summer is wrapping up

And we’re getting into gear for fall… meaning, back-to-school for our Montessori kiddo, and not-back-to-school for M. Although, it’s sort of back to school because she’s starting some new programs! I’m so psyched for her to not be in school, to be out in the community and in nature, learning from the real world. It’s one of those mother instincts, when you just know you’re going in the right direction.

We’ve had some major upsets around here, with our floors being redone and staying at hotels. M had a bit of anxiety with the routine change, then again when her frenemy from last year in kindergarten turned up in her same summer camp this week. Apparently, both girls have been doing GREAT at camps, no behavioral issues, having fun, etc (according to the other girl’s mom, who I spoke with many times and like very much). Then they are in the same camp all week and BAM, lots of problems. They are wild, not listening, fighting, etc. So, her mom and I will be making sure that doesn’t happen again! It’s too bad, really, we were hoping with time apart they could have gotten on a little better, but something about these girls in combination just ignites all of their nasty behavior. M has been so anxious about being around this girl that her behavior at home went a bit wild, as well. We were wracking our brains for a reason… is it because we added gluten back into her diet? (Organic gluten only, but still.) Is it because we ran out of her magnesium supplements for a few days? (Same thing seemed to happen last time she missed several days of the mag.)

Then, it all became clear. She was insanely anxious about being with this girl in camp, and worried about telling me about it because she didn’t want me to be disappointed. So we’ve had lots of talks about letting us know she’s having a hard time with something, rather than turning into a spitting hissing dervish. She needs to know she won’t be punished for having a hard time, we just want to help.

In any case, we’re moved back into our house and unpacked. Now we have some serious mini-van shopping to do and some baby furniture setting up… we have 4-5 weeks until these babies arrive on the scene!

why I might take my daughter out of swim lessons

So, back to my regularly scheduled programming. Parenting in a gentle-discipline style, and loving the unschooling philosophy, means trusting that a child will learn the necessary knowledge and skills at their own pace and in their own time. It also means not using punishment and shaming or other methods of control to get children to “do what you want them to” unless it’s for their safety or the safety others.

So, swimming. She’s in the 3-5 year old class, and there are six kids. This is part of the problem, because each kid only gets to go out in the water with the teacher 3 times. Basically, three minutes of actual swimming in a 30 minute time period. In between turns, they are expected to sit there, on their bottoms, on a bench in the water, not touching one another, or splash one another. Basically, sit there like statues (or old people). If they get too many warnings, they have to get out of the water and sit at the edge until they are told to get back in, and they miss the turn they’ve been waiting so long for.


Maybe if there were two or three kids in the class there wouldn’t be such long waits in between turns, but even so. It’s ridiculous to expect this age group to just sit there like that. And how much swimming can they possibly be “learning” in this manner??? It’s not like I want her to be a swim team member at age 4: I just want her to have some fun and be able to swim enough not to drown if she falls out of a boat. Also, I wish I didn’t have to get into the water with her. Like, how about a class where it’s one-to-one or one-to-two so instructors can actually swim with the kids??

This is the only swim class option in our whole area (unlike the city where I work, which has a Goldfish school). But I think we will just go back to open swim once a week. At least she’ll have some fun.

letting her “walk all over me”

It seems like we’re inundated with the social message, “don’t let your kids walk all over you”. Even phrases like, “choose your battles” is more like holding up a white flag of surrender, or admitting defeat. There are parents out there who in response to that, would say, “My kid WILL do what I say, when I say it. I’m not their friend, I’m their parent. What I say goes.” The message being that if you have a parenting philosophy in which you do not attempt to control your child, you’re soft, a wuss, and a failure.

At the end of the summer, I gave up trying to establish control over my child. It wasn’t working, not with this child. Instead, I tried to guide her, model for her, and help her. I used redirection, I modified the situation when I could, or I taught, either with words or by example or both. In the last month or so, inspired mostly by unschooler blogs, I started giving up control over other things as well. Things like when to eat, what to eat, and when to sleep. I have tried to adjust my expectations and ideas about how fast something should take, how quickly we should move from one activity to another, how often the house should be cleaned (or stay cleaned), and so on.

I had several main areas where M and I clashed: getting dressed, getting in and out of the car seat, and going to bed. I can say that things are much better with all but the getting dressed bit.

Bedtime: I don’t make her go to bed. Like, for real, I don’t say “it’s time for bed” or tell her to lie down or anything. So far she has chosen to sleep on the couch a few times, but usually I just tell her that I’m tired and I’m going to lie down. The TV is off, the lights in the house are all off, but she is welcome to play. She brings things to the bed sometimes, like little plastic spiders, and sometimes plays with them for a while. She jumps around sometimes. But usually, she lies down eventually and goes to sleep.

Getting in and out of the car: When we leave school, she never wants to get in the car. This would mean a scene in front of her teachers and little friends in the parking lot, so now, in spite of the fact that it looks silly, we play outside of the car for a few minutes. She has even had me hopping like a frog down the sidewalk with her! I think she is just super excited to see me, and can’t calm down enough to get in the car yet. As far as getting out of the car when we get home, I lock up what I don’t want her to get into, and just let her play in the car. This goes on for quite some time! When she’s ready, she comes out.

Getting dressed: Haven’t figured this one out yet. The child wants to live in a state of nakedness. She wants to go out in to 40 degree temperatures naked, or at least, in a t-shift and nothing else. In order to get clothes on her, I’ve had to use bribes (snack or whatever). I would let her wear whatever silly thing she wanted, if only she would wear something!

As far as junk food goes, like I said above, I still can’t bring myself to trust her enough not to just eat candy and nothing else. But bloggers like Home-Ed Life are really inspiring me to loosen up about this, too. (Read their great blog entries about junk food here, very though-provoking!) Should this even be a thing before someone is not yet 3 years old? If I model that I don’t eat junk all the time, and she sees me eating healthy food, will she also do so? Can I take the plunge into trusting her to eat what her body needs, like I’m now trusting her to sleep when her body tells her it’s time? Gosh. I want to, but I’m so schooled when it comes to raising kids and food. I’m so brainwashed I can’t tell if I’m thinking for myself or just regurgitating a lifetime of “knowledge” that has been absorbed.

So yes, I have a two-and-a-half year-old and no, she has no bedtime, she has no screen time limits, and she is never punished. If you think she’s a spoiled brat, you should’ve seen how she behaved when she had all those things! She’s much more pleasant now, I tell ya. If she had responded well to any of that, I have no doubt I’d still be doing it! Just gotta keep on going til you find what works!

P.S. So far, instead of feeling like she’s walking all over me, I feel like we are now walking together (instead of me dragging her kicking and screaming).

evolution of a parenting style: part 2

We had a great day today visiting the zoo with our friends, the ones we met on the playground. It wasn’t just great because the zoo is fun, and having a mom friend who gets it and you and even likes my kid makes things awesome. It was also great because M listened well, showed empathy to her friend, and stayed about as calm and happy and polite as you can expect a two-year-old to stay.

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for another day as good as this one, because we all have on days and off days, both moms and kids, and just by writing this I’m guaranteeing a bad day in our near future. It did, however, lead me to think that I’m on the right track for myself as a mom, and for my daughter as a person, when it comes to my new attitude about parenting and disciplining.

Here’s the takeaways I’ve gotten so far from all of my reading and researching (and intuiting):

-We’re a team and we’re on the same side, rather than it being her vs. me.
-I am trying to coach my child on how to manage emotions and help her build brain connections, rather than just trying to control behavior.
-Keep the focus on building empathy and trying to understand the viewpoint of others when it comes to aggression, as well as other ways to express big feelings
-Make sure to convey that my love is not conditional, or dependent on her good behavior or doing what I want when I want her to. Give the most love when she needs it most (when she’s acting out)
-Model the behavior we wish to see: how to control and express anger appropriately, how to manage frustration, how to let little things go, how to plan ahead, how to learn from mistakes, how to sincerely apologize, how to show empathy and consideration for others (including children and those with less power!)
-Keep our mother-child connection the priority, through one-on-one time, silliness, play, respect, and all of the above

I know that none of this will stop bad behavior. Children are learning still, but hell, adults act badly at times, too! There is no quick fix to parenting, no way to turn our kids into little robot angels when we need their cooperation most, but the things I’m learning are giving me a sense of peace and confidence. I wake up more excited to spend time with my daughter, with less dread about how she might behave.

I blog about the hard times a lot, so I’m going to be referring to this post very often to remind myself that it’s not always as hard as it sometimes feels!

when I don’t need your two cents

Yesterday, we were at my sister’s visiting with my dad and stepmom who are here from out of state for the week. M had had a long day including going to my co-worker’s baby shower, and she was sort of getting into things at my sister’s house. She got into some art supplies but was just looking at them, not opening them. I was right there keeping an eye on her. Then I set her up with some water paints and she kept putting the brush in her mouth after dipping it in water, with me right there to remind her that it was “yucky” to put dirty water in her mouth.

The whole time, my stepmom kept saying, “No M, don’t do that M, no no M, no no no” etc etc. Then she said THIS to me, “Not to intrude, but you need to start telling M “no” more, so that she learns not to do things she shouldn’t.”


First of all, this from a woman who has no children or grandchildren, and has probably spent less than a few hours of her life total with a two-year-old. So thanks so much for the parenting advice. It took me several minutes of biting my tongue (hard) before I explained that saying no to every little thing she does only means she drowns me out, and doesn’t hear the important no that I use when she’s doing something unsafe, or hurtful to another person or animal.

I have been fuming ever since. I realize this is pretty typical unwanted advice from an older generation and childless person, but still. I put so much time, energy, and consciousness into the way I’m raising my child. What others may interpret as me not stepping in and disciplining just because I’m not responding, is almost always a deliberate non-action on my part.

I know that my newer, gentle-disciplining, coaching-not-controlling style of parenting is probably going to inspire a lot more judge-y and unwanted commentary from all sorts of people. Maybe I need to grow a thicker skin, but I have a feeling that I’ll always be sensitive to criticism of this job that I’m putting my all into every second of every day.