12 April 2011

The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy
Humans are social creatures. We rely on socialization to fight boredom, to idle our time away, to learn from one another, to teach one another, to rely on one another. The school of Attachment, or Natural, Parenting is no new school; in fact, it is the oldest school of parenting, which, unfortunately, in recent centuries has seemed to have fallen by the wayside in Western culture. Attempts to revive the parenting theory and reeducate compartmentalized families have been making strides - in 2010, almost two-thirds of male infants were reportedly left intact; the U.S. government has provided provisions in tax code and the current First Lady is on a roll to promote breastfeeding; many hospitals encourage what they call "Kangaroo Care," promoting skin-to-skin contact for infants and both parents, as soon as possible after birth. Advancement towards regression to the natural manner of parenting is moving slowly but surely. Like most other mammals, we evolved as a species that provides milk to their young, that teaches use of tools and reserves of knowledge, and that lives in a nurturing and dependent community (and as a species we are considerably young; despite our recent advancements in the last century or two in relation to science and "civilization," our modern way of life is just a blip on the radar thus far). Our young are born least developmentally mature and require the most care in their first formative years compared to other primates. What better way to care for our young than in a natural way, the way we evolved to raise and be raised?

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. I've heard numerous times from numerous people that I'm not doing X correctly - I should be doing Y. I'm guilty of likewise opening my big mouth to suggest that other parents try to do X even though everyone will tell them that Y is best (a lot of time X is Breastfeeding and Y  is Not Breastfeeding). I tend to suggest rather than berate, though, so my suggestions usually at least get considered. I try to advocate Natural Parenting, without coming off as a Crunch-zi.

So how does one advocate gently and compassionately? I'm going to call my suggestion The Three R's: Respect; Reason; Represent.

The first thing to remember when talking to other parents and trying to meet eye-to-eye on an issue is that everyone likes to be approached respectfully. Don't berate another parent because they don't breastfeed, don't co-sleep, don't carry their babies... You can ask why they don't X, or even better, share your own experience with a positive outcome, for both you and your child. Opening a dialogue will yield progress and possibly even change. One must be respectful of other parents' decisions, also, though, even if you don't agree. The very best thing you can do is try to show why following the guidelines of natural, responsive parenting works so well for you while maintaining respect for other parents. It may not sink in immediately, but if you're argument is made with consideration for the various factors in another's life, it's much more likely to really be absorbed and adopted. Maybe not now, but the seeds that are sowed with love and respect are much more likely to be nurtured and reaped.

Good reasoning also helps arguments immensely. Knowledge is one of the most powerful persuasive tools. Try and share it! By backing up your arguments with sound, verifiable knowledge, you are much more likely to get your point across. "It worked for me," isn't always the answer people want to hear when they ask why. Even by simply sharing a short article with your friends on FaceBook (which is how I come across loads of interesting information!), you're again planting seeds. Even if your friends aren't quite in the parenting stage yet or have surpassed where you are, it helps to share that knowledge - they'll in turn retain it for their next go around or when they're finally ready to dive into parenting. With trends indicating an interest in going green, there are lots of people looking for ways to save the planet, too, both through cutting their expenses and reducing their environmental impact. Green is a large tenet of Natural Parenting, so share your compost secrets, how you save on your organic foods, and what you do to cut your waste at home! Subtle suggestions masked in interesting reads help that knowledge to be retained and hopefully passed on. 

Lastly, and probably the most effective way to advocate anything, is to represent! Teach and lead by example! So often, we don't realize just how often we get noticed - and in that moment we are noticed by a stranger, they may pick up on something we're doing - wearing a baby, comforting a child, nursing in plain view of the public, even! - which may make them think or even ask a question! A lot of times you won't get recognition for doing a good thing - it isn't always obvious, but that's no reason not to do it. When you feel strongly about something, particularly a manner in which to care for your child, do it proudly and hope to inspire others to do the same with their lives!

My Crunchy Little Man - He's got a fruit basket waiting

We so often think that the actions we present to the rest of the world go unnoticed; it is in this minutia that the most valuable lessons are taught and received. A simple observation can change an attitude, create a question, and form a quest for self-betterment of the observer. It is each individual's duty to do their best to present themselves to the world in the manner they would like to perceived, as perceptions are most often the way others define you. Live respectfully and hope to inspire!

What do you advocate for? How do you do it? Share in the comments or on the FaceBook.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. Your first R is so important, and I think it's the one that is often lost in the endless internet debates about parenting topics. If we all concentrated more on respecting each other, perhaps we could improve communication. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I think you've nailed it. :)
    And it seems to be a theme in today's Carnival: soap-boxless advocacy.
    Despite my shameless baby-wearing and NIP habits, I still find myself feeling sheepish about sharing the details of my family's sleeping arrangement, crunchy as it may be. So, keep it up, advocates! You never know who you're going to inspire or comfort through your gentle sharing.

  3. I've found something that really helps me respect other parents' decisions (even when I disagree with them!) is realizing always that they love their child just as much as I love mine, and we're all trying to do our best for our kids. It goes a long way in reminding me of that respect.

    Thanks for the awesome post! :)

  4. Ok, that is one adorable little man you've got there. What a cute picture!!

    Oh, and your post is great too :-)

    I especially love your last R. The others are important too, but there is nothing like showing instead of telling!

  5. Great post for CarNatPar! I like how you broke down advocacy to it's most important components. We've got to be firm in our base (and that's different than being firm in our convictions) before we try to explain to anyone else what we are passionate about. I think most natural parents follow the soapbox-less approach in real life, at least to people's faces. But, they get tripped up behind a keyboard. I think that face to face aspect can bring out the mama bear (to quote another carnatpar blog) and leave out the 3 r's.

    And your little guy is too cute for words!

  6. I should write Respect Reason Represent on an index card and post it somewhere to remind me... not just for natural parenting advocacy, but life in general! Thanks for a great post.

  7. I agree that living, and perhaps teaching by example (most often unintentionally) is the best thing to do. I often find people approach me with questions all by themselves. And respect is, I think, one of the essentials of attachment parenting. Of course, we should respect those who do things differently as well.

  8. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree with Dionna - that respect is SO important. And I believe it shows if it's a fake respect just put on for show. We all need to really take a moment and step outside ourselves and realize we don't know what's best for other people's children. We need to respect the other parents and believe that they are doing their best. From there, we can be present with them in a relationship of mutual respect and share our own experiences.

  9. I liked your point about using social media such as facebook as an avenue to share tidbits of info on natural parenting with friends. I loved your wording " subtle suggestions masked as interesting reads". :-) Great idea!

  10. I agree! I think it shows respect to just sit and listen to another Mama. If she asks you, then you offer what you do and how you came to the decision. Listening before sharing shows great respect.