Friday, April 30, 2010

SpankOut Day: Hitting doesn't help

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at Carnival of Gentle Discipline at The Baby Dust Diaries is wrapping up today. You can see the full list of published essays at the end of my submission:

Assuming the best intentions

Paige at The Baby Dust Diaries has also put up a poll in her sidebar where you can vote on your favorite post of the week. Not saying you have to vote for me, but if you want to … . The winner receives a $25 gift certificate to Wild Mother Arts. Plus, you know, acclaim.

It's been a phenomenal carnival, offering practical alternatives to punishment, primers on what gentle discipline is, and philosophical looks at why and how we practice this method of parenting.

National Spank Out Day USA April 30 2010Since April 30 is SpankOut Day USA, I thought I'd also put in another plea to end the practice of spanking and other forms of child hitting.

If you're someone who has used spanking and other physical punishment, SpankOut Day is a day to try a different method. Remember to stop and breathe before responding to your children's behavior today, and try to figure out the reasons behind their actions. You might Parent With Gentle Love -- My World Edenwildtry Naomi Aldort's SALVE technique as you practice Silent self-inquiry before you react, shift your Attention to your child to understand your child's perspective, Listen to what your child is saying and then listen some more, Validate your child's feelings by repeating them back without dramatizing, and then Empower your child to resolve the situation by showing your trust.

If you are genuinely upset by your children's behavior today, try showing your frustration without blaming your children. Let them know that you're feeling bad about the situation, and work with them to resolve it.

Finally, try a time-in instead of a time-out. If you're having a particularly hard time today with your child, try scooping your child up and snuggling together in a comfy chair. Take the time to reconnect and show that your love continues, despite the circumstances. When you're both feeling calmer, then it's time to talk through the situation.

Remember, just because you were spanked as a child or just because you've used spanking on your children in the past doesn't mean you have to continue the tradition. Today is your chance to try something new and find a way of disciplining that honors both you and your children.

If you are someone who agrees that spanking should not be used on children, take this SpankOut Day as a call to action. Start a conversation about spanking with friends, post a link to SpankOut Day on Facebook, recommend some positive discipline books on your church's message board (done that!), or write to your legislators to encourage strengthening of child-abuse laws. The fact that acceptance levels of corporal punishment have changed so much over time (via Authentic Parenting) gives me hope that we can continue pushing the trend toward no physical punishment of children. Lend your voice to protect those who are vulnerable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ponyo the goldfish encounters breastfeeding

Sam checked out the movie Ponyo from the library. We were really excited to see it, because another Miyazaki film, Spirited Away, is one of our favorites for giving a balanced and realistic view of what childhood is like, or can be (granted, within a completely fantastical environment). One thing I appreciate in Hayao Miyazaki's cartoons is that he shows children as capable and inventive but flawed and open to learning, and his "villain" characters are nuanced and revealed to be not villains after all.

So...we were pleasantly enchanted with Ponyo. It's a story loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid that follows a goldfish (Ponyo) who becomes human after befriending a boy on land.

One thing we were surprised by was that Mikko was just as transfixed as we were, when usually he can't watch a movie through. In fact, he wanted to watch nothing but Ponyo for the next few days! He just made us fast forward through any scenes with Ponyo's ocean-dwelling father, particularly the one where he tries to prevent her from growing and leaving by squishing her down into a bubble. No matter how many times we tried to convince Mikko that Ponyo wasn't being hurt, he would get very upset by that interaction. (Remind me not to try to stop Mikko from growing...)

Anyway, there was one interaction in the movie that seriously made me gasp. I had to rewind it and try to write it down to share with you, because it was too wonderful. I might not have transcribed it verbatim, but here's the gist as far as my shorthand would allow.

Ponyo and the boy, Sōsuke, are out on a boat to look for Sōsuke's mother, who went to help out at the senior home during a big storm and flooding the night before. They come across another boat with a young family — a mother, father, and infant baby.

Ponyo is taken with the baby and offers some soup in a cup.

"Oh is that for us?" says the mother. "... Well, thank you. It smells good." She tastes it. "Wow, that's good soup. Thanks!"

Sōsuke cuts in to say, "My mom made it from scratch."

But Ponyo's annoyed. She points to the baby. "The soup's for him," she says.

The baby's mother says, "Oh, I'm sorry. He's a little too young. He can only eat milk at this age." She smiles reassuringly at Ponyo. "But I can eat the soup, and it will help me make milk for him."

Sōsuke chimes in cheerfully, "Yeah, my mom made me milk, too."

Ponyo considers this as they begin to boat away. She gets a pile of sandwiches out of their supplies.

"Here, have some milk," she says, shoving them into the mother's face. "It's for milk!" she calls.

Seriously, how adorable is that? I love that it's positive and matter of fact, and that kids watching will hear a factual and affirming message about breastfeeding. Notice that the only character in Ponyo by Miyazakithe conversation who is befuddled by breastfeeding is a goldfish-turned-human, who can be forgiven for being confused by our mammalian ways!

Incidentally, according to the IMDB message boards, the original Japanese term translated with "making milk" in the English version was more like "giving him boobies." I wish I knew how the whole conversation went in a literal translation! I think the way they ended up translating it for English audiences, though, was perfect. Just completely normal and natural.

If you know of any other instances of breastfeeding in children's films or books, please share so I can increase my library!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: General adorableness

toddler holding dolls

toddler with finger to lips

toddler eyelashes

toddler smiling

toddler grinning

He's ready for his head shot.

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my new super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!
Just enter your WW direct link, and then click to choose thumbnail from web
it will let you pick your WW picture that's already online. Easy peasy!

Wordless Wednesday linkies

Link up your Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful Wednesday) posts at the link-ups below. You can also "like" the linkies you found most consistent and useful — the list will sort according to which sites get liked the most.

If you have a linky you wish to add, you can do so at the end. Please add a link to your blog's Wordless Wednesday category/tag (preferred) or a link to your homepage, not to a specific post. Remember, this linky list is only if you offer a weekly linky for your readers on your WW post.

Thank you!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sharing parenting poems

close-up of fountain pen and writing in journalIf you're interested, head over to my Lauren Wayne writing blog for some samples of this month's Poem-a-Day Challenge so far. I've been trying to write as much parenting poetry as possible this year, and I've put up some first drafts there.

Here are a couple bonus poems for you here, with the prompts from Poetic Asides that inspired them, and then you can click over to to read more if you're in a parenting-poetry mood!

Day 19: For today's prompt, write a poem about somebody and be sure to include the person's name in the title of your poem (no reason to hide the person's identity here). Write a poem about Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, your next door neighbor, your child, or the person standing behind you. I guess you could even technically write a poem about yourself (just make sure you include your name in the title).


You kick me hard enough to drop my computer,
and you asleep, or nearly so,
ousting laptop from lap.

I'm reminded of how the midwife pointed to
a foot-shaped impression on the placenta
where you'd pounded out your mark.

I felt you for months inside me,
beating to get loose.

We joked about soccer players
and karate masters
and felt sexist to surmise
you were a boy.

Kicking me under my heart
for all those months.
Just under my heart.

Day 21: For today's prompt, take the phrase "According to (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Example titles might be: "According to Bob," "According to these instructions," "According to the government," "According to the sun," etc.

According to the laws of physics

something that heavy must come down.

Why, then, did you spin and rise,
defying the pull to the outside?

Forty-two hours I labored while you danced,
an object in perpetual motion.

The force of contractions upon you
you laughed off and spun away.

Until the hole opened and a cavity like a vacuum
drew you with its power,
sucked into,
seduced into,
the wide bright spaces.

Light sped into your eyes,
and electricity arced in connection between us,
as I defied gravity
and orbited you.

More poems up now at!

P.S. Thank you in advance for being kind. I post poetry only with great trepidation.

If you've shared any of your poems on your blog, let me know so I can go enjoy!

Assuming the best intentions

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.

Mikko in his pre-explaining days, very happy about emptying a trash can.
I wrote before about ascribing malicious intentions to innocent actions, but it was more theoretical then. This was before Mikko was verbal, and I was thankful for our extended period of pre-speaking time with him, because it kept me more aware of him as immature and still in development — to wit, a baby.

Mikko is 2.75 years old now and talking non-stop, so I thought I'd revisit the subject.

My contention before was that parents sometimes wrongly ascribe negative motives to actions their children take, particularly as they grow older and seemingly more mature. There's a tendency to see misbehavior in any behavior that inconveniences us as adults.

Mikko today, still determined to empty every container.

For instance, a child cuts up the pages of a book. The parent sees willful destruction; the child has no conception of OK-to-cut vs. off limits and just wants to practice his scissors techniques. A child pulls her clothes off in a restaurant. She's just hot; her parents note the transgression of social norms and think she's trying to embarrass them.

We're not immune from taking this attitude even into our adult relationships. Ever had a partner or roommate leave the toilet paper roll empty? Was your first reaction righteous indignation and an assumption that it was done on purpose to spite you? (Or is that just me?)

A lot of the time, as with the toilet paper roll scenario, we come to our senses and stop being so dang paranoid and tetchy. Maybe in that case, for instance, we start berating our partner only to hear that he wanted to change the roll but we forgot to buy toilet paper when we were at the store like we were supposed to. (Hmmm...)

Speaking of toilet paper…
But it can be hard with children, when their motives are hard to understand from the outside and they can't explain them clearly to us — or they do explain them, and we still don't think they're all that valid.

I've been trying to collect some examples since I knew this Carnival of Gentle Discipline was coming up. Fortunately, Mikko's a treasure trove of unexplainable actions that some parents would see as call for a time-out (or worse) — but we're trying to be patient and seeking to understand why he does what he does. We usually (always) find that, indeed, he is not a sociopath trying to ruin our lives but instead is a normal, curious, active, socially engaged toddler.

  • The other day at the store, Sam was trying to shop, and Mikko was trying not to let him. Every aisle they went down, Mikko would pull things off the shelves and start stacking them together. It took some observing on Sam's part to realize Mikko was organizing, in some fashion known only to a 2-year-old with early signs of OCD (no, really, but that's another post...). Another father might have seen only the inconvenience and the violation of the store's unwritten code (don't touch unless you're going to buy), but Sam was able to see Mikko for who he is and what he needed to feel comfortable and entertained in that moment. Did it lessen Sam's impatience? Marginally. But it did avoid any major parent-child conflict.
  • Today at the store! (We've had a lot of issues lately with Mikko and stores, to the point we're now considering never shopping with him again.) Mikko wanted to ride in the cart shaped like a car, which has the unfortunate feature of being open and low to the ground so that he can hop out any and every time the cart slows down (say, when you're trying to shop). He spent most of the time in the store racing away from us and thinking this was perfectly hilarious. But there's something infectious about cute giggles, even when they're running away from you and then popping up — surprise! — behind you. As long as we knew he was safe, and that the store wasn't too crowded, we took the road of least resistance and let him do the running around.
  • Mikko loves Sharpies, those permanent markers. They sell them near checkouts everywhere, we have discovered to our chagrin. (I spend a lot of time blotting stains with rubbing alcohol these days, to little avail.) One day he started drawing on his little diecast cars and trucks, and I had to stop my initial response to leap at him and shout, "No!" Because, you know? They're his cars and trucks. I can point out that the ink might not come off (though it often does off of smooth surfaces like that — most of my Sharpie lamentations are over beige fabric, sigh), and I can redirect him to paper, but in the end, it's something that can be his choice. He's not being destructive. He just loves his markers, and he loves his cars and trucks, and he wanted the two to meet.
  • Mikko loves the salt shakers at restaurants. He also needs to pour himself a little pile of salt so he can taste it. His conclusion every time? "Too salty!"
  • We're going through a phase where Mikko likes to pull his shoes off in public. I think it has something to do with how his socks feel on his feet, and I'm thinking I need to search out some seamless ones in case it's a sensory irritation. Lest you think no parent would ever berate a child for taking shoes off, I know a parent who berated her two-year-old for taking off his sweatshirt in an overheated house, even though he had a shirt on underneath. I couldn't figure out what the big deal was and thought she would never have objected to, say, her husband making the same choice for his own comfort.

I'm not giving these examples to suggest that I am the epitome of patience or have no limits for what my child is allowed to do.

To the second element, I often feel the need to guide my child into actions that are socially acceptable or that meet my safety standards. For instance, I have definite rules about not playing with sharp knives or medications; if Mikko is being destructive toward someone else's possessions (wanting to use Sharpies on library books, for instance) or bothering other people (running into their paths in the grocery store), I know it's time to redirect him. What I try not to do is ascribe bad intentions to his actions — a callousness toward other people, for instance, or an unnatural disregard for public property. (At 2 years old, it's entirely natural not to care much about public property!)

As for the first misapprehension — that I am some sort of Marmee-like saint — um, no. Sometimes, more than I like, I snap. I have those knee-jerk reactions that he's doing this to spite me and make me the laughingstock of the restaurant or store. But when I acknowledge those feelings and let them go, without acting on them (Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort, has a helpful mnemonic technique for this if you're interested), I find that a closer look shows me a positive reason for my child's behavior.

Is he running away? He's connecting with me through play and seeking attention. He's also showing his trust that we won't truly lose him.

Is he making a mess? Children are messy creatures. They need to be free to experiment with objects and materials if they want to learn.

