Conflict as Opportunity

I’m happy to share a guest post with you today. Kassandra Brown of Parent Coaching speaks of how conflict can be an opportunity. In addition to sharing her thoughts here concerning how we can turn conflict into a way to both connect and better understand our children and ourselves, Kassandra has a special coaching offer for readers. She is willing to offer three free coaching sessions to the first person who asks. Consultations are always free. If you are looking for a way to change how you communicate and interact with your children, she is willing to help.

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When children disobey parents, parents are often told – by experts and other parents – that a Time Out is the solution. We’re told that our children need consequences. We’re told it’s a good idea, and it will give them time to think about what they’ve done. We’re told if we’re not firm, then we’re permissive and our children will never know discipline.

togetherYet here at Parent Coaching, we have a different opinion. Abandonment is one of the biggest punishments known through human history. To be kicked out of the tribe and made to be away from the protection of the rest of the group is an awful, sometimes fatal, punishment. This is the premise that Time Out is based on. If the fear of being isolated, alone, and ostracized is great enough, then a child will learn whatever rules parents or society say are ‘right’.

Leaving baby alone to cry in a crib, or sending a toddler or older child away in disgrace for a time-out can seem like you’re not doing anything much and it may be better than spanking or hitting. But it is not harmless. It is psychological warfare and adults are much better at it than children. We use the power of more words, longer sentences, and more complex arrangements of our thoughts and feelings into ideas that manipulate better and make isolation sound just. No wonder our children stop listening and pull out big hammers like “I hate you” when they don’t get their way.

I believe most parents want their children to be happy and safe. I believe most parents want to be happy and safe themselves. And I believe the biggest obstacle to being more effective and compassionate with our children is our own unfelt pain. For me, this happens when the unmet needs, the old hurts, and the developmental sequencing that never happened get stimulated by my child’s needs. I don’t like these old hurts being stimulated and I want to make the stimulation stop. My child’s crying, whining, and wailing pleas are the stimulation. If I send my child away the stimulation will stop. Making the parent’s pain stop is another part of the foundation on which Time Out rests.

What can we do instead? Try a Time In. When conflict happens, welcome your own feelings and your child’s feelings by gathering together. Our family often sits on the couch for a Time In. We sit together. Often my children don’t want to come and sit. They still want whatever it is they want – the game, food, or activity that stimulated their longing and that they think will satisfy them. But if I sit quietly, or my husband and I sit together quietly, eventually the girls come over and sit with us.

Once we’re fairly quiet, we take turns talking about how we’re feeling, what we want, and what we just did. I often use reflective listening to let my children and spouse know they are heard and to get clear on what they really wanted me to hear. A Time In is a time to come together and acknowledge the pain we’re feeling when one of us cries or yells. It is a time to share what each of us needs and wants. It is a time that often leads to more feelings of trust and safety in our family. It is not a magic cure-all, but sometimes it feels like one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Kassandra Brown is a mother, parenting coach, yoga teacher, and friend. She recently moved with her family to a rural ecovillage in Missouri where they are creating a life of radical sustainability and emotional honesty. Three free teleconferencing calls introducing parent coaching will be happening with her this September. You’re invited! Read more of her writing at Parent Coaching’s Blog or connect with her on Facebook.

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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!

 

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.

The School Bus Comes Early

Photo by Laurel Russwurm

The school bus comes early. At 6:30 AM, my children and I waved to the kids as they rode away on the bus. The buses began driving past our house again last week, and while we usually aren’t up to watch the early buses, we were today because we wanted to watch the sunrise and listen to the quiet of the day. Last week we were out at 11:30 PM to watch the stars.

Our schedule, or more appropriately pattern, usually isn’t quite so varied in such a short time. We typically fall into patterns, just as many families do. We encourage our children to listen to their bodies, which tend to get tired around the same time of day for a while before shifting to a new pattern. However, as unschoolers, we reserve a flexibility to our days that many families are not allotted. We can stay up late or get up early as we choose. And while we aren’t totally without any schedule, having appointments or attending field trips or activities which interest our family, for the most part, we are able to choose when we do those things and if it fits our needs.

And here I hear the cry from parents claiming  that we are setting our children up for failure when they are grown. Someday, our children will have to follow a schedule, get up at the same time everyday, and trudge to work like the rest of America. If it was mandated that adults be at jobs at a certain time, with no choice in the matter, they might have a point. However, I would argue that just because a person may have to be at work at 8 AM 15 years from now, it’s no reason to impose that schedule on a 5 year old.

There is no guarantee what hours my children might keep as adults. Perhaps they will choose to work a late shift, and yet no one claims that I should keep them up all night in order to acclimate them to such a schedule. Chances are that the position they choose will have some flexibility. Homeschoolers are more likely to be their own bosses, are more likely to go on to higher education and receive advanced degrees, and are more likely to be self-guided in these efforts.

As a mother staying with my children, my schedule does not dictate an adherence to a rigid schedule. My schedule prior to having children, working in a university setting, allowed flexibility with my hours, as does the job my husband currently has. Regardless, our choice of vocations is intrinsically tied to our hours, and we can therefore choose whether a position fits or not. It’s a choice not given to children on the way to school, whose waking and sleeping hours are not a reflection of what their bodies are telling them or what they are learning, but are dictated by a government based solely upon their age.

So, we wave to the kids on the bus and wish them a wonderful day, as we go on about our lives on our own schedule, whatever that may be to fit our needs. While those parents advocating strict adherence to schedules shake their heads at my apparent lack of structure, I smile, knowing my children, in their earnest quest for learning, are doing, and will do, quite fine in life.

Rewards: the Other Edge of the Sword

Photo by Lemsipmatt

Behavioral training uses punishments and rewards in order to extract desired behaviors from the subject in question. Numerous studies support that the use of punishment in children, regardless of whether or not the punishment is physical in nature, has detrimental effects. Besides dissolving the connection between parent and child, punishments do not help the child to do better or improve the behavior. Many parents deem this to mean that they should rely on rewards instead. What they fail to realize, and what research also  supports, is that rewards are merely the other side of a two-edged sword.

It may seem benign to offer a reward in order to get a child to do what we want. It seems simple enough. However, by offering a reward for a specific behavior, you are simultaneously offering a punishment in the form of the withheld reward in the event that the desired behavior is not produced. Regardless of form, they both heavily involve extrinsic motivation – fear of punishment or the hope of a reward – in order to coerce others into behaving in a certain way. Behavioral training does have its place. Used short term, it has helped many people change habits. Used as an extrinsic tool to aid an intrinsic desire, behavioral conditioning has its benefits. However, B.F. Skinner, the founder of behaviorism, along with other noted researchers in the area such as Ivan Pavlov, were adamentaly against the use of behavioral therapy as a parenting technique. Long term, behavioral conditioning erodes a subject’s reliance on intrinsic motivation. Eventually, when the reward or punishment is no longer offered, or no longer is considered substantial by the subject, there is no longer motivation to continue the desired behavior. Reputable behaviorists do not recommend punishments or rewards as the basis for a parenting system.Lack of intrinsic motivation has aided in many monstrosities over time. When people rely on fear or rewards to motivate them, they are less likely to stand up for what they believe in or to have a strong sense of values. They are more easily manipulated and swayed by others. Some parents may view this as a positive side effect, but that opinion generally changes when the parent is no longer the figure the child turns to for extrinsic motivation. Children who are raised without extrinsic motivation are more likely to have deeply held personal beliefs and to act upon those beliefs, regardless of what other people may think.

conflict…

Though conflict, we learn to establish healthy boundaries between ourselves and other people. Conflict provides an opportunity for growth and learning. This is true not only for children, but also for ourselves.