Growing Children

Photo by Rev Stan

When we grow plants, we give them what they need to grow and be successful: sunlight, water, supports, fertilizer, and other nutrients. If they are having trouble growing, we look to see what else they may need or what we need to change. We don’t blame them when they fail. Instead we look at what we need to change. Hurting the plant or putting it away and ignoring would be pointless. We look to what we can change to help the plant thrive. Our success as a gardener is dependent upon whether or not the plant is thriving.

Growing children is not so different. Punishing them doesn’t help them to be better. Hitting only hurts them and our relationship. Putting them away in time out doesn’t address the situation or help them to be better. Growing children have needs that must be met: sunlight, water, nutrients, support, and love. When their needs are met, they thrive and we get to watch them develop and unfurl into the wonderful people they are.
If there is a problem, rather than blaming the child and punishing him, we need to look at what needs are not being met and work with him to help him grow.

Natural Parents Network: The Best of 2011

I am proud and honored to be volunteer with the Natural Parents Network (NPN), a community of natural-minded parents and parents-to-be where you will be informed, empowered, and inspired. When you visit the NPN’s website you can find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

The volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to make NPN the outstanding resource it is also spend countless hours informing and inspiring others on their personal blogs. To close out 2011, the NPN volunteers have come together to provide you with some valuable reading material. Each volunteer has selected either their most viewed post of 2011 or their favorite post and shared the link here. Please take a few moments to visit each post. Our intention is to expand our reach as bloggers and informed parents and parents-to-be who are still growing as we move through our own journeys. Each volunteer has provided links to other social media sites where you can follow them as well.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers so please, contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other mamas in a huge way!

Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares her Christmas Cookie Swap Blog Hop, which is her fourth annual virtual cookie swap and most popular post of the year. Please stop by and link up your favorite holiday recipe until Dec. 31. You can find Farmer’s Daughter on Facebook and Twitter.

Adrienne from Mommying My Way shares Fear vs. Faith, one of her favorite posts about how often living a life of faith can look like a life of fear, but the two are really quite different. You can also find Mommying My Way on Facebook.

Alicia of Lactation Narration retells the story of her oldest daughter’s 5 years of nursing and weaning in her favorite post of 2011, The Weaning Party. You can find Lactation Narration on Facebook and Twitter.

Amy of Toddler In Tow shares Finding My Mommy-Zen, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she shares her desire to balance her own self-esteem by choice in order to parent with peace and compassion. You can also find Toddler In Tow on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and follow Amyables (Amy W.) on Google + and Ravelry.

Arpita of Up, Down, and Natural shares one of her most popular posts titled Reflections. This is a beautiful look at the type of mother she wants to be. You can find Up, Down, and Natural on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Charise of I Thought I Knew Mama shares Why Do Children Have More Food Allergies Than Ever Before?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post explains the shocking info that one unsuspecting mother discovered when she started researching why her daughter had a violent allergic reaction to eggs. This is a must read post for ensuring the health of your family. You can also find I Thought I Knew Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Stumbleupon.

Christine of African Babies Don’t Cry shares The Best First Food for Babies, one of her favourite posts of 2011. This well-researched post delves into the healthiest and most nutritious food to feed your baby. You can also find African Babies Don’t Cry on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Cynthia of The Hippie Housewife shares Gentle Discipline for Toddlers, her most viewed post of 2011. This post describes five gentle discipline tools for parenting toddlers. You can also find The Hippie Housewife on Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest.

Darcel of The Mahogany Way shares how Babywearing Is A Way of Life one of her favorite post of 2011. This post showcases some beautiful woven wraps that she has purchased, traded, borrowed, and sold over the years. Darcel also talks about the benefits of babywearing from the newborn through toddler stage. You can also find Darcel{ The Mahogany Way} on Facebook, Twitter, Her Community for Mothers of Color, and Pinterest.

Dionna of Code Name Mama shares 50 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids Plus Fun Serving Suggestions, her most viewed post of 2011. Most of these snacks are quick to fix and portable, so you can pack them to send with your child on play dates, at preschool, or to just have handy in the refrigerator for when your child wants to grab a bite to eat “all by himself.” You can find Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Erica at ChildOrganics shares a post that is not only close to her heart, but also her most viewed post for 2011 titled Attachment Parenting in the NICU. This post shares her top 10 tips for parenting should you find yourself with a baby in the NICU. You can also find Erica on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her personal experience of returning to work, expressing milk, and the ups and downs in between in her 2011 most viewed post, Mama’s Milk. You can also find Gretchen on GFC, Blog Lovin’, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Isil of Smiling like Sunshine shares how to make an autumn tree using pumpkin seeds, her most popular post in 2011. This post features a lovely craft activity that you can do with your kids! You can also find Isil on Facebook and Twitter.

Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 80 Uses For Coconut Oil, her most viewed post of 2011. This comprehensive post provides background information on the benefits of coconut oil as well as outlines 80 uses for it. You can also find Hybrid Rasta Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy shares her most popular post of 2011, Weekly House Blessing (Otherwise Known as Cleaning Once a Week). This post outlines a once per week cleaning routine for busy moms. You can also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Joella, the mama behind Fine and Fair, shares An Unusual Gripe with Bebe Gluton, one of her most popular posts of 2011. In it, she discusses the controversy surrounding a “breastfeeding doll” and offers her take on the gender role implications of dolls in general. Fine and Fair can also be found on twitter and facebook.

Julia of A Little Bit of All of It shares the story of how her co-sleeping relationship ended with her daughter, her most viewed post of 2011. This post shows how her daughter transitioned to her own bed on her 2nd birthday and the emotions involved for her mom. You can also find A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest.

Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares True Blessings: White Noise and Grandparents, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Kat talks about how she maximizes getting sleep and how grateful and blessed she is to have her parents be so involved in helping and spending time with her kiddos.

Kelly of Becoming Crunchy shares That Cup Does What?, her most viewed post of 2011. This post is one of a series of reviews and information on switching to all natural menstrual products – having heard so many different options and recommendations, Kelly decided to give a whole bunch of them a try and pull all the reviews together in one week for anyone interested in making the switch. This post in particular covers the ins and outs of the Diva Cup. You can also find Becoming Crunchy on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Kristin of Intrepid Murmurings shares a popular post from 2011, something she and her husband made for their girls for Christmas, great for open-ended play and construction: Handmade Tree Blocks. You can also find Kristin on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Lani of Boobie Time shares Helping a Fellow Breastfeeding Mom, her inspiration for starting to blog. This post discusses the importance of fellow moms supporting each other and some tips on having a successful breastfeeding relationship.

Laura at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door writes about finally entering “spring” when her child with special needs begins preschool. After battling post-partum mental illness (post tramatic stress disorder) after the preterm birth of her third child, she finally begins to feel healthy and whole again in “It’s Fall, Ya’ll-Again.”

Lauren of Hobo Mama shares On not having an AP poster child, her (OK, second) most viewed post of 2011. Lauren’s first child shook her certainty that attachment parenting meant babies never cried and toddlers grew independent — and that’s all right, too. You can also find Hobo Mama on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Luschka of Diary of a First Child shares Lactivism, Breastfeeding, Bottlefeeding and Mothers at War, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This post discusses how the breastfeeding/bottle feeding debate causes a division between mothers, leading to the alienation of women and babies, while divisive companies prosper. You can also find Diary of a First Child on Facebook, and Twitter.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how With Privilege Comes Responsibility, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This compelling post explains her strong felt desire to stand up for those less privileged. You can also find Living Peacefully with Children on Facebook.

Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings shares a Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys, her most popular post of 2011. The article outlines some important Montessori principles and how they relate to children’s toys, translating that into some simple guiding principles. You can also find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Melissa of White Noise shares Modern Day Wet Nurse, her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, Melissa shares the benefits of human breast milk and human milk sharing. You can also find Melissa at Mothers of Change.

Momma Jorje shares Amniocentesis – What is it *really* like?, one of her most viewed posts of 2011. This open and honest series offers not only the technical process of amniocentesis, but also the emotions involved in awaiting (and receiving) the procedure and a diagnosis. Momma Jorje can also be found on Facebook.

Moorea of MamaLady: Adventures in Queer Parenting shares Fluoride: Another Reason Breast Is Best, her favorite post of 2011. This post provides research on the harmful effects of fluoride in drinking water for babies and toddlers and ways to limit fluoride consumption in your home. You can also find MamaLady on Facebook and Twitter and her Parent Coaching Site.

Rachael at The Variegated Life is Calling the Muse in her most viewed post of 2011. In this post, she describes how she uses ritual to help her tap into her creative spirit. You can also find Rachael on Twitter and The Variegated Life on Facebook.

Rebekah and Chris from Liberated Family shares Using Cloth In a Disposable Society, their favorite post of 2011. This extensive post provides a lot of information regarding the varied uses of cloth as well as the many benefits. You can also find Liberated Family on Twitter.

Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares her most viewed post: Confessions of a Breastfeeding Advocate: I Couldn’t. She confesses her struggles with breastfeeding her daughters, but shares why she’ll continue the good fight. You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Seonaid of The Practical Dilettante offers a science- and reverence-based meditation on The Living Earth, her most viewed post of 2011. This meditation was originally written for Earth Day, but it provides a way to reconnect with your place in the living breathing planet at any time of year. You can also find Seonaid on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares I Recommend (But Moira Likes This Book Too), her most viewed post of 2011. This post is a review of a wonderful book that talks about all the different ways that families can be made up, along with some of why this topic is so important to her family.

