Gentle Parenting Success Stories and Suggestions #5
Today’s gentle parenting post is a success story shared by Tilly. Tilly is a new mama of a super cute, exclusively breastfed daughter who is ten months old. She lives in Orange County, California with her high school sweetheart (now her husband of three years). She writes at Silly Blatherings about motherhood and life. She breastfeeds on demand and loves being an attached parent.
Please share your own gentle parenting successes or questions – read the italicized text at the end of this post for more information on the series.
I wanted to share how my husband and I actively approach gentle parenting at mealtimes. So far, my family has had many great experiences dining out and I believe it’s due to the following strategies.
We try and eat at restaurants that appeal to a more casual or family environment. This does not necessarily mean a crowded, chaotic place with tons of stimulation. When choosing a restaurant, I try to think about what my baby is going through developmentally.
At 5 months she didn’t care much about noise and would actually be lulled to sleep by the hustle and bustle. Now at 9 months, not so much. She is more aware of her surroundings so we can go places that are a bit more stimulating. However, we recently learned that she can still be overwhelmed pretty easily. We attempted to eat at the Rainforest Cafe, a jungle themed restaurant with a LOT of stimuli. It turned out to be a bad choice for a 9-month-old baby. She became completely overwhelmed and overstimulated. We decided to leave before our waiter even took our drink order.
We knew our little one couldn’t handle a place like that at this point in her development, so we didn’t force her to stay. Was I upset about it? Yes, a bit. It was a special occasion and I did want to go somewhere nice to eat. But in the long run, I knew I wouldn’t regret the decision to leave. I trusted my gut and did what was best for my daughter, not for me. We will try again once she’s older.
Use Your Time Wisely and Be Aware of Your Child’s Mood
Both my husband and I try to figure out what we will be ordering as quickly as possible. Our baby isn’t going to just sit there and listen to boring adult conversation. Once we’ve done so, my husband will usually walk her around to check things out. My daughter just loves it and feels secure when discovering new things while her daddy holds her. The same applies to me. I believe this keeps her from getting bored or from feeling overwhelmed by the environment. I’ve noticed that if I’m holding her until she gets a bit used to the environment, things go more smoothly.
Sometimes you can’t plan meals around naps, and so we watch for our baby’s cues. Just the other day while at a busy restaurant, I realized my daughter was looking very sleepy and was starting to get fussy. My dear husband offered to go get our trusty hotsling out of the car. Once I popped her in, I rocked her a bit and she fell fast asleep. We all had a wonderful dinner and my daughter got her much needed nap.
Don’t Use the High Chair as a Babysitter
Once the food is served, only then do we put our daughter in the high chair and add things to her side of the table that she can eat. Sometimes this comes from the food we order and sometimes it’s food I’ve brought with me for her specifically. The timing here has really worked for us. I think she looks forward to the high chair and all the exciting things she gets to do with us rather then being forced to sit there and wait right off the bat.
What tips and tricks do you have to make dining out with a baby/toddler more enjoyable?
There are two resources that have been the most helpful to me in my own gentle parenting journey. First, reading about others’ experiences: real-life examples of challenges met with respect and compassion can be both educational and inspirational. Second, when I face a challenge of my own, I have always been able to turn to my local AP group for a fresh perspective and creative ideas.
I’d like to provide a resource like that here at Code Name: Mama, so I’ve introduced a series that will feature your stories and questions. In particular, I’d love to feature stories that build on consensual living principles or the techniques and ideas discussed in books like Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids; Playful Parenting; Unconditional Parenting; and Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.
I am not looking for stories about parenting techniques such as time-outs, negative consequences, coercion, or punishment.
If you have a gentle parenting success story or a question on how to gently handle a challenging situation with your toddler or preschooler, please read the contributor guidelines and contact me. Let’s not go through this journey alone!
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"Gentle Parenting Success Stories and Suggestions #5"
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