You Can Do It — Baby Wearing

Baby Wearing

When my older kids were babies, I often used a Baby Bjorn carrier to hold them while I was doing housework or taking a walk, but it didn’t work well for newborns, and it put a lot of strain on my back. When they were older, I used a metal-frame hiking backpack, but you can imagine how comfy that was, and being so big and cumbersome, it was hardly like throwing a cloth sling in the diaper bag to use on the go.

After the birth of my fourth child in 2004, a friend sent me a Moby Wrap. She promised I was going to love it, but trying to put it on felt like advanced calculus to me. It seemed more complicated than I was willing to grasp.

Secretly, I felt like a bit of a failure. I admit that I didn’t try very hard, but my unwillingness to learn made feel inferior to all the awesome moms I saw toting around their little ones, snuggled against them in beautiful cloth wraps or ring slings.

It turns out all I needed was a good teacher. Thanks to my buddy Tanya Taylor, I was a baby wearing ninja with our sixth child! Tanya makes her own wraps under the brand Baby the Baby, and she walked me through it, step-by-step using a Smart Water bottle as the baby.

Contact your local midwives and ask if they know of any baby wearing groups in your area. We have quite a few here in the Gulfcoast Florida region. These groups can you practice with different types of wraps and offer all sorts of helpful tips, including how to breastfeed in a wrap.

In case you’re interested, here is an article by Dr. Sears on the benefits of baby wearing.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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You Can Do It — Understand Your Baby’s Cries

Crying newborn

It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we have an amazing practical tip for parents of newborns.

A number of years ago I watched a fascinating episode of The Oprah Winfrey show that introduced me to The Dunstan Baby Language, which is basically a hypothesis that there are universal infantile vocal reflexes in humans that cause five basic sounds, each with unique meaning, used by infants of all cultures before the language acquisition period.

The hypothesis was developed by a former mezzo-soprano opera singer from Australia. Her name is Priscilla Dunstan, and she says that she has a photographic memory for sounds and that this, combined with her years in the opera and her experience as a mother, allowed her to recognize certain sounds in the human voice.

Priscilla Dunstan

Priscilla Dunstan

 

She released a DVD set in 2006 called The Dunstan Baby Language. The two-disc set covers the five universal words of the language, methods of learning how to recognize the vocalizations and sounds, numerous examples of baby cries from around the world to “tune your ear,” and live demonstrations of newborn-mother groups experimenting with the language.

Between 0–3 months, infants make what Dunstan calls sound reflexes. She says that we all have reflexes, like sneezes, hiccups, and burps, that all have a recognizable pattern when sound is added to the reflex. There are other reflexes that all babies experience, and when sound is added to these, a distinct, preemptive “cry” will occur before the infant breaks into what Dunstan calls the hysterical cry.

Dunstan states that these preemptive cries can indicate what the baby needs (food, comfort, sleep, etc.). But if they’re not answered, she says, they escalate to the hysterical cry, which is much less discernable. As the infant matures past 3 months in vocalization, the sound reflexes are replaced with more elaborate babbling.

Although her theory has not undergone rigorous lab testing, we couldn’t find any real criticisms of it.

The Five Basic Newborn Cries

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Connect Powerfully With a Co-Journal

Co_Journal

Ready for a fun idea that will deepen the relationships in your family?

We got the idea many years ago from an other couple. Eighteen years ago, when Matt and I were first together, I saw a cute journal on our friend’s coffee table and asked if it was hers. She explained that it was journal she and her husband kept together. In it, they would write each other love notes, share ideas, dreams, pictures, and so on.

I went out right away and got Matt and I our own co-journal, and wrote the first entry explaining how it would work. We added a fun twist by hiding it for each other to find. It was thrilling to be right in the middle of my day and suddenly stumble upon the little book.

In our co-journal, we would write about our dreams for the future or the things that scared us or made us happy or made us cry. We’d leave each other sweet love notes and tape in movie tickets from our date nights.Over time, it became a kind of record of the early days of our relationship.

When kids came along, our journaling habits gave way to dirty diapers and weekly menus and new parent to-do lists.

One day I told Jody about our co-journal, and she thought it would be a cool thing to do  with her girls. She bought each of them a journal, wrote a note in the front of each one explaining how it works, and placed them someplace for the girls to find. Then, it was their turn to write back and hide the journals for Jody to discover.

