Monday, 29 February 2016

When You Know Better

I LOVE this quote. This is what we're all about here at Full Hands, Full Mugs​!! We hope that you are enjoying following along as we are getting started here!

Personally, I learn something new about gentle parenting every day. Through research and chatting with other parents who use gentle parenting strategies, I have gained so much from their wisdom. We are all working towards the same goal - to be more like Christ, and to raise our children in a way that is pleasing to Him. My parenting "toolbox" is constantly changing. As my children grow and I learn more about the effects of parenting choices, I am always tweaking the tools that I use to parent my children. I love learning new strategies to deal with different behaviours, and although it is HARD work, it is so worth it because it WORKS. And I don't have to hurt or scare my children into obedience.

It's a journey, much like our Christian lives. The more we get to know the Lord more intimately through reading our Bibles and prayer, the more our lives are changing from the inside out!

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2

So walk in love, and lay yourself down for your children. Look to our GOOD GOOD FATHER and imitate Him as best as you can. Remember that your children too, will immitate you. Pray for God's strength, for His help! He loves you and cares for you and your children. He will walk with you through the highs and the lows of your parenting journey, guiding your steps. Tune into His voice and when He shows you something better, DO better.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

What Does The Bible Say About Spanking?

People are frequently surprised when they hear that Christian parents still physically punish and spank their children as a form of "loving discipline". Unfortunately, it is a common misconception among some Christians that in order to be a “good” and “Godly” parent and raise “good” and “Godly” children we MUST enforce our authority early and often. Sadly, many people believe this must be through punitive discipline and corporal punishment.
However, there are NO verses anywhere within the New Testament that support ANY form of spanking, slapping, flicking, or hitting of children. The Old Testament has 5 versus that have been interpreted to mean that God commands spanking and punitive discipline to “control” and “punish” children into submission. These versus have been interpreted to mean something completely different than they were originally intended to. Of course, this is my opinion as a Bible believing follower of Jesus Christ. The most important consideration when it comes to the spanking debate is, HITTING of a child goes against everything we know to be true about the love, grace, and forgiveness that was given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christian parents - I encourage you to take some time to read through the following resources, which help address any questions you might have about what the Bible ACTUALLY says in regards to spanking and corporal punishment. Ultimately, this is something you need to pray about, ask God for guidance on, and educate yourself on the physical and psychological ramifications of choosing this type of discipline for your child. Most importantly ask yourself, “What WOULD Jesus do?”
Here are a few resources to help you further understand why spanking is never the answer:

Ten Gentle Parenting Books That Might Change your Perspective - Part 1

GP Books
I am far from a "parenting expert". In fact, I am just the opposite. I literally know NOTHING about being a good parent. Yes - I admit it. The only thing I do know is that there are tons of other parents out there who have "been there", and lots of research to support the need for more "gentle" parenting in our world. As a parent of a young baby, it is hard for me to find time to take a shower - let alone read a book! However, if you are looking for support for what your instincts are trying to tell you, or inspiration as to how you can be a more gentle parent, any of these gentle parenting books are a great place to start.
Parenting at the end of the day is all about doing what is right for your family, and what is best for your child. For me, making decisions about my family is easier with science and clinical experience on my side. "Gentle Parenting" for most people ends up being a combination of a number of different parenting styles. For me, it falls somewhere in between RIE and Attachment Parenting - but it certainly changes with circumstance, and grows with time and experience. Do your best to educate yourself about child psychology and development, learn the science and understand the clinical evidence, and make YOUR OWN decision about what is right for your family from there! Each of the following authors offers a unique perspective. Take what you like from each of them, and leave the rest. The only expert on your child is YOU!

Ten Gentle Parenting Books That Might Change your Perspective - Part 1

Pretty much anything by L.R. Knost is great. Including two of my favorites: Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages - which is simply an introduction to Gentle Parenting and and it's application to all stages of childhood - and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting, which has a Christian focus. Jesus the Gentle Parent gives an amazing perspective on traditional "Christian" parenting strategies that are often punitive and harsh. She explains that intuitively, this is contrary to everything Jesus taught us, and she encourages us to love our children just as He loved us - empathetically, compassionately, and unconditionally. 
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley. This book is a must have for any parent hoping to encourage healthy sleep habits without resorting to Cry-it-Out methods or other forms of sleep training. I absolutely loved this book, it changed how we look at night-time parenting completely. 
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. This book is based on current scientific research  and clinical evidence on on brain development. Dr. Laura Markham encourages parents to start building emotional connections with their children to encourage them to WANT to behave, rather than scaring them into compliance or breaking their will. When you have a connection, you don’t need to threaten, bribe, or punish. This book is great because while she often uses science to support her claims, she also offers reasonable suggestions and alternatives to our current patterns. Dr. Laura Markham is also the created of
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.  This book is a really great look into the psychological basis of why we do what we do, as children and as adults. It offers really great ways to understand the basis of our human behavior and how it impacts our relationships. This book is a great way to help parents to understand how the brain works, and to help them better understand why we do what we do - and how experiences as children impact us as adults. It also offers helpful suggestions as to how we can deal with specific situations, and how we can also help children understand their own big emotions. 
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is great compliment to The Whole-Brain Child. It offers the same "whole-brain" approach to positive and effective discipline. This book helps us to better understand the connection between how a parent reacts to a child's behavior can impact their neurological development.
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. This is really not just a book about discipline. This book helps us to really take a look at how we think about , feel about, and act with our children. It questions how we approach many commonly accepted practices such as praise, rewards, and punishment that lead our children to believe they must earn our approval and love. 
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting or No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury are both great books based on the RIE parenting perspective. RIE parenting focuses on mutual respect and a emotional connection between parent and child. Allowing children to have self-directed playtime, allowing babies to actively participate in daily activities, and allowing children to express their emotions openly by empathetically responding to them. "RIE helps adults raise children who are competent, confident, curious, attentive, exploring, cooperative, secure, peaceful, focused, self-initiating, resourceful, involved, inner-directed, aware and interested". I especially appreciate her perspective on shame-free discipline, respectful boundaries, and her advice on how to encourage without over-praising children (learning to praise effort and hard work, versus over inflated praise for their "abilities" or lack-there-of). 
Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children is an awesome book that focuses on the scientific research supporting the need for securely attached relationships with our children. This book does have a strong "Attachment Parenting" focus, which I appreciated. I recommend it for the extensive scientific research supporting instinctual, gentle parenting strategies that lead to securely attached parent-child relationships. As with RIE, there are some great things about Attachment Parenting, but also some things that simply would not work for our family. I truly appreciate this book because it lays out all the facts, gives helpful suggestions, and encouragement without forcing a set of "rules" to follow. It is a great way to gain an understanding of the science that Attachment Parenting strategies are based on. This book helps to expand on the respectful parenting strategies of RIE and encourages the importance of skin-to-skin touch in a baby's development, explains the concept of the "fourth trimester", and why babies cry for communication, not manipulation. 

Thanks for reading!

When Adoption Meets Postpartum Depression

It was two days after we brought our daughter home from her two week stay in the NICU. She was crying. No amount of consoling or making her comfortable was helping her. She continued to cry into the next day, and the next, and the next. She only stopped when she was sleeping, when we were out in public, or at my parents house. I was confused. I began feeling inadequate to mother her. I felt feelings of dislike toward her. It wasn't long before the sound of her cry made me cringe and an overwhelming urge to harm her would come over me. I started to think up scenarios, awful scenarios, to hurt her when she cried. Yikes! It breaks my heart to even admit that.

This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. Instead, it was the opposite. The little baby I prayed for was finally here after 11 long years of infertility and rigorous in-your-face adoption home studies and profiles. I should have been gleaming with joy and happiness that my prayers were answered.

During this time we were also fostering the sweetest 8-month-old baby boy. He was a dream! The complete opposite personality of his new foster sister. Being a foster parent came with multiple meetings, court dates, weekly birth family visits, social workers, parent aides, license workers, and more, all coming into our home 2-3 times a week. Add in the adoption home study where we were poked and prodded with extremely personal questions, one after another, and expectations of "you must be perfect or else" breathing down our necks. What I hadn't realized was that I had my own expectations of being the perfect mom. The fantasy in my head was a smiling, happy baby (much like our foster son) who would coo and giggle and snuggle up in my arms to fall asleep as I sung sweet lullabies. It was nothing of the sort. I soon realized that I was anything but a perfect mom. In fact, I couldn't even soothe her at all. She didn't want me. She rejected my cuddles, screamed louder when I tried to comfort her, arched her back and squirmed to escape my grasp, and seemingly pushed me further away each day. That realization sent me into a downward spiral that seemed impossible to stop. It's like a secret burden that nobody can possibly understand. I mean, we got what we wanted, right? How could I be so unhappy when I had everything I ever prayed for? The pressure was more than I could bear. I hit rock bottom hard and knew I could no longer do this on my own.

