How Do You Wean A Baby?

To wean a baby means to stop breastfeeding. Once a baby no longer nurses at the breast and takes food and drink from other sources, he is said to be weaned. Some babies wean themselves as they lose interest in nursing. Others need to be coaxed into giving up breastfeeding.

Mothers and babies can feel emotional about nursing. The bond between a mother and a nursing baby is strong and intimate. This can make it difficult or even painful for one or the other to give up the nursing relationship. Mother and/or baby may not want to give up the closeness experienced while nursing. A mother may feel guilty to wean her baby because it feels like taking something away from baby that is very important.

Sometimes a mother has to give up breastfeeding due to health issues. A mother may need to give up nursing in order to undergo chemotherapy, for instance, because the drugs can cross over into the baby’s milk. A breastfeeding mother who becomes pregnant may have to wean baby because nursing is bringing on contractions in early pregnancy and may bring on a miscarriage. In these cases, the process of weaning the baby may need to be immediate or sudden. This is especially painful for mother and baby. Baby doesn’t understand why all of a sudden he cannot nurse and mother feels terrible she cannot give baby what he wants most.

Most of the time, however, weaning is a choice. It means that baby no longer needs breast milk or so much physical contact. Instead, baby is growing up and becoming independent. In this sense, to wean a baby is like a lot of other parenting tasks—it’s about easing children out into the world and helping them not need their parents so much.

When you wean your baby, it’s important to find other ways to be close and cuddly. When you were nursing, breastfeeding was the way you soothed your baby’s hurts. Now, when baby gets a booboo, you might want to hold and rock him, or offer to read a book to him.

If the baby is begging to breastfeed, don’t get upset. Just be polite and firmly say no. It may help to have a spouse or partner take baby into another room to settle down. Baby only expects breastfeeding from you.

When to Wean

It can be difficult to know when to wean. A mother can feel guilty about wanting to wean if her baby is still quite young. She may feel cultural pressure to wean if her baby is older. The pressure to stop breastfeeding may even take the form of disapproval from friends, family, or strangers. And sometimes, pressure to wean may even come from a spouse who feels that enough is enough. All things considered, when deciding to wean the baby, remember that it is your body and your time. That means that when to wean the baby is ultimately your decision and your decision alone.

There are health and other benefits to nursing. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that moms breastfeed with no other food or drink for the first six months, and then to continue breastfeeding in combination with other food and drink for at least another six months, until the baby is one year old. The AAP suggests that at this point, breastfeeding can go on for as long as desired by mother and baby.

Wean Baby Gradually

Following the AAP guidelines means that the way you wean your baby will be a gradual process. At first, you’re nursing the baby fulltime. Then, you’re adding food, little by little. By the time baby is six months, he can start drinking from a cup. All of these practices are slowly teaching your baby to live without breastfeeding. Because the process of ending the breastfeeding relationship is gradual, it is more natural and may not have to be traumatic.

Some babies lose interest in the breast as they become more interested in real food and begin to cut teeth, somewhere between 6 to 9 months. Babies this age can hold their heads up without help and can sit (with support, if necessary). They no longer have the infant’s tongue-thrust reflex of sticking the tongue out when the lips are touched. They’re of the age when solid food becomes much more interesting than breast milk.

As for teething, babies getting ready to cut teeth may turn away from breastfeeding, as sucking on the breast can irritate their already aching gums. Toddlers, meantime, may want to stop breastfeeding because they are on the go. They don’t want to stop exploring the world long enough to hold still for a feeding. Whether cutting teeth or wanting to explore, babies this age may get downright cranky when you try to breastfeed them.

If you want to continue to nurse a baby or toddler who is losing interest in breastfeeding, keep offering the breast when convenient to do so. Babies will usually be glad to continue. Some mothers, however, will be glad to accept the baby’s preference to stop nursing, since this means weaning without baby tears or trauma. According to the AAP, most babies are weaned between the ages of 4-7 months.

Baby’s Choice to Wean

If the baby seems impatient to finish feeding or gets distracted often while feeding, these are signs the baby may be ready to wean. Some babies climb up on a mother’s lap to feed only to fight to get back down after a half-hearted suck or two or three. Other babies want to stop feeding to look toward every noise they hear. They’re too busy to nurse with their full attention. This is a good time to say goodbye to nursing for good.

If you decide to go ahead and wean the baby with a baby who is losing interest in nursing, try using the “don’t offer-don’t refuse” method. That means that unless the baby asks to breastfeed, you don’t offer the breast. This is a nice way to wean for both mother and baby because baby-led weaning means no baby tears to contend with. Much less stressful for everyone!

Mother’s Choice to Wean

Sometimes a mother wants to wean because she’s going back to work and it’s more convenient to wean than to pump milk. Or perhaps she’s tired of being tied to the baby all the time and wants her freedom from nursing. The nursing relationship can feel restrictive or otherwise unpleasant for some women and it’s legitimate for a mother to want out of the nursing relationship for these reasons. In some cases, a mother just feels it’s time to wean. That’s just fine.

No matter the reason you decide to wean your baby, it’s best to do it as a gradual process. By cutting back gradually, you spare the baby the trauma of suddenly stopping a favorite and most comforting activity. In addition to making it easier on the baby, weaning the baby gradually prevents trauma to the breasts. Sudden weaning can cause the breasts to become engorged, and/or plugged milk ducts, which can lead to breast infections.

How to Wean

Once you’ve decided to wean your baby, try skipping a feeding. Instead, depending on the baby’s age, you can offer her a cup of water, juice, or milk. A baby of nine months should certainly be weaned to a cup. There’s no reason to wean a baby this age to a bottle, which may end up affecting the baby’s teeth and bite.

The baby may seem upset to be put off from nursing. Talk her through the experience gently. Praise her attempts to drink from the cup and encourage her to enjoy the experience. Hug her and smile at her. Sing a song.

After a few days or a week, skip a second feeding. By letting some time go by as you cut back on feedings, you’re letting your milk supply adjust to a reduced demand. This is smart and will help you avoid a painful case of mastitis.

For many mothers and babies, the most difficult feeding to eliminate is the bedtime feeding. For other mothers, it’s a long, lazy Sunday feeding. It can be upsetting to give up the feeding that is most beloved. Soothe baby by rocking and cuddling. Read a book together, sing a song. It won’t be the same as nursing, but when baby sees you are determined, she will have no choice but to accept your offerings.

In addition to cutting back on feedings, you can also try cutting nursing time short. Does your baby nurse for ten minutes? Try getting her to stop after five minutes. Have something ready to offer the older baby instead, such as a cup of applesauce or a chunk of banana. The younger baby can be offered a bottle of formula.

If the baby won’t take a bottle from you, try offering the bottle in a different position or location that the baby doesn’t associate with nursing. Still won’t take the bottle? Have a spouse or other family member offer the bottle while you go into a different room, out of baby’s sight.

Another way to be out of sight? Spend a weekend away from baby. When you return, you may find that nursing will no longer be so interesting to your baby. She may ask to nurse but not insist.

Delay and Distract

Once you’re down to just two or three feedings a day you can try pushing off feedings. This works well with toddlers. The toddler will ask to nurse. Say, “Not now. Soon,” and offer some fun activity. If it’s early evening, you can tell the baby that you’ll nurse her at bedtime.

It’s a good idea to wear something that makes nursing difficult, such as a dress that zips up the back. That makes it impossible for your child to, for instance, lift up your blouse to nurse. Older babies will understand if you tell them that it’s too difficult to nurse because of what you’re wearing.

If you become engorged at any time during the weaning, you can offer the breast to the baby for just enough time to relieve the too-full feeling. Or you can pump and use the milk in the baby’s cereal. Ice packs or over-the-counter painkillers can be helpful in treating any discomfort from weaning.

Weaning’s Too Hard?

So let’s say you’ve tried to cut down on feedings, reduce the amount of time spent at the breast at feedings, and have attempted to delay and distract, but baby is still a crying, red-faced mess—what should you do? You may want to consider that it’s just not the right time to wean your baby. Wait a few days or weeks and try again.

Or maybe your baby is fussy for another reason:

  • Have you just moved? Just returned to work? It may be your baby needs more time to adjust to a new place or to her caregivers and her situation in general.
  • It may be your baby isn’t feeling well. Babies want to nurse more often when they’re ill. It never hurts to bring your baby to the doctor for a checkup.
  • Some babies are frustrated as they approach a milestone, such as learning to walk. You may want to give the weaning a break until your child gets over her developmental “hump.”

If you’re going through some sort of trauma, such as a divorce, or a death in the family, your baby may be feeling your stress. It’s probably not the best time to wean, if you can help it.

The thing is? In most cases, you don’t have to wean your baby right away and can always try again in another month. Don’t be disheartened. So this time it didn’t work out. But it will in future. When the time is right.

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Talking to Kids About the Orlando Pulse Massacre

Talking to kids about the Orlando Pulse Massacre—and yes, that’s what I call it, a massacre—is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to do. And talk about it, you will. You’ll have no choice. Because it’s been plastered all over the news. It’s what people are talking about. Unless you blindfold your child and stick earplugs in his/her ears, there’s no getting around it.

Why don’t we want to talk about the Orlando Pulse Massacre with our kids? Let me count the ways. For one thing: there’s the problem of intolerance. We don’t want to teach our children to be bigots, and Radical Islamic terror is at the heart of what happened in Orlando.

Then there’s the fact that it, the Orlando Pulse Massacre, happened in a gay bar. The murderer, Omar Mateen, purposely targeted homosexuals. At what age do we want to speak with our children about matters sexual? How much do we need tell them? Do we use euphemisms, talking about love when we really mean “sexual preference?”

Orlando Pulse Massacre: Innocent Victims

And of course, there’s the violence: the brutal murder of innocent people, just out having a good time, by someone who didn’t know them. Someone who didn’t know, for instance, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, there to celebrate her victory over cancer and to support her openly gay son, and who ended up shielding him from gunfire with her own body. How do we explain how someone brave and nurturing like that, a mom, gets shot to death in a case of mistaken identity?

How does God and/or society allow something like that to happen to a mom?

How do we explain violence and evil? How do we explain the pros and cons of gun control in a fair manner, so they can learn to use their critical thinking skills? How do we discuss a passionate issue with both compassion and logic?

These are just some of the challenges we have as parents when we begin to talk about Orlando. (Remember when “Orlando” was just a reference to a fun time at an amusement park?)

The most important piece of advice I have for parents is to let your children be your guide. Listen to their questions. Answer their questions with honesty, giving them the facts they’ve requested and no more. Your children’s questions tell you what they are ready to hear. In fact, they may want to hear more than you feel comfortable discussing. Nonetheless, a child’s questions are your best guide in choosing what to share and what to keep to yourself.

If that question and your response bring further questions, continue to provide factual information, keeping your responses to the point. The point being to answer the question and not give a long, drawn out lecture. Keep it short and sweet. If they want to know more, they’ll ask, but only so long as you prove to them you’re not going to drown them in data or tell them things they’re not ready to hear.

What does it mean to give factual information? It means that if your child asks why the murderer did what he did, you tell them the truth: Omar Mateen believed in killing those who were different from him in some way.

Because that is the truth.

If your child then asks why Mateen believed as he did, you can add a fact: Omar Mateen believed that God wanted him to kill people who were different from him.

The next why can be answered with, “Some Muslims believe that they are supposed to kill people different from them.”

The next probably question will be: “Do all Muslims believe this?” to which you can truthfully answer, “No.” (For more about discussing Islam with children, see:

At some point, your values system may dictate how the conversation goes, and that’s fine. But remember to preface any statement of belief with, “I believe that,” or “I feel that” or “Our religion says  such and such.”

There may be gaps between questions as your child thinks things over. Be ready for questions to come out of the blue. And always serve the truth straight up.

If you sense your child is distressed, try to offer your child an outlet for his/her feelings. For instance, ask the child how s/he feels. If it is difficult for your child to express emotions, give the child paper and crayons and let them draw how they feel. Then look at the picture together and let your child explain what the drawing is about. Try not to freak if there’s blood or violence in your child’s drawing. It’s there because your child is upset about that, about the blood and violence that are part and parcel of the Orlando Pulse Massacre.

If your child has trouble sleeping at night or has his or her sleep disturbed by nightmares, try to include some calming rituals before bedtime to soothe your child’s troubled thoughts. A warm bath scented with chamomile flowers, some soft music, a cuddle: all these things are very concrete ways to help your child find comfort and a way to sweeter dreams.

As part of your conversation about the Orlando Pulse Massacre, you’ll want to discuss how to prevent such a thing from ever happening. You may also want to help your child do something kind to counteract the cruelty. Perhaps your child could write a letter to the survivors and remaining family members, expressing condolences. You might suggest your child might give charity, or do an act of kindness for a neighbor, and dedicate these acts to the memory of the victims. There are many creative and proactive ways your child can memorialize the massacre and this can’t help but be healing, both for your child, and for the world at large.

If your child remains disturbed about the Orlando Pulse Massacre for a lengthy period of time, or continues to ask questions every day, often, remember that grief and loss have no set time frame or expiration date. People need to wrestle with things for as long as they need to wrestle with things, and children are no exception for the rule. It’s all a process and it’s how we arrive at acceptance.

As parents, we might wish this subject would go away. But we don’t always get what we wish for. This is one of those times that parenting just really seems to suck eggs. Because we feel like we’re destroying our children’s’ innocence, like we’re robbing them of their childhood.

But actually, that would be Omar Mateen doing that to them.

In fact, when your children grow up, they’re going to remember how you helped them understand the Orlando Pulse Massacre, forthrightly, but with compassion. They are going to love you so much for getting it right. Because it’s times like this that build your legacy as a parent. Times like the Orlando Pulse Massacre.

What kinds of questions has your child asked regarding the Orlando Pulse Massacre. How have you answered your child’s questions? What have you done to soothe your child’s fears and concerns?

Yellow Babies? What’s Up With That??

Yellow babies are babies with jaundice. Jaundice occurs when a baby has too much bilirubin. As bilirubin builds up inside the baby’s body, the baby’s skin and even the whites of his or her eyes may turn yellow. A new mother may notice her baby’s skin is yellow in color around two or three days after the birth.

Yellow babies are common, as jaundice affects around 60% of full term newborns. Babies born early are even more likely to get jaundice as are babies who are sick. Most of the time, yellow babies are healthy and the jaundice goes away after a week or so.

Unless the level of bilirubin is very high, the yellow color is normal and the baby will be just fine. Some yellow babies will need treatment. The main treatment for jaundice is phototherapy (light therapy), in which the baby is placed under bright lights.

Yellow Babies: How It Happens

Our bodies are making and breaking down red blood cells all the time. This happens in babies, too. The hemoglobin in red blood cells, for instance, is broken down into different waste chemicals. One of those chemicals is bilirubin.

Before the baby is born, the placenta carries the bilirubin out of the baby’s body and into the mother’s blood. The mother’s body handles the more difficult task of filtering this waste product and getting rid of it. But after the baby is born, the newborn’s liver must suddenly take on this task. The baby’s liver may not be quite mature enough to handle all that tough work.

As a result, it takes more time to flush out the waste, and the bilirubin levels build up in the baby’s body. That is what causes the yellowing of the skin and eyes. In fact, all babies have a higher than usual bilirubin level for some days after birth. In a normal healthy baby, this is not cause for concern, and there may not be any noticeable change in color. Even where there is yellowing of the skin/eyes, the level of bilirubin may not be high enough to worry about.

If the baby has a lot of bruising, from a rough birth, for instance, there may be a high number of damaged red blood cells. These blood cells need to be broken down in order to clear the way for new red blood cells. As the blood cells are broken down, the baby’s bilirubin levels can climb.

Yellow Babies And Breastfeeding

Some yellow babies, around 5% of them, are breastfed babies. These babies can have a mild jaundice that is persistent, and takes a few weeks to clear up. It is thought that a protein in breast milk may cause bilirubin levels to remain high, though not so high as to harm the baby.  Also, a mother’s milk takes a few days come in. During this time, the baby may not be getting enough calories and fluid to flush out the bilirubin as quickly as usual. This too, can cause bilirubin levels to stay high, though not high enough for concern.

Other Causes Of Jaundice

Premature babies and babies sick for one reason or another, for instance, infection, may also have higher than usual levels of bilirubin. Yellow babies may also be the result of babies with different blood groups than their mothers. The level of bilirubin is less important than the general health of the baby. A healthy, fully mature baby with a higher level of bilirubin may do just fine, while an early or ill baby may develop further health issues.

In addition to the yellow coloring of their skin and sometimes eyes, yellow babies may seem sleepier than usual and they may not want to feed much. Getting babies to feed often and long is important. Lots of liquid nutrition can often do the trick of bringing down the bilirubin levels with no need for any other treatment.

The bilirubin levels have to rise quite high to cause damage. But unchecked, very high bilirubin levels can affect the parts of the brain that control vision, hearing and movement (kernicterus).

Now that babies are sent home a day or two after birth, mothers need to be on the watch for jaundice. The yellowing first appears on the baby’s face and head. If the level of bilirubin rises, the yellowing will then show on the baby’s body. At very high levels, there will be yellowing on the baby’s palms and on the soles of his or her feet.

If you’re not sure your newborn baby is yellow, there’s an easy way to tell. Simply press the tip of your finger (gently!) on the tip of the baby’s nose or forehead. Watch as you lift your fingertip away. If the baby’s skin looks white, the baby is fine. If the skin appears yellow, call your baby’s doctor.

If the doctor agrees your baby may be jaundiced, a blood test will be done to see the level of bilirubin in the baby’s body. The doctor will decide whether the baby needs treatment depending on the level of bilirubin and the baby’s health. If the baby is full term and healthy, the doctor may decide to keep a watch on the baby and the baby’s bilirubin levels.

Most yellow babies won’t need treatment. Their livers will mature and learn to break up the bilirubin so it can be broken down and flushed out of the system through the gut. But in the event that the baby’s bilirubin levels continue to climb, phototherapy is an effective treatment.

In jaundice, some bilirubin is just beneath the skin. In response to light, the bilirubin can turn into a different chemical that is easier to clear out of the baby’s body. A baby may need phototherapy for a number of days. This type of therapy works well and is quite safe.

During phototherapy, the nude baby is placed in a bassinette under lights. The baby’s eyes are covered so the light won’t be uncomfortable. Nursing or feeding often is to be encouraged during this time. If you’re breastfeeding, aim to feed the baby between 8 and 12 times a day for several days.

Yellow babies will receive blood tests daily to measure bilirubin levels. This will tell the doctor when the baby can stop phototherapy, assuming the baby responds well and levels of bilirubin are falling. If bilirubin levels become very high, the baby may need a blood transfusion, perhaps from the mother. This almost never happens.

Doctors used to recommend that yellow babies spend time in the sun. Today, this is no longer done. Sun exposure can burn the baby’s delicate skin and the sun may overheat the baby. Phototherapy is much safer, more controlled.

Did you have a newborn with jaundice? What was your first thought when you saw the baby becoming yellow?

10 Ways to Keep Angry Mommy Away

Angry Mommy is the mommy you shouldn’t be, but sometimes you can’t help it. That is if you’re like most mothers. Kids push your limits when they’re small, because they’re testing their boundaries as independent people. Teenagers can mouth off and otherwise rebel and it can be very difficult to keep your parental cool.

But keep your cool, you must.

The reason? Part of being a parent is teaching children self-control. Mostly, parents do this by modeling self-control for their children (like by not getting angry in front of them).

The flipside of this? It’s when a parent loses his temper as a way to manage the child’s behavior. When that happens, it’s as if the parent is saying, “I’m out of control. I need you to behave so I can feel better.”

Angry Mommy = Damaged Psyches

In fact, experts have found that when parents express lots of anger in front of children, it can cause real damage to their psyches. Children who grow up around a lot of parental anger tend to be less caring for others,  more aggressive, and more likely to become depressed than kids from calmer homes. Kids from angry homes also tend to have  a poor academic showing.

If you think about it, losing it in front of a child means teaching that child to get angry whenever things don’t go as expected. It means teaching children not to adapt to situations, to the world they live in, but to become very angry instead. That’s according to Matthew McKay, Ph.D., a coauthor of When Anger Hurts Your Kids, a book that details a two-year study of 285 parents and their children and how anger affects them. “Anger has a way of undermining a kid’s ability to adapt to the world,” says McKay.

But parents are human and sometimes they are short on patience. Also, sometimes the things kids do can light a fuse. How can a parent keep it together?  Here are some practical suggestions for keeping your cool:

1) Imagine your child as a baby. Yes, really. When your teenager is being obnoxious, try to bring up a mental image of him as an adorable babbling baby with a mostly toothless grin. Your aim is to reconnect to that all-encompassing love you had for your infant. That memory should bring you out of Angry Mommy mode and back to your sweet loving self in no time. Back to your senses, which tell you that teenagers are definitely obnoxious and that this too, shall pass.

2) Leave the scene. When you feel anger coming on, it’s best to walk out of the room and calm yourself. Obviously, this isn’t going to work if you’re out and about with your 9 year-old at the mall. But if you’re home and you feel Angry Mommy about to play a visit, go into another room. It’s about regaining your calm and bringing you back to reality. Anger keeps you from thinking logically. Getting a break, some distance from the situation, can help reset the brain circuits.

3) Ask yourself what your child needs. When your child is driving you up the wall and you feel Angry Mommy coming on, try to think why your child is acting this way, instead of wondering why she’s doing this to you. Is she acting obnoxious because she’s worried about something? Is she tired, cold, hungry, dying of boredom? She’s got to be acting this way for a reason. Think if there is something you can do to help her out of it, (instead of freaking out).

4) Document your anger. Get a notebook and write in it. What time did you lose your temper? What made you lose your temper? You are watching for patterns. Once you know your Angry Mommy triggers, work to minimize them. For instance, if it’s having to nag the kids to take out the garbage, talk to the kids about it. Tell them how it makes you feel and see if together you can come up with a workable solution. In this way, you’re teaching kids to deal with issues in a constructive and positive way (as opposed to shrieking and cursing, for instance).

5) Keep private matters private. Married couples have conflicts. It’s a fact of life. Instead of getting angry in front of the kids, have the conversation in a private spot. If you’re too angry to resolve the issue calmly, walk away and discuss it later when you’re no longer hot with anger. At a time when the two of you are calm, figure out private signal that says, “Let’s discuss this later and not when the kids are around.”

6) Take a deep breath—several of them. This is the alternative to leaving the scene. Like when you’re in the car in a traffic jam and your child begins to whine, “I want to go home. I want to go hooooooome!” (Like you don’t??) Angry Mommy wants to lash out. But deep breathing can really make a difference. Keep on taking deep breaths until you know what to say and how to say it to your child in a calm voice.

7) Deal with it—the child’s behavior, that is. When your child is doing something she shouldn’t, for instance, grabs a toy out of another child’s hand, you may want to call out, “Give it back to her right now.”

Instead, think of your child’s behavior as presenting you with a chance to offer a lesson: a teachable moment. It may seem easier to yell, but it takes just as much effort to correct your child’s behavior. You’ll both feel better if instead of yelling, you explain why grabbing another child’s toy is wrong and then patiently encourage your child to give the toy back and apologize.

8) Lower your voice. When you feel like yelling, whisper instead. Or at least speak at a lower volume. Getting your voice under control is the first step in getting your Angry Mommy under control. Besides, when you speak softly, it forces your child to try harder to understand what you’re saying. You won’t have to scream to get her attention and make her listen. Instead, she’ll have to be quiet to hear you and is a lot more likely to grasp what it is you want from her, more quickly. You’ll both feel better.

9) Get organized. Kids need regular meals and enough sleep just like you. When they don’t get what they need, when they need it, they get cranky. And when they get cranky, it grates on your nerves and makes it hard for you to stay calm. That’s when Angry Mommy threatens to make an appearance. Just making sure your child is fed on time and regularly gets enough sleep will keep you on an even keel. So if your child is cranky a lot of time, look at the way you’re organizing her environment, and see if there’s room for improvement.

10) Slow down and remember that this is what kids do. Kids are going to rebel and test your limits. Because that is what kids do. Part of raising kids to be kind and effective adults is to remember this, whenever we feel like angry steam is about to erupt from our noses and ears. We knew this when we decided to have kids: that sometimes kids misbehave and how we respond makes a difference to how they will be as adults and then parents themselves. If you can get a grip on your anger long enough to remember this, then you should be able to give Angry Mommy a forceful push away as you come back to yourself, Calm, Patient Mommy.

So let’s say that in spite of reading this (and sticking it to your fridge with a magnet for future reference), you got angry at your child. It’s natural to feel as though you failed. You may even feel like shifting the blame to your child: “If you hadn’t done that/acted like that, I wouldn’t have lost it.”

Don’t do that. Do not be that person. Instead, take responsibility for your loss of control. Tell your child in a matter of fact tone how you feel. “Your poor behavior is a disappointment. But it was wrong for me to yell. I’m sorry about that.”

Move On

And then move on. Don’t make this a big deal. If you do, you are giving your child entirely too much power. By the same token, if you continue to dwell on your child’s behavior, she’ll get the point: it’s all her fault you lost it. Not the message you want her to receive. In fact, what you’re trying to show her is that our behavior is in our own hands.

We are all responsible for our own behavior.

Including Angry Mommy.


Body Language Lessons: 4 Most Misread Toddler Signals

Body Language Lessons: 4 Most Misread Toddler Signals
Body language could fill in the gaps between what your toddler says and what you actually understand. That is if you understood his body language any better than you understand his attempts at speech. Beyond “NO,” that is—everyone knows what that means.

Okay, sure. You understand your child’s speech better than most. But you sure do spend a lot of time guessing and guessing again, what it is your child wants. And your toddler spends a lot of time acting out his frustration. Because dang it’s frustrating! He knows what he wants—why don’t YOU?

By the age of two years, most children have about 200 words at their disposal. That sounds like a decent amount of vocabulary until you consider that they only use about 50 of those words on a regular basis. When those 50 words fail to cover a given situation, you stare desperately at your child, trying to read his body language, trying head off the meltdown you just know is coming if you can’t figure it out.

It’s not easy for either of you. Unlike your toddler, however, you can read words. Which means you can read this article and learn about four common toddler body language signals you think you understand and what they actually mean. Learning how to interpret these four major body language signals is going to help ease your child’s frustration as much as it eases your own, leaving your home a calmer, more peaceful space for everyone.

