For the days when nothing goes right…

I had big dreams for summer break! Four days in, I am spent.  My work from home job was going to allow this beautiful synchronous parenting/working situation.  I dreamt of waking up slowing with my kids, eating breakfast and welcoming a few hours of quiet and play while I worked with the help of an in-home “assistant” (read underpaid high school student).  We would have lunch time walks to the park, sit down meals and shared reading and writing activities.  I figured that a little help from friends/sitters/day camps would fill in the gaps when meetings called……Monday played out just as in my fantasy.  It was truly lovely.

THEN CAME TUESDAY.

Ipad limits were reached by 8:00 am because the girls got up too early.  We were out of my youngest’s favorite yogurt which initiated a one-hour meltdown.  Clothes needed to be washed, dishes to be done, the dog walked….and, oh, yes, I had a job to attend to as well.   Bad attitudes abounded, and “mean mommy” (see previous post) came out.  It was not a good day…Wednesday was not much better.

The reality is, there are going to be way more bad days than good days.  My role as a parent is not to create perfect days, it is not to be the vision of Instagram-worthy shares or to feel disappointment when my plans don’t unfold according to my dreams.  My calling (or vocation for my Lutheran friends) is to guide my children through the opposite, the meltdowns and frustrations, the tired cries and sibling arguments, the boredom and the unstructured dichotomy of the summer schedule.

I fail forward, I apologize for my yelling, rushing and frustration and a look at my children in the eyes and say “today was hard, tomorrow might be too, but you and I are on a team together to walk through even the hardest day”, and to celebrate the surprising Mondays that come, when they do.

EVERY DAY IS NOT A TUESDAY (or WEDS)

Special thanks to my friend for providing a mojito to go on Wednesday evening. 

Posted in Calibration, mom, motherhood, parenting, routines | Leave a comment

Coming out of Hibernation

It is March 13th and there is snow on the ground.  While this may be the norm in some years, this has been a strangely warm and mild winter in St. Louis, and I am totally thrown off.   The snow will be melted by the time the kids are home from school and by the end of the week, it should be back in the 60’s and Spring will again be upon us.

This strange seasonal transition is also a bit like this blog post, the first in almost 5 years.  When I started this blog, I was a mom of two young girls, dealing with diapers and tantrums, I was discovering myself as a parent who was balancing career with the needs of my children.  We were transitioning from our life in Texas to a temporary housing situation in St. Louis.  It was 2012 and I was totally thrown off.  By 2017, the haze of raising babies and toddlers has worn off, and springing up again is energy to share and walk alongside my fellow parents who have been through the trenches and are navigating the “Spring” of raising school-aged children.  I’m so excited to be coming out of hibernation!

I remember that years ago, some of my friends and mentors used to tell me, “you will think differently about your theory when you are dealing with your own kids.”  It always troubled me to question if the way I wanted to parent would be the way I put developmental theory to practice.  Now, with eight years under my belt, three girls with very different personalities, two children with special needs, more parenting books read, more articles debated, I am still the same parent I wanted to be; perhaps even an enhanced version.

Rather than looking back at my “childish” ideas with regret or disdain, I look back with gratitude and vulnerability.  I am not a perfect parent by any means, and neither are you, but I am a work in progress.  I am a thoughtful and reflective parent, who is constantly hoping to instill in my children a sense of wonder and transformative insight.

  • I want to raise out of the box thinkers who challenge norms
    • (even when that makes raising them challenging).
  • I want to raise empathetic community dwellers who see the needs of others above their own
    • (even with that sense of empathy causes emotional depth that is difficult to navigate).
  •  I want to raise self-regulated dreamers who know that it is through hard work, disappointment and even failure that we grow and learn and that process is often more important than a product
    • (even when that means I have to walk through the valley of shame or fear with my child).

I would guess many of my fellow parents want those things too!  While the heart of this blog will remain the same as it was five years ago, my gray hairs and a little more experience will enrich my writing. I hope to be able to share with you all my stories, my discoveries, my failures and my parenting wins in my journey to truly embrace the values of compassion, consistency, and calibration.

