Category Archives: Ethical Blogging & Interpersonal Communication

How we talk to kids matters

I was listening to Cross Country Check up yesterday. It’s a Canadian Radio show on CBC, hosted by Rex Murphy. People call in and discuss current issues on air. This weeks show was about a new publication of Huckleberry Finn with some of the words and content changed to remove language and content deemed to be offensive given the modern context. A girl called in, 10 years old, who has read the book and wanted to share her opinion that the book should be left as is.

What struck me though was how different Rex Murphy spoke to this 10 year old then how he spoke to his other guests. It bothered me. It even offended me. I had to turn it off.

I believe he was just trying to engage with her with the best of intentions, but the tone came off condescending. He acted surprised (fake surprised) when she said she had read the book. He asked her whether her parents thought it was a good book. Really, it wasn’t so much what he said, but the way he said it. It sounded just patronizing.

Sometimes the way people talk to children bothers me. It’s not really any of my business. I really believe that most of the times when I am offended, it really isn’t intentionally condescending, it just feels that way to me. But it still bothers me and has gotten me thinking about that way I think we should talk to children. In my opinion, anyway.  And as a personal confession, I am sure I talked at times in ways that, if I had recorded and played back, would have bothered me to hear myself. I think sometimes it is hearing it in others conversations that we start to hear how odd and kinda wrong it sounds.

It is not so much about the content of the conversation. There is certainly something to be said for age appropriate content to a conversation. Obviously explaining war, disease and famine to a two year old is not appropriate. There is certainly a discussion to be had around age appropriate content in conversation. But this post is more about tone of conversation then the content.

Here is how I think we ‘should’ talk with kids”:

I think we should genuinely engage in rather then ‘humor’ kids with the conversation. Kids can spot falseness 20 miles away. They may not be able to put their finger on it or explain what it is they are hearing, but I suspect they feel that they are being humored. I think when we speak to children we need to be genuinely interested in what they have to say and really hear them out. Ask real questions. Genuine questions that will help you understand what they are saying and trying to share with you.

We should listen more then we praise. A lot of times when I see non-parental figures talking with kids, I see them pay them a compliment. “Wow, aren’t you just a polite little boy/girl”. Which is well intentioned. But I think it does more to show a child they are valued by really listening to them, then by paying them an empty compliment. Engaging them in a really discussion on a topic they find interesting does far more to help them know they have something of worth to say. I believe kids thoughts, opinions and beliefs are often brushed off or pushed aside. They want to be heard. So listening can mean more to them then a compliment.

We should have real reactions. I know with really little kids we (at least in many people I have witnessed, including myself) have a tendency to want to exaggerate emotions like excitement. I clap and cheer like a crazy person when my daughter uses the potty. I suspect we do that to help them learn about emotions and their meaning. But I think sometimes we can, especially with older kids, take that a bit too far. Again, kids sense a fake tone of voice. When we feign surprise to try and make them feel they have done something special I suspect the child knows its not genuine.

I really think we need to value a child’s unique perspective. They are not just a younger adult with less knowledge. They see the world often quite differently then we do. I think there is really value in trying to connect with that and really hear what they have to say. There is an assumption out there that we can’t learn from children- we know more. I believe that assumption is wrong. I think if we approach the conversation with a child really recognizing that we can learn something from them, it goes a long way to demonstrate respect for them.

And lastly, I think we need to still remember that we are the adult. What I mean by that, is obviously, if we hear a child saying something unkind about someone or saying something inappropriate, we still have the responsibility to respectfully correct them. Having respect and having a genuine conversation, doesn’t mean we don’t still have an obligation to support our children to learn good values and good behaviour.

I believe talking with true respect to children is important. I think it fosters children who know they have something worthwhile to say and offer. It allows us, as adults, to hear and learn what they are experiencing and about their unique perspective.

So please Rex, no more of the ‘patting on the head’ conversations, okay?

Fortunate

Photo by Team Dalog via Flickr Creative Commons License

As some of you know, this month I decided to participate in IComLeavWe:

“Welcome back to IComLeavWe. It stands for International Comment Leaving Week, but if you say it aloud, doesn’t it sounds like “I come; [but] leave [as a] we”? And that’s sort of the point. Blogging is a conversation and comments should be honoured and encouraged. I like to say that comments are the new hug–a way of saying hello, giving comfort, leaving congratulations.”

I am all for conversation, as you know, so I signed up. Probably not the best decision in the craziness that is December, as I believe I have fallen far short of the 6 comments a day benchmark. The interwebs have been pretty quiet this week, and this challenge was made harder by the fact that many of the participants weren’t really posting much in the frenzy of the holidays. And I didn’t have much time in the frenzy of the holidays.

But there is also an other reason I found this challenging. IComLeavWe is hosted by Melissa at Stirriup Queens. Now Melissa is pretty much, so far as I can tell, the Queen within a community of those who have suffered with issues of infertility. She wrote a book called “Navigating the Land of IF”. As such, a lot of the participants in IComLeavWe are bloggers who also spend a lot of their time blogging about issues of infertility (not all, but many). IComLeavWe is open to all, but in practice, most of the participating blogs are tied into infertility experiences in some way. To be honest, despite clicking through and reading many of the blogs, and being moved by their experiences and stories… I really didn’t know what to say.

That’s right. It left me kinda speechless.

I can sympathize and empathize, but I haven’t shared that experience. I am very fortunate that I haven’t shared that experience. But it left me feeling as if I just didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. I didn’t want to seem smug, with my child conceived within a month of our wedding. I tried and tried to think of what I could say; how I could relate. And in many cases I just drew a blank.

I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain in IComLeavWe (though I tried). But I did get something out of it.

I have always talked about having a second child as an “if”. Part of that “if” has always been “if” we decided we have the energy/strength as parents for my husband and I to have a second. Parenting is hard. Also, there is a question of “if” in terms of being able, financially, to handle two children with the costs of maternity leave, child care, ect.

But always in that “if” has been the question of “if” we were fortunate enough to conceive again. I do not take that for granted.

When I went to my doctors for a routine check up, right before my husband and I were married, my doctor asked me if we were planning to try and have kids. I said yes. And she told me that we should try for 18 months and then we would start fertility treatments.

I have symptomatic, but not clinical, diagnosis of PCOS. And, prior to having Audrey, I had a 45-65 day cycle. Which put us at fairly high risk for issues with fertility. My doctor was trying to prepare me for that possibility.

But we were fortunate. I don’t take that for granted.

(As it turned out my PCOS did, at least partially, contribute to breastfeeding challenges, but still. I consider myself fortunate none-the-less.)

Reading all the stories from so many women who have experienced infertility has reminded me of that. Both about how lucky and grateful I am to have the amazing daughter we have and how, we may want an other child at some point, but that that doesn’t mean it will happen.

Life throws curve balls. There is no difference between me and many of the women out there struggling with infertility. It could happen to anyone. To some extent it is luck of the draw; a roll of the dice. Our lives all take different paths. We all get different fortunes.

You know, we know so little about women’s reproductive health. It’s maddening, really. From fertility, conception to birth and breastfeeding, it seems we are really in the dark in a lot of ways. You’d think with all the knowledge we have that we could learn more about these things. Particularly how we live our lives in today’s society/environment and what impact that could be having. Have the statistics on infertility and other reproductive issues gone up? Is it our canary in the coal mine?

I often wonder.

What do you think?

It is called ‘a whole lot of crazy’

Yes, that is what I am. A whole lot of crazy.

Freshly off my NaBloPoMo victory/exhaustion I am signing up for yet an other bloggy thing. This one based on comments.

It’s called IComLeavWe, and it is a week in December where I commit to leaving 5 comments on others blogs and respond to one comment on my own blog. Want to know more? Check it out here. I love this idea. LOVE IT. Because comments = conversation and conversation is what blogging is all about for me. It is only a week. A week I am off work. Sounds like fun! Wanna join me?