Toddler Body Language Lesson #1

Crossed Arms

The scenario: You bought your child this funny windup toy. You wind it up and it’s going across the room. You’re sure your child is going to love this thing. But he just stands there with his arms folded across his chest.

You think: “Ugh. He doesn’t like it. And I was so sure he would!”

What it actually means: “This toy makes me nervous. It moves and makes noise. I’m not used to that.”

The crossed arms body language shows you your child feels uneasy about this unfamiliar toy. He doesn’t know how to say, “I am uncomfortable being so close to this scary toy.”

Since he doesn’t know how to say this with words, he uses body language instead. He crosses his arms over his chest to shield himself and create distance.

How to handle it: Your toddler may just need some time to get familiar with the idea of this new toy. Don’t push it, but instead, leave him alone for now and let him play with something else. Later on, once he’s forgotten about the toy and it’s no longer a threat, you can sit down and play with it yourself, without saying anything. Let him see that you are comfortable with this toy, that you don’t feel threatened by it. You see the toy as fun and interesting.

Signaling your casual response to this toy through your own body language,  may help your child overcome his worry and fear. Once he sees you’re not afraid, his natural curiosity will kick in and allow him to explore this new plaything. In the end, it may be that all he needed was a bit of distance, time, and encouragement to enjoy the lovely gift you bought him.

Toddler Body Language Lesson #2

Pulls Shirt Over Head

The scenario: Your college roommate comes to stay with you for the weekend. You can’t wait to show off your little girl. But the minute she sees your old roomie, your child pulls her shirt up over her head.

You think: “She doesn’t want to see my old friend. Her body language shows she’s taken an automatic dislike to her.”

What it actually means: “I don’t want this new smiling person to see me.”

How to handle it: This is a confusing situation for your toddler. Here is a new person she’s never met, smiling at her as if she knows her. It’s overwhelming.

You can defuse the situation by giving your child her space and making light of her behavior. “You don’t want to say ‘hi’ right now? That’s okay. Maybe you’ll say ‘hi’ later on.”

It’s important not to put a label on your child’s behavior, even as a way to make your friend feel better. For instance, you don’t want to say, “She’s just being shy. She’ll come around.”

That would be putting ideas into your child’s head when all she might need is some time to sort out her thoughts and get comfortable with the idea of this new person you like so much.

What you can do is let your child see you and your roomie enjoying each others’ company as you play catch-up. Let your daughter see the two of you rehashing old times and laughing. She’s watching your body language, too. Eventually, she’ll come around when her curiosity gets the better of her, and when that happens, don’t make a fuss over her, but just act naturally glad to have her there with the two of you.

Toddler Body Language Lesson #3

Avoids Eye Contact

The scenario: You’re in the kitchen preparing supper, and your toddler is in the next room playing. You become aware that he’s a little too quiet. Suspicious, you come into the room to check on him but he won’t meet your eyes.

You think: “Uh oh, that body language sure does look sneaky! What is he trying to hide from me?”

What it actually means: “I did something wrong. I feel so bad about it, Mommy.”

How to handle it: Your child isn’t being sneaky, he’s experiencing remorse, shame. He did something he wishes he hadn’t. He is developing a conscience, and that’s a good thing.

It’s natural for you to wonder what it is he did but you don’t want to make a big deal of it. He feels bad enough already. It may have been something pretty innocent. Perhaps he fed the dog his peas under the table. He knows he shouldn’t do that, but really, it’s not the end of the world, from your standpoint.

What you want to do is show him your unconditional love. If you know what he did, you can say it in words, remind him it’s a no-no, and tell him not to do it next time around. If you have no clue what he did, you can simply say, “I know that something happened and I want you to know that I love you even so.”

Being kind and understanding and positive will encourage your child to be truthful with you. He sees you’re not angry. That will make him feel confident that he can tell you all sorts of things and you’ll still love him no matter what.

Toddler Body Language Lesson #3

Pushes You/Runs Away From You

The scenario: You walk over to your toddler daughter to play with her but she pushes you away or runs away from you.

You think: “Wow. She used to drive me crazy, clinging to me. Now she can’t seem to get far enough away from me.”

What it actually means: “I’m a  big girl! I can play by myself.”

Your daughter is becoming independent. Her body language is signaling to you that for her, the world is no longer this big scary place, but a place that is interesting, and cool, and fun to explore. She still loves and needs you, but feels secure enough to check things out on her own. Her moving away or even pushing you is a good sign, a healthy one, that shows she is growing and developing right on schedule.

How to handle it: Remember that it’s not about you—it’s not personal. Know that she still needs you for many things and loves you very much. Try not to interfere with her activities. If she wants to watch ants carrying a big twig, or chase a butterfly, give her the space to do so on her own. Unless she’s doing something unsafe, like trying to pick up a broken piece of glass, let her learn about the world on  her own, at her own pace. But be on standby for when your child is tired or in need of reassurance. That’s when she’ll call, “Mommy, Mommy!” and run into your waiting arms for comfort and love.

Lists, Lists, Can We Talk Lists? The Art That Strengthens Memory

Lists are an organized person’s best friend. The act of setting down in writing what you need to buy at the store, or get done in your home, helps you cement these tasks in your mind. That means that even if you then forget to bring your list with you, you’re going to remember that you wrote “chocolate milk” on your list, when perusing the dairy aisle.

But lists aren’t just for moms. I found that out by accident. Or rather, my kids figured it out and had to explain it to me.

So lists. I’m big on them. Big on writing lists to manage tasks in my large family home. Even with many of my children grown and heading up households of their own, I still resort to making lists on a regular basis.

I make all kinds of lists. I make shopping lists and to-do lists, of course, but I have also been known to type out the menu for a holiday meal and stick it on the fridge. It helps me remember to serve all the courses I’ve slaved over preparing!

So back to the list revelation inspired by my children. There I was, doing my Passover-cleaning. The closest thing that describes cleaning for Passover in the orthodox Jewish home is “Spring-cleaning” but it’s so much more intense than that, and it’s all got to be done before the prescribed time. You need help from every able-bodied family member to make it work. So of course, I enlisted the help of my children. Even a very young child can help clean, given age-appropriate tasks (washing toys in the bathtub, for instance, is great fun and a big help).

But at a certain age, kids balk. It’s not that my kids weren’t willing to help. Jewish schools usually go into Spring break a bit early so teachers and students can do their part to make the holiday happen. But kids rightly deserve a bit of fun during their break. And just when they thought they were done with their tasks, I’d think up another age-appropriate chore to assign.

Finally, my kids had a brainstorm. “Write a list. Put everything you want us to do on a list and we’ll do it. All of it”

So I did it. I made lists for them. It took a little bit of time and forethought, but once their tasks were all laid out there in black and white, things went a lot smoother in my home.

There was no arguing. No exasperation when going from one task to the next. There was a list. It had a beginning and an end—it was finite. The kids had only to go from top to bottom to be done.

The kids themselves discussed which sibling would do which task, and they seemed to enjoy crossing items off the list. It went so well that we did it every day of Passover cleaning. It went even further than that: my kids actually requested me to write up a list for their weekly Friday chores, too.

Can We Talk Lists?

So now that we talked about lists can we talk lists?

The thing is, the lists I created for my kids were more like tutorials than lists. Rather than simply say “clean your room” the list might begin with, “Sweep cobwebs from ceiling,” go on with, “Dust all pictures,” and finish up with, “wash floor.”

In essence, I was reminding my children of the order in which a room is to be cleaned. Gravity is a thing, I would have said to them if they hadn’t tuned me out one hundred times before. Dust falls. Clean from top to bottom.

But they’d stopped listening with their hearing ears. The list, on the other hand, didn’t preach or judge. It was just words on a sheet of paper. Words to tick off with the satisfying swipe of a pencil.

Meantime, I had a hunch my kids were absorbing the how-to, the general gist of how to clean, just by reading the items and going through the motions, each week. Plus, they were learning a lesson in organization. They would grow up to be list-writers and list-followers, organized adults like their mom.

And that would take things to a whole ‘nother level.

Because making a list is quite different than following one.

If you want to understand this, think back to when you were a student. Remember taking notes in class? The reason you did that, instead of just listening to the teacher, is because writing notes makes something happen in your head. Your brain is analyzing what you’ve heard, choosing the important parts, and writing them down. You’re filtering ideas: separating in your mind what is necessary to remember and then cementing it into your Long-Term Memory (LTM) through the act of writing it down.

It’s very different than sitting and passively listening to a lecture. Later, you might return home and want to tell your family what you learned, but your brain only remembers the most random data. It’s so much easier to give over what you’ve heard in a lecture or a class when you’ve written notes.

In fact, scientists researched this and found that most college students remember about 40 percent of the material heard in a lecture. Now note-taking does not increase memory—the students who took notes also remembered just 40 percent of the lecture. The difference lies in what was remembered.  The students who took notes remembered a higher number of key facts, whereas the students who only listened remembered random data that didn’t necessarily hold together very well.

Something happens when we write notes, and even before we write them. We have only a short amount of time to filter what we hear before we write it down. It is this filtering process that cements the key information in our minds, it’s what our brains do before we write and not so much the writing that makes that information stick. It is this that helps us recollect what is important, somewhere down the line.

The same is true of writing lists. As we write out a list, we are thinking out what it is we want to write and what order we’ll put them in when we set these thoughts down in writing. Later on, seeing the list and what we’ve written triggers a memory of what it is we’ve already decided to do.

In note-taking and in list-making we use the spatial part of our brain to make meaningful marks on paper, and we use the verbal part of our brain to come up with the words to write. We use all this to heighten the part of the brain that is memory. By enlisting different parts of the brain, we strengthen and reinforce the circuitry of our memory.

In fact, as we write notes or a list, we are also using the visual brain as we visualize what we write. To our brain, it’s as if we’ve actually done those things we’ve listed, or at least reviewed them. When it comes time to carrying out those tasks, we do them better because we’ve already visualized them, seen them in our mind’s eye.

Obviously, if you write a list for your child, your child won’t get all those benefits. He won’t be using his brain to filter information for later retrieval. He isn’t using the spatial part of his brain to write the words.  But he is learning that lists, and list-making are important for setting about tasks in a calm and organized way. He is learning to be a list-maker and a note-taker. He knows it works to write things down and cross them out, point by point.

What you want to do at some point, is encourage your child to create his own to-do lists, based on the lists you’ve created for him. Maybe you’ll find the opportunity because you’re very busy and don’t have time to make a list for him at that moment. Maybe you can just say, “You know, I’ve written so many lists of tasks for you over the years, I bet you can write one on your own!”

Make it a goal. Praise his efforts. If he feels he’s done a good job, you may not even need to ask the next time around. In teaching your child the art of list-making, you are setting him up with a very important life skill—one he will always need and benefit from in the many years to come.

Oh, and speaking of lists, the Kars4Kids Smarter Parenting blog just made the cut to be included in a 60 Best Parenting Websites list, over at Message in a Bottle. Did we say we like lists?

Bonding With Baby: It Isn’t Always Instant

Bonding is the close attachment formed between parents and babies. This close feeling is nature’s way of making sure that parents develop an instinct to care for their young. It is bonding that guarantees babies will be nourished and kept safe and protected.

You may be a deep sleeper and deep sleepers are not awakened by noise. But parents who are well-bonded with their babies will hear them cry at 3 AM and rise to care for them. That’s even if those (exhausted and sleep-deprived) parents tend to be deep sleepers. Waking up in this case is the parental instinct kicking in, thanks to good bonding.

Sometimes bonding happens as soon as the baby is born. Sometimes bonding takes time. And sometimes, unfortunately, bonding fails to happen altogether. In fact, a study published in 2014, found that one in four children never form a strong bond with their parents. That’s a lot of children and parents that aren’t really making it.

And that’s a shame.

Bonding is important not just because it makes parents care for their infants. It’s important because bonding is what makes babies and children feel safe and secure. It gives them a good feeling about themselves. It makes them feel worthwhile as human beings, and not just needy little burdens and brats that don’t let their parents sleep.

The study mentioned above found that the 40% of babies who never experience bonding grow up to become aggressive, defiant adults with a tendency to hyperactivity. The same study found that 25% of those children failed to bond because their parents didn’t respond to their needs. In other words, just by responding to your baby’s needs, you are helping your baby to bond with you.

Remember that when you feel your energy flagging in the early days after birth.

Signs Of Bonding

How can you know if you’re bonding with your baby? Well, for one thing, if you look deep into your baby’s eyes and he or she looks back at you, you’re definitely bonding. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, your baby’s cries may cause your milk to let down. That’s a really good sign you’re bonding with your baby. And of course, if you hear your baby crying in the middle of the night, even when you are deep, deep asleep, it’s because you’ve done a great job of bonding with your baby.

But what if you aren’t really feeling the love? What if you don’t really feel that attachment to your new baby? What if your new baby somehow feels like a stranger to you?

Bonding Isn’t Always Instant

Again, it’s important to remember that bonding is not always instant. There are all sorts of things that can delay bonding. Moms that have babies via C-section can find it more difficult to bond with their babies. They don’t always get to see and hold their babies after birth and that makes a difference. Babies born prematurely may need to spend time in the intensive care unit away from their mothers. It may also take longer to bond with an adopted baby.

In all these cases, moms and babies can’t spend time skin-to-skin in the early days after birth, something that really helps make bonding happen. But even when baby is biological and the birth is uncomplicated and there’s plenty of skin-to-skin time, bonding can be delayed. Some mothers get the baby blues, and that can make bonding difficult. Other moms may feel so exhausted from giving birth that exhaustion gets in the way of bonding. A difficult birth may mean more pain in the days after the birth, and pain is a major factor in preventing early bonding between mommy and baby.

For the father, bonding can take longer because fathers don’t nurse their babies and don’t have the same natural, skin-to-skin closeness with baby. Not nursing the baby also means spending less time with the baby. Some parents opt to have daddy give the baby a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula just to give the father some equal time. Of course, while not the same as breastfeeding, fathers can change baby’s diaper, bathe baby, and spend time rocking, comforting, and singing to baby.

Bonding Difficulties—Some Factors

Here are some common issues that can make it difficult for parents to bond with baby:

  • Growing up without a good parental role model
  • Having a history of depression or other mental health issue
  • Losing a past pregnancy or child
  • A lack of family or friends for emotional support and postpartum help
  • Money troubles, being unemployed, having a stressful or difficult job
  • Marriage problems or abuse
  • Colicky baby

Bonding Tips

Here are seven things you can do to help you bond with your baby:

  1. Be with your baby as much as possible. Begin by asking the staff to let you room-in with your newborn.
  2. If your baby is in neonatal intensive care (NICU), visit your baby as often as you can. Ask the staff if you can hold and touch your baby. If you can’t, talk to and sing to your baby.
  3. Use a baby carrier or sling to keep your baby close to you whether you’re going about your chores or going out. Choose the carrier or sling over the stroller whenever you can. The more you keep your baby close to you, the easier it is to bond.
  4. Spend as much time as you can with your baby at home. Sing and talk to your baby, pat your baby, rock your baby in a rocking chair or in your arms. Voice and touch will help you and your baby to connect.
  5. Breastfeed your baby if you are able and feel good about doing so. Nothing creates so strong a bond between mother and child.
  6. Consider sleeping with your baby by your side. It’s called co-sleeping. Do some research on the subject and consult with your baby’s doctor. Some experts feel it isn’t safe. Some say it is both safe and beneficial in a variety of ways, as long as you do it correctly.
  7. Massage your baby gently, using a bit of olive oil or baby lotion. It’s great skin-to-skin contact. Massage can calm babies and ease colic, too. Massage has been found to help with postpartum depression, too.

Dads And Bonding

Dads have it harder bonding with their babies. Here are some ways to help foster father/baby bonding:

  • Start bonding before the birth by being with mom for doctor’s appointments and tests; by placing a hand on the mom’s belly to feel the baby move; and by imagining yourself as a dad.
  • Be there for labor and delivery and do what you can to help.
  • Once baby is home, be involved as much as possible by changing diapers, comforting and singing to baby, and maybe feeding baby a bottle at night so mom can sleep a bit more.
  • Wear the baby in a carrier or sling and take a walk together.

So let’s say a few weeks or maybe months have passed and your baby still seems a bit like a stranger to you. It is probably a good idea to speak to your baby’s doctor at this point. The doctor should be able to tell whether you need professional help or just more time and effort to get that connection going.

Bonding can happen all sorts of ways. It may be your heart feels so full the very second you lay eyes on your baby and the connection is immediate. Or it could be that three months into your relationship, baby cracks a smile for the first time and you feel that zing to the heart. And maybe you don’t call it “bonding” but “love.”

However it happens and whatever you call it, bonding is one of the best things we get to experience as human beings. There is simply nothing so wonderful as the feeling of connection to a new being. And nothing as powerfully important to your child’s wellbeing, from birth to adulthood.

What have you done to help bond with your infant? When did you realize you felt bonded to your baby? Have you ever experienced a delay in bonding? What helped you bond with your baby?

9 Working Moms Things You Can Do To Make Your Kids Feel Loved

9 Working Moms Things You Can Do To Make Your Kids Feel LovedWorking moms have the hardest job in the world. They’ve got to juggle work and home and children, when all three of these positions are fulltime jobs. Not only that, but they’ve got to make it all work somehow, be the perfect employee; have a clean and tidy home; and wind up with good-mannered children who pull down great grades.

It’s a bit much to ask. But somehow we manage, us working moms. Our homes are clean and orderly enough and we’re doing just fine at work, thank you. As for the kids, they’re okay, too. We just always worry and wonder if we’re doing enough. Some of us working moms feel a lot of guilt a lot of the time.

