Meekness Matters!

Here are some quotes that have been going through my head lately.

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, al…
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright” ~Revolution by The Beatles.

Also:

Romans 15:1-7:
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

And:

Proverbs 26:20-27:
“Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.
Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
for seven abominations fill their hearts.
Their malice may be concealed by deception,
but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”

There’s a lot going on in the world today and I’m finding that people are drawn to arguments, hate, aggression, and even violence.  Nobody truly wants to hear each other.  We take our sides and to heck with anyone who dares to disagree.

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I must admit that I am not innocent in this.  I used to regularly go on the attack (without meaning to) with pro-spankers as well as other political topics that people disagree about with me.  Yet, I always tried to draw the line with personal attacks because as a Christ-follower, I am called to love.  I have had to do a lot of apologizing though.  I am far from perfect.  I mess up constantly.

But I do try to be respectful to everyone.

I have learned over the years that trying to force change doesn’t work!  It only makes the other side tune us out and dig their heels in even more.  It certainly does with me.

The Bible talks about this a great deal.  Here are a few more verses:

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV).

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. …” (James 3:5-12, ESV).

And Jesus said,

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).

Clearly, God does not want us to force things with anyone. It’s perfectly okay to be passionate about topics.  Anyone who has been following me for a while and has read my book knows that I am extremely passionate about treating children from conception to adulthood with respect and gentleness!

So when an issue arose on my Facebook page where I was trying to be respectful and still stand by my belief that all circumcision is hurtful to baby boys, and yet still respect the Jewish religion, I was taken aback by the amount of hate and force in the comments.  All of the hateful comments were deleted.

During the writing of this post, I discovered that the original post shared by one of my admins on my professional Facebook page that upset a Jewish person was in no way inflammatory.  Sometimes we can’t win either way, but read on to understand how to reach more people.

You know, human beings are reading your comments and have feelings too.  I believe the majority of anti-circumcision comments were from gentle parents as we don’t like anything that is harmful to children.  Yet, a Jewish friend of mine had reassured me that the way they do it minimizes the pain and trauma of the baby boy. Most of the anti-circumcision comments claimed that this was totally untrue.

However, I’m well aware that every Jewish ceremony is different.  I was not condoning circumcision, I was simply trying to show respect for the Jewish religion. I may have even been given misinformation after reading some of the respectful information that was placed on the thread. 

I have since learned that some mohels do use topical anesthesia to help with pain relief during the circumcision while others do not.  They do not remove as much skin as the medical community does nor do they use the same equipment as the medical community which is supposed to make the procedure less painful than the hospital circumcisions.

This being said, from what I understand, every mohel removes a different amount of skin from the newborn’s penis.

Being a tattoo person now, I’ve discovered that different areas hurt more than others. But being poked with needles, even though they don’t go deep, hurts everywhere on the body. So I just don’t understand how anyone can say that cutting the baby’s penis doesn’t hurt much. Plus, unlike adults, infants cannot prepare for the pain!  We can take deep breaths to deal with something painful.  But out of nowhere the boy’s penis is cut.  He has no way of preparing for the pain.  And after anesthesia wears off, he will have soreness.

I do understand that circumcision is a commandment; if one still lives by the Law, he/she must obey the commandment.  I encourage all Jews to come to know Yashua HaMeshia.

Click here for why circumcision really isn’t necessary.  And click here for resources for Jews as some are choosing another ceremony that does not involve circumcision.  And for Christians, click here and here to see that we live by grace and absolutely do not need to circumcise our sons.

“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19, ESV).

Galatians 5:2-11, ESV:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.”

I also know many people who regret circumcising their sons. Like with spanking or cry-it-out, some just don’t know any better. Know better, do better.  I also believe that stuff that permanently change children’s bodies should wait until they can give consent.

I don’t think parents who have had their sons circumcised are bad or abusive.

There’s a meme going around that says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” by Desmond Tutu.  While I agree with this in many, many situations, I actually believe that sometimes we need to be a bit more neutral in order for people to truly hear us.

For example, anyone who is familiar with me knows that I am hard core against spanking/hitting children!  I believe that it is abuse!  That said, sometimes I share less aggressive posts about spanking in case a pro-spanker is on the fence and a less aggressive stance on spanking may change his/her mind and lead him/her to gentle parenting.

Do I agree with these posts?  No.

Do I wish that they were stronger in their stance against corporal punishment?  Yes!

But the fact remains that people are more likely to actually listen to us when we present information in a non-inflammatory manner.

Also, as gentle parents, we know, or should know, that when children are upset, stressed out, having a meltdown, or needing a physical or emotional need met that they cannot learn whatever lesson we may want them to learn. Their brains are literally overwhelmed and we must wait until they are calm and receptive to us before we can really teach them.

The same is true for adults.  I have had this experience myself.  In fact, I’m, unfortunately, again dealing with fresh grief and when anyone comes at me with information, especially if it’s in a hostile manner, I just get so overwhelmed and have to walk away.  That’s exactly what I did when my Facebook post got so out of control with mean, angry, accusing comments.  I tried to reason with people on both sides but when it became clear that most people didn’t want to discuss, but rather shame each other, I walked away.  I’m very grateful for my other admins on my page who took over for me and deleted and banned the haters.

Meeknes A.K.A. gentleness matters. Our children are watching us constantly. If we truly a more peaceful world then we had better start treating everyone in a peaceful manner or walk away from the haters. Hate, violence, cyber bullying, aggression are NOT okay.  Peace and change begins with us!  Let’s stop using our screens to hide behind in order to attack others and start engaging in true conversations with each other.

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Respecting The Body And Teaching Consent

For Valentine’s Day I surprised my husband with a beautiful tattoo that symbolizes our love and our Christ centered marriage.  I got this tattoo on my lower left arm.  This was my first arm tattoo, so I was a bit nervous about how it would go with my spasms due to my severe cerebral palsy.

If you have been following me for a while, you know that this is my fourth tattoo.  My mom was here again but after she helped us figure out how to strap my arm down tightly, she was able to enjoy watching her daughter get another detailed tattoo.

I feel like I need to write about my tattoo experiences because I know I went searching for other people with severe cerebral palsy who had successfully gotten tattooed when I first made up my mind that I was going to do it.  I needed to know that others like me were able to do this.  So I am putting my experiences out there for anyone else that is like me and wants tattoos.

Plus, there’s always an element of getting a tattoo that relates to parenting and respecting children which is something I am obviously very passionate about.

To read about my first three tattoo experiences and how they relate to parenting, click here, here, and here.

For this tattoo, I took the same medications as always for my spasms and we strapped my arm down to my arm rest of my wheelchair in two different places.  Then my husband held my hand down quite tightly.  My tattoo artist is a miracle worker and did an excellent job!  While there was slightly more movement with my arm than my legs, within twenty minutes my body stopped reacting so much to the needles and I was fine.

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My beautiful tattoo for my husband symbolizing our love and Christ centered marriage. The lettering is our special way of saying “I love you!”

Since I had to be strapped down and held down again for the tattoo, it got me thinking about respecting children’s bodies and teaching children consent from birth.  We’ve all seen it and maybe even have done it.  You see a cute baby and just have to touch him/her.  But what if the baby really doesn’t want to be touched?  This is especially true if you’re a stranger.

Let’s face it. We don’t respect children’s bodies.

Even before they are born, many people think its okay to dismember the baby’s body if the mother doesn’t want the child.

Then after birth, infants are touched, poked, tickled, squeezed, scooped up, gently pinched against their wills.

Then there’s the issue of corporal punishment.  Sadly, many pro-spanking advocates tell parents to even sit on the child to spank/hit him/her.  Even when children submit to spankings, they are being forced to do so out of fear, guilt, not wanting multiple spankings, and needing acceptance from their parents again.  But they really don’t have a choice as they learn that their parents will make them submit.

Even older children are touched by complete, albeit well-meaning, strangers against their wishes.

Here’s a recent story from my dear friend, Meagan Longest, about an experience with her daughter at a store:

“An old man patted Wynnie at the grocery store today. She was holding onto the side of the cart. She looks up at him, almost cries and then runs to me at the back of the cart.
Wynnie: He touch me mom. Whyyyyy?
Me: I know, honey. That’s not okay.
Wynnie: That’s MY body, mommy.
Me: You’re right. It’s your body and no one should touch it without YOUR permission (While giving an evil eye to the old man and his daughter who was starting to get pissed).
I almost lost it.
Moral of the story- start teaching consent at birth. And don’t effing touch a child without their permission.”

Sure, that old man probably didn’t mean any harm, but in today’s world, we just never know.  And how would you feel if a stranger patted you out of nowhere?

I guess I understand this more than some people do because well-meaning people get in my personal space and touch me without my consent.  Due to my very slurred speech, I can’t just say, “Please don’t hug me.”  “Please move out of my face a bit.”  It’s very uncomfortable and I just sit there and deal with it so I don’t hurt people’s feelings.

The reality is that we all have the right not to have our personal spaces invaded by anyone without giving our consent.  We need to respect each other’s bodies!

You may be asking, “What about needing to restrain children for care and/or medical procedures?”  When a child is given shots, I strongly believe that they should be held in their parents’ laps.  There’s never a reason to hold a child down on a table for shots.  If your pediatrician doesn’t encourage you to hold your children on your lap for shots and even other simple procedures, then please find another doctor.

As far as giving care, if you must hold them against their wills, always talk to them about what you’re doing and why.  Validate their feelings.  Say, for example, “Oh I know you don’t like me holding you right now but we have to get your diaper changed.  Can you help me by lifting your bottom?”

It helps to try and make sure the child is ready for the transition into care. It also helps to be playful about it when you know your child may resist.  The key is teaching children that you respect them and always try to wait for their consent before moving forward. Even for newborns, this can be done by telling them before you pick them up and waiting for some clue that they are ready to be picked up. Moving slowly with infants also helps to teach them consent and that we respect them.  Please see this post for more information about respecting infants.

As children grow, it’s so important to teach children that no one should ever touch them without their ok.  Even people they know should always ask before touching them.  It’s just basic respect.  We invite people in and out by our body language most of the time, but children are not skilled at this and many adults ignore them anyway, so allowing children to say, “No!” is very, very important!

Also, teaching children to respect others is equally important.  Teaching them to not touch someone that doesn’t want to be touched helps them to respect others.

The majority of sexual abuse and assault cases happen with people that children know!  This is extremely scary!  If children are taught to obey their elders no matter what, it’s really setting them up for potential sexual abuse and assault.  We can’t allow this!

If people don’t understand why you are allowing your children to give or not give consent, just explain that you want them to have control over their own bodies.  Tell them that you don’t just let people touch you, so why should children have to allow people to touch them when they don’t want anyone to touch them?

Children are human beings and deserve respect.  I consented to being strapped down for tattoos, children should have the power to consent to being touched.  It’s about respecting each other’s bodies and personal space no matter what the age is.

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The Problem With The New Study Claiming Cry-It-Out Isn’t Harmful To Infants

Some researchers in Australia conducted a study in which 43 infants ranging from six months to 16 months were either allowed to cry for longer periods of time, had graduated extinction, or had their bedtimes moved back to help the infants fall asleep quicker claim that the infants who were allowed to cry-it-out had no negative effects.

There are a number of problems with this study from a scholarly standpoint.

1.  The  study was extremely small and did not specify what ages were in the different groups.  Allowing a toddler or older infant to fuss for a few minutes with our support as they fall asleep is much different than a young infant being left to cry for ten or more minutes.  This leads me to my second issue with this study.

2.  We are not told how long the infants in the cry-it-out group were allowed to cry.  Were they totally alone when they were allowed to cry-it-out or was the parent nearby?  Sometimes when weaning or adjusting bedtime routines, infants cry and if you hold them or rub their backs as they cry, their stress levels are much lower than just being put down in a crib alone with no support.

3.  The researchers claim to have “measured the stress hormone cortisol in the babies’ saliva in the afternoon and the morning during the treatment. They also used ankle monitors to track how often the babies in each group were waking throughout the night” (Bowerman, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/05/24/study-infant-baby-sleep-method-cry-it-out-wont-damage-child/84838958/).  The morning and afternoon but not at night when the stress is happening?  This makes no sense.  Especially when many, many other studies measure the infants’ heart rates, blood pressure, and stress hormones have shown that being left alone to cry-it-out does, in fact, stress infants out.  Just swabbing the infants’ mouths twice a day and using a bracelet to count how long the infants stay asleep is not enough to conclude that cry-it-out isn’t harmful.

4.  They allowed the parents to change groups and the control group was the one that just continued with their bedtime routines. So, we are not told what the bedtime routines of the control group were. We are not told what the other groups routines were either.  We don’t know if the infants were teething, sick, co-sleeping, or what happened when the infants woke up in the night.  We are not told about the family life of these infants.  We are not told about their development.  So many things can affect an infant’s sleep pattern.

5.  So the study claims that infants allowed to cry-it-out slept longer.  This is not necessarily a good thing!  Being exhausted from crying does not lead to healthy sleep.  Any adult who has cried themselves to sleep knows that you don’t wake up very rested. Actually, you’re exhausted.  Also, for infants their brain actually shuts down from crying because of all the stress of nobody answering.  This is NOT healthy nor is it good!  In fact, reliable and valid research shows that:

”Sleep techniques that employ prolonged crying to ‘teach’ an infant to sleep simply teach the infant that the mother will not respond as he or she expects. As a consequence, the infant cannot rely on the mother’s care and for survival, and he or she must conserve energy, since the mother as a food source is now unpredictable. The infant therefore ceases to cry when crying fails to produce a response, and presents the appearance of sleep (shuts down activity). This leads parents to think they have successfully sleep trained their baby, while the baby is responding to the possibility it has been abandoned, and attempting to conserve energy to stay alive“ (Ball, 2015, http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/cry-it-out/).

6.  There are years and years of research by credible doctors and early childhood professionals that prove that cry-it-out is emotionally and physically harmful to infants. And what about the studies by Rene Spitz, Harry Harlow, Mary Ainsworth, Emmi Pikler, John Bowlby backing up and proving how detrimental it is for infants if they don’t receive sensitive, respectful care 24/7?   Are we supposed discount all thes valid and reliable studies by top researchers in the field for this one very flawed study?  Gosh, children are people too!

Dr. Bruce Perry is another person that shows neglecting babies’ need for touch and sensitive care has detrimental effects on their brain development. The first 5 years are crucial. So many people don’t understand just how vulnerable the young brain is. Yes, most survive harsh parenting practices such as cry-it-out andspanking/hitting but the damage IS there!!

7.  The researchers do not define what secure attachment is.  The children can seem attached on the surface but there are a number of attachment issues that can occur in children who are not sensitively cared for.  Please read this post I wrote for more info about different attachment issues.

In sum, this was a very flawed study.  It is not credible nor reliable.  Infants need sensitive, respectful care 24/7.  There are resources to gently help infants and parents sleep such as Elizabeth Pantley’s book, The No Cry Sleep Solution.

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References:

Ball, H.  (2015).   Cry It Out – 6 Educated Professionals Who Advise Against It.
http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/cry-it-out/

Bowerman, M.  (2016). Study: Letting baby ‘cry it out’ won’t cause damage.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/05/24/study-infant-baby-sleep-method-cry-it-out-wont-damage-child/84838958/.

Child Trauma Academy.  (2016). http://childtrauma.org

Cox, S.  (2011).  Attachment Theory- Why NOT to Train a Baby.  http://whynottrainachild.com/articles/attachment-theory/.

Epstein, V. (2015).  Should You Let Baby Cry It Out?  http://www.kars4kids.org/blog/cry-it-out/.

Kim, M.  (2005).  Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry.  http://drbenkim.com/articles-attachment-parenting.html.

Narvaez, D.  (2011).  Dangers of “Crying It Out.”  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out.

Sears, W.  (2016).  Let Baby Cry It Out: Yes or No?  http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/letting-baby-cry-it-out-yes-no.

Word of Mom Blogs.  (2016).  BLOG: Letting Your Baby Cry It Out – Really Bad Idea.  http://www.whattoexpect.com/blogs/parenting-three-when-can-i-pee/letting-your-baby-cry-it-out-really-bad-idea.

Recommended Reading:

New Cry-It-Out Study Misses the Mark

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry

Gentle Sleep Resources

They Have Souls. They Are Innocent!

Psalm 139:13-18 (NASB):
“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.”

I love this Scipture for two reasons.

  1. God created us in our mothers’ wombs. Therefore, a baby has a soul from the moment he/she is conceived.  Even John The Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth while pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:41). Therefore, it is important we recognize that babies are babies in the womb and help the pro-life movement by giving to pregnancy crisis centers. Picketing at abortion clinics does not help.
  2. The other reason I love this Scripture is that it says nothing about sinfulness.  Yes, the parents are sinful, but God creates babies. Babies are incapable of sinning.  Therefore, we need to respect them and treat them in a way that reflects God’s love to them.

Here’s another beautiful Scripture showing us how God feels about babies and young children:

“O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease” (Psalm 8:1-3, NASB).

If young children are so “sinful,” why would God have established His strength in them?  He is in our babies.  Shouldn’t we view young children the way God views them?

They have souls and they are innocent!

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Cry-It-Out: What Is It? Why Is It Harmful?

Cry-it-out means to leave an infant to cry alone without any type of response from us in order to sleep train.

Allowing infants to protest while we quickly do something that takes us away from them does not constitute cry-it-out especially if we communicate with them about what we must do. Our aim is not always to stop or prevent crying. Our aim is to validate them, support them, and be responsive to their needs.

Since crying is an infants only way of communication, leaving them in a dark room to cry releases huge amounts of stress hormones to their brains. Sure, they eventually stop and sleep when left to cry-it-out, but it’s not the healthy sleep people believe it is.

Rather, their brains are literally shutting down from stress due to crying so hard. Then the learned helplessness sets in. Infants learn to mistrust themselves and their caregivers when their cries are not consistently and respectfully responded to. Just because allowing them to cry “worked” and they appear fine, doesn’t mean damage didn’t occur.

As an early childhood professional, I cannot recommend cry-it-out ever. Infants need a response when they cry. A little fussing with our support as they fall asleep is ok, but outright ignoring their cries is not. Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. William Sears, and many others have done research showing that cry-it-out is extremely harmful.

Infants should have consistent bedtime routines such as a warm bath, nursing or bottle feeding, singing, and a book read to them. Children thrive on routines because routines are flexible in order to meet the children’s needs. Schedules are not designed to meet children’s needs. They are more for adult’s convenience. Eating and sleeping should revolve, mostly, around the infants needs. Catching infants before they become over tired can help them fall asleep easier. Also, some families may find safe co-sleeping helpful in nighttime parenting.

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