I loved that idea, so I started doing it with my kids, and they ate it up! Over the years, that have used the co-journal to talk about what they want to do in the summer. They’ve written about dreams they had. They’ve asked questions and told me how much they love me…and how mad they are at me. I’ve used it to tell them how awesome they are and to tell them funny jokes and share little stories about when I was a kid, and we have often taped in little gifts in it for each other. The co-journal has opened a new door to their hearts and has allowed me to see fresh perspectives and new sides of their personalities.

The hiding part is fun…and sometimes comical. Our son Seth’s book is smaller than the average journal and can be tricky to find. One night, I had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom. On my way back in, I thought a nice breeze might cool off the room a bit, so I turned on the ceiling fan. Imagine my surprise when something came flying off! Seth thought it was hilarious.

Watching the kids have so much fun with the co-journal even inspired a recent Mother’s Day gift. After following a little scavenger hunt, I found a beautiful journal in the mailbox. In it was a note from my sweet husband, inspiring us to begin a new journal together.

Try it in your family, or give a beautiful journal as a gift to a young couple.

Let us know it goes…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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I Want a Do Over!

BeFunky_Image-71.jpg-e1404157529529-220x150

Sadly enough, when I was growing up my mom told stories of how she and my dad barely had enough money to feed and diaper me. She reminisces about destitute times of eating potatoes for days on end and washing my cloth diapers in the tub, sink or whatever was available to clean my butt covers and then hanging them to dry all over their one-room apartment. I would laugh and think, “Wow! We must have been really poor if we had to use cloth diapers.”

The truth is my mom had it right! Even though at the time it was all being done out of necessity, her only option was to take the natural route in almost everything she did. She fed me table food, carried me everywhere, had me sleep with her and didn’t put chemicals on my behind.

I started this post with the word “sadly.” The sad part in all of this is that during that era, all of those things were looked down upon. Only women with no money handled their babies this way.

Isn’t it sad that the cultural norm in our society says that doing something natural (the way God intended it) is basically low class?

Well, I WANT A DO OVER!

When I had my first baby I was nineteen years old. I knew NOTHING! But, my mother-in-law had FIVE children. To me, she knew EVERYTHING and was clearly experienced. Now, let’s remember, this was before the days of the internet, and I lived out in the country in a very small town where people didn’t really educate themselves about better ways to parent. They just did what their moms did.

I was schooled in the cheap way to formula feed your baby. Yep, my sweet little one enjoyed whole cow’s milk with Karo syrup and a splash of vitamins. I was instructed to NEVER let my baby sleep with me because it would cause him to be insecure and clingy.

And how about this one?

“LET THAT BABY CRY! Don’t you be pickin’ up that baby at every scream. He needs some tough love. He’ll sleep through the night if you slap some cereal down his throat and let him cry himself to sleep.”

Now, in light of all the new information I have, it hurts to even type those words.

My son Chase had cereal at three weeks old (this was 26 years ago, mind you). I’m lucky this poor kid lived through it all. Well, he did live through it, but we paid in spades with allergies.

I felt horrible. It was so hard to listen to him cry himself to sleep. So much so that I cried every time it happened. Why didn’t I just listen to my instincts? Oh, that’s right, I was inexperienced.

I can remember long hard nights of just wanting to nurse him on my side and fall back to sleep. I was told I could smother him, and it was simply unhealthy. I remember fighting diaper rash on a daily basis. No one told me that cloth diapering pretty much solves the diaper rash crisis. UGH!

All I wanted to do was hold this precious little life and smooch him for days on end. I didn’t want him to lay and cry. I wanted to hold him everywhere I went. I’m fairly certain that’s what my mom did considering that car seats (the ones we use as baby carriers with handles) didn’t even exist when I was an infant. Moms used to lay their babies in the seats next to them, no straps. (Okay, so some progress is good!)

How much easier would it have been for me to “wear” Chase than to lug him around in that heavy, clunky infant seat?

Oh, and I was told, “Don’t scrub your floors or do any type of manual labor – your milk will dry up.” What the heck?!

Then came potty training. It was so disgusting to me that my little ones pooped and peed on themselves. Okay, I’m a bit of a poop-phobe. The idea of poop touching anything is gross to me, including your own tushy.

“Just give him an M&M everytime he goes on the potty,” I was told. What? I was not into bribing my kid and feeding him unnecessary sugar (but that’s a whole other story). So, when I first heard about Elimination Communication, it made total sense to me. Of course it’s not natural to poop in your pants then sit in it and squish it all around until someone decides they’re ready to stop what they’re doing and change you! Does that sound comfortable to you? NO! It makes total sense that there is a particular cry when a baby needs to poop, and we need to learn that cue and how to communicate with our babies.

