Sunday, March 25, 2012

Positive Parenting in Action: Book Review

Image courtesy of Positive
Positive Parenting in Action is the book I wish I had had when my oldest was a baby.  No healthy parents want to punish their kids.  Yet we know that they need guidance and protective limits.  There are some excellent books out there now on why we should choose positive parenting.  There is also an impressive amount of research that shows the dangers of punitive parenting.  The missing link for so many parents is knowing how to avoid the pitfalls of permissive parenting without using punishments.  This book fills that gap.

Most moms really don't have the time to digest a lengthy book full of theory.  Positive Parenting in Action is a concise 69 pages, 54 of which are devoted to real-life scenarios.  But those pages are packed with the essentials: an understanding of brain development and likely motivations behind the behavior, as well as a thorough, eminently practical approach to what you can do about it.

What this book is NOT:
  • Fear-based.  You aren't going to be threatened with all the possible dire consequences to your child if you don't get it perfect.
  • Permissive.  It doesn't just tell you to sit back and relax as your child does something dangerous or inappropriate.  It doesn't treat a child's misguided attempts to meet her needs with a pat on the head or syrupy excuses that it is just developmentally appropriate.  
  • Punitive.  It doesn't set up parents as conquerors of their enemy offspring.  It doesn't encourage physical OR emotional forms of punishment.
What this book IS:
  • Practical.  These are real life situations written by real life moms.  Instead of vague generalizations, you get specific examples of 42 different scenarios of 15 behavior areas--everything from safety issues, tantrums, chores and more.
  • Respectful.  It respects both parent and child.
  • Varied.  It doesn't prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach.  It makes allowance for individual needs and temperaments.  
I wish I could give every new parent a copy of this book.  It takes positive parenting out of the realm of theory into approachable, every day life.   Order your copy here!  And to add some more positive parenting to your day, check out their blog and Facebook page.

On a final, personal note, I have followed these authors for some time and I really believe in what they are doing.  As a follower of Christ, it comforts my heart to have sisters who understand His teachings about grace, redemption, authority and love.  I was honored to have one of the authors share a guest post on the power of speaking Biblical blessings over our children.  Although this book is for anyone and does not push a religious agenda in any way, it beautifully reflects Jesus' heart for families. 

Disclosure policy:  I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.   My opinions are honestly shared here, and are not a paid endorsement.

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    The 10 Commandments for Parents: Remember the Sabbath

    Rest here
    Sit down with an iced coffee.  Breathe.  Know you are loved.  That it is going to be OK.
    Deep in the center of my heart, I know that this is my calling.  This is what I am supposed to be doing.  Yet, there are so many moments (hours, days, weeks, even) when I feel overwhelmed at this responsibility, this delight, this joy, but sometimes this burden, to be the best mom I can be for my kidlets.

    One of my favorite passages from Anne of Ingleside describes Anne's rival mocking her for placing her writing career on the back burner to mother six children.  Anne replies that she is writing Living Epistles now.  We are, you know.  The messages we write on the hearts of our children will be known and read by all.  And I fear that I am not enough--not patient enough, not loving enough, not wise enough.  Too broken to mother them the way I want.

    The loaves and fishes weren't enough.  They were broken.  But a miracle happened when they rested in the hands of Christ and He blessed them.  It happens with us, too.  As we remember the Sabbath, (Rest. Grace. The breath of God on us and in us.  Redemption.  Jesus.) He transforms us and our relationships.

    Reading through the book of Hebrews, the Sabbath stands out as a time of grace.  Relying on God instead of our own efforts.  We know that salvation isn't about us and our own strength being enough.  It is about accepting Jesus and the work that He has done.
    "And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." II Corinthians 12:9 NASB
    "Cease striving and know that I am God..." ~ Psalm 46:10 NASB
    "This is the confidence that we have through Christ in the presence of God.  It isn’t that we ourselves are qualified to claim that anything came from us. No, our qualification is from God.  He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant..." ~ II Corinthians 3:4-6 CEB
    My children don't earn relationship with me by never making mistakes.  That isn't the basis of my relationship with God.  And it isn't the measure of my relationship with them.  Just as I trust in God's incredible grace to be sufficient for salvation, and I allow grace to be sufficient for my children, I believe that grace is the only way to be sufficient as a mother.

    When I was a child, remembering the Sabbath meant a frankly boring afternoon between church services while I was supposed to take a nap and generally whiled away an hour or two staring at the ceiling or sneaking a book. Now I wish I could take a nap!

    A physical day of celebration and rest is important.  We need it.  Our bodies need it, our minds need it, our spirits need it.  (And as an aside, I have started feeling a stirring to look more closely at the ways my Torah observant friends observe the Sabbath.  There is a richness there that is drawing me, although I haven't done anything about it yet.)

    Most of all, we need to remember the Sabbath in our hearts.  To let go of our striving and inadequacies, our fears and shame.  To rest in the everlasting arms.  To lay our heads on His chest and breathe in grace and the confidence that He will take our brokenness and transform it into something that still gives life.

    For all of you beautiful moms and dads who are bleary eyed from being up most of the night with a sick tiny one, who are still feeling guilty over the grouchy words you snapped off earlier this evening, who are fighting to juggle the needs of your family and jobs and home and never-ending laundry, who have pored over so many contradictory articles about education/vaccination/insert topic that your thoughts are chasing each other's tails like tireless puppies, who are sinking into a quicksand of loneliness because your spouse doesn't understand, who are afraid that you just aren't enough:  Rest.  Enter into the Sabbath.

    Photo credit: oliverkindall on Flickr


    Note:  For any of you who are interested in the relationship between gentle parenting and the Sabbath, Samuel Martin has a fascinating article (over 9,000 words!) that delves into both topics.  For information on how to get a copy, please email and don't forget to check out his blog.  :)

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Opening Up the GD Toolbox: Redirection and Mutual Solutions

    One of the toughest seasons I ever endured as a parent was when I was first pregnant with our third child.  I was throwing up at least seven times a day, and trying to parent a 3.5 year old and an almost 2 year old when I only wanted to lay on the couch and wallow in misery.  I wanted to be able to say something once and have my children obey perfectly without any follow through on my part.  Since they were real, live kids rather than stuffed animals, that was only minimally effective.

    Photo credit Andy Welsh on Flickr
    Whatever season of parenting you are in, I believe that the same pressures and temptations call out to us.  We want an easy button.  It becomes reflex to Just Say No.  What I learned, though, was that if I was willing to spend a little more energy in discovering the reason for the behavior and working on finding out something else that would meet that need, then there was much less energy required--physically, too, but especially emotionally.

    Around that time, my 19 month old began to love hitting.  He wasn't even angry most of the time.  He just got a kick out of the sensation, the noise and the reactions.  We tried softly stroking our cheeks with his hands and telling him "Gentle touches".  He giggled and slapped again.  My temper and frustration were building, until I recalled something I had read by Dr. Sears.  We began teaching him to give us high fives.  His face lit up with delight, and he began to repeat it.  He still got what he was craving--the game, noise, sensation and excitement--but now it was in a socially acceptable way that didn't hurt anyone.  I would like to say that at least we got a little advance warning as he gleefully squealed, "High fibe!" before striking, but he usually didn't say it till he was already mid-strike.  Still, it was progress.

    I'll be honest.  Most of the time, when I am tempted to say no, it isn't because they want to do something morally wrong or even dangerous, provided my help and supervision.  It is because I don't want to spend the time and energy required to keep it from becoming dangerous.  Is that a good enough reason?  Sometimes, but not often.  When it is, then I have learned to streamline as much as possible, adapt my standards for all of us as much as I can, and worry about picking up the pieces once we are all in a place where we can do that.  The rest of the time, I must remind myself of my long-term goals for myself and my children.

    I remember as a kid a friend who wouldn't even ask her parents for permission to do things (and we are talking about things that my fairly conservative parents would have approved without hesitation) because she was pretty sure that the answer would be no. She decided at an early age it was easier on everyone not to even put them (or herself) in that position.
       I don't want the default for my kids to be to shut me out and look elsewhere for guidance, help or even just fun and love.

    One of the keys is finding out what their true need is and then helping them find a way to do it.  Is it a craving for attention?  Sensory input? Experimentation? Exploration?  Physical activity? Reassurance? 

    When they are tiny, it seems like a lot of effort to decipher the desires that they are unable to even articulate themselves.  But the more connected you are, the easier it is, which reinforces the whole circle of trusting, loving relationship, which also makes it easier for them to want to please you.  And even if you wrack your brain to no avail, each suggestion met with wails or frustration by your baby, at least they know that you care.  Their feelings matter enough for you to try.

    As the get older, they can do an amazing job of brainstorming with you so that everyone's needs are acknowledged.  Sometimes my three year old really wants to eat on the living room floor.  I explained that if food got on the carpet it would be hard to clean.  She thought for a second then ran to grab a big beach towel to protect the floor.  My eight year old, who loathes having her hair brushed, has asked on occasion to wear a hat when we go out so that she only has to brush the bottom part. 

    My kidlets have learned from the time they were babies to negotiate.  Not in a win-lose situation where neither party is satisfied, but to be creative with ways that get everyone's goals met.

    I know that some parents consider this backtalk, or defiance or disobedience.  "But if my child is in an emergency situation, they had better obey instantly without discussing or arguing!"  OK.  I don't know about you, but in an emergency situation, I will be doing everything I can physically to help keep them safe, most likely being right next to them to help them carry out any instructions.  And my kids have sufficient emotional awareness to tell by my voice and body language when I am deadly serious.

    Another huge difference is the attitude.  My children are being respectful when they present alternatives.  Knowing that their input is valued, that they will be heard, and that I will do my best to meet their needs means that they don't have to fight defensively or belligerently for a grudged concession.  Their ideas are welcomed in our house.

    We look for ways to say yes as much as we can to each other.  Not just them to me or me to them, but all of us honoring the other and seeking to understand and bless each other.  That kind of intention is a powerful thing.


    [4/365] Handy Man
    Image credit goaliej54 on Flickr
    Moving away from punitive parenting requires a brand new set of tools.  Let's open it up together! For the rest of the series, click here.  And if gentle discipline is revealing areas where you need to work on yourself, see if any of these personal tools resonate with you.

    Looking for more practical tips?  Check out my favorite post from the Hippie Housewife on The Hows of Discipline (and read through all the comments!),  Pearl in Oyster's 52 Tool Cards series and Aha! Parenting's blog.  Do you need inspiration and a reminder of why and how to do this?  Read Emerging Mummy's Practices of Mothering and Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond.  If you have other great resources or ideas, please add them in the comments.
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    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    In the Roar of Your Waterfalls

    Nung Nung Waterfall"Deep calls to deep
       in the roar of your waterfalls;
    all your waves and breakers
       have swept over me.
    By day the LORD directs his love,
       at night his song is with me—
       a prayer to the God of my life." ~ Psalm 42:7-8

    I didn't expect this.  Not any of it.  For one thing, I never really expected my blog to last more than a couple of months, or for writing to matter at all to me.  But in pouring out my heart here, I began to feel connected with you.  And that matters.  You matter.

    I have had some exciting news this weekend about joining the Natural Parents Network and a couple of articles that were favorably received by Home Educating Family Magazine.  I am elated!  But when I shared it with a family member, I just got rolled eyes.  I let them know that I was hurt by the response, and was answered in no uncertain terms that in their opinion, my writing is just a waste of time.  There were some personal jabs added about my lack of housekeeping skills, parenting and homeschooling.

    You ever have times when hurt, anger, and loneliness just crash over your heart like waves?  And just when you think you are starting to catch your breath, they just knock you under all over again?  Yeah, that.  My emotions are pounding in my ears like a roaring waterfall.

    Right now, two of the people closest to me in real life have let me know that they disapprove of my writing.  One because I am "speaking against the Lord's anointed" by writing against the teachings of people like Dobson, Gothard, the Pearls, etc.  Another because I don't have anything worth the time to say it. The result is that I now have a deep part of my heart that I no longer feel safe in sharing with them.

    Tonight, as my heart pounded a waterfall of tears, I remembered the first part of the verse.

    Deep calls to deep because all of us long for intimacy. Vulnerability that reveals the depths of our souls. It is a dangerous thing. Those deep places are only protected by distance from the surface. Our only safety is in love that is even more profound. In God.

    We are meant to have intimacy with other people.  But there is a place that is only meant for God. My self worth is found there, in who He is and who He created me to be. The stuff that fills me up inside comes from Him, not the approval of those around me. It has to, or I will always be tossed by every little wave of disapproval.

    I believe that is the key, but I am still trying to figure out what it looks like to continue calling out to the depths in those closest to us.  Where, exactly, is the difference between forgiveness and grace-full boundaries?  These relationships are meant to be profound ones, and I don't want to close off my heart, but I don't want to open it up to be ground down into the mud again.  I need help, because right now my thoughts and feelings keep splashing all over the place.

    I do know that He sent swelling tides of healing and love through you, my dear friends.  So many of you took the time to encourage me, to comment on my Facebook status and to send hugs and prayers.  As I read your words, my spirit was bouyed up and my heart began to sing again.  Thank you.

    Those waterfalls can be deafening.  That is why we have to sing His song even louder.  I am so grateful to you all for relentlessly singing the song of love and grace, of healing and hope over me.


    I've admitted to being stuck in a musical time warp.  If the verse got Margaret Becker stuck in your head, here you go: 

    Photo credit: wsaryada on Flickr

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Not-So-Super Powers

    My little sweetlings love playing super heroes.  They race around making appropriate noises for all of their pretend super powers--beeps, whirs, laser sounds, flying webs--and in their imaginations, they are capable of anything.

    It turns out that my mutant gifted children do have amazing powers that I never imagined before becoming a mom.  Sadly, these powers are not always used for good.  I will refrain from labeling my own kidlets villains, but here are a few of their not-so-super powers:

    • Sharpie generators.  I learned quickly that kids and permanent markers don't mix.  At first, I merely hid the markers.  When that proved ineffective, I tossed them and only purchased washable ones.  Once I discovered to my dismay that the washable part of that was not a guarantee, I stopped buying them altogether.  That was years ago.  Despite ruthless, swift destruction of every marker that we find, they continually appear.  My husband and I gaze at each other in consternation. Suspicious accusations, "Did you buy that?"  followed by sincerely horrified, indignant denials have convinced both of us that our children possess a remarkable ability to replicate them out of thin air.  Or possibly transform them from ordinary socks or hair clips, which always go missing.
    • Levitation.  I used to wish I could fly, and even jumped from our (low) roof with a trash-bag parachute once.  My children can do the real thing.  Not always, of course.  But if anything (such as the aforementioned markers, lipstick, my chocolate stash or any other forbidden object) is placed up high, they develop ninja skills more convincing than any of the old Japanese movies.  Even the toddler can ascend to the top of the refrigerator in a split second.  
    • Interruptor sensors.  Forget shining the bat signal.  My children have a much more reliable sensor that detects not only when I am on an important phone call or conversation, but is even attuned to the exact degree of  urgency or seriousness involved.  They will be happily engaged, playing quietly until it begins.  Their sensor instantly alerts them.  If it is a casual chat with a friend, they will have correspondingly casual questions or requests.  If it is my boss or something similar, they will not rest until they have succeeded in diffusing the call, using ear-splitting shrieks as needed.
    • Techno prowess.  I consider myself reasonably competent when it comes to electronics.  Even when VCRs were common, I never had problems programming them.  The digital clock on our stove always tells the correct time.  My children, though, surpass me by far.  They have all possessed an uncanny, infallible instinct from babyhood for pressing the precise button to delete saved programs, turn off any show a sibling was watching, and erase any document I was working on.  I won't even mention the number of deleted apps.  Even if they were still crawling, they would somehow use the aforementioned ninja skills to reach buttons that were, to all appearances, far out of reach.  On a related note, they are also able to cause remotes to materialize and dematerialize at will. 
    I love and accept my children for who they are.  I am a little concerned that their super powers so often seem to be used for nefarious purposes.  But there is one more ability that is always used for good: they give the most powerful, loving and healing hugs in any universe.  What amazing abilities do your little ones possess?