Family Friday: 14 Months Old

For this month's photo shoot, we went to a Banyan tree that is near the Officers' Club on Hickam Air Force Base.  As a Banyan tree grows, roots grow down from the branches. When these roots reach the ground, they thicken and become new trunks.  I love how they look like they are melting.

A cement path goes around the base of the original trunk.  Roots have grown down over the paver stones surrounding that trunk and new trunks have been formed which means this tree must be fairly old.  Cameron had a great time exploring the tree!

Not much has changed since the 13 month post.  Cameron now has 8 teeth which she loves to brush, she loves playing with Dulce and walking her on a leash outside, and she is working on her first official word (other than mama, dada, and baba) but I'll wait until she says it a few more times to make sure.  She is such a friendly, loving, and helpful little girl, and we love watching her grow!

Now that Cameron is a toddler, I've been thinking a lot about parenting and closely observing other parents that I see. Parenting style is an incredibly personal thing that everyone has an opinion on. I always had ideas of how I would do things when I became a parent. Lately, I am surprised by how much my opinions and goals have changed now that I actually am a parent. I'm also surprised by how being a parent is making me more aware of who I am as a person.  Knowing that Cameron is always watching and learning makes me want to be a better person.

Many people have told me not to read parenting books.  I can understand that.  Ultimately you have to follow your own heart as a parent.  With all the theories and methods out there, it's easy to get sucked into new ideas that make you question everything you thought you knew.  But books can be helpful and new knowledge can make you a better parent.  It's not a matter of believing everything you hear or read about parenting, it's a matter of finding something that speaks to your heart.

Over the past two years I have read numerous parenting books and poured over websites, blogs, and forums trying to learn as much as I could.  Truth is, I still do that.  I even have a Parenting Inspiration board on Pinterest where I collect ideas.  So far, I have found two parenting books that really spoke to me:  Your Self-Confident Baby (written by RIE founder, Magda Gerber) and Bringing Up Bebe (Pamela Druckerman writes about French parenting in contrast to American).

When reading both of these books, I often said to myself "Hey, that's how I am doing it" or "Wow, that's something I really wish I was doing."  Surprisingly, the two books have some similar ideas which is probably why I like them both.  Of course I don't love every single thing about either of these parenting methods but I do like the majority of it.  I follow the aspects that I agree with and skip the aspects that I don't.

Some of my favorite ideas that resonate in both methods:
* Treat children with trust and respect from birth on, inviting them to participate in their care.
* Provide clear, firm boundaries but allow a lot of freedom within those boundaries.
* Encourage and provide opportunities for them to be independent and autonomous.
* Be available but give them the opportunity to fix/solve/figure out things before you help.

Johnnie and I have similar views on most things in life.  He has been amazing and openly embracing all the new ideas that I've thrown at him.  I know that not everyone who knows us or reads this blog will agree with our parenting style but the beauty of parenting is that everyone is free to do it their own way.  The only one who knows what works for you and your children, is you.

Here is a recent example of how new parenting ideas have changed me:

It was getting dark and was time to go inside.  I said to Cameron, "Let's go back to the house now, okay?"  As soon as I said that, I regretted it.  I'm obviously still working on making new habits of new information.

What was wrong with my question?  I gave Cameron a choice that she didn't have.  There was no "real" choice in my question as we had to go back to the house.  I inadvertently gave her the option of saying no, which she did "say" by continuing to walk away from the house.  At that point, I could've forced her to go back to the house, no doubt causing a tantrum.  Instead, I respected the choice that I allowed her to make for another couple minutes and then I stopped her and rephrased my question to make it better, to give her a real choice.

"We have to go back to the house now.  Would you like to walk or would you like me to carry you?" Her eyes clamped shut and her mouth opened wide in a silent scream.  I repeated the question.  She caught her breath, letting out a loud sob, and then she started walking... toward the house.

I got Cameron to do what I wanted her to do but still let her have some control by allowing her to make a decision.  One of my goals as a mother is for her to feel that I respect her and that her feelings matter to me.  At this age, I can help her feel that by providing her with real choices that we can follow through on.  If you can't follow through on a choice that you let your child make, then they feel that their choice and their feelings don't matter.  Even at only 14 months old, I can tell that Cameron already understands the basics of this.

Careful phrasing of choices works an amazing amount of the time.  Even when it doesn't work ideally, it still works because you don't have to change the choices or give in.  You may be thinking - what if she didn't choose to walk toward the house?  What if she started walking away again?  In that case, I would try once again and if she still refused to cooperate, I would say, "You don't want to walk back to the house so I will carry you."  Then I would carry her, even if she was crying, letting her know that not going back to the house was not one of her choices.  I would also acknowledge her feelings by saying, "You don't want to go back to the house but it's getting dark and it's time to go in."

I didn't have to change anything and I didn't give in to what she wanted - she has two options and if she chooses not to pick one, then I pick one for her.  Surprisingly, the crying she does because she didn't choose is rarely as intense or drawn-out as it is when I force her to do something without a choice.  Giving her choices often throughout the day is really helping her to become cooperative and that makes life with a toddler so much easier!

This parenting thing isn't easy but it's an exciting journey with great rewards.

"Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an
opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do."
~Matt Walsh

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