Tag Archives: Peaceful Parenting

World Kindness Day

This is a guest post submitted by Alexandria Heinz from FTD Florist.  I feel that the three images she shared go well with our commitment to attachment  parenting. The third image speaks to me of self-love, a practice that allows time for the “me” that needs to be honored in order to find the Peaceful Mama that we love and adore in our home.

Wishing you a beautiful day as you spread kindness in your corner of the world <3

World Kindness Day is a beautiful day each year where people around the world set aside their differences and go out of their way to be kind to one another. This a perfect time to show your family how much they mean to you. This can be by simply setting aside an extra hour of the day to spend time with them or giving them random compliments.

To help inspire ways that you can spread kindness this November 13th, our friends over at FTD have compiled 30 of the best kindness quotes around. They even included a printable card that you can write your own message on! Enjoy.


Thoughtful Thursday: Sorting Through

As we continue to unpack, I dread the fact that we still have LOTS of boxes in our garage. On top of all those boxes, we have LOTS MORE boxes in storage.

It’s stuff.  Literally just stuff. Holiday decorations. Cherished baby items and favorite outfits from when our sweet peas were little.  Toys.  And papers. And old artwork. All of it reminding me that we have too much, I keep too much. I have so much to release.  Especially: books!!!

As I was moving things around today to clear some space in the garage, I found a laundry basket full of books…and I have to face the fact that there is literally no more shelf space for them.  (I cannot buy another bookcase!! Where would I put it?!?!)

We are bursting at the seams in our home – I don’t want to bring anything else inside.  Right now, everything has a spot. Nothing is piled up or so full that I can’t easily put it away in the right place…but there are still boxes.

So now I have to decide: am I going to let things go? Or am I going to insist on holding on?

It almost feels like a metaphor for our children. As we are in the midst of the 64-day span in which we celebrate the birthdays of our 3 younger sweet peas, I am struck by the fact that they are *really* all growing up.  Our “baby” is turning five this year…she is in kindergarten!!  We are only six years away from our oldest going off to college…and she is making noises about wanting to try out for a performing arts school next year.  I hear a rustle in our little nest…

They are all stretching their wings and getting ready to fly.  It makes me take inventory of what we are teaching them…will they be equipped? Will they have the confidence to spread their wings? Will they know how to do critical thinking?  Will they have the courage to do what is right instead of doing that which is most convenient or gratifying?  Sometimes those things intersect; and when they don’t, will they be able to live with their choices?

So here I sit…wondering.  Wondering what will become of the pile of boxes.  Wondering how our sweet peas will grow.  I hope and pray that they will grow and mature in their faith and self-esteem, knowing that they are loved.

Letting go…holding on…the art of living a meaningful life. The inspiration continues to choose and lead with love. My filter is the question, “Am I living love right now?” If I am, we go onwards. If I am not, it’s time to adjust an attitude, a voice, a tone…and live with love, nurture with love, grow with love; trusting that the end result is going to be greater than I can imagine.


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.

Spanking: Not an option


If you told my 25-year-old self that I would be totally opposed to spanking when I became a mother, that Krystyna would have scoffed at you. What could be wrong with it? Kids need discipline from time to time, and spanking definitely yields results. I was spanked, and I turned out ok. Right?!?

Enter the voice of a wise woman I worked with – one sentence started to shift my perspective on the whole spanking thing. I commented on how lovely her children were to be around, and asked about her parenting style. I was shocked to hear that she didn’t spank them; I just assumed all well-behaved children had been paddled into submission. As it turns out, this mama believed in and practiced gentle parenting, even though I didn’t know the term at the time.

Q: “You have never spanked them?”
A: “Never – spanking is a big person hitting a little person – nothing makes sense about that.”

Wait…WHAT did she just say?

The decision not to spank was sealed when I gave birth to Puma. As I held her in my arms that very first hour, I knew that hitting her on purpose, with intention to punish or discipline, was not going to be an option.

