The day after MOTHER’S DAY

Is every day Mother’s Day? Should it be?

It is nice for us moms to receive special attention on Mother’s Day: the flowers, the presents, the hugs, and the kisses. Yes, it is nice to be noticed and appreciated. Do you want it every day?

To me, it would feel awkward. I do not do what I do as a mother to get attention, to get flowers and all the rest. I don’t make breakfast, do laundry, go shopping, wipe tears and give hugs to be noticed. I do it for the family, to make my vision for my family come true, to support the one who needs support, to guide and re-direct and teach right from wrong. To hope.

As a parent, I know a thing or two about what is ahead on this winding road, and I want to prepare my children to deal with the things they do not know about yet, to be able to get up when they fall and try again. I want to tend to their well-being, present and future. I want to accompany them all the way to that future. I want to be their cheerleader, and witness their journey and their accomplishments.

And for me, being acknowledged at every step would just be distracting. Parenting is not about me. It is about my children, about my family. I enjoy getting feedback once in a while, but not at every step. Parenting is about flowing with the river of life, and not sitting on the river’s bank and watch it flow without you.

That is why, as much as I love Mother’s Day, I love the days after Mother’s Day. The days that I AM a mother, day in and day out, with all its ups and downs, frustrations and exuberance, certainties and doubts–a whole year of struggles, learning, teaching, crying and laughing, until another Mother’s Day.

By then, it is nice to get the attention and be recognized….

Co-sleeping – or not?

Just like breast-feeding, co-sleeping is now on the mind of many new parents. The bonding with the baby, the ease of night feedings, the possibility to sleep longer – if this is all so good, why are parents still have questions?

Here are my thoughts and observations:

Co sleeping, or “The Family bed” is a cultural issue. Those who were raise in such a way do know how it works, might feel more intuitive and comfortable to do that. They have a different point of view from those who read about it and consider it without personally being raised that way.

For me, this was never an option. My husband would not allow children to sleep in our bed, or even in our room. I felt his opinion is important to me, so my children slept in their crib, in their room, from day one. I remember being able to respond to their changes in breathing from my room, and know when they are to start crying to call me to be fed. For my husband this worked, so he could sleep through it. I was a stay home mom, and could nap with the baby during the day, which I did. he was working hard and long, and sleeping was important for him to be safe at work. Also, it was important for him to sleep with me, alone, together. I liked that.

So, I did not experience the separate rooms as something to interfere with bonding with my babies. At the same time, I can see how just turning to the side to nurse, instead of getting up to do that would have been great, too. I can see how sharing the bed can add touching, codling and relaxing time. I can see how my husband could have taken part in it.

So, if you were NOT raised in bed with your parents, here are some things for you to think about:

  • This is not a pre-requisite for bonding. It is just one way to express it.
  • Like any other parenting decision, this has to fit EVERYONE’S needs. So: do not do it “for the sake of the baby” only. Make sure you enjoy it, and so is everyone else in this bad. I know for sure it would not have been good for my husband, but some other man might like it. And on this note: make sure you and your spouse talked about how, when where and how you are going to communicate about your intimate times. Co-sleeping is not an excuse to demote the partner in your life. Some observations have indicated that many man feel rejected from their wife’s attention after a baby arrives, and that might be because mother is getting now a lot of physical touching, as she holds the baby a lot, and she does not go to her husband for that anymore…
  • Be aware you are going to have a wining process ahead of you. You do not have to decide right away how long this co-sleeping is going to take place, but your baby will never decide it likes better to sleep anywhere else. In some cultures children have access to their parents bed until they are in their late teen. Are you ready for that? The longer your child share your bed – the harder moving him/her to another bed is going to be.
  • Do not feel pressured to do co-sleeping if all this is stressing you out. It is better to listen to your intuition than be politically correct (I feel the same about breast feeding…) The best thing you can do for your child is be a happy and fulfilled mom!

If you have more questions, or experiences to share _ please ask and share! We can all learn.

NurtureShock: To praise or not to praise?

In the first chapter of this book, the issue of praising is examined. The authors found that since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden, legislators of all levels became fully committed to the idea and created methods and programs to increase self-esteem. Follow-up research connected self-esteem with everything from dependency on social welfare to teen pregnancy, and declared that these problems would be “cured” by increased self-esteem. No wonder parents started to praise their children “early and often.”

But what happens to those children when they first experience failure or difficulty? Studying this question brought a whole new understanding to the role of praise. To summarize the summary of the NurtureShock authors: Not all praise is the same.

  • Praise that is general, like “you are smart, Kiddo!” are not perceived as sincere, and make the child think he/she can rely on his/her innate talent, without making any effort. The requirement for effort actually confirms to them they are not really smart.
  • Praise which is specific is valuable: The child will work hard to get more such praise.
  • Teach children that results come from effort, and that “smartness” is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.
  • Too much praise distorts motivation. Children who were overpraised lose sight of the intrinsic joy in learning. They become risk-takers and lack autonomy. They do not persist at their tasks, and at college level they tend to drop out of classes rather than get a mediocre grade.
  • Highly praising parents feel they are supportive of their child. The child, on the other hand, senses the parents’ high expectations.
  • Overly praised children do work hard–but are ready to tear down others. It is the impression of being smart that moves them.
  • Praise is perceived by children as a sign of failure (someone feels I need a boost, so something is wrong with me) but criticizing is perceived as a sign the teacher (or parent) thinks I am smart (he/she feels I can deal with it)!

The authors are specific about praise: The observations are about children ages 7 years and over. It is believed that younger children take praise at face value. I am not sure how much I agree with that. I wish there were more studies to support this point.

Nevertheless, NurtureShock gives a lot for us parents to think about!

Parenting: nurture or nature?

A while ago, I mentioned the book Nurtureshock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This book has so many points to ponder, I would like to share some of them with you over my next few blog entries.
The introduction starts with expressing the feeling that all parenting books feel like “paint by number” recipes: If this, do that, and if that, do this. Do you share this experience? Do you feel that parenting authorities are forcing things on you that are not “intuitive” to you? Did you get to the point of tossing all the books aside, and deciding you are better off just doing what “feels natural” to you?
Nurtureshock says that the “throw out all the books” phase is actually a comforting point in the lives of parents. But there is a  problem: When facts are checked, even a simple strategy of boosting the child’s self image, like telling him/her how smart he/she is, turns out to backfire. Children that were “instinctively nurtured” with such compliments were found, over time, to have less confidence and not perform to the level they potentially could have, as compared with children who did not get such messages.
So, what is a parent to do? On one hand, neuroscientists have found a center in our brain that gives us the impulse to nurture; but on the other, how BEST to do that is left up to us. And we apparently don’t have the tools to make the right choices.
What the authors uncovered is that how we nurture is a mix of intelligent informed reactions, many of which are polluted by wishful thinking, moralistic biases, fads, personal history, and old unproven psychology.
This is very uncomfortable for parents to think about. Parents have reasons to be who they are, and they do have the right to reject any parenting guru that wants them  to “parent by numbers.” But common sense can be restored by carefully reviewing scientific observations of kids, setting aside ideologies. This can help parents regain their confidence and commitment to raise their children THEIR WAY.

parents need to be clear about their goals!

My friend Mike lanza wrote this in his web site Playborhood.com:
My Goal

I want my kids to play outside with other neighborhood kids every day.
I want them to create their own games and rules.
I want them to play big, complex games with large groups of kids, and simpler games one-on-one with a best friend.
I want them to decide for themselves what to play, where, and with whom.
I want them to settle their own disputes with their friends.
I want them to create their own private clubs with secret rules.
I want them to make lasting physical artifacts that show the world that this is their place.
I want them to laugh and run and think.
Every day.

That’s what I had. It’s my standard for a good childhood. It’s my goal for my kids.

What is your goal?

Parenting: no one-size fit all: alternatives

If you do not like “time out,” for whatever reason, you are right. You have other approaches you can choose, so you will be comfortable in your role as a parent. If “time out” feels OK for you, fits your personal temperament and your cultural context–that might be a good thing for you.

Parents who do not like “time out” explore the possibility of “time in”: They stop their child from whatever he/she was doing, tell them what’s wrong, and stay with him/her for the time of cooling down. For them, it is importent to stay connected with the child as the information (of what went wrong and what is expected) is being worked on.

Many discipline issues in very young children can be avoided by changing the environment: Often there are  too many toys around, or inappropriate expectations for the child to “clean up” (does he/she really know what that means? Remember, in his/her eyes, toys on the floor ARE in the right place…) Parents may express expectations that the child will sit patiently and wait; this needs to be tempered to the child’s developmental age. Considering just these few things can help a lot with elliminating unnecessary “meltdowns.”

Every choice that we make in child rearing has long-term consequences, but we cannot foresee them all. We can do our best, knowing it might not be seen the same way in 20 or 30 years; we can be forgiving to ourselves and others; and go through life with hope and faith.