Parenting Education · Family Coach

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Category Archives: Attachment Living

Time to rethink family rules

Do you have rules in your family?

Do they sound a little like this?

Don’t hit

Don’t jump on the bed

Don’t do this…

Don’t do that…

In my family we’ve gone through different incarnations of family rules.  We started out with a set that looked a little like the ones above.  It was, no hurting people or animals, using polite words… there were a couple of other things, and then the last one was to have fun.  We wrote them on a list and put them on the fridge.  Even though our eldest, at that stage, was pre reading age, he knew those rules off the top of his head and was able to point to the fridge in reference of the rules.

Did those rules help family life?  Not really, not one iota.  They were just something to pull out like a stick to say, “you haven’t been following the rules”.   Are the rules effective?  Do they advise you what to do?  When we say don’t hit, don’t hurt, what do we end up thinking about, hitting and hurting obviously.  It’s like saying, don’t think about the elephant in the corner of the room.  It’s impossible to not think of it, it’s there!!
Elephant in the room

When we take something away, when we say that you “can’t” do something, we don’t put something in place to say this is what you CAN do.  Children find it far easier to accept something when we tell them what they can do, in fact adults do too.  So there’s no point in saying, you can’t hit, it leaves a vacuum.  Ok, so I can’t hit, what do I do instead?  You’ve taken away what I thought was my response to a situation, but help, what can I do instead!

This is the problem with rules.  They’re inflexible, they tell us what we can’t do, and they don’t help to create a climate of trust.  They can’t be used for all situations.  And if we have a list of rules for a toddler, pre-reading child, they are very hard for them to get to grips with.  In short, they’re a bit limiting :)

What can we do instead?

In the last two years my family has adopted something a little different.  It was inspired in part by seeing these pics come up frequently on Facebook posts:

Family Rules

Family Rules

I love both of these images.  In fact, I have the second one as a decal,  which I haven’t put up yet.  But, I noticed there were still a few problems with these.  Chiefly being that they were quite wordy and hard for little kids to remember.

So that’s when I hit on something else, something far simpler, something that would last forever, and that my kids could easily remember.

We are… the:

HAPPY

HUGGING

HELPING

HOUSE.

That was it.  Simple right.  There was not much I couldn’t fit into that.  Hitting someone, well, that’s not gentle touch (hugging) and it certainly wouldn’t help someone to be happy would it, not to mention not helping the situation.  However there were a couple of things that I had failed to add to it.  My son, being the wordsmith that he is added two more words to it.

HEARING

HEALTHY.

There.  It was perfect.  We don’t jump up and down on the bed, (most of the time) because it’s not healthy to do so (dirty feet on the covers and you run the danger of hurting yourself).  We try to really *hear* people when they speak to us.  Not just their words, but we really try to hear what they are saying too.

In fact in the two years we’ve been using these words, I haven’t come up with a situation that I can’t use them in.  Quite simply they cover everything.

And recently, that’s when it hit me.  They aren’t rules at all.  These are family values.  Values that can be as old as time.  These are the things that we VALUE in our house.  These are the things we WANT in our house.  We don’t want to harp on about the things we don’t want – that’s what rules do.  We want to celebrate the VALUES of our house.

What do you think are the values in your house?  Do you think you are celebrating them?
5 Hs Happy Hugging Helpful Hearing Healthy House

 

Guilt, being Right and being Challenged

My husband would say that I don’t like to be told that I’m wrong, especially by him, but that when presented with “evidence” from “experts” then I start to sway.  To a certain point he is right, and to a certain degree he is wrong – hardly surprising really.  When I became a parent, on August 14th, 2005, I learnt that there was another person, whom I loved fiercely who would also tell me that I was wrong.  Unlike my husband though, I couldn’t have a “logical” conversation with my beautiful son and attempt to convince him otherwise.  He was who he was and he wasn’t prepared to listen to any humbug nonsense I had read in some Baby Whisperer book somewhere.  He knew better than I did, and boy did he.  He spent 9 months trying to tell me what was going wrong and what was wrong and trying to let me know what to do better.  But I didn’t listen, something that I really struggled with, I’ve talked about that before, so this post isn’t really about that, but it’s related.