And so started the mental shift from considering spanking an acceptable form of discipline, to striving to find as many other natural consequences and gentle parenting techniques as possible.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from L.R. Knost:

LRKnost ChildishLRKnost Meltdown2

Childish behavior is normal…for children. <3 http://t.co/T8goym3P6Z
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Sunday, March 15, 2015

Let’s practice what we preach. <3 http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Gentle Parenting Go-Tos

Parenting with intention is easy when our cups are full and we are rested.  Realistically, how many of those days we *actually* have depends on the season we are in as a family.  Do you need resources to help stay gentle? Here are some websites that have been helpful to me, and other students in our SPB community:

Aha! Parenting
“Are you looking for that Aha! Moment to transform your child’s behavior, or maybe your own?
Whether you’re wondering how to handle a specific challenge, just figuring out your child-raising approach, or ready to tear your hair out, you’ve come to the right place.
You know what an Aha! Moment is, right?
With our child, it’s that lightning flash of insight, when suddenly we see things from another perspective, and everything has the potential to be different. This website has Aha! moments for parents of every age child, from pregnancy right through the teen years.”

Janet Lansbury
“Raising a child is one the most important and challenging jobs we will ever have. It brings a considerable amount of joy. It can also be confusing, discouraging and haphazard. My goal is to provide clarity, inspiration (and maybe a smile or two) by sharing insights I’ve gained through my parenting classes, my experiences as a mother, and studies with my friend and mentor Magda Gerber. This blog is dedicated to her memory.”

L.R. Knost
“Sharing gentle parenting tips, articles, and research with parents who want to learn how to connect with their little ones instead of just correcting them. Connect to correct—>gentle, effective, empathetic parenting—>happy, confident, well-mannered children—>joyful, peaceful homes filled with love and laughter.”

“I publish a variety of things here. Letters to my children explaining different parenting choices that I/we make. Information about breastfeeding, attachment parenting babywearing and other topics that fall into the category of “gentle parenting”, and whatever comes to mind.”

Positive Discipline
“Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. Based on the best selling Positive Discipline books by Dr. Jane Nelsen, it teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults (including parents, teachers, childcare providers, youth workers, and others).”

Gentle parenting is definitely a lifestyle choice – it invites me to be my best self so that I am available to be the parent I want to be for my children. Another great reminder from L.R. Knost:

LRKnost Breathe
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Friday, April 10, 2015

I hope you find the inspiration you need from these wise parents. Choosing to breathe is not necessarily instinctive or easy. It is however, so, so worth it. The parent-child bond is so precious, and they are with us for such a short amount of time in their lifespan. Gentle parenting helps me make the most of that time, and truly treasure our children as the amazing teachers and human beings that they are.

P.S. Huge thanks to our SPB community that inspired this post <3

I’m human, and the struggle is real some days!! HERE is an anecdote about our season of toddler tantrums with Otter – it took a lot of deep breaths to be peaceful those days!!

Discovering Truths

I found this in my “Drafts” folder from last summer – I wanted to share it with you because it is a peek into the process that led me to decide that I really was not in a season where I want to spend lots of time on the computer.  If things happen organically, that is one thing…however, pursuit of an audience is not my number one priority right now.  I learned that when I went to BWF in Austin (read about that aha moment HERE).

And I can also see that my reality check was way off. The reality is that making my kiddos a priority means that blogging regularly isn’t going to happen. I am enjoying reaching out to you this summer while we are on a hiatus from our homeschool days…after that, we will have to wait and see what happens.

July 25, 2014

It has been five weeks since we have been without our nanny.  Life is MUCH different without her.  I am not only in charge of homechooling and guiding our Sweet Peas – now I have to be a housekeeper, too.  I get to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  It is not for the weary or faint of heart.

We did really well the first two weeks.  Now, six weeks into it, the house is not as tidy as a like it, the laundry takes a couple of days to go from “dry” to “put away”, and we are eating A LOT of quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Thank goodness for summertime produce – at least the Sweet Peas are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with their carbs and cheese.

By virtue of our summer plans, every year the nanny gets a 2-month sabbatical from the wild, wonderful circus that we are.  While it is great for all parties involved, it continues to be my yearly  reality check.  I often tell people how grateful I am for my loving husband who recognizes that in order to homeschool, work on my writing, and support our students from our Bradley classes that I really *cannot* do it all. I love and appreciate him all the more for his hard work that affords us the luxury of a nanny when we are without her.