Have a topic you want me to cover?  Read an article or book and want to know my thoughts?  Please send ideas my way through the C-3 parenting facebook page OR by emailing me at angie.walston@gmail.com

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Controlling my inner “Bad Mommy”

Several weeks ago, during our bedtime ritual, Maddie told me quite matter of factly, “Mommy you did a good job today”.

To which I replied “Thank you sweetie, what do you mean?”

She responded “Bad mommy never got mad and yelled at me today”.

My heart sunk.  I am all to fully aware of my alter ego “Bad Mommy” and the battle I sometime have to wage with her.  In all of my knowledge of child development and parenting, and knowing what I should do and what I would like to do, I often find myself wavering back and forth between “Bad Mommy” and “Marshmallow Mommy”.  I find myself living in the land of Good and Balanced Mommy far too little.  This is one of the sad truths about knowledge of any kind.  It lacks value unless it is but into practice, and done so consistently.  I sometimes feel like I need little reminder notes on my bathroom mirror, my car dashboard and perhaps even on my computer and iPhone screens that says “Be a good mommy today”.

Although I won’t deny that this is partially motivated by my daughter’s comments, it also bears weight theoretically.  There is a large body of great research documenting the type of parenting that is associated with the most positive outcomes for children (and it is not “Bad Mommy’s” approach.   Here is your short theoretical history overview on Parenting Styles:

In 1966 developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind first published her research on the three parenting “prototypes”.   Since her original publication in Child Development there have been hundreds of articles referencing her work and adding to the body of literature which tracks both practices and outcomes of each of these three (with a fourth later added) styles.  In my experience, I believe that most of us have a tendency to practice somewhere on a continuum of these styles with one being our more typical “gut reaction” to parenting.  As you read these descriptions keep in mind that your parenting style might change when you are tired, stressed, or dealing with different children.

The permissive (or “Marshmallow Mommy”) parent attempts to parent in a nurturing, accepting and non-punitive way but often lacks follow through and consistency in her efforts. In an attempt to maintain peace and acceptance from her children, she often errs on the side of low expectations for behavior.  She makes few demands for household responsibility and pro-social behavior.   In this home the child often runs the show and the parent often reacts to the child’s demands by giving in.  She does little to assert control of behavior and activities and may use bribing as a way to gain control when she must.

The authoritarian (or “Bad Mommy”) parent attempts to parent out of a desire to control behavior in a very black and white way.  Children are judged as “good” or “bad” based on a very strict standard that is often unrealistic.  The parent values obedience above all and is likely to use punitive, forceful discipline techniques.  The child lives in a house with many rigidly enforced rules and little room for compromise.  Children are allowed little self-expression and parental dominance is upheld.

The authoritative (or “Good Mommy”) parent attempts to use a balanced parenting approach that values both structure (rules) and nurture (acceptance).  This parent is able to evaluate and listen to the child’s needs without compromising the standards of behavior that are valued in the family.  He is able to enforce rules consistency but does so in a fair and even way.  Children are encouraged to explore and express themselves with the guidance of an attuned parent.

Now, there is no doubt which of these I want to be and there is much evidence that children raised in Authoritative homes have the best long-term outcomes, and yet, my inner battle continues.  The best resolution I have found for this battle, is allowing myself to make mistakes and to move on.  Every moment is a new moment.  And, when “Bad Mommy” does come out, I need to own it and apologize to my children.  There is power in admitting our mistakes and modeling honesty.

In reply to Maddie’s statement I said “Sweetie, I love you, and even when I get frustrated with behaviors, I am not mad at you.  I’m sorry for the days “bad mommy” comes out.

To which she said, “I know mommy, I love you too”.

Posted in Consistency, motherhood, parenting, Parenting Styles, Positive Discipline, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I’m not that kind of “Attachment Parent”

Dear Friends and Parents out there reading,

I believe I have delayed posting an attachment post long enough. As many of you know, I am a self-proclaimed “attachment junkie”. I have spent the majority of my academic and professional life learning about Attachment Theory, pouring into the possible implications of this theory and teaching students the basic premises of this theory and, yet, despite my love and commitment to attachment….many are surprised to hear that I would not consider myself to be a true “attachment parent”. I figured that I might as well take some time to explain.