IComLeavWe

IComLeavWe: Join the Conversation

Ambiguity and the Quest for Right

I used to be very very uncomfortable with the idea of ambiguity. That is to say, I was addicted to the idea of being ‘right’. I had to get that A. I had to be on the honor roll. I had to have the answer to the question.

And more then that, I had to believe in something 100% or not at all. When I was a teenager, I decided I was agnostic. Why? Because I didn’t feel like the church had all the answers. The irony, of course, is that agnosticism is just about the most ambiguity choice when it comes to religion. I couldn’t buy atheism either; not 100%. There seemed to be ‘something’ behind everything. I have always had the sense that ‘every thing happens for a reason’. And so far, science has not be able to explain that for me.

Anyway, my point is that I very much tried to live my life in the ‘right’. I strived to either made the right decision or have the right answer. If I felt the debate was too many shades of gray (like religion) I would opt for ‘no answer, thank you.’ Ambiguity wasn’t my friend. Unless I actively choose ambiguity as a cop-out.

In highschool there is a winner of the debate. When your on the debate team, at least. Problems come with an answer. A gold star. A grade. A check mark on the page.

In life, conversation, discourse, disagreement do not lead to a winner. Debates rage on and on and on. Sometimes our whole culture or society shift in one way or an other. But this doesn’t happen from one debate, it is a result of many many many small, short interactions that slowly change people’s minds. It is a result of new and different life experiences that shape our perspective. Everything around us and everything that happens shape our society. Tiny tiny increments at a time.

And it is in this knowledge that I have become more and more comfortable with not having the right answer. Changing my opinion. Considering multiple perspectives as partially valid all at once. So many things hold value and meaning for me. I can’t just pick one.

Did you know that I don’t have a favourite book, or meal, or color (well, maybe green) or song or day of the year or anything like that. How could anyone pick a faviourite? One thing against all similar categories of things that holds more meaning for them then anything else? I just can’t do it.

But that’s just the thing. Identifying or aligning oneself with one thing, one choice, one perspective, does not negate the possibility of finding meaning in something else as well. You can find yourself drawn to one thing, while still recognizing that it has its faults, downsides, missing links, and holes. You can believe something and at the same time think, ‘maybe that’s wrong….’

Despite our politics which says ‘flip flopping’ is the ultimate sign of a weak politician, I see flip flopping as the ultimate sign of openness. Of respect for the value of the perspectives and ideas that others bring to the table. I believe it is a sign of maturing (at least me maturing) to the point at which the goal is not ‘right’ the goal is simply to understand within the limitations of the extent to which we can understand. There is no one answer. Life is about the interaction of millions and millions of little tiny ‘answers’ that all criss-cross and over lap and wind around each other to paint a picture of what is ‘reality’. Or at least reality for you.

So I am embracing the ambiguity. The nuance. Having an opinion but recognizing that I ‘think’ I do not ‘know’.

I was listening, it’s just that…..

You know when you are having a conversation or reading something and you hit something… and your mind starts to go a mile a minute?

All of a sudden you find yourself thinking of how you would respond. Why you disagree. Why you agree. Why that story relates to your life. What you think.

If you are having a in-person conversation, you start thinking of the next thing you want to say. If you are having an online conversation, you continue to scan what you are reading, but your mind has already gone to that comment box. You start to plan the words in your head.

This happens to me. I suspect it might happen to you.

I was thinking about this the other day and realizing how much it can hamper understanding. Because once I go to this place in my brain, really, I am not longer listening or understanding or absorbing the other perspective. My brain have left the building, so to speak, and I have taken the conversation off course.

I notice this happening online. A LOT. So I assume I am not the only one who does this. People responding in a particular way to a post, or tweet or comment. People responding passionately. People responding will good, clear, interesting perspectives. But seem to be totally missing the point of what the original author was saying. I am sure I have done this. Lots.

We all have our own conversation triggers. Those pet peeves; issues near and dear to our hearts, painful memories, points of great pride, goals for the future. And so off we go. Off.

