Letter to our caregivers…

My Parenting Manifesto


Thank you for looking after my child.  As promised, I want to share with you some of the values I hold highest in my parenting approach.  I respect all of the training and intuitive goodness you are arriving with.  Please just be yourself and spontaneous as you take these ideas into consideration.  I’m already impressed with your demeanor with children, and I’d like to hear your thoughts.  

When Bina does something you think is cool, please say “thank you” or just smile, or describe why it was cool, rather than saying “good job.”  Here’s why:
http://codenamemama.com/2010/06/02/good-job/

Please validate her feelings and allow the hard feelings also to come to the surface:
http://juliamannes.blogspot.com/2010/08/youre-ok.html

We try to talk to Bina and not about her in front of her…

We value pleases and thank yous and apologies (http://codenamemama.com/2011/01/03/alternatives-apologies/), and we try to model them and very rarely bring them up directly…  I believe “whatdyousay????” is a little condescending and doesn’t really teach genuine gratitude or sympathy.  We only sparingly encourage sharing and do not force it.  I believe forcing it teaches much less about sharing and much more that the biggest person has all the power and rules by might.  So we’ll say things like [sympathizing with one who doesn’t have toy] – “it’s hard when you want something that someone else is using” or “oh, that’s so and so’s favorite toy and maybe you can pick a different toy that is just for you;” and to the one who has the toy, “Can you see so and so’s face, it seems like he’d really like to use that toy… would you consider sharing it after a few more minutes?”  We generally wouldn’t approach sharing like “you’ve had a turn, now he gets a turn.”

In our family we don’t use time-outs or punishments.  I think these focus more on short-term outcomes and desired behaviors than on long-term deep understanding and respect. I also think there are more effective approaches to improving behavior, because I don’t know about you, but when I was punished as a kid, I thought a lot more about hating my parents and revenge than I did about the errors of my ways!  If something unacceptable is going on, stay with the child while distancing from the situation.  It is helpful if you stay very calm and un-punitive.

So what should be done about discipline?  Discipline is not a major theme in our home, although I’m aware there are some children who need more help behaving in ways that people can live with.  Please talk to Bina briefly in fairly neutral language about why we don’t want to do x, y, or z, or what she can do instead, and then move on.  I try hard to state a limit only when I really feel it is important – if I’m not yet sure how to respond I’ll take a few moments of silence – because when I say no I want to really mean it and not cave after the pleading comes – then it beckons more pleading and teaches that my word isn’t serious. I don’t really like telling Bina that anything from nature is gross or that laying on the floor is gross or anything… she can run pretty much free with regard to these things as long as she’s not doing something very dangerous, I like my little jungle baby just as she is!  The major exception is I try to model putting away one toy before taking out many more toys – I need some civilization.  🙂

Bina is also a vegetarian, and we keep a kosher home.  Please don’t use food as an incentive to get her to go somewhere or do something (bribes in general we try not to do).

We try to eat healthy, please don’t offer sweets or juice or breads or granola bars or pasta, but when Bina asks for things she sees she generally should be given them.  I don’t want to create drama around food or create forbidden fruits syndrome.  The only exception is if it’s straight up mainstream candy or adult diet drinks or something really chemically.  You can explain it’s chemically or has too much refined sugar and she generally says ok.  Also she doesn’t have to finish her food or eat at a certain time, she eats to her own hunger.  I will always tell you what foods we have around that day.

We try to be eco-conscious, so we will preferentially use our reusable bottle to plastic, cloth napkin to paper, etc., even if the other option is present. We choose toys that are well-constructed and calming over those that are plastic and electronic, and we prefer to minimize consumerism in general (so we don’t buy every organic thing out there just because we prefer organic – minimalism itself is a value to us). If you want to give her a little gift, we’d prefer a hand-written note or something else from the heart to little plastic chotchkies. We don’t watch TV or play iphone games or look at little cartoons with Bina.  However Bina does ask for music and family photos on the many gadgets we have around the house, so it is helpful when she doesn’t see them too frequently.   Bina initiates all kinds of make-believe games… she sings and paints and uses playdough and cleans and does all sorts of random things that need no major planning.

Oh also we try not to call Bina princess or focus on princess-type qualities as values – nothing really needs to be said about her looks:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=298384623524331&set=a.223098324386295.105971.205344452828349&type=1

Thanks for taking the time to read!  Hope this is comfortable for you.  It’s ok when you forget some of these, don’t feel shy!  It may take some effort to speak in new ways but if you’re interested it quickly becomes second nature.  If you’re interested in any topic I would love it if you ask, “what do you suggest I say about x when it comes up.” or “what are your feelings about x.”

I recognize that flexibility is also an important value!
We can discuss any of this that you’d like, and I’m open to dialogue.

I also created a reading list if you’re interested in learning more:

thanks again!
Julia

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