If you’ve been reading MCS for a while, you know that I really enjoy parenting books (a total surprise to even myself). I just finished reading Janet Lansbury’s Elevating Childcare: A Guide to Respectful Parenting, and I thought I’d share my top lessons from her book with you today.
Janet Lansbury is a proponent of the RIE parenting method, which I have already spoken about. I highly suggest you go check out my article when you are finished with this one if you are not familiar with the RIE approach.
I found Janet’s book through one of my favorite YouTubers, The Mellow Mama, who regularly posts videos about using the RIE approach with her son.
Full disclosure: I bought the book myself, read it cover to cover, and loved it! It’s mostly material republished from Janet’s blog, but it’s a great book for when you are a busy parent because her wisdom is broken down into smaller chunks. You can just pick up where you left off and not miss a beat.
You’ll find below some quotes from Janet’s book. The page numbers are all from the edition published by JLML Press in 2014.
Make yourself your favorite brew, and let’s flip through the lessons from this book together.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #7: Baby gets to choose the toy or activity
Simple fact: Children are more interested in the things they choose than the things we choose for them. Therefore, allowing a baby to choose what to do in his play environment rather than directing him to our choice of activity (a learning game, puzzle, or flashcard) will better engage his interest, focus and concentration. Pg 49
One of the basic assumptions of RIE parenting is that children can, and should be allowed to, develop in their own time. I already knew that children can naturally develop their own motor skills, and, to some extent, executive function skills.
But I was still operating under the assumption that I should provide the entertainment by:
Choosing which toys we keep in our house, and
Proposing a new activity when I felt C was “bored.”
I still think it’s important for parents to have the final word on which toys they keep around. But Janet taught me that babies and toddlers don’t “get bored.” Of course we all want to stimulate our children’s minds, but we almost always end up erring on the side of overstimulation.
What a freeing thought, then, to know that you do not have to constantly entertain your child. Take a step back and observe. Let your child get comfortable about independent play. Rest assured that she is playing with her toys in exactly the way she needs to right now for her development. No need to constantly “teach” or direct your child’s play. Let her be in charge. After all—right now, her only real job is to play! You can be in charge of everything else.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #6: Readiness is when your baby does it
Notice a child’s satisfaction, comfort and pride when he is able to show you what he is ready to do, rather than the other way around […] Ready babies do it better […] and they own their achievements completely, building self-confidence that lasts a lifetime. Pg 63
This lesson is a great springboard from the previous one. It’s so easy as parents to want to get our children to achieve greater things, milestones such as:
I myself have felt so incredibly eager for C to accomplish all of the above.
But what’s the rush?
Well, sometimes there are parameters that you want to work around. For example, here in France all children must be potty trained in order to start preschool, or they won’t be accepted at enrollment. And we are currently in the process of transitioning C to a floor bed so that we can usurp the baby bed for our new arrival.
We’ve tried potty training 3 times and failed each time. We do feel anxious for this to get done, not only for school in September, but also to just not have to deal with diapers anymore.
Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink! And it turns out, you can’t force your child to be ready for something like potty training if they’re just not that into it.
Janet says that we should work smart, not hard, about reaching these milestones (which, by the way, are completely arbitrary). Wait to notice your child’s interest in the topic before you forge ahead. You might suggest by way of asking her opinion, but when the novelty wears off and your child loses interest completely, best stop and wait. Give it some time and try again.
You will be rewarded with a much easier experience when you let your child reach developmental milestones in her own time.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #5: Discipline your baby like a CEO
[…] I’ve been encouraging parents that struggle with [discipline] to imagine they are a successful CEO and that their toddler is a respected underling. The CEO corrects the errors of others with confident, commanding efficiency. She doesn’t use an unsure, questioning tone, get angry or emotional. Pg 109
I really loved this advice because it’s a great analogy. Sometimes we don’t know what to do about discipline. There are soooo many pitfalls to be made in this area. I won’t go through them all, because this CEO analogy pretty much covers everything.
Sometimes I lose my temper and I just shout at my child. I know it’s not good to do that. Now I am trying to remember to speak to C like I am her CEO. Janet is a proponent of speaking to babies and children normally, with the same respect you would accord another adult. But sometimes it’s hard to remember to do that. Not so when I am wearing my CEO hat!
So when you need to lay down the law, remember to see your child as a respected employee and give her a stern but gentle talking to. No employee respects a boss who completely flies off the handle over every little thing. Have a serious chat, and don’t take your child employee’s misdeeds personally. It’s just good business.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #4: Make eye contact with your child when stating limits
Make eye contact with your child and confidently state a limit: “It’s time to brush your teeth.” Pg 139
This piece of advice appears in just one line, as you can see, but it’s so good, I just had to include it! I am THE WORST with eye contact. Not just with my child, with pretty much everyone.
As soon as I read that, it resonated with me. One of the things we currently struggle a lot with is the teeth brushing. I feel uncomfortable whenever I know it’s time, because it never goes well. I guess it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So I noticed myself announcing to C that it was time to brush her teeth without actually looking her in the eye. I am definitely going to work on this and see if it helps us both feel more confident about what’s ahead.
And of course, it’s not just about teeth brushing. Janet’s point here is the eye contact. It lets your child know that you are connecting with her and that you mean business. You confidently draw the line when you can make eye contact.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #3: Put periods at the end of your sentences
It’s discomforting for me when you are timid, tentative or evasive. How can I ever feel secure if the people I desperately need to depend on waiver or tiptoe around my feelings? So please put periods at the end of your sentences and then calmly accept my displeasure. Pg 119
Another one I am totally guilty of not doing! I’ve caught myself making a new annoying habit these days: adding “Ok?” to the ends of all my sentences directed at C. And 98% of the time she just ignores me.
Duh! Janet reminded me that the “Ok?” (or the inflection at the end of my sentence as though it were a question) does not exude confidence. A CEO would never speak like that to her employee! It would leave too much doubt.
In my own experience, I hate it when my boss asks me to do something with, “Maybe we should do X,” when she really means, “Can you do X for me.” Like, I get it, it’s not personal, it’s just business, so please give me a direct request!
And this is how we should relate to our children with our requests: directly. No cajoling, no tricking or bribing, no beating around the bush. Just a firm and confident request, with a PERIOD.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #2: It’s normal if your kids act the worst around you
Children are inclined to give those they are closest to (and feel safest with) the backhanded compliment of their worst behavior. Pg 132
This lesson is perhaps the one I struggle with the most. It’s the one that still causes meltdowns—of my own.
I’ve spoken to our nanny at length about how C can act horribly with me all day, and then I drop her off at the nanny’s and she transforms into an angel at the drop of a hat. What the #%#^ is up with that?!
The nanny, bless her, always reassured me that it was the same with all children, even her own. I still have trouble with this problem, but Janet takes it one step further to help me understand why my child is one way with me and another way with someone else: it’s a question of my child feeling safe enough to test out all sorts of behavior—and knowing that I can handle anything she throws at me.
So really, it’s a testament to my strength as a mama, not my weakness. I can confidently deal with her terrible behavior, which is really just developmentally appropriate behavior. All kids need to test limits. They need to test their parents’ limits the most, because it’s with their parents that they should feel most safe to test.
Elevating Childcare Lesson #1: You aren’t taking care of yourself if you’re yelling
[K]now your limits and personal needs, and establish boundaries with your child from the beginning. Pg 135
We all give up much of our lives for our children, but it is unhealthy for us (and even less healthy for our kids) to become an egoless parent, neglecting our needs and virtually erasing ourselves from the relationship. Pg 136
Janet has an entire chapter at the end of her book about why parents yell. She lists several reasons, but this one resonated with me the most. Because yes, I yell. A lot. I wish I didn’t.
But her words reminded me of something I know to be true: I am not taking enough time for self-care, and I haven’t done since C was born.
Janet is adamant that self-care doesn’t necessarily mean a bubble bath in all situations. It means establishing boundaries with your child. So make eye contact, put a period on the end of your sentence, and state your limit confidently like a CEO!
It’s a selfless thing to become a parent and to be responsible for a dependent infant. But it’s crucial that we as parents retain something for ourselves. Remember the person you were before you became a mama? Yeah. You still are that person. You are not less worthy of enjoying stuff you used to enjoy just because you had a baby.
Some self-care things I do for myself that help me establish boundaries with my child are:
Keeping a professional activity—whether that’s remote or onsite, full- or part-time
Not rushing to get her out of bed as soon as I hear she’s awake
Enlisting the help of a nanny
Letting papa take over when I need a break
Giving our dog the attention he deserves, because yes, he’s there for my mental health too
Okay, I basically don’t wear makeup anymore. Or bras for that matter. On the outside, it might look like I “let myself go” or some shit like that. But I know that if I can do a couple of those things on the list above every day, I feel much more balanced in my life, and I can better enjoy time with my child (and deal with her when she tests my self-care limits).
A Guide to Respectful Parenting
I hope you enjoyed this peek into Janet Lansbury’s book, Elevating Childcare. Maybe these lessons have given you an idea or two. I certainly thought they were worth sharing with you here!
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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