Earlier today, I posted an excerpt from the new memoir by Anna Quindlen, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” (April, Random House).
When she shared that piece, I asked her about her thoughts on parenting.
Given her book’s attention to the generational shifts in child-rearing attitudes, I asked the expert at introspection, also a mother of three, which parenting trend from the past should be most embraced now and in the future.
Her response: Teach manners.
“When children are small, parents should run their lives and not the other way around,” she said.
Choices are much too confusing for them: It’s not, ‘What do you want to drink?’ It’s ‘Apple juice or milk?’ ”
“You want to have fun with your kids, and no one has fun with someone who runs roughshod. Raising a child is a little like Picasso’s work; in the beginning he did very conventional representational things. Cubism came after he had the rules down pat. Children should have enough freedom to be themselves — once they’ve learned the rules.”
What is the single most important parenting lesson you learned from your own mother or father?
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One of the biggest challenges we face in creating the lives we want is that our basic attitudes and perceptions of the world were shaped in the earliest days, months and years of our lives, long before we had a chance to form our own opinions! Through the process of “implicit learning,” wordless messages and lessons accrue via repeated experiences within our key relationships, as non-verbal regions of our brains distill the constant principles underlying those experiences. For example, you’re a baby, and you’re hungry. You cry, and before too long someone picks you up, soothes you, and feeds you. As this happens again and again, some of your “perception templates” become shaped from the principles I have an effect on my world… People are there for me… I can trust… Being close to someone feels safe. Our basic understandings of who we are and what the world is all about are a series of “neural perception templates” that were shaped for us, by our earliest experiences with the people and world around us.
Women are almost never told how their family histories,
beliefs, and emotions
affect their fertility. Knowing this information can be very empowering.
– Dr. Christiane Northrup, renowned OB/GYN Author, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
It is also true that some of our most potent attitudes about our reproductive capabilities are formed decades before we decide to begin a family! And in this exciting era of psychoneuroimmunology (mind-body) research, we are discovering how our hormonal, immune, and nervous systems are intimately connected with and influenced by our every thought, attitude and emotion, even ones we’re not aware of having. Along with parental attitudes about the body and its creative functions, as young children we perceive and internalize basic attitudes about such things as
• how babies come into our family (with ease, difficulty, crisis, etc.)
• whether children are loved and valued in our family
• whether it’s safe and desirable in our family to have a childwhether it’s safe and desirable in our family to be a child
Our endocrinology (hormonal profile), so critical to healthy fertility, organizes to “enact” whatever our mental and emotional perceptions dictate. (For example, a hypnotized subject touched on the forearm with a piece of chalk—but told it’s a lit cigarette—develops a raised, red “burn”; and study subjects given a harmless substance, but told it is something to which they’re highly allergic, suffer asthma attacks.) Furthermore, research finds that our healthy mind-body balance is especially affected by “feelings we don’t feel,” unconscious emotions often related to unrecognized neglect, trauma or loss in childhood. Here are two examples of this at work in women who went on to have healthy, full-term babies:
Ellyn* had been trying for a long time to get pregnant, and though there was nothing medically wrong, it just wasn’t happening. An adoptee, Ellyn had wordlessly learned a fundamental mind-body lesson throughout her growing-up years: women in our family don’t get pregnant. After working with a counselor to consciously reconnect with and “claim” the fertile part of her past—her birth mother whom she had met some years earlier—Ellyn was finally able to conceive.
Maya suffered repeated miscarriages, and her doctor could find no physical cause. In charting her family history it became painfully clear that she and her sister had been “throwaway” children, left behind in their native country when their parents emigrated seeking a better life in America. Maya gradually came to understand how she was reenacting—in a classic mind-body way—what her mother had done: she allowed herself to get pregnant but then “gave the children away.”
Sometimes inner shifts happen more spontaneously and mysteriously. We have all heard stories about “infertile” couples who spent many years and thousands of dollars on reproductive technologies with no success, adopted a baby, and then conceived naturally by surprise. People who offer infertile couples the infuriating advice “Just relax!” point to these stories as evidence for their theory. Yes, hopping off of the “conception-go-round” may have decreased stress and nudged their hormonal profile into a more conception-friendly zone, but it may also have to do with their biology adjusting to reflect their new feelings, behaviors and devotions: they had become fully engaged in mothering and fathering.
One of my favorite stories is of a 43-year-old woman who, after a year of grueling rounds of IVF, two miscarriages, and the final, dismal “expert diagnosis” that she was too old and “all of her eggs were bad,” decided to get some cats. She got her cats and “smothered them with unconditional love.” Six months later she was pregnant with her son, who is now a healthy 8-year-old.
It may be important to do some inner investigation into the invisible answers you may be carrying to basic questions about how fertility, pregnancy, birth and children were perceived in your family of origin, so that you can journey ahead into those realms fully free, right down to your biochemistry, and make the healthiest choices. (As a bonus, engaging in the creative process of mastering your own inner life is the best preparation not just for conceiving a baby, but for parenting in general!)
Once we realize how we carry on a continual dialogue with our biology—consciously and unconsciously—we can aspire to cultivate an inner ecology that is truly fit for life.
Scientists now know that a pregnant woman’s moods have a significant impact upon birth outcomes and on fetal brain development. Statistically speaking, women experiencing significant, chronic** fears and anxiety about their pregnancies are at higher risk for delivering prematurely. And in terms of her baby’s development in the womb, if a mother is constantly filled with anxiety or stress during her pregnancy, the message communicated to her baby (via stress hormones) is that they are in an unsafe environment—regardless of whether or not this is actually the case. The baby’s brain will be wired to prepare it for the unsafe environment it perceives it is going to be born into, and is more likely to be a fussy infant—hard to sooth—and later, a more temperamental child—short on attention, and impulsive.
Parents need to recognize the unceasing question being asked by the baby in the womb, and continually answered via the mother’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors: What kind of world am I coming into, Mommy, through your eyes? Then they can begin to understand how important it is for the pregnant mother to feel supported, loved, safe… and most especially, to experience joy… so their baby can arrive as healthy as possible, ready to love and learn!
The Quantum Parenting fertility program, designed to facilitate a “conception-friendly” mind-body state, is intended for use alongside fertility drugs and procedures or as an alternative to medical fertility treatment. Expectant parents benefit from Quantum Parenting’s practical guidelines for mind-body pregnancy health, for optimizing their baby’s development in the womb, and for embarking on their parenting journey in the most effective, rewarding way possible.
*Names have been changed for privacy purposes
** Remember, “chronic” means “persistent…more often than not.” Occasional stressful moments are a normal part of pregnancy and fetal development—it is life!
Attachment Parenting Is Feminism
April 30, 2012
Attachment parenting is an umbrella term coined by a pediatrician, William Sears, to describe a style of parenting that embraces the normal biology of pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding and bonding, all in the name of raising children who demonstrate the psychological classification of being securely attached. By definition, it eschews notions of perfection but instead seeks to educate women and families about the natural, organic and normal ways our bodies were made and how to best maximize the potential for securely attached children who live in harmony with parents who are not afraid to be imperfect.The women who pioneered attachment-parenting support groups and publications are not competitive celebrity divas with nannies on the side.
The women who pioneered groups supportive of attachment-parenting, like La Leche League International, and started publications like Mothering are not competitive corporate-minded trendy celebrity divas toting secret nannies on the side, nor are they perfection-driven bored subjugated barefoot lonely women setting feminism back 200 years. They are educated, humble and devoted women who believe it is just as much a feminist choice to be a parent as it is to not be one.
Here are examples of what mothers who practice attachment parenting are concerned about. We can about what hormonal contraception does to your body and your brain. We research why doctors prescribe birth control to teenagers and adults who don’t have a “regular” menstrual cycle. We object to routine inductions with pitocin and interventions during labor because of the risks to the mother and the baby. We believe that breast milk is biologically and nutritionally superior to anything formula manufacturers tell you is equal to it, and that sleeping next to your baby releases positive hormones that facilitate bonding. We have empowered ourselves and refuse to endure a male-centered obstetric history that has taken women’s bodies and molded them to their preferences for their convenience, their comfort and for their world view.
Now tell me how attachment parenting is inconsistent with feminism?
Ron Huxley Stirs It Up: Mayim’s views of attachment parenting is quite controversial which is why I have included it here on the Parenting Toolbox. What are your thoughts? Share them here or on our Facebook —> http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
University of Michigan Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, Brad Zebrack, Ph.D., MSW, offers some valuable insight and advice about parenting with cancer in the video below, which recently aired on the PBS show A Wider World. Dr. Zebrack is a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor since 1985 and has devoted his career to studying the impact of cancer on families and young adults.
In Ann Arbor, The Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor has programs for kids or teenagers who have a parent with cancer. Parents meet separately from kids to discuss their own concerns and share advice. Find more about the groups and see the May/June calender for meetings here or call Bonnie Dockham, program director, at 734-975-2500.
How to Tell Your Children About Your Cancer, from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
Parenting With Cancer, a website created by Jen Singer, a lymphoma survivor and mother of two.
The Children’s Treehouse Foundation provides tools for parents and support at hospitals throughout the country.
Helping Your Children Cope With Your Cancer, a collection of essays written by parents, their children and health care experts.
Ron Huxley: This is one of the those topics that no one really talks about…that is why it is here on the Parenting Toolbox.
© Jon Whittle
Two-year-olds get all the buzz, but the truth is, tantrums and mayhem can strike at any age, for a variety of reasons. “Most toddlers begin testing limits shortly after their first birthday and continue until about age four,” says Ari Brown, M.D., author of Toddler 411.
So how did the Terrible Twos become such a pop-parenting phenomenon? “It’s an old-fashioned idea and not supported by research,” says Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., director of the Parenting Center at Yale University. The term was coined in the 1950s, perhaps because so much pressure was put on families to be detergent-commercial perfect that the moment a child grew out of compliant infancy, moms were freaked out. But modern parents agree—every kid is different, and every year presents new joys and challenges. Read on for a fresh perspective on each stage.
What’s to Love: They can be wonderfully cuddly. And since many 1-year-olds haven’t yet realized the power of the word “no” to antagonize you, they can often be more compliant than their 2- to 4-year-old sibs. Their distractible nature means you can get them to stop fiddling with the oven knob by giving them a pot and a spoon to bang with.
What’s Tough About It: Establishing good sleep patterns is still a struggle throughout this year, as you drop the morning nap, lengthen the midday one, and solidify bedtime. All that snooze drama can make for an overtired, cranky kid. In addition, his limited vocabulary makes for misunderstandings. (He says “nana.” You put him on the phone with Nana Helen. He wanted a banana. Cue meltdown.)
How To Make the Most of It: They need about 13 hours of sleep (11 at night and 2 during the day), so try to make it happen, suggests Bronwyn Charlton, Ph.D., co-founder of SeedlingsGroup, a collective of child-development experts in New York City. Inadequate sleep stacks the deck against you: A tired toddler is a cranky toddler.
What’s to Love: There’s no denying it—2-year-olds are stinking cute! Their curiosity about the world is infectious. And while they certainly get into trouble, their mishaps feel accidental, making them easier to forgive.
What’s Tough About It: Two-year-olds are fully mobile. Translation: They’re into everything. And that means this is the first time you’ve had to set limits (no climbing the bookcase, crossing the street, or picking up cigarette butts off the sidewalk). Your child has never heard “no” so many times in her short life—and she doesn’t like it. To top it all off, 2-year-olds don’t yet have the language to express feelings, so they resort to pitching fits. Their young brains can’t handle extreme emotions without going a bit haywire.
How to Make The Most of It: Praise often: “You didn’t throw any toys today! Great job!” When she blows her stack, ignore her, as long as she isn’t hurting anyone. Yelling or attempts to subdue—even with affection—make tantrums last longer. Kazdin notes that a tantrum is a futile time for discipline. “Wait until your child is able to absorb what you say.”
Part of giving your child a healthy attitude about sex means teaching him or her to respect the body. The best way to do that is by example. Tease and tickle only in appropriate ways, not by pinching buttocks. Never tease a child when he or she asks you to stop or seems uncomfortable.
Play hard, wrestle some and cuddle, but remember that each part of the human body has a special purpose. Hands are for creating and doing tasks. Mouths are for talking and eating. The genitals are for excretion and ultimately for reproduction. They are not for finding excitement through the exploitation of a child.
Most people were horrified by the melee in Central Park in New York City. Some 50 young women were horribly mistreated and sexually abused in full view of the public, and no one came to the rescue of the victims.
A major part of the tragedy lies in the conduct of some of the young women. They were dressed provocatively, and initially they laughed and joined in the “fun.” But then the conduct of the young men got out of control. A “mob spirit” surged through the crowd and tragic atrocities were committed.
Sex is no longer discussed only behind closed doors and in privacy. Television, movies and talk shows have brought the discussion out in the open. In the sexually charged culture in which we live, parents can help abuse-proof their kids by teaching them what it means to be sexually responsible.
Sexual responsibility means that one never exploits another person for sexual excitement. It means that sex is saved for marital commitment and that one must show respect in this area to friends and, later, friends of the opposite sex.
What else should parents teach their children about sexual responsibility? Here’s a list to consider:
Years ago, a young friend told me how he approached every date: “I stand in front of my mirror and I say to myself, Steve, you stand in the shoes of Jane’s father until you take her home to him.’ With that in my mind, I have always been able to resist the strong temptation to get sexual with my date.” How I wish every young man thought and acted like Steve!
I know that providing good sex education for your kids is a challenging assignment, one that will take much time, energy, and vigilance on your part. Watch for those golden, teachable moments. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; kids will forgive mistakes. Just be faithful in teaching your children about sex, and especially in teaching the sacred value of sex and the need for respect and dignity toward all sexual issues. Later on, if not now, your children will love you for your efforts.
Parents, you can do it. You can do it best. So do it!
This article discusses the impact parenting had on couple relationships. I don’t believe that the “issues” weren’t there before children. It’s just that they never had a reason to surface till then. Share your thoughts on this sad statistic.
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Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult, especially for a child. When a child loses a loved one to death or incarceration, the loss can have a profound effect on the rest of his or her life.
Emotional, psychological and physical trauma that often come with loss challenge children’s well-being and school performance. Grieving children are likely to feel different, and very alone.
While concealing deep emotional pain, fear and loss of concentration, children are in the pressure cooker of expectations to grow emotionally and academically. They say that seeing friends with parents and parent/child school activities are daily reminders of their own loss.
Children express grief in a different way than adults. They tend to move in and out of intense feelings, rather than sustaining high levels of one emotion for long periods of time. When adults see a grieving child playing or laughing, they may mistakenly believe that the child is “over it”. This perception may influence how much grief support a child receives.
In the United States, approximately 4.8 million children under 18 are grieving the death loss of a parent.
1.5 million children in the US are grieving the loss of a parent to incarceration, sometimes for the duration of their childhood.
Community awareness and support help children heal from loss and excel in life.
The loss of a loved one is a universal human experience. How thoughts and feelings about the loss are expressed vary by culture. We encourage you to adapt information in this site to what fits for your beliefs and customs.
Ron Huxley Resources: I am preparing for some presentations to professionals who work with adoptive families and reminded about one of the most basic of all clinical tools: grief work. One of the most common assumptions is that children grieve in the same was as adults and therefore, the same tools work for them that work for big people. Each intervention should have individualized criteria built into them. Do you know of a child that has suffered a loss? What worked for them to help them cope and heal? Share with us on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox or leave a comment below.