Tag Archives: Gentle Parenting

My Child is Not Afraid to Defy Authority And I am Not Afraid to Let Her

My child is not afraid to defy authority and I am not afraid to let her.

Ever since she could talk, my daughter has had something to say about the expectations placed upon her. Keen to stamp her independence firmly on every task or undertaking, L (3.5 years) has always ensured that if it involves her, she has a say in it.

Luckily for her, early on in her life we discovered the work of Magda Gerber and chose to adopt the respectful parenting practices that have guided new parents for decades, RIE. This practise has encouraged her freedom of expression and given her the opportunity to voice her opinion on matters big and small, whilst still being guided gently by her parents.

My Child is Not Afraid to Defy Authority ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
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Real Life Respectful Parenting: Working in Partnership to Get Through a Toddler Meltdown

Tonight I realised how lucky I am to a be a part of a great, respectful parenting partnership…

A Great Parenting Partnership ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
It was dinner time and Lucy (3.5 years) was objecting to eating, which she often does. We have learned to let go of our eating expectations and are happy to offer a range of nutritious food throughout the day and let the children decide what they will eat and how much. We often calmly state to Lucy: “If you are not hungry, you do not have to eat your dinner.”

Tonight, however, she was clearly overtired and ironically I think, over-hungry. The meal was spaghetti bolognese which she has eaten many times before so the flavours were not the problem. She asked for milk, then water, then milk mixed with water, then just water again. This was a clear sign to us that she had some pent up emotion and needed to release it. Continue reading

Creating Bonds: Accepting A Child’s Emotions

Accepting a child’s emotions is not something that comes easily to most people. As humans we are conditioned to be comfortable with emotions such as joy, excitement and serenity. Feelings like anger, frustration, sadness and disappointment are more difficult to deal with and as such we do what we can to turn these emotions back towards the happiness end of the emotional spectrum.

Accepting a Child's Emotions ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids Continue reading

The Hard Truth About Parenting

Parenting is not for everyone but all parents are doing it. Doing it does not always mean getting it right. Getting it right does not mean life is easy and life being easy does not always mean we are getting it right. Respectful parenting is perhaps the hardest form of parenting to pull off but believing in its powers and incredible impact on children is enough to keep this mama steadfast in her quest.

The Hard Truth About Parenting ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids Continue reading

Making it Through Witching Hour… Without Losing It!

Making it Through Witching Hour... Without Losing it! ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsI often wonder what our neighbours think we are doing to our children as their screams echo around the walls of our house during the afternoon witching or arsenic hour as it is commonly known. As much as we thoroughly prepare for this time of the day, rarely are my children able to remain cool, calm or collected as we work towards the evening meal, bath and ultimately, bedtime. I have learned to let go of my worries about the neighbours. I know that as long as I am able to remain cool, calm and collected, my children’s emotional releases are healthy, normal and an important part of a toddler’s development.

In the past though, I would be on the phone to my husband every five minutes from about 4pm onwards, getting an update on his eta. I found the meltdowns difficult to handle and impossible to stay unruffled through. Now, I am finding a strength in my resolve to be confident, peaceful and firm during these times that I never thought I had in me. My eldest daughter put me through a pretty gruelling test recently when she melted down just before dinner. This is how I made it through unruffled.

The first and most important thing was that I was prepared. Staying calm is always hardest when you are taken off guard and caught by surprise. I knew this time was approaching, as I do everyday. I had made a batch of bolognaise sauce on the weekend which just needed heating so all I needed to do was to pop some spaghetti in some boiling water to cook. Dinner time is between 5:00 and 5:30 in our house (this is as early as we can make it usually) so as 4:30 approached and I heard intolerance build in my children’s interactions I decided to put the pot on the stove a little earlier than normal.

Sure enough, just as the water started boiling I had both children raiding the pantry for some cereal. Obviously, it was too close to dinner for more snacks so I had to get them through 10 -15 mins before I could have dinner on the table. Sending them away to play was not going to happen, so I set the timer for 10 minutes for the spaghetti to cook and gave the girls some wants nothing quality time. I took them to the lounge for some pre-dinner dancing. We turned on Pandora for some bopping music and danced together for about 5 minutes before the girls raided the puzzle drawer and settled in for some puzzle time on their own. I was able to duck away at this point to serve up the dinner and set it at the table all ready for the girls.

Tiredness overcame my eldest during dinner (as it often does). She asked for/ demanded some milk and I rephrased this for her, “May I have some milk please, Mum?” I gave her a small amount in a cup which she quickly gulped down. She whined “I want some moooore!”. I set an expectation that she eat her dinner before having more milk as I didn’t want her filling up on just milk. She repeatedly screamed for milk. Sitting by her, I acknowledged, “I hear you asking for some more milk. You may have some when you have eaten your dinner.” As her screams continued I validated her emotions “Wow! You are really upset that I am not giving you any milk. It can be hard to wait.” In my head I kept repeating to myself my mantra, “She needs me to be calm.”

She eventually calmed but wouldn’t eat. Instead she pushed the food around her plate and then eventually slid off her chair and underneath the table. I set the limit, “Lucy, you have left your chair. Are you telling me you are done with your dinner?” “NO!” came the reply as she scrambled back up. I reminded her: “I would like you to stay sitting on your chair for dinner. When you leave your chair, you are telling me you have had enough to eat so I will take your plate away.”

Lucy squirmed around on her chair for a while longer before climbing down again to retrieve a book from the bookshelf. I told her I could see she was done with her dinner and that I would remove her plate. She screamed and ran after me, clawing to have her plate back. I explained that she had left the table and her dinner was going away. I let her know it was bath time now and acknowledged, “You seem disappointed that you are not able to eat your dinner. After your bath you might feel a little more hungry and you could try again.” (I don’t always offer the eat later option but tonight I felt her emotions were getting in the way of her eating and that given some time to release these emotions, she may be able to eat more peacefully)

As I ran the waters for her bath I took some deep breaths and reminded myself how hard this was for her. I resolved to support her through it and calculated that I only had just over an hour until she would be soundly tucked up in bed and I would be able to have a much needed shower and cuppa in peace. I think of it like an hour until I clock off from work. This works for me at this time of day but I try not to count down from too early on or it can have the reverse effect!

Through Lucy’s bath, the testing behaviour continued. it was clear to me that a mixture of tiredness, hunger and possibly some pent up emotions were rendering her irrational. She asked for some blue colour in her bath which I happily obliged. However, as the blue drops landed in her bath and swirled out in spectacular patterns, she screamed, “No not blue, RED!!” I had not misheard her, she had changed her mind which is what she often does when her rational brain begins spiralling out of control. It is as though she wants to create an issue worthy of her spilling out her emotions.  This was a sure sign for me that she desperately needed help.

I acknowledged “You don’t want blue in the bath. You really want red. I can put some red in with the blue if you’d like?” But she wasn’t listening “GET THAT BLUE OUT!” Came the scream as she madly started scooping water out of the bath tub, all over the floor and me. Now soaking wet, I could feel my patience waning. I needed to get her out but I needed to do so respectfully. I blocked Lucy’s frantic hands from splashing the water and calmly explained that the water needed to stay in the bath and that I would help her by holding her hands. She fought and became very agitated with me, screaming at me to let go.

“I hear you asking me to let go. If you splash the water, you are telling me you are done having a bath and I will have to help you out.” As soon as I let go of her hands she splashed the water at me once more. I explained, “Bath time is over. I will now lift you out of the bath.” She needed me to take control and over her screams of protest I spoke to her (but really I spoke to myself). This was how I was going to stay calm. “You are tired and hungry. You are having a hard time making decisions so I am going to help you by taking charge. It is so hard for you in afternoons sometimes but I want you to know that I am here for you and I want to help you. I will keep you safe.”

Now I don’t know how much she took in but saying these things definitely allowed me to keep a compassionate, confident demeanour which is what she desperately needed. This would have given her a sense of relief in my ability to parent her even when the going got tough.

I wrapped her in a towel and carried her to her bedroom. Here she was in a safe space where we could both sit and she could freely express the emotions that were taking over her little body. It wasn’t long before her wails of anger turned to healing sobs as the cortisol flushing through her body dissipated. Finally these turned to relieved sniffles. She crawled into my lap and physically relaxed as I stroked her back and told her I loved her and would always do so. She became so still that I thought she was falling asleep right then and there but eventually a little voice squeaked, “I’m hungry. Could I please have my dinner now?” I replied, “Sure, let’s get dressed.” She willingly did so and then went to eat her dinner with her Father who had by then arrived home.

When she finished she announced that she would like to go to bed (an hour earlier than her usual 7:00 bed time) so we took her to bed and she drifted off happily as I read to her.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief as I put the kettle on and slumped into the lounge chair. I listened as my husband read stories to my youngest in her room and quietly praised myself for helping a child work through her despair with the kindness and empathy that I am starting to see reflected in her own behaviours more and more.

Tantrums and Meltdowns – My Tips For Staying Calm When the Kids Aren’t – Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)

9 Best Ways to Stay (Mostly) Unruffled With Toddlers – Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)

5 Tips For Staying Calm With Children – Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)




Staying Calm With Children: 5 Practical Tips

Staying calm with children can be extraordinarily difficult at times. It seems our children are wired to wind us up until we snap. Many parents, including myself, strive to be mindful and considered in our parenting choices but in one moment of distraction it is easy to find ourselves being triggered and unable to stop the barrage that results.

5 Practical Tips for Staying Calm With Children ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

For respectful parenting to work, it is vital that parents are able to keep a cool and as my mentor, Janet Lansbury, says, ‘unruffled’ exterior when dealing with a child’s behaviour – that, for me, is the hard part. It sometimes takes all my strength, determination and most of all self-belief to achieve this but I can truly attest to the fact that my children respond far better and thrive the most when I am consistently able to steady myself and keep a peaceful yet firm exterior when they push me to my limits.

The days I am feeling sluggish, stressed or overwhelmed by accumulating housework are usually the days my tolerance levels are lowest. Coincidentally (or not), these days also usually happen to be the days my children seem especially clingy, whingey, demanding and testing!

When I have my own agenda for the day; things I am trying to achieve around the house, this is when I find myself less tolerant and less able to stay calm and accepting of difficult behaviours.

So I have, over time, developed practices which all contribute to me being more mindful, less stressed and better able to remain the peaceful parent I strive to be.

1. Mentally prepare for the day ahead

I do this by reading inspiring blog posts or a chapter of a great parenting book or listening to a motivating podcast. I am usually woken early in the morning by my children so I normally do this the night before, resolving to put into practice, a new technique or idea I have read the next day. Often just reading a success story or a profound Janet Lansbury post is enough to help me stay confident in my parenting throughout the day.

I write inspiring words or helpful phrases in the notebook beside my bed.

In the morning, I quickly scan these notes and I remind myself how important it is that I stay on top of my emotions and parent calmly throughout the day. Being conscious of my actions rather than just drifting mindlessly through the day really helps me stay focused on the role I have taken on. Like an actor in a play I guess.

Much of this mental preparation is centered around shifting my perspectives of the behaviours. Educating myself about the reasons behind challenging behaviours such as limit testing and tantrums really helps me to deal with them with more empathy when they occur.

2. Prepare meals on the weekend

Freeing up time during the day so I am not stressed about trying to get dinner made by a deadline with children either clinging to me or trashing something elsewhere in the house, is invaluable.

I now try to prepare the week’s meals on Sundays whilst my husband is home to help with the children. This way the weight of this daily chore is lifted. Instead I can use the week days to invite the girls into the kitchen to help, inspiring in them a love of food and cooking as we bake and create healthy goodies together with no stress or pressure to achieve a goal.

3. Make lunches and snacks at breakfast

When my husband is eating toast with the children at breakfast, I often make lunch for him to take to work. It occurred to me one day that it would be little extra effort to do the same for my children. So I bought them both lunch boxes with separate compartments for snacks, sandwiches etc and now I fill their boxes ready to pull out when hunger strikes.

So often I have been caught out having nothing prepared and having to scramble something together whilst my children bite chunks out of the cheese, dip their fingers in the butter or cry because I am not doing it the right way. And if I go to the kitchen whilst they are occupied with something else, they inevitably choose this moment to do something that demands my attention.

My stress levels increase and I sometimes have a hard time staying calm in such moments. Having everything pre-made eliminates this occurrence and also means the kitchen only needs clearing once, after breakfast, because I am not continually preparing food and dirtying dishes.

These Yumbox Original lunch boxes (affiliate link) are fantastic for organising the snacks into containers and keeping them all together. The kids love them!

4. Use care giving moments to connect

The realisation that my babies will all too soon be old enough to take care of themselves and no longer need me to look after them hit me like a tonne of bricks recently. I already knew that care giving tasks were precious bonding occasions but when I truly cherish each one, not only do my children feel more connected and better able to break away from me for extended play periods, I get my own feelings of love, joy and a sense of calm come over me when I give myself fully to my children for periods throughout the day. This further steadies my resolve to parent my children with care.

5. Reflect on the day

This is probably the most effective practice I use for becoming a more mindful, peaceful parent. There is rarely a day go by where I don’t discuss with my husband, a situation involving the children which occurred during the course of the day.

I recount blow by blow, the events leading up to the situation, the dialogue used and the ultimate outcome. Through this reflection I can think, without the pressure of the moment, and decide whether I could improve upon or change my involvement for future occurrences or whether it seemed to be quite successful as it was.

My blog writing further cements this reflection for me as I get the sense that by putting things down on paper, I am owning my actions and becoming more accountable.

I am also given so many opportunities to answer questions from readers which contributes to my reflective practice. It makes me think about scenarios that could come up for us as a family and how I would like to deal with them. It takes out some of the element of surprise, ensuring I am not having to always think on my feet with my own children.

Joining online forums and groups with like-minded parents, is also a great way to read about other people’s dilemmas and give you a chance to think about what you might do in that situation.

These are just a few of the things I have found have helped me remain the peaceful parent I am determined to be. I’m interested to hear what you do to stay unruffled when your children become challenging throughout the day.

You may also enjoy reading:

Tantrums and Meltdowns – My Secrets For Staying calm When The Kids Aren’t ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

9 Best Ways to Stay (Mostly) Unruffled With Toddlers ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)

Self Soothing (It’s Not Just For Babies) ~ Christina Kessler (Respectful Caregiving)

5 Practical Tips for Staying Calm With Children ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Dummy Weaning With Respect and Empathy

When we introduced a dummy to our youngest daughter when she was an infant, we had not yet discovered the wonderful world of respectful parenting and did not understand that our daughter would have been better off without it. We knew, however, that one day she would need to be weaned from it. We were advised to complete the weaning process by the age of six months or wait until she was two years. With a myriad of medical issues as a youngster, the time just never seemed right to wean before six months and before we knew it she was eight months old and the dummy was well and truly ensconced in our lives.

Just recently, however, our youngest turned two and it came time to think about helping her wean from her dummy. There are many reasons parents decide to become dummy free including an increase in reliance on it throughout the day, disrupted sleeps whereby the child wakes when they can’t find their dummy, delayed speech caused by frequent dummy use and the list goes on.

None of these were of concern for us. Our daughter only used it when she slept, slept soundly once asleep and happily took her dummy to the sink for washing once the sleep was finished. She never whinged for it and rarely woke looking for it. Having her dummy also helped her rest in her room for her day sleeps, and overall it was a positive experience for her and the family.

What was concerning us, however, was her teeth. She was showing signs of her teeth being pulled forward and her palate pushed up and our dentist advised that the dummy was the culprit. We therefore made the decision to remove it. We knew it was not going to be easy but we had faith in our little girl and in ourselves as her confident parents that together we could do it.

We read countless articles on differing ways to approach dummy weaning but to us, it was important that we involve our daughter fully in the process and treat her with due respect and empathy. The fact was, we had given her this crutch in a somewhat self-serving manner so we knew we were going to fully support her and guide her gently through the process of taking it away.

We chose to adopt a little bit of magic to bring a soothing perspective to the process. We knew that regardless of how we approached this, it was going to be an emotional time for our daughter and we were not afraid of those emotions. We fully intended to allow her to grieve in whatever way she needed to. Childhood is the only time in our lives where we have the capacity to believe in the wonder and enchantment of magical mysteries. My daughters are fantastically imaginative so I knew the idea of a Dummy Fairy visiting their home would be exciting to them.

We aimed for a weekend where our schedules were clear. If we were going to have late nights and disrupted sleep, we needed to know that we could lay low in the days following. We were fully prepared to listen to the needs of our daughter throughout the process and resolved not to abandon her if she clearly indicated she needed us with her.

In the weeks leading up to the actual dummy weaning weekend, we spoke about the fact that as she was getting older the dummy was affecting her teeth and that soon, she would not need to use a dummy to go to sleep any more. Usually this resulted in her firmly holding her dummy in her mouth as if in objection to the idea of giving it up. But, strangely, in the end it was her decision to let them go and we couldn’t be more happy with how it all panned out.

Day 1: Introducing the idea of the Dummy Fairy

Time to Sleep: 10 mins

Slept until: 6:30am

This was a Friday night and the night we decided would be best to start dummy weaning. We spoke to both girls about Dummy Fairies during the day and introduced the idea that a fairy comes to collect the dummies. We let our daughter know that it was up to her when the Dummy Fairy came. We had had a particularly unsettled day on this Friday and she had had a long, late day sleep so consequently we decided not to push the issue any further. She went to sleep this night with her dummy.

Day 2: Giving the Dummies to The Fairy

Dummy Weaning With Respect and Empathy ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsTime to sleep: 2.25 hrs

Slept until: 7:00am

Throughout this day I casually spoke about the Dummy Fairy and we imagined what she might look like, how big she was and what she used to carry the dummies. We wondered what she did with the dummies and older sister, (3) decided she must give them to the Dummy Fairy babies.

When bedtime came, I asked our youngest whether she would like her dummy to sleep or whether she would like to collect them all in a basket for the Dummy Fairy. She clearly said Dummy Fairy so we began collecting them all up, making sure not to forget any hiding in day care bags or nappy bags.

She then had the choice of where she should place the basket for the Dummy Fairy to find. She confidently strode into her bedroom with the basket and tucked it neatly inside her bedside table. I was worried initially that the temptation to retrieve a dummy from the stash would be too great once the reality of trying to sleep without one set in. But I trusted her and supported her decision to place them in this position.

We then set about going through her normal bedtime routine  – brush teeth, stories, cuddles, lights out. During the stories she looked for her dummy in its usual position but when it wasn’t there we reminded her that she was giving her dummies to the Dummy Fairy tonight. She never asked again. We finished her stories and cuddles and turned off the lights.

At this point she became clingy and we offered her comfort. We acknowledged “We know it’s hard for you to sleep without your dummy. We have faith that you will soon learn. We will help you. Would you like me to stay with you a little longer tonight.” With her little ‘yes’ I snuggled down next to her in her bed. I stroked her hair gently, helping her to reach a state of relaxation with soothing lullabies.

Once she was still and serene (but awake) (about 45 mins) I let her know I would be leaving the room  but would come back if she needed me. She let me leave and remained quiet for about 10 mins. After this time she called out for me (not crying just calling). I went in and found she had turned on the light. I reminded her it was sleep time and the light needed to stay off. I then knelt by her bed and stroked her hair. She held my other hand and again reached a state of relaxation. At this point I stopped stroking and just held her hand. When she didn’t object, I carefully removed my hand from hers and just knelt by her until she was asleep.

Dummy Weaning With Respect and Empathy ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsThat night we replaced her dummies with some small gifts and a little note from the Fairy. Big sister had also found some old (unused) dummies to leave for the Fairy also so she too got a little gift and note. They were both so excited to find their baskets adorned with fairy dust and a personalised note.

Day 3: Giving more time to adapt to sleep without dummy

Time to sleep: 2 hrs

Slept Until: 6:30am

Without the dummy, the option for a day sleep was passed on. This was not unusual for our daughter, though as her day sleeps had already become more and more infrequent (less than 3 a week). Come bedtime, she was particularly tired though which I thought would be more conducive to her sleeping quickly. As I lay with her after our usual routine, I could hear her making sucking noises with her mouth. It must have felt really strange to her not to have something in there to send the message to her brain to switch off. I spoke of this to her gently and again reminded her how much we loved and trusted her to be able to do this.

On this night, I stroked her as in the previous night but stayed for a shorter period of time (probably 20 mins) before leaving in the same manner as Day 2 above. I stayed out a little longer too. She turned her light on and played happily until we returned about 15 mins later. We then repeated a pattern of staying in for  5 mins and then out for 10 mins, giving her the opportunity to get to sleep without us or the dummy, for about an hour. As she was no closer to sleep, DH finally chose to stay in with her to stop her turning on the light to play. He sang beside her bed until she stopped squirming and then sat on the floor until she went to sleep.

Day 4: Using presence to help to sleep 

Time to Sleep: 35 mins

Slept Until: 6:30am

On the fourth night we read her stories and sang to her to relax. DH then stayed in there until she fell asleep. He sat on the floor beside her bed in the dark. There was no interaction between the two, he was just there. She wriggled and squirmed for about 20 mins until she became still on her pillow. About fifteen minutes later she was asleep.

Day 5: Staying in tune with our daughter as she let us know she was ready

Fully prepared to continue with our presence in the room until our daughter had become used to putting herself to sleep without a dummy, we were surprised tonight when after our usual routine, she did not cling to us, wanting us to stay. We kissed her goodnight, as we had done pre dummy weaning, turned off the light and left the room. I peeked in at her 10 minutes later and she was fast asleep.

We are prepared for a regression of course but are now totally confident in her and our ability to see her through any hiccup that may present itself.

Dummy Weaning With Respect and Empathy ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident KidsI had always dreaded the dummy weaning process but the two words I would use to describe these few nights with our daughter are beautiful and precious.  We listened to our daughter, supported her when she needed it and gave her just the right amount of space to work it through and come to terms with it herself.

For more information on dummies and dummy weaning I recommend this article:

Passing on Pacifiers (Thumbs up) Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)




Testing Toddlers Crave Limits

Over the past couple of weeks my usually placid, youngest toddler has become more assertive, more demanding and generally more testing. Coincidentally we celebrated her second birthday last week. Does this mean we are in for a healthy dose of the terrible twos? Funnily enough, I don’t think so. I have written extensively on my eldest daughter’s testing behaviours over the past year here, here and here. We have certainly been put through our paces with her and have come a long way as a family and as parents since these early days.

Testing Toddlers Crave Limits Continue reading