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Category Archives: Aware Parenting

Power Reversal Games: Helping Kids to Connect and Cooperate

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We were sitting at the table, eating dinner, when my 19 month old son initiated a game that he’s done many times before.

He raised his arms up, then we all raised our arms up. Then, he clapped his hands, and we all clapped our hands. The raised his arms, we copied. It was such a simple type of game, yet one that is so powerful and the whole family plays along because we know how important this type of play can be.

He was so happy playing this game!

This sort of play is called a power reversal game.

Do you know why this sort of game is so powerful??

Because, being a little kid is frustrating! Think about how many times we make a child do things they don’t want to do in one single day. We make our kids take a bath, brush their teeth, get dressed, stop playing, get in the car, get out of the car, etc. To make all this accidental ‘bossing‘ around we do worse, a very young child can’t even verbalise their approval or disapproval of what we’re making them do. Which means, that they often have to resort to crying, screaming, and physically resisting the things they don’t want to do! And, when our children behave like that, then they are met with our own disapproval of their behaviour.

Talk about frustration for the child! Read the rest of this entry

Kids Don’t ‘Fight’ Sleep: Here’s What’s Happening

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Sorry if the title irritated you. Because we’ve all experienced kids ‘fighting‘ sleep and we ‘know‘ they’re fighting it, right?? And, OMG, is it annoying!! But, are they really fighting it, or is there something else going on?

My oldest daughter would have been dumped in the category of one who ‘fights sleep‘. Honestly, from the day she was born, those beady little eyes would pop open and STAY open for way longer than I thought was humanly (or newbornly) possible. She’s 8 years old and she still has the tendency to want to know what’s going on at every moment of the day. She would rather walk around with her eyes hanging out of her head than admit she’s tired. Aren’t a lot of kids this way? But… when she gets like that I know there’s something going on.

Sleep is a natural phenomena and it can should happen easily, without any tricks or training.

There are a few things that a child needs in order to easily drift off to sleep. Sometimes, our modern life does not lend itself to good sleeping. By trying to make our kids independent and through overstimulating, etc. our kid’s sleep can suffer. Read the rest of this entry

What’s With Kids These Days?

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You know what’s the problem with kids these days?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

People can cry all they want about the technology, kid’s exposure to this and to that. How kids disrespect their parents and teachers (I know about the second one first hand).

Well, I’m not saying those things help. But, you know what? Kids are the same today as they were 50 years ago. They’re the same as they were 500 years ago.

Kids are all born amazing. They’re smart. They’re creative. They’re naturally friendly and cooperative (REALLY! more on this later). They’re free thinkers. In fact, I can’t think of any other time in history when we’ve had so many free thinking adults in our society, and those free thinking adults all used to be kids who one day grew up. Oh, and kids also all have the ability to drive us insane.

I bet you think YOU are a free thinker and reasonable adult, right? Yet once upon a time, some adult was sitting there thinking about your generation and wondering what was wrong with the kids from your era. The same people calling the kids of today ‘entitled brats‘ are the same people who were being called ‘entitled brats‘ 30 years ago.

So, then it’s the parent’s fault, right? That’s what’s making kids so rotten. Read the rest of this entry

5 Easy and Powerful Tips For Helping Siblings Adjust to a New Baby: Aware Parenting

When my oldest daughter was almost 2 1/2, she became a big sister. Everything seemed perfect for a little while… but then, the acting out started. So, I needed to act! Luckily, I was already on the path of aware parenting. I found some really powerful solutions for helping create harmony in the new-baby family dynamic. The things I learned how to do with my daughter were not tricky or time consuming either! The following tips are easy to implement and can be big game changers for when a new baby enters the family. The only trick is remember when to do them!

1. Cut down on unnecessary activies.
I made the mistake of NOT doing this after the birth of my second. For some reason, I felt like it was my duty to run my toddler around and keep her busy. Trips to the park can wait. Maybe they can skip swimming for a term and take it up again in a couple months? If they’re school age, maybe just do less extra curricular activities for a little while. Not only is running around not good for you or your new baby, it will run your older kids down too. Remember, your ‘big kids‘ are experiencing a HUGE upheaval in their lives, so staying close to home and doing less, will really help everyone to adjust.

I remember being older, 7 and 10, when my brothers were born and ANXIOUSLY waiting to get home from school because I missed them so much and I worried about them! Of course, it’s nice for the big kids to get out of the house and carry on with some normal activities, but it probably doesn’t need to be as much as you think. And, sometimes, constantly going out because the big kid seems to have cabin fever can be a sign of pent up emotions, and going out will only serve as a distraction… which leads to the next point… Read the rest of this entry

Setting Loving Limits Can Prevent You From Blowing Up At Your Kid

Setting loving limits means simply you say ‘no‘ (as respectfully as you can), when a child’s request is unreasonable and/or you sense they’re asking for something as a sort of distraction when they have some pent up emotions. I have to use today’s example as a perfect case of how settling a loving limit would have prevented me from getting angry at my kids.

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We were out all morning, swimming, in the sun and running around and suddenly, I realised I was HANGRY!! It was lunchtime, the kids were hungry, but they had been eating snacks, and I was super crazy hungry (breastfeeding does that to me).

We ate out at a shopping centre food court. I ordered our food and I didn’t want to spend any more money that what I had just spent. Then, while we were eating, the middle one complained the food was too spicy and she wanted something else. She had already eaten a little and there was DEFINITELY food there she could have had, like plain rice.

I said “No.” She complained. She kept fucking complaining. It was annoying. I wanted her to shut up so I could eat my food! I could feel a headache coming on because I hadn’t fed myself in time.

She wanted another sushi roll.

I didn’t want to spend the money.

She kept whining.

I said, “Fine, ok, just get another one.” Read the rest of this entry

And Mama, How is YOUR Sleep Going?

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Most articles are about getting the CHILD to sleep. Getting kids to have a peaceful night’s sleep is important (and I’ll talk a little about that), but I haven’t found much emphasis on if the PARENT has good sleeping habits. I’ve had enough disturbed sleep over the past 7 years of parent hood and what I found is that I was the one who actually had to discipline MYSELF to make sure I was getting enough sleep. I had to break a lot of bad habits and drop unrealistic expectations because I just wasn’t getting the sleep I needed. I also learned to look for signals of unmet needs in my children when they weren’t sleeping well. When we sleep better, our parenting is better. Our decision making is better. Even if our babies and children do wake up a little here and there, when the mother (or father) gets a good night sleep, the whole show runs a lot smoother.

If your child is disrupting your sleep…

Staying Connected to Your Children At Night
Babies and young children want to feel safe at night. Their need for comfort and closeness does not end when the lights go out. Some possible reasons for children having trouble falling and staying to sleep is simply the fear of being alone. If your child wants to share your bed, or your room, it’s ok to let them. It’s not weird or unusual for kids to want to be near you. My 7 year old still likes for me to lay down with her while she falls to sleep and usually we all go to bed at the same time. We have a family bed, with me, my husband, a 7, a 5 year old and a 10 month old baby, all in the same big bed. Family beds and family bedrooms are the way many families around the world spend the night.

With a baby especially, bed and/or room sharing is ideal because you don’t have to wake up and walk to your baby to pick him up. So, you both get less disturbed at night. They’re right next to you. Of course, if you bed share, be sure to make sure that it feels right for you and that you’re doing it safely. I know that I sleep way better when my babies and children are right next to me. I would actually have anxiety if my babies weren’t near me! If the opposite is true for you, and having your child near you at night makes you anxious, perhaps, if your partner is a light enough sleeper, they can sleep near your child. There are lots of room sharing/bed sharing options.

Baby Wakes Up All Night/Restless Sleep

A little night waking is completely normal, but if your baby is waking up all night long and is having restless sleeps, it’s often the sign of an accumulation of stress and overstimulation. Babies and children have an inborn mechanism to relieve that stress and they do it through raging and crying. If your baby or child is allowed and able to cry and rage freely and is supported to do so in the presence of a loving carer, they will often sleep much much better.