It also makes me reflect on what I really want for myself and for our family.  Is it really important to be a up on the latest and greatest research, and trying to be a social media maven: building an audience, tweeting and Instagram-ing all day long? Not if it means that Crazy Mama shows up…because I haven’t gotten enough rest…because I am trying to keep up with it all when I should be sleeping.  I can truthfully say that I don’t like her very much, and that is not the person I want around our Sweet Peas.

So far, it has been a good “dress rehearsal” for the upcoming school year.  When our nanny is around, the last three hours of her day with us after we finish “school” is usually “me time”.  It is the time I use to work on writing, post to our blogs, answer emails, make phone calls, meet a friend for lunch…in all likelihood, that is going to be gone next year.

For the first time, I will be “officially” homeschooling all four children this September.  Otter and Charger will be working on the Sonlight PreK Core together; Night Owl and Puma are starting on Sonlight Core C (Intro to World History – II)  together.  My time to homeschool has increased by at least another 2 hours.  So if I want to exercise, homeschool, sleep, breathe and pray….you guessed it – the computer time is going to take a lower priority.  to say nothing of being the supportive spouse I want to be to Coach Bruss.  Yikes.

My foray into the social media world has been wonderful.  I enjoy connecting with other like-minded individuals from all over the world, and learning from them based on what they share about what they know.  I would be sad to give it all up.  I really like to be scheduled, so this summer is a great opportunity to play with that schedule and see just how it’s all going to fit in if I want to have computer time – and I do want to squeeze it in!!

I cannot help but go back to, “But, Peaceful Mama!” At the end of the day, my children will not care if I got to interact with the amazing people I learn from on the internet, or the latest and greatest research that I read and can use to improve our classes.  Especially if Crazy Mama shows up and takes a shift or two.  We all hate it when she shows up – it means that yelling and sad tears became part of our story.

Recognizing that I can be two mamas and which one shows up is up to me – that is part of the lesson I learned when I did the life coaching with Blue Russ last summer.  I know I feel better about my role as a mother (and myself as a person!) when Crazy Mama who yells and carries on is on vacation, and Peaceful Mama  who operates from a place of trust and respect that honors our children as whole, complete and worthy individuals is the one running the circus.

As I keep going back to my desire to be Peaceful Mama every minute of every waking moment, then I have to start to embrace the idea that I cannot do it all.  I am human.  I have to find joy in what I can do, and keep in mind that I am being who I need to be so that I can mother the way I want to mother – Peacefully.  If I am meant to be the public speaker that I want to be, then I need to keep in mind that the door will open when the time is right.

Until then, I must keep attending to the four people that inspire me to be better and do better every day.  They deserve Peaceful Mama, and have a right to my time and my energy above everything and anything else because we chose to invite them into our lives intentionally, and they are wonderful gifts that are to be enjoyed, as the saying goes, In The Present.

I also want to be the best childbirth educator and mentor that I can be to the students that chose us to walk on the journey of birth with them.  I want the students attending classes as new parents to get a great, fresh class every week.  Most of the focus is to help prepare them for the BIrth-Day.  We know that is just the beginning of the journey! We want to be a place for them to come for help and guidance.  I get the same answer: we cannot do that if I am too tired, or short on time to answer questions or respond to emails.

So I guess I found my truths:
1.) Peaceful Mama + Loving Wife
2.) Best childbirth instructor I can be
3.) Everything else

What are your truths?  How did you discover them?

Post-script 7.19.15:
The one things I can see is that my priorities were right on.  The Sweet Peas and I are so good with Peaceful Mama being in the driver’s seat more than 90% of the time.  And, connections with our students over the last three classes felt to be in a good place, too.  So, writing everything down ended being like a goal-setting. It worked out well this time!!

Thoughtful Thursday: Mothering Through Growing Pains

Our Sweet Peas are definitely going through growing pains right now.  I know I am running short since I am dealing with my own emotional growth, and I am not doing all the things that keep me in Peaceful Mama mode.

I ran across the above picture today as I was looking for a #tbt to post on our Instagram account.  My goal for the rest of the week and into the next few weeks as I adjust to my new normal is to cherish our Sweet Peas and speak gently to them as I did in their newborn phase.

It is so easy to be kind, loving and peaceful with a newborn.  We marvel at their sweetness, their littleness, their divine squishiness.  That heavenly brand-new baby scent is unforgettable.  Those moments when we stay awake watching them sleep and breathe when we should be catching up on our sleep.  There is definitely a magic about newborns.