First, we must distinguish between the theoretical tenants of Attachment Theory (developed by John Bowlby) vs the current movement of Attachment Parenting (led by Dr. William Sears). Attachment theory is a well-developed, well documented and researched developmental psychology theory that addresses the importance of an attuned caregiver, who understands and meets a young child’s needs, exemplifies empathy and compassion, and provides a secure base from which a child can explore the world. Although there are many possible implications that can be derived from this theory they basically all come back to a basic premise that children who do not receive love and care, do not develop correctly. They develop a skewed lens of the world that at the very least can disrupt their ability to form healthy relationships later in life and at worse can cause major physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments. I LIVE by this theory and have found it to be enlightening to me in my journey as a parent and a professional. It is the basis for much of my C-3 parenting writing.

Attachment Parenting, on the other hand, is a trend in parenting philosophy that emerged in the 1990s as a growing reaction to the more distal parenting practices that have been traditionally embraced in the United States. Although it also is based on Bowlby’s attachment theory, its focus is on parenting practices rather than theory itself. According to Attachment Parenting International (API) these eight principles guide this approach (which, by the way, I advocate completely):

Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
Feed with Love and Respect
Respond with Sensitivity
Use Nurturing Touch
Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
Provide Consistent Loving Care
Practice Positive Discipline
Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

It is this approach to parenting that has recently taken a beating on the national stage with the release of the Time Magazine cover story earlier this summer and then the barrage of media coverage that has followed. I have pretty much stayed out of this debate up until now. Those who have attacked Attachment Parenting as a philosophy have chosen to promote it as either an anti-feminist approach to parenthood OR attack some of the outlier practices that Westerners are culturally uncomfortable with. In many ways, these attacks are either greatly misinformed OR they are reactions of discomfort, I have found the whole debate to be very unfortunate as a great theory in child development has now been discounted due to poorly researched, pop culture driven information being dispersed.

I never thought that the day Attachment was all over the news would be a day I would be sad or embarrassed….and, yet, I experienced much of that this summer. I delayed writing this as I didn’t want to just add to the noise, or engage in ongoing debates. Yet, as I entered the classroom again this fall, and began my lectures on Attachment, and as I progress through my third pregnancy, I find myself becoming re-engaged in my passionate desire for people to understand how treating our children with compassion (from conception) impacts their entire path of development.

So, here is the thing. I am a professional member of API and advocate much of the wonderful work they are doing. However, I feel strongly that parents who don’t have natural births, practice extended breastfeed, co-sleep, stay at home, and/or homeschool can be excellent parents who practice what I like to call “Attachment-informed parenting”. I find this type of parenting to be very empowering as a working mom and don’t feel that it has hindered my ability to be productive in the workplace (however, I need to note that I have had a very flexible and family friendly work situation that many don’t).

I have found that the best parents don’t blindly adopt any parenting practice based on the recommendations of friends, bloggers, or trends. Instead, they read, research, and most importantly, remain attuned to their child’s inner needs. They are leery of any parenting practice that inflicts pain or suffering on their children, and they are continually calibrating their approach as children age and grow. Please, be an informed and calibrating parent, treat your child with compassion and consistency, and don’t be afraid to question parenting practices that are not in the best interest of your child.

Sincerely,

A working mom with two beautiful C-section born daughters, who both breastfed for a year, one who co-sleeps (one who doesn’t), who is pro public schooling AND is proud to consider herself a great parent who uses Attachment Informed parenting.

Posted in attachment, Attachment Parenting, Calibration, Compassion, Consistency, mom, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thinking about Play Time

Yes, I know, it has been a while. Life seems to continue to move at a rate I can’t quite keep up with and in the meantime, blogging often is at the bottom of my list (although I think of topics with every passing day). Anyhow, in the busyness of life, I have found that what I am often missing is just the simple “joy” of life. As I move from one task to the next, hurrying my children, driving tens of miles every day, and quickly eating meals in cars, I forget to simply enjoy the little things. Adults are horrible at this. Some researchers even say that we have lost our ability to connect with others in meaningful ways do to our lack of engagement. I’m not going to lie, too many days go by that playing with my children has just not made the cut. This depresses me slightly because I know that play is the best way to connect, teach and learn, and grow as a child and with every day that passes where I “forget” to play with my children there is a missed opportunity.

