As parents we have this unique and rather amazing ability to forget things. From pregnancy, through birth and seemingly into childhood (and possibly further) we forget the bits that admittedly, don’t always add anything positive to the story. I’ve seen my parents do it, and while I was of the firm opinion that I would never forget a weight, a height, a date of a first word, first whatever, the truth is, you do. Then you have a second (or subsequent ) child, and somehow, amazingly, you forget.
So when Aviya recently started shouting Mine! for… almost everything…., I was suddenly concerned. When did my sweet little genteel baby become so possessive? What did I do wrong. Were we missing out on something fundamental to her development? Aren’t second children supposed to be better at sharing than their older siblings… oh, wait…. that’s right – Ameli did go through something like this. In fact, Ameli was 23 months old when we met our current friendship group, and the first few months of our meetings, I thought they must think me a horrible mother because all my child does is grab, and shove and say MINE!
Then, Ameli being six months older than most of the rest of her group, six months later I started noticing the rest of them had entered this phase and I felt such relief! My child wasn’t turning into a psychopathic monster after all! And then… then I forgot all about it. What is that about?
Anyway. Armed with the wisdom of two and a half years later, and faced with a 23-month old there are a few things I’ve learned along the way, and partly to remind myself and partly to help those of you who are facing this for the n-th time [1. that about the sum total of what I remember about mathematics from school days – ‘nth’ term is a formula with ‘n’ in it which enables you to find any term of a sequence] here are a few things to remember about children and sharing and a few gentle ways to help them through this developmental phase:
1) Don’t Force It
Think of children in terms of your best friend. How would s/he feel if you took their Kindle/iPhone/iPad and made them share it with the guy/girl you met in the coffee shop this morning? Your child feels the same about that doll/car/stick/leaf. It’s worse about things they have a real attachment to, but anything that is your child’s sudden favourite is really important to them.
Instead: Offer an alternative. If it’s something your child really doesn’t want to share, ask them if you can keep it safe until they are alone again. If you’re asking, accept that the answer may be no. Remember that you can’t teach ‘don’t snatch’ by snatching it away from them.
‘If you don’t want to share, Johnny/Sue won’t want to play with you‘ sounds a whole lot like ‘If you won’t sleep with him, people will say you’re seriously lame and uncool‘ to me. Not the words, obviously, but the sentiment. I don’t want to teach my child that to be socially accepted she has to willing to do whatever is asked of her. (By the way, there’s a difference between that, and saying ‘if you hit your friends, they won’t want to play with you’. That one is simply true, and logical and pretty much applies in adulthood too. Unless you’re in a boxing club.)
And the truth is, it’s often less about the children than our embarrassment about what people must think.
3) Adjust your expectation
Gosh – I’ve uttered those words to my husband so many times. She’s t-w-o. (not even). Don’t expect six year old behaviour from her. Understand that this is a phase and that it will pass. Your goal isn’t actually – shouldn’t be, anyway – to make her share everything. Your goal is to help her understand why we want to share some things with some people.
Cornell University [2. Psychological Science October 2013vol. 24 no. 10 1971-1979 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/10/1971] did a very interesting study on preschoolers and sharing, where children were divided into three groups – one group had to share stickers with a puppet, the next were given a choice between keeping stickers and throwing them away, and the third group had to choose between sharing with the puppet or keeping their sticker.
Interestingly, the children who were given the choice of sharing the sticker or keeping it for themselves, when presented with a new puppet and more stickers to share were the ones who shared the most. Read the full study on toddlers and sharing here. It’s really interesting reading.
In light of my recent amazing introduction to decent tools for positive parenting, here are the steps we take when Aviya either melts down because her big sister dared look in the direction of something that’s hers:
“I can see you feel angry/hurt/upset/frightened”
“Here are your options: we can put the toy away, or your sister can play with xyz for two minutes while you watch, or you can swap toys and play with each other’s special toys, or you can go play with your own toy somewhere else.” The problem with giving options is that you have to be able to follow through – “should we go home and you can play with your toy alone” given as an option, means you have to be willing to go home right away. Don’t offer it if it’s not an option, and an immediate viability – “share or she won’t share her toy with you later” means nothing to a two year old with no real concept of the passage of time.
3) Highlight the benefit of positive behaviour, without being punitive
There’s a definite difference between “look how sad your friend is because you wont share” and “you shared and your friend is really happy”. The one is guilty manipulation and the other is pointing out the consequence of a behaviour.
If they choose not to share, divert attention to the other child for a minute. “Aviya really doesn’t want to share her special toy at the moment. Why don’t we let her play with it for now and you can show me your special toy?” Chances are the introduction of something else that someone else wants might just provide the motivation for the first child to share their toy after all.
Does this take longer than just snatching the toy from your child and giving it to the other child – something I’ve sadly been guilty of! Of course it does. Are the long term effects worth it? Of course.
There’s nothing wrong with a child having a sense of ownership over their items, and I find especially with second child, so many of their things once belonged to an older sibling, that having things specifically ear marked as theirs is very valuable. And after all, if they care about something, they’ll care for it, and we really do want them to have that sense of ownership so that they will learn to care for their things too.
Remember that modelling is really important to children. They will do as they see us do. (And if you want to read them a story about sharing, Mine! is a great place to start.)
And most importantly, it is a phase. It will pass. What matters isn’t what is and isn’t shared, but how their relationship with the other person – especially in the case of a sibling – is affected going forward.
For more information on Positive Parenting, visit the Essential Parenting Collection sale
When I think about breastfeeding a toddler, at the moment, the word ‘challenging’ comes to mind. My circumstances are different to yours, perhaps, and I know that breastfeeding through pregnancy was tough, but not challenging. I know that breastfeeding her up to the point of pregnancy was not hard either. But suddenly with a newborn attached to my nipple all the time – and not as much as many other newborns – my feelings towards extended nursing have changed. I find it challenging. Not impossible, not hard enough to force wean my beautiful girl, but challenging.
See, for me, right now, the big thing is feeling utterly and entirely ‘touched out’. And having a toddler who has decided to nurse four to six times a night again, when even my baby doesn’t nurse as much, is… you guessed it… challenging. But those are my cirumstances, now, and we’re working back to a place of sleepy-time breastfeeding, or waking up breastfeeding. I am happy with nursing my almost three year old three times a day. That’s my personal level of comfort
And the most important thing to know about feeding a walking, talking, eating child is that it removes a whole big burden of stress of your shoulders:
Some days are hard. I won’t lie to you. But when I was a project manager for a living, there were hard days, despite how much I loved it. While I love teaching baby massage, there are days I don’t want to do it. Some days, doing what we set out to do is simply… challenging. Parenting, motherhood and breastfeeding are no exceptions.
The rewards, however, are worth every moment of determined perseverance.
(This post was originally published at Diary of a First Child on January 8, 2012)
Parenting is a cacophony of emotions. When you’re not thoroughly worn out from sleepless nights, exhausted from good parenting days, or simply just trying to make it through, there’s always something to worry about. Someone you know lost a child, someone in your area had a child go missing, someone who knows someone who was a really good parent ended up with a junkie-teen. Just like people love to share a terrible birth story, and tend to shun those who had wonderful birth stories, everyone loves to share the bad stories about what happened to someone else, or how another child turned out, and it doesn’t really matter – to some extent – how they were parented, it’s normally the mother’s fault.
Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
It’s the fear of these things that make parents so susceptible to marketing, spending (often wasting) money on the latest gadgets and basically living our lives doing everything we can to prevent something bad, and encourage something good happening to the little people entrusted to us.
The scary thing though? Like most of us, I know this, but I still have three particular fears where my two little girls are concerned:
In no particular order, there’s the fear of death, kidnapping and failure.
Most of us know someone who has lost a baby – born or unborn – or a child. I never knew how ‘common’ infant loss was till I became a mother myself. And then, because Ameli’s birth was such an amazing, enriching and empowering experience, I was terrified when Aviya’s turn came. For months I really worried, almost believed that I would never get to hold her alive. I was so worried something was going to go wrong in her birth. I mean, what are the chances that I could be so blessed, twice.
And now, even though I am a confident second time mother, and even though I am confident and relatively experienced in my use of homoeopathic and herbal remedies over conventional medicines for most of the girls’ minor ailments, when Aviya, specifically, gets ill, this niggely, horrible voice in the back of my head forces me to question myself, reminding me of that ‘feeling’. It takes a lot of pulling myself together to trust my intuition as much with this lovely second child of mine.
While many of us know someone who has been touched by the loss of a child, very few of us – me included – knows personally someone who has had a child kidnapped. And yet, it’s probably one of the biggest fears a parent faces. I can’t imagine how parents who have lost a child this way go on. I can’t imagine the horror. And yet, the statistics on ‘stranger danger‘ and someone doing something to our children are so different to what our fears justify.
If you’re a parent who lives in the shadow of this fear, I highly recommend Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood (US Link). It highlights how rare something like a stranger kidnapping really is, but how, because we see the lost and forlorn little face, and the obviously heartbroken parents in our living room, on repeat, day after day after day, it imprints on our brains to the point that we start almost identifying each replay as a new occurrence. (I actually recommend this book for a ton of other reasons too, it doesn’t make you feel guilty, but does encourage you to see a lot of reality in parenting and child raising. It’s one of my top three parenting book recommendations!)
Failure. Failure is a big one, and we all get it from the day our babies are conceived. Didn’t have a natural birth? Will I be able to bond with my child? Didn’t breastfeed? You and your child will probably both die of cancer. Didn’t babywear? Your poor child will lag behind in literacy for, like, ever. Didn’t co-sleep? Poor kid will have intimacy issues for the rest of their lives. You sent them to nursery school for four hours a week? Oh, the drama. Didn’t send them to a Montessori/Steiner/Waldorf/Forest school? What kind of parent are you!?
Pretty much everything we do is wrong to someone. Praise your kids? Wrong. Don’t praise your kids? Wrong. Send them to school? Wrong. Keep them at home? Wrong . Feed them grass-fed meat? Wrong. Feed them no meat? Wrong. Make everything from scratch? Did you sprout the grains first? Well… did you?
I think a lot of parenting and enjoying parenting comes down to three things:
Let go – of the things you can’t control.
Be realistic – in accordance to what’s real, your circumstances and what you can really do
Trust your instinct – listen to your child, listen to the voice inside you, and when you’re confident in your choices, no one can make you feel judged. And when you’re not confident, do your own research.
If you can – if I can – let go of things I don’t control, be realistic about my limitations and abilities, circumstances and finances, and trust that everything I do is for the best of my children and our family, the fears are a lot easier to quell, and motherhood is a much more fulfilling, enjoyable ride.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
I’m a mother to two little girls. I’ve had two home water births, and attended the birth of one baby at home, and paced the halls of the hospital outside the theatre of a c-section like an expectant father. That is my hands on experience with childbirth. I am not trained as a midwife, not a registered Doula. I am just a mother. I do not get paid to make decisions over someone else’s birth or child. No, I’m just a mother, who has to live with the consequences of every decision I make for the birth of my babies, and for the rest of their lives. And that is a powerful motivator. I can’t think of a stronger reason to be confident in my decisions for the birthing and the raising of my babies.
So why should you listen to me? Well, you shouldn’t. My wish for you is that as you read more and learn more, you’ll find questions you didn’t know you needed to ask, and then you’ll find the answers that work for you in your situation.
A midwife once told me that the most beautiful births she’d attended were those of mothers who were informed about birth. Take responsibility for the birth of your child. No one else in the whole world will be as affected by that day as you will, whether you’re immediately aware of it or not.
We conceived Ameli in December 2008 and I knew I was pregnant before the first test showed a positive result. I tested, because I suspected. I just didn’t feel well. At 5 weeks pregnant, after a scan for spotting, I was sent home to miscarry in peace. For 18 weeks, I spotted, waiting to lose my child, and debilitated by a horrible condition: Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I threw up 20 times a day, and lost a ton of weight. My whole life was turned upside down by this sickness. I visited my doctor a number of times, and each time he told me ‘pregnant women get sick’ and ‘deal with it’.
It was my sincere doubt that this could be ‘normal’ that led me to investigating pregnancy and child birth. A colleague asked me if I was planning a home birth, and it was the first time I’d even heard that was possible. I began investigating Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and during the hours of not wanting to move for sickness, I began reading, reading, reading. I read about homebirth, about freebirth, and about waterbirth, and knew it was what I wanted.
I had an amazing, inspiring, incredible, peaceful, beautiful home water birth on the 4th of October 2009. I had my first real contraction a full 48 hours before my daughter was born into my waiting hands, but it was the most transformative experience of my life. Not just having the baby, but how I had the baby change everything about me. It gave me a faith, belief and confidence in myself and my ability, and a passionate admiration for she that is woman.
Two and a half years later, after another horrendous pregnancy, much worse than the first, I gave birth to Aviya, my second little girl. Her birth was very different. It was fast, powerful, when I think of it, I think of a thunderstorm crashing waves onto the shore. She was ‘late’ by the medical profession’s definition, arriving in a hurry at 42 weeks and 5 days.
Both of these births have led me to a deeper understanding of myself, yes, but of women in general, and of the gift of womanhood. If the information I share with you today – none of which you couldn’t have found for yourself, had you been looking – can take you just one step in the direction of experiencing the power of bringing life into the world in a way that empowers you, whatever your method, place or time of giving birth, then I will be happy.
Giving birth is not just about having a healthy, happy baby. Ask a mother who had a traumatic experience, or a painful experience, or endured humiliation, or felt vulnerable or even neglected, ignored or abused, and ask a mother who has suffered depression, shock or grief over her birth experience, and she will not tell you that nothing else matters. Yes, her beautiful baby will be the highlight, and the prize, but if that can be achieved through beauty and power, then all the better. And like with anything else in life, your chances of success are hugely increased by preparation.
As an athlete prepares for a race, so you need to prepare yourself mentally for giving birth. I’m Not Trying For A Homebirth, I’m Having One is about just that. While I was planning for a homebirth and wrote it so, you can apply the principles to any birth plan.
In any business proposal, you have to write a plan. There’s no difference in birth plans. Writing a Birthplan: The Where, The Who And The Documentation. A birth plan doesn’t guarantee you a specific list of demands, but it gives you something to focus on and to work through those things you didn’t know you needed to know. Here’s some advice on How To Write A Birth Plan And Why You Should.
A birthplan will help you think about things such as Pushing During Childbirth – Should it be Spontaneous or Directed, and whether your Newborn Needs Additional Vitamin K or not.
Having a baby may be the most natural thing in the world, but we’re not the natural people we once were. We don’t do much manual labour anymore, so our babies move into the ‘wrong’ position for birth, we don’t have the physical stamina we used to, so birth takes more out of us. It may be something we’ve done for generations, but we’ve not done it the way we do it nowadays for very long, so don’t miss out on Preparing for a natural childbirth.
The first thing people think of when they think of birth is pain. This is so unfortunate and is a gift handed down to us by generally male interference in the birth process, and media. Birth does not have to equate pain. And where there is pain, there are also Pain Relief Methods In Childbirth.
People also have a mental image of a woman lying on her back in bed. I’ve had two sitting up in a pool births, and when I think of birth, I still think of the Hollywood version of sweaty screaming with your legs in the air. But that’s not real life. There are many different Positions For Labour And Childbirth and becoming familiar with them will make a huge difference to your labour particularly, but also the birth – work with gravity, rather than against it.
Where you give birth is really important. If you go to a hospital with a very high surgical birth rate, you are very unlikely to find the support that you need for a vaginal birth. If you want a homebirth, you sometimes have to fight for it. This is important stuff. You don’t buy a camera off the cheapest bloke on the internet. You don’t buy high value items off an eBay seller with no feedback rating. Why have a baby with no research into the ‘seller’? Natural homebirth vs. Natural hospital birth
Who you have with you is equally important. I strongly recommend a Doula, if you are able as she is there to look after you, not your baby. The word ‘doula’ means ‘servant girl’. While a trained Doula is amazing, a friend who has been there and if possible has had the kind of birth you want to have is perfectly sufficient. Just as you wouldn’t take financial advice from a bankrupt friend, don’t take birth advice from someone whose ideals are different to yours, especially not at the time you are most vulnerable! The Doula Path
What Does The Birth Partner DO At A Birth? Well, that differs from person to person, but here are some thoughts. One of the things they or your Doula could do is help administer Herbs for use in Childbirth so that, with any luck, you can minimise your need for chemical drugs.
Fear is a big problem in birth, because your Adrenaline ‘over rides’ your feel good hormones, causing labour to stall and problems to arise. For me, I Had A Perfect Birth – Now I’m Scared Of Trying Again is about how I had a perfect birth the first time round, and I was really scared of it all going wrong the second time. Some women fear how having something ‘the size of a watermelon coming out something so small’ will affect their sex lives later. Here’s an honest look atNatural Childbirth: Changes In Sex Life.
Concern over how an older sibling may react can impact on not only the birth, but when you go into labour too. Stress can prevent the body from letting go for long enough to go into labour. Here’s a list of Books To Prepare Children For Childbirth, Homebirth Or Waterbirth. There’s also a list of Great Youtube Birth Videos For Children and Activity Pack Ideas For Older Siblings At A Birth
But, what if it’s too late, and it’s all gone wrong? Rebirthing: (For Emotional Healing And Breastfeeding Reintroduction) might be what you need to recreate the birth bond between mother and baby.
No two births are ever the same, and one of the biggest surprises babout birth and children is how different and unpredictable both can be, but even if nothing goes to plan, planning for the birth that suits you can only ever stand you in good stead.