This post is about the struggle to accept the new, the “uh-oh” moment when we are confronted with information that seeks to challenge us, that may make us doubt what we did and will almost certainly cast what we did in a negative light.  This sort of information is BOUNDLESS in parenting circles.  I’ll give you a few examples from my parenting life thus far to help you see where I am going:

  • I used cry it out with my son.  He screamed a lot, but he got to sleep. Then I read things like this.
  • I put my son in a separate bed from me, from Day 1.  After having a baby brother die from SIDS (even though it wasn’t a co-sleeping situation) I was going to do everything possible to protect my son.  Then I started to see things like this.
  • We didn’t have skin to skin straight away, we didn’t breastfeed straight away, he was away from me for the next 2-3 hours.  Now I know this
  • He had 1-2 bottles of formula on about day 2 in the hospital.  Because I was beside myself.  Now I know this and the ramifications of this break my heart every single day.
  • I used Time Out with him, and my daughter.  And now I am aware of the negative effects and how I can do things differently.
  • When my daughter bit me repeatedly, to the point where I got a breast infection, not once, but twice, I got so angry and cross, that I bit her back.  Now I would do things differently.
  • I called my kids “good boy” and “good girl” – in fact I still do it now, every now and again.  But now I am trying to do this.

ALL of those things, every single one of them, I am now opposed to or have changed my mind about.  They are all examples of where and when things went wrong.  For each of those things I have been exposed to information that made me really REALLY stop and think, that made me wonder, that made me doubt, and to be frank made me feel guilt.  The guilt was large for some, the guilt was small for others, but the guilt was still there.

Guilt

The way I see it, when we are presented with things that challenge things we did in the PAST there are a few ways that we can choose to approach it.  The first is that we can dig our heels in, arm ourselves with the key defense of “I did it and he/she/I turned out FINE”.  I see this approach all the time.  I see it because I’m on Facebook a lot, and I read a lot of the Mummy blogs.  People get so wound up about this that I can just imagine people having apoplectic fits over it.  The thing is, you might be “fine” but how much better could you or your child have been had you not done some of those things?  You cannot and should not feel guilty for not knowing what you didn’t know, so why resort to the defense of “I’m fine” when the research, when the scientific and well researched evidence is not speaking to YOU directly and not saying you should feel guilty.  You are responsible for your reaction to the information, you choose to feel guilt or not over it, and you can choose how to express that guilt.

You could choose to just ignore it, pretend you didn’t read it, don’t engage, after all, it will all go away.  This is what a lot of ordinary folks do.  I see them, I’m friends with them on FB, they don’t want to examine things too closely for fear of what they might find.  They actively avoid it.

Or, you could choose the approach of confronting the information, making peace with it and yourself.  Realise that you did the best you could do in the circumstances you were in, realise that you cannot be held responsible for the information you didn’t know and realise that it is perfectly OK to change your mind, and to have been “wrong”.  I now choose this approach.  Further, I aim to help parents make INFORMED choices about these and many many more issues.  So many parents don’t have access to the information and so end up making the best of the situation.  Think how much harder it is to light a fire using sticks if you don’t know to use a hard wood and a soft wood… information can make things easier and offer us hope.  It can show us the door to a new world, the way to make peace with ourselves, and the path for others to follow.

So, I ask of you this, when you are next confronted with a piece of information that you THINK is judging you, that you think is trying to paint you as a BAD parent, pause, re-read and consider what you are painting over the picture and realise how much baggage you have brought to the place.  Once you let that baggage go, once you can look at it, acknowledge it and say “I don’t have to carry you any more” then life will become that much lighter, and your parenting journey will be open to a world of learning and opportunities.

Baggage

 

Being “With” Other Parents, Other People

This is a post I wrote a while back at the beginning of this year, in what seemed like a different lifetime, aeons ago, but it’s ethos made me look for it today, to repost it, with a teeny bit of editing.  What made me think of it, what made me repost it?  Again I have seen nastiness online, again I have seen vitriol at other parents, this time not so public, this time of the bullying, insidious and cowardly nature, and it has made me inordinately sad.

So here we go…

A few weeks ago I came to realization.  It was one that required quite a bit of growth and one that flew under the radar until I was prepared to see it.  When it hit me I shared it with the online community:

“I’ve come to the realization that Attachment Parenting is not really just about parenting, it is about Attachment Living. As I have embraced attachment I feel more deeply connected to my husband, other people, indeed the environment. It’s all about respect, love, and treating others how you would like to be treated. All of a sudden your heart is that much bigger than it was before. This is about becoming attached, simply, no need to say parenting, it is about being with ♥”

This post is about being “with” and being with even when you wish to be “without”.  It is about how to be “with” when everyone around you seems to be railing against you.

With Attachment Parenting we talk about how we have to love our children, no matter their behavior.  We talk all the time about ‘unconditional love’ and how that is the BEST way to raise our children.  Indeed there is a very popular Swedish Proverb that specifies exactly this:
Love me when I least deserve it because that is when I really need it

So what did I see this week?  What did I see sprawled across Facebook pages, across websites, blogs, newspapers and even television?   I saw hatred.  I saw plain unadulterated hatred spewed forth by parents on Facebook pages, everywhere, parents sniping at each other, name calling, refusal to see points of views, plenty of people suffering from “I am right, so there”.  I even saw people calling others “nazis”.  What saddened me even further is that I saw this behavior from both “sides” of the fence.  And, I haltingly confess that I fell prey to it as well.  I called someone some not very nice names, I got worked up, all het up, and I let forth my fury, not to the person, just about the person.  Admittedly this was in a private online group, but still, I got het up in a way that made me feel ashamed.  Fortunately someone called me up on it, and they were right.  I should not have responded like that.  I own my reaction, but I need to choose how to respond.

How would we explain ourselves to our children if they saw what we were doing?  How would you explain it in the future if they were somehow able to pull your entire Facebook file as a memory and then saw you spewing forth such vitriol towards other people?  Would they wonder?  Ok, so they might think, Mummy or Daddy got a bit angry and carried away and forgive you for it.  I know I would to my parents, and have forgiven them for outbursts of anger.  But really?  I mean, how does it make you feel to think that your kids could see it?  Look at yourself through their eyes…

If we want an attachment parenting world, if we want our children to grow up in a world that is more peaceful than ours, we have to practice the principles of attachment parenting OUTSIDE the parenting dyad as WELL.  We have to love those people who are most unlovable, because in that moment, in that struggle to find empathy with someone who is totally doing your head in, springs forth the well of empathy.  Think.  What do they have to protect?  Why are they behaving this way?  What compels them to do so?  Can I find something to love here?  Can I be “with” them in this moment?

What if someone is arguing with you?  Particularly over parenting issues (very topical I know) and you get the sense that they think you are trying to make them feel guilty?  Bearing in mind of course that I don’t think anyone can make you feel guilty, and that you choose your own guilt.  What can you do??  I found this blog piece literally this week that I think has some answers about this, so I’m going to quote from it at length:

“So what should you do if you are accused of ‘making someone feel guilty’?

Firstly, I always take a breather from the situation, and look at the whole picture. I always ask myself the following questions:

– Do I know what I am saying is facts or opinions? – How does telling my friend about this ‘help’ them? – Could she be feeling anger at her situation?

If what you are saying is not research based but something someone else has told you, then tell them you will look into it more or tell them about the source of the information. Think deeply about what you are saying to them can it actually ‘help’ them? Is it worth telling a formula feeding mother the risks of formula feed ung unless she is pregnant or dishing out advice to pregnant women? Put yourself in her shoes, could she have just felt undermined and judged by what you have said? Let her rant and have her say. If you know what you are telling her to be true then use tactful, respectful phrases such as ‘I know this may be hard for you, I do not want you to feel bad but I think sharing this information could help you because…’ avoid statements such as ‘well its the truth!’ getting annoyed at their anger is not constructive, they need you to be supportive & accepting of their feelings. However, if they deliberately insult you (i.e. ‘oh look at the breastapo!’) then tell them you are offended and you are only trying to help.”

But what if you think that they are making YOU feel guilty?  How should you respond?  Again from the same blog:

“Again, stand back. Ask them questions: – Is there any research to back up what you are saying? – Where can I go to find out more? – Why are you telling me this? 

If they say what they are saying is opinion based or non-researched, suggest you talk about this another time when there are more facts, you can then research it yourself. If she is telling you something to help you then try your best to accept what she is saying, it may be hard, tell her you find it hard if that’s the case, confide in your feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, what have you but try not to shoot the messenger. She is probably finding the conversation hard enough without also being shouted at or called a liar. Obviously there are some Mums out there who do seem to revel in other peoples misery but life is nicer when we give people the benefit of the doubt.

If you find there is a particular person who seems to constantly undermine your parenting, that can be hard. Ask them why they parent the way they do, you never know, you may learn something and have more in common in the future. Parents can be passionate, I find the more informed a mother is, the more passionate she is. I know now, that at times my own passion has upset others, with knowledge needs to come tact and also acceptance in that some people just cannot be ‘helped’.”  

When you choose to respond in a way that respects them, and respect your feelings you choose to respond to a person in an attachment way.  You choose to respond in a way that reflects the society you want to see.  You have chosen to respect them, lessons which I am sure you are trying to teach your children.  You are choosing to love someone in their most unlovable moment.  You are truly living attachment parenting.  You are choosing to be “with”.

So, next time you see a blog, a comment, a feed, a whatever that winds you up, respond in an Attachment parenting way.  Imagine that that is your child talking to you, how would you respond?  Choose to see love, not hate, choose to be “with” that person for long enough so that the anger fades.  We can fight with love, we can fight with peace.  And in saying that, I will leave you with the words of the man who is eternally famous for this sort of fighting and being “with”:

Be the change you wish to see in the world

You have to be the change you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Ghandi