A baby that uses a control pattern to fall back to sleep, the breast, a dummy/pacifer/thumb sucking, often represses these emotions and wakes up more frequently. If your baby is not in the room, you may not even know that he or she is waking. But, if you’re the cosleeping, breastfeeding type, you will definitely know! I wrote a blog post here on breastfeeding cosleeping babies that wake all night and there is also a book called ‘The Aware Baby” by Aletha Solter, and she addresses control patterns and how they affect your child’s sleep. Also, young babies almost never eliminate in a deep sleep. Young babies stir to pee and are bothered by a wet nappies (even a wet disposable can annoy them). If you notice that they’re wet, you can do a nappy change in the dark, or I even take my babies to the toilet at night, which sounds a little crazy, but it’s actually easier than you think. Here’s a blog post on how to do elimination communication.

And for the parents…

Be in Bed NO LATER than 10pm
Going to bed early is the biggest thing of all. I actually aim between 8:30 and 9. They say that the hours of sleep you get before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after midnight. By 10, that means actually be in bed by 10, not start heading to bed at 10! If you follow ayurveda, the science of life, they say it’s ideal to fall asleep before 10pm. The hours between 10pm-2am are when the body is making repairs. If you’re not asleep during that time, your body is not recovering well enough.

Also, what happens after 10pm, if you’re awake, is that you start to wake back up! Then, 10 turns into 11 and 11 turns into 12 and before you know it, you’re going to bed at midnight. Compound that if your baby or child wakes up a lot or they wake up early, then you’re screwed. I wrote a more in depth article on when it’s important to fall asleep before 10, you can read here. I don’t always go to bed by 10, but on the days I don’t, the next day, there’s hell to pay and I’m a miserable grump!

If you feel like you’re missing out on quiet time with your partner by doing this, maybe only stay up late once a week? Sometimes my husband and I wake up early, before the kids, and have some quiet time or do something, like meditate together or take turns going surfing. If we stay up late to get peace and quiet, we just end up sleeping until the kids wake up and then I feel like I spend the whole day chasing my tail.

Be Careful Who You Complain To!
If you complain about lack of sleep to the wrong people, they’ll probably start telling you things that are not necessary and even counter productive in the long run. They might tell you to stop doing the intuitive things that you’re doing. You might end up trying cry it out, or giving solids before the baby is ready, or forming some short term solution for sleep, that contributes to a long term problem of broken connection and later behaviour problems.

Avoid  Screens Before Bed
This seems like an obvious one, but really hard to follow! Just a reminder… as what you’re viewing on the screen has the potential make the mind very active and make it harder to settle. You might have weird dreams as the consciousness tries to process what you’ve just looked at before you fell to sleep. Avoid leaving your phone in your room at night, so that you’ll be able to resist looking at it, should you wake up.

Busy Mind, Can’t Sleep?
If you know a meditation technique, before bed can be a good time to do it! You can’t calm the mind with the mind, you need something else. A really awesome technique is called alternate nostril breathing. Here’s the link on how to do it. You can just sit up in bed any time and do it for a few minutes if you’re having trouble going to sleep.

Another Trick For ‘Can’t fall back to sleep’.
I learned this last year on a meditation course and it really works. So, if your mind is really busy, it means you have too much prana (energy) in the head. So, if you put your awareness on your feet and on the EXHALATION of your breath, then you help to move all the energy back down. You’ll notice that your mind wanders a lot, but just keep brining back to your breath and your feet and you’ll hopefully be asleep in no time.

Avoid Naps
Unless you’re really depleted or you’re in the days of post partum, avoid taking day sleeps. Having a day sleep will make you want to go to bed later and then might make it harder for you to fall back to sleep if you wake up at night. Also, taking a day sleep, according to ayurveda, can make things in your body, like your digestion, run a big more sluggish than usual. So, better to avoid it unless you’re really zonked. It is important to rest while your kids sleep. So their rest time can be a good time for you to do something rejuvenating, like have a cup of tea, do some yoga and meditation or even stare a a wall if it’s been one of *those* days. Hopping on the phone to check social media is fine, but I noticed I often feel that my ‘rest quota‘ is unfulfilled when I do that too much during the kid’s sleep time.