I remember the day I reached out, the day I knew I needed help before I REALLY hurt my tiny precious daughter. When I heard the words "postpartum depression" I was quick to deny it. I did not birth this child, how could that be possible? I am a christian woman, christians can't be depressed! I was appalled at the idea. Boy, was I wrong. Once I accepted that I was struggling with postadoption depression I was able to find my slow, yet progressive, journey to healing. Not long after, I learned that I was not alone. This was not a new issue. But it was, and still is, an issue that is not talked about. Thousands upon thousands of women were facing some kind of depression right along with me, whether they birthed their child or adopted them.

My daughter's constant crying would last four grueling months. My dislike for her, even though I knew I loved her, would last a year and a half. It took two whole years to finally bond as mother and daughter. The day she crawled up into my lap and snuggled with me of her own accord is a day I will never forget. She wanted me. She loved me and I was her mommy. She's been attached to my hip ever since!
I would have never imagined that such a happy-go-lucky person such as myself could be faced with depression of any kind. It is real and no one is immune.

I learned a lot about myself through that time. I learned that I am a survivor, I am strong, and I am perfectly IMPERFECT...and that's perfectly okay. I also learned that God never ever stops holding us, never stops loving us, never stops offering grace. Even after all the ways I let Him down, as the parent He trusted to this sweet girl, He never once turned His back on me. He was there when I lost some friendships during that time and He was there as I gained some stronger friendships in the midst of my deepest need. I learned that my family is absolutely reliable, my husband is my rock, and that I AM capable. Becoming a mother was nothing like I expected or dreamed it would be, but, five years later, it has become everything I could have possibly hoped for and more. I love my daughter with every fiber of my being and I would give my life for hers in an instant. She is the blessing of all blessings and I'm so thankful she's mine.

- Michelle

Why I Chose Gentle Parenting On Day 1

During the 9-months of my pregnancy I spent hours upon hours researching everything I could about being a parent but I can honestly say the one thing I think I missed was the concept of a "parenting style". As it turns out, you are required to pick only one and follow every single related rule exactly. You have only 9 months to decide so think fast! Not to mention, if you don't choose the right method you will spend the rest of your life regretting your parenting choices because after all you are 100% to blame for every single bad choice your child makes. Talk about pressure! Honestly, for me at least, the first few weeks (even months!) of being a new parent was like survival of the fittest. Adapt or die. I had nothing to turn to besides my instincts. So I went with what my gut was telling me was right for me and my family. So, because we chose to allow Baby J to stay in our bed when he had trouble falling asleep, and wear him in a wrap because it soothed him to be a part of our daily activities, or because we chose to give his cries the respect that we feel every tiny human lacking the power of communication skills deserves, I guess we were of the attachment parent variety. So I read up on AP and Dr. Sears' 7 Baby B's. I started to feel like being a "perfect" parent required me to reach this unattainable goal of the proverbial "secure attachment". I started to feel like I was failing completely at being the kind of "attached" mom that my baby "needed". This is not to say that the AP principals are bad, in fact I think they are wonderful in theory. It was the pressure to do it all that got to me. One of the B's happens to be "Balance", but let's get real any perfectionist out there struggles with that one. It wasn't long before I returned to God (and the Google) for answers. What kind of parent am I? How can I show my baby love and affection, give him respect and still teach him independence? How can I find a way to do this with joy and grace? I wanted to find the joy in parenting, instead of feeling used, abused and resentful.

I discovered the Gentle Parenting Community on Facebook of all places. Many different groups grounded in the same "tool kit" principle. This allowed parents to share and find the right tools that work for their specific family's needs. It sounds so simple! Do what works for you, but do it gently and with kindness and love.