Sheryl at Little Snowflakes shares her experiences with tandem nursing in Tandem Nursing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, her most viewed post of 2011. You can also find Sheryl on Twitter.

Stay tuned for some amazing posts from all of these tremendous bloggers in 2012!

 

The Benefits of I-Messages

Photo by Paul Stocker

I-messages seem simple enough, but the benefits that come from them are anything but simple.

  • We are more likely to influence another person to change an undesired behavior by using I-messages. Because they are less threatening, I-messages are less likely to provoke resistance or make the other person feel bad.
  • We place the responsibility for changing the behavior or action on the other person. Stating an I-message brings attention to the problem at hand without dictating how it must be rectified, trusting the other person to repect our needs and allowing them to take ownership of their actions. We relinguish any attempt at controlling the other person and allow them to take responsibility for their own actions.
  • When we use I-messages, we model honesty. Honest, open communication from one person in a relationship promotes reciprocal treatment from the other.
  • We open ourselves to the other person. Not only do we show that we are a feeling person with needs, we show that we can also trust the other person to be cognizant of our needs. By sharing of ourselves, we strengthen our relationship.

Conflict: A Course of Life

Conflict is a course of life, occurring whenever two parties have different agendas or different perceived agendas. What matters is not the conflict itself but how that conflict is resolved.  Parents don’t have to resort to win-lose methods with either the parent or child winning while the other loses. When parents work together with their children, everyone’s needs are met and noone loses. By meeting everyone’s true needs, the conflict ceases to exist rather than escalating in continued attempts to meet the unmet needs.

When Children Don’t Listen

Photo by Dru Bloomsfield

“You aren’t listening to me.” “Please listen.” “Listen to what I am saying.”

Most parents have uttered, or at the very least thought, one of these phrases or something similar at some point. It’s usually said in frustration.
However, when we say this to our children, we don’t really mean that they aren’t listening to us. While that sometimes is the case, a quick look in their eye or a gentle touch of their hand is generally sufficient to catch the attention of a person who didn’t hear us. What we really mean is that our child isn’t doing what we say. On the surface, it’s an artifact of poor communication. On a deeper level, it’s an issue of control.
When we stop to examine why it is that we want our children to do what we say, we’ll find that there are varied reasons. For some, it is a genuine attempt to control another person – one who is smaller and probably can’t do much about it. Even that has deeper levels – often resulting from a parent’s lack of personal empowerment in childhood or of feeling inequal in his/her own adult relationships.
Generally speaking though, most parents have much simpler reasons if they stop to examine them. It may be convenience, fatigue, hunger, a desire to feel respected, or one of many others. Demanding compliance through poor communication doesn’t rectify the situation. In fact, it’s most likely to exacerbate the frustrated feelings of all parties involved, because it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter – the needs of both parties.
When we wish our children would just do as we say, we need to consider the needs of both parent and child. Whether the parent is tired and needs a break or has a need to feel respected, understanding what we really want is an important first step to asking for it. Understanding what is going on with our child (anything from being tired to a lack of impulse control and beyond) is vital to finding a solution that will work for everyone and meet our own neglected needs.

Balance

Photo by Murray Barnes

Balance is a continual process. In order to stay balanced, we must be constantly shifting and adapting to even small changes in the environment or situation. When something changes, we must also change in order to maintain our balance. If we don’t, then not only do we lose our previous balance, but we tend to topple down the other side. This is true not only in regard to our activities and the busyness of our lives but with our relationships, including those relationships with our children. When our children are out of balance, we need to step over and help regain that balance rather than spiralling down, out of control.

Free Range Learning

Free Range Learning: How Home-Schooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon: Book Cover

If I could only recommend one book about homeschooling to someone, it would be Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. There is something for everyone in this book, whether a homeschooling veteran or someone who is contemplating whether or not to homeschool their children. While the book is unschooling-lite, families of all styles will find value in the book. Free Range Learning is not merely about homeschooling; it’s about the way people learn and interact with others, about what we take from life, and about what we make of life.

Weldon’s eloquent writing is backed by numerous studies and research. The book is not a fluff read. Readers will want to take their time, pondering and digesting the information, whether the information presented is new to them or something they have long believed. With numerous personal anecdotes from homeschooling families of all styles and experiences allowing glimpses into the lives of homeschoolers, the bulk of the book relies on sound research. While I would reccomend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in homeschooling, I would not reccomend it to anyone not open to homeschooling unless they are willing to challenge their current assumptions.

Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything promises to be a valuable research for new homeschoolers everywhere for many years to come.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the author.