Tag Archives: intentional parenting

Parenting Forward


I recently met with a student who was having a hard time reconciling her mother’s instinct with the pressures from family and friends to parent in a more socially acceptable way.  We had a long, heartfelt talk, and here are some of the “heart-lights” we had that I want to share with you.

If nothing else, remember that you alone are responsible for your child.  You have to live with them, you alone will bear the joy and the guilt of all your decisions. Acknowledging and accepting that, know that trusting your instinct is right and worthy.

Parenting with the end goal in mind looks different than parenting decisions made for immediate behavior modification.  Yelling when it’s not an emergency, hitting, slapping, intimidation, etc., will probably get your child to stop doing what they are doing or get them to do what you want them to do against their will. Taking the time to think about why you are seeing this behavior, asking ourselves if there is a way to change their focus or solve a problem takes time…and if your child is having a full-blown public nuclear meltdown, it may activate our own issues with “being a good/bad parent” or attracting attention, or our stories about acceptance and rejection.

It can be so hard to parent what I call the “long way” when your child is acting out. It is much easier to bargain, bribe, or force the outcome that is easiest in the short term.  Going the long way means letting them cry or tantrum in public, taking the time to ask questions and listen to your child, try to figure out exactly what they need or find a solution, and then patiently see it through so that interactions are loving and peaceful. It may mean changing our plans and trying again another day.

Speaking specifically to the times when our children get loud, the goal of parent intervention is to stop the tears or the tantrum.  We have stories deeply ingrained in our culture about parents who can’t control their children, and therein lies one of the problems. It is a mindful decision to treat them as little humans with their own set of feelings and desires, instead of chattel to control or do our will.

In my mind, the first thing we can examine as a culture is this idea of needing to control children.  Why not start with changing the paradigm? Instead of “children that behave” why not shift the focus to “adults that can make decisions”? It means acknowledging that children are human beings that are going to need to learn to navigate life, with all its ups and downs.

When we start to parent with the idea that our children need to be equipped to be whole, loving, and capable humans when they leave our home, it may drastically change the reasons why we chose to do or not to do when the time comes to teach them the lessons that come with the situations that challenge them.  With that mind, it gives us permission to parent them per what we feel is best for them. Each child is ready for different milestones at different times.

Here are some of the different areas of disagreement with heart-led parenting versus socially-based parenting that came up in our discussion.

Some children are ready to sleep on their own before they are a year old, other children need the warmth and comfort of a parent or sibling into early childhood or the elementary years. Would it help you to know that in other cultures, they consider our practice of tucking children in to sleep by themselves is considered neglectful and sad for the child? Read THIS article or THIS article by Dr. James McKenna on The Natural Child Project site, and THIS one on Fatherly.com (warning: the title is a bit abrasive).

Oh the places you could go with this topic.  Here is the information on the side of extended breastfeeding if that is your choice…

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children are breastfed at least until 6 months old, and to continue breastfeeding after that point – link HERE.

Drs. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold published a STUDY in March 2010 with these findings: If 90% of new mothers in the USA were breastfed just to the six-month mark, it would save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs – read more about that HERE

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until a child is two years old…really!! Read their statement HERE

So there are three huge pros in your corner if you want to breastfeed, and continue past the 12-month “normal”.  I hope you are encouraged to follow your own rhythm when it comes to breastfeeding your Sweet Pea.

This is the age of mindful eating. We know there are inflammatory foods (list HERE), we know the benefits of probiotics (links HERE and HERE), we know that when offered healthy food,  children will eat it (read THIS fascinating study).  It is okay to trust that if you consistently put healthy choices in front of your child, they will not starve, and they will eat healthy food.

So what if you don’t eat out at fast food restaurants, or it takes you five minutes to place your child’s order at a restaurant? You alone are your child’s advocate until they know what is good for them and know how to place their own order.  And you will be so proud of seeing their healthy food choices and their awesome physical health when you see how they compare to their peers.  They will spend more time in the classroom and less time in the doctor’s office when they eat healthy, whole food.  It is worth it!!

Behavior modification:
Another loaded discussion.  I would invite you to trust your mama bear instinct here.  Also, try to address your own hang-ups about being a “good” parent and/or giving and receiving love.

This came roaring to a head for us when Otter was three years old.  She went through this phase of hitting me when she was angry…and one day when I was tired and worn down and I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth, “When you hit me, it makes me feel like you don’t love me.”  That came from a deep and old place, a story that I had from my past. It validated why I do not want to hit our children, and made me even more dedicated to the theory of “gentle parenting”.

Here are some of my favorite parenting resources for you to explore:

Laura Markham – aha! parenting – gentle parenting resource

Janet Lansbury – gentle parenting resource

L.R. Knost – Little Hearts – gentle parenting resource

Positive Discipline – great ideas to help set boundaries and keep them without intimidation

Five Love Languages – discover what moves your family members, and then love them the way that speaks to their heart


What are your thoughts?  What are other areas you feel heart-led about and you find hard to talk about or outright disagreements with your family or friends?


Monday Musings: Wouldn’t have you any other way

I have struggled a bit this summer as a “single mom”. No cause for alarm, I am not really a single mom – I couldn’t hack it.  I have so much respect for single parents who truly Do It All.  For us, it’s just the circumstances we are in this season as Daddy Bruss is starting to travel more with the work he is doing.

I am trying to have a conversation every morning with our kiddos.  It goes like this:  I share what is on my list of things to do, I tell them how I expect the day is going to go. Then I ask them: what is it that you wanted to do today…and can we please be nice to each other and keep Crazy Mommy in her box???

So many deep breaths…it helps so much to be mindful.  Saying out loud, “I am taking deep breaths because I do not want to yell.” Peaceful Mama does manage to stick around most days. And if Crazy Mama does come out to play yell, I promptly apologize and we start over.

Somehow, I have turned into the person they ignore.  Daddy Bruss noticed it – I am not quite sure what to do about that piece yet.  One thing I am going to start doing is a morning mindfulness practice, inspired by THIS news story.  One thing to love about this internet age…so many awesome meditations are available for free on the web.

Something that stopped me in my tracks recently is that the lyrics to a Mindy Gledhill song, called Anchor, *really* resonate with Otter. She has only heard the song a handful of times, and she can already sing the words along with the music. This particular stanza stopped my heart…

“There are those who think that I’m strange
They would box me up, and tell me to change
But you hold me close and softly say
That you wouldn’t have me any other way”

Read more: Mindy Gledhill – Anchor Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Seriously…when a four-year old can sing this…oh my heart.  I am totally committed to being that Peaceful Mama. I want to be that person that they know is holding them just the way they are…not asking them to change anything for me…just meeting them where they are and loving them unconditionally.  It is also my reminder that all my children need me to snuggle them in and tell them that they are treasured.

On a related note, I have always loved the line in the Olivia book, by Ian Falconer, where the mother says to Olivia, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” See a version of the book HERE

That is me right now in this season. I am worn out.  Yet I know that I am doing the best job in the world, nurturing and loving and growing the next generation.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am so grateful for my village of amazing mamas and grandmas that inspire me and give me the courage to do my best every single day. Without them, I would be sinking through this season.  Thanks to them, I know I can do this.

I am also thankful for the Living God that we serve. I know that with His help, I do have the peace that surpasses all understanding right here, to be accessed as soon as I can be still. It is an awesome peace that reassures me that I really am not alone and that I am striving for a higher purpose.

I can do this.

P.S. Even though I am more worn out than ususal this season, Life Must Go On!! HERE is the time management tool I use to determine what I really need to do every day…I still want to keep up with our blogs, the kiddos have places to go, we have a new birthing class starting at the end of the month, and I have a couple of projects in the work…all are worthy and I want to be present for my children and the commitments I have made.  