Anyway, these are things that I’ve found have worked for making sure the parent has enough rest! It’s so important for us and for our families to be well rested. So, nighty night, sleep tight!

 

 

The Kitchen’s Closed: Loving Limits in the Kitchen

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I’ve just spent an hour in the kitchen. Preparing, cooking, cleaning up. Then, one of them asks me to make them something (or to make it themselves). I say, “No.

They whine and complain. I listen without trying to reason with them. But it’s still “No, the kitchen’s closed“.

Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to do another thing. Can’t wash another dish. Can’t wipe up another mess. *Most* of the time, I let the kids eat whatever they want to, but sometimes, it’s just ‘no‘.

And, I get it, sometimes that meal you made just doesn’t quite cut it. Sometimes they want something else.

But, I feel like I have to meet my needs as well.

The past few years, I’ve been doing the dance of finding my balance in the kitchen. Meeting my need of not wanting to spend all my time and energy in the kitchen, while honouring the kid’s needs for autonomy in choosing the food they eat. And, it’s all just become easier since getting a dishwasher, yay! But still…

Being too restrictive on a child’s diet can backfire. Kids who are only allowed to eat certain foods at certain times, often rebel by sneaking food. And being too permissive with a child’s diet means you can accidentally end up missing ques that indicate there is a deeper issue going on besides them just wanting a certain food to eat.

Making ‘Special‘ Meals

To save my own sanity, my biggest rule is that I generally don’t make my children seperate meals at mealtime. Occasionally I do, if it fits. Otherwise, they eat what we’re eating. Even the baby. Even the toddler. I might modify what we’re having but no… not I’m not making a cheese sandwich after I just prepared a stir fry. They can make it themselves, but they have to clean it up afterwards. And, if they’re too little to clean it up adequately, then the answer is ‘no‘. It’s not because I’m mean and controlling or only care about their nutrition, it’s mostly because my capacity for doing work has exceeded its limit.

While I often say ‘no‘ to extra requests for food, I do understand that kids have their preferences and maybe they don’t feel like eating what I’ve made! I do my best to accomodate. We often discuss what we all want for dinner before hand, but it’s just not possible to always make what everyone wants.

Can Children Truly Self Regulate Their Diets?

Children have a great capacity to self regulate their diets! When kids are not clouded by stress or pent up negative emotions, they regulate their diet quite well. Even when they tend to binge on junk food, after a while, if they’re given just as many healthy options, and their emotional needs have been met, they will get sick of the junk, and start eating the healthy stuff. It can be tricky to get to the bottom of it all, and sometimes those underlying emotions are quite elusive, but I’ve witnessed my children and others, being allowed to self regulate their diet and it’s true! My oldest daughter can be offered any amount of junk food. The worst of it! And, she does a great job controlling herself.

The catch is that in order for children (and adults) to be able to self regulate their diets, their emotional and physical needs have to be met first. In other words, they need to have been able to cry when they wanted to cry, rage when they needed to rage and laugh when they needed to laugh. As well as feel connected to the people and places around them. (Imagine how you feel when you are upset and you’re not *allowed* to express it, that’s often when we tend to over or under eat). Not to mention, kids need to have had a decent amount of exercise in order to make them feel hungry.

Some kids are better at self regulating their diets than others. My younger daughter is not quite as good at self regulating. She gets a little off balance more easily and tends to not release her pent up emotions as freely. If she binges uncontrollably, or starts whining for a certain food, I stop her. She cries. I support her cry, and afterwards, she tends to stop eating the junk and will eat her healthy food. It’s very interesting if we really pay attention.

Sometimes, the only thing stopping a child from eating healthy food is a big emotional release. One day, I was making some yummy kitchari (Indian style of rice, veggies and beans). My older daughter was crying and having a temper tantrum because she wanted to go out to eat and the rest of us didn’t want to. She whined and cried for at least 5 minutes. After she cried and settled down, she happily sat down and ate her entire bowl of kitchari without any complaints. The cry was not about the type of food being cooked for dinner, it was that she was overstimulated from a big day and needed to release her emotions.

