Welcome to the SOS Parenting Weekly Newsletter. This week I take a look at the importance of boundaries, and why gentle parenting is not permissive parenting. Plus a parent Q&A about sibling rivalry.
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Welcome to my latest newsletter. This week I talk about boundaries, why they're important, how to enforce them and why it's OK to make your child cry (no, I haven't gone mad!). Plus I pass on my tips for reducing sibling rivalry.

A quick heads up too, my Gentle Parenting Book is released on Thursday! That's only 2 days away! If you want to learn more about parenting in a gentle style from pregnancy right the way through to age 8 (and all of the common issues that pop up including childcare and returning to work, choosing schools, discipline and how to handle difficult behaviour, how to get sceptical relatives on board and what to do when nothing seems to be working) this is the book for you! 

Have a great week everyone!

New on the blog this week: When (and How) Should you Drop Naps?

Do you know how many naps your child should have per day and how long each nap should last for?

It may surprise you that actually nobody knows how long babies and toddlers should nap for and how many naps they should have per day.

If you have followed recommendations from a book or chart, it’s important to know that the figures they contain are completely most likely based on nothing more than personal opinion and random guesswork. There is no science which tells us what the ‘ideal’ baby or toddler nap looks like and none which shows us how many they should have based on age. Each child is different. What works for one won’t work for another exactly the same age.

Read more HERE.

Why You Shouldn't be Afraid to Make Your Child Cry!

I often make my children cry and I believe it's a necessary part of parenting. No, I haven't gone bonkers. Yes, it is still very much gentle parenting to make your child cry. The big question to ask is "is it always OK to make them cry?". The answer here is definitely 'no'.

So, when is it OK to make your children cry? Simply, when you are enforcing boundaries. Boundaries are really, really important. Without them we would not be able to teach our children about societal rules. A home without boundaries is likely to be a chaotic one and one in which the children are confused and unsettled. Gentle parenting is not about being permissive. It's about setting age appropriate boundaries (but not too many of them!) and reinforcing them.

Your boundaries will be different to mine and that's OK, they should be. Boundaries are a personal thing that vary from family to family. For instance in my home everybody must take their shoes off at the front door. That's important to me. Others really don't mind. I would urge you all to make a list of 'house rules' or your 'family boundaries'. If you have older kids it's great to get them involved (mine got involved in setting our '1 hour of screen time per night' rule) by asking them to contribute. When you're setting boundaries though make sure they are realistic and age appropriate. It's better to have a few boundaries that you stick to, than too many that are inconsistent. The boundaries should be really clear too.

If your child crosses your boundaries, which they will it's their job to test them! Then HOW you react is really important. Boundaries offer a learning opportunity, that means when upholding them you should be calm, fair, kind and mindful of what the child is learning at the time. Many times reinforcing boundaries will cause your child to cry. That's OK. The boundary may make them sad, mad or angry. It's OK for them to cry. What matters is how you respond to their upset. Empathy here is key, as is support. "I can see you're sad we have to leave the park now. I hate it when I'm having fun and the time runs out too, do you want a hug?". Your goal here isn't to stop the child crying. It's important they can release their emotions. It's important that you 1. stick consistently to the boundary and 2. support your child with their big feelings. What happens if you are not consistent? What happens if you can't bear to see your child upset and think "oh well, we'll stay another ten minutes, I hate to see him so sad"? You undermine your boundaries. You send a message to your child that sometimes you stick to them and sometimes you don't, so it's worth them really testing you every time you enforce them as sometimes you 'break'. 

Here's an example from my own family. My children get pocket money on the 1st day of each month (eek, that reminds me, March's money is due now - where did that month go?!). I have a boundary that I do not give them any further money if they run out. I don't lend them money (as I want them to learn about saving for things they want).

Some time ago we were in a large department store and my daughter (then 3) saw a toy that she really wanted. She had spent her pocket money for that month though and asked me to buy it for her. I said "no". She asked again. I said "no" again, but told her I was happy to take her back to the shop the next month when she had more money. She started to cry. I empathised "It sucks to have to wait sometimes doesn't it? I really want to buy a new handbag, but I don't have enough money this month". I offered her a hug. She pushed me away and told me to "go away". At this point she was really angry with me as well as sad. I allowed her to be angry with me. I said "I totally understand why you're angry with me, because I won't let you have what you want". At this point she was in a heap on the floor and we had attracted a crowd of judgmental bystanders. I continued. "I'm ready for you when you want some help to calm down. I'll wait on this chair over here". She stayed sobbing on the floor for another few minutes (that felt like an hour). I asked again if she would like a hug, she said nothing but came and sat on my lap. Still sobbing. I stroked her hair (her favourite way to calm down) and we sat in silence (apart from her tears) for a couple more minutes. By now it was approximately 10 minute since she had asked for the toy and I'm certain our judgemental bystanders thought I was a terrible parent! Finally she reached into me and pulled me tight. I told her "I love you" and asked her if she wanted to come back to the shop next month to buy the toy. She nodded and said "it made me really sad when you said no". I nodded and said "I can imagine", she got off of my lap, held my hand and we continued with our day.

There is much more about setting and enforcing boundaries and limits in my new 'Gentle Parenting Book', out on Thursday.

This week Amy would like to know:
Q: "How do I cope with siblings who fight all the time?"

A:  As a mother to four children, all very close in age, I completely understand where you're coming from! There are a couple of ways to approach this, first is to look at why it happens and how to reduce the likelihood and the second is what to do 'in the moment'. Let's go through each quickly.

Why it Happens.
Simply the arrival of a sibling means that you no longer hold your parent's full attention. All children seek out connection with their parents and if a sibling is deemed to be taking that away they will feel some animosity to wards them as a result. The most important thing you can do here is to spend 1-2-1 time with each child every single day. This should be at least 15 minutes, in a room where no other children are present, just you and your son or daughter. Do this each day for each child. I would then also recommend topping this up at weekends and giving them more of your time. In my family my husband and I try to spend time with each child away from home and their siblings. For instance each month I go out for the evening with one of my children, just the two of us. Last month I went to see a Michael Jackson impersonator concert with my 12 year old son. This month I'm taking my daughter to see the ballet. My other two are still deciding what they want to do in April and May. I treasure this time as much as they do as it really helps me to reconnect with them. You also need to make sure that your children have their own space. In an ideal world their own bedroom (mine all have their own bedrooms, though they frequently choose to room in with each other!), otherwise their own section of the house, even just a little corner where their things are and where they can retreat (alone) if needed. Lastly here you need to be aware of things that trigger their rivalry and try to avoid them as much as possible. In my house 'Monopoly' is guaranteed to end in fights so we donated it to the charity shop. You can get some great co-operative games where they play together for a shared goal, rather than against each other which work wonderfully too. THIS is a great example.

How to Cope 'in the Moment'
When your children do fight it is really important that you don't 1. take sides or 2. take over.  Your children need to learn how to resolve conflict themselves, ideally without your input. When you see them fighting or one complains to you respond in a way that encourages them to solve their own problems. e.g:
"Hey, I can see two very unhappy children here, what's going on?" 
At this point if they try to speak at the same time you say "whoah, I can't hear - Bill - tell me what happened?"
"Now, Ben, tell me what happened?"
"Bill, How did it make you feel? How do you think Ben felt?"
"Ben, How did it make you feel? How do you think Bill felt?"
"Bill - Can you think of a way to resolve this so you're both happy?"
"Ben - Can you think of a way to resolve this so you're both happy?"
"Hmm, that sounds really good, but I'm not so sure you'll both be happy? Who can think of a solution that you're both OK with?" (hopefully they come up with something, if not you can prompt a little).
"Wow, that sounds like a great solution to me! I'm really proud that you can both some to good solutions".

You may have to repeat this process a hundred times - but each time you do your child will learn something and eventually there will come a time where you will hear them begin to argue and then work through the process alone. That is a wonderful moment indeed!  Sibling rivalry is also covered in some depth in 'The Gentle Parenting Book' which is out on Thursday (just in case you missed that, LOL!).
Coming up this month:
Gentle Parenting Workshop,
St. Albans, UK
Saturday 12th March, 10am - 1pm.
Tickets still available HERE.
£25 each, or £40 per family ticket.
Gentle Parenting Book Countdown
Only TWO DAYS to go!

For more information see:

UK Pre-orders HERE
Rest of world HERE

The Gentle Parenting Book on Facebook
Why Your Baby's Sleep Matters Book Countdown
NINE DAYS to go!

For more information see:

UK Pre-orders HERE
US Pre-orders HERE

Why Your Baby's Sleep Matters on Facebook
Gentle sleep training that really is gentle.
Available internationally by Email & Skype.
Teaching Your Baby or Toddler To Self Soothe or Settle to Sleep
Watch my new video which answers the question "can you teach your baby or toddler to 'self soothe' or 'self settle' to sleep?
Copyright © 2016 Sarah Ockwell-Smith, All rights reserved.

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