Gratitude through this Season of Change

I first started sharing about this interesting season of change back in May.  I have a feeling that someday, we will look back on this year as a milestone marker.

We will say things like:

“Remember when we sold the Chandler house in two weeks?”

“Remember when Puma went to Europe with Grandma, Grandpa, and Tia Gloria?”

“Remember when we spent the whole day on Father’s Day moving the big stuff from the Dobson house?”

“Remember that day (week, actually) that Tia Gloria and Tia Carmen came over and motivated us to get packing?”

“Remember the day we hosted the going away party even though we still had a pile of boxes in the garage?”

“Remember the time when we got up at 5:00 am to go play in the park?”

“Remember my first breakfast out on the balcony?”

“Remember the fun party lights we put up under the tiny patio?”

“Remember when Puma got her back handspring? (and maybe even her back tuck!)”

“Remember when Night Owl got his aerial?”

“Remember when Charger got his back handspring?”

“Remember when Otter needed band-aids almost every day?”

There are other things that have made this a milestone year…events that were much harder to grasp and accept for all of us at different levels.

Five funerals from April – June this year. Selling what we thought was our forever home. Moving into a smaller home in a different neighborhood. A job change for my husband. Spending the month of July away from Daddy Bruss, it’s been just the Sweet Pea Kids and I for most of the month.

We downsized 1500 square feet…that is the size of a whole house for some people…two whole houses in other parts of the world…that alone makes me grateful.  We could do it…and we did.

My mantra, the filter I worked with that motivated me: Do I want to pay to move “this” across the country?…Because, if we find that our family doesn’t like having Daddy Bruss commute, then we will probably be moving to the East Coast next year.

It made me get rid of all the clutter – literal junk – that I was hanging onto…for whatever reason…old catalogs, old letters and cards, old notebooks full of notes I haven’t looked at in years, TONS of shredding that just needed to be done, broken things that I was going to fix “some day”.

Then we had a day when we had friends come over and go through all the baby and toddler things and haul away what they wanted…because I can’t keep everything that makes me think of them as babies anymore.

Everything that was left was given to St. Vincent de Paul.  It had to go. Because I had to come to terms with the fact that it is not worth the expense of moving memories.

It really was freeing to be rid of all the dead weight that we had around the house because we used to have space for it.  We are having our own experiment in “tiny house” living, even though it’s really a joke. Our version of “tiny house” is just smaller than what we are used to…it’s still a good size in the real world.

It is a relief, and I am happy that we are in a place where my husband is free to pursue any opportunity that comes his way, because he can now without the heavy burden of keeping up a larger home and all the expense that comes with it.

It has also made me so grateful for all the physical aspects of a home that I took for granted, and even though I have said in the past that I am not interested in building a home from the ground up, I do have a better idea of what we will want from the next home we own.

And lastly, it has really brought into focus what is truly important in life – and it really is not things, even though “things” show up on my gratitude list because I had forgotten that I needed to appreciate them.

My gratitude list:

Our good health

Our happy family

Our tribe of family and friends that lift us up and remind us of the important things in life – health and happiness <3

Clarity of what is truly important in my life

Co-parenting – I have never respected single parents more than I do now…and then add on the layer of full-time, working outside of the home, and taking care of the home…I have no idea how single parents stay sane. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread some days!!

Double-paned windows – who knew they kept out so much heat?!? I had an inkling…now I know they are an amazing luxury that I will never take for granted again!!

Well-insulated walls – I can literally feel the heat coming through the walls in the rental house :/ so much for the A/C bill I thought we were going to save on!!

24/7 internet access – since we still own our summer home, we escaped the heat for the month of July…but no internet here!! I have spent the month going here and there trying to time it just right so the Sweet Pea Kids can tolerate or sleep through my wi-fi time.  And I work madly to get as many emails answered and blog posts loaded as I can in an hour!!

