this happen; most importantly my children feel loved, respected and confident. We model respect in our actions, as opposed to the ranting, screaming, hair-pulling tactics given by Ms. Chua.

As for our typical home environment; Western Chickens are very proud of our nests. Our homes are fun, organized and filled with laughter. Chores are required, meals are always taken around the dinner table and homework must be completed the moment the kids step off the bus. When my three little chicks get out of line or have trouble controlling their behavior, I resort to a much different sort of Battle Hymn. We crank up Keith Urban and dance it out. Nothing lifts a mood like a guitar-heavy country lick, especially when the artist looks so fine. Give it a try, it will raise your spirits, or at least your heart rate.

I suppose I could crush them into submission by calling them names; but this German/Irish/Native American so-called Western Chicken Mama would much rather teach my little birds to fly.

Grace, Peace and a bit of humor.

(And thanks again to Totsy. Last week’s sale of the Baby Love Carebook was ridiculously successful!)

 

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I Asked. I Received. I Love How that Works.

Well, I don’t know what ya’ll prayed for after yesterday’s post, but may I just say, “Thank you!” Not only was my husband finally able to fly home late last night, but I learned this afternoon that the Baby Love Carebook was selected to run on Totsy. The sale has been going on all day (and doing quite well) without my knowledge. My product even got the prime placement today. It will move down tonight as new sales are added.

What does all this mean?

Totsy is a members-only, online retailer that offers moms on-the-go and moms-to-be access to brand-specific sales, up to 70% off retail, just for them and the kids, ages 0-7. Each sale lasts only 48 to 72 hours. With every purchase, Totsy will plant one tree in the name of your child to help reduce the effects of deforestation. So, great deals and environmentally friendly; what’s not to love about that?

What’s the Baby Love Carebook?

The Baby Love Carebook™ is the only 24-hour organizer that helps establish baby’s daily routine and create an instruction manual that any caregiver can follow. Awarded the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, this simple system makes a thoughtful and elegant gift for a new mom or mom-to-be.

What makes the Baby Love Carebook™ unique?
•    It helps you find your own routine, not a “one-size-fits-all” approach
•    It encourages bonding and allows you to discover the unique needs of your baby
•    It creates a customized instruction manual that any caregiver can follow
•    One book can track multiple children, making it great for twins
•    Includes the one-of-a-kind Allergy Caresheets to keep a food diary and track down a suspected allergy
•    The 3-ring binder is the same size (7 x 9 inches) and quality as popular desk-size planners, so you can also insert your own calendars and address pages.

So, there you have it. And from now until Saturday, February 5, 2011, you can get a copy for only $19.99.

Follow this link: http://www.totsy.com/join/WAsAlQ6G then enter your email address and password. You can always cancel your subscription later.

Grace and Peace.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2011 in Weekly Bits of Baby Love

 

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