My Needs Are Important Too!

No matter if my kids are self regulating their diet well or not, I need to feel like I’ve been loved and appreciated for my work in the kitchen. I can take some feedback, like, “Um, mama, this dinner was not so yummy, can I have something else?” If it’s no problem, I don’t mind making that extra something, or I don’t mind letting them make something themselves (as long as they agree to clean up the mess).  But, I have my limits for how much I can prepare and for how much effort I can exert. If it’s too much, I tell them the kitchen’s closed.

Grazing?

When kids graze, they’re often eating their food without much awareness. A little attention to food gives kids a sense of appreciation to what goes into their body. Food that we put into our body should be honoured. Food is life giving. It’s production takes time and costs not only money, but takes a toll on the planet. We put it into our body to keep our body functioning a certain way. In ayurveda (the ancient science of life), it’s said that you should eat your food with your knees bent (in other words sitting down). Eating with awareness helps with digestion and food choices. If a kid (or anyone) is running around while eating, there is not much awareness of what goes in the mouth.

When my kids graze all day (even on healthy food), then they won’t eat the meal I’ve cooked. I get annoyed. Like, why did I even bother cooking? Kid’s stomach’s are tiny! If they haven’t been grazing, when I put food on the table, they sit on that seat, no wandering around, and they eat, man, they EAT! It’s really lovely to have us all sitting there together enjoying a warm nourishing meal. They have quite a bit of free time the rest of the day, so having a few structured activities of eating together is a nice to way to all come together.

Bon appetite!

I Let My Kids Lie, Cheat and Win When We Play Board Games

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When I first read Aletha Solter’s book, ‘Attachment Play‘, I really resonated deeply with everything she said… Except… when she suggested that you let your child be silly and beat you at games or that you should let your child play the wrong rules if she wants to.

*Cue adult voice*

Losing is a part of life...” or “They have to get used to losing sometime...” or “If you always let them lie, cheat and win at games, then they’ll grow up to be egocentric, selfish brats.”

But, then, I tried it. I let them lie, cheat and beat me at the little games we played and I was astonished with the results. I took a deeper look into why I was holding onto this idea that I must always play by the rules and found that it was only fear of losing control that was stopping me from letting them act silly.

Board games are just that: they’re games. They’re not real life! Games certainly can teach you about life, but always trying to turn everything into a learning experience can just make everyone so uptight!

Kids get enough disappointments in life…

I thought of how many rules my children had to follow on any given day. I thought of all the times they appeared to be doing something ‘wrong‘ in the eye of an adult. I thought of how many instructions and orders my kids had to follow. All damn day. It’s ALL kids do! Follow rules. Listen to instructions.

Even in my very relaxed homeschool environment, my kids still have to follow family and society rules all the time.

So, if for a few minutes week, I let my kids break the rules, lie, cheat and win, imagine how relieved they are to have a little fun? How nice it is for them to let loose and jokingly do the wrong thing and get away with it. And, believe me, my kids KNOW that I let them win. They KNOW that I’m letting them cheat when they peak at their cards. They KNOW when I’m making a stupid move on purpose to let them win. They KNOW when I let them beat me up the hill (actually, the big kid can legitimately beat me up the hill now). They laugh. I laugh. I let them win!

They appreciate it.

And, I appreciate their attitude later on when they’re more cooperative at bedtime because of the time earlier when I let them do the *wrong* thing. It’s really amazing. The silly little games we play, actually helps my kids to be more adjusted, more cooperative and more pleasant little people. They’re much less likely to act up outside of the house because I sometimes let them ‘get away‘ with doing the wrong thing at home.

Kids don’t need a life lesson at every turn. Sometimes they just need to laugh, be silly, make a loving connection with another human being and take a break from all the rules and formalities.

They’ll get enough life lessons about playing by the rules. My kids know that I can be their safe space. They can do the *wrong* thing and it can be our little secret fun.

Respecting a Baby’s Space

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Babies are so cute! They’re so innocent and non-judging… they make lots of people feel the love, belongingness and connection that we all crave.

And, babies need to be picked up, handled and held for just about every activity they do! As an attachment style parent, I’ve had very close contact with my babies all day and night. Physical touch and connection is vital for a baby’s well being.

But where do we draw the line as to what is respectful to a baby’s body or what may be unintentionally violating a baby’s space? Shouldn’t there be a difference in how a stranger enters your baby’s space as opposed to someone the baby knows? And, just because a baby is smiling, does it mean that he’s enjoying the interaction?

I know, I know, again, baby’s are so cute! It’s hard to not want to tickle them or stroke their soft skin or ask to hold them or to squeeze them and poke all their round delicious parts. My son is just about to turn six months old at the time I’m writing this, and man, is he a ham! It’s hard for people to keep their hands off him!

But… babies are people, let’s not forget. Small adorable people, who can’t talk. Would it be ok to go around stroking a stranger’s cheeks? Or, if you saw a cute looking guy in the shops, would it be alright to stick your finger in his hand? No…

I don’t have the right to tickle, poke and prod or do anything that might make my baby feel uncomfortable. And, I feel like I need to protect my small person from other well-meaning people who can’t help but want to do the same.

I’ve had countless strangers approach my babies and try to get a squeeze, or a poke or a kiss! Even when my babies have been tucked away in the baby carrier, and I try to turn away, I’ve had people touch my baby’s toes, plant a kisses on my baby’s head, put a finger in my baby’s soft hand or stroke my baby’s cheeks (their cheeks are amazing, I admit).

Then, people ask for cuddles…

If the baby is tucked away in the carrier, they won’t ask (thank goodness). But, if the baby’s out of the carrier and they ask, I don’t always know what to say. Saying ‘no‘ seems rude. If they could ask my baby and he could answer, then the answer would be straight forward. But, how do I know if HE wants you to hold him? This is not a game of ‘pass the baby‘, this is a little person with feelings!

How would I feel if a giant stranger, who looked, felt and smelled very different from my mother, picked me up? I’m not sure I would like it…

I love the most when people interact with my son by smiling at him and talking. That way, he can simply snuggle his head into my chest if he doesn’t feel like interacting. Or, he can choose to respond by smiling back. Sometimes my son smiles during an interaction with someone, but I have to look at his body language to know if he’s enjoying the interaction. Is he smiling, but tense and pulling and squirming away? Or, is he smiling with his body relaxed? If he’s relaxed, then I know he feels safe and comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, other people have definitely held my babies, I’m not that uptight and it’s beautiful when the holding is done with awareness. My parents just came to visit from America and my son spent tons of time on their laps. And, some of my good friends, that I see on a regular basis, get cuddles. But, people whom I don’t see often, I just don’t feel comfortable saying ‘yes‘ to when they ask for a casual cuddle. A cuddle is a very intimate thing, in my opinion!

It’s not just strangers who want to poke and prod babies, I think about how often my husband and daughters (or even I) may accidentally invade my son’s body space. My girls love him so much, tthe second I put him down, they’re all over him like white on rice! It’s a tough one, like I said, because babies need to be picked up, interacted with and helped all day long… and we do love to play with him. So, I try my best to nicely remind everyone to look and listen carefully at his cues to see if he starts feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

The whole idea of respecting a baby’s body in the way I’m talking about, is a very subtle concept. It’s not to say that we limit the touching or holding of our babies, because babies absolutely need lots of closeness. And, we should act natural around babies! But, is the touching and holding done with awareness? And, does the baby feel safe and comfortable?

We just don’t know what strong impressions are being made in a baby’s brain at such a young age. True, they won’t remember individual events, but they do remember the feeling. I want to make sure that down the track, my children grow up with the feeling that they have felt safe and respected.

I Didn’t Leave the House AT ALL For Six Weeks After my Baby Was Born: It Was Fantastic!

imageWhen my first daughter was born, I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me over the phone, “Now, Katie, a winter baby stays in the house for 4 weeks, a summer baby stays in the house for 2. Your baby was born in autumn, so you should stay in the house for 3 weeks.Read the rest of this entry