It has been one of those days… Two failed nap attempts. A toddler who constantly wants to nurse.  The perpetual sounds of cranks and whines. There seemed to be nothing that would please him.

I kept it together pretty well, but late this afternoon I finally lost my patience. I missed the mark when it came to my job as a mother. It kills me to not be the epitome of the gentle, attached mother that I want to be (and that I usually am). But today (and really, all week) things have just been off track. He is extra whiny and needy, and my patience is stretched thin.

On days like this I could use more ideas for grounded, gentle and patient parenting. A few things that work for us so far…

What helps me set the tone:

  • A prayer to start the day, and intermediate prayers asking for God’s mercy throughout the day.
  • Beginning the day with a playful/joyous spirit.
  • Really focusing on him for the first hour of the morning (after my coffee is made, of course!)
  • Getting enough to sleep. Lately it’s been hard for me to go to bed on time.

What helps me try to get both of us back on track (or what helps me keep my sanity):

  • Taking the time to pay 100% attention to him for a while. Read books, play outside – whatever he wants is what we do.
  • On the flip side, letting him watch TV. Sometimes it is either this or I might jump ship.
  • If my husband is home, I am a big fan of letting them have one-on-one time. This is definitely a win-win for everyone.
  • Take a trip to the mall or Target. Take a walk. Water the plants together.

What are your ideas? If you have older kids, tell me: does your patience grow as time goes on? I sometimes wonder if I would be more patient if I had more perspective on just how young Calvin really is. I hope I don’t come off as sounding horribly impatient; my husband always tells me that he is amazed by my patience with Calvin. But when that patience cracks… boy, do I hate that.

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This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.

My husband and I were both raised with a similar discipline style; a style that included spanking. We’ve always known that our parents loved us and wanted what was best for us. We thought that their methods seemed to work and were perhaps even what was best. We had good childhoods and though we can both recall instances where we were spanked, these aren’t disturbing memories and we harbor no resentment from the spankings. So we figured that we would parent in a similar way.

That was until I decided to question spanking and to look at other options. I don’t know if there was any one specific occurrence that pushed me firmly down the path of gentle discipline; instead it was a very slow process. Many pro-spankers firmly believe that spanking is the only way to ensure a well disciplined child and that didn’t sit well with me.  Some of these people seemed to equate “discipline” with children being seen and not heard. I read books such as Raising Cain and Unconditional Parenting that really challenged behaviorism and culturally accepted ways adults treat children. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did not want to teach my child that “might makes right.”

Another aspect of this is that I am a Christian. As a Christian I believe that children are made in the image of God. As an Orthodox Christian I believe that babies/young children are icons of innocence. As such, I think that children are deserving of the same respect that we would show any other individual – no matter their age, their size or their mental capacity. It’s a very basic ideal that many of us believe in – but too often we do not extend it to children.

There are a lot of Christians who spank their kids, and they do so because they really, honestly believe it is the best thing to do – that it is what the Bible tells them to do. I disagree with them. I believe that spanking is totally inconsistent with the way that Jesus treated children and with the way that God treats his children. I don’t believe there is any grace in a “you did wrong, now I will hurt you as a punishment, then I will show you forgiveness.” If you want to research what the “spare the rod” Bible verses really mean, I would recommend Thy Rod and Thy Staff Comfort Me by Samuel Martin. A free copy of this book can be found here.

All that said, I want to be crystal clear that we bear absolutely no ill will towards our parents who spanked us. In some ways I feel audacious in saying that we are going to do things differently. I worry about challenges that I won’t be able to handle. I dread judgment and lack of support from those that disagree with us. But the more I think about it and the more I read about it, the more I’ve come to believe that gentle discipline is the only option for our family. I pray that my husband and I would demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in all areas, parenting included: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.


Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/Welcome to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)

Keep them rear-facing

February 15, 2010

Earlier this week I took out Calvin’s carseat so that I could clean the seat and install a seat protector. He is still rear-facing and his muddy little shoes were not playing nice with the interior of my new car.  Just for kicks, I set the carseat in a forward-facing position and I let him sit in it. Wow, it was so nice… so much more room. I was tempted to install it like that, but I just couldn’t – not when he is only 17 months.