Maybe it is because I am an academic researcher by trade and curious by nature, but in general, I believe in a few fundamental facts based in scientific fact:

1. Babies are incapable of manipulation, crying to get your attention is crying for a "need" your baby NEEDS YOU!

2. Babies nurse for comfort, you cannot "spoil" or "over-feed" your breastfed baby by allowing him to nurse on demand

3. Babies do not need a schedule, however some parents do (and this is OK!)

4. Baby sleep is not like regular adult sleep, expecting them to understand this is unrealistic

4. Cry it out works for the wrong reasons, it works for some people but it isn't for me

5. Every single baby is different

For these reasons I choose to go to my baby when he wakes up at night. I choose to do it without complaint because I know that one day he will grow up and will not longer need to cuddle with me at night. Does this mean that I enjoy waking up for the 5th time since midnight? No, not at all. In fact, it is completely exhausting and makes getting through the following work day incredibly difficult. Do I judge the parent to makes the choice to get some sleep so they can work the next day? Absolutely not. I would never recommend anything that causes someone to feel anger or resentment. What your baby needs most is love, and if sheer exhaustion is making it hard for you to go on with the rest of your life, it is important that you get some sleep. I choose to allow him to occasionally sleep in bed with us when he struggles to fall or stay asleep some nights. I don't think that this will impact him long-term, or make it harder for him to sleep alone. In fact, he usually sleeps better after spending a night safely snuggled between mom and dad. Anthropologists agree that co-sleeping is not only safe (when done correctly) it is incredibly beneficial. However, the fact is I do not sleep well with my baby in bed with me. He takes his all night "on-demand" diner very seriously and because I am feeling a little extra cautious I tend to sleep very poorly. I sleep better having to get up multiple times for a midnight (and 2am, and 4am) snack. I cried when my baby grew out of his co-sleeper. I used it as a storage bin for many weeks until my husband finally said it was time to say good-bye. These factors are what let me to move Baby J into his own room (something I never would have done before I let go of the "Attachment Parent" label). It works for our family and our puppies are happy to be back in bed with us! I choose to "baby wear" while I get things done around the house and this does not mean my baby is "spoiled" or that he lacks the ability to be independent.

There are plenty of times he will play alone without being entertained. I choose to carry him with be because it makes us both happy, and he is able to learn so much about his new world from the comfort of my arms. I choose to put my child's needs before my own, not because I am a "martyr" but because what kind of example would I be setting if I told my children that my need to do x,y and z are more important than your need to be held, nursed, or rocked? Therefore, if you cry for those things you MUST be manipulating me into doing them for you.

I am not the perfect parent, and I don't claim to be. We make the choices that are right for our family at the time. Most importantly, we leave ourselves the opportunity to change as circumstances do. We don't feel as if we need to stick to some rigid set of "parenting rules". We simply follow our instinct to love and nurture our baby, and do the best we can do with what we have. If you as a parent can say that, I think you are doing pretty darn good.

Friday, 26 February 2016

What Is Gentle Parenting?

What is Gentle Parenting? I get asked this a lot, or worse yet, I don't get asked and people just assume things that are entirely untrue. Not that I am particularly concerned with what people think about my parenting. However, if I'm being perfectly honest I do care, at least a little bit. More importantly, I want people to understand! I want people to know the positive benefits of being a more gentle parent, to our children, families, and to ourselves.

Many people want to know, what exactly is gentle parenting and why is it so important to me? Let me start off by first explaining what gentle parenting is NOT.

Gentle Parenting is NOT permissive parenting.

Gentle Parenting is NOT the same thing as attachment parenting.

Gentle Parenting is NOT "helicopter" parenting.

and Gentle Parenting is NOT "coddling" or "overprotective" parenting.

Gentle Parenting, simply stated, is a philosophy that focuses on respect, empathy, and responsiveness. Gentle Parenting includes philosophies on positive discipline and setting boundaries that guide children to make positive decisions and ultimately to make their own choices to do the right thing. Versus punitive punishment - which only teaches children to obey, for the sake of obeying.

Gentle Parenting is the opposite of permissive parenting. Gentle Parenting actually takes a whole lot more of an emotional investment than the "traditional" styles of parenting that involve swift "correction" or "punishment" for any bad behavior that parents deem inappropriate. Gentle Parenting has a long-term view on parenting, and contrary to popular belief does not make children into disrespectful, self-absorbed little brats who think they can do whatever they want. Gentle parenting relies on developing a relationship with our children, connecting with them, empathizing with their feelings, and helping to teach THEM to make better choices on their own. Sure, the threat of consequences might make someone stop a behavior in the short-run, but are they truly learning why it is wrong? Helping children to grow into adults who choose not to commit crimes and treat people with love and respect out of a personal desire to do what is right, versus a fear of repercussions or jail-time. When a child misbehaves, a permissive parent lets them continue on for fear of hurting their feelings or making them cry. This is not what gentle parenting is about. Gentle parenting requires that the parent get down on the child's level, connect with them, correct their behavior, and redirect them to something more acceptable. Therefore, helping the child to truly learn why the behavior is wrong, and what they should be doing. Setting boundaries and helping children to learn their limits if of the utmost importance, for all parents. Being a "gentle parent" does not mean your children are exempt from these boundaries and limits, it just means they are not forced into "instant obedience" out of fear of punishment. Instead, they are given a chance to learn from their behavior and therefore correct it - of their own accord.

