Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

Gentle Parenting tips, support, and resources

Gentle Parenting is about guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It's about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating. Here you will find parenting tips, articles, and research to help parents, teachers, and caregivers develop a kinder, more peaceful, and instinctive approach to growing our most precious natural resource...our children!

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Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

[Portions reprinted from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

Many people believe that gentle parenting is a form of unparenting, but nothing could be further from the truth. Gentle parenting is involved parenting ~interactive, engaged, active parenting. It takes focused attention, planning, participation, research, and so much more to be an empathetic, responsive parent who is in tune with their child’s needs and who is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to meet those needs. That said, in any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. It is in the choosing and maintaining of those boundaries that gentle parenting distinguishes itself. In a gently parented home, boundaries are focused on guiding rather than controlling children and are maintained through empathetic and creative resolutions rather than harsh punitive consequences. If you’d like to transition to a more gentle mode of parenting, but don’t know where to start, below are links to alternatives to punishment, and here is a guide to help you set yourself up for success in your journey to gentle parenting…12 Steps to Gentle Parenting.

 

When Things Get Physical: Hitting, Throwing, Kicking, and Biting

The concept of using consequences, physical or otherwise, as a deterrent for hitting is based on the misconception that small children have the capacity for forethought (i.e. If I hit, I will get in trouble. Therefore I will not hit.) and that they are choosing to disobey. The fact is that the prefrontal cortex, where reasoning, logic, and forethought take place, is highly immature in toddlers and preschoolers and actually doesn’t develop fully until the mid-twenties! Small children act instinctively and impulsively even when not stressed simply because that is what they are developmentally capable of, but when they are stressed even the small amount of self-control they may have attained flies right out the window, and before they know it (literally!) they’ve reacted physically to their stress. Read more

 

Testing the Boundaries~What’s a Parent to Do?

Typically, I advise parents to use Time-Ins instead of Time-Outs in order to connect-to-correct, but there is one area that I advise the use of Time-Outs…the ‘Time-Out Toy Box!’ When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, drawn on, fought over, etc) and a gentle redirection has been given, the next step for the toy is to be put in the ‘Time-Out Toy Box.’ Little ones generally find the concept of a toy being put in Time-Out rather humorous and go along with the removal without a fuss (the toy can be returned after an exaggeratedly stern warning to the toy letting it know what is expected of it and that it must listen to ‘the boss’ ~the child, lol. They love that!), but remember to communicate, listen, and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, it may be that the inappropriate behavior was more than just…Read more

 

 

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Few things ignite a parent’s temper like defiance. It feels like a slap in the face, a direct challenge to our authority. Power card…played. Gauntlet…thrown. Challenge…accepted?

Time out! No, not time-out as in punish your child, but time out as in hit the parental pause button, take a step back, assess the situation, and get some adult perspective.

There are three things to consider…Read more

 

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-In’s, Oh My!

Punishing them, yelling at them, sending them to their room, or putting them in time-out disconnects them even further from their source of security and not only delays a resolution of the issue, but misses an opportunity to equip them with the tools they need to handle future problems.

One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar…Read more

 

strong willed child

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

There are some children who are born into the world with the incredible life-gift of a strong will and an indomitable spirit. These children are often deeply misunderstood, and there are rows of books lining bookstore shelves with instructions about how to break their will, how to subdue their spirit, how to force their obedience. What an incredible loss of leadership, passion, and insight this world suffers when parents follow these punitive parenting practices. Not only can we parent these gifted children with gentleness and respect, but the gifts we get in return are priceless! Read more

 

 

balktalk is a cry for help

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When a child backtalks, sometimes also referred to as mouthing-off or sassing, they are in the throes of a huge, internal maelstrom of emotion. Whatever they are reacting to in the moment, whether it’s being told ‘no’ about something or being asked to do or not do something, it is rarely those issues that are at the root of the problem. The moment at hand is just the tipping point causing a fissure in the child’s heart that lets out a bit of the steam inside. The real concern should be that there is, metaphorically, steam in the child’s heart to begin with.

It is at this point that parents have the opportunity to model self-control and self-regulation by controlling their own knee-jerk reaction to their child’s backtalk. Instead of meeting fire with fire, childish outburst with childish parental outburst, child’s tantrum with adult tantrum, parents can slow down, breathe through their own emotions, and then listen through the fiery storm of their child’s words to the hurt, fear, and anger behind the words. Read more

 

teddy bear 1

The Problem with Punishment

Want to know a dirty, little secret about punishment?

It doesn’t work.

Punishment may be able to control a child’s behavior temporarily while they’re small or when they are in their parents’ presence, but it cannot control the person.  As with all humans, outward behavior is merely a reflection of our inner selves: our needs, our hurts, our emotional states.

While the temporary ‘payoff’ of punishment may be compliance, the need behind the behavior is never addressed and those needs merely get driven underground and often emerge later in more potentially damaging behaviors such as lying, sneaking, anger, outright rebellion, depression, aggression, addictions, etc. Read more

 

toddler saying no pointing fingerThe ‘No’ Zone

The life of a small child is comprised of a daily onslaught of tempting surfaces begging for the artistry of a crayon, tall places crying out to be scaled, lovely little objects in need of a mouth or nose to visit, and dozens of other alluring glass and liquid and sharp things to be explored through the physics of gravity, the kinetics of concoctions, and the application of Newton’s Laws of Motion. There is only one force powerful enough to defeat this nearly irresistible call of adventure, imagination, and discovery…the No! Read more

 

child belt spankingSpare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

The Bible does NOT command spanking. Dissecting the original Hebrew texts of the ‘rod’ verses. Read more

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

I-spy Water Jars, Quiet Bags, Calm-Me-Jars, Cozy Corners, Punch Bags, and more…Read more

 

 

 

 

 

To a Toddler Sharing is a 4 Letter Word~MINE!

Almost from the moment a baby is born, parents teach them not to share. “No, no, sweetie. That’s mommy’s” and “That’s daddy’s, not yours” accompanied by the removal of whatever the forbidden item is are daily realities for little ones. This is unavoidable, of course, since bacteria-ridden keys don’t belong in little mouths and iphones don’t work well when soaked in drool.

But the challenge comes when our little ‘reflectors’ are expected to share their toys with anyone and everyone who takes a liking to them…Read more

 

Your Baby isn’t Trying to Annoy You; He’s Trying to Communicate! From the moment a child enters the world, they are trying to communicate. Crying, grunting, making eye contact, mirroring expressions, all of these things are the instinctive tools built into infants to reach out into a brand new world and make contact. They can do no more. It is entirely up to the parent to make the connection, to respond, to build those all-important ‘lines of communication’ that will be so vitally important to parents in later childhood. Communication is not something that just happens. It is not something that begins when a child becomes verbal, and it’s not a product of a child’s advancing maturity. Communication is a process, a relational building block, a result of intentional and responsive parenting. Read more

 

Babes and Boundaries~A Gentle Parenting Perspective Gentle parenting doesn’t mean parenting without boundaries! Believe it or not, the foundation for discipline (guiding, leading, teaching…NOT punishment ) begins in the newborn and infancy stages. When parents respond quickly, consistently, and gently to their baby’s cries, the trust relationship that the parent is establishing becomes the cornerstone for later discipline. Boundaries need to be established for a child’s safety and growth into a successful citizen of our world. A child who is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight to be heard or to have his needs met is more open and adaptable to limits. And when the ‘limit-setter’ is a person the child trusts, the enforcement of those boundaries becomes a matter of connection and communication instead of conflict and struggle. So, what might setting and enforcing boundaries using gentle parenting look like in real life? Read more

 

Parenting in Public~What’s in Your Quiet Bag? More and more public places are becoming child un-friendly with snarky signs saying they’ll give your child an espresso and a pony if you don’t control him or charge you extra if you dare to enter their establishment and support their business with your hard-earned money or even flat out ban you altogether if you bring ‘the beast’ out in public with you! So what’s a parent to do? Read more

 

 

 

Discipline & Behavior via Dr. Sears

You probably never thought of attachment tools, such as breastfeeding and babywearing, as being acts of discipline, but they are. Attachment parenting is like immunizing your child against emotional diseases later on. Your knowledge of your child becomes like a sixth sense enabling you to anticipate and control situations to keep your kids out of trouble. Discipline is based on building the right relationship with a child more than using the right techniques.

 

Parenting toddlers made simple. via T.E.A.C.H. Through Love

Toddlers can be loud, boisterous, erratic, funny, messy, witty and smart all at the same time. They soak up everything they see and hear and that includes our reactions to their actions.

 

 

What Children Need Most When They Deserve It The Least via Happy Families

Parents prefer not to have their authority questioned. So rather than considering why a child may be resisting, they up the ante, doing their best puffer-fish impersonation, and make threats.

 

Positive Parenting in Action: Exploration/Danger via Positive Parenting

Don’t mistake independence for defiance. Some toddlers are more strong-willed and independent than others. My first son was very mellow and content under my wing, while my second wanted independence early. He doesn’t want to hold my hand in parking lots (we’ll address that one!) because he says “I can walk by myself!”

 

Gentle Discipline: So what DO you do? via The Path Less Taken

Some people, for any number of reasons, do not know about alternatives. They don’t know that there’s another way. Some people want to do things differently, and want to break their cycle, but they honestly do not know where to start.

 

 

Proactive Discipline and Well-behaved Children via Gentle Christian Mothers

Most people seem to think that physical punishment is the only way to elicit good behavior and assume that children who aren’t given prompt and regular spankings will be out of control “monsters”. Well, my kids are not perfect little robots. They have to be reminded to do things and they fight with each other. But my focus is not so much on obedience (do what I say right now!) as you might have expected. Instead my focus is on raising kids who are generally polite and content and care about how those around them feel. And that’s what I’ve got, kids who are noticeably considerate to adults and other children alike.

 

6 Steps to Stop Yelling Dr. Laura Markham/Aha Parenting.com

We all know that our kids respond better if we don’t yell. Instead of escalating a difficult situation, if we can stay calm, it settles everyone else down. Our relationship with our child strengthens. They cooperate more. They start to control their own emotions more. Bottom line: How can you expect your child to control his own emotions if you don’t control yours?

 

The One Thing You Can Do That Will Drastically Improve Your Interactions with Children via Real Child Development

If there was one thing you could do differently that would drastically improve your interactions with children would you want to know? Would you like to know the key that would increase cooperation, reduce tantrums, fighting and negative behavior?

 

Gems via Mothering by Grace

This is a FAST way of making your child feel loved, valued and secure. GEMs help your kids feel affirmed and noticed, so their need to get your attention in negative ways decreases. Your energy levels will rise as you enjoy your child and remember what it’s all about. By focusing on your child and meeting their emotional needs for connection you are actually taking care of yourself at the same time. It takes only a few minutes to have a GEM, yet the positive effects last for ages.

 

Why Spanking is Never Okay via Peaceful Parenting

Scientific research shows that physical punishment does not work in the long run, is associated with an increased risk for many behavioral and psychological problems, and is simply unnecessary given that we have non-violent discipline techniques that are very effective.

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

The Bookshelf: Tips, Tools & Techniques for Sharing a Love of Reading with Children

[Portions reprinted with permission from Raising Bookworms: Life, Learning, and Literacy by L.R.Knost available November 2014; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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bookshelves“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ~Anna Quindlen

There’s no denying that reading is a vital part of successfully navigating our information-driven world, but literacy, true literacy, is so much more than simply acquiring information. Literacy is a love of and appreciation for the wisdom of the ages. It is a quest for the knowledge of those who have gone before us and shared their thoughts, discoveries, and experiences in dusty old tomes and modern paperbacks.

Sharing that love, that appreciation, that quest with our children is the gift of a lifetime of exploration, imagination, and revelation. It is the gift of curiosity, wonder, and discovery. Truly, to paraphrase George R.R. Martin, it is the gift of a thousand lifetimes lived in just one.

To that end, here is my virtual reading room, its bookshelves filled with literacy tips, book recommendations, literary quotes, learning through play ideas, and more. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a cozy chair, and join me on the journey of a lifetime…

  • When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn the mechanics of reading? Do you want them to love to read or just to know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started… 8 Tips for Raising Bookworms
  • toddler and mommy readingFairy tales in childhood are stepping-stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper “One more time” in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’
  • Imagination is the language of childhood, so speaking their language when introducing our language only makes sense. Let’s ditch the flashcards, turn off the educational dvd’s, and throw out the worksheets…because learning is child’s play! Alphabet Fun~Imagination From A to Z!
  • Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice… Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
  • There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
  • Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Unique learners have beautiful minds just waiting to find their genius. We just need to look outside of the box to help them find it. Helping Unique Learners Find Their Genius
  • Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
  • My SPD/SLD/ADD (Sensory Processing Disorder, Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc) sweetie, aka Renaissance Girl, has raised the bar on my homeschooling skills more times than I can count. Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein…Beautiful Minds
  • March 1st is World Book Day, and March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Extravaganza which includes the release of the much-anticipated new movie, The Lorax! If you’re a book-obsessed, homeschooling, movie-loving, Seussiac like I am, it’s practically a national holiday! And when you add my excitement over my newest little home-grown reader, it’s definitely time for a Seusserrific Celebration! In honor of all of this wonderfulness and to help launch my new little reader into the wonderful world of books, I’ve been scouring the web, the bookshelves, and my scattered brain for all the Seussical fun I could find for my little people and yours. Here are a few of my finds… Seuss-ified~Craft-astic~Snack-errific~Education-cool~Fun!
  • Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!
  • Truly, what is our goal for our children? Knowledge memorized in lists and tables and regurgitated on bubble-in tests? Or knowledge coupled with experience that leads to understanding and, ultimately, wisdom? Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
  • 188.) Make them a cozy reading nook; 189.) Squeeze yourself into their reading nook and cuddle up for storytime; 190.) Read them fairy tales; 191.) Buy them comic books; 192.) Make paperchains for the Christmas tree; 193.) Have a birthday party for Jesus before opening presents on Christmas morning; 194.) Make blessing bags and mail them to our troops; 195.) Build bookshelves and start a home library for them… 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood
    • If you give a toddler a book

      It’s never too early to share a good book

      He’ll climb into your lap
      While he’s in your lap
      He might lay his head on your chest
      When he lays his head on your chest
      He’ll hear your heartbeat
      When he hears your heartbeat
      He’ll probably ask if you can hear his…
      If You Give A Toddler A Book…

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

A Sea Change: Obedience is Not the Goal

[Excerpt reprinted from Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting by L.R.Knost. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood; and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

“Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”
James 3:4

toddler on a sailboatOh, the toddler years, those delightful days when little ones begin to discover that they are, indeed, separate individuals from their parents and begin to test the waters to see how far out to sea their little boats can take them when they’ve got a full head of steam. This is the age when parents begin to wonder how in the world to tether their little steamboats to the docks or scuttle them in shallow waters to slow them down.

Obedience becomes a hot topic at moms’ groups and men’s breakfasts, at playdates and on park benches as parents wrestle with this new developmental stage that often shows up, unwelcome and unannounced, and the desperate, bewildered question being debated is always the same:

“How can I get my child to obey?”

Take a moment and examine what that question really means, though. Does it mean, “How can I control my child?” or does it mean, “How can I help my child learn self-control?” It’s an important distinction because the first meaning is external and temporary (i.e. only effective as long as the controlling factors are ever-present and escalate as the child grows) and the second meaning is internal and intrinsic. In the first, the rudder of a child’s ship is firmly removed from the child’s hands again and again as the parent and child struggle for control of the ship. In the second, the rudder remains in the child’s hands as the parent guides, instructs, and leads the way with their little steamboat sheltered alee of the parent ship.

Parents often feel lost at sea, themselves, when it comes to the best course for guiding and growing their children in the storm-tossed waves and murky waters of childhood behaviors, and many churches try to meet parent’s needs by offering parenting books and classes. A vast number of those resources are, unfortunately, based on a punitive, authoritarian model. These books, and the classes based on the books, claim to be Biblical, but miss the heart of the Father entirely and mislead and even intimidate parents into believing that they must train their children into instant, unquestioning obedience in order to raise their children ‘God’s way.’

Consider, though, that Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16) referring to how we will recognize his children. And what is the fruit of the Spirit? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-control. What’s missing? Nothing. God’s Word is perfect. And yet obedience is not included as a fruit of the Spirit. It is not mentioned as a measure of love for God or evidence of a relationship with God. That certainly doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to listen to his wise counsel and remain within the safe boundaries he’s shared with us. What it does mean is that it’s a heart issue, not an obedience issue, and he wants our trust and thoughtful, considered cooperation, not our fear-driven, mindless obedience.

Did you know, in fact, that the word obey doesn’t even appear in the original texts of the Bible? When the English translators of the King James version of the Bible encountered the Hebrew words hupakouo/hupakoe and shema/lishmoa they discovered that there wasn’t an exact English equivalent, so they chose the word hearken in their translations which subsequently became an archaic term and was later changed to obey.24 So, what exactly do the original words in the Bible mean?

Hupakouo/hupakoe – to hear from above; to listen for; to lend an ear to1,2,3

Shema/lishmoa – to understand, to internalize, to ponder, to reflect upon1,2,3 

And, in the negative form, rather than the word disobedience in the original texts, there is…

Parakouo – to close one’s ears to; to ignore1,2,3

The same mistranslation also occurs from the original Greek texts of the New Testament where peitho and peitharcheo are translated into, respectively, obey and disobey but actually mean…

Peitho – to be persuaded; to be moved; to respond25 

Peitharcheo – to remain unpersuaded; to be unmoved by; to be unresponsive to25

Also translated into obey in English are the Greek words phulasso and teron and their various conjugations, all of which mean to watch, to observe carefully, to give consideration to25.

Taken together, the meaning of what is now translated obey in the original text of the Bible is more accurately read ‘listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to.’ That is a far, far different meaning than the ‘instant obedience’ often held up as the epitome of Christian faith and evidence of love for God and, by extension, the goal of so-called ‘Biblical parenting.’

Before we address the parenting conundrum of instant obedience versus thoughtful consideration, let’s look at several verses in the Bible with the original meanings restored:

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to it.” (Luke 11:28) 

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23) 

Children, obey listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)

One other interesting note is that the word translated punish in the English versions of the Bible is from the Hebrew word avon and from the Greek kolasis/kolazo. Look at the contrast in meanings:

Punish (English) – to inflict a penalty upon; to exact retribution; to make suffer26 

Avon (Hebrew) – to carry guilt; to bear one’s own iniquity1,2,3 

Kolasis/kolazo (Greek) – removed; separated25 

The word used in English translations of the Bible, punish, conveys an external infliction of negative consequences, while the original words, avon (Hebrew) and kolasis/kolazo (Greek) convey internal, self-imposed consequences (i.e. carrying the weight of guilt/shame) and natural consequences (i.e. being estranged).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment bearing one’s own iniquity, carrying guilt, feeling shame, being estranged. (1 John 4:18)

Jesus came to take our place, to bear our iniquities, to carry our guilt, to free us from shame, and to reunite us with our Father, and the literal translation conveys that truth perfectly.

The thing is, instant obedience and thoughtless compliance based on fear of punishment will always be an external and temporary ‘fix’ for behavior issues, as evidenced by the increasingly defiant and disconnected Israelite nation in the Old Testament, while thoughtful consideration and cooperation are internal, a heart-deep and soul-to-soul connection inspired by compassion, respect, and communication. Consider this passage from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline:

Someone once wrote, “Obedience is doing what you’re told, no matter what’s right. Morality is doing what’s right, no matter what you’re told.” History preserved the quote, but not the source with any credibility, but it’s a wise statement nonetheless.

Growing children with an inner compass that guides their steps toward kindness and compassion and generosity of spirit is far, far and away superior to training children to operate on automatic pilot. Parents often focus so much time and energy on trying to make their children obey in the small moments of life that they forget to step back and take a panoramic view of how their parenting choices may affect their children’s life course.

‘Instant obedience’ is the new catch-phrase in many popular parenting articles and books, but the reality is that, while instant obedience may be convenient for parents in the moment, it can have powerful negative impacts on the adults their children will become.

Training children into instant obedience is the equivalent of disabling their inner guidance system and strapping on a remote-controlled rocket. The end result may be adults who are easily controlled by others or adults who are deeply divided, constantly fighting the external controls, but hampered by an erratic, immature inner compass that never had the chance to develop properly.

Equipping children with a healthy, well-functioning internal guidance system, an inner compass, takes time, patience, and self-control on the part of the parents. Certainly not a convenient alternative! While it may not be convenient to slow down our hectic life pace and really connect with our children, it’s that connection that enables their internal guidance system to come online. While taking the time to really communicate may be a sacrifice, it’s in that communication that the directions on their inner guidance system are set. And, while working cooperatively with our children may take more time and effort, the fact is that inviting cooperation rather than forcing compliance raises leaders instead of reaping followers.

Clearly, teaching our children to control themselves is far more effective in the long-term than trying to control our children, but how, specifically, can we go about equipping them with those all-important internal controls?

  • Model instead of manipulate.
  • Invite instead of intimidate.
  • Support instead of shame.
  • Encourage instead of enrage.
  • Teach instead of threaten.
  • Listen instead of lecture.
  • Help instead of hurt.
  • Parent instead of punish.

Instant obedience and mindless compliance are poor goals, indeed, when raising children. A thoughtfully questioning, passionately curious, and humorously resourceful child who delights in inventing ‘compromises’ and who endlessly pushes the boundaries tends to become a thoughtful, passionate, resourceful adult who will change the world rather than being changed by the world.These are simple truths, and yet their effects are profound when we embrace them and incorporate them into our parenting. Connection, Communication, and Cooperation, the Three C’s of gentle parenting, are powerful and effective tools in guiding our children toward self-control to help them learn to steer their own ships, and, if we are to be fishers of men, then isn’t a ship headed out to sea exactly what each of us should be, anyway? Instead of mooring our children to the shore, let’s sail alongside them in the sometimes calm, sometimes stormy, but always glorious sea of life, keeping them sheltered on our leeward side until they are ready to sail alone.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13

Related posts:

Stealing God’s Gift: Free Will is a Gift to be Nurtured, Not a Curse to be Broken

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Did Jesus Have a Temper Tantrum?

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

Giving the Gift of Gentle Parenting to Parents in Need

give the gift of gentle parentingHere at Little Hearts our readers have BIG hearts full of love for little people and have joined together to Give the Gift of Gentle Parenting and Give the Gift of Life, raising funds to donate gentle parenting books and resources in bulk to hospitals for new parent bags, to children’s hospitals, and to crisis family centers and also to help with author L.R.Knost’s medical expenses as she battles a rare neuroendocrine cancer. Now Little Hearts wants to expand on the giving by offering free gentle parenting books to parents in need.

This is how it will work:

Readers will email the name and contact information of a parent whom they believe would benefit from gentle parenting resources, but can’t afford to buy the books and workshops themselves, and they will suggest which book or workshop they believe the parent would benefit from the most. Once a month, five recipients will be randomly selected from that month’s nominees and the suggested book or workshop will be sent to the parent either anonymously or in the name of the reader who nominated the parent to receive the gift.

Nominations are now open. If you know of a parent in need, please look through the gentle parenting resources below, decide which book or workshop would be most beneficial, and email your nominee’s name and contact information along with the suggested gift to littleheartsbooks@gmail.com.

If you’d like to donate, just click

>> Give the Gift of Gentle Parenting and Give the Gift of Life <<

Thank you for participating in giving the gift of gentle parenting to parents in need!

Two Thousand Kisses a Day-Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesTwo Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages Calm, Reassuring, Likable ~ Written in L.R.Knost’s signature easy-to-read and conversational style, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ offers an overview of gentle parenting from birth through young adulthood along with concrete suggestions and insights into how to implement gentle parenting in each stage of childhood. Her seasoned and practical approach based on extensive child development research and years of parent mentoring as well as over twenty-five years of parenting her six children is as likable as it is reassuring. Parents with children of any age will find this information-packed book with its bite-sized chapters and practical approach to parenting a helpful and encouraging addition to their home library, as well as a welcome gift for new or struggling parents. ~The Parenting Review

 

Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of ChildhoodWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood Sweet, Funny, Insightful ~ Award-winning ‘Whispers Through Time’ by L.R. Knost is destined to be a dog-eared favorite, passed down from generation to generation. L.R. Knost shows parents how to find their own answers for their own children and their own families in this guidebook as she challenges conventional thinking with a wisdom born of experience and a healthy dose of research to back it up. Written with the same unique blend of sweetness and humor, grit and honesty, reassurance and insight that made L.R. Knost’s first book, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages,’ a best-seller, ‘Whispers Through Time’ has become a runaway hit in its own right. ~The Parenting Review

 

 

The Gentle ParentThe Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline Relaxed, Reassuring, Practical ~ Written by L.R.Knost, best-selling, award-winning author of ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ and ‘Whispers Through Time,’ ‘The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline’ shares the simple secrets of a peaceful, happy home in the Three C’s of gentle discipline–Connection, Communication, and Cooperation. In her signature relaxed and poetic style, L.R.Knost gently guides parents through the steps of applying the Three C’s in real-life scenarios from tantrums to defiance to parenting a strong-willed child to healing a broken parent/child relationship. Practical and proven, this newest installment in the Little Hearts Handbook parenting series will be tucked into diaper bags, kept handy on nightstands, and shared with good friends for its research-backed, experience-based, and humor-rich insights, ideas, and inspiration. ~The Parenting Review

 

Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverJesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting Intelligent, Well-Researched, Compassionate ~ L.R.Knost has done it again. With her compassionate tone, relational style, and intelligent, well-researched writing, Jesus, the Gentle Parent is like a refreshing, peaceful walk through the scriptures with a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide. This book differs from Two Thousand Kisses a Day, Whispers Through Time, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline in that it takes a Christian approach to parenting as L.R. takes on big names in the Christian child-training sect such as Dr. James Dobson, Tedd Tripp, Gary Ezzo, and Michael Pearl, breaking down their doctrine and reexamining such issues as spanking, instant obedience, submission, free will, and more in light of the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the scriptures. As always, L.R. offers gentle parenting alternatives along with real-life examples of their applications, but in Jesus, the Gentle Parent she goes even further and shares parenting insights based on the life of Jesus that will turn the mainstream Christian world on its head. This is truly a grace-based parenting book which shows parents how to be “their children’s first taste of God” by following in the gentle, wise, grace-filled footsteps of Jesus. ~ The Parenting Review

Back cover: In this examination of mainstream Christian parenting practices and the doctrinal beliefs behind them, best-selling author, L.R.Knost, debunks common cultural and theological beliefs about spanking, original sin, sin nature, submission, authority, obedience, breaking a child’s will, and more, along with providing grace-filled, gentle solutions to behavior issues.

 

Gentle Parenting Workshop 1 Getting Started on Your Gentle JourneyGentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey The Gentle Parenting Workshop series from award-winning author, L.R.Knost,  is a companion series to her best-selling parenting books, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day,’ ‘Whispers Through Time,’ and the newest release, ’The Gentle Parent.’ This first workshop in the series, ‘Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey,’ will help you set your gentle parenting goals, identify specific parenting problems, and target practical solutions to help you along on your journey to gentle parenting.

 

 

 

Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing From Your Past So You Don't Pass It Along To Your ChildrenGentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing from Your Past so You Don’t Pass it Along to Your Children, will help you walk through the steps of recovery from a painful past, leading you on a journey of healing and forgiveness, of unloading negative emotional baggage into the past where it belongs instead of unloading it onto your children and passing it along to the next generation, and of renewal to open the pathway to a more peaceful and gentle approach to parenting.

“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean telling them that hurting us was okay. It means telling ourselves that it’s okay to stop hurting. It doesn’t mean we have to trust them again. It means we can learn to trust ourselves again because we deserve it. It doesn’t mean we have to give them a free pass back into our lives. It means we are free to take our lives back again. Forgiving is letting the hurts of the past go so that we can move freely into the future.”

The Gentle Parenting Workshop 2 walks you through five stages of healing and emotional freedom, including multiple action steps for you to take along the way from making the decision to change to identifying your triggers to forgiving your own mistakes of the past to coping when life hits hard.

“When a tragedy strikes in the form of a death or a life-changing illness or an accident, or when our lives are suddenly turned upside-down due to a divorce or other major life event, we need to grieve the loss of our old lives, our old ‘normal,’ our younger, more carefree, and unwounded selves, so that we can embrace our new normal and learn to live fully and joyfully again. Just as if a person had hurt us, we are hurting humans and we need to take the time and make the investment in self-care to work through the hurt and emerge a wiser, more mature, and more compassionate human.”

Petey's Listening EarsPetey’s Listening Ears ‘Wisdom For Little Hearts’ is an engaging, humorous children’s picture book series designed to help parents learn gentle parenting techniques in easy ‘bite-sized’ portions while providing children ages two to six with positive behavior models. In this first book in the series, ‘Petey’s Listening Ears,’ lovable little Petey and his furry friend, Beans, are having a difficult day until Petey’s mommy and daddy step in with some gentle guidance and help him remember to turn on his ‘listening ears’ and turn his bad day into a good one!

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

‘Myths and Facts About Night Wakings’ by Tracy Cassels, Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

When you hear of most people talk of night-wakings in infancy, there seems to be a fear that somehow if they aren’t stopped (usually by a parent), one will be looking at long-term problems that will follow your infant into childhood and beyond.  It’s really rather dramatic, especially for something that is so biologically normal for infants.  After all, they biologically expect to breastfeed and the fat content of our human milk is much lower than in other mammals, meaning our babies need to feed frequently to simply stay alive and grow.  (This is why scheduled feeds with hours between are linked with a ‘failure to thrive’ condition in the short-term[1] and lower intelligence in the long-term[2].)

But what is the situation with respect to night wakings across infancy, toddlerhood, and childhood?  At what point do frequent night wakings pose a problem that will follow a child long-term?  Or is it simply a state like any other state?

awake childMyth: Your baby should be sleeping through by 3 months of age.

Fact: Night waking is normal for babies and toddlers.

I think we first need to be clear that night waking itself isn’t really the “problem”.  The “problem” is that when younger children wake, they often require parental help to fall back asleep, and so parents view night wakings as a problem[3] despite them being biologically normal and not contrary to healthy development.  We must also be clear that when people believe their baby or child “sleeps through the night”, they can only refer to the fact that they do not wake when or if their child wakes.  Babies and children can wake and fall asleep on their own again (though not all will) and so parents simply have no idea how often (if at all) these babies are rousing during the night.

How normal is night waking?  Well, in a longitudinal study looking at night wakings between birth and 3 years of age, the percentage of infants/children who did not signal their parents at night from 6 months to 3 years only rose from 29.58% to 37.94%[4].  At 3 years of age, 25.6% of toddlers were waking and signaling their parents 3 or more nights per week.  And notably, none of these children suffered any clinical problems or sleep disorders.

Myth: If your baby wakes regularly into the night, they will continue to wake in the night until you stop it.

Fact:  Early night waking does not predict later night wakings.

Sleeping toddlerWhat do I mean?  Well, I mean that night waking in infancy does not predict night waking at later ages, at least based on a very comprehensive, longitudinal study out of Switzerland[5] and there are no studies I have found that counter this finding.  In this particular study, which examined 493 children and their families, night wakings from 3 months of age onward actually rose consistently until age 4, when over half of the children were waking at least once per week and 22% were waking every night.  These numbers then declined slightly until age 10, but even at age 10, over 20% of children were waking at least once per week and around 4% were waking nightly.  Notably, night waking in infancy (< 1-2 years) was not predictive of night waking later, but later (> 1-2 years) night waking was associated with further night wakings.  Now, what the authors do not measure, and acknowledge as a limitation, is how long the child wakes, the reason for waking, does the child require parental help, breastfeeding, etc.

Notably, night wakings were not associated with other sleep disturbances, such as bedtime resistance and sleep-onset problems (i.e., the ability to fall asleep relatively efficiently).  This implies that they are distinct from other sleep behaviours that parents find problematic.  Though only my opinion, my take is that these other behaviours reflect social or emotional issues (e.g., anxiety around sleep, stress) while night wakings are more physiological or biological in nature.

[Somewhat off topic but fascinatingly, they found that increases in bedsharing in the toddler years was associated with less bedtime resistance or sleep-onset problems, suggesting that children are yearning for contact and experiencing separation anxiety which bedsharing provides a “fix” to.  The authors propose this as well as cohort effects found that children raised in an earlier time did not have the bedsharing rates later groups did and had much greater reported problems associated with bedtime resistance and sleep-onset problems.]

Myth: Night waking is a sign that something is wrong and you have to do something to fix it.

Fact: Night waking often reflects developmentally appropriate behaviour across all ages.

One of the highlights of the Swiss research mentioned above was the acknowledgement that night wakings may not be negative at all, but rather reflect the individual developmental stage of any child.  As they so wonderfully put it,

[N]ight wakings must be understood in the context of cognitive, emotional, and physical changes that occur at different developmental stages.  Some children may need parental proximity during the night as during the day depending on their developmental level, individual characteristics, and attachment behavior.[5]

In the toddler years, night wakings are often associated with children coming into bed with the parents as many toddlers are first put to sleep in their own room or bed.  The degree of separation anxiety that toddlers feel can be great and they require the proximity to parents to help feel safe again[6], leading to night wakings and moving sleep locations.  This same feeling of anxiety or security can come at all ages throughout childhood, though, and a child that still demonstrates this at 8 or 9 years of age is still in the developmentally normal range.  There is also the issue of nighttime fears and nightmares which increase with age through childhood until a peak (often early childhood) then start to decrease again; these fears are considered cognitively, socially, and emotionally normal[7], but do result in night wakings that often require parental involvement.  Then of course there are the reasons we all tend to wake at night (adults included): Going to the bathroom, too much on our mind, stress, etc.  These things can affect children as well, especially school-age children who have to cope with school, evolving relationships with friends, possible stress in the household, and more.

***

Lots of people today worry that night wakings reflect a “problem” and that they need to deal with it or else they will face long-term sleep problems.  Well, first let’s be clear that night wakings in infancy have no predictive power over later night wakings.  So you can put that little myth to rest.  Second, you can be sure that night wakings are entirely normal through toddlerhood and are not associated with any ill effects for your child.  Not all children will experience them, but those that do are not experiencing anything problematic.  And finally, many of the children who continue to wake do so for very normal, developmentally appropriate reasons; just as adults often wake at night too.  There may be times when parents need to seek help about their child’s sleep, but these will often be due to more than just night wakings.  Clusters of problems are what parents should be concerned with, not night wakings alone.

So the next time someone – anyone – tells you that you need to stop your child from waking in the night, you can – at the very least – smile, nod, and go ahead and do absolutely nothing.  Without worry.

Tracy Cassels is the founder and primary writer for Evolutionary Parenting.  She obtained her B.A. in Cognitive Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia.  She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology, also at the University of British Columbia, where she is studying how certain evolutionary factors affect children’s empathic behavior. She can also be found on Facebook here.

Related posts:

Parenting Through Cancer: Coping with Emotions

‘Patience Doesn’t Feel Patient’ by Sarah Sprague – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘Encouraging Safe Negative Emotional Expression (i.e. Stopping the Peeing, Spitting & Kicking)’ by Guggie Daly – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions: What’s Really Happening to Your Baby’s Sleep?’ by Pinky McKay – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts While She Battles Cancer

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

Parenting Through Cancer: Coping with Emotions

Funny Face“Bedtime. Go grab your toothbrush from the suitcase, okay?”

“Why?” my eight-year-old asks.

“It’s late, and we all need to sleep. Please go brush your teeth and get ready for bed,” I reply, distracted as I pack the last few things for my extended hospital stay after my surgery in the morning.

“Why?” her determined voice questions.

“We need to get ready for bed, sweetie,” I answer, still not glancing in her direction as I mentally go through my checklist to make sure I’ve packed everything I’ll need.

“Why?” she persists, her volume rising.

My attention is finally caught by her challenging tone, and I turn to look at her.

Belligerent eyes stare me down.

I take a deep breath to get through my first knee-jerk, stress reaction, then consciously slow my breathing, quiet my thoughts, and focus fully on my strong-spirited little girl who is clearly in contrary mode.

I wait.

She shifts, uncomfortable, then shoots, “Why?”

I soften my gaze and offer a slight smile.

I wait.

“Why?” she snaps again, a bit more quietly.

I hold her gaze calmly, knowing she needs space and time to work through her feelings before she’ll be able to share them.

I wait.

She turns away, her small shoulders stiff as she sits on the side of the bed, her back to me.

I wait.

A minute passes, then two. Then, in a soft voice, “I don’t want you to go.”

“I know,” I say quietly.

I wait again.

Moments pass in silence, then she whispers, “I’m scared.”

“I know, baby. I am, too,” I reply, struggling to hold back my own tears as I hear hers start.

And I wait.

Soon a small body crashes into me and my girl wraps her arms around me tightly. I hold her close, my heart breaking at the pain and fear I wish she never had to feel. After a few moments she slips away and brushes her teeth, then settles quietly into bed.

I lay awake throughout the night, listening to the even breathing of my sleeping eight-year-old nearby and cuddling my tiny cosleeper close and praying desperately for all of my children as I head into the unknown.

Hours later, I slip out of bed and kiss each sleeping child, then leave for an early hospital check-in. My heart stays behind with my feisty sweet girl and my little cosleeper and each one of my six incredibly unique and wonderfully kind-hearted children. This is so hard. Cancer sucks.

Related posts:

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Toxic Parenting: Spanking, Shaming, Threatening, Manipulating

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

‘Patience Doesn’t Feel Patient’ by Sarah Sprague – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

mom and daughterThey say that bravery doesn’t feel brave or fearless because if you’re not afraid it is something other than bravery. I guess that patience is one of those things, as well.

From the outside it looks like calm and peace but from the inside it can feel more like the tested limits of self control.

Learning to be patient is learning how to separate what we feel from how we act. It is learning to accept our feelings while choosing to not act on them. It is learning to say to ourselves:

I can be angry without acting angry.
I can be impatient without acting impatient.
I can be upset without acting upset.
I can be hurt without acting hurt.
I can feel without acting on my feelings.
I can feel without reacting to what I feel.

When I choose to act patient I slow down. I speak more slowly than I normally would. I lower my volume and I pace my words so that they won’t rush together in an explosion of words that no one will understand and that will act as a precursor to yelling. There’s a rhythm to this patience that doesn’t feel patient. A slow rhythm. A careful spacing of words. A slowness to how my body moves as I make sure that no part of me will gain a momentum that will feel like hitting or grabbing or being anything other than soft and gentle.

  • When my toddler hits again.
  • When my seven year old is upset that he doesn’t understand his homework and is avoiding doing it instead of asking questions.
  • When my four year old has snuck his safety scissors into the other room so that he can cut apart a travel pillow to see what is inside, and the entire world feels like it’s covered with tiny Styrofoam pellets.
  • When the two-and-a-half gallon water dispenser has been opened by someone curious and it has flooded the kitchen.
  • When my three year old fed the fish every container of fish food all at once and the twenty nine gallon aquarium needed to have all of its water cleaned and replaced at bedtime.

I slow down to try and run in quicksand. I go slow-motion like walking through an empty room with a strobe light. I try and move my body through a thickened air. And I try to slow every word down so that it comes with a peace and gentleness that doesn’t show any of the frustration that I feel.

I grasp at all of the excuses that my child doesn’t yet have the words to offer. I try and see what positive or curious motivations they  might have, or what stresses may be driving them to this place. I try to wrap every part of my heart and brain around empathy and love.

He sits at the table fiddling with his pencil. Nothing has been done on his worksheet, not even his name. He has gotten up to do half a dozen things. I have to make dinner. I have to sweep the floors. I have to do all the things on my to-do list.

“Issac.. Can you please do your homework?” I ask.

“Okay.” He says. And he picks up his pencil and stares off into space.

I am feeling anything but patient. My daughter has not napped today and she claws at my knees to be picked up, asks to draw on his homework with his pencil, and wants no substitutes for this thing that she cannot have. So now I’m being screamed at. I tap at his worksheet and he tells me to help Keenie calm down. So I walk away to find her some playdoh so that we can work on his homework together.

I come back. Nothing’s been done.

Breathe. Slow down. Find the reasons. Seven hour days at school with fifteen minute recesses. Not nearly enough time to decompress after school. He’s having a hard time reconnecting to what he’s trying to do.

I move slowly, lay my hand on his shoulder as softly and gently as I can. On contact my own tense muscles relax. This is my child. My son. He is seven and I love him dearly.

I plant a kiss on his head, and sniff his hair the way I used to when he was tiny, when he was a toddler. It smells just like him.

My other hand comes down to his worksheet. I’m standing behind him, my body enveloping his. Supporting and soft and patient, not angry and looming. My finger pointing to where he needs to write his name. Slow voice. Quiet voice. “Isaac, what does this say?” I ask. Trying to get him to look at the worksheet long enough to begin writing.

He writes his name.

“Now what’s the next question?” I ask. Soft. Slow. Clear. Strong.

He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t move.

I tap the paper. His eyes move to where I’m pointing.

“Can you read this for me?” I ask. He reads the question out loud.

“Do you understand what the question is asking?” I ask.

The dam breaks. He doesn’t understand. He screeches frustration and tells me that he didn’t understand in class.

My frustration is gone. I understand now. We go over what he can do if he doesn’t understand something in class. I ask him if he wants me to help him figure out how he can answer the questions or if he wants me to write a note on the top so that his teachers will know he needs more help with this topic. He chooses to have me try and show him how to work out the answers.

I sit down next to him. He’s fully engaged now.

Patience did not feel patient at first.  But then. At the end of it, when I’ve responded well? When the crisis is past. When the messes have been cleaned up? When I’ve helped my seven year old slow down to re-focus and understand what he refuses to understand? When I’ve had self control and when I have acted patient?

That is when patience feels patient. When we’re past the thing that has me pulling my hair out. When we’re past the thing that has me wanting to move faster and raise my voice. When we’re past the thing that has me wanting to throw a tantrum all of my own.

That.. Is when I feel patient. Radiant. Powerful.

And it takes my breath away.

Sarah Sprague, creator of the ‘Wait-It-Out’ gentle sleep learning method (WIO), writes at Nurshable: Joy in Gentle Parenting and can be found on Facebook at Nurshable.

Related posts:

‘Encouraging Safe Negative Emotional Expression (i.e. Stopping the Peeing, Spitting & Kicking)’ by Guggie Daly – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions: What’s Really Happening to Your Baby’s Sleep?’ by Pinky McKay – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts While She Battles Cancer

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

‘Encouraging Safe Negative Emotional Expression (i.e. Stopping the Peeing, Spitting & Kicking)’ by Guggie Daly – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

A common stage that can start around age 2 but typically peaks by age 4 is the passive aggressive communication of negative feelings. This stage occurs on its own as a normal milestone because the child needs to develop verbal skills and emotional intelligence. But, for some children, the stage can be especially difficult due to various factors.

First, if the child has been emotionally invalidated frequently by other caregivers or cherished peers, this behavior might become a way to passively share emotions or cry out for help, or even attempt to take back some semblance of control. Watch out for common invalidating comments. Take steps to remind the adult that your child is learning and respect is required. Briefly but firmly reassure the child when invalidation occurs. Some examples of emotional invalidation:

Oh, you’re ok! Stop crying about it.
Hey! There’s no reason to be angry about that, quit it.
Oh, you’re being a scaredy cat. That’s not scary at all.
Why are you crying over such a silly thing? Don’t be a baby.
I don’t care if that makes you angry. That doesn’t matter.
I can’t stand when you cry like that. Knock it off already.
Your brother isn’t scared of the dark. Why don’t you be like him?

Besides directly hurting the child, invalidating situations deprive the child of an opportunity to practice emotional processing and emotional regulation. It’s a loss of skill development. Try whenever possible to defend your child from invalidation.

Second, if the child is experiencing any language difficulties or delays, or other circumstances and conditions that interfere with easy verbal communication such as hearing difficulties, autism, hyperactivity, etc, then this stage can persist because it is simply easier to communicate physically. Or it might be impossible from the child’s perspective to communicate in ways society deems appropriate. In these cases, removing the obstacle when possible and working on coping skills can help create a bridge from the physical outbursts to safer expression.

When your child only expresses negative emotions in your presence

Many parents report that their children do not act out at school, daycare, the other parent’s home, in front of peers, etc. But, seemingly the moment they get home, suddenly the children are throwing things, screaming, spitting, wetting their pants…why the sudden change?

If your child only expresses negative emotions in your presence, or in specific areas such as only at home, this is a sign that she feels safest with you. It’s not a bad sign. It doesn’t mean she’s taking advantage of you or that you’re too soft on her. On the contrary, it means she has big emotions boiling up inside her and she only trusts you to see them.

Think about it. If you’re really stressed out about something you feel is perhaps slightly embarrassing (read: invalidating or shamed by others) you probably keep it hidden. You don’t cry your eyes out at work. You don’t curse and go on about someone who hurt you at the playground. You wait until you’re home and with a safe person to finally let go of your feelings. Children do this, too. And if your child is doing this frequently, it could be a sign that he feels shamed, judged, or invalidated. Remember this when you are facing frustrating behavior, so that you can respond in a way that builds the trust while developing the communication skills.

When your child begins to use emotional outbursts to exert control

Children who feel stifled emotionally can feel powerless. This can cause intense feelings of resentment and anxiety. The child is stuck experiencing what feels like a very large crisis, but the adults around him ignore it or punish him if he lets them know about it. He’s new to the world and has very few skills for handling it, so he’s lost in himself and lost to others.

As he begins to act out, he comes to find that certain ways of expressing his emotion not only feel good, letting off steam and relieving that anxiety inside him, but might also cause a reaction in others. If it feels good and gets him what he wants, it must be a good idea to keep using it!

Suddenly, you have a child who spits on you when she’s angry or pees her pants when she’s rejected. Who throws toys at children at the park when she feels left out or pretends to choke on food she doesn’t like.

Emotions don’t just melt away. They will find their way out, and in children who haven’t developed healthy emotional skills, they will come out in ways we dislike. Ways that might hurt others or cause negative reactions. Ways that tempt us to rain down punishment and consequences.

If your child is falling back on crude emotional expression to get your attention, it’s a sign that she needs your help, not punishment at this time. No, I’m not saying to condone the behavior or to go all wishy-washy. I’m warning against hyper focusing on the negative behavior to the point that skill-building is squeezed out. Even if the child is punished enough to be convinced to stop the emotional outburst, she still needs to learn healthy ways to process and express her emotions. The need is still there. Start processing with her.

Great. So how is this done? 

Let’s use a real life example of a 3 year old who is fully potty trained and does not wet her pants at preschool or with her father. But, she frequently wets her pants when with her mother. Not only does this warn us that she feels safe in her mother’s presence and that she has some big emotions building up inside her, but the child has also begun to use the emotional outbursts to cause reactions in others.

For example, when the mother walked away from the 3 year old to care for the baby, the 3 year old wet her pants.

At this point, a lot of different approaches could be taken ranging from shaming and punishment to completely ignoring it and remaining emotionless while cleaning up the mess. These are merely superficial responses, however, and do nothing to encourage her to develop emotional skills.

Let’s say the mother has just come back from caring for the baby and the 3 year old is sitting on the floor with wet pants and with an angry and slightly rejected expression on her face. What does the mom do for her?

She gets down on one knee, moving close to her, making eye contact and making physical contact such as by touching her arm gently. While keeping physical and eye contact, she begins assessing the situation.

Hey. I see that you peed in your pants. You must be feeling pretty embarrassed right now. Can you use your words to tell me why you peed your pants? Pause for response. You were feeling angry because I left you to help the baby, huh. It made your heart hurt? Pause for response.

You know, it’s okay to feel angry. That’s a strong feeling, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone feels angry sometimes. When I feel angry, it makes my stomach squeeze. What does it feel like for you? Pause for response.

Next time when you feel angry, I want you to use your words to tell me. Say, “I’m angry!” Let’s try it right now. Ready? Tell me! Pause for response. Remember, instead of peeing your pants, it’s okay to tell me that you’re angry. I’ll always listen to you.

And if you begin to recognize individual triggers, briefly remind her before they happen:

I’m going to focus on caring for your sister right now. Remember, if you feel alone, come grab my hand and tell me instead of peeing your pants.

I’m going to leave the room to make dinner. If you feel scared inside, come and get me, ok? Remember to keep your pants dry.

Tonight, we’re going to be very busy with the baby at the park. If you start to feel angry, be sure to tell me with your big girl words! I will listen.

Remember to keep it as simple or long as needed, pausing when needed and following cues to go where the conversation leads you. As children begin to realize how much connection they can make with words, lots of thoughts might tumble out in little situations like this. Try to listen intently and to provide a safe place for those emotions to come out.

Realistically in the beginning it might take several incidents before you see your child come out of his shell and begin to share with you. And especially if he has been mocked or shamed in any way, it might take a long, dedicated effort to show him that it’s safe to share. So don’t give up too soon!

Guggie Daly, taking a break from her studies in neuroscience to care for her four young children, hopes to share relevant, up to date information with other parents so that they can take advantage of foresight and not live with hindsight.  You can find more information on her blog at Guggie Daly: Empowering Information and on Facebook at The Guggie Daily.

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

‘The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions: What’s Really Happening to Your Baby’s Sleep?’ by Pinky McKay – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts While She Battles Cancer

baby-sleep-eye.jpgThe 4 month sleep regression, the 12 month sleep regression, the 18 month sleep regression – what is happening?

Of course, any time your baby’s sleep suddenly seems to go pear shaped , you wonder what am I doing wrong? Having a neat little term like ‘sleep regression’ gets you off the hook – it’s not you, it’s your baby. It’s a sleep regression. It’s normal and common and it will pass.

The term ‘sleep regression’ sounds more helpful than the patronising label ‘accidental parenting’ which implies you have done something to create your wakeful baby but you are such a half-wit you didn’t even realize you were doing something ‘wrong’. It sounds much smarter too and even a little bit intellectual, as though you have done your homework about infant sleep.

But here’s the thing: your baby isn’t having a ‘regression’. Sleep isn’t a milestone – even though it certainly feels like an achievement when your baby starts snoozing for several hours at a stretch. By the way, ‘all night’ in infant sleep studies means five hours sleep in a row –not eight hours like an adult or twelve hours like some baby books will tell you. The real, measurable, important milestones that signal your baby’s actual development can influence your baby’s sleep, or lack of it. So, when your baby, who has been sleeping in peaceful blocks, suddenly starts waking more frequently, it usually means he is approaching a real developmental milestone – he is not ‘regressing’, he is ‘progressing.’

Developmental milestones can be physical (rolling, crawling, cruising, walking), emotional (separation anxiety) and neurological. Neurological milestones are outlined in ‘The Wonder Weeks’ , a book by Dutch researchers, psychologists Franz Plooij and Hetty Van Der Rit , who observed many children in their homes over a number of years. They describe the ‘wonder weeks’ as critical periods of development that change the baby’s perception of his world. For instance, at 26 weeks, babies start to perceive distance. This means that as you walk away, your baby is now more aware of the distance that separates you and he will yell at you because the increasing distance between you and him is confusing and a bit scary.

As babies approach any new developmental phase, their perception of the world changes so, although this can be just a blip on the radar for some babies, more sensitive babies will need extra reassurance and can become quite clingy or generally unsettled at these times.

Because babies process information during their sleep – circulation to the brain almost doubles during REM sleep – it’s perfectly normal for them to wake more often as they are approaching new milestones. For instance, at around four months (the four month sleep ‘regression’ that everyone is talking about), babies are becoming much more aware of the world – they are babbling (this is the beginning of language acquisition), exploring things with their mouth (soon that will include their feet too as they suck their toes), they are recognizing familiar people (and becoming anxious around strangers – separation anxiety is kicking in), many babies are starting to roll over so they wake because they have unintentionally rolled onto their belly and this has woken them. They are confused and upset because they really wanted to be sleeping but that tiny brain processing information has resulted in some extra ‘practice’ of their new skill. All of this adds up to a very busy little brain that finds it difficult to switch off. And, as well as often having difficulty getting to sleep in the first place or resettling after being woken by their busy brains and bodies, when he wakes, confused, your baby will call for help from the most important person in his world – you.

Of course at any time if your baby suddenly becomes unsettled or wakeful, it’s important to check that there isn’t a medical reason for this or an impending illness such as sore ears or a urinary tract infection (babies generally wake when they wee if they have a UTI because it hurts), or if your baby has recently started family foods she isn’t upset by food sensitivities.

Once you have ruled out illness as a reason for sudden changes in your baby’s sleep patterns, consider your baby’s development: what new skills is your baby learning? Is she a bit more clingy during her awake times? Does she seem more sensitive right now? And try to see her wakefulness as a positive – she is not regressing, she is progressing. She is learning and developing in leaps and bounds. She isn’t waking because you have done anything wrong. You aren’t encouraging ‘bad habits’ you are helping your baby feel secure as she grows through these intense developmental stages. You don’t have to justify your baby’s behavior with fancy labels or reasons for her waking (except perhaps, to yourself if it makes you feel better).

The good news is that, as your baby masters each new milestone, there will be spells of sound sleep again – until the next developmental leap!

pinky mckayPinky McKay is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and best selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby, 100 Ways to Calm the Crying, Parenting By Heart and Toddler Tactics.  For more baby sleep tips, check out her bundle – Sleeping Like a Baby plus the recording package of interviews by leading international sleep researchers ‘The Truth About Infant Sleep – Science, Wisdom and Gentle Solutions’ 

Related posts:

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

’12 Ways to Get Past No’ by Dr. Laura Markham – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

“2 year-olds argue with their parents 20 to 25 times an hour.” — Study reported in Child Development Magazine

Between 11 and 15 months, we learn a wonderful word:  “No!”

It’s an ecstatic discovery. We learn we are separate, autonomous beings with a will of our own who can impact what happens in the world.  We delight in saying, “No!” at every opportunity.

Our “No” is actually a big “YES!”

It’s an awesome, pure expression of our life force.

After the first cute “No” or two, our parents are usually less than delighted.  In fact, this developmental stage launches what’s often called the “terrible twos.”  Rarely are our ecstatic expressions of primal life force affirmed.  Do you remember your father or mother saying:
“I love your independence and autonomy!”
“I see that you’re learning to stand up for your own truth, which will really help you later in life.”

More common messages are along the lines of:
“Don’t you dare talk back to me!”
“We’ll nip this in the bud!”

There may be the threat—or the reality—of punishment or physical force.  There is almost always the withdrawal of love, as parents walk away when little ones tantrum–the only way they know to make their No heard.

Being powerless and utterly dependent, we soon learn to hide our No’s.  We begin to resort to whining, passive resistance, and manipulation. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve often lost touch with our own needs.

So when our little one falls in love with the word NO, danger signs flash inside us.  We know that NO is dangerous, even if we don’t know why. We think we MUST teach him who’s in charge, right away. Defiance from our child, whether two or twelve, is met with an emotional slap-down as we put him in his place.

The problem is that defiance is a sign that your child is having a problem. When we just rush in with an iron fist, we don’t address the real issue. Which might be that she feels you aren’t listening. Or that she needs your help to cry. Or that she needs you to teach her how to express her needs and wants without attacking the other person. Or maybe she feels she’s sticking up for her integrity.

If she’s a tween or teen, that should make you rejoice. Research shows that teens who are willing to stand up to their parents are also more likely to stand up to their peers. (After all, she could just lie to avoid a confrontation, which is what most teens do.) And kids who can stand up for their own truth start as toddlers.

So even though you get triggered, this isn’t about who is in charge.  Your child knows you’re in charge.  This is about your child’s right to his feelings, even while you honor your responsibility to keep him safe and healthy.

It IS possible to say “No” in a way that honors your own truth, while still staying in positive contact with your child.  It IS possible to honor both your needs and your child’s age-appropriate need to assert herself. The secret?

1. Stop seeing your child’s NO as something you need to overcome. Instead, see it as a YES offering in a duet dance of negotiation. Every dance is a chance to partner with your child, and that foundation of partnership will create more joy — not to mention better behavior–in the years ahead.

2. Don’t take it personally.  Your child is allowed to have a different view than yours.  Her willingness to be different is a strength you want to nurture.

3. Listen to your child’s No.  “You’re saying NO, No bath!  I hear you!”  Sometimes being heard is all our child needs. And the more your child feels seen, heard and acknowledged, the less he’ll need to get your attention by being contrary.

4. Listen to the YES behind the NO.  “You love playing with the toy horse; you don’t want to stop for a bath, right?  That’s okay, you can keep right on playing with the horses… Let’s gallop them into the bathroom!  They’re all dusty from riding all day!” 

5. Sidestep the NO! by making your request an invitation to play.  The secret to smooth transitions is using yourself as the bridge, and no child can refuse your invitation to play.  “Climb on my back, Cowboy, we’re headed for the bathtub in the hills!”

6. Sidestep the NO! by giving your child a choice.  Win-win solutions mean you both get what you need.  “NO bath?  Maybe you and the horses need to be hosed down in the kitchen sink?”  Who cares where he gets clean?

7. Sidestep the NO! by honoring his autonomy without giving up your request. “NO Bath right now?  Ok, Sweetie.  We’ll wait five minutes. Then you may look at the plastic containers in the kitchen and be in charge of which ones you want to play with in the tub.”   Telling your child he “may” do something is magic.  You won’t be able to restrain him from the bath.

8. Join the No. In a joking voice: “Whatever you do, DON’T get in the bathtub.  NO, NO, NO, don’t turn on the water!! NO, NO, NO, don’t take off your clothes!!”

9. Honor the autonomy under the NO.”Want to be in charge of turning on the water and deciding what toys go in the bath?  Who should take your clothes off?”

10. Teach your child to express his needs without attacking you. “You sound worried…Oh, you’re worried about that song about the child who goes down the bathtub drain? Don’t worry, you can be in charge of the plug. We won’t pull it out until you’re out of the tub, and then you can watch the water go down. You’ll see that only water can fit.”

11. Just say YES!  Match the exuberance of your YES! to your child’s No.  Trust yourself to find a way to make both you and your child happy by responding to her No with all the Yes energy you can summon.  “YES, it’s time for your bath, and YES you can bring your horses, and YES you can ride on my back up the stairs on my back up the stairs, and YES I love you so much and YES, LET”S GO!” Your child will match your generosity of spirit.

12. Honor the disappointment when you can’t agree with the No.  When you need to put your foot down, you can say your No with empathy and compassion for your child.  “I’m sorry, Sweetie, it’s time.  That makes you sad, I see. You wish you could play more. I bet when you grow up you’ll play all night, every night, won’t you?” (That will get a yes!)

These examples are all from the toddler years, but if you start off raising your child this way, you’ll raise a tween and teen who can stand firm in his own integrity while he respects yours.

Remember that you can always find a way to meet both your needs.  If you keep your sense of humor, and honor both your own NO and your child’s, you can always find a way to get past the word NO —  to the YES! energy right behind it.

PeacefulParentHappyKids_FINAL.inddDr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. You can get her free coaching posts right in your In Box at AhaParenting.com.

Related posts:

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

‘5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns’ by Amy Bryant – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

Guiding children sometimes includes setting limits or boundaries, and is a necessary part of keeping our children safe and helping them learn about themselves, their relationships, and the world around them. And we can guide children and set limits with them in ways that minimize tantrums simply by creating an emotionally nurturing environment and by our approach to limit-setting. This is also an opportunity for us to model respect, collaboration, and focusing on solutions!

We can choose to engage with our children and reinforce boundaries in ways that minimize triggering an emotionally overwhelming response.

5 Keys to Setting Limits That Minimize Tantrums

  • Connect
  • Respond With Intention
  • Model Appropriate Emotional Responses
  •  Use Positive Language
  • Implement Creative Solutions
When we set limits with our children, how we set the limit is key. In order to minimize tantrums and meltdowns it helps to consider their developmental ability to handle both the limit and the delivery of the limit. This does not mean we “fall all over ourselves” to keep from upsetting them; it simply means we consider their emotional development when we choose our approach to setting a limit. Children are able to deal with limits when they are set in ways that are emotionally nurturing.
Here are some examples of language you can practice with your children today:
Your toddler is throwing blocks and dumping toys all over the house…
Your immediate reaction is to think, “unsafe! big mess! stoooooooooop!”
Instead, take a deep breath and respond:

 “I can see you’re having fun throwing the blocks and dumping the toys. We want everyone to be safe. You can throw them in this laundry basket or you can drop them on a pillow.”

First we connect by acknowledging the fun our child is having. This allows our children to know we understand their actions and that we are in partnership with them versus have a power struggle against them. Then we take time to respond with intention, which models appropriate emotional responses by remaining calm and empathetic. Finally, we model positive language and show our child a creative solution so the child can continue to learn about the world in safe ways.

Your preschooler wants ice cream while you’re cooking dinner.
Your immediate reaction is to think, “I’m working hard to fix a healthy dinner. Ice cream will ruin your appetite. No way!”

Instead, take a deep breath and respond:

“Ice cream is so yummy. Wouldn’t it be fun to eat it all the time? We can have ice cream after we eat dinner.”

First we connect by acknowledging our child’s wishes, which maximizes a collaborative relationship with our child. We connect by acknowledging how fun it really would be to eat ice cream! Then we take time to respond with an intentionally appropriate emotional responses – we remain calm and empathetic; and we use positive language to set the limit, telling the child when s/he can have what she wants.

Another example: In May my daughter (age 4) and I bought sushi to eat before grocery shopping. She wanted ice cream first, so we talked about food as fuel for our bodies and she came up with a creative solution, “How about I dip my sushi in my ice cream?” I knew she was very hungry, so I agreed. She dipped her sushi in her ice cream until all the sushi was gone, then gobbled up the rest of her ice cream (mango, ginger sorbet…an excellent choice for a sushi dip, eh?! LOL). Knowing our children is an important part of this process too!

Your 7-year old wants to stay at the zoo until it closes even though everyone is exhausted after 7 hours at the zoo already.
Your immediate reaction is to think, “No. You’re tired and we need to get home and have dinner before we all have a meltdown!”

Instead, take a deep breath, consider their request, and respond:
“You’ve have had so much fun at the zoo today and you’re not ready to leave. I had a lot of fun today too and I wish I had the energy to stay as long as you want. But I’m tired and hungry, and I don’t want to be cranky with anyone. Let’s choose one more animal to visit and then talk about a game to play on the way home.”

First we connect with our child, then we let them know our own limits (we do have them!), and then we collaborate with our child on what they can do and use positive language to let our child know what they can look forward to doing in the future. Again, we take time to respond with an intentionally appropriate emotional response.

What are some more alternatives to responding to these situations in ways that model appropriate communication and solution-focused interactions? What are some other scenarios you want help with to minimize tantrums and create connections?

Amy C. Bryant, EdS, LPC is a therapist, educator, writer, and child advocate. She founded Parenting Beyond Punishment to support parents  move into a connection-centered approach to living with their children. Amy provides online parenting consultations worldwide and writes a collaborative blog on the Parenting Beyond Punishment website. She is also a contributing writer to Play At Home Mom, a blog designed to help parents connect with their children through play. She lives and plays with her daughter and husband in Atlanta.

Related posts:

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.

‘What I Believe He Will Believe’ by Abby Theuring, MSW – Friends of L.R.Knost Rock the Guest Posts while She Battles Cancer

I came across the concept of Core Beliefs in grad school for Social Work. The idea hit home with me as I could relate to it on many levels in my personal life. I was able to identify my own Core Beliefs and see how these affected my thinking habits. It wasn’t until recently that it hit me that now that I am a mother this concept is far more important than I could have ever imagined.

Core Beliefs are the basic beliefs that make up how we see ourselves and our relationship with others and the world. These beliefs are developed at a very young age. These beliefs come directly from our primary caregivers. These are where our conscious thoughts and feelings originate. Core Beliefs live deep inside of us and are not accessed directly. Because they are so long in the making and so deeply ingrained, they are inflexible and rigid. There are positive ones such as “I am lovable.” “I am worthy of love.” “I matter.” “I am good enough.” “I am safe in the world.” “I have control.” And there are negative ones such as “I am not good enough.” “I am not lovable.” “I don’t deserve love.” “I am not valuable.” “I am powerless.”

A few of my personal negative ones that affect my thoughts and feelings are “I can’t handle this,” “I am not safe,” “I am not good enough.” These affect me in my daily life when I have big emotions that feel unmanageable, scary and never-ending. For example, if I am feeling overwhelmed with Jack I can become consumed with frustration. The frustration rises and I perceive it as bigger than me, scary and threatening. I tell myself I can’t handle the emotion or situation. Because I tell myself that I can’t handle it the feeling increases and I feel even more out of control. With a lot of work I have learned that I can intervene by using positive self-talk; “I can handle this,” “I can manage my big emotions,” “I am OK.” Or in a similar situation with Jack I might tell myself that I am not good enough to be a parent. That I am not capable of being a good mother. I try to remember to intervene by telling myself I am good enough and I am trying my best.

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Intervening as early as possible is key. The earlier we intervene in our negative thinking (that is ultimately a result of our Core Beliefs) the easier and quicker we can ward off intense negative feelings. It’s a matter of remaining aware of our emotions at all times. But seriously, who does that? It’s normal to become overwhelmed and feel trapped by certain emotions. Every single one of us has a list of positive and negative Core Beliefs that affect how we react to situations. It’s really not possible to be aware at all times unless you are some sort of Zen Master. Which I am not. So just trying our best to recognize when our thoughts are leading to negative emotions and intervening as soon as possible is what counts.

I learned a lot about this in training as a Social Worker and the personal therapy that I engaged in as a young adult. It all seemed fine and well until I had Jack. Then I got to learn about the receiving end; Jack. I was always looking at this as the adult who had many years ago developed my Core Beliefs from my parents. Now I think about it as the mother who is affecting a tiny boy’s future Core Beliefs. It’s difficult to accept that I am passing down negative beliefs to Jack. It hurts to know that Jack will take all of this in and live his life with negativity passed down from me. But it is true, it happens to all of us, and I want to remember this so that I can continue to do the work to understand myself, make changes and challenge my negative thinking when it arises.

Jack sees me struggle to handle big emotions, become overwhelmed and tell myself that I can’t handle it. He will learn to react this way to big emotions if I myself don’t routinely work to manage my own. He will learn that big emotions are scary and are to be feared and overcome by. When he is having his own big emotions I try to tell him everything will be OK, that he is safe, that mama is here. No, this won’t fix everything, but it’s my effort to give Jack what might have been missing when I developed my personal Core Beliefs. And that’s all I can do. He will develop his own and maybe the very ones that I try to ward off. But I tried. I put in the effort to understand myself and how I affect his life in the long run. I gave him… something.

It becomes clearer and clearer to me that gentle parenting is not about Jack. It’s really about me becoming self-aware. Learning how my early experiences affect me now and how I pass this onto Jack. I came into gentle parenting through breastfeeding struggles that led me to Attachment Parenting that led me to a broader sense of parenting gently. I look back at Attachment Parenting as a beautiful set of tools. They say “the 7 B’s are tools not rules.” I truly understand this now. Bed-sharing, breastfeeding, babywearing and so forth are wonderful concrete concepts to introduce parents to that they can fully understand and participate in if they choose. But these truly are just tools. Being close to my baby, being fully present for my baby and focusing on positive attachment depend on something much bigger. This comes from a place deep inside me. I can bed-share until the cows come home, but unless I focus on being aware of myself and what I am passing down to Jack I am not really present in our relationship. Which is the whole point. To me it’s the thing that takes the word “parent” from a noun to a verb.

Abby Theuring, MSW has a master’s degree in Social Work and worked with abused and neglected teenagers for 14 years before her son, Jack, was born. Upon the birth of her son she quit her job and refocused her passion for advocacy to breastfeeding and gentle parenting. Abby struggled to get started with breastfeeding and now hopes to empower mothers through blogging and public speaking to breastfeed, breastfeed in public and practice gentle parenting. Abby’s blogs can be found at http://www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com and www.breastfeedingbasics.com. Facebook-TheBadassBreastfeeder.

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L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.