Communication is difficult, isn’t? To really hear someone we have to be really listening. This is so easier said then done. We see the world through our own lens. We make assumptions. We take cognitive leaps to fill in any blanks. We tune out things we don’t want to hear. Ignore points we don’t want to recognize.

Interesting, isn’t it? It’s a wonder we ever understand each other. 😉

What do you think?

Self Promotion

So I have been thinking lately about self-promotion when it comes to this blog. I have said it probably 10 times before, I don’t write this blog with any hopes of being widely read or making any money from blogging what so ever. This is a hobby. Something I love to do, something that inspires and challenges and excites me. Blogging is my relaxation technique, it keeps me connected, it allows me to talk to really interesting people. I could go on.

But I also love it when people read this blog. I like watching my stats go up, though I don’t analyze them intensely. I LOVE comments and have learned so much from all of you. And I would love to have more people read.

But I am not a ‘toot your own horn’ kinda of person. At least I don’t think I am. I know I am confident person for the most part, but I don’t feel really comfortable self-promoting. I don’t have a facebook page. Lots of bloggers tweet their posts 2 or 3 times. I usually forget. I haven’t joined any blogging networks and this NaBloPoMo thing is the first ‘blogging thing’ I have joined.

Do you notice that badge that appeared on the side of my page this last week? Quietly I put it up. It is a “nominate me” badge “fresh voices 2010” for Momversation. I stumbled upon this when I was on Fearless Formula Feeders blog. She had the same badge and I promptly went and nominated her. Because I think she brings a very valuable, unique perspective and a lot of support to Mom’s.

And then I wondered if I should maybe ignore the feelings I have about being really uneasy with self-promotion and put the badge on my site too. I mean, I am a new voice in blogging of 2010, albeit a very quiet one. I really don’t want anyone to feel obligated to nominate me; there are so many amazing blogs out there. But I think it is a good thing to nominate someone; someone who’s blog really touches you. The idea behind the nomination, as far as I understand it, is to help discover yet undiscovered blogging talent. Well, there is a lot of that out there.

Anyway. I still don’t know how I feel about self-promotion. I am starting to get to the point that I would like to give myself the challenge of growing my readership. I like marketing and social networking and I love challenges. But it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like asking for people to say they like me. I don’t like asking for people to spread the word about my blog. I don’t like that kind of stuff. But lots of people do it and lots of them do it in ways that are just fine. Some people, yes, go overboard and end up sounding desperate and end up annoying people. I don’t want to do that. But I do think I could get out of my comfort zone just a little…

What do you all think about self-promotion. Do you feel comfortable with it? Where do you think the line is between good marketing and annoying desperation? What do you think are the best ways to grow a blog’s readership?

Tell it like it is

I am not usually a big fan of book reviews on blogs. Not because I don’t like books, I do, a lot. But mostly because I don’t have much time to read books so I don’t see the point in making my “to read” list any longer. (More on that tomorrow). I kinda assume the same thing about you, my wonderful readers. You make the time to read my blog and probably a bunch of other great blogs online (my favourites on listed in my blog roll on the side), but you probably, like me, don’t have as much time as you would like to curl up on the couch with a good book.

All that being said, I can’t help by share my excitement and LOVE of this book I just read for that class I am taking. Because it was for a class I had to make the time, but if I had known just how valuable it would be I would have read it years ago.

The book is called: “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott. And no, it is not about how to have loud, angry confrontations with people. The ‘fierce’ in “Fierce Conversations” is all about having robust, authentic, intense and honest conversations with people.

You see, most of us are confrontation and conflict avoidant. We don’t want to get into a fight, we don’t want to make someone upset, we don’t want someone to not like us and we are nervous about addressing the tough issues. We just don’t. But as a result, many of us leave issues in our personal, parental and professional lives unaddressed, causing more problems in the long run.

That’s the other thing I love about this book. It is a business book and a self-help book, and even in some ways a parenting book, all wrapped into one. It is meaningful to all aspects of our lives.

Essentially this book takes you through a lot of activities for self discovery, assessment, defining your values and objectives, pin pointing the key issues that are holding you back and challenging to have those tough conversations with both yourself and with others.

