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I’ve Come A Long Way

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

They’re Catching On

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

Learning A Little Disappointment

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

When Did That Happen?

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

The Power Of Saying Yes

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

Grabbing the Zen: It Makes A Difference

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

Patience as a Verb

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

Doing it While I Can

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

Non-Aggression and Parenting

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing

Self-Ownership in Parenting

Send her mail. “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... Read the full thing