Calming Advice for More ‘Good Days’ with Fretful Kids
Parenting has more than its share of stressful challenges, and today’s moms are often frustrated by conflicting advice. As families search for answers to daily issues, a more holistic and natural approach, known as conscious parenting, has been gaining momentum.
According to Lori Petro, founder of TEACH through Love, a child advocacy group and educational resource for progressive parents, conscious parenting comprises the spirit of cooperation, instead of traditional models of discipline and control. “We want to teach our children how to live in the world, explore, be creative, compassionate, learn appropriate expressions of emotion and think for themselves,” she says.
To help maximize the rewards for all, Natural Awakenings asked several forward-thinking moms for their best tips on how to handle some of parenting’s biggest challenges.
Surviving the First Year
As a certified Happiest Baby educator, mother of three and owner of Gummy Giggles Baby Boutique, in Yukon, Oklahoma, Lori Simmons provides parents with essential tools and knowledge to help calm unhappy babies. She notes that while dealing with a crying infant is simply part of being a parent, colic is a condition moms dread the most.
Making the baby feel as if he or she is still in the womb is key, she advises. “People try to not make any noise, but the reality is, babies often cry because it’s too silent.” She recommends swaddling the baby, swaying and shushing quietly in the baby’s ear—all to mimic the comforts of the womb.
The best advice that she gives any new parent is that it’s okay not to know everything. “Just listen to your instincts and understand that each child will learn and grow at his or her own pace,” she says. “Most importantly, relax and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Weathering Toddler Meltdowns
Petro says we can better meet the challenges of these years—including temper tantrums, biting, toilet training and sleep problems—if we understand these situations in the context of a child’s development. During early growth, exploration and change, children typically have trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings, and that can prove overwhelming for everyone.
So, what can adults do in the middle of a toddler meltdown? First, remember that it’s the rare parent that hasn’t had to deal with a tired, cranky, screaming toddler. Simmons admits to having handled her share of tantrums.
“They don’t understand their own frustration, so it’s difficult for parents to understand the reason for outbursts,” she observes. Her strategy is to take the stressed child out of the situation.
It helps to know that some hitting and biting is considered normal for toddlers, especially if they see it as an effective way to get what they want. Parents can put an end to it much the same way they deal with other inappropriate behavior, advises Petro. She suggests remaining calm, finding the root cause of the situation and acknowledging the child’s feelings and needs. Understanding why the child is doing it is crucial to making it stop. “Conscious parenting operates from the premise that all behavior is communication to meet a need,” she says.
According to Certified Life Coach Clare Seffrin Bond, although the adolescent years can be difficult, there’s plenty that parents can do to nurture teens and encourage responsible behavior. “The best parenting advice I ever received was from my mom, who encouraged me to grow into parenthood—taking it day by day, without the expectation that I would be proficient simply through the act of giving birth,” says this mother of two, in Richmond, Indiana.
Rewarding relationships come through accepting the notion that children are individuals living their own journey, rather than extensions of their parents. “What parents see or feel in a situation is not necessarily what the child is experiencing,” Bond explains. “Taking the time to recognize the fact of individual realities can be huge in rethinking one’s approach to discipline.”
She recommends speaking to adolescents honestly—even when it’s painful—and listening to them, even when we may not want to hear, or believe, what they’re saying. “Stay in touch with the fact that your relationship with your children is absolutely huge in terms of their—and your— development as a happy and fulfilled person,” counsels Bond. “Work hard at remembering your own teen years, including the frustrations and disappointments. Empathy and respect are essential ingredients in successful human relationships at every age.”
Beth Davis is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings.