We recently contacted award winning parenting expert, Brenda Nixon, M.A., author and speaker, who empowers and inspires confidence in parents of tots to teens. Brenda’s books include The Birth to Five Book, her co-authored A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, and she’s a contributor to 30 titles, including several in the New York Times best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Brenda loves to keep busy speaking, writing, and hosting her weekly radio show, The Parent’s Plate.
We wanted Brenda to share with you a little bit about what she does and inspire confidence in your parenting abilities today. Here is our interview with her:
Please tell us a bit about what you do and about your weekly radio show, The Parent’s Plate.
Empowering parents in their enormous task is my passion. I express this passion through speaking, writing, teaching, and hosting a weekly show, The Parent’s Plate, every Tuesday morning, 10-11 AM (EST) (free). The Parent’s Plate show gives practical parenting tips mixed with child development in an enlightening, encouraging and entertaining format. Be prepared for helpful and relaxed conversation as I chat with fun guest experts about anything and everything that crowds a parent’s plate from teething, to tantrums, to teen drivers.
What inspired you to want to help parents and families?
As a teacher at heart (also by formal training), I love sharing information and ideas. If you believe in divine guidance, then you’ll understand that I felt called to build stronger, healthier families by empowering parents with education and encouragement. Whether speaking, writing another book or magazine article, teaching child-rearing classes, or hosting my radio show, it is with the goal of helping parents understand their child’s development and apply that information with enhanced skills and confidence.
What advice do you have for new parents as they begin their parenting journey?
The first advice is to remember there are no perfect parents…at least here on earth. You will make mistakes and blunders. Be the best you can by learning, growing, asking questions, reading books, and continually improving your child-rearing skills and parent/child relationship. Just as you’d take continuing education for a job, try to continue learning in your parent career.
Second, keep a healthy balance of rules and relationship. If you are all about enforcing rules, without grace, then your child will grow to resent you. If you are all about keeping harmony at the cost of discipline, then your child will disrespect you. Children need rules, boundaries and limits but they also need a loving, mature parent who wants to invest in a relationship that will last a lifetime.
As you know, sleep can be an issue for many families from birth through 5 years of age. What tips do you offer to parents who are struggling with sleep issues?
Depending upon a child’s age, adjust your response – or strategy for sleep. In fact, I’ve a story about my daughter Laura and her resistance to bedtime in The Birth to Five Book and how we handled it.
After birth, the newborn doesn’t care about our day/night routines. Sleeps happens whenever there is fatigue. I encourage parents not to worry about sleep issues (which are few) in the first months. Love, cuddle, rock, and hold your newborn as much as you want.
When a baby is around 3 – 5 months, parents can begin putting their wee one to bed while he/she is sleepy but not fully asleep. That way, the baby learns to self-comfort and go to sleep without being held or rocked. The goal is to teach your tot self-reliance; to go to sleep and stay in bed without your assistance (providing you aren’t practicing the Family Bed style of parenting).
Toddlers are usually still in a crib and “confined” so there’s little climbing out and wandering the house at night. At this age, it’s important to teach a tot that once in bed, stay in bed. If your little one wakes during the night crying, perhaps because of a nightmare, it’s fine to go in the room, lean over the crib and rub his/her back or just be a brief comforting presence in the room. But do not turn on lights, drag out food, or lift your tot out of bed or you send the message that waking at night is a great way to get Mom or Dad’s attention and activity.
Neurologically and developmentally, toddlers can get through the night without food or social interaction. It’s reasonable to expect them to stay in bed and asleep.
Preschoolers hate to be separated from “the action,” which is usually Mom or Dad. Many sleep issues arise in these years because kids resist bedtime and don’t stay in bed once they are there; making it exasperating for parents. It takes a little proactive planning to teach your preschooler to get to bed on time and stay there. You cannot “make” a child sleep but, you can provide the regular evening routine that signals bedtime and you can turn out the lights so their bodies and minds relax.
Babies change significantly as they become toddlers. Toddlers seek to become more independent and to test the limits of what they can and cannot do. What are your ideas for how parents can positively set limits with their toddlers?
All children feel secure when there are rules, boundaries and limitations. It’s natural for them to push to see where these limits are. Good parents recognize that it’s natural for kids to test limits and that it’s necessary for them to be kind and firm in enforcing limits.
With toddlers, you add the powerful drive of curiosity, no understanding of safety, and emerging physical freedom and you have the mix for many discipline situations. I encourage parents to use redirection, positive phrasing, and consequences to help their toddlers become independent yet safe. There are 8 ways to get kids to mind and I share these on my “Creative Discipline” CD. If anyone wants to order a copy they can email me for details firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s families seem to be busier than ever and with more hectic lives than previous generations. There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to advice for how we should be parenting and raising our families. This sometimes causes feelings of guilt or inadequacy for parents who are feel they may not be doing enough or who feel they could make a wrong choice that affect their child’s well being. What do you tell parents about how to deal with parenting guilt or feeling that they may not be parenting the “right” way?
Parenting is a guilt-producing profession. Regardless of what I did at times, I questioned myself. Through the years of child-rearing, I’ve learned there’s a difference between guilt and feeling bad. Guilt is the result of purposefully doing wrong while feel bad comes from wishing we could do better or things were different. So if we examine it; as parents we are not guilty of anything, however at times we wish things were different or better in our skills or with our relationship with our kids.
To relieve the angst of feeling you aren’t parenting “the right way” I encourage you to take a four-pronged approach: (1) read books about child development so you understand what’s normal for your tot’s age, (2) talk to seasoned parents for their advice, (3) remember your child has no frame of reference; whatever you do he/she thinks is normal, and (4) keep in mind that there are no “perfect” parents…on Earth. If you’re a person of faith, as I am, you can always ask the Perfect Parent for his guidance.
If you want to learn more, check out The Birth to Five Book: Confident Childrearing Right from the Start available online and get autographed copies from Brenda by sending her an e-mail. Contact her at speaker2parents(at)juno.com.
We want to thank Brenda for taking the time to answer all of our questions and sharing information about her books and The Parent’s Plate