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I’ve Come A Long Way

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

I had a bad day today. Yesterday too. This was caused by a disagreement I had with my significant other and although an action plan for resolution was developed I was still feeling pretty cranky about it. I have to admit I was unpleasant and some things that would not normally upset me as much really made me mad. My older son stayed up all night playing video games but left all the lights on in the house all night. There was an issue where I became short and upset and I was kinda yelly. I don’t mean to be but sometimes I forget myself. Many people would tell me that this is fine. My cup needed filling and my unmet needs were manifesting in yelling at people I care about; that once in a while is forgivable and I should not feel too bad as long as I apologize. There are others that may say I was not setting a good example and I should not be showing my children such an undesirable way to behave; that I should have never let it get to that point in the first place.

The Truth is, They are Both Right

There was a time in my life where this foul mood would have set me off for days and I would yell and scream and not be able to control myself. I wasn’t really in control. As a child I was not given the tools to control my emotions nor was I given an example of how things are supposed to be. My parents were yellers. The rage yelling is all me though. So many years of suppression of emotions damaged my ability to control that part of my anger without some recognition and desire to be different. This desire to be different came recently. I wanted to stop yelling and try to learn a little patience. And learning some self-control has been rocky, but it is coming.

So Where Did It Come From?

One concept helped me more than anything else with understanding how to control myself. That concept is Self-Ownership. I am in control. My Step Father used to say, “You are in control of your own destiny,” mostly when he wanted to sound wise, but this ultimate truth is what led me to realize that it is no longer some one else’s fault. Everything I do is all me. I am an adult and it was time I started acting like the adult I wanted to be. I am in control. I do something great, I own it. I am proud and try to build on that, but if I do something not so great, I own that, too. How else are we going to grow and change if we do not take ownership of our faults too?

We Cannot, That’s How

There was once a time where I was so unpleasant for a long periods that my partner challenged me to 30 days without yelling at him. I almost wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her that there is a more peaceful future at my own fingertips if I only let it happen. Disappointment in life and almost every situation led me to be so cantankerous, but the problem is not disappointment, it was expectation and bad communication. I had to learn not to have expectations of others that I did not specifically outline and to communicate my intentions and expectations better. And I’m improving at that. It is happening for me but now because of so many years of bad control and blaming others for my lack of happiness I am starting to see how it affected my older son growing up. He has little self-control and visibly suppresses anger when he is mad for one reason or another.

He’s a Teen so These Emotions are Exacerbated, But…

Because of my lack of control he not only learned that that behavior is acceptable, he also suffered like I did through the episodes of verbal abuse and fury of his parent. And that is sad because it is not a cycle I would have wanted to pass on if I knew I was going to. Its sad only now I’m realizing this. I am just beginning to be the person I want to be and its not too late for my older son. Which is great. My younger son however will benefit greatly for having a Mother that realized she really was in control of her own destiny.


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

They’re Catching On

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Its working! There was a news article this week at CNN that describes in a scientific, no nonsense way about how spanking children decreases their ability to control themselves because it decreases the amount of grey matter, a type of brain tissue, that forms which helps them self-regulate. In my opinion there are many things wrong with spanking a child and the first and foremost is because it is damaging to their healthy development. There are many countries around the world that have laws that protect children from this kind of harm but in America there seems to be almost a blindness to the problem.

“And that’s what’s wrong with kids these days…”

Have you heard this one? I have heard this followed by some of the most ridiculous statements. There is nothing wrong with teaching real respect instead of fear. There is nothing wrong with teaching a child a little empathy and compassion. These are the traits that take a child into adulthood prepared for their life ahead. Teaching a child to fear punitive punishment damages their ability and desire to self-regulate. This puts in them a sense of outside control, therefore they can actually believe that they act because of outside forces, not because they desired to perform or react in a certain way. An example of this would be blaming a sibling for having to walk over gravel when they were the one that chose to not put their shoes on when they went to go fetch them. This self-control is exactly the thing that is so valuable for mature adult life, and spanking and shaming really do contribute to an imbalance in this development.

“But I was spanked and I’m just fine…”

Okay, I’m pulling out the old hat example of how these things are passed along, but there needs to be an end to the cycle. Moms raise children who have children. Parents are trusted and advice is asked. This is fine and great for small things: diaper changes, and pajama choices, but there needs to be clear instruction on how to parent without the use of violence and threats to control. The reason there needs to be clear guidelines and help in place for instruction and support is because so many of us adults are taught that children are annoying bothers to be dealt with. I say we change that old way of thinking and start really giving our children the start in life they deserve.

Because after all, spanking and shaming are a form of bullying and no one likes a bully…

Parents that spank teach their children through behavior modeling that is its okay to hit others and shame them in front of their peers. Embarrassment can have severe lasting effects just like spanking, but can be made public which can give other bullies ammunition for tearing others down. Spanking is about anger and loss of control. If a parent were taught to regulate their own emotions then the children watching them would too.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of science that says spanking and other punitive punishment is harmful to children. Unfortunately there is a large gap between what is known and what is practiced. There is a great battle to be fought if we are going to protect all children. Until then it is our job to continue to spread knowledge and model understanding and gentle parenting to those that need the role model and instruction.


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

Learning A Little Disappointment

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Life can be rough sometimes. As adults we go through our lives and face many small disappointments throughout the day. The pop machine is out of our caffeine infusion of choice. We sigh and pick another one and move on. We get stuck in traffic and that is never fun. There are so many trials every day that thinking of them can make the head spin. In the morning the milk is gone, or my personal favorite, with just a few drops left in the container, or our mascara runs dry. These are frustrating things. Frustration is an emotion that many people are familiar with for most people are not so relaxed and ‘go with the flow’ types that they seldom feel its heavy weight. Children seem to feel disappointment more keenly than adults. Sometimes to the point that it seems silly to adults, but they sure do seem to be going through some things sometimes don’t they? And what do they do? They cry. They sometimes throw things and throw a fit and sometimes get very worked up.

Why do They Do This? Is it to Drive Us Crazy?

Of course not, but it sure seems like it sometimes. So as an adult what do you do? A parent that uses more ‘traditional’ parenting methods may get angry and begin yelling. They may even begin hitting their children. I’ve been victim to it; it happens. This parent may even say things like “I’ll give you something to cry about!” It is apparent in these methods that some parents were once children with very bad examples themselves. What is the culprit here? Lack of self control and patience and lack of a model of preferable behavior.

These children that are having troubles and that are met without compassion are truly at a disadvantage in life. Disappointment is a real feeling. Something that has to be worked through by those small minds and understood. If a child is made to repress those feelings and learns that their feelings and desires are not valid, they may have a harder time processing emotion as an adult and may even have trouble making decisions based on personal desire and not desire to please. Desire to please is tricky. A child may learn the desire to please the adults in its life but that may lead to something innocent as indecisiveness over a dinner location or much more dangerous than that; create a person that is so trained to repress emotion and disappointment they become a victim in their relationships.

That is a Huge Jump Though

So lets focus on some alternatives to traditional parenting methods for dealing with tantrums rooted in disappointment. Staying calm is the best thing a parent can do when a small child is experiencing big emotions. This provides a model of behavior to discuss and practice so that your child can reach a calm state where some reason can be resumed. Speak gently to a child that wants that cookie. Tell her that you understand that she wants the cookie and that you think cookies are delicious too, but that lunch comes first so if she wants the cookie she must eat some lunch. Then provide a safe place for her to process those feelings and return to calm. This gives the child a sense of security. As the child grows older a parent can talk about times when they have been disappointed. This is a powerful tool to help them understand that although there is disappointment it does not have to ruin a perfectly good day. Modeling this behavior is another tool. When a parent is disappointed in a child a conversation can be started about how even though you are disappointed you still love them unconditionally. This sets them up for success later when they have children that are having big emotions that seem silly. And another powerful tool to help children deal with disappointment is empathy and validation. Communicate that their desires are appropriate and valid. “I understand you want that cookie. Cookies are delicious. Mommy wants a cookie too but she hasn’t eaten her lunch yet. Now do you want to sit here with Mommy and eat so we can have cookies together?” Communication is essential for them to understand what is going on in their little brains.

Kids are Going to Face Disappointment

That is reality. Adults have more self control so we don’t express it as much but adults are allowed to be disappointed and so too should children be so that they can learn that the world does not end because they are disappointed. I don’t teach my son to share. Why? Because in the real world people get together and if someone refuses to let you borrow something you want you are not going to throw a fit. No, probably you should not have asked in the first place. I encourage my son to share his toys, but I teach him that it is okay to be disappointed if someone is playing with something that they do not want to share. I also teach him that if he does not feel like sharing he does not have to because its his stuff, but that is another discussion.

My Thoughts on the Subject

I think kids should be taught to handle disappointment. I believe it will help to solve entitlement issues that have seemed to develop over the last couple decades here in America. If I model appropriate behavior and stay calm during ‘I want something’ tantrums then my son will learn how to act when another person, or his child is throwing a fit or at the very least understand why he just cannot have everything that he desires. I believe that setting boundaries and sticking to them is best for my family but I am also very caring and comforting during these difficult times as well. I do what I can to mitigate disappointment as much as I can and am dong the best I can with everything else that comes our way.

What are your thoughts on entitlement and teaching children to handle disappointment?


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

When Did That Happen?

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

My older son is fourteen years old. He is a typical teen: he smells bad, looks greasy, would exist on junk food if he could and lives on video game time. Pretty typical. He is also graduating Junior High in a few days! When did that happen? This child makes me very proud. He has been though more than I ever wished him to although he did have a better upbringing than mine. I have explained before that I only recently found radical attentive patenting (or attachment parenting) and wish I could go back and change many situations in his life.

Some Things You Don’t Even Realize Will Be Harmful

I wish I could change the spanking. I cannot. With the spanking came yelling and shaming. These are terribly damaging things to children and the side effects can last a lifetime. I wish I could change schooling and homeschool him. My older son had a rough time in school even back in daycare. He was the kid that got bit, and the kid that acted out. He was not singled out many times, but his inability to sit still was a detriment. He had to go to daycare so I could work and go to school as I was a young Mom. I wish I could change his nutritional path; breastfeeding past a few months after bad advice from my then doctor, but the thing I would change if I had only one thing to do all over again would be to not have been away from him so much. I thought I had to at the time. This made him very insecure. Separation anxiety lead to real stress when he was younger although he always calmed once I had been gone a while. It didn’t help that I didn’t sleep with him, but we did room share out of necessity, but even still he had very little attachment to me even though I didn’t know it.

But Let’s Zoom Past Early Childhood

Once my older son hit about 5th grade he began to catch up to his peers. He was always a bit delayed, but not tremendously so. The previous year he was put on the Asperger’s spectrum (although later he was taken off) and given an IEP which basically admits that not all children learn in the homogenous classroom and need other options. He would cycle during the school year between compliant, eager and resistant. Later after he was taken off the spectrum he was given a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, ODD. They call this a disorder, but when I did my research I found this was no disorder at all, this was the result of his traditional upbringing. Mistrust of authority, not complying with rules or circumstances even to his detriment, and no intrinsic motivation to do much of anything let alone what some authority figure tells him: these all stem from his detachment and negative attention. Kids learn to believe they only deserve negative attention so they will seek it out to fill their need. I wish I could have given him the love he needed to overcome those issues.

But There Are Things I Would Not Change

My son is a giver. At least before teen age set in. He would give his last anything to the people he cared about. He would willingly give hugs and kisses to his family and he loved to cuddle. He would always share his Halloween candy with his friends and family and was never greedy about it. And he is so loving. He is chill too. Often times as long as we talk about the things we are going to do in a day before he sets his heart on video games for the whole day and I can convince him to help do a chore or two before he leaves for la la land. He is a good person. He needs to be reminded once in a while to not be offensive while his brother is in the room, but on the whole this is a kid that would be a really great friend if he had the developed social skills to do so. That by the way is another aspect of traditional parenting that I have learned is harmful for a child’s future.

Even Though He Is Older I Am Now Trying To Make Our Connections

As I parent of my younger son I feel bad sometimes because my older son sees the way I am with him. The old techniques I ask him to not use. I can see his brain thinking they were good enough for him, so I have had that conversation with him a few times. I have told him he did not deserve the treatment he got as a child, but that I really didn’t know better. He kind of understands, but it is going to take a while to really understand fully, and that is okay. There is still culture that exists between us that I am moving to change. These things are triggers from my childhood I’m guessing. I was always yelled at and shown no patience and that comes out in our interactions sometimes. I am working every day to not yell and think with empathy which is actually happening. Slowly, but happening still. I am learning to think about situations from his point of view and giving patience. I have to try really hard because it does not come natural to me but I’m getting there and Joe will end up growing up to be an exemplary adult male. Of that I am positive.

To Sum Up My Point

It is not too late. We can watch our children grow up or we can actively participate in their upbringing. It does make a difference in their lives, but its never too late to try attached, gentle parenting. I would even say if your children are adults it is still not too late to begin the process of attachment so that you can really enjoy any grandchildren that come along. For the last two and a half years I have been working to educate and empower myself for my children. No, I did not start as early as I now wish I had, but we cannot change the past we can only shape the future. Its your future. Shape it. Model it and make the world a better place for future generations. It can happen.


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

The Power Of Saying Yes

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Yes is a powerful word for parents. The power of yes can open up whole new worlds for a child and parent. When a parent says yes, trust is built and a child learns value in his or her own thoughts and feelings. Yes can build confidence, yes can build respect, and yes can build patience; these all for both parent and child. As parents we are always saying no and seldom do we say yes, but I had to ask myself one day why I was always saying no. I would say no to playing outside at inappropriate times, inappropriate snacks, toys, and other ideas my little ones (and not so little one) would ask for. I said no for the same reason so many parents say no. Its what we know. But then about a year ago I happened upon a concept and my family life hasn’t been the same since.

I Stopped Saying No

If someone had just said stop saying no and gave me no context I would have been perplexed, but after really thinking about what it meant to stop saying no I really understood. Saying no all the time was damaging the parent-child relationship. I learned that cutting a child off without validating their request was part of the problem. Children cannot communicate fully with us, even the ones that have a fuller vocabulary, or use reason all the time so when they ask “Can I have these cookies Mom?” or something like that they are not thinking that it may be close to a meal time; they are thinking cookies are good, so I want some cookies. Sometimes we forget that as adults, and just say no without an explanation. The child then may not understand and feel that it was an arbitrary decision when in fact there is a completely sound reason that may not have been communicated with the word no. Even not now isn’t really enough for younger children.

So I Started Saying Yes

Children will always have unreasonable demands and inappropriate requests and they way we handle them will shape their future and how they process the world around them. When I started saying yes I did not give in to every demand and whim as you may be thinking. Nope, what I did was take the suggestion of the method and created a yes environment. This took a lot of work, but as my small toddler became more independent the more I saw the value in our yes environment. We rearranged the furniture so that it was non-obstructive which meant no living room table as we were accustomed to for drinks, magazines and such, and other changes. We toddler proofed with all that soft striping on edges of things and padded corners of all the tables in his area. We made sure that if there was climbing to be done it was set up safely to lessen the falling and so many other things like that. We put away our decorative glassware and other knick knacks we had accumulated while not having a toddler and pretty much rearranged our whole house. This yes environment opened up his play area and gave him plenty to explore safely while we moved about our day.

And Its Hard to Say Yes All the Time

Once I began saying yes and stopped saying no I had to be more creative than ever. Now when prompted with unreasonable requests I had to really think about and learn to communicate with my small child which is much harder than just saying no. There are better responses than no. Yes, you may have that popsicle, but pretty soon we are going to have dinner so you may have it, just not now. And then because he’s two we have to have a conversation about how its okay to want something really bad but sometimes we have to wait. This is a longer process which takes the time to validate the child’s feelings. After all, popsicles are delicious, who wouldn’t want a popsicle?, but now is just not the right time for treats. Then we talk about what times are good for treats. Talking to a toddler like this gives them the tools necessary to really understand all about the world around them. Now, just like saying no, telling a child that yes they can do something but have to wait may cause a sudden outburst of emotion. We call them tantrums, but in reality the child is just trying to process his emotions and may be overwhelmed by what he or she is feeling. As the parent we can talk them through what they are feeling and give them the words if needed without giving in to the original request. We can tell them that it is okay to feel angry and that you are there for them to help them process and recover. Give lots of hugs during this time even if your first reaction is to yell and tell them to stop acting that way. Small children just do not have the emotional control that adults do so even though it may not seem like it, they are having a hard time, not trying to give their parent one.

The Power Of Yes

I was raised in a family that yelled all the time and used the phrase “because I said so” more often than explaining the real reason I was not allowed to do the things I wanted to do. I found this a very unsatisfactory answer and would drive my Mom nuts asking the same question over and over again. Now, if she had used this technique on me I believe she would have saved herself (and me) many yelling sessions. I was usually good once I understood a situation, but phrases like no and “because I said so” are barriers in communication and left me with more questions than I started with because I wanted to know why I was being told no. With my own children I had already decided to not use “because I said so” but now I have some of the tools to reap the benefits of fully explaining the world to my children. Once I understood the root idea of saying yes my home life changed. I even use it on my teen now, in a moderated way, and it is helping bridge communication gaps with us as well as my toddler. Now when he asks why he has to clean his closet out I explain that it needs to be easily accessible because his closet has the access hatch for the roof instead of “because I said so” which is much more motivating. Saying yes has had a profound impact on my life and family happiness. It takes a lot of work but it certainly has brought us closer together as a family, and that will always be worth it to me.

For more information on creating a yes environment or saying yes, please visit the web for a wealth of information. Just search “creating a yes environment”. Dr. Sears has some pretty interesting things to say here but there is a lot more out there.


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

Grabbing the Zen: It Makes A Difference

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

There are many new skills to master, or even fumble with when becoming a parent. There are so many new experiences parents can’t even fathom let alone be prepared for. Advice, wanted or unwanted, gets thrown at new parents at lightening speeds and it is enough to make their heads spin. Chaos and confusion often reign in these households and along with the constant sleep deprivation a new parent is likely to break down and scream. This screaming is okay for a little while, but eventually their children will need them again and that parent has two choices: to calm down enough be in control and collected, or stay in a stressed state and negatively affect their children through lack of control.

A Choice, Huh? Screw You!

I’d say that too in the heat of the moment, but in all reality this is true. I say choice because as the adult we have the ability (or at least most do) to stop and think things through. Children are not capable of this until their teen years and even then this ability is new and inconsistent, but as adults we can decide to stop and think before we become too upset. This is a skill that is learned through observation and some adults that did not learn this in childhood will have more difficulty grasping this skill in adulthood. Many adults act badly. There are even TV shows about it, but the reason people are entertained by them is because they like to judge them against their own lives. It is easy to feel like one has it all together when watching Bridezillas, Jerry Springer or some other such nonsense.

What Does This Have To Do with Parenting?

Children learn by example. They will do everything their parents do because they are the end all and be all to those kids. Parents that are emotionally stressed and not caring for their mental health may be doing their children harm without even realizing it. It is easy to become stressed and overworked; this leads to possibly yelling more often, acting in non-desirable behaviors such as snapping at others and arguing. All of these are negative things for children to model after. Stress symptoms can be insidious. A child may pick up a behavior that does not even manifest until they are yelling at their own children in a similar situation. A trigger that will be set off one day and that person may not even know that it is a learned behavior. That person may believe that those feelings are their own, which can cause some real guilt (this is me) until one day it will click and the memory will come back. It will be natural because that is how their parents cared for them, and the cycle will continue.

But It Does Not Nave To Be This Way

So what is missing? What are these new parents not getting? What are these children not learning? That self-care is important. Self-care is so important. If we take the same parent child pair and follow a different path we can see where self-care can change the outcome from negative to positive. Many people become stressed from unmet needs and desires. Those needs can be something as seemingly easy as getting enough rest and good nutrition, to having some self-reflection time everyday, to just having some self-time at all, to really do anything. Plenty of rest is usually pretty hard to come by as a new parent, but all is not lost. There are many ways to care for and re-energize for a parent and we are going to talk about some of these things. This is important for a few reasons. The big one of course being that it can help stabilize a person’s mood, which leads to a more peaceful household, it allows a parent to feel good about themselves and not like crap because they yelled at the kids again, and maybe more importantly keeping calm or recovering calm will teach children coping skills and problem solving skills.

What Does Self-Care Look Like?

It can be as simple as showering everyday, which as all parents know it may not be so simple, or as complex as planning some time away. Some easy things a person can start with right away for self-care is to stop speaking negatively about themselves. If they do not feel “worth it” they may not try at all. The second thing is to realign expectations. This is not as easy as it sounds and may require some work. A parent may feel stressed because their expectations are not realistic. This happens more than people talk about and can lead to negative situations. For example, a small child should not be expected to go with out food for an extended period, and if this does happen, the parent should be prepared for a melt down. If the parent is aware of the limitations they will not be so easy to anger and lash out. In my last column I talked about patience; it is hard to be patient without full understanding, but understanding can really help a parent stay calm. Plenty of sleep for new parents is really important. There is such a rush to “get back to normal” that many parents don’t give themselves enough time to get their normal back. Pretty soon housework is getting neglected, friends and family may fall to the wayside and huge guilt about it is accumulated. Realistically new parents should not expect themselves to “get back to normal” for quite some time and should try to get all the rest they can during (in my opinion) the first whole year. Yoga, meditation, and laughter are all really great fillers for those cups and should be used liberally. Partners that really connect can help each other with self-care. “I see you’re looking tired, I’ll play with the kids while you nap” should be heard often and when one partner is weakened by stress or something else the other should be there to help lift them back up. Manicures, massages, and a night out if desired once in a while also go a long way to becoming balanced as well. All of these, and many more, self-care techniques can lead to a more peaceful household.

What is the Result of That?

Children who are taught these skills early in life will be better able to adjust to outside stressors, and will benefit from the levelheadedness they posses later in life, whether in business or family. They will have watched their parents caring for themselves which will lead to self-respect and confidence. A self-respecting teen may not fall into peer pressure traps and as an adult will be able to avoid situations that are not in their best interest. A self-respecting person will not let others treat them as undeserving, because they know they are not. There are many benefits to providing the same level of care as a parent does for its child to themselves and it is so worth it for both parent and child. Children of parents that practice self-care will be rewarded with many life skills and the parents will be rewarded with a strong connection to their children throughout their lives that may not have been possible in a more stressed, chaotic environment.

I am no expert. All of this has come from research and anecdotal evidence. Plus my own experience. I needed a bastion of good and calm and I found gentle parenting. I have personally learned so much and have grown as a person and as a parent exponentially. I have seen both sides and I have had to learn to do what helps me so that I can be that parent my boys deserve. I may stay up a bit late into the night to spend time alone and I may spend a lot of time prepping and preparing meals, but I have to have me time, enough sleep and good nutrition to keep bad Mommy at bay. And so I do these things, and as my children grow these techniques will change and develop. I am forever grateful to the gentle parenting community and all it has taught me about being the best Mommy I can be.

What are some things you do to care for yourselves? What helps you keep your cup full?


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

Patience as a Verb

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Patience is not something that comes natural to me. I was not blessed with the ability to listen to a child screaming pretty much for any reason, nor the ability to suffer just about anything when I am either tired or hungry. Anyone else hear me on that? I know I’m not the only one. There are so many things that aggravate me endlessly if I let them and for some reason my children are capable of doing any number of these things. Sometime simultaneously. Anyone else been there? Yup, I know it. You don’t have to tell me. So what do I do? I cannot just lose my cool all the time so I had to learn some patience if I was going to survive parenthood. So I’m going to talk about patience as a verb. What exactly is patience, where does it come from and how do I accumulate this stuff, and most importantly how do I keep from losing my cool once my patience has hit its limit?

What is Patience?

Lets all be honest here, we could probably all be a bit more patient, but to really possess it we need to know what it is. In its essence. Perhaps it is different for everybody but patience to me is knowledge, critical thinking, and understanding. I have said to a friend recently that I have endless patience for toddler shenanigans but very little for the teenage variety. While this is very true for me the reason for this is because I find it harder to have empathy towards teens because I have lost a bit more of the connection to my teenage self than I have retained. I know this, but still find myself getting tired of the same conversations and the same reactions to the conversations from my teen. The thing is that when I understand what is going on in his head a bit better I can allow for more flexible reactions to different circumstances of which there are too many to give example of all, but I can think of one off the top of my head. My son’s science teacher emails me to say he is missing some assignments (he chose to stay in public school) and that he needs to stay after to complete them or he will get negative marks. I am irked. For one I am irked that the teacher is bringing this to my attention and not his, and annoyed at him for putting me in this situation. To me it seems it would be easier to just do the work, so I am quick to ask him why he is intentionally not doing his work; telling him that we could be doing something else but now he has to stay extra to complete his missing assignments. But it turns out he had the directions confused and although he did the assignment it was done improperly so it was counted as not turned in. Okay I get it, whatever, just make sure you do it the right way the next time. It is annoying to a parent to hear from a teacher for negative reasons, especially in my opinion, a teen who is plenty capable and intelligent enough to do the work, but understanding goes a long way to not losing it all over the place instead of remaining calm and talking about it.

Lost Patience from Lost Connection

I lose patience when I have told the teen to do a household chore only to find him still playing video games instead. But even if I don’t understand them, there are reasons for these behaviors and if I connect to my teen I may see those reasons. And if I’m really lucky and they don’t add up to good reasons I have the opportunity to develop a conversation about why the other tasks are more important. But I do lose my patience sometimes and react negatively myself and lose the chance to connect and communicate and that is something I work against every day.

Where Does Patience Come From?

Where does this stuff come from? Personally it comes from understanding. As I mentioned before I have very little innate patience so it is something I have to create in myself. To do this I research stuff. Seriously. Tantrums? No problem; I understand tantrums most of the time. These come from unmet needs. This can be the toddler kind in my house to the adult kind and isn’t pretty in any form. My toddler loses patience with me plenty and I am inevitably comforting him using my patience as a buffer for his impatience with me. In many of these circumstances it is pretty comical, but I’ve been guilty of throwing my own adult size fits as has my 14 year old. These all stem from unmet needs. So anytime this happens (as long as I still have my cool) I am able to step back and analyze a situation, understand it and try a resolution that will satisfy all parties. The more I understand the more I am able to keep composure and control the situation. Although I have to say in the middle of the store the other day I came very close to the bottom of my cup as I knelt next to my sobbing toddler and told him as calmly as I could that I really understood that it was late in the day and he was probably hungry but that if he would just sit in the cart we could really make the trip a lot quicker and get us all home sooner. I was pretty close to tears myself. The yogurt didn’t seem to notice. A mantra helps too in these situations. “Its okay darling. Everything is a-okay” Over and over again.

The Bottom of My Cup

I have been here more times than I care to relate here, but every time I learn a little bit more about myself and about self-control. It sounds counter-intuitive to learn how to be more patient by losing my cool, but I do. In some cases I learn my limits, which are good to know, and in other situations after I have calmed I realize something that I could have done to help in that situation. Mostly those things are something like: I could have left the situation or approached it differently.

When I start to feel frustrated I think about when was the last time I ate and if I slept well the night before. I have specific triggers just like everybody else. Learn those triggers and you will find patience. Communication is a good tool to develop patience too, but only if the other party involved can coherently explain him or herself.

Patience for All

I didn’t have a good role model for patience as a child if you have not guessed by now. This has been a detriment to my development and I know this. It is the main reason I have dedicated myself to a more positive mindset and more education. It is amazing how much a good role model really does do. My partner of 12 years is seemingly endlessly patient. He is the Yin to my Yang. He balances me so well by providing me that role model I desperately need. I only have my own experiences to draw on alone, but with him as my guide I have grown exponentially as a person. He had the most loving, caring and patient mother to learn form and I hope my children learn that from him as I am learning every day.

How do you cultivate patience in your life? Do you find it helps to create peace in your home?


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Doing it While I Can

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

I have been a peaceful parent for about 3 years, but a parent for 14 and some change. These days I talk a lot about peaceful parenting and all the good I believe it does my children and myself. Self-ownership and the NAP are the two parts that I have discovered and discussed, and all the implications of those two mindsets and why I practice those principles in my home. But what led me down this path? Was it my distaste for my own upbringing? No. To be honest if I were older with my first son things may have been different, but when the cards were down I used the same parenting skills I had learned as a kid, but from a kids perspective. Because of this perspective I may not have “used spanking properly” as some people tell me every now and again, but I never felt comfortable doing it. It was just all I had in that tool box we call parenting skills. Was it my desire to be more natural? In some cases yes, but mostly not so much. What really opened my eyes to this way of thinking was the love I saw expressed by my dear friend and her first baby girl.

Remembering Those Days

This precious child was not a very social baby and some may even have labeled her difficult, but her Momma took her all the places she went with her, when finding a sitter may have been easier; she also breastfed her baby (which I had attempted with my first but failed miserably) into toddlerhood before I knew anyone that had, she co-slept and met her child’s every need. It was something I had never been really exposed to before in raising children. I remember those first few months when the hair on the back of my neck bristled when she would say her partner didn’t want the baby to cry so she was up all the time and exhausted because she wanted him to be able to rest since he worked for the family. I felt bad for her and I would say things like you should tell him that he needs to care for her too. Of course I would say this. I was totally unaware that in his way he was helping. He would help bathe, feed and change, but the baby just needed her Momma all the time. So Momma met her needs all the time. I once watched the baby for about thirty minutes while her parents presented at a convention and the poor dear cried the whole time. I was as loving as I could be but she was just attached to her Momma and was not going to be satisfied with me.

Her Gentle Parenting

My friend would tell me about her life with her baby and then toddler and I would delight in hearing co-sleeping stories and seeing them all together. They were so loving and attached. During one of my visits the Dad explained to me that when he had been married before and had two children he took the first five years of their lives off because he found it so important to be connected because, as he told me, he believed it would make them better in all areas of life if he nurtured them early.

He Was Right

This baby girl that so needed her Momma developed into a social, loving toddler that just felt safe everywhere her parents were. She was confident and intelligent. She had social skills and problem solving skills down. She was amazing. This friend of mine then got pregnant again and not too many months after I got pregnant with my first in many years and I was delighted for both of us. I loved her first daughter like a niece and I was going to love her second just as much. We had our babies and during that time I learned a lot about gentle parenting. I did the research and came to the same conclusions that my two friends did. It’s simply what’s best for baby. Guide babies into toddlerhood and they will reflect that guidance. That’s what I learned and as I use the same practices on my second son I see with my own eyes that world of difference it makes.

Now My Heart is Breaking

This same dear friend is now pregnant with her fourth dear daughter and the baby most likely will not make it. She has some serious illnesses and her Momma is beginning to develop symptoms as well. She is 24 weeks pregnant and although she has three other girls this baby is still theirs and is loved by them and by her family. My friend may never get to bring that baby home. May never get to breastfeed her, or co-sleep with her. May never get to meet her alive. So I would never be able to justify raising a hand to my son, or keeping him out of my bed at night when he needs me or not meeting any of the hundreds of needs that toddlers have knowing that there is a parent out there right now that would give the world to just have their baby to love, or any baby at all in some cases, in their arms at night.

Doing it While I Can, and Will Continue

There is so much uncertainty in life. Even more so in the life of a child who does not understand all of life’s little concepts. Children are not little adults, but they are deserving of respect. Respect for their personhood, respect for their comfort, respect for their desires, respect for their evolution that said we were meant to be attached, and respect for their unconditional love that they give. They trust us so much. If we do not do what we feel is best for them and nurture them lovingly they may not have very much certainty in their future, and every child deserves that right.


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Non-Aggression and Parenting

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

This week we are going to discuss the NAP. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this, the NAP is the Non-Aggression Principle. This principle goes hand-in-hand with teaching self-ownership in parenting. Very much like the self-ownership principle there are theories and applications and of course that has changed my view of what it is to be a parent and how to parent.

Is Violence Necessary?

After all, growing up I knew nothing of gentle parenting and only knew that there was an arbitrary “good” that we strove to meet, but always ended up ruining it by just being a kid. My parents were extreme too, but everyone I knew got spanked to varying degrees. Then I had a son. I was 18. I knew that spanking was awful and that it never worked on me, but I didn’t have any other tools in my parenting tool box and so didn’t know how to not use spanking. But I was still determined not to use it to the extreme my parents did. But I was young and got bullied into believing that it was the only way to make my son “behave” and I did use it. And of course it never worked on him either. Maybe there is a proper way to spank but I do not believe it exists. I have not ever seen a situation where the spanking did not have to escalate to keep kids “in line.” I even spanked my son with a belt. A belt. Because I was brow beaten enough to believe it was the thing that was going to change my son’s life and make him start acting with respect and accountability. But how is a kid that has never been respected going to learn respect and how is that same kid going to learn accountability if he fears retribution? I ruined my first son and it breaks my heart. I wish I had known about the NAP before then.

What is the NAP?

Non aggression. Its as simple as that. I own my body and no one is allowed to do anything which I don’t feel comfortable with as an adult, and the NAP gives children the same respect. “I am important. No one is allowed to encroach upon me and because I own me others own themselves and I am not allowed to encroach upon their space.” This principle operates on the theory that we all own ourselves and others are not allowed to do anything which we feel invades that principle. If children are taught that hitting others or acting with violence upon them is not okay and adults enforce this idea by not using violence against them, then we’ll have people that feel entitled to safety and security and will not invade others’ safety and security.

The applications of the NAP are simple on the surface. Just don’t hit your kids, but for some people this is a very ingrained mindset. It takes effort to not use the same parenting techniques that were used on them, but it can be done. There are many violent people in this world and the NAP operates on the thought that if children are taught non-aggression, they will pass that along. This can be seen in the playground, at home with siblings and friends and with future foes. We will all find people that do not get along with us and vice versa, but there is no reason for aggression if other tools are taught. The NAP is comprehensive in theory. If parents use problem solving skills and coping techniques, children will learn them too and all possibly future physical altercations can be avoided.

So Remember, Just Don’t Hit

I have grown immensely as a person since raising my first son. After 11 and a half years I had another and knew that I was going to be devoted to finding other parenting tools to use in place of spanking, thus coming across the NAP and finding there are so many more parents out there that are not using disrespectful corporal punishment, but instead choosing love and respect. The only way to really learn respect is to be given it as a child. Learning that we do not have to resort to violence but that it is okay to defend yourself is the root of the NAP. Be your own advocate. Be your children’s advocate. Violence is not necessary to raise respectful, responsible adults. In fact I may even go further and say the reason there are so many insecure adults is because they were not respected and treated fairly as the person they are. We all own ourselves. No one owns us or owes us and our children deserve to be taught no less.


Read more from “Balancing on My Toes”:

Self-Ownership in Parenting

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), her partner Daddy G and father-in-law Grandpa G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Self-ownership is an easy concept on the surface, but is actually quite complex after one starts to apply it to everyday life. This weeks conversation will cover the self-ownership principle and its applications, some of its long term effects, how it has changed my view on parenting to match my self convictions, some easy steps to begin to use self-ownership in your life, and how to use it in relation to parenting. So what is the self-ownership principle? It is basically the notion that a person is in charge of themselves. They make their own decisions and their own destiny. They can allow others to give them a hug, a kiss or a handshake, or decide not to at all. The self-ownership principle is based on respect. Respect for yourself and respect for others. If a child does not want to give a relative a kiss, that should be just as acceptable as an adult letting another adult know they will not be shaking their hand, say, due to contamination fears.

Applications and Long-term Effects

Self-ownership creates a different relationship with the words and meanings of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Yes you may and no you may not, should both be equal responses in everyday interactions. Applying self-ownership as a child, after learning it from their parents modeling it for them, means putting effort towards a meaningful cause such as education and helping out around the house because they should; because they understand that it is important to fill those roles to work towards a bigger goal. For an adult self-ownership means owning up to both the responsibility of raising a child and teaching them to be self-responsible adults. This can help a child feel more comfortable at family gatherings, a teen resist peer pressure, a would-be victim knowing enough to not allow victimizing behavior and adults that can pass these traits along.

Self-responsibility is a desirable trait in the work world and so is accountability. Both of these traits are in themselves good things and applying self-ownership will help children learn to take credit for both successes and failures in kind as well as build self-confidence. If a child is allowed to trust their own instincts when interacting with strangers will set them up for following their instincts later in life instead of questioning these instincts. Scenario: A small child is always made to kiss its parents’ relatives. This child does not want to do this, but is made to or will be punished. Later in life this same child does not want to see a particular person romantically, but is pressured by friends to “just do it” because “it won’t hurt anything” and “it will be fine”, but then later that same child ends up victim of his/her inability to follow instincts and ends up in trouble or hurt, or worse. On the other hand, a child that is allowed to act upon its own instincts learns to trust that feeling and does not let him/herself to be talked into things by peers or authority figures, but instead learns the ability to reserve him/herself until trust is created. This can serve a person well once adult concepts like drugs, alcohol and sex become important issues.

Self-Ownership in My Home

I have two children, one teen and one toddler, and a dog. I also live with my significant other. Self-ownership has helped me hold myself accountable. If I plan on doing something it is my responsibility to get it done and if my failures in these endeavors affect the others I care about it means I own that too and apologize and act on those feelings till all is set again. My teen uses self-ownership but did not really grow up with the concept, so we are just learning to navigate it together. He has a room and I ask to come in and as long as his door is closed the baby is not allowed to go in there. But because he is a baby he is rascally and may find himself in there. He really likes his brother. I don’t impose on him undue hardship with chores, only enough to help out and I don’t encroach on his home time. He basically uses this to play video games endlessly. This has changed my outlook on life. I have gotten used to saying things like, “May I kiss your cheek?” and, “If its okay with you we are going to get in the car now.” I find I am modeling respect more because I am not just acting on his person, I am letting him understand what is going on and give him choices in the places I can. I believe this will increase his confidence more and more in his years to come and I feel it will be a pleasure to see how he comes out on the other end.

How to Begin the Self-Ownership Mindset

Begin by reading up on the concept and learning about how others have applied it to their lives. Just like this column does. Learning is the first step, but learning how to navigate this mindset is the next step. So your child is acting out. Self-ownership starts here. As a parent if your child is acting out you can probably guess why in many situations. Tired, hungry, and overstimulated are a few reasons children act out. They just don’t understand their emotions or how to handle them. As a self-owned parent you realize it is your responsibility to meet your child’s needs before the undesirable behavior can be addressed. If my child is acting out in a store at 5 PM it is probably my fault because at that time often a child needs to eat and is nearing the end of their day. Gentle parenting is possible. Physical force is unnecessary and using self-ownership is a powerful tool to achieving that goal. So if you ask for a kiss and your child says no, smile and say that it is okay if they want it late. They know you are always there for them and the parent can be confident that later in life that same child will not need others assurances, and that they will be confident to say no to others. After all saying no often is just as important as saying yes.

Now that the concept of self-ownership has been explained here, I encourage anyone that has questions to do some research. Respect is something many parents desire. Respect your children and they will learn respect, be gentle to your children and they will learn to treat others gently, and teach self-ownership and they will be in control of their daily interactions.


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