Cupboards that don’t quit – now we are happy renters of storage space for all our seasonal items

High ceilings that provide space for lots of shelving – catch 22 there…some of the things I stored way up high when we moved into the Dobson house 8 years ago were still in the same place as we were moving out…you can imagine where those things went during the purge phase…

Electricity – I can’t imagine life without it.

Along with all this change, I have a renewed commitment to be Peaceful Mama.  This season has been hard for me, and I am an adult. I am in a place where I understand that lives end, and that people move, and that jobs change.

My people, the four pieces of my heart that walk around outside of my body…they are still little. Even though they are capable of speech, they are not always capable of articulating all the emotions that are swirling through their bodies as they adjust to the huge shifts that have been happening to us and to our friends that have lost loved ones. They can’t figure out why they feel “off”, they just know that they are, and express it in ways that make me want to tear my hair out.  Which is the worst example ever!!! My inner 4-year old acting out is not going to do them any good right now, that is for sure!

I have found myself taking four deep breaths before I speak. I literally cover my mouth before I speak. I am forcing myself to use Spanish even more of the time, especially now that their Dad isn’t around and I don’t need to translate for him to keep up with what I am saying.  Speaking in another language makes me slow down, and I don’t know a lot of angry Spanish words…so my words are kinder than if I revert back to English.

I have to remember that I am their North Star. I have to be the best me, I want them to feel safe when they are with me, and now that I am pretty much it for the parent, it is such a clear, clear mirror…they do what they see…am I providing them the best example I possibly can??

I hope so. I am trying…and I am doing ok most of the day.

Moving forward, I want to shine brightly for all of us to navigate through these choppy waters that are our reality right now. I have absolute faith that all these lessons are going to serve us and bless us in the future. I trust that there is another season of smooth sailing ahead of us. Whenever that day comes, however long it will last, I know it’s ahead. That is making me steady on so that I show up as Peaceful Mama now, and our children see her whether the water is choppy or calm: we can all count on Peaceful Mama to be a haven of rest.

All I can say these days, “May God’s will be done.” I have faith, and many prayers of gratitude every single day.





Making Love a Priority

Here is a little “happy family” tip that will hopefully help you as much as it has helped me.  It”s a visual tool that has really helped me connect with each of my children and my husband on a daily basis.

It was an idea born from my “Mommy Day Off” while Otter was having all her tantrums. I realized that all the other Sweet Peas were acting out because it was the way to grab my attention away from the other child acting out. Talk about C.H.A.O.S.

This is my least favorite scenario:  my children are acting out, and I get frustrated and yell because I am tired or have too much on my plate, and then I feel guilty because I was Crazy Mommy, and they are scared because they felt aggression…that is a circle I definitely want to avoid.

When the Sweet Peas and my husband receive love in their “language”, they are acknowledged, honored, and then everything things to run more smoothly.  So what I did was print out a visual reminder of the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. I put the chart up on the inside of my medicine cabinet so I could look at it every day while I brushed my teeth. I hoped it would remind me to connect with them daily.

It helped – kind of. At least I was looking at it every day and trying to meet everyone in their love language(s).

I did one little thing two weeks ago that has made a huge difference.  I color-coded it!! I used our dry erase markers and marked the chart so that not only am I reviewing the love languages, I am checking in every day with who needs to hear/feel/see what they respond to every day!! Duh! How did it take me four months to figure that little piece out?

Well, at least it did finally occur to me to make the adjustment…and it has helped immensely. Now it works like a checklist.  Everytime I wash my hands, I look at the chart to see who needs what, and I ask myself if I have I met them in their love language yet that day. If not, then they are next and I can check in with them before moving along my daily “to-do” list.

By making sure that my family is receiving love the way they feel loved every day, we are all operating from a much more peaceful place.  My biggest “button” (another topic all together that I will write about some other time) is “Love and Connection” – if all the relationships in my circle are tended and healthy, then I am at peace and feeling fulfilled.

Here is my chart.  I was a bad girl and just did a “copy/paste” of the emblems from the 5 Love Languages website, hence the grainy picture I am sharing because this is for informational purposes only!

Love Languages Chart

I am not sure how you will choose to create yours – there are probably lots of ways to make this much more fabulous! I would love to see what you come up with if you think this is something that will help you create a more peaceful home.  You can email me your creation: sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com.

Traveling This Path + Going The Distance

Even though I am going to preface this post with some opening statements, I apologize in advance if it rubs you the wrong way.  This post is written with love in my heart for all the parents that are choosing to stay home with their children, and maybe still miss working sometimes.

Who this IS NOT directed at:
1.) If you are working outside of the home and you are happy with that choice.
2.) If you are working outside of the home and you are not happy with that choice.
3.) If you have to work outside of the home and you want to stay home.
4.) If you do not have to and do not want to work outside of the home, and are perfectly content staying home.

If 1-4 above apply to you, then you are at a different place than I am.  I have actually invited our students who would describe themselves as fitting into one of those categories to share their perspective, and I will be posting their thoughts as I receive them.

If you do fit into categories 1-4…then today’s post was not written with you in mind.  I wrote this to encourage primary caregivers who are home after leaving the workplace.  If this isn’t you, treat this post as the dish on the buffet line that you *do not* want to try, and peacefully move on to other things on the Internet that appeal to you.  Consider that there is no need to leave a flaming comment because I already recognize that I am not speaking to you.  We are on different paths, and I honor your journey, as I hope you will honor mine.

Image source: http://no-shame-in-my-game.tumblr.com/page/2

Image source: http://no-shame-in-my-game.tumblr.com/page/2

This post is written with a heart to encourage those of us who intentionally transitioned from the workplace to be stay-at-home parents.  Although that was our choice and we are usually at peace with it, sometimes we have moments, maybe a whole day (or longer…no judgment!), where we might wish otherwise:

Do you ever have days when you miss your old workplace?  Can you believe that you “gave it all up” to be at home with little people?  Do you, like me, sometimes have twinges of envy when you see friends and classmates receiving accolades and making announcements about how their career is pregressing?

If you have felt any of these things, I want you to know that you are not alone.  Although you made the choice to stay home with your child(ren), know that it doesn’t take away from the person that you are, and the person who was capable, probably even excellent, in the role you were in before you made the decision to stay home.  That person is still alive and well inside you; breathe that in for a moment.

For me, there are times when being “mom” felt so stifling and unfulfilling, especially when I saw/see other people my age doing things I wish I were doing.  Even though I believe in my heart of hearts that parenting intentionally is the greatest work in the world, it doesn’t mean I am happy in this place all the time.  We all have our moments.  I think the key is to ackowledge the feeling, and then rise above it by reminding ourselves why we made this commitment to our children in the first place.  

Parenting intentionally means that we recognize our children as whole human beings, no matter what age and body size they happen to be wearing at the time.  It means that we believe that responding to their needs will encourage their self-worth; by meeting them where they are, we are building a parent-child relationship founded in trust.  Trust that when they have needs, we will answer them.  Trust that we will not abandon them.  Trust that even when they are at a loss, they are still loved and that we will show up for them.  By showing them they are worthy, they learn that they are valuable and lovable. I believe they start to build a self-confidence that will be harder to erode as they get older and exposed to ideas and people outside of the family.

When we parent intentionally and choose to stay at home, that is a huge commitment of our time, what some might consider an intersection with most productive years of our lives.  I can’t tell you how worthy the work you are doing is going to be in the long run.  It is something you will have to trust: Parenting intentionally and staying home with our children is Worthwhile.  It is a Work. It is a long-term investment that will pay dividends years from now.  

Find your places to breathe, know that you are also worthy.  “Fill your cup”, as the saying goes, so that you can be present and loving with your children.  Recognize that parenting intentionally is meaningful work, and just as you took time to recharge after a long day in your old workplace, you still need to do that to be able to keep giving as a parent.  

At the same time, I encourage you to create a reciprocal relationship with your child(ren).  Parenting intentionally does not mean to give selflessly or to become a second-class citizen as you meet the needs of your child(ren).  Model a healthy relationship with your co-parent.  Show your family love in your words and your actions.  It is okay to tell them that you do things because you love them and you treasure them, instead of giving them the impression that you are a slave to their demands.

What about the days when you have reached the end of your patience? Use your words, even if you are telling them you are angry and you need a time out because you love them so much you don’t want to hurt them in your anger.  Convey your words in an Opera Voice, so maybe you will all end up laughing.  Chant “OM” to demonstrate that you are trying to find another breath.  Change your space, go for a walk, play with or in water…model for them all the ways to channel extreme emotion so that they can learn how to express themselves when they are feeling big emotions.

We are in a place where the dividends are starting to show now that they are older. We are beginning to see the results of the time we put into the relationship with them.  We hear it from their babysitters and adult instructors that they truly are exceptional little people who are a delight to be around.

Now that I am experiencing the people they are growing into, I am grateful I opted to stay home with them instead of going back to work or spending more time on (insert technology of choice here). The face time and attention you are giving them now will yield amazing, thoughtful, kind, independent human beings who are the future of the change we want to see in the world.

If you are a working parent and you have read this far down…yes, I know you are capable of raising equally thoughtful, kind, independent human beings…we have taken different paths to the same end.  I honor you for your choices and applaud you for being able to work and parent intentionally with the same fervor I have for the path I am traveling.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you are doing a great job with your kiddos, and try not to feel like you are missing out.  Our time with them is fleeting.  In the grand scheme of things, they will probably live well into their 70s, if not 80s or 90s.  We get about 18 years of that lifespan – make the most of it.  You will not regret it. 

Image source: http://www.susoutter.com/2014/01/what-kids-want-most-part-2.html

Image source: http://www.susoutter.com/2014/01/what-kids-want-most-part-2.html

By the same token, if there is really something in your heart, go for it!  Sometimes we have an all or nothing approach to life.  I have always wanted to get my PhD.  Because I pretty much blew off my first three years of college, I really have to hit the reset button and start over.  If I waited until the Sweet Pea Kids were grown up to do that, I would have another 14 years of pining and letting that desire eat away at me…I don’t need more reasons to envy others.  Instead, I have decided that it is doable and that I am okay with taking it slowly.  If I do one class per semester, then 14 years from now, I can take that “empty nest” time to write my dissertation, instead of starting the whole process from scratch.  

Image source: http://lifehacker.com/never-give-up-on-a-dream-just-because-of-the-time-it-1495765921

Image source: http://lifehacker.com/never-give-up-on-a-dream-just-because-of-the-time-it-1495765921

That happens to be my dream.  Do you have one?  If you know it, what small step can you do in the next day-week-month to start moving in that direection?

If you do not know what is going to feed your soul after your children claim their amazing lives thanks to the confidence and independence you have instilled in them, take some time to reflect on what that is so you can start making plans now.  You will need something to fulfill you; and one could make the argument that making them the whole center of your life is not necessarily healthy now, or in the long run, for either of you (musings about that HERE).

When we follow our dreams, we also have the opportunity to teach our children the beauty of discovering their gifts, and using them to fulfill themselves and help others.  Circling back to where we started, having our own treasure, our own burning desire, will make it easier to get through those days when we wonder what we were thinking as we look at the small tornado that is our home life that day.  

So own it.  Be the stay-at-home parent you want to be, live here and now with your child(ren).  Find what feeds your soul so that you can show up as a whole person for your family.  Enjoy your Sweet Peas, drink them in, encapsulate all these little moments.  Some day we will have all the time we thought we wanted, and our homes will be quiet, and we may miss all the chaos.  I believe we will reap a second harvest when our children fill it again with the love and laughter of the next generation being raised in love.