We worry we’re not showing our children that they are important in our lives. We want to make sure they feel secure and loved, even though our time with them is limited, because of our work responsibilities. And we do love them, oh so much.

Working Moms Need Life Hacks, Too

What we really need are some new ideas on how we can get that across: let our children know we love them and care about them. We need something along the line of those popular life hacks pages, a list of easy peasy things we can do to make our kids feel our presence, even when we can’t be there. Here then, is that list, the one you’ve all been waiting for:

  1. Enlist your child’s help. Asking your child to do an age-appropriate task will help your child feel like an important part of your life. For instance, you might tell your child how glad you would be if she could straighten her toys, make the salad for supper each day, or fill the dog’s water bowl. Make it a practice to notice when your child follows through and give her your heartfelt thanks for helping make the house run more smoothly. Your child will feel needed, special, an important cog in the wheel that makes your house a home.

2. Leave a love note in a strategic area. You can stick a note with a funny joke in your child’s lunch bag, or simply write, “I love you,” on a piece of paper, and put it inside the pocket of his jacket, for his hand to find, a total surprise! Put a note on his school uniform that says, “Wear me!” Get creative. This is a great way for you to be a fun and loving presence in your child’s life, even when you’re not physically present.

3. Bring your child with you when running errands. Part of being a working mom means that even when you’re not at work, you still have plenty of stuff to do, for instance, picking up the dry cleaning, or picking up a package at the post office. When it is at all possible to do so, take your child along with you for the ride. If you have more than one child, have them take turns. This can be good “alone time” for you and your child. Just having that short time together with you in the car can help make your child know you think he’s special: that you like spending time with him.

4. Develop a ritual. A ritual is anything you do on a regular basis that is specific to you and your family. For instance, you might go around the table at dinnertime and have each person tell you one funny thing that happened to them that day. Or perhaps you always say, “See you later, Alligator,” when you part in the morning, to which your child might respond, “After awhile, Crocodile.” Rituals can help you and your child feel connected and loved.

5. Schedule a monthly date. Working moms are incredibly organized and there’s no reason that can’t extend to spending time with your child. Look at your calendar and find a time you can designate and mother and child time. Do this once a month. It doesn’t have to be an all-day affair and it doesn’t have to be costly, either. It can be a half an hour walk, just the two of you.

6. Make a recording. Record yourself reading your child’s favorite bedtime story, or even just leave a bedtime message for your child (“Goodnight! Don’t let the bedbugs bite! I love you.”) You can do this with your smart phone. Encourage your child to leave you messages, too. It can be a contest between you to see who leaves the best messages. You can extend this idea to photos. Send a photo of you making a funny face, or a photo of something interesting you saw on the way to work.

7. Cook together on the weekends. Are you the kind of mom who plans out and preps dinners for the week, over the weekend? Why not bring your child into the kitchen to help you chop and stir and measure? Or bake something together: a special cake or a loaf of bread. Cooking together is a great way to bond.

8. Grocery shop together. The shopping doesn’t get done by itself. Might as well do it with your child. You can show your child how to pick the best tomatoes, and how to compare prices. You can end by getting ice cream together and make that a part of your regular shopping “date.” That helps make an errand something you’ll both look forward to, all week.

9. Carve out library time. Choose a time you can go together to the library and make it a weekly thing. You need to make sure you give your child enough time to browse and choose the books she wants. After you get her settled with her books, you can go and find a book or two for yourself. Making the library a part of your life as mother and child helps your child understand that reading books is a value for your family.

Making your child feel loved is all about making time: time to be together, time to do something for each other, time to think about each other, time to slow down and enjoy life, even if it’s just for the duration of a five-minute drive to the post office to pick up a package. And no one is better than a working mom at juggling time and making the most of it.

How do you make time for your child? What are your best tips for making your child feel especially loved and needed?

8 Keys For Co-Parenting Success After Divorce

Co-parenting following a divorce can be complex, frustrating and confusing. However, every day, parents around the world are coping with the challenges and raising happy, well-adjusted children. As founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network I’ve found there are many factors that can have a positive influence on your effectiveness as a co-parent. All of them begin from the inside out.

In this article, we review eight major keys to insuring a more successful co-parenting outcome for you and your children during, and long after, your divorce. Remember that co-parenting is a life-long endeavor. But when you master the skills suggested here, life will be better and more rewarding for everyone in the family. And that’s a goal worth attaining!

  1. Watch Your Attitude

Attitude plays a big part in the success of any child-centered divorce. If you approach your divorce with a commitment to making it as positive an experience as possible for the children you love, you are on your way to succeeding.

What attitudes are you conveying about your divorce? Try to catch your thoughts and the way you speak about the divorce. Are you filled with negativity? Are your days consumed with a “poor me” state of consciousness? Are you attracting and spending time with others who share these sentiments? If so, it’s time for an overhaul in your thinking and attitude.

A child-centered divorce is created over weeks, months, and years of attention to positive parenting. It’s never too late to start regardless of how long you have been divorced. The decisions you make today will affect the relationships within your family tomorrow and for decades to come. Co-parenting is a life-long experience. Why not approach it with a positive attitude for the sake of your children?

Co-Parenting Difficulties
Be positive for her sake.
  1. Evaluate Your Perceptions

The world is what we perceive it to be. Whether you believe your lot is good or bad—you will be right—and create an outcome to justify your belief.

If you perceive yourself to be a victim in your divorce, you will focus on evidence to prove that to be true.

If you instead take your divorce as a life experience to learn from, you will derive many benefits and value from the divorce, no matter how much pain is also involved. You will also accept responsibility for the part you played in the process and be more willing to contemplate new ways to live your life in the future that will bring more positive results.

Sadly, it’s through challenging experiences that we grow and learn the most from life. Are you discovering meaningful lessons for yourself? Are you role -modeling effective decision-making and cooperative co-parenting, despite the challenges you face?

  1. Look For The Gift

There are always lessons to be learned from painful experiences. If you perceive those lessons as “gifts” to you—wisdom and opportunities you will never have otherwise experienced—you can move on from your divorce a better, stronger, wiser person. There is always a gift to be received if you look for it.

Take your lessons to heart. Get support in making better decisions in the future. Know what to do and not do when dealing with new relationship issues. If you’ve learned from the past, be grateful for the gift of understanding so you don’t repeat old patterns and instead make smarter choices.

co-parenting issues
Make smarter choices so your child won’t feel torn in two.
  1. Be A Respectful Co-Parent

Moving on after divorce is but a small piece of the puzzle if you are a parent. Working through the challenges of creating successful communication with your ex is a goal that must be worked on continuously. Keep your children in mind before making any decisions related to their well-being and you will stay on course.

Because you and your former spouse will be parenting your children for many years—and decades—to come, it makes sense to start off on the best possible course. The first step is to develop a respectful co-parenting relationship with your ex. Remember that your ex is your child’s other parent, whom they love. Treat your former spouse with that level of awareness and dignity in all your communications and he or she will be more likely to return that same level of respect to you. Changes may not happen overnight. But with patience and persistence things can and will improve.

  1. Learn To Let Go

If you truly want to transform your life after divorce you must learn to let go of negative emotions that hold you hostage. Negative emotions include anger, resentment, blame, jealousy, hatred and anxiety. There is, of course, a time and place for experiencing those emotions. Feel them; mourn the dream that turned sour. Then make a decision to let them go. Do this for your benefit—not on behalf of your former spouse.

Negative emotions can hold you in limbo and suck the life out of you. When you experience negative emotions, you get stuck in a place that’s painful to experience and it makes you unpleasant to be around. For the sake of your children—if not for yourself—decide to let it all go. Be determined to move on.

It’s not always easy to do, but the contrast of living in your pain is not an easy place to be either. Which state would you prefer? Which state will give your kids the better opportunity to enjoy the innocence of their childhood?

When you’re stuck in emotional turmoil your children feel it and are helpless to change it. Reach out for professional support if you can’t release the anger, hurt, grief, and other emotions that hold you hostage in a doom and gloom mindset.

Successful Co-Parenting
Successful co-parenting looks like this.
  1. Practice Forgiveness

The big step after letting go of your negative emotions is learning to forgive. This begins with you. Forgive any mistakes you made related to your marriage or divorce. Forgive your poor choices, immaturity, or naiveté. Acknowledge yourself as someone who is open to personal growth, change, and transformation. Feel your worth and start doing things that express self-love.

Next take the big step of forgiving your ex. This does not mean condoning his or her actions or hurtful behavior. It means you are determined not to let them affect you any longer.

You are cutting the emotional chords that bind you and keep you from enjoying the new possibilities in your life. Behind forgiveness is freedom. Don’t you want to be free of the pain, hurt, insecurity, and rage that holds sway over you? Cut the chord and be free! It’s a gift to yourself and to your children as well!

  1. Make Time For Yourself!

One of the healthiest things you can do in creating a positive attitude is to make time for yourself! This is a choice that will pay off on many levels in your life. Think about reinventing yourself in new ways that excite you. Take a yoga, meditation, or exercise class. Pursue a new hobby. Volunteer at an animal shelter or hospital. Start a craft or business enterprise that excites you. Make time for strolls in nature, sports activities, watching your weight and diet. Treat yourself to a message or facial. Get a new hairstyle. Indulge when you can.

By nurturing yourself, you make it possible to give your children your total attention when you are with them. During and after divorce your kids need you more than ever. You can’t be there for them if you’re not there for yourself to renew your spirits. It’s all part of the child-centered divorce formula and it works if you play your part.

Do the best you can. Be the best parent and co-parent you can be. Take it day by day. If you need help, reach out for it without embarrassment or shame. You’re not alone. And the help you need is out there for you!

divorce and co-parenting
Don’t let the pain hold you hostage. Let go and be free.
  1. Handle Your Conflicts

Disagreements are inevitable between divorced parents from time to time. Develop good communication skills and you will minimize the damage that results.

When a conflict with your ex arises, be a good listener. Most disagreements come about from misunderstanding. Clarify what you heard to make sure that was the intention. Mistaken assumptions can cause hurt feelings.

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of paraphrasing what you think your ex said and ask for clarification. Apologize if you misunderstand or leave out something critical. Be understanding if your ex is the one to make the error. Try not to put your ex on the defensive or jump to negative conclusions.

Find a middle ground with which both of you can live. Take turns getting to “win” the debate or issue at hand. Agree to disagree if necessary. Learn to move on.

Try one of the co-parenting scheduling tools available online. They help reduce conflict, simplify communication and coordinate all co-parenting decisions and activities for a better, happier outcome. If talking on the phone results in frequent arguments, choose instead to put all communication in writing. The goal is to make co-parenting smoother, easier and more positive on both sides.

Your children will thank you when they’re grown.

Co-Parenting Bonus: Take The High Road

Dr. Phil often says, “Every relationship needs a hero.” Be the one who can step up and look beyond the ego gratification of being right or getting your way. Why? Because it’s in the best interest of your children for you to minimize conflict.

That doesn’t mean you become a doormat. Stand up for your values. If an occasional concession won’t harm your children’s overall wellbeing, consider whether you can let it go. It’s not about being “right.” It’s about being the best parent you can be for the kids you love.

If you must stand firm, do it without using “I told you so” putdowns. Make your points using “I” language and stating your feelings. Avoid “you” language that’s insulting or insensitive.

It takes a mature, aware adult to take the high road when a conflict is taking place. Be that person. Be the catalyst for behavior you can be proud of. In the future your children will remember who made them feel secure, protected and loved. They’ll acknowledge you for it.

Wait and see!

Divorced Parents: 5 Ways to Avoid Scarring Your Kids!

We were so intrigued by Rosalind Sedacca’s advice on positive parenting and divorce for a recent piece here on the Kars4Kids Educational Blog for Parents, that we asked her to elaborate on the subject in a guest post. To our great pleasure, she immediately accepted the challenge. We believe our readers will find this blog post both helpful and informative!

Divorced Parents: 5 Ways to Avoid Scarring Your Kids!

Let’s face it, divorce impacts everyone in the family. But it doesn’t have to scar your children if you remember to put their emotional and psychological needs first when making crucial decisions. Keep in mind that every decision you make regarding your divorce will affect the wellbeing of your children in a multitude of serious ways. Of course, the emotional scars are not only harder to see, they’re also much harder to erase.

Here are 5 ways to avoid scarring or wounding your kids as you move through your divorce and transition into your new life afterwards.

1. Emphasize that your kids are not at fault.

It is common for children to tend to blame themselves for divorce, no matter how bad Mom and Dad’s relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely this is so. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault for your divorce.

You can say something like: “Mom and Dad don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the issues are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child whom we both love.

“Sadly, Mom and Dad disagree about certain important issues — but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”

2. Put your attention on change — not on blame.

Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. Just don’t ever burden them with adult information and judgments.

Remind them instead that change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything in life keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

3. Keep from bad-mouthing your soon to be Ex.

When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent – regardless how justified you may feel in doing so – it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways. Children innately love both their parents and feel a connection to them. When you insult their other parent it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity and low self-esteem in your children.

Instead, remind them that Mom and Dad will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace Mom or Dad either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.”

Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.


4. Let your kids enjoy their childhood.

As tempting as it may be, never confide adult content, the down and dirty details of your marriage, to your children. They are not psychologically prepared to handle the emotional complexity. Many adults aren’t either.

Save your venting for trusted friends, a divorce counselor, or a support group.  Never ask your children to spy; to act as messengers between parents; or to provide inappropriate details about the other parent’s home life. Involving them in the nitty-gritty of your divorce pressures them in many ways – none of which are positive.

It is not your children’s place to assume adult responsibilities or to help you to find evidence against your ex. Let your kids be kids. Don’t rob them of their childhood.

5. Put yourself in your child’s shoes.

Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, think about the consequences for your children. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen year old. Ask yourself: what will they say to me about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce – or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make now will affect your children for years and decades to come. For their sake, take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.

What is Positive Parenting and Why is it Better than What Our Parents did?

What is “positive parenting” and why is it better than what our parents did? It’s what I’ve been wondering as the web fills up with parenting articles telling parents that positive parenting is the best and only way to parent. I can’t help but feel a little protective of my own parents: I think they did a good job. I came out all right. And anyway, what IS positive parenting, anyhoo?

Emphasis on Clear Parental Expectations

Is it just some frou-frou psychobabble term for being nice to your kids—or is it a firm and original style of parenting that merits a closer look? Is it something I should be doing with my own kids—or am I already doing it? “Positive parenting emphasizes the communication of clear parental expectations, collaboration between the parent and child, praise and reinforcement for desired behaviors, and the avoidance of harsh consequences such as physical punishment,” says Dr. Sarah Vinson an Atlanta-based psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine.

“Many ‘old fashioned’ parents used positive parenting techniques, too. It just may not have been packaged as such, yet.  Whenever parents help their children set goals, act as positive examples, support their children, they are relating to their child based on positive parenting principles,” says Vinson.

So, let’s say you’ve never done anything like this with your kids, is it too late to start now? Will positive parenting confuse them? Dr. Vinson admits that, “Like anything else, change is difficult,” but reassures parents that, “Those who are conscientious enough to use forums such as this to be better informed, are probably already practicing some aspects of positive parenting.”

By Anonymous (Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(By Anonymous (Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Lynette Louise, a mental health and parenting expert, suggests that the new positive parenting style isn’t only good for the child, but good for the parent, too. “Positive parenting [if] done correctly builds positive emotions and heightens self-esteem in parent and child, not just the child. One cannot look back at a different time and think that what was done then should be done now, only because it was done before. In many ways we could say that today’s challenges with violence and drug abuse are directly related to yesterday’s parenting. But whether that is true or not is irrelevant, since yesterday was a different world,” says Louise.

According to Stacey C. Brown, who counsels families at her private practice in Florida, positive parenting can preserve a grownup’s sanity. “Parents tend to get along with each other better if they are using positive parenting techniques. One parent doesn’t have to worry if the other parent is too heavy-handed or using negative strategies, so trust is higher, fun can be had and problems are looked at as opportunities.”

Jared Heathman, a Houston-based child psychiatrist, puts the emphasis in positive parenting back on the child. He says that positive parenting results in better conduct. “Using positive reinforcement and complimenting favorable behaviors can result in improved conduct. Children generally experience improved self-esteem and pleasure in receiving compliments. They will often repeat rewarding behaviors in an attempt to receive continued reinforcement.

“In contrast, children learn to tune-out repeated scolding as it is an unpleasant experience,” says Heathman.

Children As Unique Individuals

Some experts feel that positive parenting is important for what it says about children. Once upon a time, children were expected to be seen and not heard. This is no longer the case. “What’s loosely called ‘positive parenting’ is important because it’s opening up parents (and educators) to a new and true perspective on children. This ‘positive’ outlook views each child as a unique human being, just like mom or dad, with a drive toward developing his or her own individual personality and chosen success. Today more than ever success in life requires one to be independent and creative, not merely a copy of the traditions of the past,” says parenting coach and educator, Jesse McCarthy.

Is there a problem with positive parenting? Could all that praise backfire? According to John Sovec, a psychotherapist with a practice in Pasadena, CA, it’s crucial that praise be given only where indicated. “Praise needs to be held for true accomplishments. Many parents are feeding their kids a constant diet of praise for even the most mundane accomplishments and this affects the child’s ego structure. Rather than being able to self-regulate, these children can become grandiose, feeling that even their simplest actions deserve the highest praise and attention.”

WATCH: Teacher Chris Ulmer, 26, who teaches at Keystone Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, and spends ten minutes complimenting his classmates each day.

Not all the experts, however, are ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. “As a teacher of the ‘at risk’ population of Los Angeles for 25 years I’d have to say that positive parenting is important because it’s a different world than the agrarian, pre-industrial world of so many years past. Some old-fashioned parenting techniques may still work and are valid; while others, like severe corporal punishment and starvation (sending a child to bed without supper) would now be considered cruel or illegal. We teachers are no longer allowed to use old-fashioned techniques like corporal punishment, which used to be legal, so we have to use our wits and be more progressive in our approach,” says P. M. DeVuono MA Ed., Classroom Algebra and Life Skills teacher, blogger, and published author.

DeVuono has developed what he calls the Two Choices Technique which he says “builds trust, self-esteem, intrinsic self-discipline and eliminates many arguments.

“The trick is in wording what you want so that your kid is making their own choice between two alternatives of your selection. One of the choices should usually be unpleasant and quite possibly cause the child to lose face; the other choice (the one you really want) is a better choice that allows the child to save face.”

(By Giorgio Conrad (1827-1889). (scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
(By Giorgio Conrad (1827-1889). (scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
You could say, ‘Do it my way or else!’ But that takes away the child’s power and does not teach judgement. By skillful wording—putting the face-saving choice last when it was time for her to choose—your child gets to exercise judgement and be the big girl or boy.”

Hmmm. Interesting. But is that manipulative? Is it fair to the child? How does this approach jibe with the idea of really seeing your child as a unique human being rather than one made in the parents’ own image?

Holly LaBarbera believes that the main thing is not to use shame as a motivator, something that was probably part and parcel of the way parents used to parent. LaBarbera makes a distinction between shame and guilt as parenting techniques. “I think there are ways that ‘old fashioned parenting techniques’ work very well. It is important to set limits and expectations for children in order to help them feel safe and secure, understanding how the world works and that there are consistent things they can count on. Setting clear expectations and limits also helps teach personal responsibility. I fear that some of these things are getting a bit lost, although they are very important.

“One newer approach to parenting that is very different, and much better for child development, is moving away from using shame as a way to influence behavior. Shame is an intense feeling that you are not worthy of love, that there is something inherently wrong with you. Many parents unintentionally use shaming techniques when they say ‘what is wrong with you?’ or ‘how could you do that?’”

Shame Keeps Us Stuck

“When people feel shame, they are actually less likely to make changes in behavior; if they believe there is something wrong with them, that they are stupid or lazy or worthless, then no change in behavior will ever fix that. Guilt, on the other hand, can inspire change. Guilt focuses on a particular behavior, such as ‘you should not have hit your brother because you hurt him.’ When a person feels badly about what they did, yet they feel that they are a good and worthy person, they can change that behavior and do something differently next time. Guilt motivates change while shame keeps us stuck,” says LaBarbera, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Okay, so I’m getting shame=bad, guilt=good. What else? Well, if you listen to Sherlyn Pang Luedtke, one motivator that is definitely on the way out is fear. “My son’s 6th grade classmate started crying in class in anticipation of his parents yelling at him because he got a B,” says Luedtke, a parent educator, best-selling author, and Founder of Present Parent Training.


(By Jane Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
(By Jane Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
What about positive parenting after divorce? Are the considerations of divorced parents any different when it comes to parenting? Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, “The Voice of Child-Centered Divorce,” advises parents to, “Put yourself in your kids’ shoes and think about the insecurities, fears, anger and anxieties they are experiencing—which are different at different ages and stages—including teens and young adults. Consider that your children love and need both parents and when you put down, disparage or disrespect their other parent around your children you are hurting them and changing who they are.

“Don’t rob your kids of their childhood due to your divorce. Be compassionate, considerate and understanding of their feelings. Most important of all, be the role model they need and deserve. They’ll thank you when they are grown!” says Sedacca.

Role model? So is modeling behavior a part of positive parenting? Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC, confirms this idea. “Positive parenting is about not only teaching your kids but by showing them. The best way to have your children be kind and optimistic is if that is what they experience from you. For example if they hear you complain, they will learn to do the same.

“Increasing a sense of gratitude and building resiliency can help children to be more positive and focus on the good. Look for opportunities to bring up a more positive perspective on everyday events. For example if you see an ambulance go by you may want to say, ‘someone is being saved and helped right now,’ as opposed to, ‘someone is hurt or in trouble,’” says Maksimow, a therapist, coach, and author.

Nu, So What is Positive Parenting and Why is it Better than What Our Parents Did?

So does all this sound way complicated to you? Are you still not getting the difference between this positive parenting approach and regular old fashioned parenting? Barbara Harvey has a neat way of parsing the difference between these two styles. “Old fashioned parenting was based on telling children what to do and how. But not necessarily why. Positive Parenting focuses on training children not just on what and how, but also why,” says Harvey, Executive Director of Parents, Teachers, and Advocates, a parent development group in Atlanta, GA. “The real difference between the two is that old fashioned parenting is focused on parents controlling their children. Positive parenting focuses on parents training children to control themselves.”

Jamie D. Hartsfield, a licensed professional counselor in Suffolk, Virginia elaborates on the issue of control. “Positive parenting is crucial in establishing and maintaining a close parent-child relationship, built on trust and mutual respect. We know that our control over our children is really an illusion- and we’ve got to move beyond that so that we can influence their behavior and choices in a way that doesn’t break our relationship with them.

“Allowing or creating natural consequences for a child enables us to get on the same side as the child, and even have empathy for them as they’re reaping the consequences of their choices. It sets the bar higher than the old-fashioned ‘do as I say and ‘because I said so’ parenting techniques. Positive parenting is a way to effectively discipline our children while promoting close, trusting relationships!” says Hartsfield.

(William-Adolphe Bouguereau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Not everyone agrees that positive parenting is an improvement over the way our parents and parents’ parents parented. Tom Kersting, for instance, a New Jersey psychotherapist and parenting and relationship expert for Fox News. “I am a big advocate of old-school, positive parenting and it is something that I constantly promote on the national stage.  What I am seeing in today’s generation is an over-indulgence and coddling of our children.

“Many parents believe this is how to show love and support for our children but it is backfiring.  In the last year alone I have had more referrals of middle school age kids with anxiety disorders than the previous 15 years combined.”

But Lee Uehara at Pump Mama, disagrees. “Positive parenting is important to help children feel safe; be open-minded; and using positive directives, facilitates the focus on what you want them to do.”

Most of all, says Laurie Gray, founder and president of Socratic Parenting LLC, and the author of A Simple Guide to Socratic Parenting (Luminis Books / 2014), positive parenting tools yield more positive results over time, compared to old-fashioned techniques. Gray says the most common mistakes that parents still make are:

  1. Believing negative tools will result in positive long-term outcomes
  2. Basing their relationships with their children on control rather than connection
  3. Believing that they can be more successful in disciplining their children than they are at disciplining themselves

Tips! We’ve Got Tips!

Ready to dig in and get started on positive parenting your own children? Here are some tips from the experts:

Compliment the growing length of time between displays of negative behavior. “With children that have frequent problems, it may be difficult to find a behavior worthy of a compliment. In this case, consider complimenting the child when increasing periods of time pass without negative behaviors,” says Jared Heathman.

Catch your child being good. “Make it a point to catch your child being good. When you do, put just as much energy and effort into praising that behavior as you would criticizing or scolding for something you would not want the child to do,” says Sarah Vinson.

Include children in plans. “Create an environment in which children can thrive alongside their parents, e.g. include a toddler in making breakfast, have a teenager help plan the family vacation,” says Jesse McCarthy.

Listen to your child’s feelings and thoughts. “Listen to and acknowledge a child’s feelings and thoughts. For example, instead of blowing up on a ten year-old for failing a test, wait for him to share his own concerns (after all what human being, child or adult, enjoys failing?),” says McCarthy.

Set up rules with consequences. McCarthy suggests setting up rules that have natural and clear consequences. “For example, whereas with yesterday’s ‘punishment parenting’ dad might have just randomly spanked a child for not putting on his shoes, with today’s ‘positive parenting’ he would just remind his son that unfortunately they won’t be able to go to the park then, today.”

Work on challenges as a family. Sherlyn Pang Luedtke suggests regular family meetings to give “everyone a chance to speak and work through challenges together.”

For divorced parents: Always ask “Do I love my kids more than I hate or dislike my Ex?” “This will remind you that every decision impacts your children in ways that will affect them for months, and even years ahead,” says Rosalind Sedacca.

Point out the bright spots in a day. Cara Maksimow likes to do an exercise with kids called Fill Your BAG happy. “We identify bright spots during the day by spelling BAG and asking questions: B-What is the Best part of the day today? A-What did you Accomplish? G-What are you Grateful for? Use those as a starting point for a discussion on the good each night,” says Maksimow.

Hold your child accountable. “If your child gets a poor grade or gets in trouble, don’t bail him out or point the finger at the teacher or at someone else.  Instead, let your child deal with the consequences; this is the only way children can learn from their mistakes,” says Tom Kersting.

Focus on the goal. Lee Uehara says that implementing positive parenting is about focusing on what you want kids to do. “For example, not ‘Don’t Run!’ but rather, ‘Walk slowly down the aisles of this store,’” says Uehara.