Tag Archives: empowerment

The Santa Situation: To Lie or Not to Lie?

Have you ever questioned this? It’s a topic that will make some people upset. Which tells us we need to take a good, honest, serious look at it. That’s a good thing—so let’s dive in!

Santa listMany of us grew up receiving toys from Santa Claus every year. How was it for you when you figured out that Santa wasn’t “real”? As an adult and a new parent, do you have any new perspectives? How will you raise your child?

If you’ve had any tinge of uncertainty, by all means, stay in touch with that gut feeling! The magic of childhood is often cited as a reason to do Santa, along with innocence, fun, and joy of the season.

But is it really?

Invitation

This is not a judgment on parents. But it is an examination of values, habits, thinking, and action. I speak for the children and for healing. If you feel judgment or guilt, turn it around! How wonderful that you now have a new awareness. You get to make a choice—that’s where the beauty lies.

The Disappointment Can be Debilitating For Life

For real, though? Yes. For. Real. Some children don’t appear to be bothered by it. (But how do we know? Culturally, we’re usually taught to disguise—even disregard—our true feelings.)

If you have a highly sensitive child, this can be a very serious issue. High sensitivity is real—it’s a trait found in 15 to 20% of the population. Even if you’re not highly sensitive, your child might be. (Even if no one is, Santa still warrants investigation!)

I am one of those. The occurrence of figuring out Santa wasn’t real at age 8 sent me on a downward spiral. It was too good to be true. Anything, then, that’s that “good”—can’t be true. Good cannot be true. Life is disappointing. The thing I hoped in did not even exist. I can’t trust life itself.  Good and magical stuff doesn’t really happen. I was disappointed and disillusioned, and that process took many years to unwind.

This is not a judgment on my parents. It’s the way things were done, and my mom was honest when I asked. I’ve always appreciated that. Nor is my process above reflective of other potentially missing values. We were still all about family and giving.

I’m not the only one—there are many of us out there, and some of today’s children are more sensitive and honesty-detecting than ever. It’s time we looked this issue in the face. Are we really doing what we think we’re doing—fostering love, magic, and innocence?

What’s Wrong With Santa (the way it’s usually done)?

Santa toys pointManipulation Do we want children to behave in certain ways in order to get toys from a figure who’s not even real, or because of their own motivation and respect for others?

Creepiness “He sees you when you’re sleeping”? Come on! How is Santa good and a ‘peeping tom’ bad?

Disappointment and disillusionment

Potential distrust in parents and in people in general. Do you really want to risk this?

Lying Your child will take you seriously—he trusts you. We want our kids to be honest with us, right? How can we sincerely ask them not to lie to us if we’re lying to them? And if we’ve lied to them, we really have no ground from which to be unhappy when they lie to us. If your child takes you seriously, then major repair may be needed later.

Dealing with being tricked. It’s a disturbing feeling. Let’s really get in on their world: Young children depend on grown ups for safety, love, and basic needs. They believe what we say—only to find out later that they were intentionally deceived. How can one truly trust people after that? It’s not only being deceived by parents, it’s by an entire society, complete with movies, advertising, and big (scary) Santas at shopping centers. First, there’s processing the present moment of disillusionment, which can be confusing because the deception came from the people he depends on and from the society in which he lives. Then, he must grow up in a world where, on one hand he receives messages to be “good,” “honest,” and “do the right thing”; while all around him is a counter-message that deception is okay, dishonesty is sometimes the way to go, and “right” is relative to what one wants.

And… are we really preserving a sense of magic? Or are we preserving our grown-up sense of power?

As David Kyle Johnson says in his post, Say Goodbye to the Santa Claus Lie, “We need to pay attention to that twinge of guilt to steer us clear of immoral and potentially dangerous behavior. … I [suggest] the Santa Lie should be avoided for three reasons. (1) It’s an unjustified lie, (2) it risks damaging your parental trustworthiness and (3) it encourages credulity and ill-motivated behavior.

Society is full of deception. Raise children with lies disguised as “magic” and “joy,” and we raise a society of deception.

What’s the Deeper Meaning Behind Santa, Anyway?

Other than general “giving,” I didn’t know. So I looked it up. Check it out!

Was St. Nicholas a Real Person?

Who Is St. Nicholas?

But I Want Holiday Magic for my Child! What Else, Then?

Babies are amazing, aren’t they? Children “say the darndest things.” Sometimes they say things that make us stop and think, or they wow us with their compassion. They’re crazy-amazing learners, mastering language and a whole slew of milestones in relatively little time. They love and they want to relate.

Add in the story of Saint Nicholas from Patara…

That’s magic! That is where holiday fun lives—within your amazing children and your own awesome parent selves. You and your children are beautiful, wonderful, fun, and loving. You have the resources within yourself and in your family to create meaningful times. You do! Creating holiday joy and meaningful traditions can be done in complete honesty, and I believe with more satisfying results in the long run.

Age 4, preparing for the annual Christmas pageant

Age 4, preparing for the annual Christmas pageant

Stories and imagination are wonderful! So are myths and traditions! Keep those alive! Play-acting that Santa exists and believing that he actually does are very different! Problems have arisen for centuries once a symbol/story/myth is taken as “real,” deconstructed from its deeper meaning.

Invitation, curiosity… how could you start from the realm of honesty and create magic from there? It might take some creative thinking. To get started…

Ideas From Other Parents

Mom Ali: “My son is 2.5 and I decided last year that I was definitely not going to do “Santa.” I don’t want him to feel like he is missing out or feel like the odd one out when other kids are talking excitedly about Santa. I also don’t want him to feel or speak negatively about Santa to other kids who believe. So I’m going with the explanation that Santa is a character played by people who love you and who want to do something to bring you joy. You can also play Santa for other people. I will get him a Santa present and it will be a surprise, but he will know it was from me. I will also help him make presents for others and he can give them “from Santa.” So Santa can still be “real,” we have just changed the definition to suit ourselves!!”

Mom Kate: “…we tell our kids that Santa can be anyone dressed up in a red suit and a beard. They like to know this! They still ‘believe‘ in Santa. They still get a kick out of seeing Santa. Yet, they know that Santa is just another person.”  (Have a Merry Honest Christmas)

Mom EW: “I’m so tired of seeing children have to deal with all these Santa lies! Once you give it up and understand how amazing your relationship with your children can be without it, the lying becomes even more repulsive. We don’t do Santa in any way, we just give each other gifts from ourselves.”

Mom Heather: “I do not believe in lying or in telling my kids to lie, but also don’t feel it’s my place to tell other kids there is no Santa.”

And here’s another post: “Thoughts on Santa: Tainting Trust and Magic”

Begin with your favorite values (Generosity? Quality family time? Whatever the “reason for the season” is to you) and then create activities from there that become yearly traditions. Creating ritual can bring a sense of magic. To this day, I feel “magic” when I transform my living room with candlelight. How long did the ‘magic’ of Santa last? Relatively minuscule, and it came with a high price.

Back to the Story of Saint Nicholas:StNicholas clip-mj

It’s lovely: giving to those in need, love for children, standing up for the innocent: now we’re talking! It’s one of those cases where a real person takes on mythological stature over time. Joseph Campbell’s definition of “myth” (or one of them) is: the experience of life.

Now we have Christmas –> Santa –> St. Nicholas –> generosity, protector of children, etc. –> application of this myth to current life –> the experience of giving and loving.

That means: go and do it! Go out into the world—or into your own living room—with your children, who are beautiful just as they are without manipulation, and make some magic!

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved. Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

You’re a Human Jungle Gym! Playing With Your Mobile Baby

HumanJungleGym LOFDid you love jungle gyms as a kid as much as I did?

I like them because they’re “stable”—they stay in one place and allow the child to explore creatively on, under, over, around, and inside it.

But guess what?!

We, as parents/caregivers are natural-born Human Jungle Gyms!

Stable and Mobile

First, to clarify. By stable, I mean ‘stays in one place (ish),’ or stationary. By mobile, I mean ‘moves, locomotes, travels in space.’

In her first months, Baby is stable and you are mobile. Of course she wiggles! But she can’t yet traverse distance on her own—you move her. Her experience is of being picked up, moved, held, and put down.

Once Baby, on her tummy, begins pushing herself backward on the floor, spinning in a circle, and belly crawling forward—and later hands-and-knees-crawling, sitting, pulling up to standing, and sidestepping—she is mobile! She’s traveling short or long distances, going up and down in space (tummy to sitting to standing), and she’s curious!

Her mobile-ness (during safe playtime) is an invitation for you to be her “stable” partner. It’s a wonderful way to interact and play with your baby in a way that supports development and fosters connection!