Gentle Parenting does in fact borrow some concepts from "attachment parenting", but at the end of the day the two are not the same thing. Attachment parenting is a specific "style" of parenting. Gentle parenting does not quite fit into that same neat little box. Gentle Parenting is not a "style" of parenting it is a way of life. Very simply put, is about using your own parental instincts and taking a more gentle approach to all of the things that being a parent throws at us. It is true that developing a securely attached relationship with our children is incredibly important, and many attachment parenting principals are great at helping families to do that. However, there are a number of ways to develop securely attached relationships with our children, so long as we learn to focus on respect, empathy, responsiveness, and intuition. Parents who practice attachment parenting are in fact gentle parents, however gentle parents do not have to practice "attachment parenting". You follow?

"Helicopter" parenting is an unfortunate side effect of the common misbelief that gentle parenting or attachment parenting is meant in the most literal sense of the word. Meaning parents remain constantly physically "attached" to their children without any regard to their personal preferences or desires. True respectful, empathic, and responsive gentle parenting takes into account what the child wants and needs from the parent at all times. Day and night. Sometimes, children want to be given the freedom to explore and play. Keeping a child wrapped up tightly in a sling or carrier out of principal is absurd. Children need to run and play and experience the world. Children need the freedom to learn from their mistakes on their own - but in their own time, and when THEY decide they are ready, not the parent.

Most commonly people assume that "gentle parents" are "coddling" and "overprotective" which in return ends up turning their children into spoiled little narcissists who end up as wimpy losers who live in their parent's basement. As if somehow loving and respecting your children too much makes them wimpy winers, but that is another topic in which I will not dive into yet. Gentle parenting really has nothing to do with "coddling". Sure, there are some parents who coddle their children who also happen to call themselves "gentle" or "attachment" style parents. However, the same can be said for any other "type" of parent. In my opinion, "coddling" is more about a parent struggling to fulfill their own unmet emotional needs.. Often times it is related to their desire to feel "needed". When children start to pull away, they pull them back. This can happen to any kind of parent, gentle, strict, authoritarian, attachment, and sadly even abusive parents. At the end of the day it really has nothing to do with gentle parenting at all. As a parent, I hope to be that "safe place" or source of comfort. If that means nursing through the night because my son needs me, or being there for a cuddle when he is scared, that is where I will be. There will come a day in which he will no longer need me, and when he is ready I will let him go, but until that day comes I will be here. Call it what you want I suppose. To me, that is not and never will be "coddling".

Gentle parenting allows parents to teach their children by example how they should treat others. Which is why Gentle Parenting is so much more than just a parenting style. Developing a securely attached relationship with our children is only one aspect of a journey towards being a more gentle parent. Gentle parenting is also (and arguably even more so) about learning to be more gentle with all of the people in our lives, including ourselves. Gentle parenting forces us to take a long hard look at our own behavior. It forces us to see the things in ourselves that we don't wish to pass on to our children. It requires a whole lot of honesty, and humility, to accept how wrong we have been. Modeling good behavior forces parents to practice what they preach, as well as to apologize when they fail. Unfortunately, the "do as I say not as I do" approach has never been effective. Doing something (or not doing something) simply to receive a reward or because you are afraid of the consequences does not mean that a child is disciplined. It means they have learned to dance for a cookie. While helping children to be internally motivated to do the right thing might take more time and effort - in the long-run it is well worth it.

Gentle Parenting is a state of mind. Something we strive to BE, not something we do. There is no rule book, and there are no "steps" to follow. It is as much about respecting our children as human beings (not pets to be "trained" at our every whim), as it is about respecting others. It's about modeling to our children what respect is, not expecting it without giving it in return. Respect is earned, and you cannot FORCE someone to respect you. They need a reason to, so give your children one.