I like it. I think I am predispositioned to like this book though. I am very introspective. I am very open and tend to put all my thoughts out on the table. I am so bothered by what I see many managers and leaders do: ignore critical issues and not have the tough conversations needed to address them. It drives me nuts to see someone not doing well or driving a team nuts and their boss not sit them down and really level with them. How cruel is it to let a person continue to burn bridges, negatively impact team objectives and likely be personally miserable, with out sitting them down and telling them point blank? Or someone who has a friend who is driving them nuts and it is totally threatening the relationship, but they do nothing about it for fear of hurting the persons feelings. This book counsels us on how to have those conversations that you’ve been avoiding in a way that is as non-threatening and yet honest. How to state your concerns without the load of blame, name calling, intimidation, exaggeration or anything else. (Susan talks about this on page. 200-201).

What would happen if we clearly, concisely, compassionately and openly had all those conversations we have been avoiding. How much better would our relationships and the outcomes in our families, jobs and lives be?

I am a big believer in ‘tell it like it is’ but with kindness and compassion. And my goal is strive towards this in all aspects of my life. I am tired of letting conversations go unsaid.

And, just as a side note, Susan doesn’t suggest that we all need to say everything we are thinking. There is no need to share with someone, for example, that you don’t like their dress or that you think their boyfriend isn’t right for them or anything of the sort. This isn’t about just telling people all the things you think they need to know. This is about having the tough conversations to address issues in your life that are having a negative impact. You can still have your little white lies to protect someone elses feelings.

Really, you all neeeeeeed to read this book.

What do you think? How do you deal with confrontation? Do you think things would be improved if we had the tough conversations we needed to have? Do you have conversations you are avoiding? Tell me what you really think. 🙂

*Last side note: these are my personal thoughts on the book “Fierce Conversations”. I am getting no compensation what so ever for this book review, I am only telling you about it because I LOVE. I am providing a link to the Canadian book retailer Chapters Indigo so that if you decide to buy it or take it out from the library you have all the info to make sure you get the right book.

Look, Look! A new look!

Hey Guys!

Have you noticed my blog’s new look? And my new matching twitter icon? Isn’t it pretty?

Cheryl over at PicPoetProse designed it for me. Go over and tell her you love it as much as I do.

I wanted to make this change after some serious thinking about my “one word”. I got some amazing suggestions from people. Including:

conscious
aware
initiator
inquiring
thoughtful
inquisitive
searching
seeking
interrogative
penetrating
why
probing
contemplative

But ultimately I realize that I had already identified my one word. It was already there all along! It is in the name of my blog and it was already on my twitter icon. “Think.”

And I wanted to change up my look a bit to better reflect that. I love the concept of the tree, particularly with the roots into the ground that are visable. There is something that just says deep thinking to me about that image. I also wanted a more simple, less flowery look. So, my amazing (and very pregnant) friend Cheryl indulged me and pulled this together in just a couple days. Yeah, she’s amazing.

So, what do you all thinking?

To procrastinate or not to procrastinate, that is the question

I am not a procrastinator by nature. I prefer to get things done first and relax later. Sipping that glass of wine on the patio just isn’t  the same if my mind is full of a list of to-do’s. I have been know to have trouble sleeping if I don’t at least write down what I need to do the next day, be that at work or at home.

My husband (sorry honey!) on the other hand, needs time to unwind and relax before he is ready to tackle the to do list. If he feels stressed out or like he hasn’t had a chance to sit down all day, it is hard to be motivated to do yet more. He tends, therefore, to leave things to the last minute. No. Matter. What.

This can cause, as you might imagine, a bit of a clash. If I can’t relax until the dishes are done (yes. the kitchen is my #1 BIGGEST pet peeve and I NEED it at least appearing kinda clean before I have to make breakfast and lunches the next morning) and he says he will do them, but waits until the last minute… well nether of us really get what we want. And neither of us really relax. Me because I don’t have that ‘ahhhh everything is done’ feeling I crave and him because, lets be honest, I am a bit of a nag and will bother him about it until he does it. Sometimes I don’t actually say anything, my nagging is now telepathic. Which means he can’t get that wind down he needs to then feel the motivation to do the dishes.

But despite the occasional culture clash, it really doesn’t matter much which philosophy is followed- we get about the same amount done. I may not like to procrastinate, but I have my limits and there are many times I say ‘screw it’ to the less important things and let them slide. And my husband still chips in a ton around the house, despite his procrastinating ways. When you really think of it the “I can’t relax until everything is done” and the “I’m not ready to do stuff until I have had a minute to relax” both make sense. No philosophy is better then other other and both can get out of hand when practiced to the extreme. (* cough cough, clean kitchen obsession*).

I am going to go out on a limb and assume that within every family there are culture clashes like this. I don’t mean culture in the traditional sense, although I think many families have that too, I mean culture in the ‘mode of operating’ sense. How we deal with life and what life throws at us, differs so widely from person to person. Some people like to talk it out when a conflict comes up, others want time to process. Some people like to plan ahead, others prefer to be spontaneous. Ect. Ect. Most couples I know may have similar interests, but have at least some of that ‘opposites attract’ tendency at play as well.

So how do we deal with these clashes? Do we change? Do we just muddle through, somewhat frustrated? Do we argue about them, trying to get the other to see the ‘wisdom’ in our ways?

In our house, we mostly muddle through. I try to be less obsessive about the kitchen, or just get up and do it myself. My husband tries to do the dishes before they drive me crazy. We muddle. I don’t really think people change much when it comes to ‘mode of operating’. We change our opinions, our perspectives, our priorities… but our mode of operation? Not so much. Just like our little bad habits that drive our partners nuts. They aren’t going away.

So tell me, do you have a culture clash in your house? Is it over procrastination or something else? Have you found a better way to deal beyond just muddling through?

Self-righteousness or Right?

This topic just keeps coming up for me; the concept of self-righteousness. There is a lot of bad feelings out there about hearing or reading opinions that come across judgmental or self-righteous. Everywhere really, but parenting in particular.

But where does ‘judgmental’  and ‘self righteous’ end and ‘activist’ or ‘advocate’ begin? The truth is there are some things that all of us feel are not so much about ‘different strokes for different folks’ and more about what is right. Period. Full stop.

I have some, I am sure you do to. Some of mine include not using physical forms of punishment, feeding kids healthy unprocessed foods (with room for an occasional treat), and giving kids age appropriate boundaries and limitations when they are young and then more choice and independence as they get older. You and I might agree on some of those and disagree on others. And you might have ones on your list that I don’t have on mine, like not using any form of sleep training or ensuring your baby is exclusively breastfeed for at least six months.

Here is the rub- I believe we have those beliefs based on our own experiences. And since everyone has a different experience, we are going to have different things we feel are ‘not optional’.The more people I talk to and the more I listen to their personal stories, the more I am convinced that there isn’t so much ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, but ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to us. I am not arguing here for 100% moral relativism. Rather an acceptance that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can change over time and flex to meet the current needs of society. We learn; we change our beliefs. But at an individual level, those issues we feel most strongly about; there is usually an underlying personal reason why we take up a particular cause. There is certainly value in that, but I think we do have to accept that not everyone’s experience is the same.

Maybe you didn’t get good information or have the time and money to cook your kids good, wholesome food. Maybe I tried to breastfeeding like a maniac and it just didn’t work. Maybe you value a different type of relationship with your children and choose to not give them strict boundaries. Maybe I tried all the ‘no cry’ methods for supporting my baby to sleep and she really needed me to give her some space to release some tension. Maybe you had a baby who cried themselves into an absolute fit the moment you put them down and so you never used any form of CIO ever; it seemed so cruel! Maybe you faced a challenge that you thought, in retrospect, you wouldn’t have had to make if you had made a different choice about one thing or an other. Who knows?

Our experiences shape our beliefs about what is right and wrong and therefore what we feel others should or shouldn’t do. And unless we really listen to each others experiences, it becomes very easy to assume that our experiences are the same or similar to others. It is easy to take up an ‘I did or didn’t do X, so why should anyone else have to? They must be ignorant, lazy or not care’. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to see or hear comments that start with “I can’t understand why anyone would/wouldn’t…”

We often don’t know someones story. Scratch that. We usually don’t know someone elses story. And when we make blanket statements about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, we often fail to recognize that there may be exceptions, or at the very least extenuating circumstances.

There is one post, early in my blogging career, where I discussed my belief that it is beneficial for babies to go to sleep early. (Actually, it was an admittedly judgmental post on taking ones baby out (particularly to malls) late in the evening, which I think is really detrimental to a kids ability to go to sleep cause there be so much stimulation. So if your kid won’t go to sleep at night and you are pulling your hair out, taking them to the mall (or anywhere else loud, noisy and bright) aint going to help, in my opinion. Anyway).  I still believe and early bedtime and low stimulation in the evening is the ideal. BUT. In the context of the discussion I heard from a number of parents for whom the early bedtime option really didn’t work, or it hit a sore spot due to circumstances they experienced with their babies. They felt judged, and I felt bad for that, because I really hadn’t thought through all the possible reasons why early bedtimes wouldn’t work for some children and families. I will say that again: I really hadn’t thought it through. That was my mistake. So I now accept that my preference is isn’t always preferable for others. That doesn’t change my opinion, but it does change how I would talk about my opinion.

I still think it is a good choice, and one worth considering, to put babies to bed early. At the very least, if one wants their baby to sleep through the evenings I would suggest one of the best way so encourage that is to have quiet, dim, low stimulation activities from the early evening on. But I wouldn’t say it is the only way or even the ‘best’ way. It is just my preferred way, that other may find benefit in, particularly if they come to me for advice on how to get their baby (and themselves) a bit more sleep.  I wouldn’t call myself an ‘early bedtime activist.’

Anyway. It is perfectly reasonable to advocate for changes in society or public policy (like health or education for example) to make better choices possible for families. Just because someone can’t/doesn’t want to breastfeed doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have better access to qualified lactation consultants. Just because some people don’t have the information, time and money they need to feed their kids healthy food, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for better labeling of food and spreading the word about the benefits healthy choices. And just because I feel that my child was never neglected, ignored or harmed by letting her cry and fuss to sleep, doesn’t mean others don’t have a right to advocate to parents again using any form of ‘sleep training’. (Heck, a lot of what they are advocating for I agree with , like having more realistic expectations for infant sleep, for example. Or trying other options like co-sleeping, which I disagree with our local health region for telling people is ‘dangerous’.) But even if I didn’t agree with them, I would still respect their right to advocate for what they believe.

But I think when we advocate we need to be more sensitive to the range of personal experience. How we advocate and the language we use to do so is important. When we focus on ensuring parents have support to make good choices we lift everyone up. When we rail against the harm of parenting choices we disagree with, we just leave a sour taste in others mouths. We need to hear each other. Especially those who have an other perspective. But those with an other perspective won’t talk to you if you insult them right off the bat.  I truly believe social change is all about conversation. And those who need the advice won’t hear it if it is wrapped in a tone of self-righteousness. Right and self righteous are not the same thing. It is possible that your opinion may be right, but self-righteousness is not the way, in my opinion, to present your thoughts.

What I am saying is that we aren’t all going to agree on which parenting options are ‘right’ and which are multiple choice with no wrong answers. But we could do a heck of a lot better job at getting people on side with our personal ‘right’ list if we advocated in a much more positive, open and kind way. You know, ‘how to win friends and influence people’? The truth is that people get behind others who know how to lead. Who can speak with integrity. Who don’t engage in petty battles and name calling. Who don’t use debate ‘tactics ‘ to try and ‘win’ an argument. Leaders, true leaders, get a following because people look up to them as models of how we should be in our society. They try, as best they can, to keep things positive. Nasty arguments ain’t going to win a following. Period. Even those that tend to agree with your beliefs are more likely to turn away.

People, lets get out the honey.

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