Early in the week I had an opportunity to engage in a learning session with other young families at our church. Although in previous sessions we had talked about things like parenting, family values, and priorities, our planning committee decided that playing with our children might be a great topic (I agreed). As I pulled out my play therapy text books, notes from classes, and previously designed handouts, I had a major gut check. Why am I not doing this on a regular basis? Why do I sit my children down in front of the TV while I “check a few emails”, why is unplugging, getting down on the floor, and engaging for only 20-30 minutes such a huge burden in my life? The reality is: It is about me. It is not about my schedule, the demands, lack of money, a dirty house etc….it is simply about me and what I like and don’t like to do.

THere are some simple truths about what happens to a child when they are able to engage in play with a parent/caregiver. First, Ccildren learn about the world and themselves through play. Play provides a way for children to explore and communicate. What they can’t say yet, they can play. In the process they are learning:

That they are important and matter in the world – self esteem.
What they like and don’t like.
Skills, Interests
Respect for themselves.
Ways to cope – with feelings, thoughts, ideas, worries, etc.
Problem-solving
Self-reliance
To be creative and resourceful.
To make responsible choices.
Self-control
How to get along with others.

This is happening through a process. Not through flashcards, worksheets and lesson plans. Not through reading the right books, saying the right prayers or doing the right family devotions. Not by strict behavior management, rules and consequences but through PLAY!

So my challenge for you all is to think about incorporating a weekly Unstructured (Non-Directive) one on one play time with your child (one child, one parent). Yes, I said once a week (we can start with baby steps). Now, here are some guidelines (according to the father of play therapy Dr. Gary Landreth).

First, the philosophy of child directed play is that this process involves creating an atmosphere in which the child can realize his/her own natural positive growth and development. The parent-child relationship is enhanced and encouraged through quality communication and interaction. In this type of play the parent isn’t running the show but is following the child’s lead, joining with them, and providing companionship, not structure.

Next, here are the rules:
o No criticism
o Praise the effort – not the end product.
o Don’t ask leading questions.
o No interruptions.
o No unnecessary teaching or instructing.
o No preaching.
o No “leading” by parent.
o Do set the stage.
o Let the child lead.
o Be involved – track.
o Reflect feelings.
o Set limits – 3-step-limit-setting.
o Acknowledge efforts.
o Join in the play as directed by child.
o Have fun!

Let me know if you get a chance to PLAY this week. I know parents who have successfully implemented “special play time” with a child who has been having behavior challenges, and within weeks have seen a difference in the child’s demeanor and stress level. It seems that children really do need us as companions and guides, as playmates, in order to help teach them self reliance and regulation. I would say 30 minutes a week is well worth it.

Posted in Consistency, motherhood, parenting, Play | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Great Spanking Debate

I was sitting down this afternoon and working on my lectures for this week when I stumbled upon a VERY angry Fox News reporter taking a not so unbiased reaction to an article released this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

This article, a twenty year meta-analysis of the hundreds of studies on the effects of spanking and other punitive (yelling, shaking, etc.) discipline measures is titled Physical punishment of children: lessons from 20 years of research.  Although you cannot access this article without membership to an academic database Huff Post CA did a pretty good summary at this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/06/children-physical-punishment-study_n_1258351.html

Now, I will say that I traditionally avoid overtly addressing some of these more ‘heated’ topics but after numerous conversations over the past few days feel that it is time.  I hope you read this with an open mind and allow some time to think it over before you react.

First, to summarize the results of this study in a nut shell:

1.  Children who are hit or treated aggressively are more likely to treat others (parents, siblings, peers, future romantic partners) aggressively.  This includes more aggressive play schemes.

2.  Spanking research suggest that it is no more effective or less effective as a technique than other less intrusive forms of discipline (like the ones I write about).

3.  There is some evidence that recurrent use of physical punishment is linked to higher rates of adult depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Now, for those of you who are still reading.  Let me explain a little about what this research is not saying:

1.  Occasionally loosing control with your child and spanking, yelling or other punitive methods does not automatically CAUSE all of these problems.  However, recurrent use of these techniques does have an ASSOCIATION to these later issues.

2.  Parents who spank are not all child abusers.  However, spanking could always be considered abuse, especially if the parent is not in control emotionally when they discipline their child.  We MUST stay in control and never react out of anger in order to “Get Back” at our children or “teach them a lesson.

3.  Parents are not suppose to let their children run the house and be afraid to correct or guide them.  In fact, we have a whole other issue in terms of permissive parenting.  We, instead need more C-3 parents who have a plan.  They are consistent with their non-aggressive techniques, they are compassionate toward the child and their needs, and they are calibrating in the types of discipline they use as the child grows and changes.

To those of you out there who are still on the fence:

Many of us were spanked and “turned out fine”.   Many of us have been told by parents, friends, and other family members that if we don’t spank our children will never learn to obey.   Many of us have been raised in churches and spiritual communities that have misinterpreted scripture to imply that you are not following the bible if you don’t spank.

My fellow parents who are on this challenging journey of raising children with me…….there are better options than spanking.   Not because it is the trendy thing or because you are scared that CPS will be called if you do….but because your child’s future relationships, understanding of love and control, and mental health may be effected.

If you aren’t sure what to do next, or are interested in exploring this more PLEASE DO.  In fact, I will offer $10.00 consults to anyone who mentions “I want to stop Spanking” in an email to me.

Peace and Blessings on your C-3 Journey!

Posted in parenting, Positive Discipline, Spanking | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Anyone Else Out There Tired?

I am tired.  Sometimes really tired.  In fact, I am the fall asleep while I put my kids down for nap and for bed tired (and yes, I do lay with my Maddie to help her fall asleep and have no shame about that).  When I really reflect on this exhaustion I know it of course has do with the pace of life that we currently live, with my dual roles of mom, wife, professor, grant writer and parent consultant and with the constant demand of two toddler/preschool age children.  But if I am honest, some of it has to do with me. . . and the way I am consumed by the big LITTLE things.

Here are the big LITTLE things that wear me down:

1.  The constant need to pick up, wash dishes, do laundry, clean up goldfish cracker crumbs, milk spills, and boogers on fingers.

2.  The nagging feeling that I should be on to the ‘next thing’ by now.

3.  My desire to accomplish more in one day than is really possible.

4.  The fear that my children aren’t as (fill in the blank) as other children their ages.

5.  Am I a bad parent or at least a worse parent than I want to be?

In all of these big LITTLE things lies one truth, spending my time lamenting, busily working, or list making doesn’t actually solve any of these problems.  Instead, including my children in the daily grind can often relieve the nagging in my mind while also providing some great learning time with my girls.

Today I awoke to the daunting task of dirty laundry to sort while all of the laundry baskets were still full of last week’s clean laundry….dread filled my soul.  Somewhere, in the not such a horrible parent, part of my mind I realized that this didn’t have to be all bad, my girls could easily join me in the sorting and storing.  And so, I invited them in…and am glad to say…It was awesome.

The girls gleefully put clothes in their very own drawers and Maddie commented on each outfit and why she did or didn’t like it.  When we moved on to Mommy and Daddy’s room the girls played on the bed and handed me hangers.  We named the colors of mommy’s shirts and underwear, talked about the difference between bras and bathing suits and played dress up in Daddy’s shoes and ties.

After an hour had gone by I realized something profound.  So much of my exhaustion with the big LITTLE things has to do with my innate need to separate out “kid” time with “task” time when, in fact, they can, and should be the same.  Inviting my children into the everyday monotony of dishes and laundry offer unique learning experiences, life skill lessons, and a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. Just because I am not an alphabet themed craft of the day type of mom it doesn’t mean I’m not doing a good job.

Being tired isn’t my problem, being tired at the exclusion or blame of my children is.

Join me on my journey…..Do at least two chores a day with your children.  As always let me know how it goes for you.

Posted in mom, motherhood, parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments