Archive for the ‘Attachment Parenting’ Category

Preventing and Mitigating Sibling Melt Downs

Art Credit: Siblings Without Rivalry

This past week I attended a class with one of my favorite early childhood experts, Carrie Contey. This was a class on siblings. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the unique needs of children based on their birth order, new insights on what drives sibling conflict, and several light bulb moments on better meeting my daughters’ emotional needs in general. Austin Mamas – if you haven’t taken a class with Carrie, I highly recommend her. I’ve never left a class without several valuable new insights and workable ideas to put in practice.

I’ll share the high level take-aways with you here:

* Birth Order. Firsts never forget that they were here first and don’t want you to either. They need acknowledgment and appreciation of their role as first. Forever.  Middles need to hear how special it is to be in the middle. Youngests need to know that you understand how frustrating it is to be the youngest and not get to do what olders are doing. They need ongoing empathy for this.

* We’ve got 3 parts to our brains:

  1. Human – Thinking. Learning, talking, listening, reasoning, loving, playing.
  2. Mammal – Feeling. Not listening, resisting, crying, demanding, whining, clinging.
  3. Reptile – Fearing.  Fight or Flight. Fight: kicking, biting, screaming, hitting. Flight: avoiding, running away, shutting down.

Babies consistently live in the reptile part of their brain as they cry to get their basic needs met. And as they grow from age 0 to 7, they are working on developing their human, thinking brain. When children are apart from their parents in preschool or daycare or with a nanny, they are working really hard to contain their emotions, to think, to work, to learn. And even with all this positive, wonderful growing — it’s draining and stressful. When they reunite with parents, meltdowns are common because they are letting down from working so hard to contain their emotions without Mommy or Daddy.

Food. Sleep. Love.

* Sibling rivalry is normal AND they need their parents to be the Steady Eddies in the fire to help them regulate. It’s inevitable because they likely spend more time with each other than anyone else at home. And it’s through a sibling that they learn how to resolve conflict. Once again the cry for self-care comes through loud and clear for Mothers which so many of us find so difficult to do. But it’s when you’re depleted that you are more likely to join the fire with your own reptile brain instead of provide the calming, grown-up force to diffuse it.

Three Tips on Preventing and Mitigating Meltdowns with Small Children:

  1. Fill them up with Big Attention after every separation – including sleep. Whatever that looks like for you, and take it up a notch with the level of intensity.  Rather then feeding them the heightened negative attention of “STOP THAT!” intensity, feed them with big “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”. Big silliness. Physical games.  Your eyes and ears completely on them and bouncing back and forth between each child.  In the mornings now I’ve been trying out Carrie’s suggestion of simply saying, “I see you!” to each child and going back and forth between the two, saying it over and over again.  When they are filled with intense attention, even in just small bursts, they’re less likely to get into sibling conflict or their own individual melt-down mode which is just another way to get your intense attention. Just not as much fun for anybody.
  2. If you are a working AP Mama like me, consider making those three or four hours a day that you have with your children during your week uninterrupted by anything else.  Put all screens away so that you’re not distracted by a single text or email during your time together. Knowing that transitions are hard and that I usually come home to kids having melt downs, I’ve been looking for ways to help make this time together more pleasant since we have so little time.  The “A-Ha!” suggestion from Carrie that I’m running with: When I come home from work, I’m not worrying about getting dinner on the table or talking to my husband or our baby-sitter about anything for a good 10 minutes. I’m giving all my attention to my girls and going back and forth between them quickly to fill them up, play, hug, be silly — whatever.  I’ll let you know how it works….
  3. If a conflict between siblings is underway, don’t try to reason with them or get to the “why”.  (like I do) I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “No honey, of course you’re not poopy. Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it’s true. We don’t talk that way to each other.”  Instead, focus on a quick redirection and come back to a mini discussion on your family’s values at another time when all is peachy.  Carrie’s fabulous redirection suggestion:  Grab their attention away from picking on their brother or sister and say, “I think you need a challenge!”  And then give them something to do that’s both mental and physical.  Do three twirls. Then count to twelve. And then hug your sister while you sing.  You get the idea….

All these ideas for melt down prevention or “work-around”, by the way, assume that you’ve covered the basic needs:  food, drink, sleep.

So what happens when everyone is short on sleep because one of your children kept everyone else up all night with her coughing and crying and you have to run an errand the next day because there’s no other option?

I can confidently say that in these cherished Mama Moments, you must simply breathe through the kicking and wailing on the floor tantrums that take place at XYZ store because the child wants something you’re not up for them having or in my recent case — something impossible. My Littlest wanted the same kind of princess underwear I was buying for my Oldest at Target — and her size was out of stock (bless her heart). Absolutely no other kind would do and the eye of her hurricane was too intense to redirect her attention to anything.

And when someone stops to look at you with a why-aren’t-you-doing-something-to-stop-your-child-from-screaming look, you simply look them back in the eye in a penetrating sort of way and flip them off.

No, I didn’t give anyone the bird. That part was pure fantasy. Maybe in my next life.

All for now. Gotta fill my cup with some sleep!

Posted in AP & Self Care, Attachment Parenting, Conflict Resolution | 2 Comments

My Breastfeeding Yo-Yo

With 100% sincerity I am about to attempt to promote the annual Breastfeeding Celebration event at City Hall taking place this Friday and share my current waning desire to continue nursing.

What?! Attachment Mama wants to wean?  INCONCEIVABLE!

Hey — it is what it is.  Some women highly committed to Attachment Parenting will breastfeed until their child chooses to wean and I applaud this choice.

And despite fully appreciating how honoring this is of the child’s emotional needs and my own strong desire to maintain whatever level of secure attachment I can while being away from my children so much now that I’m working full-time,  over the last few weeks I’ve been hearing myself thinking and even occasionally saying out loud, “I want my boob back.”

Yes, it’s singular. One boob. Both my girls rejected my left side within the first six months of nursing. Or maybe I was more comfortable with them positioned on the right side and the rejection evolved from me unconsciously putting them there more often. Either way, they both eventually refused the left side and I’ve been lopsided ever since.

For the last three and 1/2 years I’ve looked in the mirror to see a Picasso painting version of my former self. So that I didn’t get too angst-ridden about my post-motherhood body which includes lumpy ass, permanently pregnant looking belly, and lopsided chest, I wrote a little ditty to add some levity to my situation. This is three years old now and many of my friends have already heard it. Many of you have not.

I will share it here now and hope not to lose some of you with my foul language which — outside of my Home VBAC story, I’ve been careful to omit from this blog.

My little song is called My Left Tit and you sing it to the tune of Three Blind Mice.

Ready?  Here we go:

My left tit.

My left tit.

Oh what a sight.

So much smaller than the right.

My baby stopped nursing it months ago.

It shrunk like a dick in a cold water you know.

Now I feel like a walking Picasso.

My left tit.

There you have it.

The irony is that my shrunken side is likely to ultimately be the better looking side — because when the day finally comes for me to actually say “sorry honey, no more” my Mighty Righty may turn into a little shriveled-up tea bag.

AND NOW — let’s talk about Friday’s Breastfeeding Party in Austin!!!

Friday, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm at City Hall (301 W. 2nd Street)

Hosted by Central Texas Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition and City of Austin WIC, the “Austin Hero of Breastfeeding” award will be presented in the council chambers at 12:30 pm.

I am going on my lunch break — sadly sans my babies because it will be too difficult to coordinate with preschool. Hanging with my fellow AP peeps, I may be inspired to extend my current plan to wean my Littlest nugget when she turns 2 (first week in October!).  We’ll see…..

Regardless of how long I personally choose to continue, I will forever be an advocate of breastfeeding and do my best to support programs and efforts that help to educate and inform our community and beyond — all with the goal of normalizing it.

Hope to see some of you there!

Posted in Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Mama Self Expression | 2 Comments

Austin’s World Breastfeeding Day Celebration: A Flash Mob!

Yesterday Austin celebrated World Breastfeeding Day in a classic Keep Austin Weird (and Breastfeeding) kind of way.

Aside from outrageous 100 degree Texas heat that made for seriously sweaty mamas, children, babies —  and boobs if I might add, participating in the choreographed “yay breastfeeding” dance in front of Barton Springs was a fabulous community building event and rockin’ good time.

Both my girls loved joining in on the rehearsals and my eldest took part in the actual performance (standing still most of the time).

Check out the fantastic video that my friend Seabrook put together from the event.  It manages to capture all the highlights except the fantastic go breastfeeding rap lyrics. If I can get my hands on those, I’ll post them tomorrow.

Here’s to influencing communities everywhere to support mothers breastfeeding — IN PUBLIC!!

VIDEO: Austin Breastfeeding Flash Mob

P.S.  Anyone on here a Word Press pro that can tell me how to load a video so the screen shows up in your post versus a link? Not seeing how to make it happen through “embed video” widget and need to get some zzzzzzz’s.

Posted in Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding | 3 Comments

The Unique Challenges of Being 3 1/2 Years Old

I have quoted Slow Family Living founder and early childhood parenting coach, educator and speaker, Carrie Contey numerous times on Attachment Mama over the last year.  She never ceases to amaze me with her thoughtful insights on parenting babies and young children. Parents inside or outside of Austin can benefit from Carrie’s wise counsel. I’ve really enjoyed the number of workshops I’ve attended over the last three years and out-of-towners really appreciate her e-handbooks, tele-classes and phone consultations. Check out her web sites for options!

My husband and I recently reached out to Carrie for advice on our 3 1/2 year-old and her frequent intense emotions over the last few months which have felt like too much for her age to my husband.  With Carrie’s permission, I’m sharing her brilliant response in hope that it may serves other parents:

3.5 is a monumentally challenging time to be a little person and subsequently the parents of a little person. Even if conditions are ideal (slow pace of life, super resourced happy parents with tons of emotional, financial, physical support, minimal changes and transitions, plenty of exercise (but not too much;) …she would still be having a hard time because that’s what 3.5 is all about.

It’s halfway between 0 and 7 and it’s fraught with the desire to stay a baby and feel extremely felt by the main people around her and to be completely independent and not need a thing from you. It’s crazy making for her and for you. And, add in all the changes, stresses, new stuff, good stuff, hard stuff… that your family is going through and yes, she’s going to be challenging. A lot of the time.

All that said, I do believe 3.5 is a golden opportunity for:

1) helping her understand how to feel all these big feelings AND know that other people can have their feelings and can set boundaries so she can be safe. Both are true. And she’s learning this. And she needs patience and compassion and love and presence in monumental ways right now. And so do you. For yourselves.

2) doing some digging into your own early experiences. She’s pushing big buttons that are rooted in that time of life for you. Did you get to tantrum with support? If not, what happened when you expressed big feelings? How do you relate to yourself now when you are feeling those kinds of feelings? It’s all in there and it’s all up because she’s so emotional at the moment. Which is really exactly where she needs to be. It’s your work to get really well resourced, look at what’s triggering you, be clear with your boundaries and ride the waves. Think of it as learning to surf. (more…)

Posted in Attachment Parenting | 2 Comments

Responding with Sensitivity

This post is for the April “Respond with Sensitivity” Blog Carnival hosted by API Speaks.  Since February, the Attachment Parenting International (API) blog has hosted a monthly “carnival” — a blog event in which writers are invited to post about their experience with the designated topic.  Each month they are focusing on a different Attachment Parenting principal. According to API:

“You can build the foundation of trust and empathy by understanding and responding appropriately to your infant’s needs. Babies communicate their needs in many ways including body movements, facial expressions, and crying. They learn to trust when their needs are consistently responded to with sensitivity. Building a strong attachment with a baby involves not only responding consistently to his physical needs, but spending enjoyable time interacting with him and thus meeting his emotional needs as well.”

Responding with sensitivity is one of those super touchy subjects with a wide range of opinions among parents — especially when parenting infants. Within the AP community, responding with sensitivity essentially means tending to your baby whenever he or she cries and not engaging in sleep training.

Some of my closest friends are all about sleep training and I do not want them to feel judged by me because we’ve chosen a different path. I think as parents we all essentially want the same thing:  we want our children to be happy, healthy, and emotionally secure. We just have different ideas about how to reach that objective. Some parents believe that guiding a baby toward this security means learning to self-soothe and cry-it-out. Others, like me, believe that the emotional well-being comes with establishing trust.

And you know what? It’s likely that all of our children, regardless of our efforts to care for them in the best way we know how, will have their own issues to wrestle with when they’re older that they will blame us for. And we can just hope they forgive us and know that we parented with love in our hearts that they won’t be able to comprehend until they are parents themselves.  On that note….Mom, if you’re reading — I really get how much you loved me as a baby, a child, and now as an adult — and I do not feel bad about having cried myself to sleep a few times learning to sleep through the night.

Despite my pragmatic view of the big picture reality, I remain committed to following AP principals in a way that works best for our family because it feels right to me.  So how does “responding with sensitivity” play out in our home currently?  In a way that will likely remove us from any kind of Orthodox AP-er label. (more…)

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Posted in Attachment Parenting | 2 Comments


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