Our infants grow…and start talking…still cute!  Then, the challenging starts.  Looking for the boundaries.  Testing the waters.  The defiance.  The stubbornness.   The outbursts and the accompanying reactions that make us want to swallow our words and wish there was  “re-do” button in life.

RIght now we have Puma (9) entering her “tween” years…she wants to be an independent big girl, and yet she still wants to be snuggled and coddled on occasion.  Night Owl (6) is pushing to find boundaries again.  Charger (4) is struggling with the concept of being a big boy and still wanting to nurse.  We have set his next birthday as an end time and I think it is freaking him out.  Otter (2)…she just wants to do EVERYTHING that everyone else is doing – sometimes trying to compete with three siblings at the same time and she is exhausted as much as she is triumphant that she can do so many new things.

Chaos Central!!  Or it could be worse if I wasn’t willing to stop and reflect.  Just writing that last paragraph clarified that today, more than any day, I really need to stop, breathe, pray, and turn inward so that I can be all that I need to be.  I want to be able to meet my children where they are, with the same joy and excitement that I had when they were infants.  To be able to offer love this way – isn’t that worth breathing and praying for instead of checking off my to-do list?

So while we are all in state of flux, I think a great intention for the day is to smile before I speak, breathe before I answer, and remember their littleness in the face of their bigness.

Peace out, mamas – wishing you all a joyful day.

Aha! Parenting & Seeing Dr. Laura Markham

A couple of weeks ago I heard that Dr. Laura Markham was coming to the town I live in, Pacific Grove, and would be speaking at the charter school just down the street from my house.

dr laura markham

I knew I had to go because 1) seriously this is such a small town and being so close (but-not-so-close-when-you-have-a-toddler-and-one-car-and-a-million-logistics-to-consider) to Santa Cruz and the Bay Area I was actually kind of shocked at how convenient this venue was for me and 2) Dr. Markham’s blog & then book have been a sound resource for us for quite some time. We have talked about her website on SPF before and I also read her book as part of a mama book club back in May.

dr laura book club

follow us on Instagram @sweetpeabirths!

I bought my ticket & headed out alone Tuesday night, Moleskine and pen in hand. It was a great talk + Q&A and even though I already really liked the Aha! Parenting site and the book I enjoyed Dr. Markham much more in person and was so glad that I went. I will try to recap most of what was discussed as best I can below!

There were three key takeaway’s Dr. Markham wished for everyone to remember:

“You always have the power (as the parent) to calm the store or blow it up into a tornado”

“Parenting is only 10-20% guidance and 80-90% connection.”

And the parenting “sweet spot”, empathetic limits.

parenting graphic


“You always have the power (as the parent) to calm the store or blow it up into a tornado”

In order to be able to help or calm a difficult situation with your child Dr. Markham recommends that you first need to regulate your own emotions.

>> Don’t take it (whatever your child is doing/saying/etc) personally.

>> Remember you are the role model.

>> It is not an emergency.

>> Stop. Drop. Breathe

>> Don’t act while angry.

When a huge tantrum is taking place, a road map for how to react would look like this:

Calm yourself (Stop. Drop. Breathe.)

Admit your contribution to the incident (were you distracted & not listening to your child? talking back aggressively or rudely to them? being dismissive?)

Connect with your child (stop what you are doing, look him/her in the eye, hold him/her, etc.)

Empathize (understand his/her perspective). You have to actually care about your child’s point of view and needs in that moment.

Set a Limit (we don’t yell/kick/talk to each other like that no matter how upset we are).

Help him/her work through their upset.

“Parenting is only 10-20% guidance and 80-90% connection.”

Because children will not accept guidance without connection. Even if you respond to your child with compassion and empathy in the moment it won’t work if there isn’t more 24/7 “preventative maintenance” connection between the two of you.

Connection Power Tools 


*roughhousing & laughter

*special time: one-on-one, uninterrupted, unstructured time that is directed by your child

* time- in’s – holding space so your child feels safe to work through their emotions, they need to either cry or laugh to make themselves feel better during/after a tantrum or meltdown. They may not want you to physically hold them but being right there will allow them to know you are present & available whenever they do need you.

All emotions and needs your children have are ok, we should allow all feelings, it is just some behavior that may need to be limited. Emotions drive behavior, so in order to change behavior we need to help them with the feelings that are actually driving the undesired behavior. Once they can manage their emotions they will be able to manage their own behavior. Which leads us to the next topic…

The parenting “sweet spot”, empathetic limits

Dr. Markham does not teach that being as connected with your child as possible means having low expectations of them. It is actually high expectations that will help teach them and give them opportunities to practice self discipline. She does not believe in punishment or imposed consequences, bribes or yelling as a way to achieve desired behavior.

Punishment does not work to improve behavior because it does not address the underlying cause of what is driving that behavior, your children will only learn to lie to circumvent punishment, act out in other ways, and not learn to self regulate or self discipline. Self discipline is the act of giving up something you want for something you want more, and in order for this to develop we need the repeated experiencing of having to chose, in order to “practice.”

It is also beneficial to empower your child to repair. Instead of punishing them, work together to come up with a way to “right” the behavior. Many children, especially strong-willed ones, are experiential learners. They have to *want* to do something, and arbitrary consequences made up by a parent will never appeal to their personal integrity.

How to Enforce Limits:

> Get in your child’s face in a friendly way

> Empathize/ Give Wish Verbally (“I know you want to keep playing and I bet when you are older and live on your own you will always play straight through dinner and not eat, but in our house we all eat together so right now it is time to stop playing and eat with us.”)

> Side step a power struggle by giving choices

> Invite cooperation with playfulness

> Ask her/him to help to solve the problem

> Let them discover natural consequences

Dr. Markham also talked a bit about how human emotion works and that most often we “stuff” our emotions down into our body rather than experiencing them. This manifests as a myriad of health problems: stress, disease, etc. and research has also shown the same affect on the body for people who yell regularly. By allowing our children to “feel” we help teach them that emotions are normal and safe. Crying in children has shown that it helps them to heal, reduces anxiety, and builds resistance. Giving them a safe place to cry, in or out of our arms, and not distracting them from it are all extremely helpful in the long run.

It was a very informative, fast paced, two hours, and although this post attempted to pull it all together in a digestible form I really encourage you to check out her blog or book for more examples and further explanation.

I do find that a lot of the techniques are not as easily applicable to toddlers, especially non or less verbal ones.  A lot of these practices are based on “age appropriate” expectations and gauging what is or is not appropriate for your specific child. I had hoped to ask Dr. Markham if she had any reccommendations for resources that were helpful in understanding more of what is age appropriate for 2/3 year olds not yet talking much but didn’t get a chance to as there were a lot of questions and I needed to get home for T’s bed time (: This is definitely my next avenue of exploration though, maybe it will warrant it’s own follow up post! That being said, even though I feel like there is only so much T & I can actually work together on (he will be two next month and only uses ~5 words) I feel like these ideas and tools have helped lay a great foundation for me. I am able to practice the self regulating techniques, I can “talk it out” with myself even if T isn’t comprehending as practice, and I have to say I have gotten pretty good at surrendering the “power” and side stepping struggles that don’t actually matter.

Does anyone have any other insight to share regarding punishment, natural consequences or enforcing limits emphatically? Do you enjoy the Aha! Parenting blog? I would love to hear from anyone with older children as my parenting experience thus far is limited & I have always found the subject of emotional regulation very fascinating!

Monday Musings: Living Gentle

This is one of Cassandra’s favorite quotes that she shared with me over the weekend.  As it turns out, it is exactly what I needed today.  We have a second child down with a crazy fever.  Lying in bed with her today, cradling, nursing…when I had fun art projects planned, writing and posting to do…ugh.

This sense of UGH could have permeated our whole day if I had let it.  Instead, I am just breathing.  Breathing before I speak.  Breathing before I write.  Breathing as our nursling latches again.

And so far, so good.  I have caught myself a couple of times and changed my tone.  I chose to be flexible and simply set-up the art project without participating.  The work that resulted was great…one more confirmation that letting our children think and create for themselves is a great thing!