I must have been the dopiest mom ever and completely insecure in being a mom. I DID know what my baby needed. I DID know what to do, but I allowed all the voices around me to take over, first with Chase and then with my two girls.

My biggest heart’s cry for moms of babies is to know that YOU HAVE A VOICE! Listen to your instincts. Don’t question yourself. It’s okay to ask questions, seek council, do research, but be sure YOU have the final say. And ya know what? If you make a mistake, big deal – you made a mistake. You and your baby will live through it. I promise. I’m proof of that.

Do I want a do over? Absolutely! Do I beat myself up over it? No way! Reason being, my experiences now allow me to encourage moms to have a voice.

Oh, and my other regret . . . NOT HAVING MORE BABIES!! (but that’s a subject for a different post)

If you’re interested in learning more about Elimination Communication and how to potty train without M & Ms, tune into this Saturday’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EDT). If you’re local to Sarasota, you can listen live on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

So…anyone else want a do over? Or is it just me?

 

 

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Understanding Baby’s Cries

Crying Baby Girl

I guess after having six kids (Jenni here), I’ve become pretty fluent in the baby cry language. It is an actual language, you know. Don’t believe me? Keep reading, and be sure to click on the video link below. You will be blown away.

I recently had two encounters with infants that left me feel terribly frustrated. The first happened in Walmart one night. I was in the bread aisle and I heard a very distinct baby cry. I spun around and saw a young dad anxiously bouncing a newborn, hopeless trying to calm the baby whose cries were escalating.

There was no doubt in my mind what was happening. I’d heard that cry countless times, and I knew exactly what that little guy was saying: “Feed me!” He was hungry…very hungry!

It Seems I’ve Become “That” Lady

In my older age, it appears I’m becoming that annoying lady who tells young parents what to do. I hated those people when I was a young mom, and I vowed never to be one, but alas, I can’t seem to help myself.

“Your baby is very hungry,” I told the young dad, as gently as I could and with as much compassion as possible.

“I know,” he said. “His mom is the only one who can feed him, and she’s not done shopping.”

As I weaved in and out of the next few aisles, I could hear that baby’s cries reach fever pitch, and my blood pressure seemed to follow the intensity of his little pleas for help. I could picture him gulping down the milk (and lots of air with it) once his mom finally heeded his cries. I imagined what would follow once the air traveled into his GI tract. It would likely bring a different kind of cry, perhaps one with his knees pulled up to his chest.

Later that same week, Jody and I were working at a local Panera, and next to us was a tiny little baby. He was there with his young mommy, a grandma and a great-grandma. He was so very little that we knew he had been born prematurely. His mom said he was 4 weeks old, but he was smaller than any of my babies were the day they were born.

As the ladies passed him around and studied his precious little features, he began to cry. Although it was nothing like the hungry cry I’d heard in Walmart, I was just as familiar with this one. Jody recognized it too. He was uncomfortable, and most likely it was because he was cold.

We do live in south Florida, and it is hot this time of year, but indoors it’s pretty chilly. This little guy was wearing only a onesie — no hat, no sweater, no pants, no blanket. His arms and legs were a mottled purple, and we were picking up the message of his cry loud and clear. Her was saying, “Help! I’m cold.”

On today’s radio show, we’re going to talk about a great resource for parents called The Fussy Baby Network, and we’re also going to share with our listeners the fascinating Dunstan Baby Language, which explains the five basic cries of newborns.

Dunstan Baby Language

A number of years ago I watched a fascinating episode of The Oprah Winfrey show that introduced me to The Dunstan Baby Language, which is basically a hypothesis that there are universal infantile vocal reflexes in humans that cause five basic sounds, each with unique meaning, used by infants of all cultures before the language acquisition period.

The hypothesis was developed by a former mezzo-soprano opera singer from Australia. Her name is Priscilla Dunstan, and she says that she has a photographic memory for sounds and that this, combined with her years in the opera and her experience as a mother, allowed her to recognize certain sounds in the human voice.

Priscilla Dunstan, founder of the Dunstan Baby Language

Priscilla Dunstan, founder of the Dunstan Baby Language

She released a DVD set in 2006 called The Dunstan Baby Language. The two-disc set covers the five universal words of the language, methods of learning how to recognize the vocalizations and sounds, numerous examples of baby cries from around the world to “tune your ear,” and live demonstrations of newborn-mother groups experimenting with the language.

Between 0–3 months, infants make what Dunstan calls sound reflexes. She says that we all have reflexes, like sneezes, hiccups, and burps, that all have a recognizable pattern when sound is added to the reflex. There are other reflexes that all babies experience, and when sound is added to these, a distinct, preemptive “cry” will occur before the infant breaks into what Dunstan calls the hysterical cry.

Dunstan states that these preemptive cries can indicate what the baby needs (food, comfort, sleep, etc.). But if they’re not answered, she says, they escalate to the hysterical cry, which is much less discernable. As the infant matures past 3 months in vocalization, the sound reflexes are replaced with more elaborate babbling.

Although her theory has not undergone rigorous lab testing, we couldn’t find any real criticisms of it.

The Five Basic Newborn Cries

Neh –  “I’m hungry”

Apparently, as a baby’s sucking reflex kicks in and the tongue is pushed to the roof of the mouth, the sound that comes out is a “neh” sound.

Owh – “I’m sleepy”

The “owh” sound is made in the reflex of a yawn.

Heh – “I’m uncomfortable”

Although the “heh” sounds similar to “neh,” if you listen carefully, you’ll catch it’s distinctive “h” sound at the beginning. This particular sound lets you know that the baby is uncomfortable – cold, itchy, needs a new diaper, needs a new position, etc.

Eair – “My lower tummy hurts”

The “eair” sound is a deeper sound that comes from the abdomen. There is often a kind of grunting associated with it, and although Dustan attributes this to lower gas pain, those of us who have used Elimination Communication with our babies, also recognize it as the “I have to poop” cry!

This sound is often accompanied by a newborn pulling his knees up or pushing down and out with his legs. The baby’s body, not only his face, will look uncomfortable.

Eh – “I need to burp”

This is similar to “neh” and “heh,” but remember that you are listening for those beginning sounds, not the ending sounds. When you hear, “Eh, ehhhhh” your newborn is telling you, “Burp me, please.”

It’s hard to communicate these sounds in writing, but we’ve included this clip from The Oprah Show, and it gives examples of babies making each sound. Check it out!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgkZf6jVdVg

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Help! My Baby Has Colic

Crying newborn

I have a distinct memory of my young husband (Jenni speaking here) out on our patio on his hands and knees hitting his head against the concrete in complete despair. Our firstborn was four weeks old at the time, and he had been crying — no … screaming — for hours.

We had tried everything — rocking him, feeding him, walking with him, changing his diaper, making him warmer, making him cooler — nothing we did helped. We had a colicky baby, and it was one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences we’ve ever faced.

Baby colic is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months.

No one really knows what causes colic. Research has shown that it seems to be more likely to occur in babies whose mothers smoke, but they’re not sure why. Researchers also have found correlations between childbirth complications and the amount of infant crying. More stressful deliveries were linked to more crying, but other than that, there seems to be no consistent answers.

People used to think colic was caused by cow’s milk, but breastfed babies can be colicky too. It’s not necessarily linked to gas or reflux or to psychological or social problems.

So since we can’t exactly know what’s causing it, we just have to try different methods to manage it.

Suggestions for Managing Colic

Before you take ANY advice (on our blog or anyone else’s), talk to your doctor and make sure there is not a medical issue causing the crying. Once you get a clear bill of health, here are some things worth trying. Just keep in mind that what might work for one baby could make it worse for another. You’ve got to try a bunch of things and figure out what what works best for your baby. The most important thing is for your baby to feel safe and loved.

  • Ask your doctor to recommend a probiotic. Studies have shown that infants with colic have different intestinal microflora.

  • Place a warm water bottle on baby’s tummy.

  • Gently massage tummy or lay baby across your lap on her tummy and gently rub her back.

  • Place baby near white noise (vacuum, blow dryer, fan or TV static) or noise that emulates a mom’s heart beat.

TV static makes white noise, which can be helpful for some colicky babies

TV static makes white noise, which can be helpful for some colicky babies

  • Try a rocker, baby swing or car ride.
  • Try a new environment. If you’ve been cooped up in the house all day, take baby out for a walk and give her a change of scenery, smells, landscape and noises. On the other hand, if you’ve been on the go, try a quiet home with a serene atmosphere.

  • Hold baby in a dark room and be completely still and silent.

  • Softly bounce while holding baby and gently whispering “shhhh,” keeping baby close to you so she can feel your heartbeat.

