Featured, Parenting

5 Tips to Boost the Connection in Your Parent Child Relationship

9 May, 2016

If I’ve learnt anything about a good parent child relationship I’ve learnt it all, every miniscule morsel, from my children.

Take this, from yesterday.

I was nursing Juno, while Ramona, her older sister, was sat next to me reading. I murmured “I love you” into Juno’s hair, she looked up and, for the first time in her life, said it back. Except that it sounded like “By Bub Bu” because she still had the whole of my nipple in her mouth. Hearing her say by Bub Bu felt so lovely, and I was so overcome and curious about her understanding of this phrase that I said “Do you know what I love you means, Juno?” I was hoping for something enlightening, something upon which I might write a poem, something that might ping into my mind for the rest of my life, even. She thought for a moment and answered; “Redbush!”, our favourite kind of tea.

Fortunately Ramona piped up, right into my bafflement. “I love you means when you feel really, really, really, really, really connected to someone.”


She is five and a half and with that explanation nails one of the discrepancies that can haunt a potentially magnificent parent child relationship. 

As Gabor Mate in all his brilliance puts it:

“Love felt by the parent does not automatically translate into love experienced by the child.”

We love our children with every bit of ourselves yet can spend so much of the day disconnected from them.

Surely the love that swells our heart as we gaze at their sleeping bodies before we head to bed is enough? I want to say it is, but it sort of isn’t.

(When I say “we” here I very much mean “I”- the pauper “we”!) 

We need to take the time and put the effort into making sure this love we feel is experienced by our kids as connection.5 tips to restore and maintain your parent child relationship

But you want to know something awesome? I totally believe we can make connection a habit.

Here are five things that will restore the connection in a parent child relationship:

1- Make loo time me and you time

This is my best tip. BEST TIP. I know it sounds weird, especially if you like to take a dump solo (but it is good to start lists with low expectations.) This isn’t about your dump, but the dump of your kids. Hold on, it’s actually not about anyone’s dump. Let’s start again:

What do you do when you have to accompany your children to the toilet? Do you squeeze blackheads in the mirror? Check your phone? That’s exactly what I used to do!

But now I do this instead:

Squat in front of them (good for your thighs! See it as a micro multifunctional Aerobics class) and ask how their day is going. Keep tuned in, keep the conversation flowing. Even if they are only 18 months and can only babble. Soon they will be done, you can wipe their bum, and move along.

Your kid goes to the toilet a few times a day, right? So this is instantly a few minutes everyday spent just hearing from your kid, looking into their eyes and connecting.

This is totally inspired by the incredible Emmi Pikler and her emphasis on doing Nappy Changes with total care and attention. Doing nappy changes with love and respect can be a foundation for a parent child relationship, and I reckon the same principle can carry you right through until they go to the toilet on their own. (Herald the day.)

We did Elimination Communication – more on doing that with respect here.

And more on loving nappy changes here.

2- Turn tension into play

Play is our children’s language, the way they connect, the thing they understand. When they poke your bum while you make the tea – that is them telling you they love you and they want to connect with you! (You used to do that too, you know.) Dig deep and turn tense moments into a play moment. It might feel like more effort than you have but I genuinely believe that putting the effort in here actually takes way less time and energy then yelling I’M GONNA COUNT TO THREE AND IF YOU HAVEN’T DONE IT I’M GOING TO PUT ALL YOUR TOYS ON EBAY and the huge fall out from that. 

What are the areas in your parent child relationship that are always a bit tense?

Teeth cleaning? Put a teddy bear glove on and get the teddy bear to clean their teeth.

Getting dressed? Put all their clothes on you first, they will literally be rolling around on the floor in giggles as you try and put their legging over your head.

Juno needed to put some cream on her face this week and really didn’t like it – until I drew a face on my fingers and put on a funny accent. HELLO! She was like WOO CREAM ON MY FACE!

This principle, of speaking a child’s language of play can start early – read more here, playful parenting with a baby. 

3- Love what they love

Oh, this is SO HUGE. Take an interest in the things they love, ask them about it, play it, dress up as it, open the doors to their interest, blow them away with the wonders of their interest.

Do they love tutus? YOU KNOW YOU NEED ONE. Spend the whole day wearing a tutu and you will feel the connection with your child palpably. And you know you will rock it like Darcey Bussel.

Do they love playing on the ipad? Sit down with them and try and make the cakes for each other or build the town or secret machines for each other.

Do they love dinosaurs? Bury bones in the garden and spend the afternoon at your dig, draw a massive dinosaur on the pavement, east meat off the bone for dinner.

Even if it is stuff you fear (I’m thinking princesses for the feminist parent!) use it as a platform for connection.

4- Say it with your eyeballs

Eye contact is the first point of connection, an ancient, powerful, subconscious method of building a relationship with someone. In all our busyness it is easy to just chat to them while we drive/ cook/ clean/ walk and go a whole day without having eyeballed each other.

“Eye contact produces a powerful, subconscious sense of connection that extends even to drawn or photographed eyes.”

It is pretty well documented that eye contact is one of the pillars of good healthy connection.

There is a well known Zulu greeting; I see you. As with many indigenous phrases it hard to capture the full depth of its meaning. But it is something about being fully present with your being, shown through your eyes.

We see you is

“an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. This greeting forms an agreement to affirm and investigate the mutual potential and obligation that is present in a given moment.”

When you speak to your child take that one step further to get on her level and look at her with your loving gawpers.

5- Don’t let a bad day take over

AH! How easy it is to relinquish a day into the gloomy depths of unrecoverablity! Some days are just really freaking bad, aye? And you just think “F*ck this Sh*t.” (Sorry Grandad.)

Somehow, SOMEHOW, we have to press reset. It is up to us to do that. I’m sorry. It’s called adulting and sometimes it just totally sucks. So. Chuck back an espresso. Scream into your armpit. Eat a bar of chocolate and then FIND YOUR MOJO! You can do it.

Here is my favourite post on this blog ever, a list created by Lulastic readers that I turn to constantly on days like this.

My absolute favourite for getting out of a horrible rut and restoring that parent child relationship is number 35, it is insanely simple but works a treat:

Quit the now, for a few moments. Becca says “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)”

Children LOVE looking at their baby photos and as well as entertainment for them it helps you remember that they are truly small, and you are responsible for their happiness and it is hard for them too. (Such a great blog post in that link.)

Also, more great, honest reading on pare child relationship stuff: things to remember on hard days with kids and tips for tired parents.Restore your Parent Child Relationship with these five tips

The most important thing we can do for our children isn’t in the DOING. It is in the BEING.

It is prioritising connection with our children over all the other things we “should” be busying ourselves with for the sake of our children.

It is in the simple sitting with, the joining in, the loving gaze shared from eye to eye.

It is strewing a fully present “I see you” throughout each day.

Take the time to make sure the love you feel for your children is experienced by them, and you, in turn will have all the joy of a fully restored connection.

And maybe even all the joy of an adult sized tutu to wear anytime you feel like it.


Mining and Me

3 May, 2016

My Nana’s dad, Grandad Tom, was a miner in Maesteg, in the Valleys, Wales. My Grandma’s dad a miner in Mexborough, Up North, as we say, in a funny Northern accent. I can mimic a Yorkshire accent without mocking because I had one so broad that when I was seven and moved to London I had to change schools within two weeks because my teacher couldn’t understand the long, cheerful vowels of my Yorkshirish.

My mum grew up in the Valleys, along the road from the mine Grandad Tom tunnelled into. But her dad, my bottomlessly jolly Grandad Derrick, wasn’t a miner but a minister to the miners, a chaplain. My mum’s family lived and worked in the village below Aberfan at the time of the huge slip that poured slurry into the school, unspeakable tragedy.

My mum and Aunty and Uncle went to another school, but the sorrow soaked into their lives, seeped through the Valleys. My Grandad stayed up for three days and three nights, laying out the bodies in the church hall. 116 children and 28 adults.

My parents became ministers and years after Aberfan, found themselves embedded in the mining communities closer to my other Great, Great Grandad. My sister and I were toddlers during the Miner’s Strikes, our nursery rhymes were chants about putting Maggie Thatcher in the bin.

So it is that for much of my life, the word “miner” has felt like mine; part of my heritage, my family, the people I stand with. And yet, this week, when I took my daughters for a foraging walk in town (we’d heard there were whole hedges of enormous, juicy feijoas and great trees scattering walnuts) my youngest clung to my legs and wouldn’t walk. She was afraid. “The miners are gonna grab me, take me away.” The walk was around the rim of Waihi’s Martha Mine, the fruit trees are those left over from the backyards of the houses demolished as a small mountain was scooped away into a huge gaping hole.

“Miner’s aren’t bad people, my love. They can be nice! Like my two great, great Grandads and my old next door neighbours. The companies they work for tend to not be very nice…”

It’s a subtlety lost. The anti-mining protests and the slogan-writing sessions we’ve been involved with have left their mark. In trying to help my family understand why I cared so much, I’d once described mining as modern day privateering, pillaging for gold. My daughters were left with sense that miners had hooks and fiercesome facial hair. And that they wanted to kidnap young children whilst they were busy licking feijoa from their fingers.