How to be a Human Jungle Gym

When you’re hanging out on the floor with Baby, you automatically have built-in levels and ledges for climbing upon. It’s really quite wonderful how nature provides!

HumanJungleGym bc lap

Lap: Your lap is the perfect height for a belly crawler to climb up and over. The “up” part encourages her to coordinate her legs and push with her feet; the 
“over” part requires use, coordination, and strengthening of her arms. Both give
HumanJungleGym kneel lapher experience with a variety of territory. It’s also a perfect height for Baby to kneel (“sitting” on forelegs and “standing” on knees)–very important and wonderfully integrating positions!

Knees: Tunnels! Sitting (perhaps leaning back) with your feet on the floor and knees bent toward the ceiling creates a combo tunnel/climbing mountain! Great for belly- and hands-and-knees- crawlers.

Shoulders: Yours are the perfect height for the baby who’s pulling up to standing. Pulling up on furniture is fun too. But to discover your way to standing and find Mama’s face when you get there?! Or perhaps your hair was her motivation in the first place…!

Arms and hands: A sidestepping (“cruising”) baby may pull up on your lap and shoulder and then hang on to you while circling around you. Your arms can make creative ledges too.

Climb5 HumanJungleGymLying down: This can be a great “play gym” position for the mobile baby who’s not yet standing. Try lying on your back, your side, or even on your tummy for different heights. Baby can climb up on you; then to get off, she has a wonderful opportunity to explore balance and different relationships to gravity as she reaches off with her hands or her feet.

TT chest to chest1

On an incline: Do you ever sit down and lean back, with Baby on you chest-to-chest? This is a wonderful relational event that allows Baby to experience herself in a different way in gravity (other than upright or lying down), and it’s even “tummy time”!

These are some ideas that have you sitting or lying on the floor. Perhaps you’ll discover other ways in these or other positions!

A Word About Your Hands

When Baby climbs on you, it can be very tempting to use your hands to pick her up, prevent her from falling, “walk” her around you, or hold on to her. Unless she’s asking to be picked up or held, be curious if she actually needs your hands on her.

  • If she’s belly-crawling toward you and reaches your lap, do you pick her up? What if you “wait and see”? Does she actually want to be picked up, or is she curious and exploring, and would she continue climbing up and over you if allowed?
  • If there’s clear danger and she could hurt herself, obviously please help her! If she’s learning a new skill, like belly crawling forward off a ledge (off your lap), you might be surprised at how safely she navigates it by herself and how a slight, small “fall” doesn’t scare her. (I do mean “small” fall, and I don’t mean neglect)
  • The more she’s allowed to do only what she’s ready to do, without being propped by devices or by hands (e.g., stood or “walked”), the safer and wiser she’ll be. Think stable/mobile: if she’s mobile and you want to offer a hand, offer it as a strong and stable ledge, rather than as something that moves along with her and holds her up. This way she’s in charge of her own weight and her own experience.

Being a Jungle Gym—Benefits for Baby

  • Relationship and connection while playing, moving, and exploring
  • Balance
  • Creative problem solving
  • Over, under, through, around, on, off, toward, and away
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Strength-building all over
  • Reflex and brain development requiring 3-dimensional use of space
  • Spatial orientation
  • Inner ear health
  • Safer falling because she knows herself in different positions in gravity
  • Autonomy and empowerment—she gets to choose how she wants to relate with you and she does only what she can do herself

Go forth, get down on the floor, and have fun playing with your baby!

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

“Good Job!”, Or Not?

It’s habit, I know. “Good job!”  We love our babies. We get excited when they do new things.

But why “Good job!”? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? I mean, let’s really look this question in the face. We all have different influences. Why do you say “Good job!”?

  • To show love and pride?Clapping hands
  • Grow Baby’s self esteem?
  • Because popular literature says to?
  • To avoid behavior issues?
  • That’s what was said to you?
  • For the satisfaction of Baby looking to you for approval? (hey, honest question!)
  • Were you accepted as a child simply as who you are? Or for what you did (or didn’t)?

Invitation: does “Good job!” really foster what you think it’s fostering? I point you to an article by Jennifer Lehr: “Good Job!”  Please indulge in her words as I try to keep my post shorter! 

Let’s challenge popular thinking and make sure we’re actually saying what we mean to say!

For more reading, see:

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

A Stuck Arm is an Opportunity for Empowerment: Tummy Time Essentials

This baby isn’t stuck any longer, but we can see how he may have been in his earlier days.

It’s inevitable: the arm stuck under Wriggling Baby in Tummy Time. What do you do? Many grown-ups will lovingly want to help and will pull Baby’s arm out. You might even feel mean if you don’t, as if you’re abandoning a helpless creature. I invite you into a whole new perspective. Let’s turn this upside down!

Empowering Your Baby

I like to ask, “what would be most empowering to the baby?” This may take some redefining of love, caring, support, and attentive parenting. Consider: when do we intend to be helpful but actually create dependency? Could we shift our perspective of helpful from “doing something for Baby that she can’t do herself” to “supporting her so she can do as much as possible herself, which sometimes means not doing it for her”?

In the case of the stuck arm, there are several options by the above latter means.  Again, the idea is to help Baby in a way that allows her to do as much as possible on her own. After rolling Baby into Tummy Time, try these things:

  1. Wait. Allow her to feel herself and respond to the sensory information her brain is receiving. A baby’s pace is often slower than ours. A little frustration is part of the learning process (different from anger or pain). Give her some time, she’s new at this!
  2. Lift and roll the same side of her pelvis as the stuck arm. This may give her the space she needs to manage her arm.
  3. Lift the shoulder of the stuck arm and let her pull her arm out.
  4. Gently-but-firmly brush her stuck arm/hand. This can help notify her brain exactly where the challenge is so she can direct her attention there.
  5. If none of the above works, gently bring her arm out just a little bit—not the whole way! See if she can do it from there, or try the above options again.

Why?

Empowerment. Confidence. Trust in herself. Allowance of reflexes to do their job. The experience of and ability to figure out a challenge and manage it herself (with support when needed). Her pace. Her learning process. Because she actually can do more than many people realize. Her needs, not ours. Yes, even at a wee 1, 2, or 3 months old.

Getting into Tummy Time

Please do so by rolling her into it rather than flying her belly-ward toward the floor. Think of a wall coming straight toward you–it’s not a natural or comfortable proposition! Rolling from flexion (in a ball) will utilize the pathway she’ll use to get into and out of Tummy Time and it will bypass the startle reflex, which is responsible for much TT discomfort. Please see my post, “Tummy Time Troubles? Tips for Making it Easy and Comfortable” for more info  on how to do this.

Then, go down there on the floor with her–and enjoy yourselves!

 

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Elizabeth Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

The 14 (at least) Milestones Between Crawling and Walking

Did you know there are several fun “milestones” between hands-and-knees crawling and walking? Really, development is an unending string of new reflex after new reflex, but popular perspectives tend to break it up into the major highlights. But then we loose the whole picture. Let’s put part of that picture back together again!

Babies who are not walked (and some that are) will typically discover most of the following movements. It’s both a progression–not necessarily in this exact order–and overlapping waves.

  • Starting with crawling on hands and knees…

Kneel-sitting (sitting back on both forelegs)

Kneel-standing (“standing” on both knees)

  • “Pulling up” by stepping on one foot
  • “Pulling up” by pulling with both arms
  • “Pulling up” by pushing with both legs

 

 

 

Bear-standing and bear-walking (on hands and feet)

  • Cruising with two hands, side-stepping
  • Opening outward  with one hand/foot out while holding on with one hand

Stepping forward and backward while holding on with 2 hands

Cruising with one hand, forward-stepping

 

 


  • Letting go to stand hands-free
  • Squatting while holding on

 

 

  • Standing from squatting, and squatting from standing, hands-free
  • Toddling (like a penguin) while holding something in both hands
  • Walking cross-laterally (forward-stepping)
  • Running. Flying?

That’s a lot happening between crawling and walking that is not often talked about! All of these in-between movements prepare the lower back, hip joints, ankles, foot arches, and core support for being upright on two feet. They also support necessary brain connections and the ability to integrate the new sensory information and stimulation they’ll be taking in.

This is part of why babies will walk best if they are not “walked” by bigger people. Their bodies are attempting to put all of these important pieces into place, so walking them can interfere with this process and cause compensations that make the natural developing reflexes/movements more difficult or even inaccessible.

Once a baby has explored all or most of the above preparations, and when he is allowed to do so in his own timing, you will see a very confident little walker emerge with great balance and poise!

If you are concerned about developmental delays, professional support may be needed. Please follow your gut feelings if you have a concern and speak with someone who is familiar with the details of first-year development.

© Elizabeth Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

The Psychology of Sitting, Part 1

We have been investigating how babies learn to sit and what it means when we sit them before they can get in and out of it themselves. Let’s delve further . . .

Consider what it means emotionally and psychologically—let’s put ourselves “in Baby’s booties,” so to speak.

Imagine, as an adult, that you are put into a position you cannot get into or out of yourself. Perhaps someone has perched you precariously on a high tree limb hanging upside down by your knees—or some such oddity. How do you feel? You might find out that the world looks fun from this perspective; but how are you going to get down? And how will you get back here, if you’re enjoying it…?

We won’t be hanging our babies from trees; but what’s new is what’s new to our nervous systems.  For a baby, here are a couple of possible scenarios, again putting ourselves in Baby’s place:

#1: You are born with your own instincts and you innately trust your parents—these are biological facts of survival. Imagine that your body says internally “lie down and roll,” for that is what you would do if left to your own devices; but your parents say “sit up.” You are in love with your parents and it’s fun to be up higher because you can see what they’re doing. But since you can’t get into it by yourself, you must somehow communicate (possibly by fussing or crying) each time you want up. And when you’re up—it’s fun and stimulating! Yet it’s also scary because you keep falling over—sometimes whole-body falls, sometimes miniscule, imperceptible falls (yes, even when you’re propped). Your protective reflexes do their job; however, calling on them constantly (which you must do since you don’t yet have the necessary core strength) puts you into a subtle state of continuous shock. Nevertheless, you are programmed to adapt, so without conscious choice you find ways to stay there as best you can. Eventually you forget that your initial urge was to lie down and roll. It’s fun to be up high. Except when it’s scary. But the stimulation makes you smile and laugh, so your parents think it’s fun. You eventually want to move and get closer to mama; since you have no options for getting into or out of sitting, you begin scooting on your bottom, and you skip crawling all together.

#2: Imagine you are lying on the floor and you can roll. You can play on your back and on your tummy. As you wriggle and play, you feel your limbs pushing into the ground. You discover you can use this pushing to move around. You wanted to get a toy or get closer to mama, so you learned to push up on your hands, swivel on your belly, and belly-crawl. You can even play while lying on your side. Being down here is a little frustrating, though, because mama is up higher and she moves faster. But, it’s Mama! You are motivated to somehow find your way up to her. You have now figured out how to support yourself on your side with one elbow—using that great push you can do on the floor and getting a little higher off the ground. One day you get excited and your hand pushes into the ground while on your side. Mama has brought your favorite toy, so you reach for it and oh my! You are higher than you have ever been—you are sitting! You don’t know the fancy name for it, but you have an amazing feeling of empowerment, joy, and “I can do it myself!” Since you found this action on your own, you unconsciously “laid the track” in your neuro-muscular system for the pathway to sitting; so you’ll be finding your way back down again soon too.

Coming to sitting all by herself . . . by pushing up from her side. Notice the involvement of her hands, feet, head, and even tail.

What does this mean?

I realize that parents are encouraged by professionals to prop-sit their babies. But we must look this issue in the face with the intention of love and optimal whole-being health. Putting children into positions they cannot get into themselves during playtime promotes dependence, not independence. In asking them to do something they’re not ready to do, we communicate that it’s not ok for them to be who they are, where they are, or explore on their own timing. Alternatively, allowing babies to discover milestones by themselves and providing support when necessary (but not pushing) promotes independence and empowerment. This is the basis of life-long learning: the habits that get set up through the allowing (or not) of Baby’s own timing and discovery, according to when his body is ready.

Stay tuned for The Psychology of Sitting, Part 2.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Dear Baby Lovers

Welcome to the Conscious Baby Blog! Here you will find enlightening information about first-year development, milestones, and how to support your Little Ones in the most optimal ways possible. You’ll find tips for Tummy Time and handling skills. You’ll find a refreshing and respectful approach to being with crying babies and tantruming toddlers.

It’s time to bring ourselves back to our instincts and help our babies maintain their connection with their natural intuitive, aware way of being in the world. It is up to us to foster awareness, confidence, compassion, safety, healthy self-esteem, and communication. These things can and DO happen in the first year, and even in the first weeks. Come with me on a journey of empowering our children from the start–and bringing healing to ourselves in the process.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved