Adventures along the journey to parenthood

Archive for July, 2013

Latest Parenting Trend: The CTFD Method

My last post was sweet and instructive. This post isn’t so sweet, but it’s definitely instructive. WARNING to my relatives: The following has vulgar profanity. Don’t judge me too harshly.

The following is from David Vienna’s blog “The Daddy Complex”. It’s better to read the blog itself so you can see the fantastic accompanying commentary. I haven’t checked out the rest of the blog yet but it looks pretty great and has been recommended by several websites.

The CTFD Method

I know many people want to stay current with the latest parenting trends—attachment parenting, minimalist parenting, Tiger Mother parenting, et al. Well, I’ve stumbled upon a new technique that will guarantee your child grows up to be an exemplary student and citizen. It’s called CTFD, which stands for “Calm The Fuck Down.” And that’s not a message to give your kids. It’s for you.Using CTFD assures you that — whichever way you choose to parent — your child will be fine (as long as you don’t abuse them, of course). To see it in action, here are some sample parenting scenarios and how CTFD can be employed:

  • Worried your friend’s child has mastered the alphabet quicker than your child? Calm the fuck down.
  • Scared you’re not imparting the wisdom your child will need to survive in school and beyond? Calm the fuck down.
  • Concerned that you’re not the type of parent you thought you’d be? Calm the fuck down.
  • Upset that your child doesn’t show interest in certain areas of learning? Calm the fuck down.
  • Stressed that your child exhibits behavior in public you find embarrassing? Calm the fuck down.

Yes, using the CTFD method, you’ll find the pressure lifted and realize your child loves you no matter what, even if they’ve yet to master the alphabet. You’ll also learn that whether or not you’re the best parent in the world, as long as you love your child, they’ll think you are and that’s what matters. Plus, CTFD makes you immune to those that prey upon the fears of new parents, like pseudoscientists and parenting authors.

To use CTFD, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Calm the fuck down.
  2. There is no second step.

So, ignore all those other parenting trends and stick to CTFD. You’ll be glad you did and so will your kid.


To my new parent friends: You’re welcome! Now CTFD and pour yourself a drink.


Cinematic overview of a child’s first year

This dad created a video that documents one second from each day of his son’s life for 365 days. Even though I’ve already experienced a human’s first year of life up close and personal, I found this video to be enlightening. I recommend it as educational material for parents-to-be; I wish I had seen something like this considering how clueless I was about what to expect with child development. My response to it is down below, but check it out for yourself first:

<p><a href=”″>A Second a Day from Birth.</a> from <a href=””>Sam Christopher Cornwell</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My take aways, in accordance with my own experience of someone’s first year:

1. Newborns cry A LOT. And aren’t too pretty.

2. This fussing-all-the-time phase seems to come to a rather abrupt conclusion and suddenly baby is happier and better adjusted to post-womb life. (around 2 – 4 months)

3. Despite the fact that this phase passes quickly in retrospect, in the moment it can become incredibly grating/overwhelming/sanity-crushing very quickly.

4. What a precious gift it is when they begin to smile. (around 2 – 3 months)

5. The gift gets even more precious when they begin to really acknowledge you, be entertained by you, and genuinely seem to feel nothing but joy when they look at you – what love! (around 6 -7 months)

6. I started crying when Indi began to walk: What a major milestone and departure from baby to the rest of your life (toddler, kid, teenager, adult) – such a launching point! About this point in the video, Indi suddenly looks so grown, so different from his baby self. It stirred up the first real nostalgia I have felt for Archer’s younger days — that phase of his life is gone and will never return. (around 10 – 14 months)

7. You hear it all the time but it’s true: They grow and change so fast! What a dramatic evolution in one year! Before I get too boo-hooey over it, I’ll remind myself that, lucky me, I get the chance to do it all again in just another 8 weeks or so. Maybe this time I’ll appreciate it a little more? Not that I didn’t appreciate it the first time, but how different will it feel to go through it the 2nd time?

A little more about the video and it’s creator can be found here.

Great article on approaches to discipline

I’ve written about our discipline quandaries before and I’m sure they will continue to be a major source of exporation and study for Ted and I as Archer continually develops and changes in his behaviors, attitudes, abilities, etc. A friend posted this article on “natural” disciplining — the term “natural” is used ad naseum in American parenting culture these days, but in this case the author is referring to the child’s natural developmental growth.

This article and many others are listed on Recommended Resources page.

Natural Discipline for the Early Years

When it comes to children’s difficult behavior, a parent’s first question is usually, “What should I do?” We tend to want to eliminate it, fix it, or get it under control. But it’s important to understand that the behaviors we see in our children are merely the tip of the iceberg; the bulk of behavior issues stem from below the surface.

What we see is just a natural extension of the development occurring underneath. Rather than fight against it, parents will find more success in working with a child’s development to teach behavior. Take a look at these four examples of the earliest stages of child development to understand a “working with” approach rather than a “doing to” approach to natural discipline.

Age 1:
My baby doesn’t listen to “No!”

From birth to age two is a child’s sensorimotor stage of development. During this age, children are hard-wired to explore their environment using all of their senses. This means they will touch, pick-up, grab, bite, pinch, throw, smear, and put absolutely everything they can into their mouths in an effort to understand the world around them. This exploration may mean that someone gets hurt, property is destroyed, or the child’s own safety is compromised. It’s not purposeful, and it’s not malicious. It’s simply a baby’s underdeveloped instinct to learn.

It’s tempting to think that the more often or more firmly you tell a young child no, the more she will remember it and behave differently next time. But a one-year-old child does not have mature enough brain development to stop herself from adhering to a no. So, no matter how many times you tell her, she simply does not have the neural connection to stop, remember your words, think through the options, and decide not to act. It’s not that babies don’t listen, it’s that they lack sufficient brain development to acknowledge, comprehend, and think logically about a “No.”

“Working With” Tips

Try working with your baby’s natural inclination to explore and learn by being proactive. Create a “yes” environment. Baby-proof, block, pad, and lock away all of the no’s so you’re left only with yesses. Yes, you can climb on this furniture. Yes, you can explore these cabinets. Yes, you can throw any of these soft balls. Yes, you can touch anything in this room. Support her learning while keeping her safe.

There will be times when keeping your young child in a yes environment is not possible. In those cases, stay close to her to physically prevent her unsafe behavior. Knowing that she cannot logically understand why she shouldn’t throw a rock, ensure that you are close enough to step in and physically remove the rock from her hand. Gently undo her grip from her sister’s hair. Move her to another area to prevent her from touching Grandma’s knick-knacks.

Be available to redirect her energy when necessary. If she’s focused on throwing, give her something safe to throw. If she really wants to clang glass figurines together, substitute something noisy and unbreakable in her hands. If she is inclined to reach out and swat, pinch, or grab whoever is nearby, give her a small toy she can manipulate with her hands. Rather than stand firm and assert, “No!” take that same energy she has for using her senses, and refocus it on something that is safe and appropriate. Turn a no into a yes.

Age 2:
My toddler is constantly throwing fits!

As children enter the twos, so begins the age of autonomy. Toddlers become self-assured in their increasing mobility, and they are able to accomplish many more tasks for themselves. They are developing confidence in themselves and a sense of awareness in their bodies. They are becoming capable. Along with this newfound sense of independence comes a natural increase of limits; toddlers are not able to make logical decisions, so we help them by setting limits around health and safety.  Still, our well-intentioned limits don’t always agree with what our little ones have in mind. The difference between a toddler’s priorities of, “I want to do it!” and our priorities of, “No, you may not,” combines with his burgeoning sense of autonomy to create the perfect recipe for a tantrum.

During the twos, the midbrain (the emotional brain) and the prefrontal cortex (the logical brain) have poor connection and communication. So while a child’s emotional brain is capable of experiencing strong feelings, his logical brain is not capable of appropriately acting on those feelings. The resulting behavior is a “flipped lid,” or emotional meltdown in which he expresses his feelings in the only way his brain is capable: yelling, crying, and carrying on.

“Working With” Tips:
Remember that while it is unpleasant, a tantrum is normal and very appropriate for a two-year-old; so do your best to stay calm. A child’s brain has mirror neurons that pick up on the emotional state of his environment. In other words, calm begets calm. It’s OK to step away from the fit for a few minutes to collect yourself and refocus.

Allow for tears. It is important to teach children that their feelings are always OK and are not something to suppress, hide, or be ashamed of. Trying to stop a toddler’s tantrums resists his natural development and only causes more friction in your relationship. Instead of punishing a child for having a tantrum, accept the feelings you’re hearing, and let him know that it’s OK to cry. This is the first step for him to learn the skills to handle such feelings.

Teach your child the language for the feelings he is having by empathizing with him.  You are mad…It’s OK to feel sad right now…You really wanted this and you’re angry you can’t have it. You don’t have to change the limit you set (meaning: give the child what he wanted). You are only acknowledging his feelings and being emotionally available to support him through them as his brain chemistry restores. Your empathy teaches emotional intelligence as your toddler outgrows a tumultuous age.

Age 3-4:
My preschooler hits!

Though the age of frequent tantrums may be over, life’s frustrations are not. And what once may have triggered cries and tears of epic proportions may manifest differently in an older child: aggression. Aggressive behavior is rooted in frustration. When a child encounters frustration in her life—from small problems like not getting the dessert she wants, to larger issues such as an extended absence of a parent—her feelings will inevitably surface.

Parents often want to address occurrences of aggression with a “doing to” approach; a consequence. They adopt a “you hit, you sit” approach with timeouts, punishments, or other imposed consequences intended to teach the lesson that hitting is unacceptable. True, hitting is not OK. It’s also not the problem to be addressed. Hitting is the manifestation of unresolved feelings of anger, fear, and frustration. It is due to an immature prefrontal cortex and poor communication between the logical brain and the midbrain. Most importantly, it stems from a child’s inability to adapt to futility. The key to finding a solution to hitting, then, becomes about addressing the child’s adaptive process, not the behavior itself.

“Working With” Tips:

Be close with her often to help prevent her hitting. If you see your child is getting frustrated, quickly move closer to help. Realize she has an immature brain and is physically unable to control her aggression when her emotions are running strong. Get between her and the other person and let her know, “I won’t let you hit.”

Empathize with her to draw out tears instead of aggression. I can tell you are really frustrated right now….You’re very angry that your friend knocked over your tower….It is so sad to lose a game, isn’t it? Let her cry. Encourage her to cry. Tears facilitate the adaptive process by providing an emotional outlet. The brain is able to adapt to adversity without moving to aggression.

Once you’ve addressed her feelings, address her needs. You were feeling hurt; you need to be included with your friends. You felt annoyed; you need to be able to make your own choices. Identifying valid needs is the first step for a child to be able to understand how to solve problems. From there, you can pose the question, “OK, what can we do about that?” and brainstorm alternate solutions to hitting.

Age 5-7:
My child argues about everything!

You say, “Yes,” he says, “No.” You say, “Please pick up your toys,” he says, “I don’t want to.” You say, “Time to get ready for bed,” he says, “You can’t make me!” It seems that whatever you say, your child says and does the opposite. Life has become a battle of power. Power struggles are an expression of a need to be heard and regarded. Growing children experience a phase of initiative and individuality; that is, they are autonomous, they have a voice, and they need to use it. There are things you can do to help strengthen your relationship with your child so that he’ll be less argumentative and more cooperative.

“Working With” Tips:

Regularly ask your child questions. Make sure they are not just yes-or-no questions, but open-ended questions that encourage him to share his thoughts. What do you think about this? How did you make a decision? What are your ideas? Show your child that you are interested in hearing his perspective. Then, the other half of this step is to actively listen to the answers. Show that you understand by echoing back what you hear and paraphrasing his thoughts. Oh, so you decided to…That must have been difficult…You felt…This communicates that you value his thoughts and take him seriously.

Enlist your child’s help to create routines and habits. Routines are conducive to cooperation because of their predictability. And power struggles are less likely to occur when your child has had a say in how those routines are created. Regular family meetings are perfect opportunities to elicit input from children on the functions of the household. Ask for a child’s input and incorporate some of his ideas so that he will have a stronger sense of significance and belonging in the family.

Carve out regular, special time to connect. Make sure your relationship stays strong. Schedule regular time together in which your child is “the boss.” He chooses the activity, he directs the playtime, and he leads the topics of conversation. Even just 15 minutes a day, this type of interaction adds incredible closeness to a relationship and greatly diminishes the amount of daily power struggles.

Teaching children behavior is much more effective with a natural approach. By working with a child’s development, parents can bypass much of the resistance encountered with traditional discipline methods. Consistently responding to children in a proactive, connective way creates an environment of acceptance. It is this acceptance that allows for a child’s healthy social and emotional development.

Kelly BartlettAuthor Kelly Bartlett is the author of “Encouraging Words For Kids.” She is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator and freelance writer with a focus on child development, family relationships and discipline.

Empowered Birth: Class #1

One of the best things we did in preparing for Archer’s arrival was to take a 7-week “Empowered Childbirth” class that was recommended by a colleague. It was great because:

– It’s goal was not for couples to give birth in a certain way or use a certain method. The goal was to learn about all the options for birth and some of the technical stuff: What causes pain in childbirth? Which components of pain can be avoided or mitigated and how? What are the potential good and bad consequences of using various pain-relieving techniques? If you have to get a C-section, what exactly will occur, what choices need to be made?

– All of this knowledge helps couples adapt their plans on the spot as needed, which is more common than not. Many people have a plan for how they want their labor and birth to proceed, and rarely does all go according to plan. The class is designed to give couples the knowledge to make decisions as needed and still feel in control of the process and know the likely outcomes of various decisions.

– “Expect the unexpected”. I’m a control person. I like to feel competent. The more information and organization and planning, the better as far as I’m concerned. All of the info helped me feel informed and a lot less anxious about my upcoming birth experience. It also helped me let go of control more easily as my labor took many (expected) unexpected twists and turns; I knew what to expect in unexpected situations.

So now it’s round two. We decided to go back to refresh our info, practice laboring positions, and dedicate at least 2 hours of the week to giving our unborn daughter some attention in our otherwise hectic lives. I’ll endeavor to post something after each class and share with my many friends who are expecting their first kids this fall.

Class #1: What causes pain in labor? What eases pain? What worsens pain?

– I was reminded that movement and changing positions in labor is not just a technique for coping with pain; it actually helps progress the labor along and helps baby get into optimal positioning to move through the birth canal.

– Stress, anxiety, clenching: Normal reactions to being in pain, yet ironically make pain worse – the release of adrenaline slows down the labor process, tight muscles (typical physical response to anxiety and fear) only make it harder and more painful for the muscles to expand and contract. The more relaxed and comfortable you are, the less intense the pain will be. win-win. The article copied below is on pain theory.

– So many options and ideas for laboring positions! I learn by doing and in class we completed this worksheet of exercises titled “How Open is Your Pelvis?”which was really helpful to me.

ARTICLE: What causes pain in labor?

Natural Result of Physical Processes. During labor and birth, there are several physical processes occurring that lead to childbirth pain: the strong uterine contractions and the tension they place on supporting ligaments; pressure of the baby on the cervix, vagina, urethra, bladder, and rectum; stretching of the cervix, pelvic floor muscles, and vagina. These processes are unavoidable, and the pain caused by them is a positive sign that labor is progressing. We don’t want to stop these processes from happening, we just have to figure out how to minimize the pain we experience as a result.

Pain-intensifying factors that we can influence.

  • The stretching of the pelvic floor muscles can cause pain; it helps if you’ve been doing your Kegel exercises in advance.
  • Pressure on bladder causes pain, going to the bathroom regularly during labor helps.
  • Emotional and psychological issues from our past can influence our attitude toward pain, and our ability to cope with labor pain. Awareness of these issues, counseling prior to labor, and supportive companionship during labor can help with this.
  • Reduced oxygen to uterine muscle increases pain; breathing techniques help.
  • Muscle tension increases pain, fear and anxiety make you more sensitive to pain; relaxation can help with these.

Gate Theory of Pain

The nerve fibers which transmit labor pain sensations are unmyelinated and carry nerve impulses more slowly than the nerve fibers which carry sensations of light pressure, soft touch and vibration. If you transmit pleasurable impulses (such as light, soft touch), those will reach the brain first, and that can modulate, or interfere with, the pain sensations.

  • Merkel’s disks are nerve endings which transmit sensations very quickly to the brain. They are most focused in the palms, the soles of the feet, and the lips. Thus, having partners hold a mom’s hand, rub her feet, or kiss her can all help interrupt the pain sensations. Moms can also grip the rails of the bed, or stand up to activate some of these sensors.
  • Meissner’s corpuscles are found in the fingertips, and sensations from them are transmitted quickly. Having the woman move her fingertips in circles on the sheet, or finger soft textures like velvet or stuffed animals, or feel her partners face, can help minimize pain transmission.
  • In general, sensory input can distract us from pain perception. This can be seen from common experiences, such as going to a movie and forgetting about a headache until the movie is over; or finishing up work on a focused project and then realizing that it’s been hours since you’ve gone to the restroom. Therefore, any sensory input the mom finds pleasant and relaxing can help: massage, light touch, music, a focal point to look at, aromatherapy, etc.

Fear –Tension – Pain Triangle

During labor, fear and anxiety can worsen our pain: they cause the release of stress hormones (catecholamines: epinephrine, etc.) which place us in a hyper-aroused state that makes us hypersensitive to pain. Catecholamines increase our heart rate, increase blood pressure, slow down digestion, and shunt blood supply away from internal organs and toward skeletal muscles and skin. All of these things in excess can cause complications in labor, and prolong the labor.

Fear also leads to muscular tension, which increases our experience of pain. Using relaxation techniques can help to reduce the muscle tension.

The concept of the fear-tension-pain triangle has arisen: when fear increases, tension increases, which then increases pain. Then the increased pain increases fear, and the situation continues to worsen.

The uterus contains two opposing muscle groups – one to induce and continue labor, and another to stop labor if the birthing mother is in danger and afraid. When we are frightened, we release adrenaline, which causes the short, circular muscle fibers in the lower third of the uterus to contract, stopping labor by closing and tightening the cervix. At the same time, the long straight muscle fibers of the uterus are contracting to dilate the cervix. The two powerful muscles pulling in opposite directions during every contraction causes more severe pain. (Griffin)

Thus, anything that can be done during labor to help the mother feel calm, relaxed, and safe can help to minimize the pain that mother’s experience in labor. Some specific things you can do. Prior to labor: educate yourself about labor so there’s less fear of the unknown. Throughout labor: Think about environmental factors such as dim lights, quiet music, and nice smells. Bring to the hospital: favorite clothing or blanket, etc. Use relaxation techniques and breathing techniques.

Janelle Durham, 2002

Sources: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Simkin, Whalley, and Keppler (2001 edition). “Epidural Express” by Nancy Griffin, Mothering, Spring 1997. “The Pain and Discomfort of Labor and Birth” by Nancy Lowe, JOGNN, 25: 82-92, 1996. “Nonpharmaceutical Pain Relief” by Hilbers and Gennaro, source unknown, perhaps published as conference proceedings.