A few days later I stumbled across the following link: Why Rear Facing is Better. If you have a little one, please check this out. Just a few stats for you:

  • Forward-facing children under the age of 2 are 75% more likely to be injured.
  • Toddlers up to the age of 2 are more than 5 times safer riding rear-facing.
  • After reviewing studies from the U.S. and Sweden, a study published in the highly regarded British Medical Journal advises keeping children rear-facing until age 4.

Yes, it’s a bit of a sacrifice to keep Calvin rear-facing. He would probably enjoy the car more if he faced forward and I would definitely have an easier time getting him in and out. But I am resolved to keep him rear-facing until he reaches the weight limit on his seat – his safety is worth it.

Looking for a good convertible carseat at a reasonable price? I have The First Years True Fit and I love it. Similar to the pricey Marathon seats, this seat seems super comfy, is incredibly easy to install and one year later it still looks brand new.

Parent’s Prayer

February 12, 2010

I love this parent’s prayer:

“O Heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them or contradicting them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me. Forbid that I should ever laugh at their mistakes, or resort to shame or ridicule when they displease me. May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power. Let me not tempt my child to lie or steal. And guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all I say and do that honesty produces happiness. Reduce, I pray, the meanness in me. And when I am out of sorts, help me, O Lord, to hold my tongue. May I ever be mindful that my children are children and I should not expect of them the judgment of adults. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to wait on themselves and to make decisions. Bless me with the bigness to grant them all their reasonable requests and the courage to deny them the privileges I know will do them harm. Make me fair and just and kind. And fit me, O Lord, to be loved and respected and imitated by my children. Amen”

Thanks to Molly @ Close to Home for sharing.

My son has been in cloth diapers since he was about two weeks old. My main motivation for cloth was the monetary savings (buy diapers for the first baby, and then you’re set for subsequent babies) and the environmental savings (no reason for any more of our waste to sit in a landfill). There are plenty of other benefits, though – a truly better product, a much more attractive product, no chemicals next to sensitive areas, and supposedly easier potty learning. Despite the extra laundry, cloth diapering has remained the most attractive diapering option for our family.

But recently I began wondering if I really was saving any money. According to Mothering magazine, “a child will go through about 8,000 diapers changes. At $.25 per diaper, that adds up to $2,000 spent on disposables.” (Evans, Lindsay. “Dumping Disposable Diapers.” Mothering. April 2008: 50.)  Are these numbers valid? How do cloth diapers compare?

Cost of Disposables

When I buy disposable diapers I always buy the Target brand which sells for $10.69 for 60 diapers – $.178 per diaper, a little less than quoted in the Mothering piece. How about the number of diaper changes? When my son was a newborn I remember changing his diaper constantly. But now that his little system is more mature he really doesn’t need as many changes. If you change your kid’s diaper 8.7 times per day for 2.5 years, you get to 8,000 diaper changes. Eight or nine changes per day is reasonable for a young baby, but I haven’t changed my son that often for awhile. Let’s drop the estimate down to 6,000, which still may be a bit of an overestimate.

Based on these calculations, my cost to use disposables full-time would be about $1,068 per child. Note that I have not included the cost of wipes or diaper pail liners, etc. I don’t use these products so I am not equipped to guesstimate their cost.

Cost of Cloth

There are several components to the cost of cloth: the cost of the product and the cost to launder.

I have purchased the following products for my son:

  • Snappis – $2.50 x 3 = $7.50
  • Newborn prefolds (dozen) – $21 x 2 = $42
  • Infant Fitted Diaper – $6.75 x 6 = $40.50 (yikes, this was a complete waste of money! Chaulk it up to learning curve).
  • Infant prefolds (dozen) – $25 x 3 = $75
  • Med prefolds (dozen) – $29 x 3 = $87
  • Large prefolds (dozen) – $32 x 2 = $64
  • Toddler prefolds (dozen) – $36 x 2 = $72
  • Newborn covers – $11 x 4 = $44
  • Small covers – $12 x 5 = $60
  • Medium covers – $12 x 4 = $48
  • Larger cover – $8 x 1 = $8
  • Large covers – $11 x 4 = $44
  • Doublers – $3.75 x 6  = $22.50 (would have skipped in retrospect)
  • I won several covers in a contest, had I not won them I would have spent about $25 more

The cost to cloth diaper all of my children comes to $639.50. (In retrospect I could have skipped a few of these items and shaved about $71).

To truly have an accurate comparison, I would also need to include the increased costs of my water, electricity and gas bills. I have sorted through the historical costs of these items and have found the variance to be a bit unbelievable. For a brief period of time my water bill was almost doubled and as of right now it’s at about a 40% increase. I really haven’t seen much of an increase at all in my gas bill which is odd considering that heating the water is supposedly the greatest cost of running a washing machine. However I do see a quite a large increase in my electric bill – almost 50%! I have to question whether this is really related to the diapers or if it because I am now home more often.

I will need to complete more research before providing an accurate utility cost for cloth diapering. Right now I would guesttimate that I am spending about $20 per month in additional utilities. If we cloth diaper for 2.5 years, I’ll spend a total of $600 on utilities.

I am not surprised to see that it costs more to cloth diaper the first child. Now that I have seen the numbers, I have to question whether cloth diapering is worth it. While it can be annoying to have to run the diapers through the laundry, I still firmly believe that the cloth is a superior product (personally I don’t enjoy having a baby poop on me). I also believe that it is the better choice for the environment. While I do use extra water to wash the diapers, I am not sending anything to the landfill and I like that.

I would love to hear more cost analysis from fellow fans of cloth. Do you think the cost to use disposables is accurate? What about the additional utility costs to wash the cloth diapers? Is cloth really worth it?

I’ve mentioned “attachment parenting” or “AP” several time already but I haven’t really gone into what it entails. I first learned of AP about five or six years ago thanks to the wonderful message boards at Mothering.com. As I prepared to have children there was no doubt in my mind that I would parent in an AP style. Since then I have found that many non-APers have misguided views about what AP entails. Common misconceptions include:

  • AP parents don’t discipline their children
  • AP parents coddle or spoil their children
  • It’s too hard to be AP / AP is unrealistic
  • AP produces overly dependent children

To be fair, there likely are AP parents that are like this. There are parents everywhere that are like this. But this is not what AP is about, and most AP parents can’t relate to these statements.

At it’s core, AP means that you believe that your baby/child is a person worthy of respect and not an inconvenience that needs to be managed as such. It’s about a long-term committment to meet your child’s needs. It’s about integrating your children into your life. It’s about parenting from the heart without the baggage of cultural views. AP parents strive to be in tune (“attached”) to their children.

At first glance any decent parent would say “hey, I do that!” But then you later find all sorts of exceptions: they don’t meet their child’s needs at night, they don’t nurse the child except when it is convenient to do so, they discipline using a short-term fix rather than a long-term focus, their attitude sends a clear message that their child is an inconvenience. Now that I’ve criticized some parenting practices, let me be quick to qualify that I am not an AP poster child, nor am I anywhere near the perfect parent. But I do believe that there is a lot we can learn from attachment parenting practices – a lot that flies in the face of the way that our modern culture tries to parent. Read the rest of this entry »

Night weaning a toddler

January 20, 2010

I was the picture of patience for the first year of my son’s life. I co-slept, nursed on cue, wore him in a wrap – I was everything a good AP mama should be. But towards his first birthday my nighttime patience began to fizzle. Co-sleeping had previously been the perfect solution for meeting both Calvin’s needs and my needs, but now it seemed to have lost it’s magic. Around eleven months we decided to transition him to a crib. It was bittersweet; I missed being next to my sweet babe, but I also relished the chance to stretch out in my bed. Thus began my own hybrid style of parenting; very influenced by AP thought but thoroughly mixed with things that work for our family.

Contrary to many modern parents, I continued to nurse my son on cue – even at night – throughout the first year of his life and into the second. I did this for many reasons. One, I believe that he needed the nourishment and the comfort. Two, I believe that it was safest to meet his needs and not try to encourage him to sleep through the night. Three, I wanted to wait until I really felt that he was ready. Four, it is just the thing to do if you are AP. Five, it was helping me burn lots of calories even at night. Six, I was afraid of making changes, especially after one failed attempt when he was about 13 months. Seven, as long as he went right back to sleep and didn’t wake too often, I really didn’t mind. Eight, I believe that to some extent, this is par for the course when it comes to extended nursing relationships. Nine, I had spoken with other nursing moms who said that things started really improving between 18 and 24 months, and I thought I could hang in there until then. Read the rest of this entry »