  • Swaddle your baby tightly. When babies are in the womb, they feel resistance every time they move. It can be scary in the outside world where there are no tangible boundaries.

  • Try a warm bath. It can sometimes distract your baby. She may even like the feeling of water being poured down her back.

  • Give her something to suck on — a pacifier or your finger. Non-nutritive sucking is both soothing and important for infants.

 Keep a Journal

Here are some things to track. Try to look for patterns.

  • How long crying bouts last

  • How often they occur

  • Behavior during the episodes (clenching fists, knees to chest, etc.)

  • What happened prior to an episode?

  • What happened directly after the episode?

  • What you did to try to sooth your baby and how long did you do it?

  • What were the results?

  • Record your baby’s diet and feeding schedule

  • Record weight loss/gain

Helping the Rest of the Family Cope

Colic can be stressful for everyone in the family. Here are some quick tips to help minimize the impact of colic on your household.

  • Keep routines in tact so the rest of the family feels secure in the midst of chaos.
  • Be sure to schedule one-on-one time with each member of the family so no one feels left out or ignored.
  • If you’re journaling, you’ll probably have a good idea when the bewitching hour is coming — that time when colic is at its worst — so prep your home. Get all the daily chores done. Have dinner ready to go (the crockpot is your best friend!). Have kids homework done, checked and school bags packed and ready to go for the next day. This way, when the crying comes, you can focus on soothing baby.

Letting Babies Cry It Out Is Dangerous

Research has shown that leaving babies alone and letting them “cry it out” can be damaging. It can damage neural interconnections (in layman’s terms, that means it can cause brain damage). Instead of helping babies learn how to comfort themselves, which is the general philosophy behind “crying it out,” it seems to do just the opposite. “If they are left to cry alone, they learn to shut down in face of extensive distress–stop growing, stop feeling, stop trusting,” says an article in Psychology Today.

That being said, if you are feeling extreme stress or even anger, the best thing to do is put the baby in a safe place and find a way to help calm yourself. You are NOT a bad parent if you feel this way. Sensory overload is one of the five causes of anger, and a screaming baby can be a HUGE burden on your senses!

Don’t beat yourself up. Just put the baby down for a few minutes and help yourself stay calm. If necessary, call a friend or family member and ask them to come over and give you a break.

It goes without saying, but just in case you grew up in a remote part of the jungle and missed all the media hype about Shaken Baby Syndrome, it’s worth repeating that no matter how stressed you feel, NEVER…EVER…EVER shake a baby in frustration.

Tune In To Learn About the Fussy Baby Network

This Saturday, May 31, 2014, we have a guest joining us on Parenting On Purpose who will tell us about The Fussy Baby Network and offer some ideas on how to handle colic. Sarasota listeners can tune into 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM at 10:00AM. Everyone else can go to WSRQ Radio’s website to listen streaming or get instructions on how to download a mobile app and listen on the go. If you missed the broadcast, check back next week. It will be in the podcast section.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Rules Without Relationship Breeds Rebellion

Conversation is King

Yesterday we asked the question, “Does your voice have more weight in your child’s life than any other voice?” At the heart of this question is really the issue of authority. If there is going to be peace and order in any home, parents have to have authority.

Now, we’re not talking about a militant, harsh, controlling kind of authority.

The dictionary defines authority as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience”

When it comes to families, what we mean is the children’s willingness to recognize and submit to the family rules and to the parents’ wisdom, decisions and advice.

At the core, having authority means that your voice has weight.

We believe this is foundational to everything else. The parents’ voice has to be stronger and clearer and more important than any other voice in the lives of kids!

This is not about controlling your kids. It’s grooming them to willingly recognize and respect authority throughout their life, and it’s about cultivating in them a teachable spirit, so that as they grow, they will willingly seek out and heed wise counsel — beginning with yours.

And it all starts with a strong relationship.

Rules without relationship breeds rebellion

Above ALL else, our kids need to know that we love the snot out of them! In fact, we adore them. We always have their back, and we always have their best interest at heart. Not our best interest for them. Remember, our kids are not an extension of ourselves. They are their own unique individuals. They have to believe that we recognize and respect their individuality and that we want what’s best based on who they are and who they will become.

Conversation is King

DAILY conversation is KEY to having authority! We don’t mean a once a week check-in. We’re talking a free flowing line of communication about what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling on a daily basis.

So, if your boy has a crush on a girl, you shouldn’t hear about it from someone else or on Instagram. The goal is to be the FIRST person your boy tells.