So, on this day that could have been full of the side effects of my disappointment, the kiddos have had a pretty decent day.  Puma made nutritious smoothies that also turned into popsicles, the only thing Otter has eaten today, besides chocolate chips.  Now Puma and Coach Bruss are making chocolate chip cookies (which was supposed to be “our” thing), and it will probably turn into the second thing Otter eats – LOL.  I can hope that we can all look at today and learn that gentleness and self-control are possible, even when things don’t go according to plan.

The silver lining?  Thank goodness that Otter is still nursing.  She is refusing ibuprofen and most food, so skin-to-skin, liquid food is just what our toddler needs right now.  Everything else has gone on, the world is not going to end because I didn’t get to do what I had planned today…nourishing and nursing this sweet pea back to health is definitely the best choice I could make for today.

Thank you, Parenting Wild Things, for the great mantra and the beautiful image.  HERE is a link to the post that featured this image.

Thoughtful Thursday: Prioritizing

I read THIS blog post in the morning, as I was going through our twitter feed.  Here is an excerpt:

“But seeing the messy house, and walking around the cluttered rooms, and feeling exhausted still bothers me. Just because I choose the most important things, doesn’t mean leaving the less important things doesn’t suck. Just because in 20 years I will be glad I read those bedtime stories, doesn’t mean tomorrow I’m not going feel irritated that I haven’t had 10 spare minutes to change the sheets on my bed in weeks. Just because I prioritized, doesn’t mean I feel happy.

But we’ve all been told this is the path to happiness. This prioritizing and focusing is supposed to be a magic cure-all for feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. So when we still feel angry that we’re running downstairs naked because all our clean underwear is in a basket in the living room, we feel like we’re failing. And when we walk by the trash can that’s overflowing and starting to stink and want to cry, we feel like we’re doing something wrong. And when we desperately wish we could zone out in front of the tv for 10 minutes instead of listening to a Level 1 I Can Read book for the tenth time, we feel like a horrible mom.”

Here is what I want to say to this mom…

First of all, I want to send her a big hug.  I can feel her frustration, her pain, her loneliness.  If she was my friend, I would start making sure our crew brought over meals once a week.  If she wanted company, great!  We would stay and offer an adult conversation.  If not, us gal pals would drop off dinner for her family, fold a basket of laundry, and be on our way.

This is the other thing that I think we all need to hear.  YOU CAN change your routine and still be a good mom.  You CAN change your priorities for a day and your children will still remember that you read them a story every night at bedtime.

If the basket in the middle of the floor, full of laundry is driving you crazy, if the pile of stuff is making your head spin, deal with it.  Prioritizing yourself into misery isn’t serving you or your family.  Her children may be too young to help with laundry folding…so here is another idea.  You have lots of laundry baskets in the house?  Instead of a bedtime reading story, throw all your laundry somewhere where you can fold it.  At the same time, put the laundry baskets on the floor and do a living story…let all the kiddos get in their “ship” and tell you where they would go on an adventure, or narrate an adventure for them…have them sail the stormy seas (shake the baskets around and make storm noises), have them pitch the anchor, have them tell you what they discovered once they landed on firm ground….I think you get the point.  The laundry gets folded, the “story” happens, and you can reclaim your baskets afterwards to get the clean clothes back into the right places.

If we take a breath, and take a minute to think outside of our routine, we can probably come up with different ways of organizing our daily routines so that the goal of spending quality time with our children can jive with our basic needs and expectations of ourselves/home/etc.  We can consider/ try to remember routines can be malleable and fluid when we need them to be.  They do not always have to be set in stone, never to be broken.

Does anyone else get so caught up in being the perfect mom that we forget to keep in touch with our needs?  It is possible to be Krystyna, meet our family priorities, and still be a Good Mom that didn’t read the story, and didn’t do bath time.  What I did do is meet one of my basic needs (deal with “whatever else is important to us” – for me it’s clutter) and still be a good parent.   I would propose that we are even better equipped to deal with another long day ahead of us tomorrow, because our spirit is more still for having dealt with whatever was irritating us that wasn’t getting done.

I send big hugs to all the mamas out there that have been in The Hard.  The overwhelming feeling of wanting to do it all and not enough hours in the day to be everything to everyone.  The piles that seem like they are never going to go away.  They do…and so do the kids…so this is my approach: just live each day for itself, adjust priorities for that day, and remember that this is just my reality “for now”.

To quote another awesome mama, “You are a good mom.”