Is he being loud? He's finding his own voice and honing his musical skills. (Other passengers on the bus frequently comment favorably on his impromptu songs!)

Is he being disrespectful? He'll learn respect as he's shown respect. Often children say things that are truthful, not to hurt but because they're too young yet to know the right vocabulary and all the social rules. Yes, my son does know some swear words (gulp), but often he'll be saying something innocuous that I misinterpret as something inappropriate. I have to train myself to truly listen.

Who could begrudge this much fun?
Most of all, I need to remember that my child is his own person. He is not an extension of me. He is a whole human being with wishes, regrets, fears, feelings, and preferences of his own, and mine do not trump his.

I'm not trying to be all judgmental against parents who don't think this way, because (a) I don't always live up to it (see above, and take me seriously) and (b) it's the way almost all of us were raised. We think that there are Rules, and when someone doesn't follow the Rules, she deserves to be punished — whether or not she knew the rule existed, whether or not she has a good reason for disobeying, whether or not she did know the rule and chose to break it but is doing so, fundamentally, out of a desire for reconnection. That doesn't matter in a black-and-white view of human behavior, right vs. wrong. There are no extenuating circumstances. The book Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn, really opened up my eyes to how ingrained — and messed up — that worldview is. How it sets up love, even parental love, as something to earn rather than something that's given regardless of behavior.

I believe Mikko is worthy of my love and respect even when he's doing something I'd rather have him not do. I believe this is true even when he's doing something I know (or think I know) is truly anti-social, such as biting or hitting. I want to keep seeking the true explanation behind his actions rather than labeling behavior as "good" or "bad" from the outside. I want to hear, now that he can speak, his motivations and wishes for doing something or other, and his frustrations when we stop him. I want him to know he's allowed to make choices, too.

What funny motivations does your child have for the actions that befuddle you?

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at 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)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Calling for submissions for the May Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Our Carnival of Natural Parenting participants continue to inspire us with the honesty of their stories and the quality of their writing. We hope you'll join us for the fifth carnival in May! (Check out January, February, March, and April if you missed them.) Your co-hosts are Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Lauren at Hobo Mama.

mother and child riding a bicycle on the beachHere are the submission details for May 2010

Theme: Role model: It can be daunting to parent against the mainstream, but sometimes people take notice in a positive way. How has your natural parenting inspired someone else?

Deadline: Tuesday, May 4. Fill out the webform (click the link or complete the form at the bottom of this post) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: CodeNameMama {at} and mail {at}

Carnival date: Tuesday, May 11. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on May 11 and email us the link (if you haven't done so already). Once everyone's posts are published on May 11 by noon EST, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links to generate lots of link love for your site! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our web form: This will help us as we compile the links list. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page:
May Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. As always, our carnival themes aren't meant to be exclusionary. If your experience doesn't perfectly mesh with the carnival theme, please lend your own perspective. Please also feel free to be creative within the gentle confines of the carnival structure. If you're feeling so inspired, you could write a poem, a photo essay, a scholarly article, or a book review instead of a regular blog post (though those are welcomed, too!), as long as what you write is respectful of the carnival's intent. If you want help determining that ahead of time, please talk with us.

Please don't: Please don't use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers or their children. Please don't submit irrelevant or argumentative pieces contrary to the principles of natural parenting. You don't have to agree with all our ideals — and certainly you don't have to live up to them all perfectly! — but your submission does have to fit the theme and values of the carnival.

Editors' rights: We reserve the right to edit your piece or suggest edits to you. We reserve the right to courteously reject any submissions that are inappropriate for the carnival. Please also note that since there are two co-hosts on different schedules and conferring over email, our personal response to your submission might seem delayed. Don't be alarmed. We also reserve the right to impose consequences if the responsibilities of the carnival are not fulfilled by the participants.

If you don't have a blog: Contact us (CodeNameMama {at} and mail {at} about potentially finding you a host blog to guest post. Please write your piece well in advance of the deadline in that case, so we can match you up with someone suitable. But if you really have something amazing to write — why not start your own blog? If you want advice, we find Scribbit's free Blogging in Pink ebook to be a very helpful and down-to-earth guide, for beginners on up.

If you have questions: Please leave a comment or contact us: CodeNameMama {at} and mail {at}

Links to tutorials: Dionna and Lauren have written several tutorials for our participants about how to schedule posts in advance, how to determine post URLs in advance, how to edit HTML — all for both Wordpress and Blogger users. For these tutorials and more, please see this handy summary post.

Stay in touch:

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaIf you are a (former or current) participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar, grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

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Photo credit: leavell