Once you develop intimacy, your children will automatically begin to come to you first with issues. Trust is born out of intimacy and out of a history of successful conversations. If they feel like you’re their constant critic, you won’t have intimacy.

What Does Intimacy Look Like?

Intimacy is honest. If we are not honest with them, eventually, they will smell it, and they will no longer come to us to find truth. They’ll turn to their friends or to the Internet.

Intimacy is transparent and vulnerable. Transparency opens the door to authenticity. When our kids know that we are authentic people who make mistakes and can own our mistakes, they begin to realize that they don’t have to be perfect; they just need to be responsible.

Talk openly about everything, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable it may be, even with the opposite sex child. TALK ABOUT IT! They have to know that they can come to you with anything. Because if they can’t come to you, they will go to their friends, and soon their friends’ opinions will begin to carry more weight than yours.

Intimacy is invested. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say, no matter how immaterial, boring or far fetched it seems. The second they get a whiff of, “she’s not listening to me” or “she doesn’t care about this,” they will begin to look elsewhere for someone who WILL listen and be vested in them.

Moms and dads of younger kids: if you want your voice to have more weight when they’re older, their voice has to have more weight in your life now. Where are you placing your attention? On them or on the phone? On the TV? On the computer? On your work? On your ministry? On your social life?

Intimacy takes time. We’ve all heard the big quantity vs. quality question. It’s not either/or, it’s both. We need to spend a large quantity of quality time with our kids — time that is FUN for us and for them. If you hate make-believe play, then don’t try to play Barbies or have a tea party. Find stuff you like to do, and do that instead. Ride bikes, do craft projects, cook, read, play board games. If you’re having fun, they will feel it, and if you’re not, they’ll feel that too.

Building a strong and intimate relationship with our kids is the first step toward having real authority in their lives.

Come back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about The Three C’s of Authority.

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Does Your Baby Still Use the Potty?

Matty Potty Chair Crop
Originally posted in June, 2012

Question: I saw your post a few months ago about how your infant uses the potty. Are you still doing it?

Answer: We get this question quite a bit! And the answer is yes, our baby still uses the potty for poop. Baby Matthew (or Matty J, as we call him now) is five months old (actually, TODAY he turned 5 months!), and now he sits on his own potty chair. My arms are relieved! LOL We use the Baby Bjorn Potty. The high back makes it perfect for infants who are just learning how to sit up independently.

He’s on a counter in this picture, but typically, he sits on the floor, on his potty, next to the grown up potty. For the most part, he’s on a good schedule now, pooping when he wakes up in the morning at 6:30, like clockwork. That’s usually it for the day, but every once in a while, he makes the telltale grunt, and we know it’s time for a potty visit!

We don’t focus much on pee — as we said from the beginning, we’re part time ECers (check out the post to find out what EC means). For that we use cloth diapers. If anyone is looking for an EXCELLENT cloth diaper resource, check out Everyday Baby. The owner, is precious! And she ships all over the country. You can also like her page on Facebook.

October, 2013 Update

Many people wondered if we ever made the switch to cloth, and we did. But after he was about a year old and began having poop misses, we reverted back to disposable. Even after six kids, I’m still pretty poop-phobic. But we won’t be using diapers for much longer.

Matty Jay gearing up for full-time diaper free living! As of now, he tells us when he has to poop (although since he started walking at about 11 months, he often tells us just after he pooped). He pees on the potty when he gets up, before a bath and before bed.

At about a year old, he didn’t like his regular potty, so we got this great potty seat for the big toilet. It’s contoured so that even little ones can sit securely. But since he has trouble getting on and off by himself, we’re bring back the Baby Bjorn chair when training starts in a few weeks.

Stay tuned for more info on our journey to a diaper free baby!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Infant Potty Training – How Did I Miss This One?

potty
Originally posted March, 2011

Some people call it EC (for Elimination Communication), which happens to be a better name than Infant Potty Training, because it really is more about communicating than training. But whatever it’s called, I’m seriously bummed that I missed it with my first five kids.

We first introduced Baby Matthew to the potty the day he was born. It was slow going the first week, but by the second week, we were getting the hang of it, and although we’re only part time ECers, Baby Matt is a full-time potty pooper. With the exception of two or three misses over the past five weeks, he poops exclusively on the potty. It turns out, poop is pretty easy to catch.

