Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener and gentler. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Isaac 2 1/2 years
Recently, we have been having issues with Isaac acting out physically towards his sisters. It's typically a smack or a pinch, but there have been incidents of biting as well.


At first we thought it had to do with him being two years old. Then when it continued, we thought it had to do with Elsa's arrival and his emotional reaction to no longer being the baby of the house. So we hugged and kissed him more and really made an effort to spend one-on-one time with him.

But when it started getting worse with time, instead of better, we knew something was up and that something had to change.

Quite serendipitously, I came across the blog Super-Protective Factor, and the Hand in Hand Parenting Organization. I posted about it before here.

Reading the info there was like a breath of fresh air. It was new hope for an already frustrated and worried mama.

Isaac needed A LOT of emotional healing.

So we began to heal.

And boy, it was hard.

Mostly because society's mainstream parenting standards don't see "crying" and tantrums as a normal process. Plus, you got to admit that having a screaming child around you is stressful when you have that mindset.

So I had to reevaluate and modify my mindset.

When the topic came up for the January Carnival of Natural Parenting, I knew this would be the topic of my experiment.

Here's what happened.

The first day I purposefully did staylistening was a day when a lot of crying and tantrums occurred. It was hard to stay present, to not lose focus and to not get angry and react to Isaac's emotional {and physical} outbursts. But it was just what he needed. That day he had 3 or 4 episodes of pure emotional torrent that lasted a long time. By the third one he knew what was going to happen, he asked me to stay with him, while at the same time he kept pushing me away. It was quite bizarre, but I knew he was working things out...literally, he was letting out all the emotional hurt and baggage he had been carrying around for goodness knows how long.

The second day was similar to the first, but with fewer episodes. He still cried and pushed away, but near the end of the torrent, he reached out for a hug and within moments was calm and right as rain.

I began to see the difference in his behaviour on the third day.

He still was a bit rough with the girls, but not in a menacing way as he had been doing previously. He now was just his regular roughhousing, active self. Teaching him to be soft and gentle with even his most careful actions remains a work in progress {He's getting better at it though, just the other day he asked me, "Is this gentle?" as he stroked Elsa's cheek. "Yes!" I replied}. But I was relieved to see that his outbursts towards Elsa were diminishing.

The days continued and he still had some torrents, to which I continued to respond by being present and loving.

It was on day 5, after he hit Elsa with a little toy wooden fork {that he was apparently using as a sword} without provocation that I realized something else was going on. We asked him why he had done that, and he really tried to think of his reasons, but he just said in a reproachful little voice, "I don't know."

I racked my brain and searched my heart. And then it came to me. As I listened across the room to the TV, it all came crashing down on me.

My kiddos have been watching too much TV and the shows and movies they were watching were presenting violence and inappropriate behaviour.


Talk about feeling like a terrible mother!

Don't get me wrong though, it's not like I let my kiddos watch whatever they want whenever they want. They only watched TV for a bit each day or every other day. And when they did watch, the shows were things like Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Return to Neverland, Tangled, Ice Age, Franklin, Little Bear, Sesame Street...you get the picture...a blend of toddler stuff mixed in with "older" kiddo stuff. But when I really thought about what they were seeing during those movies and shows, it shocked me to realize that even for shows and movies that are rated G and cater to small children, there are violent acts all over the place!!!

Hook and Peter Pan fighting with swords...
Dinosaurs attacking...
Princes and knights in shining armour fighting evil stepmothers and other bad guys...

...the list goes on...

And the worst part is that it was also the "good" guys portraying this behaviour.

And to a small child, seeing a violent act without the real-life consequences of pain and emotional hurt is totally normalizing that behaviour and making it seem like it's not big deal.

So I spoke with Ken and we decided to not allow any shows or movies that have any form of violence. It was hard to list them all and take them off the list because we hadn't realized just how much violence was present, and often very subtle violence. Once we did, we spoke to Maddie about it and asked her to please support this by not asking to see any show or movie on the "banned" list. She agreed.

So for a week, the kiddos have not seen any show or movie on the list. They are watching things like Franklin, Little Bear, Berenstain Bears, Curious George and Wonder Pets...and are totally happy with it.

At first, they asked for the "banned" shows all the time, but when we held firm, they eventually stopped.

I am relieved that we have done this. But, it really bothers me that I let it get this bad. I know it's because Maddie is a bit older than Isaac and he just ended up watching whatever she was. But the truth is his maturity is not at the same level as hers, and he is still very susceptible. It does matter that they are different ages. I believe it's totally reasonable for Maddie to cater to Isaac's needs and watch appropriate shows for his sake.

It has only been a few days since this new change has been implemented, so the full effects on Isaac's behaviour I'm sure will take some time. The removal of the influence he was getting from TV together with his emotional healing, I'm sure will result in him being a more calm and gentle little boy.

And the hugging and cuddling won't hurt either!
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. Mama Sleuth! I like your experiment, especially the happy outcome. I admire your dedication to keeping the peacefulness in your home, in your child's mind. I had to admit, my own daughter has the occasional rants about guns which shocked me until I realized she was simply discussing/acting-out what she'd seen me watch on my Kindle Fire. They notice EVERYTHING, these little ones! And don't know how to react. But you did. Listen and understand. How many of us could use a bit more of that in our lives. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. What a beautiful story! I love how aware and responsive you were, to think beyond the obvious and find a way to help your son. I'm sure the benefits of this "experiment" and the changes to follow with be with for a very long time. I'm really interested to dive in to some of the links you posted as well - I can always use more tools for supporting my own toddler through her big emotions.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Kieran has always been very sensitive to violence as well, and his viewing options are still very limited. But I am worried about when he gets older and Ailia wants to watch too. Heck, I'm worried about Ailia wanting to watch at all before age 2. It's good to hear that your kiddos were cool with stepping back on their selections!

  4. This is a lovely heart-warming post. I admire you for taking the gentle path, because it's not always easy to bring peace to the home. We also have to be very careful about TV/films in our household. In fact we don't have a TV at home because I still don't think my 4 year old are ready. Love to you and your family.

  5. Sounds like you had 2 A-ha moments here! First with the amazing results from stay listening and second with the TV watching. Don't be too hard on yourself though- the TV violence can be subtle, like you said, and it's hard to block it all. And now that you are aware of it, you're making changes- bravo!

    I love the staylistening, though. That was eye opening for me. Thanks for the link!

  6. What a wonderful article. Your kids are so blessed to have such caring and present parents.

    I really appreciated your walking us through the process of staylistening. Your mention of the violence in the TV shows makes so much sense, too. Mikko (at 4) is still very sensitive to violence (fortunately, since Sam & I are not as much aware!), but I will keep that in mind as his little brother gets old enough to be watching shows with him.

  7. Thank you for sharing this post for the carnival. At times, I was in tears about the real connection you have with your children. It's beautiful to see the love grow and support these beings on their path. I think so often, it's difficult for parents to get past that truly uncomfortable first part and face the real work of compassion when they may not have received it in their own childhood. It's incredibly healing and rewarding to both the parents and the children when the attempt is made.

  8. Thank you for stopping by to read and for taking the time to comment. I really do love and appreciate the community the Carnival has created and nurtured! I look forward to reading all your posts too!

  9. What a great gentle parenting 'experiment' more like a real shift in family dynamics! I want to try the 'stay listening' too. I think it's really important that boys especially are given time to cry and tantrum with a compassionate and loving presence...too much of the outside world wants them to hold it all in and act tough. You are raising a boy into a man who will be emotionally literate and for that I give thanks!

    As for the TV...I hear you! We don't have one but let the kids watch certain things from You Tube... I keep it very simple for them and restrict the amount they watch each day, which is not cool in some circles but I feel it necessary for my two little ones. I also talk to them about the things they are watching a lot and translate it into our real life experiences to encourage their active viewing rather than passive watching. Overall there is soooo much more fun to be had than watching a screen so it's limited. Kudos to you Mama on being so connected.

  10. I need to try this. Baby T doesn't really have a problem with violence, but we tend to have a major disconnect when he has tantrums. I need to start being more empathetic and practicing staylistening. I think it's amazing that you actually did become so present that you realized the TV thing was the culprit. If you hadn't stopped and started listening, you may not have realized that!

  11. I really enjoyed reading this post. I have a son who is 2.5 and a 5 mo old baby girl. My son also had a lot of tantrums and problems with violence. His tantrums have started to lessen since he has been talking a lot more lately and able to communicate his feelings. But he still hits, throws things, and occasionally bites. Reading your thoughts about the influence of TV was very helpful. We actually don't have a TV at the moment but my son watches DVDs on a portable DVD player and he watches TV at my parents' house. His choices are limited and I can't think of any violence in them but now I have to rewatch the shows to make sure. Could you possibly publish your "banned" list? I'd love to see what's on it to see if there's something I'm missing.

  12. As requested I finally got a moment to write about our lists!

    Here it is:

    Our List


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