You see, we live now in New Zealand, at the base of a mountain, Mount Karangahake, the northern peak of a blanket of mountains, the brood of ancient volcanic release.
on land- Anti Mining New Zealand

When you climb it, 5 hours there and back from our gate, Tim and I did it to celebrate ten years of marriage, you have to stick to the path in case you fall down a mining shaft. The whole thing is like honeycomb, riddled with tunnels from which some made a fortune back in the 1880s.

This holey mountain is not mine in the way that it is anothers, a more indigenous people’s. But I belong to it as I belong to every part of the earth. Something of its dirt is in my bones, these days it is stirring from a lifelong dormancy.

At one recent protest to protect Mount Karangahake from the fate of Mount Waihihi a representative of the local Iwi spoke of how his ancestors would be down at the river, the Ohinemuri, swimming, washing and fishing, and a bell would ring and they’d all climb out. With a huge gush the miners would empty their tunnels into the river and the water would turn black with mercury and cyanide and they’d wait until it seemed clear enough before carrying on with the day to day tasks their village had been going about for a thousand years.

(Even today, one of our neighbours tells us that one of the ponds up there can’t be fished because the water is still so toxic.)

He spoke with anger that a mountain so honoured, and these days so officially part of conservation land, has been handed over again to goldspinners. He reminded us that the Martha Mine was also once a sacred mount, source of life for Maori. And now it is a gash that makes your jaw drop when you view it on Google Maps.

(A government website describes Waihi in 1884, just before the first mine was established as “a bare knoll with a nearby hotel.” The government, since forever, forsaking the truth of a place.)

Tim’s great, great, great, great Grandad and his brother  were some of the first to discover gold in these hills. Sons of Mere Tipona, Maori boys in Victorian waistcoats, reaping in colonial ways.

But perhaps it wasn’t such brazen desecration back then. Or perhaps it is simply that the ends justify the means. Loving hearts, destructive hands. Then and now.

I’ve been at an anti-mining strategy meeting where another young Maori man has clenched his fists and spoken of the betrayal of elite Maori who gave permission to the government to sell the mountain’s innards all over again.

It is hard to believe there can be anything left, but we’ve seen the massive graceless drilling machines that they’ve just rolled up the Gorge and we’ve read the District Council’s approval for the mining company’s traffic management plan. They mean business.

Of course there are Maori for the mining. For Maori, it is people that trump all else, and they’ve been hammered with the vision of more jobs – if mining means their people can make ends meet than of course they must welcome it.

And then there are Maori who see that no one can thrive when the land under your feet is being torn apart. The local iwi vow to stand by the mountain.

The whole town is divided down these lines.

One half hoping beyond hope that the sink holes in the netball courts, the cracks in the pavement, the noon explosions, the collapsed houses, the open sore, the weekly evacuation siren tests, that it will be worth it for their families, in the long run. That they will get a taste of the wealth. This in a region where joblessness hovers as tangibly as the North Winds it is named for, where literally as I type here in the library a couple next to me discuss the redundancy package the supermarket has just offered them.

The other half believing that, even in this landscape, they can protect what has been entrusted to them.

As I stood on the rim of the Martha Mine, one tiny daughter still clutching my skirt to her face, fear set in her bones, the other daughter biting the tops off the feijoas and sucking out the middle, I felt myself a kind of leaden terror.

At 5am that morning, seven hours before, there had been a slip – two million tonnes of rock roared down the northern side of the open pit. Chunks as big as houses, obliterating the pathways carved into the sides, upon which we’ve previously watched small trucks glide along. Anti Mining New Zealand

A laminated sign had been pinned to the fence “this slip was not unexpected” – their monitoring supposed to assuage a sense of wrongness.

The week it becomes clear that mining in the area will continue with fervour, that drills will burrow unabashedly into one of New Zealand’ most important ecological corridors, the earth heaves and a quarter of the local pit collapses.

Maori folklore depicts the mountains here as warriors, fighting for kingdoms and creating rivers from their restlessness.

That morning a warrior, body broken, spits in anger.

The spill can’t go far, only back into its wrathful, dying mouth.

We climbed into the car, drove back to Mount Karangahake, a few miles along the Ohinemuri, the girls with a small pile of feijoas on their laps.

No walnuts though. They were black on the outside and black on the inside. When you squeezed them between the heels of your palms they exploded into a cloud of black dust.

I am thankful to the Craftivist Collective for providing a way to take action on an issue that can be done in the slowness of my life, that can sit amongst the song of the trees. This cross stitch is on the path up the mountain and I hope it makes people wonder – could they possibly be gold mining this conservation land?

Please help us protect an ecological important and beautiful New Zealand most mountain by signing the petition.

Anti Mining Craftivism New Zealand

Craftivism on Mt Karangahake

Local Iwi vow to fight for mount Karangahake
Sinkhole in the netball courts

Cosleeping, Featured, Parenting

The Family Bed gets you more sleep (and other benefits)

27 April, 2016

Our family bed has grown alongside our children and our views on sleep. We began tentatively with just a king sized mattress, unsure of cosleeping but feeling in our gut we wanted to do it.

By the time our second child came along we had read Three in a Bed and quelled the myths of bed sharing danger and moved onto two doubles – we were in a campervan and me and the newborn took the upstairs and husband and Ramona took the bottom.

These days, with a three year old and a five year old and knowing we are partaking in a healthy, ancient sleep tradition, we all bunk together in a loft, with a super king and a single pushed together to make one enormous sleeping platform.

I’ve written much on our family bed – from the benefits of cosleeping to the practicalities of cosleeping but am only just now really coming round to the idea that cosleeping began as a Thing We Did, a thing I thought would last for a period, whereas the Family Bed is more of a concept that cosleeping has lead to. Are you with me?

Here are a few benefits of embracing the Family Bed as part of your parenting philosophy…The Family bed! Cosleeping and its many benefits

The Family Bed promotes sleep

Juno was poorly last night and woke a lot. At one point I came to and she was walking two fingers across the bridge of my nose and I heard her murmuring “Mummy wolf walks over the mountain… Baby wolf walks over the mountain…” Cuteness. But my point is that I was actually sleeping while she got comfort from my presence! Since sleep sharing I have had this idea that I’m getting more sleep than others,  that if I were to be getting up and down all night going to a cot, I would be far more exhausted than I currently am. And turns out, it’s not just a feeling. When cosleeping, although mother and baby wake more, they wake together, in rhythm, so that it ends up that the pair of them get more sleep. (Read more on this at Dr Momma.)

The Family Bed is a continuation of connection-focused daytime parenting

My primary aim as a mother is connection. I feel that if my children can trust me, communicate with me, feel secure in our relationship, then I know they can get through anything. They will have a resilience for life. This parenting philosophy carries on after sundown. They will feel my breathing as they stir from a bad dream, they will hear my validation as they murmur their upsets, all until they are ready not to. When I went back to work cosleeping was a way I could reconnect with toddler Ramona, even when I was away for long hours during the day. At that time I wrote:

“Ramona sleeps in the middle of the two of us, so if she wakes one of us can cuddle her back into dreamland. This time she woke up instantly, and gleefully, and she shouted “LEEEG! Where ARE YOUUUU? There you are! Other leg?! Where aaare youuuu?? FOUND you!”

Yes, YES, my friends. She was playing hide and seek with her limbs.

After stifling my giggles I stroked her head and she snuggled back down into a deep sleep.”

Such a minor thing, a 30 second interaction, but it was part of a bigger feeling. Despite being away all day I was still getting to know my toddler and all her beautiful. hilarious parts of her personality.

The Family Bed fosters a more trusting, less controlling attitude towards sleep

Until Ramona was a few months old, despite cosleeping, I still had a lot of anxiety about sleep. I had seen charts that said she ought to sleep from 7pm to 7am and had been told she shouldn’t nurse to sleep or stir in the night. Then I spent some time reading and reflecting and came to feel that I am not the boss of her sleep! I can create the conditions for sleep, but it is up to her if she wants to and for how long. In short, I came to trust her and it was the key to feeling about a billion time happier with bedtime and nighttime. (Read more on these approaches that led to happier sleep here.)

We get so hung up on “independent sleeping” that we coerce and manipulate and bribe and even threaten. We forget to say “We trust you to know when you are ready.”

For me the Family Bed seems to stand for that trust. It says “When you are ready for independence you’ll get your own bed- until then there is a space on this mattress with your name on it!”

The Family Bed is intentional, safe cosleeping

The Family Bed is a solid, practical thing. You have deliberately organised enough room for all of you to sleep safely together. There is no slumping on the sofa with your newborn because there isn’t enough room for you in her crib. There is no danger of suffocation or squashing, SIDS and the Family Bed are completely unrelated. (Please read my research packed post here about the safety of cosleeping and SIDS.)

If we can normalise the image of all the family hunkering down together it is far less likely that people will cobble together something unsafe, or collapse in exhaustion.

Read more from an “accidental attachment parenting” family – including a Dr daddy who came to believe in cosleeping as best. *not just for hippies*The benefits of the Family bed - cosleeping for five years!

Sometimes the girls find each other’s warmth in the middle of the night…

The Family Bed reasserts sleep as a collective activity

Our kids shouldn’t have to face their nightmares alone. In most of history they haven’t had to do that, yet modernity seems to think it is a good idea! It has been normal for the longest time to sleep together in one room, not just families, but sometimes whole communities (don’t worry husband, I’m not suggesting that…)

Historically, nighttime has been a vulnerable situation for humans, so doing it together meant more protection. This emotional/ DNA memory is still within us on some level, making us feel stressed or fearful in the dark or scared of shadows. It’s totally natural. It’s understandable that kids feel terror at night, and entirely sensible that being together makes for a far less stressful night. (And, y’know, science etc – Babies that cosleep produce less cortisol – the stress hormone- than their isolated buddies.)

Last week I heard about the term the Japanese use for cosleeping, where the Family Bed is the norm until kids are quite old; it is “Kawa”. Kawa is the same character used for a river cascading between between two banks; they see parents as the strong, supportive edges, the life-giving river child flowing through them.

So, the truth it, hand on heart, I didn’t think that half a decade into parenting I’d be crashed out in bed with my husband, two tiny bodies between us. But here we are, and I’d have it no other way.

PS Little video on cosleeping – including EXCLUSIVE footage of our own massive, messy Family Bed… (Yeah, I am TOTALLY wishing I had made it properly right now. But. Y’know. Just keeping it real.)

Shampoo Free

Most exciting news ever!

19 April, 2016

No, no, not that. Or that.

Guys, OBVIOUSLY, the exciting thing is that my book Happy Hair comes out in Spanish today!! Woooo!

This morning I woke up and told Ramona how excited I was. I said “Now Dora the Explorer can read my book and give up shampoo and discover healthy, shiny toxin free hair! Haven’t you always thought she looks a little full of parabens?”

Every so often I get a huge surge of numbers to this blog from various Spanish speaking countries due to articles being written about how I don’t use shampoo. I still laugh when I think about one of them that had captioned a photo of me with something like “Lucy Aitkenread, pHD en absolutamente nada”

Now, I don’t speak Spanish but I’m pretty sure I got what way they’d crumbled their cookie! (Or something.)
Pelo feliz: La guía ideal para dejar el champú
So, fair enough. I don’t have a degree in hair, or any piece of paper that says makes me an official spokesperson on health. But what I do have is over four years experience of life without shampoo, using healthy, natural alternatives to shampoo, and SIXTY PIECES OF PAPER (a No Poo book, that’s what I have) that people say has changed their life.

(They do really say that! How cool and nice? You can read the reviews of Happy Hair on Amazon and buy it in English, if you like.)

Two passionate readers of that book, Gabriela and Cyn, who happened to be professional translators, read Happy Hair and knew Spanish speakers had to have it. They have painstakingly translated it over the last few months and it has been SUCH a pleasure working with them.

I am pretty sure that this Spanish edition of Happy Hair is gonna help a whole load more people get the hair they have hankered after their whole life – clean, healthy and strong.

If you know any Spanish speakers please help me spread the word!
Pelo feliz: La guía ideal para dejar el champú en Amazon

El movimiento de lavado sin champú llegó a América Latina.

Lucy AitkenRead tiene 33 años, escribe en blogs, es columnista de la revista Cosmopolitan, hace 4 años que no usa champú y asegura que tiene el cabello más fuerte y más brillante que nunca. Happy Hair: the definitive guide to giving up shampoo fue uno de los libros más vendidos en Amazon cuando se lanzó su versión original en inglés, y AitkenRead espera que la edición en español corra la misma suerte.

Gabriela Rabotnikof tiene 32 años, es traductora y, cuando leyó el libro, supo de inmediato que iba a funcionar en América Latina. “Terminé de leer el libro y me puse en contacto con la autora en seguida para ofrecerle traducirlo. Gracias a Pelo feliz, las personas vuelven a tener el poder en sus manos: el libro cuestiona los productos capilares poco saludables de una industria multimillonaria y ofrece alternativas para tener un pelo sano de manera natural”.

El movimiento libre de champú cobra cada vez más fuerza y es reconocido a nivel mundial a medida que la gente se concientiza sobre los productos químicos que se aplica en el cuerpo. AitkenRead escribió este libro tras la espectacular recepción del experimento “No Poo” que publicó en su blog, Lulastic and the Hippyshake. Lucy cuenta: “Todas las semanas, me escriben mujeres que consiguen tener su cabellera más fuerte, más saludable y limpia luego de haber sufrido durante toda una vida los problemas de la caspa y de esos días en los que el pelo está inmanejable. ¡Ahora el movimiento se está masificando!

Pelo feliz: La guía ideal para dejar el champú en Amazon
Pelo feliz: La guía ideal para dejar el champú
“Este libro me acompaña en la difícil transición que implica dejar de usar champú. Es un compañero ideal que guía al lector en cada paso del camino sin aleccionarlo. Cómprenlo. Léanlo. Y dejen el champú”.

“Hace más de 9 meses que dejé de usar champú y llegué a un punto muerto. Una amiga me recomendó esta guía ¡y recuperé la inspiración! Incluso si nunca se les ocurrió dejar el champú, es una lectura que genera conciencia. ¡Sencillamente brillante!”

“Es una introducción genial al método No-poo y, además, es útil para quienes ya hayan dejado de usar productos químicos. Hace 7 meses que no uso champú y esta guía me dio muchas ideas y explicaciones para algunos de los dilemas con los que me encontré. Buscar el tema en Internet es una buena opción, pero esta guía filtra un montón de información confusa y aclara muchas dudas con total sencillez. Disfruté mucho de la parte relacionada con la ciencia y de las ideas para el pelo ceroso”.
Sra. P.

“Hace casi 6 meses que no uso champú gracias a la ayuda de esta guía. Me acompañó paso a paso y me dio mucha información científica interesante pero no tan específica como para aburrir. Destaco el sentido del humor con el que está escrita, en un estilo muy accesible, y todos los consejos para resolver las situaciones de emergencia. También me encantaron las muchas (¡muchas!) alternativas naturales que la autora ya probó y sobre las que puede hacer comentarios de primera mano. Es una gran inversión”.

To celebrate I have launched a new site HappyHairGuide.com – a website solely dedicated to helping people get healthy locks. So far you can read some tips on how to apply egg on hair for a super conditioning natural shampoo, how to stimulate hair growth naturally and homemade conditioner for hair from your kitchen. Yay! See you over there!

Featured, Parenting

The one word that will turn you into a positive parenting wizz

12 April, 2016

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of positive parenting that makes the parent feel good and the child bad (I’m looking at you, reward charts!) I’m talking about the positive parenting that is wholly based in joy, in mutual respect and the idea that both parent and child can be very, very happy! And there is one simple word that will get you well on the way to being this positive parenting wizz.

And yes! I know that probably sounds implausible- a title intended to make you click through when really it’s something far more complicated, like, the one word is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and what will make you a positive parenting guru is:
S- Sublime natural parenting skills passed down to you from generations of intuitive parenting
U- Unlimited Nanas, Grandads, Aunties, Brothers who will come and give you a break
P- Piles of chocolate
E- Exercising mindfulness for thirty minutes every hour
R- Reading everything ever written by Naomi Aldort, Robin Grille, Alfie Kohn, Sarah Ockwell-Smith
and so on.

But no! That’s not this post! I really mean it! ONE WORD.

It will make you a happier, more positive parent in two ways – practically, life will feel happier for you and your kids. And mentally, you will experience a shift that will help you feel far, far, far more content.

Okay, let’s go.For real - one word that will make you a positive parenting guru!

The word? (Are you as excited as I am?! Yes?!) YES! The word is Yes! Oh jeepers, this is confusing.


Before I became pregnant I thought a parent’s main job was the No-er. The person to just say no a lot, to help that child be safe/ not get too spoiled/ to know boundaries.

When my first child was born I began to say “yes” intuitively. Oh, you wanted breastmilk now? Just 35 minutes after your last breastfeed? This pamphlet tells me to say No. But I shall say yes! Oh, you only want to sleep close to me? My health visitor said NO WAY, but I say YES WAY!

I didn’t go all the way though. I still held tightly to my role as no-er. It took some reading to help me realise that my role as a parent is that of a Yes-er! Her partner in this dance of life.

My daughter took me on a journey of yeses. Some were easier than others. (Here’s an example of a time I said a big yes to something and it turned out to be exactly what we all needed – also lots of ideas in there for getting your parenting mojo back!)

Sometimes I had to do a lot of research before I said yes. (For example, saying yes to risk taking! Letting a child play on whatever they want on the playground, without calling Be Careful.)

And as my children have grown, and I’ve grown as a mother, my YES has become bigger and more confident and I feel it is one of THE things that leads us to have a happy home. (N.B we have really freaking bad, grumpy days too. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t reached positive parenting nirvana yet, my friends.) I would say we have a large amount of happy time primarily because the word YES abounds in our house.

I believe that this yes-loving parenting takes the benefits of love bombing and injects them into every day life. Love bombing is a practice made famous by psychologist Oliver James involving taking your traumatised/ disconnected/ struggling child off for some one to one time where you do whatever they want.

After love bombing, many report that it has been the first time for months, or years, they have remembered how much they love their child.

James has seen HUGE results from this method. He believes that love bombing restores connection and resets a child’s emotional thermostat. I believe that we can lovebomb every day by saying yes more!

Yes or some form of yes

I believe adults have fallen into a trap of saying no. In fact, some of the websites dedicated to positive parenting are chockablock with advice about how to say No kindly and with compassion, and then giving a star on their chart when they accept our no without a tantrum. No is often our default, often before we have even registered the question. Perhaps we believe that children are always kind of messy or chaotic and their requests are never sensible or fitting. I’m not sure. But I know I hear a lot of Nos.

I beleive that positive parenting needs to be based on saying yes.

Sandra Dodd says

Don’t say no. Always say yes. Or some form of yes. See your role as helping her get what she needs rather than negotiating for what’s most convenient for you.

Yes can come in all sorts of forms:

“Yes, we can do that in 15 minutes when I’m done with this. If you’d like to help, I can be done even sooner.”

“Yes, you can buy that. Let’s think up ways you could save up or earn the money.”

“Yes, we can do that tomorrow morning because right now I’m about to drop from exhaustion.”

Our role as parents isn’t to say no or “put in the boundaries” rather it is to open the gates! Our children are often quite unable to set about getting what they need without our cooperation (on a practical level, for example, our fridges are too heavy to open, our taps too tall, our packets of crisps too tricky) – we are the ones who can support them to get their needs met. It simply isn’t fair to disallow them this opportunity purely because of their size and how long they’ve lived on the planet. (In fact, it’s prejudiced.) Saying yes creates a bit more of a level playing field.

Equal = happy

Saying yes acknowledges the thing that is important to your child. It says that their wishes are important to the family. Saying yes to your children let’s them know that they are valued, equal members of this unit. And, we all know that the happiest groups of people are those with the most equality amongst them. See more on this or read The Spirit Level.

Is it a stretch to apply this research, albeit tentatively, to the family? The Spirit Level concluded that equal societies = happier societies because there is more trust, less anxiety and mental health problems, and less health problems. I absolutely believe the same applies to the family. More equality in the home leaves more room for trust and connection and general well being. I reckon family is a microcosm of society and therefore equality amongst the family is vital and meaningful and a means to happiness. (Although I would LOVE to see some research on the relationship between hierarchy in the home and wellbeing of family members.)

YES is money in the bank (I don’t really mean “money”. Or “bank”)

You see, our children, when they come to us asking for something are putting in a bid. And the answer we give them either builds them up or not.

World-renowned relationship researcher and co-founder of The Gottman Institute, Dr. John Gottman, has conducted 40 years of research with thousands of people. From his research has emerged a practice that is important to the emotional connection between two people – the act of “turning toward” your loved one when a bid is made.

Take for example a simple bid for attention. “Will you play with me?” A positive response would either be “Yes, let’s play” or something like “Oh, I would LOVE to play with you. You are my favorite person in the whole world to play with. At 6:00, I’ll be finished with my work and ready to play. Let’s make it a date!” This helps the child feel acknowledged and important. Each time you turn toward your child in this way, Gottman says you are making a deposit in their Emotional Bank Account.

Read more on that here.

On a very practical level, when you answer your child’s bid this way you will feel enormously more connected to them, and therefore happier. They, likewise, will feel much more connected and steady in their relationship with you.

Less distraught child moments definitely add to your happiness as a parent, don’t you reckon?

Positive parenting is about connecting, filling up cups and putting joy/money in the emotional bank!

Positive parenting dismantles a culture of control

We aren’t meant to live coercively. Forcing or manipulating people to do things. It’s the old military industrial complex making us that way. I believe humans are meant to choose freely, in joy. Letting go of being controlled and a need to control circumstances or people is so, so, SO LIBERATING! We can absolutely choose this freedom in our role as parents.

Saying YES to our children frees us up from the awfulness of feeling like we can or should make other people do things. It releases us from thinking we can make our child a happy/successful/safe adult. All we can do is help them know happiness right here, today, when they ask for something they’ve identified as being important. Positive parenting is saying yes to this moment.

This being present, answering this request, right now is mindfulness in practice. Mindfulness shrugs off that culture of control. Mindfulness says “I can’t control everything. So I am just going to BE. Right here, right now, in this moment.”

The radical in me loves mindfulness because it disrupts the training we’ve received in our culture that leads us to use power and control unconsciously (with ourselves and with others). We perpetuate systems that we internalized from childhood because we remain unaware of how they operate within us and through us. Mindfulness is a game changer because it allows us to create awareness of what we’ve internalized and it shifts us toward greater consciousness of ourselves.

Read more from Teresa Brett here. And more on mindful parenting here – three GREAT tips.

So mentally, cultivating a culture of freedom in your home will make you all more positive. Saying yes will give your heart wings.

(Although, having said that, my first endeavour of truly applying the culture of freedom principle in my own home led, in a very practical way to happier sleep situation for Ramona and I.)

Positive parenting is based on a principle of YES

Saying yes isn’t a rule. In fact, we should be in the business of dismantling rules and nurturing principles. Saying yes more is a principle! The principle is that we are open minded and we value our children’s requests and ideas! And we meet their request and ideas in turn, with principles! So instead of the answer to a request being “No! Because our rule is Dinner Is Eaten At the Table!” the answer might be “Ah, you feel like having a picnic dinner on the rug! Well, we do value family time together, so how about we join you there?” (Read more eloquent stuff on Rules vs principles here.) The less arbitrary rules we have in our household, the more children trust us when we guide them with principles. They know we are not just pulling the wool over their eyes with a pointless NO or rule.

Don’t think of “say yes” as a rule. In fact, use the better phrasing of “Say yes more.” Ask yourself, “Why not? Who’s going to die?” If you’re unsure of yes say, “Let me think about it.” And then do think. (You can also get on line to ask for perspective.) Don’t use it as a delaying tactic, hoping they’ll forget. Be trustworthy.

See these as tools to move toward being your child’s partner. Rather than shutting down a child’s request that may be inconvenient, see them as requests to explore, to try out their ideas. Help them find safe, respectful of others, practical ways to do what has piqued their curiosity.

Who’s going to die? hahaha. Love the low standards! But for real, we do tend to build things up into big things when they need’t be, don’t you think? Read more on the excellent blog, Living Joyfully.

Positive parenting starts with a little yes here and there

The YES philosophy is one held dear to the unschooling community. One of the very wise things about these folk is that they/we always recommended starting a radical new way of parenting gradually. Don’t all of a sudden throw your rules out of the bath or your baby out the window. Your children will not know what is going on and you might go a little bit cuckoo.

Just say yes one time where you might have said no. Perhaps you might want to ease into it with these alternative phrases to No and other commands.

As you make space in your life for this yes, you will find more room there and you will be able to say yes one more time. (You are decluttering the nos! They don’t bring you joy!) Increasingly you will find yourself saying yes, and yes, and yes. And you will be able to cope and your life will have the perfect amount of room for all the yeses. Your lives may well become big, wild and free YES!

Will you give it a little try? Can you see if this one word, and the principle behind it, will make you a happier parent?

A little note on privilege: A comment on this blog often springs to mind, when I write about this positive parenting lark. It was “Yeah, but that’s all well and good when you live in a yurt!” And I just want to acknowledge my privilege, as a white, physically able, middle class woman with access to all the resources. Please read more about my thoughts on privilege and how I believe this kind of parenting – respectful/ gentle/ principle focused/ consensual/ unschooling / positive parenting (whatever you want to call it!!!) is available to everyone. Including lots of links to people doing it hard in many different situations.

yurt life

Inside our yurt house

7 April, 2016

This morning Ramona said “One day our yurt will be like a proper house, aye mum?” Weeeelllll… it will still be made of fabric, but we WILL have proper stairs one day. So yeah. A yurt house, if you like?!

Ramona hankers after bricks and mortar a little bit, but also those widescreen tv’s that are in the more “normal” houses she knows. Juno, and the rest of us, love living in the yurt. The slogan of the yurt company that built it is “Yurts: at home in nature” – and it is SO TRUE. You really feel like that. It is solid and house-like in many ways, but you still hear the rushing of the river and call of the tui birds and the ducks quacking their heads off at dawn.

In our last yurt we tended to get a few leggy friends inside. (I’m talking about bugs. See the inside of our last yurt house and all the insect life there.)

So far we’ve been happily pest free. Apart from our farty puppy whom we love but drives us up the wall! She chews everything – including the plug right off the cord of our MacBook and barbies. (They are her faves.)  The double glazing keeps the bugs at bay, but not our smelly puppy.

Inside our yurt house Our yurt house has a little loft inside that we sleep on, and over the next little while we are hoping to get some proper stairs up there and a nice banister. And we’ve got work to do to make the kitchen a little more organised, and a solid walls to go under the mezzanine. But if you are interested in our work so far please do check out my new video and try and ignore our filthy windows. Our dog likes to lick them.

We love living in our yurt so much and it felt like such a sensible decision (low impact, affordable, quick and simple to put up – see us building the yurt here) that we didn’t even think too hard about whether we wanted to do it. It is only when other people Laugh Out Loud (my mum’s hairdresser) that we remember it isn’t a very usual place to live. We have lots of friends who live in buses, yurts, tiny houses, earthships and more – so diverse home settings seem completely normal (often wise!) to us.

So just a little one from me, I wanted to give you the little tour inside.

If you’ve missed our yurt house journey so far click through to see our journey of the last 6 months:

Keep tuned for the next installment! In the mean time, if you want to help your family fall in love with nature please check out my latest book, 30 Days of Rewilding. “A manifesto for a life lived in nature” – The Telegraph.

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