Monday, May 21, 2012

Avocado Bacon

I really miss avocado on toast, this was the best I could come up with :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How do you view Childhood?

I'm doing a subject at the moment called "Constructions of Childhood", that investigates the ways that people and society view and position children. It is based around the work of Reesa Sorrin, who presented ten possible constructs that people might adhere to.
This post briefly outlines 5 of those constructs, but I shall follow up with the other 5 in another post.

The Child as Innocent
Fairly self-explanatory, this construct sees children as naive, carefree and good. However, also includes naturalistic ideals of children as vulnerable seedlings to be nutured and cared for.
Can look like:
  • Shielding children from something adults believe is too mature,  too scary or otherwise 'damaging' in some way.
  • Gentle, or instructive discipline techniques. 
  • Helicopter or cotton-wool parenting, where children are monitored and protected from every potential harm.

The Child as Evil
This basically means that children are viewed as inherently naughty/bad and in need of strict guidance. Historically it came from the idea that children are 'born of sin', and need severe discipline (in the form of physical violence, strict rules and routines, and minimal frivolity) in order to become 'good' adults. .
Can look like:
  • Harsh infant sleep training methods.
  • Corporal punishments such as spanking and mouth-washing, and belief that undesirable behaviours would be solved if "parents would just stop being so soft and smack the kids"
  • Labels such as "brat", "obnoxious", "entitled".

The Child as an Adult-in-Training
Childhood is seen as a stage on the way to becoming an adult, with children moving up a "ladder of competence" until they reach the pinnacle of adulthood. This view sees children as deficit, and the emphasis is on becoming, rather than being. Much research on child development is through the lense of this construct, see for example Piaget, Eriksson and Freud.
Can look like:
  • Dreaming about the future careers that children might pursue, or the families they may start.
  • Formal education, academic or music tutoring, sports training.
  • Programs such as "Your Baby Can Read", and  "Junior Kumon"

The Child as a Commodity
Children are objectified and consumed by adults for entertainment or gratification. Children's best interests are subsumed by adult self-interest, and any child agency or power is often closely controlled and created by the adults involved. Also usually plays upon other constructs and positions children as certain stereotypes.
Can look like:
  • Child beauty pageants.
  • Sexualised advertising using children as models.
  • End of year school/class performances.
  • Publication of student test scores by schools.

The Child as Agentic
This construct positions children as their own valid human beings, with their own legitimate wants, needs and interests. Childhood is seen as an important time of being in it's own right, and children are recognised as social actors who actively participate in the environment, in their learning and in their own lives.
Can look like:
  • Reggio Emilia inspired education philosophies.
  • Adult-child collaboration and negotiation. Power is shared evenly.
  • When children's opinions are genuinely listened to and considered, with respect. 

Of course, most people don't subscribe to just one construct, but a combination of several. How you see children is very much dependent on your own life, upbringing, culture and experiences. A good way to work out how you view children is to draw a mind-map of all the words you can think of when you think of children, and then categorising which construct those words are aligned with.

When I did this, I realised that I strongly see children as Agentic, but also (I was surprised to discover) as Innocent and Adults-in-Training, and am now acutely aware of how my parenting and teaching philosophies reflect this. I believe that becoming aware of my underlying value systems and beliefs helps me to become a more mindful and reflective parent and future educator.

So how do you view children and childhood? I'd love to hear your responses, and how they affect your own attitudes and lives.
The other constructs Sorrin talks about are the Child as: Victim, Saviour, Snowballing, Out-of-Control, and Minature Adult. If you don't relate to any of the above, maybe you'll see it in the next post.

Can't wait to add the rest of Sorrin's constructs, will do as soon as I get time!

Sorin, R. (2005). Changing images of childhood: Reconceptualising early childhood practice. International Journal of Transitions in Childhood. (1), 12–21.

Weekly Dinner Plan

Sunday - was BBQ with steaks, lamb chops and sausages, I made a cucumber salsa from the 21 Day Suagr Detox manual, and mum made a potato salad (which I did sneak a little egg and bacon from)

Monday - chinese spiced veal mince with thinly sliced cucumber and carrot in rice paper rolls. I know, not paleo, but I think white rice is a safe occasional indulgence and I had tried to replace them with steamed cabbage and it just didn't quite work out.

Tuesday - I made a sort of paleo cabonara that had bacon, chicken, coconut milk, a few herbs and garlic, and peeled zucchini noodles. Delicious! My sister made a non paleo one simultaneously which WildChild was interested in and I was expecting a meltdown, but I served her the zucchini noodles that had no green on and she thought they were pasta! Problem Solvered!

Wednesday - Making macadamia crusted barramundi tonight :) adpated from this recipe. With cherry tomato salsa and baked asparagus.

Will update with the rest of the week's meals soon!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Time for a plan

Sitting next to the lake at uni getting a good dose of vitamin D, and contemplating how to clean up my diet.
There are certain circumstances that it can be really hard to stay paleo. One of those is when you live with my mother.
My dad is no problem because he has read The Paleo Solution (finally after much arguing with me) and is a complete convert. Mum, however, has not and will not read it. She is addicted to the bakery section of Coles, loves skim milk, thinks every meal must contain either pasta, rice or white potatoes, and is basically the nemesis of my desired diet.
Its okay when I go shopping with her because I can steer her away from the baked goods and the pasta aisle, and she only gets away with a few naughties when I'm not quick enough. But sometimes she sneaks out without me and comes back with cargoes of cakes, pastries, lasagnas and pizzas..... :|
I try to resist, I really do. But that shit is hard! Every paleo blogger out there instructs you to rid your house of junk because resisting temptation is too hard. Yet here I am, week after week, having to stare at Apple Danishes. Argh!
So I think it's time for a meal planner.
Here's my plan of attack:
1. Seek out awesome and delicious paleo-friendly dinner recipes.
2. Pick 6 to make in the next week (one night for crazy spontaneous wild eating)
3. Create a shopping list of everything I'll need, and go buy it.
4. Don't let mum buy anything!
5. Eat as planned.
I'm only planning dinner because breakfast is always some combination of eggs, bacon, veggies, seasoning, and lunch is left-over dinner or salad. Sometimes I go nuts on the weekend with paleo pancakes or similar.
Okay off to search recipes now... wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Breastfeeding, Biology and Behaviourists

I recently read this post by Janet Lansbury in which she outlined a debate, between Annie from PhD in Parenting and herself, that was about breastfeeding as comfort for infants. Janet agrues that breastfeeding an upset infant for comfort is akin to just filling their mouth to shut them up; that it is creating unhealthy assosications between food, comfort, and emotions; and that it can be better to just hold the infant while they cry (she also believes that children's thumbs are a preferable, and more natural comfort source).
Annie counters that breastfeeding is not always about eating; is the naturally intended source of comfort for infants; and also that research suggests it encourages healthier eating and greater independence later on for children.
I could see the value that both women brought to the debate, although I tended to agree with Annie more often because of my own experiences with my WildChild.
Then I forgot about it.

Until...This semester I started a class called 'Positive Behaviour Support' in which my tutor, Margie, said that she also does some work managing infant behaviours, especially around weaning (following a question asked by my classmate about her two year old daughter's trantrums - caused by weaning from the dummy).
Margie holds the view that behaviour, no matter who or how old you are, is to get or avoid something, and that the something is either activity, sensory stimulation, or social attention. She also believes that infants and young children are simply trying to get sensory stimulation when they turn to their mother's breast or the dummy for comfort, and that it is simply a matter of replacing the stimulation when weaning. She also believes that relieving a baby's cries is silencing their emotions.

Both Janet Lansbury and Margie (and my Positive Behaviour Support textbook) are right on board with what is called "Behaviourism", made famous by men such as Skinner, Pavlov and Bandura. They believe that the best way to alter behaviour is to manipulate the preceding events (antecedents) and the consequences. I absolutely see the usefullness of this, and the neccessity of it, in the classroom environment especially.
My problem is this. We are talking about infants, and very young children; and we are talking about breastfeeding and suckling.

I don't believe that breastfeeding (and breastfeeding replacements like dummies and bottles) are just about food, just about comfort, or just a behaviour to be manipulated. I think it's also about human biology.

breastfeeding in UgandaKatherine Dettwyler, PhD, has written an oft-cited paper called A Natural Age of Weaning (found here), in which she compares humans, cross-culturally and against other primates, and infers that the natural age of weaning for humans to be somewhere between 2 and 7 years of age. This PDF by Linda Palmer also examines historical weaning inferences and data from archeological digs, which support this. To me, this indicates that our cultural ideas about weaning (in Australia usually between 1 and 2, in some countries even earlier) are totally at odds with what our biology demands.
Treating breastfeeding, weaning and substitutes just like behaviour to be managed is oversimplifying the reasons children need these things.

Something that has consistently stopped me from weaning WildChild is the belief that if I wean her too early she will be missing part of her natural biology. There are stem cells in it after all. I also think it's possible that humans are designed to suck for comfort when young, so if the breast is denied they will suck their thumb or a dummy. It's no coincidence that many children need these substitutes up to age 3 and 4, it's in their design. Which is why I don't believe it is no-big-deal to mess with the breastfeeding (or dummy etc) relationship. It is something to be considered very carefully.

I believe WildChild deserves a say in when we end breastfeeding, as i would if she used a dummy or her thumb for comfort. I won't give her total control, but I wont be a dictator either.

What do you think? Is breastfeeding etc, for 'just' comfort, simply like any other behaviour? What's your opinion on weaning from comfort objects, should it be child-led, mother-led, or negotiated?

Disclaimer: I'm sharing my personal thoughts about my own situation, please don't be upset if you have weaned or never breastfed your children, I am not judging in any way. I understand the many many obstacles women face both physically and culturally. If you love your child you are a good parent.