Life with a newborn (those first few days)

End of the world as you knew it! No really life as you knew it has changed forever, but what an amazing change has taken place. For many of us it is a total (cliché alert) rollercoaster of emotions, forgive my use of that term but at this moment in time I can think of nothing that describes it more accurately.

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CRAP (Confusion Ridicule And Pretence) Empower Families Not Disempower!!

Most who know me will know I am not a great fan of forums. In my opinion, they tend to lead to competitive parenting. The advice is often contradictory, doing nothing to give parents confidence in their own abilities. This is the reason I suggest to people coming through my classes, that if they are after advice on particular subject, to contact myself or another birth professional and ask them to point them in the direction of balanced information they can read.

Why? Simple, I believe that it is our job to empower parents, help them get the information they need, for them to be able to make an informed choice. My personal opinions on parenting are irrelevant, it is for them, as parents to trust their instincts and make best decisions for their family based upon as much information as they need. After all, all families, their lifestyles, and their needs, are different!

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Something Quite Special

Having taken time to reflect on what I saw on Saturday, I am still filled with an amazing warm feeling about what happened.

Saturday, saw me running a New Dads class. New Dads classes are for any dads with babies up to crawling stage. They are based around Developmental Baby Massage, whilst at the same time giving dads time to share and discuss their experiences with other dads. They also have the opportunity to ask me for specific advice on any subject relating to them and their baby.

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Breastfeeding Dads!

Right, before we get into this one, let’s be clear on my personal opinion: I advocate breastfeeding wherever possible. I believe it can be the best start for a child and I believe in the benefits of it. That said, I do not decry those that choose not to breastfeed, as long as it is an informed decision and has been taken in the best interests of the family, given the personal circumstances.

Ok, that’s that out of the way! So what do I have to say on the subject?

Simple, I get more and more fed up with the discussions I see taking place… I am fed up with media and their use of terms like breastfeeding zealots, breastfeeding Nazis or even Breastapo. But I am also sick of the attacks on families that have chosen to not breastfeed or for medical reason, cannot breastfeed. Yes it is true, depending on what research you read, between 1 and 5% have a medical reason for not being able to personally breastfeed. Even if it’s only 3%, that’s still over 18,000 mums a year in the UK alone who can’t. Yes, there are now milk banks, or milk sharing networks, but this are not widely available, or advertised. Unfortunately, they are also viewed as very ‘hippy’. It has also been a long while since wet nurses were commonly used, so to some the thought of it being another woman’s milk being given to their baby, for some reason repulses them.

There is still so much general discussion about the amount of women that give up in the first two weeks, or percentage who are still feeding at 3 or 6 months, and how we need to support more women to continue breastfeeding. This almost becomes self-defeating, the cycle that occurs from this are feelings of being under pressure, leading to fear of ‘failure’ and the guilt associated with that, which then allows the media to use the terms they do. Yes, a lot of women get great support that really helps, but also a lot of women also struggle, hide their struggle because they feel guilty or scared of being criticised or judged, turn to formula, AGAIN hiding this because they feel guilty or scared of being criticised or judged. I have known many women who have even hidden the formula cartons away when they know the midwife/health visitor is coming to visit, rather than ask for help.

BUT that isn’t what I want to make people think about, I want to draw attention to the crucial element that is being missed by breast feeding support workers, health visitors, midwives etc. Not all of them, but a large proportion.


DADS! Yes, dads. They are a crucial element to successful establishment and continuation. Again, those same dads, without adequate support to take a positive role, can also be the reason for failure to establish and all this is being ignored.

 

So why can Dads be the reason for failure to establish or continue breastfeeding?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, there is what I refer to as the male ‘fix it reflex’. When us men see our loved ones in distress, pain or despair our natural instinct is to ‘fix it’. And being men, we tend to look for practical ways to do this. Without proper support and understanding, this is what can make us men a liability, during pregnancy, during labour and when baby is born! We don’t do it out of malice, we don’t do it for self-gain, we simply want to help our loved one and ‘fix’ the problem. In breastfeeding, this can manifest itself when our loved one may be struggling to establish breastfeeding, or generally just finding it hard, especially in those first few weeks! For many men, if we see what we perceive to be our loved ones in difficulty, we will try to help, and often this will include (when all else seems to not be working) to reach for the formula. Why? Simply because it is an almost immediate, practical, solution, no other reason. We understand breastfeeding offers the best start for our baby, but at the time our ‘fix it reflex’ takes over, and we want to help. The decision to formula feed has been taken out of the hands of our partner, which can create a negative spiral of guilt, denial and then the very real difficulties associated with the impact mixed feeding can have on milk production… ultimately possibly leading to them discontinuing breastfeeding.

The second reason is a little more complicated. Now, men if not properly prepared, can feel excluded in a household of baby and breastfeeding mum. They can end up feeling a bit of a spare part or dogs body, if nobody has supported them, prepared them and told them how to help support their family, is that really such a revelation? If this continues, it can also turn to resentment, a feeling of exclusion, and lead to male postnatal depression. Those early days in general are quite a stressful time, complete with the torture that is sleep deprivation for the whole family.

I’m sure many of us will agree, even if just privately, at this time we didn’t always act rationally, and again this is the case here. Generally it will be men that first bring formula into the house. Normally stating “just in case of emergency” or “better to be prepared” or something along those lines.  Men long for an opportunity to simply get involved with feeding, so if opportunity presents itself they will jump at the chance, often this is through the use of formula they bought “just in case”.

Unfortunately there is a growing attitude that even expressing is not really a good idea. Yes, I know it can lead to problems, but again, understanding and preparation here is essential, and many families make this work very successfully. Men do want to share that feeling, the one women get when they are feeding their baby and can gaze into their eyes, that moment of very special connection. We men can become very jealous of that connection, especially when you also consider some of the issues I discuss in my blog on antenatal bonding. For most men they don’t feel like they are dad until baby is born, so this bonding process can be inhibited in these circumstances.

I’m not saying all men will do all, or some of the above, but a lot will. Simply, either out of misguided idea of helping our family, or simply not understanding our role. Just waiting for an opportunity, so we can become more involved.

This has all sounded very negative, Dads can do so much if properly supported and prepared. If they understand how to become involved, and are given a sense of purpose, so many of these possible pitfalls can be avoided. Dads, when mum is feeding baby, sit with her, talk with her and talk to your baby. Bring mum a drink whilst she is feeding, that simple act has so many benefits both physically and emotionally. Take a proactive role in what comes after the feed, the winding the sleepy post-feed cuddle…

I believe our current antenatal education system needs to be addressed, it needs to be MORE dad inclusive. It is why we discuss breastfeeding within DaddyNatal… it is why I prepare dads for the feelings (positive and negative) they may start to feel. It is why I give dads a list of things they can do in support of a breastfeeding partner. It is why I make dads aware of their ‘fix it reflex’ and teach them at times like this to sit on their hands. It is why I give dads a sense of purpose and get them to share in the feeling of achievement, if they as a family have chosen to breastfeed and are successfully doing so.

There is so much more I want to write on this subject and at a later date I will re visit it. I will also publish my tips and advice for Breastfeeding Dads. Go on try that term because successful breastfeeding, like all aspects of parenting is easier if everyone is pulling together. So yes, dads should breastfeed too, figuratively speaking!

 

What is the partner’s role during birth? Part I

What can dad do during birth?

This is the question I am probably asked the most, normally followed with a comment such as “apart from hold mum’s hand” or worse “keep out of the way!” These comments couldn’t be further from the truth… dads can do so much during labour and really make a difference. Unfortunately no, we cannot guarantee everything will go to plan, we cannot wave a magic wand and no, we definitely can’t swap places!

So again, what can dad do during birth?

Dads role in labour is really only about two things… So dads listen up, understand your role, prepare for your role and really support you partner!

Be Her Protector

Yep, you get to be her knight in shining armour! But what are you protecting?

Everything with regard to being her protector stems from one key factor, adrenalin. In my piece “men at birth” I explain about fear. Birth professionals the world over will agree, adrenalin is an enemy in labour… adrenalin can stall labour, make labour more painful and longer.

Your role as a protector is about protecting your partner’s environment and recognising anything that may cause fear, and get that adrenalin pumping around her body.

This image is of a typical delivery room,

What in this room could cause apprehension or fear in your partner?

Simple, just about everything! Even the clock on the wall can cause both of you to watch time pass and worry how long it is taking. Then how about the blood pressure band hanging behind the bed. What about the alarm call button or the baby station? Maybe the IV tree sitting just at head of bed? All of these things can evoke anxiety in either of you, which can start the process of adrenalin production.

DON’T PANIC!!!

Simply by recognising these things can cause anxiety is first step. Now you are aware you can talk about them, understand them and accept that they are there not for you but simply because they are always there. If you spot something in your partners eye line you feel may cause a problem, move it! Think about how you can take the emphasis of the medicalised delivery room, with dimmed lights, music playing, etc.

So these are tangibles that you can spot and deal with, but also think about the walk in to the hospital, checking in, being examined. Just actually walking in to the maternity suite can be scary, as it all becomes very real for both of you. Is it any surprise that the majority of women when arriving at hospital, will state that “typical, my contractions have slowed down”? That’s caused by that surge of adrenalin… So be aware, once you get there make your partner as comfortable as possible and the environment as relaxing as possible as quickly as possible. Reassure her and follow my labour dos and don’ts.

OK, now what else was missing from the picture? Simple, people. So who will be in the room? Well, probably you, also the midwife. That will be the minimum, but depending on your circumstances there may be more.

Do you need to protect you partner from the midwife? Absolutely! But no, before the outcry, not because the midwife is bad or dangerous! Your partner just needs to feel comfortable with her midwife. To keep adrenalin down, your partner needs to feel surrounded by people she can trust and feels relaxed with.

Your role as protector does not stop there though… you also need to protect your partner against YOURSELF! During labour, your partners senses will be heightened, Mother Nature gave this as a gift to labouring women so that they can sense dangers around themselves, so they can protect themselves. During labour, your partner will sense any worries or tension coming from yourself, in a nutshell, she will smell your fear. If she senses you are afraid or worried, it will trigger her fear and thus her adrenalin. This is why YOU preparing for YOUR role during labour is so important. By being better prepared and informed, you will be calmer and more confident during labour and birth.

So focus on her, keep reassuring, use that extended vocabulary you now have prepared. Overall, trust in both of your abilities and instincts. Simply by reading this you will be better prepared. Keep preparing, and allow yourselves to enjoy the experience, as it is a truly wonderful time when you meet your child for the first time.

However, being your partners protector is only half of your role… my next blog will cover your other essential role – that of advocate.

 

What you scared of?

Come on guys, admit it… You found out you going to be a dad and since you have had all sorts of thoughts and fears going round in your brain! Don’t worry, it’s totally normal and what’s more, I doubt you have any that are unique to you.

Fear release, is a very important part of we do at DaddyNatal. No, blokes don’t all have to tell me their deepest darkest fears, but I do explain the common ones and where they stem from. We do then discuss some they may be having if they feel like sharing, and of course, all done in true male style complete with humour! And this is the essence of why it is crucial that DaddyNatal is entirely men only – let’s be honest, do you really think men will feel comfortable to discuss their personal fears in front of their partners or other women? Of course not!

Why is it so important we deal with fear?

The why is simple, and something I discuss in my piece on “Men at Birth” but in a nutshell, fears that are not released can be picked up during labour by the laboring woman. This can lead to prolonged or even stalled labour through the production of adrenalin. Worse is, if some fears are not dealt with, they can linger post birth causing friction, resentment and delayed bonding with their newborn child.

So what are common male fears?

Guys, listen up, these are some common ones, but in no way all of them. If yours isn’t on here feel free to email me and I will talk to you about it.

First for the bomb shell, research has shown up to 6 out of 10 expectant fathers at some point in the pregnancy will suffer doubts and fears regarding the paternity of the unborn baby. Definitely on each course I teach, at least a couple of blokes, have been, or are dealing with this. It is so common, yet of course, often not spoken about. This is an important fear to deal with because it can affect the expectant fathers’ behavior during pregnancy, attitude at birth and relationship with the baby.

Ok guys, if you are dealing with this fear, I want you to now listen to the likely reason for having it, accept it and get rid of the thought! The reason for it in 99.9% of cases has absolutely nothing to do with the fidelity of your partner. It stems from perfectly normal fears and anxiety you are having and manifests as this thought. It can be because you have doubts about your own ability to have achieved the miracle of creating a new life. Maybe you are in denial because you’re not ready to be a dad. Maybe you have had concerns about you own fertility. The list goes on but the pattern is clear, it is solely linked to our self-doubt and not our partner.

Fortunately most men have this thought and instantly or within few days are able to move on. For some though it sticks, they obsess and it is extremely destructive. This is why you need to acknowledge it is about you, not your partner, deal with it and move on.

What else? Well we men also worry about how we will support our family. Or worry about handling a baby and not knowing what to do. Again, both purely natural. I am convinced that if we all waited until we were in right financial position to have children, man would be in danger of extinction! There is never a right time, whatever your situation you will find a way to support your family. If you are worried about knowing what to do, well take control and prepare yourself, attend classes like DaddyNatal, talk to friends, research and maybe spend some time with friends or family that have children. One thing though, you will learn what to do and if you put a little effort in you will do just fine.

Men also have the worry of their relationship changing with their partner. Nope, sorry not going to tell you ‘don’t worry it won’t hardly change’, and anyone that does is talking ****. Yes, it is going to change and probably, quite dramatically. If this is your first baby, then you are no longer a couple, you are now a family. In the early days and weeks, there is the possibility of feeling like spare part, unless you have put some work in preparing for what you can do. Read my blog on “When Does a Man become a Dad” for some tips.

Some of us are petrified at the thought of the birth and some will even feel sick at the thought. Again, this is not as unusual as you may think, and through preparation and understanding this fear can be eliminated. For some though, the fear might remain no matter how much effort they put into preparation. If this is the case, then you have to question if you should be there or at the very least, be the main birth partner. You do have a choice, you could see if there is a close family member or friend you both would feel comfortable with who would support you at the birth, or see if you can find and afford a doula you both like.

These are just some of the more common ones, there are plenty more. What is important is you acknowledge your fear, there is no place for macho behavior here. Failure to acknowledge you have a fear and deal with it can have a big impact on YOUR family. I will help anyone that contacts me so please do if you wish to discuss a personal fear. Talk to your midwife, she is happy to work with both of you and is not just there for your partner. Maybe you have maternity helpline which is also there to help and support expectant partners. Do something!! Don’t let fear spoil the best day of your lives.

 

Baby Monitors, whats available? (Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature reviewed)

OK dads, this is our department, a gadget for the baby! Time for some research. There are a wide range of baby monitors on the market, varying in both price and functionality. Prices range from as little as £25 to over £200.

So what are the choices?

First, is your basic sound only monitor, this type of monitor has a base station that is in the bedroom with baby, you then have a portable receiver to enable you to listen to the sounds of baby. Most of these tend to be analogue transmitters so signal quality can sometimes leave a bit to be desired.

The second type is the sound and movement monitor, this will have a base station, a sensor mat to go under babies mattress and the parent receiver unit. In addition some transmit an analogue signal whilst the better ones transmit a digital signal.

Finally, are the sound and video monitors. These have a base unit which incorporates a small camera and the portable unit which will normally contain a lcd screen. They start with your basic black and white screen but can have a colour image. Some even have infra red capabilities, whilst some will also transmit your images online allowing you to view them wherever you are.

So what one should I have?

Ok dads, now is the time to control the urge to buy the one with all bells and whistles! It is a gadget but a gadget with a serious purpose. The real answer is the one you want is the one that is right for you as a family, balancing budget with needs.

If you are on restricted budget but want some comfort then the sound monitor is way to go. Personally, I favour the sound and movement monitors, these always gave me reassurance of hearing my babies with added comfort of alarm sounding if no movement or breath registered after 20 – 30 seconds. I was one of those dads who if they hadn’t heard baby for a while would have to go and check they were OK. Didn’t take me long to throw sound monitor away and get sound and movement one! (also dads these are great fun, you try seeing how gentle a touch you can achieve on top of mattress without monitor sensing it! Almost impossible to make any contact without registering which is very re assuring) If budget isn’t an issue you may want to consider the video monitors for some parents seeing their child is very re assuring.

Tommee Tippee kindly sent me their Closer to Nature Digital Monitor and Sensor Pad to review. As our youngest is 20 months we thought this would really put monitor to the test!!  Many people will tell you that a sound and movement monitor is redundant when baby can start to move freely or crawl. In fact this is exactly the case with ours, which now sit in a box in the loft gathering dust. Even before that happened with our Angel Care monitor, and we had to disconnect the sensor pad and it became basic sound only monitor. The pad wasn’t sensitive enough to pick up movement if baby had moved to end of the cot. In the case of the Tommee Tippee one, it passed with flying colours no false alarms at all in over a week!

Ok, so what else?  Important dad bits first, it looks cool, stylish, with black and white contrast colours, the handset is sleek and small enough to fit in pocket, with belt carry clip already fitted! It has a slimline docking unit for recharging the batteries supplied with it. No need for a constant supply of AA batteries and trips to garage to get ripped off. You just know the batteries will run out just as you are settling down to a well deserved break as baby goes off to sleep. Four AA batteries can be placed in base unit in case of powercut.

This is a digital transmission monitor, giving crystal clear reception and excellent range up to 300m. Yes I did see how far I could walk down the street before it stopped working and no, it wasn’t quite far enough to get to the pub! It has in built nightlight and room temperature display. There are a number of user changeable settings but I will let you look at manual, to then discard it and just play until you have found them all, why should I spoil your fun?

Overall this would have got a Four Star rating if it wasn’t for the talk back function! This easily pushes it to a Five Star rating and if I could six. Talkback is the ability to talk to the baby through the handset without having to go up to their room. This I think is an excellent addition and one that will seriously extend the life of the monitor in usefulness terms. Having the ability to talk to your child as they get older will allow problems to be dealt with without having to return to the room. If they are trying to pull a fast one just to get you back into the room this will allow you to ask what’s wrong before returning. Of course I am not advocating remote parenting but there are distinct benefits to having this facility.

Pop over to Tommee Tippee to see more reviews on their site. I have now found this monitor as low as £75 from Tescos and Toys R Us! I cannot recommend it enough.

An Open Letter to Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie, I cannot quietly sit and continue to read the completely unbalanced view which has been put forward via Twitter last week, and the Telegraph article today.

Kirstie, I understand your experience of birth has been of C Section birth. I understand that you did not feel prepared or supported before or after this. I think this is appalling, and that you were terribly and unforgivably let down. You are correct, NO woman should suffer a stigma for having had a C-Section. C Section is definitely NOT an easy way out. Women who are facing having a C Section should have access to appropriate support, both to prepare and recover, both physically and emotionally.

HOWEVER, Kirstie just because this was YOUR experience, does not mean that the answer to women having better birth experiences, is implementing across the board, surgical birth education. I guarantee, if antenatal education took that direction, that our C Section rate would climb even higher.

Your standpoint is that because approximately 25% of births are now C -Sections, we should accept this statistic and start preparing and teaching parents antenatally about surgical birth, as there is a 1 in 4 chance they will have one.

Sorry Kirstie, on this you are just wrong, and doing expectant parents a huge disservice.

WHY do you not want to challenge this 1 in 4 C-Section rate? WHY are we not looking for a way to lower this, rather than accepting it & educating our expectant parents to just accept it too?! This isn’t about stigma Kirstie, this is where your arguments have gotten confused, its about safety, its about education and its about informed choice.

C-Sections SHOULD absolutely 100% be used when needed – they are an amazing medical advance which undoubtedly saves lives. That is what they are there for, and there should be absolutely no guilt, stigma or failure ever attached to this.

A C-Section should be (which even you, yourself referred to it as on Twitter) – a “life saving operation”. So, if we agree that this is the role of a C-Section, do we therefore really think that 1 in 4 of all births are so dangerous that they require a life-saving procedure?

Your comment that “Not talking C-sections during a childbirth course is like not talking Shakespeare during an English literature course” is so unbelievably misinformed. Unlike you, I believe in the ability of most women to safely birth their own baby. I believe that the majority of traditional NHS and some other antenatal classes do not teach women how to do this, therefore leading to this high rate in interventions and C-Sections. That’s right, I don’t simply blame the NHS for poor care, but I blame the quality of our antenatal education, which has a crucial role to play in the UK’s high ratio of C-Sections.

I was reading with interest some of the tweets which you received during your debate. Proud parents tweeting to say that they agreed with you that it was important they had done the full C-Section role play in class, because in their class “5 out of 9 couples ended up with C-Sections”.

So, this class which had educated and prepared its parents for C-Section, had a C Section rate of around 65%! More than twice the national average… alarm bells ringing for anyone else here??

Compare this to the classes I teach, where my average C-Section rate is around 12% – HALF the national average, and four times lower than this class. Why is this?? Maybe because I am empowering women, educating them to understand their body, understand how it works, and preparing that body to get ready for birth. These are things which are not currently adequately covered in all NHS classes or traditional classes. Perhaps Kirstie, you should attend a private natural birth class, see some of the really great practice out there and the difference it makes, and promote the good… Rather than putting us all in the same boat, and slagging us off across the board with little understanding of what we do.

I am PRO women having the most positive, easy and enjoyable birth experience they can. I am anti unnecessary medical procedures which are risky and can be highly traumatic to the whole family unit. Yes, I support woman to have natural births. By your definition Kirstie, this makes me anti C-Sections. Not the case. I teach all my ladies, that in an emergency, you trust your care provider and their medical expertise, as that is what it is there for, to back you up.

However, I work with women to make INFORMED choices. Kirstie, if I had worked with you for the birth of your second baby; I would have supported you to consider all your options, and then 100% supported whichever decision you felt was RIGHT for you. Considering all the options is not about stigma attached to any particular choice – but about the fact that decisions should be about INFORMED choice. This approach is relevant whether we are talking about C Sections, or which house we decide to buy.

I am working with two perfectly healthy pregnant women at the moment, with perfectly healthy babies, who in the last week who have been told by their medical provider, that no-one should have a water birth because “it will kill their baby”. Not all advice, just because it is offered by someone in a medical role, is unbiased, accurate or informed.

There is a reason some of us are trying to support more women to have natural births, and bring down that overall C-Section percentage, and it is nothing to do with thinking women who have C-Sections are ‘lesser than’. For a start, a vaginal birth is much safer. C Sections carry much higher risk than natural birth, to both the mum and baby. The risk of a woman dying following a C-Section is 4 times higher than following a natural birth. We are talking about major abdominal surgery here. Other reasons include the impact on the mother following the birth, which is also something clearly close to your heart too. The increase in rates of postnatal depression in C-Section mothers is not just about stigma, but also is rooted in physiological factors that are absent when baby is not born vaginally.

The women I work with who have been faced with an emergency C Section during their labour, have been able to utilise the coping and breathing techniques I teach to stay calm and involved in the decision making process. I don’t ostracise, make an example of or highlight as ‘different’ any woman who while attending my classes decides to opt for an elective section. All women learn the same coping techniques which are applicable in a variety of situations.

For those women I have worked with who have had been faced with emergency sections, do I honestly think that having ‘role played’ a C Section in advance with some playmobile will make that moment when their baby’s heart stopped beating, and they got whipped into theatre, with dad chewing his nails in the corridor, any less frightening ? No, this is probably one of the most traumatic, terrifying moments of your life. It is scary, and sometimes there are things in life which we can never be truly prepared for.

Kirstie, you absolutely deserved more support, both antenatally and postnatally, than you received.
C-Section birth should not have any stigma attached to it.
But that’s as far as I can agree with you.

The answer to addressing stigma and support is NOT adding specific surgical birth education to childbirth courses. Women do deserve better education, support and birthing experiences. I already have too many women who come to my classes who have been terrified by descriptions of epidurals or demonstrations of forceps, but no real idea of how to empower themselves to have a better birth. Let’s start to support this generation of ladies who are not “too posh to push” but rather ‘too scared to push’.

Steph
Birth & Postnatal Doula & Antenatal Educator
Bump, Birth and Beyond www.bumpbirthandbeyond.co.uk

Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children

1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready.

We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 4-year-old to clean his room. In all of these situations, we are being unrealistic. We are setting ourselves up for disappointment and setting up the child for repeated failures to please us. Yet many parents ask their young children to do things that even an older child would find difficult. In short, we ask children to stop acting their age.

2. We become angry when a child fails to meet our needs.

A child can only do what he can do. If a child cannot do something we ask, it is unfair and unrealistic to expect or demand more, and anger only makes things worse. A 2-year-old can only act like a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old cannot act like a 10-year-old, and a 10-year-old cannot act like an adult. To expect more is unrealistic and unhelpful. There are limits to what a child can manage, and if we don’t accept those limits, it can only result in frustration on both sides.

3. We mistrust the child’s motives.

If a child cannot meet our needs, we assume that he is being defiant, instead of looking closely at the situation from the child’s point of view, so we can determine the truth of the matter. In reality, a “defiant” child may be ill, tired, hungry, in pain, responding to an emotional or physical hurt, or struggling with a hidden cause such as food allergy. Yet we seem to overlook these possibilities in favor of thinking the worst about the child’s “personality”.

4. We don’t allow children to be children.

We somehow forget what it was like to be a child ourselves, and expect the child to act like an adult instead of acting his age. A healthy child will be rambunctious, noisy, emotionally expressive, and will have a short attention span. All of these “problems” are not problems at all, but are in fact normal qualities of a normal child. Rather, it is our society and our society’s expectations of perfect behavior that are abnormal.

5. We get it backwards.

We expect, and demand, that the child meet our needs – for quiet, for uninterrupted sleep, for obedience to our wishes, and so on. Instead of accepting our parental role to meet the child’s needs, we expect the child to care for ours. We can become so focused on our own unmet needs and frustrations that we forget this is a child, who has needs of his own.

6. We blame and criticize when a child makes a mistake.

Yet children have had very little experience in life, and they will inevitably make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of learning at any age. Instead of understanding and helping the child, we blame him, as though he should be able to learn everything perfectly the first time. To err is human; to err in childhood is human and unavoidable. Yet we react to each mistake, infraction of a rule, or misbehavior with surprise and disappointment. It makes no sense to understand that a child will make mistakes, and then to react as though we think the child should behave perfectly at all times.

7. We forget how deeply blame and criticism can hurt a child.

Many parents are coming to understand that physically hurting a child is wrong and harmful, yet many of us forget how painful angry words, insults, and blame can be to a child who can only believe that he is at fault.

8. We forget how healing loving actions can be.

We fall into vicious cycles of blame and misbehavior, instead of stopping to give the child love, reassurance, self-esteem, and security with hugs and kind words.

9. We forget that our behavior provides the most potent lessons to the child.

It is truly “not what we say but what we do” that the child takes to heart. A parent who hits a child for hitting, telling him that hitting is wrong, is in fact teaching that hitting is right, at least for those in power. It is the parent who responds to problems with peaceful solutions who is teaching his child how to be a peaceful adult. So-called problems present our best opportunity for teaching values, because children learn best when they are learning about real things in real life.

10. We see only the outward behavior, not the love and good intentions inside the child.

When a child’s behavior disappoints us, we should, more than anything else we do, “assume the best”. We should always assume that the child means well and is behaving as well as possible considering all the circumstances (whether obvious or unknown to us), together with his level of experience in life. If we always assume the best about our child, the child will be free to do his best. If we give only love, love is all we will receive.

This piece was written by Jan Hunt of The Natural Child Project