6
Aug

6 Natural, Ancestral Ways To Increase Your Child’s Social Success

by Guest in Children

6 Natural, Ancestral Ways To Increase Your Child’s Social Success

I was a pretty shy kid.

Until I was 13 years old, my parents literally had to coax me out of my bedroom (where I was typically buried in a medieval fantasy novel) to get me to simply shake the hands of our visitors and look them in the eye.

Then I’d quickly duck back into my room.

But somehow I survived college and a modern working environment (barely!) and I’m now raising my twin boys to give them as much social success and social confidence as possible, and today’s article will delve into six natural and ancestrally-based ways that you can do the same.

The Importance of Tribes

Many of our animal relatives spend a great deal of their time wandering or living in tribes, groups, flocks, herds and schools – even going so far as to eat bugs off the body of their friends and families. Although I’m a fan of the burgeoning cricket protein food movement, I’ll admit I am somewhat glad we humans aren’t necessarily social to the extent of grooming via bug-picking. But unfortunately, nowadays we don’t even come close to the tribal attachments displayed in nature or in our ancestry.

But consider this: in multiple studies, relationships and spending time with family and close friends is consistently correlated with amazingly higher levels of happiness and well-being. Despite this fact, the last several decades have seen a significant decline in many aspects associated with tight-knit social circles – including qualities like family and household size, club and social participation, and number of close friends.

Sadly, we’ve instead witnessed an increase in solo or isolated activities such as television, long commutes, the internet, and digital relationships.

In other words, we seem to be making a stark transition from tribe to individual. However, we humans are biologically hard-wired to be social animals. As a matter of fact, we’re such social animals that the mere act of joining a club (e.g. dance club, chess club, bridge club, tennis club, golf club, etc.) halves your chance of death in the next year. Or consider the fact that – as mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers – living in a close-knit town of three-generation households can singlehandedly lower your risk of heart disease.

So how can you get a jump-start on making your kid ready for tribal interaction that makes them live longer and be happier?

During early childhood development, from birth to 3 years old, much of our neurobiology and core personalities are formed. To increase propensity for social and tribal engagement, increase empathy and decrease risk of anxiety and depression in children, it is during this time that it becomes highly important to simulate the close-knit parent-child bonds displayed both in nature and in the practices of our hunter gatherer ancestors. I realize that was a mouthful, but in a nutshell, we can begin by increasing attachment at an earlier age.

For example, in a recent national symposium, University of Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez highlighted six key practices consistent with the concept of attachment parenting (a philosophy originally championed by well-known pediatrician Dr. William Sears). The six practices for increasing attachment are detailed below.

Six Ways To Increase Attachment in Kids

1) Natural birth: Research shows that medical interventions such as C-sections, whisking a baby away from a mother and off into a separate ward for post-birth testing or treatment, and baby formula feedings can inhibit important hormones like oxytocin from being released, which interferes with the natural mother-baby bonding process that jumpstarts the tribal feeling.

2) Breastfeeding: Many of our previous ancestral cultures breastfed their infants for two to five years. This not only helps to form a properly functioning gut-based immune system, but also decreases anxiety and forms important social bonds between a child and mother. Obviously, if you have a high schooler you can’t do much about this, but if you are currently expecting or currently breastfeeding, I recommend you take breastfeeding to at least the two years old level.

3) Cuddling: Along with the nutritional value of breast milk, kids develop a sense of wellbeing from the positive touch that breastfeeding involves. Positive touch has benefits to brain development, hormone-functioning, and appropriate social interactions. For this reason, breastfeeding into later ages is important, as is co-sleeping, and plenty of cuddling. My wife Jessa, me and our six year old twin boys River and Terran often simply lay on the living room couch in a big pile of family togetherness for 20 minutes after they get out of bed – and I can feel that oxytocin surging through my veins.

4) Responsiveness: In most ancient cultures, there was not much value placed in letting a baby fuss or cry. Don’t worry – comforting your child when distressed is not going to ruin their chances of becoming a tough, Spartanesque, future Cross-fit games champion or some other kind of professional athlete (if that’s what you desire in a kid). In contrast, children who have responsive parents tend to develop greater empathy, they tend to develop a conscience earlier, and they will be set to interact more cooperatively with a tribe.

5) Multiple Adult Caregivers: Our early infant ancestors benefited from being cared for not just by mom and dad, but by other adults and tribe members who loved them. Surrogate parents also help to share some of the burden of parenting, helping to prevent parental exhaustion. For this reason, raising up children in some sort of a tribe setting can bestow an incredible advantage to your kids and to you too. This approach can save you work, since with other trusted caregivers around, you have more time flexibility. In many cultures, kids run around everywhere with their parents nowhere in sight. But all the neighbors know each other. There are aunts, uncles and other family members and friends who are keeping their eyes on the kids. As Eric D. Kennedy describes it in his excellent online essay “On the Social Lives of Cavemen”, there is a healthy middle ground between not being allowed to cross the street and a high school house party. As children are allowed to become independent of parents, they are able to do it, but within a trusted support network of family and friends.

6) Free Play (With Kids Of Varying Ages). This concept actually builds on the concept of having multiple adult caregivers. Our ancestors’ children weren’t separated into age-specific play circles, but were instead exposed to kids at different stages of development – thus enhancing the child’s physical and mental growth. I’d highly recommend you read a recent article in The Atlantic (available for free online) entitled “The Overprotected Kid”. The article describes how preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery, without making it safer. It goes on to describe new kind of free-play, junk-yard type playground. This miniature outdoor city is full of fire, fences, mud, wood scraps, tires, and other random materials where children of all ages spend the entire day exploring, forming tribes and generally being left to “fend for themselves” – but under the watchful eye of older tribe members such as friends, family members and parents who are within close proximity – distant but present.

Contrast these reasonable risks with casual tribal supervision with our modern practice of extreme supervision by parents only, antibacterial hand sprays, plush bumper-guarded playground equipment, shouting at kids not to “run with sticks” and other ridiculous coddling, and it’s understandable why children are not only growing weak and fragile, but more socially anxious, less cooperative, and more picky and judgmental about spending time with anyone outside their peer group.

Practical Steps You Can Take

So from a practical standpoint, what can you do to implement some of the tips you’ve just learned? Try these quick tips:

-Breastfeed to a later age and don’t be embarrassed about it. Cuddle. Be responsive if your child cries or gets hurt.

-Make friends with your neighbors, try to live close to family if possible, kick your children outside to play for long hours, make sure they know it’s OK to play with a mix of older and younger kids, and then quit worrying. They’ll survive.

-Have family dinners. Have dinner parties. Read the good book “Never Eat Alone” and incorporate the same concepts into your childrens’ lives.

-Have your kids spend more time with trusted adults who aren’t their parents. Then do the same for yourself, spending time with the kids of adults who trust you. Hang out with mixed age groups and make sure your kids do too. Have your kids spend more time at older people’s homes or with grandma and grandpa.

-Become familiar with the concept of unschooling (visit Unschoolery.com). Unschooling is simply a rough version of learning that prepares a child for life, for being an entrepreneur, for learning anything, and for being autonomous. Whether your child is homeschooled, in private school, or public school, you can use unschooling concepts to generate important lifelong skills. Pay very close attention to what your children develop a natural interest in, and then teach them to learn about the world through activities, trips, and adventures. For example, our kids have recently become interested in singing. But rather than going out and purchasing formal music curriculum, we started playing a home version of the singing competition “The Voice”, we record songs on the computer with a microphone, we bought an electronic keyboard, and we brought them to a musical.

Ben Greenfield is an ex-bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, professional Spartan racer, coach, speaker and author of the New York Times Bestseller “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life” (http://www.BeyondTrainingBook.com). In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the year and in 2013 was named by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. Ben blogs and podcasts at http://www.BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and twin boys.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

5 Comments

24
Jul

The Great Cloth Diaper Debate

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

The Great Cloth Diaper Debate

Which is better…disposable or cloth? The diaper wars have begun and you must choose sides….muhawww.

New parents are faced with many decisions, one of them choosing whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. There are advantages and disadvantages for each diaper type. This issue can be a hot one among parents, a part of parenting politics so to speak, and it seems that you must choose sides. What side of the fence will you choose to be on? Either you’re gonna be a tree hugging, diaper-washing hippie or a landfill-filling, Pamper camper. You’re a pawn in the diaper war…it’s your move.

But perhaps you have decided to compromise and use a combination of both and maybe even throw in a third diaper type for kicks…the more environmentally friendly disposable diaper or the flushable diaper.

Cloth diapers are better for the environment as they don’t end up choking landfills. Deposits can be shaken out into the toilet and processed properly instead of leaking into the ground. There are styles with Velcro fastening diaper covers or snaps meaning more comfort and fewer leaks. Some are “all in one” and resemble a disposable in ease of getting on and off baby.

But, you’ve got to wash them. When you’re out and about, you’ll have to carry the soiled diaper with you instead of pitching them in the closest trash can. The initial cost can be expensive, though you’ll save money in the long run. If you elect to use a diaper service, that will cost you  money but there’s an environmental cost to consider as well with the use of bleach and detergents on such a grand scale.

In addition to being used as burp cloths and washcloths, prefold cloth diapers can be used for other things such as dust cloths, hand & kitchen towels, to wash windows and cars, and to polish silver when your baby is done using them for diapers. Obviously, get rid of the worst looking ones. Considering dyeing some of the others for variety or to match your décor.

You can’t beat disposable diapers for convenience. Use it. Toss it. If you’re visiting a new location and run out of diapers at midnight, most corner stores and gas stations will have them for sale. Though there are more and more options for local cloth diapers too. I heard that infamous big box store has them.

Disposable diapers use up space in landfills adding plastic, chemicals, and sewage often wrapped in another plastic bag. They are also expensive and since they are often purchased at grocery stores, the cost is hidden in the grocery bill. Children wearing disposable diapers often potty train later, which increases the amount of diapers the child will wear through infancy.

There are pros and cons for both but in the long run cloth comes out ahead if you care about saving money, living with simplicity, and protecting resources and planet. If you don’t care about any of those things you may be reading the wrong blog. Just sayin. ;)

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

14 Comments

7
Jul

Extend the Growing Season Into Fall & Winter

by Tiffany in Gardening

Extending the Growing Season Into Fall and Winter

No matter where you live, there are crops and gardening techniques that allow you to enjoy homegrown produce year round.  Sure you can go to just about any supermarket, even in the dead of winter and buy all sorts of vegetables, but they won’t be as good as what comes right out of your own garden. Being more self reliant, independent, and living more sustainably also means trying to grow as much food as we can, all year long.  Here are some season extending ideas, as well as a discussion on which crops do well when days get short and temperatures dip low.

One simple technique for extending the season is the use of floating row covers.  At the beginning of your growing season as well as at the end, covers made of very thin lightweight fabric will protect your crops from cool weather damage, while still allowing 90% of sunlight to reach the plants.  This will add about two weeks of growing time at either end of the season and it is an affordable solution.

No matter where you live, succession planting is also really smart.  If you plant all your beans at the same time, they will all mature at the same time.  This is perfectly okay if you plan on canning most of your harvest, but if you want to eat your beans right after picking, it is best to spread out your harvest. New beans, greens, veggies, etc will mature with each week, making sure you have a steady harvest all summer long and even into fall.  With beans, carrots, lettuce, peas, etc. sow your seeds about a week apart from early spring to the beginning of July, and you will enjoying fresh produce well after summer has ended.

row cover for vegetable gardening in the winter

Photo Source: Agora Gardens

We always plant what we like to eat, but you should also consider what varieties do well in your particular area.  Leeks and brussels sprouts for instance, take a very long time to grow, but do really well in cooler climates because they actually sweeten a bit after enduring a late fall frost. Planting brussels in late summer means a yummy harvest for Thanksgiving and even Christmas. Carrots and potatoes can remain in the ground for months after maturity and harvested while the ground is still workable.  There are broccoli, lettuce and pea varieties that can be sown in mid summer for harvest in late fall. If frost or snow is a concern it is time to look into cold frames, a greenhouse, or grow hoops using supports and plastic covers. Supports and cover plastic can fit over your existing garden beds.

Finally, preserve your harvest.  Freezing vegetables is easy to do and allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor throughout the year.  Grow some herbs and they can be dried and saved for years. Learn about canning.  While you may not have the time or space to grow a variety of fruit,  canning peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, etc. from a local farmers market will supply you with healthy produce all year long.

You would be surprised at how long gardens will be produce, well into the fall and even early winter.  Some plants are delicate while others can be pretty tough!  Get those fall peas and lettuces going.  Plant some garlic and shallots in November for next summer’s harvest and watch leeks really thrive as the temperatures drop!

I recommend picking up a copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour. I absolutely lover her books and this one is especially awesome. She lives in Canada where she endures some of the harshest winters around and yet she grows food all year long. This book gives you an excellent step by step overview of how she does it and what she grows. It teaches you how to get a jump on spring, harvest warm weather crops well before you would normally, succession planting into fall, and harvesting throughout winter.

Happy gardening!

veggies in winter

Monday, July 7th, 2014

4 Comments

24
Jun

What You Need to Know Before You Buy Sunscreen

by Tiffany in Beauty

What you need to know before buying sunscreen

Over the years we have had it drilled into our brains that too much sun exposure is bad for us. Sun bathing? Bad, gives you cancer. Tanning? Way bad, gives you cancer and makes you look like a saddle bag by the time you are 30. We have also heard throughout our lives that that the best way to protect our skin and health is to lather ourselves in sunscreen every day, frequently. The American Cancer Society has stated that 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs within the first 18 years of life. This means that children in particular are at risk and that by the time an individual become cognizant of the damage they may be doing due to sun exposure, it is too late. Perhaps this is why children are probably the most likely to be to be smothered in sunscreens by well meaning parents. All that slathering though may be of concern as well. What exactly is in sunscreen? Is it helpful or harmful?

Let’s be real. Protection from the sun is very important but the chemicals we put on our skin can be harmful, especially to our children and that means we need to be concerned about what is in these sunscreens we are putting on ourselves and our children throughout our lives. Typical sunscreens have LOTS of chemicals. Many of those chemical ingredients are pretty nasty. The skin care industry has had to increase the level of chemical compounds in sunscreen in order to raise the sun protection factor (SPF). These compounds soak into the skin.

Upon absorption into the skin, sunscreen can actually form the very dangerous compounds it was meant to block. Researchers found that some commonly used ultraviolet (UV) filters actually soak into the skin’s layers and from there can generate harmful components called reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are substances that can cause skin cancer. Cancer from the product meant to protect from cancer? Yikes.

In addition to the cancer risk, many sunscreen chemicals also have estrogen-like effects. Estrogen is a hormone that affects many aspects of the female body development and functions. Too much exposure to toxic estrogenic chemical sunscreens can increase cancers and cause birth defects in children. Children’s organs are more sensitive to estrogen exposure and can develop abnormalities at their early stages (including embryo, fetus and toddler stages) if exposed. Estrogen mimicking chemicals can also cause other conditions such as fibroids, miscarriage, breast cancer, man-boobs in boys and men, thyroid problems, diabetes, etc. Here are some of the common sunscreen ingredients and their associated “issues”.

Sunscreen-Ingredients1

So what do we NEED to know before we buy sunscreen so that we can stay safe from the harmful effects of too much sun exposure AND the harmful effects of conventional toxic laden sunscreen products? Here are three tips…

Sun Smarts Come Before Sunscreen

Before we reach for a bottle of sunscreen we need to use our noggin and think about ways we can minimize harmful exposure. Sunscreen will always have a place but we can use less of it if we also utilize sun hats, coverups, wraps, scarves, shade umbrellas, and shades areas outdoors. We can’t forget that sun exposure is a GOOD thing. We need sunlight exposure for good health so I will rarely apply sunblock to myself or my kids unless we are going to be in the sun for a prolonged length of time. Otherwise I just let them get some sun and/or use protective clothing to diminish risk. So for a few hours at the zoo…not likely to use it but I will have hats and sunglasses for them and we will be mindful to seek out some shade when we need it. But for an all day trip to the beach…yes I will bring some sunscreen.

Sun Protection Can Be Enhanced By Diet

Good health comes from eating healthy foods. A diet rich in processed foods, grains and sugar will not provide our bodies with the building blocks needed to regenerate healthy tissues, organs, and skin. Sun exposure on a junk food diet is surely going to result in burns and skin damage because the skin just isn’t healthy and resilient the way it is meant to be. We need to be eating foods that give us all the best building materials for healthy cells and skin. This includes lots of saturated fats (yay for coconut oil!), foods rich in omega 3s (fish!), nutrient dense foods like eggs and organ meats, and lots of leafy greens. Summer is also a great time to supplement with cod liver oil, fermented butter oil, vitamin D3, and Vitamin C.

Choose Safer Sunscreens

Avoid the sunscreen isles at drug stores, it’s pretty much all crap. I highly recommend checking out the EWG Skin Deep database for suncreen ratings. All the ones you grew up with are likely on the naughty list but there are several companies make good sunscreen products nowadays. One company that rates very well is Goddess Garden Organics sunscreens. A quick search of the database reveals that most of their sunscreens rate as a one. The lower the number the better and there is no zero, so an excellent rating. Compare the unsavory ingredients list pictured above to the one below with the ingredients found in Goddess Garden sunscreens. It is very refreshing!

goodess garden sunscreen ingredients

I have been using three of their products in my own home for awhile now. I have the Lavender Mint Daily Lotion (SPF 15), the Sunny Face natural sunscreen (SPF 30), and the Sunny Kids Sport Spray (SPF 30). The continuous spray is the only mineral sunscreen in a spray on the market. Additionally, the facial sunscreen is one of two sunscreens on the market with Immortelle Essential Oil, and anti-aging element that evens out skin complexion and makes your skin look more radiant. Both of these aspects make the products pretty special.

Lots of people love to use continuous spray sunscreens because they are so much easier to apply than lotions, especially where wiggly kids are concerned and  when multiple applications will be needed throughout the day. Facial sunscreens are often used to protect our facial skin from the signs of aging and skin damage so one that actually helps improve your complexion while it protects it is awesome. Goddess Garden Organics has a full line-up of sunscreen products for every need. I love the Lavender Mint daily lotion. It is perfect for applying when you will be out for shorter periods of time… a 5K, a hike on your favorite trail, a trip to the zoo, etc.

They are high quality, they work, and they are safe. I feel good using these products on myself and my kids. A safer sunscreen is just one part of a three part plan to stay safe in the sun but it is an essential part and these sunscreens have us covered…literally.

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Goddess Garden Organics provided products for this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

9 Comments

17
Jun

Healthy Snacking With OneBar

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

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Attn: Giveaway at the bottom of this post! This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneBar.

I am not a big fresh fruit eater. I just don’t usually care to grab an apple or an orange, or any fruit really to snack on. Maybe occasionally I might grab a banana or a slice of watermelon (if I am cutting it for the kids) but that is about it. I prefer to eat my “fruit” in some kind of nut/fruit bar or in a green smoothie. Sometimes I have to consciously try to get some fruit into my diet and that is when some kind of snack bar is perfect. That way I can just toss one in my lunch bag or grab one on my way out the door for a quickie snack and I don’t have to feel quite so bad that I am not eating fruit. I also get the benefits of diversity when I eat fruits I would almost never grab for fresh…apples, pears, cherries, mango, etc.

This is why I have been enjoying OneBar. Each bar has a full serving of fruit and the ingredients list is minimal and simple, mostly just fruit and a bit of fruit juice. No added sugar, gluten, or wheat. The bars also contain Baobab, a super fruit new to the US, but well loved for centuries in Africa (especially among nursing mothers). It is fair-trade sourced and full of antioxidants and this fruit product is one of the few that you can get here with Baobab in it. It is said to have more nutrition packed inside it than any other super fruit. Baobab has nearly six times the amount of potassium found in bananas, lots of vitamin C and is a great source of fiber and magnesium.

I love that OneBar fruit works with a paleo diet and that they are small enough to take with me if I am going to be away from home for a spell. Having a snack bar on me means I am not going to cave and get something from a vending machine. Nothing good comes from a vending machine. Plus they are super tasty! The cherry is my fave.

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OneBar is offering my readers a chance to win three boxes (all three OneBar flavors, including Apple, Cherry and Mango). All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter form below. The giveaway will end on Thursday, June 19 at noon PST. If you don’t win, or you can’t wait… you can use coupon code EasyFruit – good for 25% off your total order placed by August 31. Enjoy!

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneBar.

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Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

10 Comments