I first heard about this phenomenon when my third child was a newborn (almost 10 years ago), but as most parents who hear the words “Infant Potty Training,” I thought it sounded ridiculous. In hindsight, my main misconception was that parents had to hover over their child and serendipitously catch him in the act. One of my friends made a comment recently that reflected my original misunderstanding of the whole thing. She said, “That is not baby training. It is parent training.”

I guess she’s sort of right. EC is parent training in the same way that understanding your baby’s hunger cry is parent training and recognizing a tired cry is parent training. Her comment reflected my own misconceptions, but I’ve since learned two important truths:

  1. Newborns are completely aware of their elimination needs and have control
  2. Newborns are as capable of communicating the need to pee and poop as they are able to communicate the need to eat

Newborns Have Control and They Can Communicate

I’ve learned that newborn babies are born with an awareness of the need to eliminate. It makes sense when you think about it. I can’t think of another mammal who is born wanting to poop and pee on itself. Based on what I have recently read, babies have control up to three months. After that, if it’s not used, they lose the ability.

Yikes! Could it be that we are actually TRAINING our sweet babies to use diapers? I can tell you for sure that my baby does NOT want to go in the diaper. He squirms and grunts, and if I don’t respond, he eventually cries – sometimes hard. Having had five babies before this one, I am no stranger to these signals. I remember every single one of them crying the exact same kind of cries. I simply did not know what they meant. So basically, I trained them to use a diaper, only to have to un-train them two years down the road.  Hmmmm….

Some things are fairly universal when it comes to babies. Most moms can clearly discern a hunger cry, even in other people’s babies. And they can usually understand a tired cry too. When our babies are hungry, we feed them. When they’re tired, we put them to sleep. And now that I understand the potty cry, when I hear it, I simply hold the baby over the toilet.

I think many moms are concerned that they’ll spend the whole day taking their baby to the potty. It’s as if they think fluids constantly drain from their little ones, like the Baby Alive doll. Actually, I think that’s somewhat true of babies who are trained to go in a diaper. It’s as if they let poop eek out incrementally. But the truth is, babies can eliminate a lot of poop at once. After such a big poop, they don’t need to go numerous times throughout the day. In fact, some of my EC buddies say that pretty soon, Baby Matt will likely go just once a day at a predictable time. Makes sense – that’s how my body works.

We’re Part Timers

So here’s how this whole thing started for us. When I was pregnant with Matthew, we were at a playground with a bunch of families from our school. My baby-wearing buddy Tanya was trying out a new sling with another mom’s one-year-old (Tanya makes great slings). After carrying little Sally around for a while, Tanya recognized the telltale squirm. “Your baby has to pee,” Tanya told Sally’s mom.

“Oh, no. Sally’s not potty trained.”

“Yeah, but she has to pee. If you take her now, she’ll go on the potty.”

Well, this opened the door to a big conversation about EC. And as I listened, I found myself slowly warming to the possibility of trying this. I went home and began researching it, and I read that it was possible to do this part time, which meant we could give it a try, and if it didn’t work out perfectly, it would still do our baby some good.

Our goal for EC is not to have a diaper free baby. Although there are many families that are successfully diaper free. Tanya’s youngest wore panties at three months. You have to special order those.

The average age for potty training in America is 3 years old, so they don’t sell infant panties at Target! Not yet, at least — maybe we if increase awareness of the benefits of EC, that will change. It could happen. In my grandmother’s day, very few women breastfed, and we all know how that has changed. Maybe when my daughters are having babies, the common culture will embrace EC. There could even be EC-friendly day care programs! I know some moms who want to do EC, but don’t know how to handle it when their kids are in daycare. Well…here’s to hoping! Maybe if everyone who reads this post retweets it and links to it on their Facebook page and emails it to friends and family, we can help do our part to bring about change.

In the meantime, our family’s goal for EC is to help our son maintain the awareness of elimination and the ability to control it. Although he poops almost exclusively in the potty, we don’t catch all the pees. Perhaps if I wore him in the sling for most of the day I would be more in tune to the pee squirm. He certainly does signal when he has to pee; I just don’t always see it because I spend a lot of time on the computer writing.

Jody and I write homeschool curriculum, and we teach parenting classes, which means writing the workshops and workbooks. We are also working on our first non-fiction book, and I freelance for parenting magazines…in addition to blogging, tweeting, and of course, homeschooling my five kids. Baby Matthew doesn’t like being in the sling if I’m sitting. So I can wear him when I’m working with my kids or teaching a homeschool co-op class or conducting a parenting workshop or even sometimes during a parent coaching session. But when I’m home at my desk or in the Panera working with Jody (a.k.a. our office), baby Matt is not wrapped to me, and I often miss his pee signals.

From what I’ve read, part time is enough to help him maintain the elimination awareness, and there’s a strong chance he will be diaper free before he’s two. But again, that’s not necessarily our goal. Although, I am thoroughly enjoying NOT changing poopy diapers! Baby Matt is now six weeks old. We have not wrecked one outfit yet, and his little bottom is not red and irritated. All of our kids are so fair skinned that diaper rash was a regular occurrence in our house – but not this time!

Baby Steps

Although the idea of going diaper free is alien to our common culture, it’s normal in other parts of the world, especially cultures that regularly wear their babies. In fact, I’ve even read that in some cultures it’s shameful for a baby to eliminate on her mother because it means the mother was not paying attention to her baby.

I’m certainly not at that point, but I am making small, subtle changes. For one, we are gearing up to becoming a cloth diaper house. For now, we still use disposable diapers (you don’t have to be the crunchy, tree hugging type to do EC!), but since Baby Matthew only pees in his diapers, there’s no reason we can’t use cloth. In the past, I cringed at the thought of cleaning a yucky poop out of a cloth diaper. But for the most part, there’s only one small pee in his diaper when I take him to the potty. I certainly don’t want to put that back on him, which is causing me to go through more diapers than the average family. It’s getting expensive, and I do feel guilty about filling a landfill with all these extra diapers. So…we’re going cloth!

Perhaps the next step after that will be to catch more pees, but in the meantime, I am content to go slowly and enjoy being able to meet yet another need for my sweet boy. There is something very bonding about EC. It’s as though his body and face show how grateful he is that I have understood his signal and helped him meet this need. My husband and other children have also bonded with the baby through EC. It’s been a rewarding journey for everyone so far.

Resources

I’m sure you have a boat load of questions. So I’ll to point you to the experts who have helped me. After all, I’m just a newbie here. If you’d like to learn more about EC, check out Christine Gross-Loh’s book, The Diaper Free Baby.

You can also visit the website ECSimplified. They’ve got some good info, including a downloadable book that I have yet to read (but I plan to).

Be sure to leave a comment below, and let me know what you think about the whole EC thing. And if you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them or point you in the direction of a better resource.

Update -- It's October, 2013, and Matty Jay is a great communicator! He talks up a storm and can tell me when he has to poop. He's totally ready for full potty training. We just moved, and Jody and I have a parenting conference this month. So in the first week of November, we're taking the plunge and going completely diaper free! Check back often for our progress. I'll document the journey here.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Baby Wearing Ninja

Baby Wearing

Originally posted in February, 2012I can hardly believe it took SIX kids for me to fully embrace and enjoy the art of wearing my baby! (They make great accessories, you know – LOL) Sadly, my first five missed the physical and emotional health benefits of being securely snuggled next me for a good portion of the day. But like I said in my last post, I’m experiencing a whole new education with this little guy.

If you’re interested in reading more about the benefits of baby wearing, check out this article.

I used a Baby Bjorn carrier with all the others, but it didn’t work well for newborns, and it put a lot of strain on my back. When the kids were older, I used a metal-frame hiking backpack, but you can imagine how comfy that was, and being so big and cumbersome, it was hardly like throwing a cloth sling in the diaper bag to use on the go.

After the birth of my fourth child in 2004, a dear friend sent me a Moby Wrap. She promised I was going to love it, but trying to put it on felt like advanced calculus to me. It seemed more complicated than I was willing to grasp.

Secretly, I felt like a bit of a failure. I admit that I didn’t try very hard, but just my unwillingness to learn made feel inferior to all the awesome moms I saw toting around their little ones, snuggled against them in beautiful cloth wraps or ring slings.

It turns out all I needed was a good teacher. Thanks to my buddy Tanya Taylor, I am now becoming a baby wearing ninja! Tanya makes her own wraps under the brand Baby the Baby, and she’s got a host of videos like the one below to help moms figure it all out. Although this video talks about nursing your baby in a carrier, it’s also a good demonstration of how to front wrap.

Here inSarasota, we have three different baby wearing groups that each meet once a month. I am so excited to try all different kinds of wraps and techniques and learn from the veteran wrappers.  If you don’t have a group in your area but would like one, contact a local homebirth midwife and see if she would let you host it in her office. That’s what Tanya did, and now it’s grown to three meetings in different locations and extends through the entire natural birthing community here.

If you love to wear your baby, tell us about your favorite wrap.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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