Parenting. What do you think of when you read the word? For me, it depends on the day. Or even the minute. One thing, however, I always seem to feel is a great responsibility. Sometimes it still blows my mind to think that these 3 small people have been placed in MY care. The knowledge that I (and my hubby of course :)) are the people these kids look to for a model on which to base their life is motivating, to say the least. So I have done alot of research. ALOT of research. There are times when I am reading a book and getting all these great ideas and then I look up out of the book at my kids and think, ” I should probably BE parenting, not just reading about it!” All of this research has led to alot of different ideas and I’ve had to wade my way through with alot of prayer to find out what is right for us. What I have found is what I wanted to talk about today, although it is for sure still a work in progress. Fine tuning is happening always, and some things work for some kids and ages and not for others. I’ve read before that you should pick one strategy and go with it and not change so as not to confuse your kids. I agree to some extent, but I also think if what you are doing has negative effects on your children, or you, or is not working- go ahead a try something else! Attachment parenting has been what feels right to me. For those who would like to know more I present…..
Attachment Parenting Internationals Eight Principles of Parenting
1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
Mostly this one deals with educating yourself on all aspects of pregnancy and birth. They urge, and I agree with them, that you should follow your instincts and ask questions about everything. For me this meant striving to have as few “interventions” as possible; following natural childbirth as close as I could. One thing I didn’t do but would consider next time is having a doula as well as my midwife there.
2. Feed with Love and Respect
Breastfeeding on demand, gentle weaning, and introducing solids slowly. The picture for this section on their web page shows mothers feeding toddlers and babies at the same time. While I have never done that (i weaned my kids at 14, 15, & 16 months) I fully support people who do! I also believe in taking your cues from your baby about when to wean and doing so gently over many months.
3. Respond with Sensitivity
Crying is a way for babies to tell us what they need. I believe in responding to that crying and not ignoring it. I love what API says on their website:
Needs and the Benefits of Responding with Sensitivity
- Babies’ brains are immature and significantly underdeveloped at birth, and they are unable to soothe themselves
- Through the consistent, repeated responsiveness of a compassionate adult, children learn to soothe themselves
- Understand your child’s natural inner rhythms, and try to schedule around them
- It is perfectly normal for babies to want constant physical contact
- High levels of stress, such as during prolonged crying, cause a baby to experience an unbalanced chemical state in the brain and can place him at risk for physical and emotional problems later in life
- Symptoms of burnout or inability to cope with baby’s needs are signals that extra support and/or professional help are necessary
Responding to Tantrums and Strong Emotions
- Tantrums represent real emotions and as such should be taken seriously
- Some emotions are too powerful for a young child’s underdeveloped brain to manage in a more socially acceptable manner
- A parent’s role in tantrums is to comfort the child, not to get angry or punish her
4. Use Nurturing Touch
Slings slings and more slings. Also massage and lots of hugs and cuddles. And being aware of how much time your baby spends in swings, jumpers, strollers, etc. so you can make sure it’s not too much.
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
“Babies have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too cold or too hot. They need the reassurance of a loving parent to feel secure during the night.” says API. I feel rather strongly about this, but didn’t find it worked to get up every time baby woke up. So, we made things work. We co-slept with our first and bed-shared with our other two, and it’s been great. I wouldn’t do it any other way. If you are worried about SIDS or rolling over on your child please read here
6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care
This means working your schedule around baby’s schedule (when they are hungry, sleepy, etc.). It makes sense to me to watch and notice what babies internal schedule is and then try to work my schedule to mesh with that. I am the adult in the relationship so I feel like I should be the one who is accommodating. Plus, who am I to tell someone when they are hungry or not? Would I like someone to do that to me? This also means try not to have too many caregivers and have only short separations when possible. I have decided to be a SAHM and rarely leave my kids for more than 3 hours. When my oldest was 18 mo. I left for girls camp for a week and when I came back she was really distant and angry with me. I would not do that again.
7. Practice Positive Discipline
This one is the hardest, especially as your children get older. I think most of society uses punishment and control to get behaviors they want, but I firmly believe (backed up by lots of research I’ve studied) that it doesn’t work. And when it does, it is only short term and the unintended effects of that approach are negative and far reaching. Here is what API says. “Positive discipline is an overarching philosophy that helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, connected relationship between parent and child. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly punitive discipline weakens the connection. Remember that the ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline.” More on this at a later post.
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
Yea! You stuck with it till the last one! Balance is always something I am thinking about. Especially balancing technology and real life. Recently I have started taking a few moments for myself after the kids go to bed, and I’ve really been enjoying that. My husband is also a big help with this part, taking the kids when I need some alone time or a girl’s night out.
So that’s it. Or at least some of what I believe about parenting. Hopefully you found something to think about, it was great for me to remind myself of these things!