Isn’t peaceful parenting the same as permissive parenting?

The short answer is ‘no.’ Peaceful parenting isn’t the same as permissive parenting. I know first hand that sometimes, as peaceful parents, we feel powerless and clueless as to what to do.

We know we don’t want to hit our kids, we know we don’t want to yell, we know we don’t want to threaten them… we know all the things we don’t want to do. However, we are left with a void and many of us, who haven’t been raised in peaceful, respectful, positive families, don’t really know what to do instead. That’s when peaceful parenting might become permissive parenting. It’s a matter of us not having the right tools or the right knowledge to come up with a parenting plan that works for our family.

What is peaceful parenting and how do we apply it? After many years working with families, doing research, reading more books than I can count and learning from many experts, I’ve come up with these peaceful parenting guiding principles:

1. Self-regulation: Peaceful parenting starts with us. We need to be in control of our emotions, our own reactions, our own feelings. We need to be able to regulate our responses to our kids’ actions or inactions.

2. Consciousness: Peaceful parenting is ‘present, conscious’ parenting. This means being in the moment with our child, connecting with them in the situation we are in, letting go of our expectations of how our child should be and embracing him for who he is, letting go of our expectations of how our parenting should look like, and stop striving to raise the perfect child. It also means being aware of our own baggage, our past, and our upbringing; and see how they are impacting the way we are interacting with our children.

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3. Connection: Peaceful parenting is based on connection. We need to recognize that creating a healthy parent-child connection is our primary work as parents. This connection is also the key to our children’s optimal human development. Our success as parents is directly proportional to the strength of the connection we have with our children. So, every time you are going to address your child, remind yourself ‘connection before correction.’ Make sure you are connected with your child before you try to make a correction, so they will be more open to listen to your message and to collaborate with you.

4. Respect: Peaceful parenting is rooted in the idea that children are people too, and deserve to be treated as such. The simplest way to figure out if we are being respectful to our children is to ask ourselves: ‘Would I treat this way a friend or my spouse?’ and let the answer guide us in your relationship with your child. Would you expect perfect compliance and obedience from them? Would you hit or spank your spouse when she makes a mistake or doesn’t follow to your demands? Would you send your spouse to another room when he is having or giving you a hard time? Would you ridicule, label or belittle your spouse? … If the answers are ‘no’ then you shouldn’t do that to your child either.

5. Communication: Peaceful parenting stands on a foundation of open, honest trusting and non violent communication with our children. The words we say to our children matter and shape how they see themselves. Always remember ‘The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice’ Peggy O’Mara. When we talk to our children and involve them in decisions, when we communicate to them the reasons behind our actions, when we give them choices instead of commands, when we label their behavior instead of them, when we listen to them and their opinions, when we discuss ideas with them and value their points of view; we are helping them feel empowered, valued, strong, connected with us, and more open to learn and collaborate with us.

6. Empathy: Peaceful parenting cannot be applied unless we can empathize with our children. Empathizing with them means validating their experiences, their feelings and their emotions, without belittling them, without shaming them, and without dismissing them. Empathizing doesn’t mean agreeing with them or sharing their same feelings; it means accepting them and allowing them. Validating their feelings doesn’t mean condoning any type of behavior associated with that feeling. We need to understand that behind every one of our children’s behavior there’s a feeling, a belief or an interpretation. As parents we need to try to understand those feelings and let our children know that all emotions are acceptable. Once we’ve empathized with them, we can help them regulate those emotions and their reactions to them.

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7.Boundaries: Peaceful parenting is about setting limits for our children with kindness and respect. Children need freedom to explore, to make mistakes, to discover their potential and to learn on their own. However, as parents we need to provide them with boundaries as they exercise their freedom. Boundaries need to be: few, respectful, clear, explained in advance, firm, safe, loving, and purposeful. When we set a limit with our child, they need to know that we mean what we say. For example, if we have a limit that they can’t play on the front yard without supervision because the street is too close and it’s dangerous, we need to hold the limit. If they cry and protest because their friends’ parents let them do it, we still need to hold the limit. If we need to run inside to get a snack, they need to come with us inside or the snack can wait, we still need to hold the limit and we can’t let them outside alone. It’s all about setting limits that make sense for our family and keeping them no matter what.

8. Natural and logical consequences. Peaceful parenting rests on the idea of letting natural and logical consequences teach the lessons. A natural consequence is anything that happens without a parent’s interference. For example, when a child doesn’t want to put on globes to go to play in the snow, the natural consequence is that his hands will get cold and he won’t be able to play much, so he will naturally decide to put them on the next time. When we let our children learn from the natural consequences of their own actions, we prevent power struggles, avoid becoming the bad guy, and preserve our connection with them. In the instances when natural consequences can’t be applied, parents can establish logical consequences. Logical consequences must be few, related to the behavior, and respectful. In the example above, if there’s a risk of frostbite if the child doesn’t wear the globes, parents should step in, establish the limit and consequence. The child doesn’t get to play in the snow unless he wears the globes. The best way to phrase this with our children is using the ‘when… then…’ strategy. For example ‘when you put on your globes, then you can go play in the snow.’

 

Peaceful parenting isn’t about being perfect. We all make mistakes, I know I do! We are all imperfect people. Peaceful parenting is about learning and growing; it’s about wanting to be the best version of ourselves; and it’s about remembering that we are raising unique souls that have the right to make mistakes, experience life in their own way and be themselves.

Much love, Diana-

The Importance of Bonding with Your Child

We spend nine months (some less than that) physically connected to our mothers via the umbilical cord. Without this connection we wouldn’t even be here. When we are born and that connection disappears, a new, more meaningful one emerges. It is an emotional and psychological connection.

How important is that connection, that bonding?

‘Essential’. The bond that babies have with their mothers and fathers impacts and reflects in their whole life. This idea is so vast that most of us can’t wrap our minds around the fact that the way we connect with our children during those first years has a tremendous impact in their happiness, character, health, self-esteem, academic performance, relationships and growth.

Healthy bonding helps the parts of your baby’s brain responsible for interaction, communication and relationships to grow and develop. Babies who have a deep and loving bond with their mothers have a much better foundation in life than those who don’t. It has been found that the lack of bonding in infants can have a life-lasting effect on a child. Infants who don’t bond are more likely to become anxious and insecure. Bonding creates trust, love, self-confidence and a sense of belonging.

Children with positive and strong bonding with their parents tend to:

  • be more independent (not less),
  • have higher self-esteem,
  • develop better relationships,
  • be more emotionally balanced,
  • enjoy being with others,
  • rebound from disappointment, loss and failure, and
  • communicate more effectively

Contrary to popular belief, the more responsive you are to a baby’s needs, the less ‘spoiled’ he will be growing up. Being responsive does not mean picking up your baby every time he fusses; holding him all day long; or becoming someone you are not or doing things you don’t want to do. It just means understanding your baby’s needs, your baby’s cues and respond to those.

You can develop a healthy, positive bond with your baby even if you decide to go back to work, to hire a nanny, to take some ‘me time’, not to breastfeed, not to co-sleep, not to carry your baby… There are no set rules!

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Here are some ideas on how you can develop a positive, loving and healthy bond with your child:

  • Love your baby, unconditionally. Accept your child completely and without restrictions, conditions or stipulations. Make sure that there is no spoken (or unspoken) message making your child feel or think that he has to be something other than what he is in order to be loved. Without unconditional love there can’t be healthy and positive bonding.
  • Know your baby. Each baby is different and the more you know your baby, the better you are going to meet his needs and the easier that bond will be established. Keep a journal and make notes on how your baby communicates with you, and how he responds when you communicate with him. You will soon know how to respond to your baby’s needs.
  • Touch your baby. This can mean kangaroo care when he’s a newborn; daily massages after bath time; cuddling while reading a book; or hugging him. The goal would be for your baby to grow, knowing that your arms are a safe place to fall back on and that they will always be there for him, to support him, but not constrict him.
  • Be present. Whatever you do, make sure you are present in the moment with your child, take time to connect with him, sense his love and let him feel your love.  You don’t need to do anything extravagant to show your baby you love him and you care. Get on the ground and play with him, make silly faces, dance, have fun with him, talk and listen to him… Let go the idea of being ridiculous, embarrassed, or perfect and just enjoy every second you spend with your child.

Every moment you spend with your baby can help create a strong, positive and healthy bond that will last a lifetime.

Much love, Diana-

Nightmares & Night-terrors. What to do?

Children spend more time dreaming than adults do, so they have more dreams than we do, both good and bad. What is the difference between a nightmare and a night-terror? and what should you do in each situation?

Nightmares

Nightmares are bad dreams that happen during rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. He may also be afraid to fall back asleep, and he’ll probably remember that he had a bad dream. A baby or child who had a nightmare is likely to have a clear idea of what scared him, although he probably will not be able to his fright until he’s about 2 years old.

Night Terrors

Night terrors occur in at least 5% of young children and can start as early as 9 months. These mysterious disturbances happen during deep, non-dreaming sleep. When a child is having a night-terror will cry, whimper, flail, and even bolt out of bed. Although his eyes may be wide open, he’s not awake and isn’t aware of your presence.

The night terror can last anywhere  from a few minutes to half an hour or more. Once it is over, your child will return to a sound sleep and have no memory of the incident in the morning.

How to respond?

The best response to a nightmare and to prevent future nightmares is to help your child confront and overcome his fears of the dark, such as letting a nightlight or a special stuffed toy to sleep with.

The best responses to a nightmare are:

  • Be there and offer comfort.
  • Stay with your child until she feels relaxed and ready to sleep.
  • Stay calm and convey to your child that what’s happening is normal and that all is well.
  • Reassure your child that he’s safe and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.
  • If your child wakes with a nightmare, stay with her until she feels relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

The best responses to night terrors are:

  • a gentle pat, along with comforting words or “shhh” sounds,
  • make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Don’t speak to him or try to soothe him,
  • don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him — all of which could lead to more frantic behavior.

If it’s a night terror, in 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again. If it’s a nightmare, he might need a little more time to calm down and go back to sleep.

What to do to prevent them?

To prevent nightmares, the best thing to do is to prevent things that scare your child during the day; and to help him comfront and overcome his fears.

To prevent night-terrors, make sure that he is getting enough sleep, since children who go to bed overtired are more likely to experience these type of sleep disturbances.

Much love, Diana-

Signs of Sleep Deficiency in Children

Many parents wonder whether their children are getting enough sleep. The first thing to do when in doubt, is counting the amount of hours they are sleeping every day. Then refer to the general guidelines of how many hours children their age should sleep per day.

The second thing would be to watch them for signs of sleep deprivation, such as:

  • Constant sleepiness throughout the day, almost every day
  • Fatigue. It looks like your child is dragging herself from one place to the next one
  • Inattentiveness and hyperactivity
  • Crankiness and moodiness, especially at the end of the day
  • Difficult awakenings. It is difficult to get your child out of bed and active in the morning
  • Difficult betimes. Your child is so cranky that she can’t fall asleep
  • Frequent waking during the night
  • Trouble focusing on tasks
  • Impaired memory and cognitive ability, the ability to think and process information
  • Decreased daytime alertness
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Low threshold to express negative emotion (irritability and easy frustration)
  • Difficulty modulating impulses and emotions

If your child exhibits many of this symptoms, you should adjust her schedule so she gets more daytime sleep (naps), and night-time sleep.

Much love, Diana-

Sleep Needs By Age

Sleep is probably the most discussed aspect of baby care. As we mentioned in a previous post, sleep is essential for babies and children’s development. The quality and quantity of a child’s sleep has a direct impact in his growth, development, awareness, happiness and overall wellbeing.

Many of you have written us asking about how many hours of sleep children and babies need. This is a general guide, every child is different and certain developmental milestones and personal and family-related circumstances might influence the amount of sleep they need.

Age Total Sleep Hours Comments
Day-Naps Night Total
0 – 1 Month 5 – 7 10 – 13 15 – 18 §   Preemies may need more sleep.

§   Newborns usually wake up every 2.5 to 4 hours; since that’s the longest their tummies can go between feedings. Therefore, do not expect newborns to sleep those 10 hours straight at night.

§   Newborns sleep most of the day, so ‘naps’ are not really so. They happen often and not necessarily at the same time every day.

2 – 4 Months 4 – 5 10 – 12 14 – 16 §   A more regular sleeping pattern usually emerges around the 2nd or 3rd month of life.

§   The longest sleep periods are from 4 to 8 hours.

§   Naps are usually 3 (morning, midday and afternoon).

§   Between 3 and 4 months of age, formal sleep training can begin.

§   Establishing healthy sleep habits is a primary goal during this time.

5 – 6 Months 4 – 5 10 – 12 14 – 16 §   The longest sleep periods could last 10 to 12 hours at night.

§   Naps decrease from 3 to 2 and increase in length.

§   Establishing healthy sleep habits is also a primary goal during this time.

7 – 9 Months 2 – 4 12 – 13 14 – 15 §   The longest sleep periods could last 10 to 12 hours at night.

§   Naps are 2 per day.

9 – 12 Months 2 – 4 12 – 13 14 – 15 §   The longest sleep periods could last 10 to 12 hours at night.

§   Naps are 2 per day, and one of them starts to shorten.

13 – 18 Months 2 – 3 11 – 12 13 – 14 §   Some children lose their morning nap during this period.
19 Months – 2 Years 2 – 3 10 – 12 12 – 14 §   Children lose their morning nap if they haven’t done so yet.
2 – 3 Years 0 – 2 11 – 13 11 – 13 §   Most children drop their final nap by the time they are 3 years old.
3 – 5 Years 0 – 1 11 – 12 11 – 12 §   Children usually transition from their cribs to a toddler bed at around 3 years old if they haven’t done so. Remember to be patient and know that some sleep re-training might be needed due to this change.

§   Remember to maintain a clear bedtime routine.

5 – 11 Years 0 10 – 12 10 – 12 §   Children should continue with their healthy sleep habits.

§   Bedtime routine has probably evolved, but must still be present; children still need a wind down time.

§   Do not bring a TV into your children’s bedroom, do not allow them to fall asleep with the lights on, do not allow them to play with the computer right before bedtime.

12 – 18 Years 0 8 – 10 8 – 10 §   Sleep is as essential for teenagers as it was when they were children.

Sources: Smooth Parenting research and experience working with families; WebMD; American Association of Pediatrics; Gina Ford’s Books; Dr. Weissbluth’s Books.

March of Dimes – Support Needed

Smooth Parenting is a proud sponsor of March of Dimes. This year, we are sponsoring a preemie, twin mom, who is one of our best coaches.

Please help her reach her goal and help children get the best start in life! Any donation will make a difference in a child’s life!

Reflective Parenting

As we continued exploring the best parenting options, we came accross ‘Reflective Pareting’. Reflective parenting views children’s behavior as meaningful communication that helps parents better understand their children. This approach to parenting sees the ability to reflect on the meaning behind a child’s behavior as being at the heart of sensitive, reflective parenting and as a key to strengthening parent-child bonds.

One of our beliefs is that children act/behave for a reason, and the better we understand those underlying reasons, the better our relationship with them will be. Since this is at the core of what we do and believe in at Smooth Parenting, we were happy to learn about Reflective Parenting and how they support the same principles about the relationship between parent and child.

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Reflective parenting asks the parent to consider how her thoughts and feelings affect the child’s experience and vice versa. It aims to develop reflective functioning skills in parents through listening, observing, and thinking about the intentions and feelings underlying the child’s behavior. Rather than a formulated approach, reflective parenting guides parents to evaluate and look within themselves in order to be a strong, reliable container for their children’s emotions. In this way, parents are able to skillfully and thoughtfully approach any situation that arises.

Reflective Parenting is all about our unique human capacity to take another’s feelings, needs, intentions, thoughts and behaviors into consideration before we act and / or respond to our child. It is characteristics like these that can help us to be the best role model as parent that we can be for our children. Like many well intentioned parents, our first choice is to be thoughtful and respectful, especially when under stress. But we’re not always successful, so reflective thinking is an available tool for us to unlock elements of the intimate parent / child relationship in order to understand the subtle and non-verbal cues a child puts out.

Much love, Diana-

Supporting Preemie Babies

Smooth Parenting is a proud sponsor of March of Dimes. This year, we are sponsoring a preemie, twin mom, who is one of our best coaches.

Please help her reach her goal and help children get the best start in life! Any donation will make a difference in a child’s life!

Returning an Adopted Child: Acceptable or Unthinkable?

Last week I came accross this article by Kathy McManus and thought it was worth sharing:

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Return unused portion for refund. It’s the traditional safety net when a product fails to please or perform.

But should returns be allowed for adopted children?

The Tulsa World reports that parents Melissa and Tony Wescott want to return their 11 year-old adopted son to state custody because they say he had severe behavioral problems not disclosed prior to his 2007 adoption, including reactive detachment disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The Wescotts say that soon after the adoption, the boy attacked a neighbor child with a board, killed and injured animals, began regularly running away, and hid butcher knives and lighters in his room. “He tried to burn our home down,” said Melissa Wescott. “The note read: ‘I’m sorry you had to die.’”

State documents described the child as “polite and well mannered.”

Because the Wescotts can’t afford the lengthy legal process of having the adoption “dissolved,” they are asking the state to enact a law allowing adoptive parents to return children under certain circumstances.

“If a family can show they have exhausted every resource…to save their families and this is what they’re left with, then I think they should have this as an option,” said one supporter of the proposed legal change. “No one should be held hostage in their own homes.”

“A parent is a parent,” countered a state adoption official. “It doesn’t matter where the child came from.”

The boy has been confined to a psychiatric hospital for almost a year, and is now scheduled for release, but the Wescotts say they’re afraid to let him back in their house. Without the new law they’re seeking, they could face felony abandonment charges by turning him away.

“It hurts us to see him like this, but he doesn’t want to be with us,” said Melissa Wescott. “It’s not like we are trying to return an itchy sweater.”

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In my opinion, the same way you wouldn’t return a biological child, you shouldn’t even think about returning an adopted child. Yes, it’s true that those conditions (if known) should’ve been disclosed, but what if other conditions arised that nobody knew before? should we also return those children? If when they get into teenage gears they show an addictive personality, growth hormone restrictions… you name it!… Should we return them? I don’t believe we should!

Tell us what you think: Who is responsible for the boy—the Wescotts, or the state? Should parents ever be allowed to return adopted children?

Much love, Diana-