Stages of Development
Raising your children through their many child stages will constantly create new questions and challenges in how you parent. Understanding what to expect at any age and sharing insights with those who have gone before you, will increase your parenting development, flexibility and understanding. Keep up with those changes here.
The best and hardest job you'll ever have is raising children. You may be raising an only child, a gifted child or a difficult child. Or are you raising a child with special needs? My friend Judson has a daughter with autism, and he has created a site filled with important information to help you and to help your special child be the best he or she can be. Visit Raising Special Kids.
Perhaps you are continuing to closely parent an adult child; do we ever really stop? Yet, ultimately, what you want is to be raising resilient children. Children who make healthy choices and contribute to making the world a better place.
Raising Ourselves First
Parents have the least amount of training for the most important job in the world! Raising children requires parents to seek information and education. It does not come naturally! You may have been parented well, or not. You may have good parenting role models around you, or not. Do you feel overwhelmed by the tons of conflicting information out there, about every child-rearing topic under the sun?
How to Sort it Out?
As always, change can only begin with you.So begin by remembering who you were before you had children. What were you passionate about? Staying connected to the healthy, before-parenthood part of you will keep you on course. Knowing what you believe in and value and what your parenting partner believes and values will make all of your decisions easier. You won't be doubting or guilting yourself at every step.
Look Around You
Be an astute observer of others: Notice parents, grandparents and teachers, whether they are your own or someone else's. They provide lots of opportunities to learn new approaches, or decide what not to do. Ask them. What is their philosophy of parenting? What did they do well when raising kids? What would they do differently?
Look Into Your Crystal Ball
Who you are is who your child is becoming...
Sure, it may be hard to imagine your child as an adult but it's important to imagine it and plan for it and act on it now. If you don't know where you're going, how will you get there? What do you value? What's important to you? What's important to your parenting partner? Where do you agree? Where can you agree to disagree? What is at the top of your list of qualities that you want your adult children to have? Being resilient, clear thinking, kind and generous may make the list. Is family time important? Spending time in nature? Volunteering?
You Are What You Say
Language is the single most powerful element of parenting! Your parenting style and choice of language play a huge part in your child's outlook on life. How do you handle anger and stress? What is your child learning by watching you cope with life's ups and downs? Does your child see you being respectful and appreciative to others?
Seven Tips for Raising Children
Are you raising children that will become parents and know:
- It's important to help those who have less
- "Calling your mother" is an important part of your routine
- Family time is a priority
- Outdoor time is healing and calming
- Respect is shown by listening and following through
- Consistency is key
- Unconditional love is the foundation of relationship
You aren't raising a little boy, you are raising a man. You aren't raising a little girl, you are raising a woman.
Interested in exploring alternatives to conventional medicine? Often, our children need us to "expand our range" and think outside the box. Dr. Peter Hanfileti, MD is a pediatrician who trained and practiced in allopathic medicine for years. His transition to also considering other modalities including Chinese medicine and Energy medicine inspires his practice now. He shares insights and wisdom with parents at his website: Principles for Parents.
Baby Parenting: Tips & Advice
Where are you on the "parenting stress index"? Are you rested? Likely not! Find baby parenting tips and advice from an experienced mom to help ease your way into the wonderful world of parenting!
You are baby parenting now! You've waited a long time for this and the discoveries you are making daily only rival those that your baby is making. Visit this site often for new insights and information to support your discoveries. As one wise mother, Elizabeth Stone, said, "Making the decision to have a baby is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
Now you may find yourself more tired and more in love than you've ever been in your life. Your self-care is essential and yet may seem impossible! Remembering yourself may seem like the last thing on your long list of things-to-do (that aren't getting done). That's okay, this too shall pass. This is the time, though, to start the habit of doing something for yourself each day. Whether a cup of tea in the midst of laundry and dirty dishes, taking that moment to focus on yourself is important. Afterall, doesn't your child deserve to have you at your best?
Sifting Through Parenting Resources and Baby Advice
There are a million books on pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care, and no doubt you've read a few of them! It gets harder to sift through the available information, though, when your baby now wants all of your attention. So, how do you decide what book to buy? Well, see our Parent Resources page for a list of recommendations as a way to get started.
Your Baby Parenting Team
Sobonfu Some', in "The Spirit of Intimacy," writes of her childhood in west Africa. She tells the story of realizing at age 7 that she came from only one mother! She thought all the adults in her life were her mothers and fathers, for that is how they treated her.
So, yes, it does take a village to raise a child but, as Sobonfu says, "It takes a whole village to keep parents sane." So, who is in your village? Who is helping you stay sane? A parenting partner? A neighbor? Grandparents? A child needs more than only mom or dad to turn to when they have questions and needs. Perhaps you are parenting your baby as a single parent? And, single parents or not, all parents need to reach out and find others to share in their parenting role. Finding parents who have babies and children who are a little older can give you more insights into what to expect and how to proceed than the many, many books on parenting.
What a Baby Needs From You
- Parent who is well-rested
- Parent who touches and talks to baby in loving and reassuring tones
- Parent who knows that a baby actually needs very few things
- Parent who continues to learn and try new ways of baby parenting
- Parent who seeks others to learn from and model
- Parent who provides a safe, quiet environment
Take Comfort, Take Heart
It will happen sooner or later: your baby cries inconsolably in a restaurant or on an airplane. You feel the stares and begin to wish the floor would open and swallow you both even as you get hotter and, if you're breastfeeding, your breasts begin to leak. How would you feel if you knew those stares were friendly? If you knew all those people were sending you soothing and "been there-done that" vibes? If you knew their glances were filled with empathy and understanding?
Every parent has been in your shoes and most would sympathize with you now. Twenty years later, I am still grateful to the mom standing behind me in the grocery line who offered to hold my crying baby while I maneuvered the cart, the credit card and my 2 year old! Look for ways to help each other and ask for help when you need it — there is usually a mom of older kids or a grandparent who would relish holding a baby again! You'd actually be doing them a favor. Meanwhile, take good care of yourself, take good care of each other.
Alternative MethodsLooking for alternative ways to meet your child's health care needs? Dr. Peter Hanfileti, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician who has expanded his practice to include Chinese medicine and Energy medicine. Browsing his website will give you some new and surprising insights: Principles for Parents.
The safety of the baby is a top priority for new parents. For tips on car seat safety, minor first aid, and food safety see: Little Safe Ones.
Have fun with your baby! Imagine knowing what your baby wants before they can talk! Babies can talk with their hands before they can speak! Do you live in the Portland, Oregon, area? You can attend a Baby Sign Language 101 Workshop by Tiny Talkers and learn everything you need to know in one short session.Find out more about Baby Sign Language at Tiny Talkers Portland.
Being a whole new parent to a whole new person...
Toddler parenting may have you feeling excited and confused, like you've graduated into a whole new world! Your baby has mastered so many new physical skills to become a toddler. While physical development continues, some of your child's work now turns to inward development, understanding emotions and impulses. Your toddler can be alternately demanding and bold or reticent and in need of your reassurance, a confusing and exciting blend.
The parent of a toddler discovers:
- A whole new dimension of tired!
- New emotions of anger and frustration
- New delight in your toddler's verbal abilities
- New fear and amazement at your toddler's sometimes-fearless physical capabilities
You may be asking yourself: How did my sweet little baby turn into this? Take heart, you are merely "in training" for parenting teenagers; just like teens, toddlers are in a struggle between independence and dependence. "Do I do it my way or Mom and Dad's way?" When you understand elements of toddler development, you will be more confident in your guidance and more patient in managing toddler behavior.
It has been said, "You are your child's first teacher," and never is it more true than in the toddler years. If you are hurrying, yelling or impatient, they are learning ever-so-precisely how to do just that. If you take care with people and possessions, you are creating a strong foundation for health and a positive outlook for your toddler.
Toddler Brain Development
Your toddler's brain is like a sponge: that means it absorbs everything but it also leaks! A toddler is very literal. That means that everything you say is interpreted exactly as you say it. When you are feeling down, do you say, "I'm feeling blue?" Well, your toddler will be literally waiting for you to turn blue! (A very upsetting prospect to some.) You may also feel like your toddler's brain leaks like a sponge. If you think of all the new experiences, emotions and ideas they are processing each moment, its no wonder they tend to forget things. Parenting your toddler requires constant repetition, both in words and actions. Remember that showing your toddler and doing it with them is more effective than your words alone.
Boys and Girls Really Are Different
Supporting the natural development of your toddler includes knowing the differences between girls and boys and providing the activities crucial to their unique development.
Toddler Girls: They have more ability to 'talk things out' and use words to describe how they're feeling. Toddler girls are also more able to do tasks that require fine motor skills like putting beads on a string, coloring, or buttoning clothing.
Toddler Boys: While less verbal now, they have plenty of capabilities in activities that require spatial and mechanical abilities. Toddler boys like building bridges and pushing dirt around (while making all sorts of noises)! And while some toddler boys like playing with dolls or soft toys, it is more likely that they will gravitate to trucks and blocks.
It is important to toddler development for parents to offer a variety of activities and toys. These encourage a wide range of experiences. Emphasis on simple toys that can become many different things in the toddler's imagination is important. A polished piece of wood can become a boat, a bed, or a bridge. A fire truck complete with firemen, bells, and hoses can only be that.
Temper Tantrums: The Terrible Twos?
Around the age of 2, parents and toddlers begin to experience the dreaded loss of control that is a tantrum. As young children process and digest so much new information, they can be overwhelmed and suffer a meltdown. Knowing what is happening in the toddler's brain and how to respond effectively lessons the temper tantrum's duration and eases everyone's transition back to everyday life.
Enjoy Parenting Your Toddler
Remember, a toddler needs:
- Generous hugs and cuddles
- Consistency of routine
- Consistency of rules
- Lots of time outside
- Your model of behavior
- Little to no media/screen time
The habits you instill now will create a foundation of trust and respect that will carry your family through the teen years and into adulthood.
How do you parent an adolescent? Actually a lot like parenting a toddler!
Parenting teenagers may feel like no parenting you've ever known before. Sooner than you can imagine your adolescent boy and adolescent girl will be an adult. You are in that unique "no-man's land": your son or daughter is no longer a boy or girl, but not yet an adult man or an adult woman. You may even feel like you're back in the "toddler years" as you watch your new teen wrestle with issues of independence and dependence. As an old Italian proverb puts it: "Little children, headache; big children, heartache."
The years with their number ending in "teen" gained distinction in the early 20th century when child labor was outlawed and education through high school was mandated. This extended those years of adolescence into either "the best of times or the worst of times." By 1941, Reader's Digest had firmly implanted the term teenager into our vocabulary and we began to learn about parenting teenagers.
A wise friend once told me, "Your children need you more in high school than they ever did in elementary school." Now they need you in a very different way even as they continue their struggle between dependence and independence begun in their toddler years and now back with a vengeance. And while your pre-adolescent may seem like a teenager, they are in the tween years, considered to be between 8 and 12 (although I think 8 is a little young).
In the 'tween and teen years, their struggles are bigger and riskier, which means they need you to continue to BE there. Now it is more important than ever that the refrigerator is FULL of food and that you willingly welcome ALL of their friends into your home. Make your house the fun place to hang out.
Ten Parenting Tips for Teenagers
Teenagers. Yikes! As the parent of a teen, do you feel you've entered uncharted yerritory? Teenage behavior can be puzzling and unpredictable. Use these parenting tips to help you navigate the roller coaster ride. These Ten Parenting Tips will help you understand and stay connected to your 13- to 19-year-old.
Establish the non-negotiables first. Teenage behavior can be risky and/or just plain dumb. It is imperative that you establish the non-negotiables clearly and ahead of time. With your guidance, together you can decide on the limits and the consequences for not keeping agreements.
1. Teenagers Need To Talk. Adolescents understand their world by talking about it. Often, they are not well-informed about their topics and may seem belligerent and opinionated. Continue the conversation, no matter what. This is your opportunity to be a good listener and continue to be the mirror and interpreter of the world-at-large for your teen. Sometimes they may not want to talk to you — don't take it personally. They'll talk with each other and argue with everyone. Adolescent girls may turn to their journals while adolescent boys may find an outlet in writing songs. Any outlet helps them formulate what they believe in and value. When they are listened to seriously their self esteem increases.
2. Know Where They Are At All Times. Remind your teenager that having a cell phone is a privilege, not a right. A cell phone means you will let each other know your plans. If plans change, it is your teen's responsibility to let you know. And it is your responsibility to let them know if your plans change, too. Have your teenager teach you to text message.
3. Curfew. Discuss and agree on a reasonable curfew. This means what is right for your family, not what everyone else is doing. If needed, call other parents and ask them what their curfew rules are. Your teenager must let you know when they're home. I used to fall asleep on my adolescent girl's bed so I would know when she got home. A benefit was that late nights are often the time when teenagers are ready to talk. Be open to staying up even a little later for some quiet conversation, and be ready to listen.
4. Driving. There is no opportunity for second chances here. Follow your state's young driver rules and add your own to make driving a safe experience. Delay getting permits and licenses as long as possible. Sometimes teenagers feel pressured to get their license before they feel secure about driving. Let them off the hook if you sense they are struggling with this, require a little longer practice time behind the wheel.
5. Know Their Friends. You want your home to be the central hub of adolescent activity. This means your refrigerator is full at all times! Talk to your teen's friends, look them in the eye, take an interest in them and in their families. A friend of mine had a long-standing tradition of creating a haunted house on Halloween. At first, it was the adults creating for the children. As the years passed, the children began doing the creating and it has continued as a much planned for and fun event for parents, teens and younger children. Create something together, get involved in a project and work alongside of your teen. You may each discover interests you didn't know you had!
6. Be Available. Make yourself available for late night sessions around the kitchen table or driving in the car with your teen. Maintain family traditions. "Tucking in" your teen may seem odd, yet that is when they may be ready to chat. My brother-in-law always made mouse pancakes for breakfast on Sunday when the kids were little. There was a time during the teen years when that was a subject for teasing. Now, though, as adults, when they come home, they want dad to make mouse pancakes! Sometimes it is enough just to share the same space. Be the reliable, steady presence in these tumultuous teen years.
7. Family Time. Though meals together may feel impossible, it is still crucial. When asked what would help ease teen stress, more than half said they wanted more family time. So, don't let them fool you! On some level, they do yearn for family connection. Many studies have shown the connection between family meal times and healthy teens. They've shown that when teenagers eat a majority of meals with a parent, they have higher academic success, better health, higher self-esteem and are less likely to use drugs or have symptoms of depression.
8. Biographies. As teenagers search for their place in the world, it is important to supply them with "larger than themselves" role models. See "Books for the Journey: A Guide to the World of Reading" edited by Marianne Carello which provides a balanced reading list for adolescents.
9. Humor, Flexibility and Specific Language. Keeping in mind that "this too shall pass" may help you approach your teen's behavior with a lightness that may hold all of you steady through the tough times.
10. Shine The Light On What They Do Right! Adolescents will make mistakes but likely they are doing more things right. Focus on the right things. Teen behavior has its ups and downs. Be forgiving and flexible. Tell your son or daughter specifically what you noticed them doing right. Appreciate them! "Thanks for giving your sister a ride to practice. That really helped me out when I had to be in two places at once."
Ten Parenting Tips for Teenagers is only the beginning of ways to stay connected to your teen. Understanding adolescent development will help you understand teen behavior. Your patience will increase along with your understanding and compassion for this roller coaster ride that you are all on!
Above all, relax and enjoy parenting your teenager. All too soon he or she will be off to college — but, that's another story!
Siblings and Sibling Rivalry
The relationship of siblings can be complex and yet it is unavoidable as illustrated in this Vietnamese proverb: "Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet."
Brothers and sisters offer the opportunity to explore relationships in a unique and enduring way, and friction between them is normal. However, the intensity of learning this vital aspect of being in relationship with another person may drive you crazy. The friction will ebb and flow over the years and often becomes more noticeable in times of change, such as the arrival of a new baby, a change in parental relationships, or moving.
Like all of us, brothers and sisters may simply get tired or overwhelmed with too much togetherness. Helping them to develop separate friends and separate interests is vital, and having separate time with each parent is important, too. When siblings have spent time apart, they may find they actually enjoy each other more when they come back together.
It's not necessary to get involved in every sibling squabble. When you do decide to get involved follow these tips for handling squabbles:
Normal Bickering: Ignore it!
Situation Heats Up: Adult intervention may be helpful:
- Start by acknowledging their anger towards each other. This will relieve tension and they can begin to calm down.
- Listen to each child's side of the event with respect.
- Show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem.
- Express your faith in their ability to work out a mutually agreeable solution.
- Leave the room.
- Congratulate them later on their ability to resolve the problem. Give them specifics: "I noticed that you decided to put the game away and go outside to play instead."
Possibly Dangerous Situation: 1. Ask, "Is this a play fight or a real fight?" (Play fights are permitted, real fights are not.) 2. Let the children know that play fighting is by mutual consent only. If it isn't fun for both, it must stop.
Definitely Dangerous Situation: Adult intervention is necessary. 1. Describe what you see in specific terms. "I see two very angry children who are about to hurt each other." 2. Separate the children for a cooling off period. 3. Later, discuss the situation and brainstorm solutions for what to do the next time. Your children are surprisingly creative so be sure to listen to their ideas and incorporate yours thoughtfully.
SharingSharing is often an area of conflict and is difficult to "force." Try these methods instead:
- Put the children in charge of sharing. "I have one bottle of bubbles, what's the best way to share it?"
- Point out the advantages of sharing. "If you give him half of your red crayon, and he gives you half of his blue, you can both make purple!"
- Allow children time to process inwardly. "Lucy will let you know when she is ready to share."
- Show appreciation for sharing when it happens. "Thanks for sharing your cookie with me. It was yummy."
- Model sharing. "I want to share some of my carrots with you."
Some of these suggestions are excerpts from "Siblings without Rivalry" by Faber & Mazlish.