Fear vs Respect

Imagine, in a conversation, you have been asked about something you know the other person won't like. Let's say it's something the other person doesn't know you did. For each part of the question I'm about to ask, picture yourself in the situation and think of how you would feel, and what your first thought is.

The question is, when are you most likely to admit a mistake: when you're afraid of the other person? What about when you respect the  person you're talking to? How about in a situation where you feel respected by the other person, and you respect them in turn?

Most people are more likely to hide the truth if they're afraid. It's natural to want to protect yourself from negative consequences, regardless of whether you feel you did anything wrong.

In fact, if that other person is already angry, and you're afraid of their reaction, the last thing a sane person would do is say something that would make them turn their anger on you.

When you respect the other person, you're more likely to tell them the truth. You feel a certain level of trust in their self control, their sound judgment, and their ability to handle what you might say. It might be painful to admit something, but you have a sense that being dishonest would cost you more with this person than telling the truth, even if you lose some status in their eyes.

When you share mutual respect, you have no reason not to tell the other person the truth, because you know they won't judge you for what you did wrong. You won't feel shamed, because you know that they accept you for who you are. And if there's a problem, they'll try to help you solve it, learn from it, and move past it. You know before you tell them that you're already forgiven, and you know that whatever they tell you, you've already forgiven them. Both of you look for solutions, or just listen to and understand each other.

Ok, now imagine that person is more than twice your size, has complete control over what you do, and perhaps where and how you live, and whether there's food on your plate and peace in your life. The stakes for small children are so high, it's hard for parents and caregivers to put themselves in their place. It's so much more than just size.

Next time you need to know something from your child, keep this in mind. Just observe how the two of you interact: how do you sound? What expression is on  your child's face? What do they say, and what is the message underneath it? Most important: how do you react? With respect, trust and mutual problem solving?


Plan your parenthood from the inside out.

According to a large study out of Norway, folic acid supplements, before you ever get pregnant, and continued through pregnancy, reduce the chance of autism in your child by 40%. Only 400 mcg. You can get it in beans, lentils, peas, nuts, fruits, dark leafy green vegetables, asparagus, broccoli and citrus fruit; but if you must, get it from fortified cereal, bread or vitamin supplements. It also prevents spina bifida. How many nutrients are we losing out on by eating processed foods and ignoring fresh whole foods?

We pay so little attention to women's nutrition before pregnancy, and little enough to prenatal nutrition. But think about this ONE supplement. And how many lives could be changed. It costs a few pennies per person to make sure every woman gets supplements. How much does prenatal malnutrition cost society? And each child? and their families?


Restaurant behavior

Well-behaved kids discount -- good idea or too reward oriented?

How do you feel about rewarding kids for good behavior instead of just expecting good behavior? The danger of rewarding behavior that should be normal is that you're creating a negotiation where there shouldn't be one. If you reward good table manners with ice cream (as the restaurant owner did in the story) what does that mean when you don't serve ice cream next time? The child now sees this as a contract: behavior x brings outcome y, where y is ice cream. If there's no ice cream, behavior x may disappear fast!

The mom in the linked story, Laura King, has great tips:
 * Take your kids out to eat at least a couple times a month.
* Give your kids a snack before you head out.
* Be sure they’re rested and healthy.
* Be ready to engage with your kids.
* Notice the people, art, music, food in the room and talk about it.
* Encourage your kids to talk with you just like you would talk with another adult.
* Enjoy the time you’ve carved out to be with them.

Underlying all of these ideas is one important one: "practice good table manners at home." In other words, model the behavior you expect. What does that mean to you? There are a range of "good" manners for the table. What matters is that manners show respect for the people you're eating with, and the people who prepared and served your meal.

Most parents  teach "indoor voice, "take turns talking" and "don't chew with your mouth open."
How about "don't bother others while they're eating"? Or "sit in your chair until your meal is finished, and ask to be excused before getting up"? -- not every parent cares for the second rule, but most parents like that first one: it's crucial to a peaceful meal. Pick rules that make sense to you, and model them for your children. When you notice they're not using the skills they've learned, gently remind them, even a single word may be enough -- "fork" if they're using their fingers on the spaghetti, or "napkin" if they need to wipe. Don't be critical or angry, and especially don't humiliate your child into behaving, especially at the table. Family meal time should be a positive, bonding time you all look forward to. And that won't work if you or your children see it as ritualized torment. Explain and encourage table skills, and help your children to learn and display them. And then choose restaurants where your style is welcome.

When you're considering what restaurants will best fit -- and reinforce-- your child's developing good manners, pick places where  you and your children will feel comfortable to start with. Plan ahead; don't just drag them into the nearest restaurant at the last minute, when you're all tired and hungry. I think you already know how that will turn out.

There will be times when you need to eat out at the last minute of course, but if you've been prepping your family with good manners,  relaxed mealtimes, and trust, even a hurried hamburger can be pleasant and restorative for all of you.


What makes a conscientious parent?

Almost every parent has a general idea of what they consider good parenting. And nowadays, there's lots of advice that supports nearly everyone's style and choices. So how do you make good choices when you're not sure which way to go? At BABC, we try to present parents with all sides of the issue, whether it's bottle vs formula, natural childbirth vs medication, spanking vs non-physical discipline vs nonpunitive parenting-- and there are so many variations in between these and other seeming opposites it would be difficult to list them all.

That's why we like to use the term "conscientious parenting"-- based on research that shows that conscientious people tend to live longest. We think conscientious parents raise the healthiest kids, no matter what choices they may make. Applying your thoughtful judgment to your parenting decisions will only help you make better ones. Conscientious people learn what their options are, and think about the possible outcomes and consequences of their choices before they act. They may make mistakes, but they're careful to address and fix them. They build trust and respect in their children because they're both honest and considerate, and expect the same in return. They're attentive parents, and they pass their problem-solving skills on to their children. These conscientious children can think for themselves, reason out good choices, and aren't afraid to talk to their parents about problems and decisions.

So give yourself time to be open minded about your decisions. Read, observe, and discuss-- whether guided by a parenting coach, a pediatrician, or your own parents; friends, or self-help books, or all of the above-- and pay attention to your child's feedback, whether it's spoken, behavioral or physiological. The more you practice, the better you'll get at tuning into your child's developing needs, skills and abilities. And the better your relationship will be.

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies