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Question: My unschooled six-year-old daughter has just started to “love” another six-year-old boy. His mom has caught them kissing recently and has told her son that he’s not to do this anymore for moral reasons. I explained to my daughter that although there’s nothing wrong with it, she should respect their rules and not kiss him.

Soon after this, I found them laying on top of each other embracing on the floor. I mentioned to both that I don’t think his mom would approve so they should not do it again. Could you please discuss what behaviors one should expect/allow at different ages of sexual development as well as what should raise a red flag? Also, do you have any opinions as to what we should discuss with our children and when?

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Q: When one of my children hurts the other I feel enraged, specially when he is grinning as though enjoying her pain. Still, I try to explain gently why he should not hurt his sister. Nothing helps. I would appreciate your guidance on sibling rivalry.

A: No matter how gently we tell a child not to hurt another, he cannot hear us. He can only hear that he is “not” all right with us and therefore not worthy of love. Feeling rejected and desperate, the child is then likely to lash out even more at his sibling seeing her as the cause of losing parental love. Our disproval re-affirms his worst fear that he has lost his place in our heart. He has no control over his inner drive to act out his valid anxiety.

In addition to emotional issues, siblings are often left to their own for too long and simply fail to get along. Social skills take years to develop. Considering that we, adults, have not mastered relationships yet, we may as well focus on improving ourselves, specially as we respond to children’s rivalry. Much of this kind of sibling rivalry can be prevented by setting things in a way that is more supportive of the children’s ability and needs.

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Parents often ask me if there is ever a time when our wisdom as adults is useful to give to our children in stressful situations. Yes, obviously we have experiences and/or knowledge that our child does not have that could prove helpful to him. Timing is the key. Following the child's lead is the best way to know if and when our input is appropriate. In general, children are more capable than we realize in their ability to self-heal. A self-reliant child is unlikely to ask for advice - when not asked we are better off not giving it.

The worst time to give advice is when a person (of any age) is in the midst of agonizing and pouring out their heart. I have found that most of the time children will come to their own wise conclusions if their expression of pain is fully accepted through listening and validation. When our wisdom is essential, they will let us know with specific questions. About once a year, this occurs with my children in the area of emotional distress. In the areas of learning, it happens more often.

So why do some children ask for advice a lot more often than others when in emotional distress?

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Many attachment parents call me in bewilderment when their child's behavior or development does not meet their expectations. "I did everything right for her!" says a young mother, "She was born peacefully, I carried her all the time, and she is still nursing and sleeping with us. Now that she is two years old, I am just not sure what to expect, or how to deal with her many needs." Some parents have specific questions about eating, sharing, cooperation and developmental stages. Others simply aren't sure how much to limit, and how much freedom to provide. These issues can indeed be perplexing. We have no role models to follow, as most of us are not following in our parents’ footsteps.

We all love our children and want the best for them. We want to follow our hearts, our intuition, and most of all, our children's cues. At times, our own childhood may make it difficult for us. Even the best and most loving parents sometimes respond to their children in a less then loving and kind way. This often stems from past hurts being restimulated by the child. How can we learn to care for our children in a loving way, without the interference of our own past painful memories?

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