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-Ins, 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.

Sandbox Soapbox: Toddler Insights

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

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 quote toddler talkAs we step into the toddler zone, let’s start where we should always start…with observing and understanding so that we can not only grow happy, well-rounded children, but also grow as parents and as humans ourselves. So to begin to implement the Three C’s of gentle discipline – Connection, Communication, and Cooperation – let’s take a peek inside the mind of the toddler by listening in on a sandbox conversation at the park:

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: You look a little frazzled, Dude. Hard day?

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: Hard doesn’t even begin to describe my day!  I love my mommy to pieces, but seriously, she does NOT know how to share. I took one little thing out of her purse, and she freaked! Snatching and saying, “Mine!” and everything. And right in the middle of the store, too! So embarrassing. Everybody was looking at me, rolling their eyes. I felt like a total failure.

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: I hear you! I have the same problem. And mine has been getting into EVERYTHING, too! Like, I stashed my cracker under the couch so I could have a little snack later, and she totally threw it in the trash! Who does that?

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: You think that’s bad? Check this. I’m minding my own business, just chillin’ with my toys, and she just snatches me up and carts me off and straps me in the highchair, no warning at all. And I’m not even hungry! Then she gets all upset when I do a little physics with my food. Btw, so cool how sometimes it falls straight down and sometimes it splats against the wall. I think it has something to do with the consistency of the food and the angle of my trajectory. Just a working theory atm, though.

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: Cool! Let me know what you figure out. How about this. I can’t get anything done! No joke! I spent all morning building this stellar block tower. Dude, you should have seen this thing. It was epic! So, I walk away for like one second, and she dumps the whole thing in the toy box! An entire morning’s work, gone. I don’t know why I bother sometimes.

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: Same! And what’s with this new ‘time-out’ thing mine’s into all of a sudden? I get the slightest bit upset about something, and, just when I need a cuddle, she sticks me in this chair and won’t let me get up! Like a chair is a good hugger? Really?

 

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: That is just wrong. Hey, how about this whole potty training dealio? She wants me to do my business in a little plastic bowl. We eat out of those things! Seriously, you gotta wonder what goes on in their brains sometimes.

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: You’re lucky. Mine keeps propping me up on that big white contraption with water in it. I could drown! And you should see what happens when she pushes down that handle in the back. Can you say vortex of DOOM?!?

 

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: Not cool, Dude, not cool at all!  Are you dealing with tantrums yet? Mine has got a temper like you wouldn’t believe! Anytime she doesn’t get her way, watch out for the fireworks! She yells and flaps her arms and stomps around, and, I hate to say it, but she’s starting to hit. Like that’s going to solve anything. I have no idea how to handle these aggression issues! Why can’t they just be reasonable like us?

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: I think it’s a communication issue, myself. I mean, they’re just barely starting to understand us when we talk to them, so I try to cut mine a little slack when she starts getting frustrated. I just stay close, maybe pat her arm or offer her a toy. Sometimes she settles down a bit and starts smiling again, but sometimes she just needs a little time to calm down. I stay present, though, so she knows I’m always there for her.

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: I think you’re messing up there, Dude. You need to walk away, just walk away and let her deal. If you comfort her, she’ll expect you to help her process her emotions, and that’ll lead to dependency issues, mark my words! When she freaks, you’ve got to force her to control herself! When she’s ready to be reasonable and listen, then you can be friends again.

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: I don’t know. Mine flat out won’t listen. I can’t tell you how many times I have to ask her to play with me before she finally looks up from her toy. What is it with parents and electronics, anyway? And then all she does is say, “Just a minute, hon.” What exactly is a minute, btw?

 

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: ‘Just a minute’ means ‘This is more important than you,’ Dude. Come on, get with the program. You have to make them pay attention! Yell. Throw something. Bite the cat. Whatever it takes! Don’t let them get away with disrespecting you like that or they’ll never pay attention.

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: Word. Talk about getting with the program, how do you handle the sleep issues? I just cannot take another sleepless night! She keeps me up for hours every. single. night. It starts out great, bath-time, a book and cuddles, but then she just clocks out like I’m some kind of a toy she can switch off when it gets dark! And, man, is it dark. I don’t know what’s living in my closet, but it is ginormous!

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: Sleep training, Dude! It’s the only way. They turn that light out and shut the door, you follow them! Every. Time. Or, if you’re too scared (totally get that, btw) then just start hollering and don’t stop. If you can’t sleep, make sure they can’t, either! And don’t give in. Not even once. You let them get away with that stuff one time, and you’ll never get any sleep, ever! They have to learn that it’s their job to take care of you day and night, even if all you need is a hug!

 

 

toddler boy parkToddler 2: Got it. Oh, man, here she comes. Seriously, do you have this problem, too? We’re at the park. Everybody’s having a good time. And she just up and decides to leave. I think she’s got some anti-social tendencies. I’m thinking of having her tested.

 

 

 

toddler girl in sandboxToddler 1: Same here! But I’m working on it. They’ve got to learn it’s not all about them, and it’s our job to teach them. Look, here comes mine, too. Watch and learn, Dude. I’m using the arched-back, flail and wail today. Deep breath and, “No! No! Noooooo…”

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing our own actions from another perspective is uncomfortable, no doubt, but the understanding we can achieve is well worth the discomfort if we can learn and grow from it as parents. As Maya Angelou, American author, poet, and self-described Renaissance Woman, wrote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Related posts:

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-in’s, Oh my!

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

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

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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.

Did Jesus have a Temper Tantrum?

[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.]

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Jesus angry temple“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.’”
Matthew 21:12-13

 

Temper tantrum: (n.) a loss of mental balance or composure, esp. an outburst of anger or irritation

It may seem a bit disrespectful to label Jesus’ takedown in the temple courtyard as a temper tantrum, but according to the dictionary definition of a tantrum, that would be an accurate designation. He acted out his overwhelming emotions by flipping over tables and throwing chairs and chasing people away in a God-sized, epic tantrum that must have shocked the religious to their core and rocked the pharisaical back on their heels.

So what’s the deal? Are temper tantrums signs of a child’s sinful, selfish nature, as the child-training set are so quick to accuse, or are they normal expressions of overwhelming emotions? Let’s see what the child-trainers have to say:

“A temper tantrum is an absolute rejection of parental authority. Parents should isolate the child (with a promise of consequences), then follow through with chastisement [spanking] after the child settles down.” (Gary Ezzo, Growing Kid’s God’s Way)

“…tantrums are a form of challenging behavior that can be eliminated by one or more appropriate spankings.(p. 108)” (Dr. James Dobson, The New Dare to Discipline)

“A seven-month-old boy had, upon failing to get his way, stiffened, clenched his fists, bared his toothless gums and called down damnation on the whole place. At a time like that, the angry expression on a baby’s face can resemble that of one instigating a riot. The young mother, wanting to do the right thing, stood there in helpless consternation, apologetically shrugged her shoulders and said, “What can I do?” My incredulous nine-year-old whipped back, “Switch him.” The mother responded, “I can’t, he’s too little.” With the wisdom of a veteran who had been on the little end of the switch, my daughter answered, “If he is old enough to pitch a fit, he is old enough to be spanked.(p. 79)” (Michael Pearl, To Train Up a Child)

“If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round. ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking.’”(Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart)

So, what do you think, parents? Is acting out of overwhelming emotions a sin that must be punished as the child-trainers claim or is it normal human behavior? Is there even such a thing as normal human behavior, or is human behavior itself sinful by its very nature? Is having overwhelming emotions, in and of itself, a sin?

Sin, Biblically speaking, is acting outside of God’s nature. Since Jesus is God in the flesh, he was clearly acting within God’s nature at all times, even though he was also fully human. So, Jesus’ actions and his human behaviors, his normal human behaviors, all fell within the boundaries of God’s nature and therefore were and are not sinful.

Let’s go back to Jesus and breakdown the takedown in the temple. He was angry. He toppled tables. He threw things. He chased people away. But Jesus was and is sinless, so clearly being angry, being overwhelmed by big emotions, and acting on those emotions are not sins, in and of themselves.

When does acting on emotions become sinful, then? The answer lies in Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Note that it doesn’t say, “Getting angry is a sin.”

Emotions can lead to sin when they remain unsettled, are left to burrow deeply into our hearts and take root, and when we subsequently respond with spite, bitterness, vengeance, or rage.

As parents, then, how can we help our children when they are overwhelmed by their emotions, when they tantrum and cry and act out their big feelings? Does it make sense to expect them to cope with their big emotions alone or to suppress their emotions so they remain unsettled?

Of course not. Our children need us to parent them, not punish them.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.”
(Psalm 46:1b)

Just as God is “our refuge and strength” and “an ever-present help” that is what we need to be for our children, to reflect the heart of our Father to our own little ones. We can help them to process their emotions. We can work with them to resolve their problems. And we can equip them with the life skills they’ll need to handle their emotions on their own when they grow into adulthood.

As you read on, remind yourself that having emotions is not a sin and needing help processing those emotions is a normal part of childhood:

When a little person feels frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain old out-of-sorts (read: tantrum time!), it’s tempting for parents to focus on correction rather than connection. But when children are intensely stressed, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which in early childhood is an underdeveloped, mushy grey sponge waiting to be formed, is flooded with cortisol, the ‘stress hormone.’ The result is what is known as the fight-freeze-or-flight syndrome in which higher brain functions (learning, reason, self-control) are markedly hampered and lower brain functions (instinct, physical reactions) take over. This is an in-built survival mechanism that gradually comes under conscious control through years of growth in a safe and supportive environment. Interestingly, it is theorized that this underdeveloped ‘sponginess’ is why small children are able to learn new languages more quickly than older children and adults. They are, in a very literal way, absorbing information raw, unhampered by the processing and reason of a more mature brain.

Expecting young children to have the maturity and self-control to overcome this God-given survival instinct is unrealistic. Threatening, punishing, or even reasoning with them while their higher brain functions are suppressed is futile and actually just adds more stress to the situation (more stress = fuel on the tantrum-fire!).

What they really need is help…

  • First, help coping with their big emotions
  • Then, help reconnecting with their source of safety and security (you!)
  • And last, help processing the problem that sent them into a maelstrom of emotion in the first place.

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.

This is where the Three C’s of gentle discipline come into play:

Connection:

  • Remaining present and supportive until they are able to calm down enough to accept your help
  • Drawing them close when they’re ready (time-in)

Communication:

  • Validating their emotions by labeling them and empathizing (i.e. “You’re sad because we have to leave the park. I’m sad, too. The park is fun!”)
  • Offering words to help them express their frustrations using reflective language (i.e. “It’s hard to do things we don’t like, isn’t it?”)

Cooperation:

  • Helping them move on by redirecting their attention to the future (i.e. “When we get home we’re going to make a snack. Would you like grapes or bananas today?”)
  • Modeling coping skills and self-control by calming your own reaction to their meltdown and helping them process their big emotions

These are all ways of reconnecting with your toddler or preschooler to help them successfully navigate their present difficulty as well as to cope with difficulties they’re confronted with in the future.

One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar made from small, round, plastic bottles such as Aquapod water bottles. They are perfect for small hands to shake and manhandle to their heart’s content.

To make your own Calm-Me-Jar, fill up a plastic water bottle with warm water and basic craft glitter glue in whatever color you like. You can add some extra glitter and a drop of food coloring to customize your glitter jar to your child’s tastes, and then when you have the look you want, be sure to hot glue the top on to prevent spills.

When my little ones have meltdowns, or, if I can catch it, before they reach that point, I pull out one of the Calm-Me-Jars and shake it up and just let them hold it while I hold them (when they are ready to be held) and talk or sing quietly. When I feel their body relaxing and their breathing slow down, I might say something like, “It’s sad when we can’t have a toy, isn’t it?” or whatever else will reflect what they seem to be unable to express.

When an older preschooler or early elementary-aged child has a meltdown, or, again, before if I can catch it, I first connect, “I’m here. I can see you’re upset. How can I help?” and listen as they try to verbalize their feelings. If they’re having trouble with the words, instead of immediately supplying the words for them, I’ll offer them a Calm-Me-Jar and ask if they’d like to show me how they’re feeling. They will often shake the Calm-Me-Jar vigorously while jumping up and down and twisting all around, which is a great physical outlet for their intense feelings. I watch until I see their movements slowing and their breathing evening out, and when they’ve calmed just enough to hear me, I quietly talk them through the calming process, “Look at all that fairy dust bouncing around like crazy! I bet that’s how it feels inside when you’re so upset. Look at how it’s starting to slow down and settle to the bottom. If we breathe really slowly, we can feel ourselves settling like the fairy dust. Want to try it with me?” Then, if there are any behavior issues we need to address, we’ll work through those afterward when they’re calm, connected, and capable of interacting and understanding.

Here’s an example of how Calm-Me-Jars are helpful in ‘listening between the lines’ to my children’s behavior so I can meet them where they are and help them process their big feelings:

My five-year-old is a tiny girl with BIG emotions, and she really likes using Calm-Me-Jars to work through her feelings. We’ve put several together such as a silvery one she named Goodnight Moon, a light blue one she named Nemo Under the Sea, a pink one she named Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina, and a dark blue one she named Starry, Starry Night. When she is mad at one of her siblings, she’ll often bring me one of her Calm-Me-Jars (Goodnight Moon is a favorite in the evening!) and work out some of her upset physically by shaking the jar like crazy while she jumps up and down and tells me how mad she is. When she’s a bit calmer, we’ll have a little cuddle and watch the glitter settle while saying goodnight to the moon, all the furniture, and whatever other silliness we come up with until she’s calm. If there’s a discipline issue or she needs some help working things out with a sibling, we’ll work through it at that point because I know that’s when she can hear me and really process what I’m saying. If she chooses Starry, Starry Night we might sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or step outside and see if there are any stars out yet. If she decides on Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina she’ll often dance her frustrations away while shaking her Calm-Me-Jar. And if she picks out Nemo Under the Sea we’ll ‘speak whale’ like Dory from Finding Nemo or we’ll make fishy faces at each other until we’re both giggling.

As you can see, my feisty little girl’s choice of Calm-Me-Jar shows me what she needs to do to work through her emotions of the moment, whether it’s to act things out physically in acceptable ways or to connect through song or through silliness.

The key is being in tune with your little one enough to understand their personality and work with it instead of against it. My five-year-old is spunky and silly, so having a long, serious talk would drive her crazy and accomplish nothing. We quickly decide together how she’ll approach whatever the problem was the next time she encounters it, and then she’s ready to move on, whereas when some of my older ones were little they really liked to talk things through (and still do!). My toddler, on the other hand, doesn’t have tantrums because that simply isn’t part of her own unique personality, but she’s still fascinated by her Calm-Me-Jar and loves to sit with me and watch the “pintess faywe dut” (“princess fairy dust”) glitter settle when she’s feeling a bit cranky or out-of-sorts.

Remember, there is no cure for tantrums because they are simply a normal result of a normal developmental stage of childhood. Trying to avoid tantrum triggers (tiredness, hunger, overstimulation, etc.) is always a good first step, along with remaining in-tune, responsive, and available, but when all else fails and a tantrum does occur, reacting with an adult tantrum is tantamount to throwing fuel on a toddler-tantrum-fire. So instead of losing it when your little one loses it, take an adult time-out, breathe deeply to gain control of your own emotions, and then grab the Three C’s of gentle discipline from your parenting toolbox and work with your child, not against them. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

Reactors react to a crisis with a meltdown. Responders respond to a crisis with help. To raise a mature, stable adult, be a first responder, not a nuclear reactor!

“God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in times of trouble”
Psalm 46:1b

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

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.

Toxic Parenting: Spanking, Shaming, Threatening, Manipulating

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

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quote stop the violenceWant to help stop the bullying epidemic? Don’t act like a bully. Don’t hit, threaten, ignore, isolate, intimidate, ridicule, or manipulate your child. Children really do learn what they live…

I stood, frozen in shock, outside of the upscale bookstore where I would soon be signing my gentle parenting books and chatting with parents about alternatives to punishment-based parenting. A well-dressed young couple I’d spoken with just minutes before in a nearby pizzeria was getting into an expensive SUV several yards away from where I was standing, but the screams were crystal clear.

The young man was leaning over his wife who sat shrinking into her seat as he screamed in her face, “Get in the car! Get in the car!” over and over again. The woman was clearly confused, as was I. She was in the car, though not yet buckled up, so why in the world was the man screaming at his wife to get in? It suddenly dawned on me that what he wanted her to do was put her seatbelt on, but the man was too enraged to even realize that wasn’t what he was actually saying.

I glanced down at my little one who was shrinking back in fear and tried to organize my thoughts so I could cross the few yards separating me from the SUV and engage the man in conversation. If nothing else, I thought, reminding him that people were watching might help him to take a moment and compose himself.

But in the next second, the man suddenly yanked his wife out of her seat and landed several stinging blows on her bare skin before flinging her back into her seat, this time screaming at the sobbing woman, “You are not in charge! You are not in charge!” He then slammed her door shut, stomped around to his own seat, slammed his door, and pealed out of his parking space.

I quickly snapped a picture of the license plate with my iPhone and called the police to report the domestic violence I’d just witnessed. They immediately sent out an officer to track down the endangered woman and take the man into custody.

Now here’s the real story…

On a recent book tour I stood, frozen in shock, outside of the upscale bookstore where I would soon be signing my gentle parenting books and chatting with parents about alternatives to punishment-based parenting. A well-dressed woman and her two small children whom I’d chatted with just moments before in a nearby pizzeria were getting into an expensive SUV, but the screams were crystal clear.

The woman was leaning over her toddler and four-year-old who sat shrinking into their carseats as she screamed in their faces, “Get in the car! Get in the car!” at them over and over again. The children were clearly confused, as was I. They were in their carseats, though not yet buckled up, so why in the world was the woman screaming at her children to get in? It suddenly dawned on me that what she wanted was for the toddler to put her own arms in the straps, but the mother was too enraged to even realize that wasn’t what she was actually saying.

I glanced down at my little one who was shrinking back in fear and tried to organize my thoughts so I could cross the few yards separating me from the SUV and engage the woman in conversation. If nothing else, I thought, reminding the mother that people were watching might help her to take a moment and compose herself.

But in the next second, the woman suddenly yanked her toddler out of her carseat and landed several stinging blows to her chubby little legs before flinging her back into her carseat, this time screaming at the sobbing child, “You are not in charge! You are not in charge!” She then roughly buckled the little one in, stomped around to her own seat, slammed her door, and pealed out of her parking space.

As I stood there staring through tears at the tail lights speeding away, I realized that if I’d just witnessed a man doing that to his wife I could call the police who would intervene immediately because there are laws to protect adults from domestic violence, but there are no such laws protecting children in the US.

My opportunity was lost to touch those small children’s lives, and my heart aches for them. Was the mother just having a bad day? Was she angry at the snarky pizzeria cashier? Was she frustrated that dinner was pizza again because she’d been delayed at work? I don’t know, and, honestly, I don’t care. If a man was having a bad day, we wouldn’t accept that as an excuse for domestic violence.

Hitting any human being other than a child is against the law in the United States where it is legal for parents to hit their children whenever and wherever and with whatever they want to as long as it doesn’t leave lasting marks and, in nineteen states, for school officials to hit children with anything from rulers to two foot long boards. That is not acceptable. In fact, it is outrageous.

Though I know I can’t change the world for every child, I am determined to change the world for as many children as humanly possible. We don’t need new laws. We just need the domestic violence laws already in place to protect adults to be extended to protect our most vulnerable, voiceless, voteless citizens, our children.

Did you know that there is less evidence linking lead exposure to developmental delays in children and asbestos to cancer than there is of the short and long-term detrimental effects of spanking? Study after study has confirmed that spanking (not just physical abuse, but any physical act of correction – smacking, hitting, swatting, slapping, paddling, switching, etc.) is directly linked to greater aggression and other behavioral issues, impaired cognitive development, and increased risk of depression and anxiety in childhood as well as long-term mental issues in adulthood. And yet the American public is still reluctant to dismiss the physical punishment of children as an option for parents and school systems.

It is not unusual for public opinion to evolve slowly. Until recent years, husbands hitting their spouses in the US was considered “reasonable chastisement of wives” and “a private family matter” by the courts and by law enforcement even though it has technically been against the law in all fifty states for decades. Now domestic violence in the US is viewed with outrage and abusers with disdain.

While the tide is ever-so-slowly turning regarding public opinion of the physical punishment of children, in excess of eighty-percent of Americans still believe spanking is a necessary part of raising a child according to a survey cited by a UN report. And in the nineteen US states where corporal punishment is still legal in the public school system, wooden paddles are used on children as young as preschool, and parents’ permission or notification is often not even required. By contrast, in every branch of the US military and in the US penal system, physical punishment has long been outlawed as it was deemed ‘cruel and unusual’ and a ‘use of excessive force.’

Clearly there is a disconnect when it comes to physical punishment of the most vulnerable and defenseless of our citizens, our children. Even in the face of study after study detailing the detrimental effects of physical punishment on young children, more than ninety-percent of American parents still admit to spanking their toddlers and preschoolers, even if they don’t believe that it is a good alternative. The responses to a recently released study linking a significantly increased risk of mental illness in adulthood to being spanked as a child point to some possible reasons for that dichotomy:

1.”I was spanked, and I turned out okay.”

Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, but why take the risk?

2. “I don’t want to raise a rotten brat!”

Studies link spanking to increased aggression and other behavioral issues, not decreased.

3. “I spank my kids because the Bible commands me to.”

Not only is spanking not one of the Ten Commandments, but commanding or even suggesting that parents hit young children is not found anywhere in the Bible. The handful of Old Testament ‘rod’ and ‘training’ verses used to support this theory are misinterpreted to refer to physical punishment instead of guidance, and the word translated ‘child’ in those verses is translated ‘young man’ in every other instance.

4. “They’re my kids, and nobody has the right to tell me how to raise them!”

Our laws are civil agreements as to what is and is not acceptable in our society. We once agreed that slavery was acceptable. Now we know better, and our laws reflect that. As research continues to reveal the detrimental effects of spanking, public opinion will begin to shift and our laws will naturally follow suit. It is the way of a democratic society.

5. “Nothing else works!”

Thoughtful, compassionate, proactive parenting works.

Beyond even the issue of spanking, though, the mindset of controlling children through external forces rather than helping them learn how to and desire to control themselves is where the real changes need to happen. When humans, whether they are adults or children, are pushed, the inbuilt reaction is to push back. When humans are pulled, the inbuilt reaction is to pull back. When they are threatened, intimidated, or shamed, it is only the size and strength of their opponent that results in submission and that submission is temporary. As soon as the opponent is eliminated from the equation, humans will pursue their own course, often more angrily and rebelliously and single-mindedly.

Becoming our children’s opponent is not healthy parenting and it doesn’t create a healthy parent/child relationship. It creates a destructive dynamic primed for conflict, rebellion, and escalation. Even when parents choose non-violent means to control their children such as isolation (i.e. time-outs) and behavior charts and other punishment/reward tactics, the basic truth is that they are modelling manipulation and coercion and are focused on controlling a child’s behavior externally rather than working with them to help them learn to control their own behavior through an internal guidance system.

In parenting there will always be times when your child’s behavior doesn’t meet your expectations. Recognizing that you are two distinct individuals with differing opinions and plans and wants and needs will help you to work with your child instead of clashing with them and creating an unhealthy dynamic in your relationship. Be aware that unhealed hurts and unforgiveness, even of yourself, will get in the way of a healthy relationship and take the steps you need to take in order to heal your relationship and yourself (see Chapter Fifteen of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline).

Whenever things escalate to the point where you withhold affection and connection in order to punish or try to control behavior, and certainly if you are hitting or if you are hurting your child emotionally through threats, intimidation, and shaming, you can be sure you’ve stepped off the gentle discipline path. But there is always a way back, and that’s through reconnection, owning our mistakes, and starting again. The bottom line is that we cannot control another human being. We can force external obedience temporarily, but only by constantly escalating the threats, emotional manipulations, and punishments which accomplish nothing in the long run and do far greater damage than they are worth.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of parents not only deeply love their children, but, based on the information and experiences they have to work with, are also making the best parenting decisions they know how to make. Working with our children instead of against them is a foreign concept to most parents, but therein lies the secret to a peaceful, happy home and the healthy parent/child trust relationship that the Three C’s of gentle discipline—Connection, Communication, and Cooperation—are built upon.

Related posts:

The Color of Change

When Toddlers Become Teens

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Rethinking Tattling

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

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

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 for a Peaceful World (Guest post for Parenting Beyond Punishment)

[Guest post for Parenting Beyond Punishment with 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 also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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Parenting crosses all cultural, ethnic, economic, life-style, and faith boundaries. It connects us as humans in a way that few things are capable of doing. As adults we are, each and every one of us, products of our childhood. Whether good or bad, filled with connection or neglect, characterized by healthy or harmful relationships, we are indelibly marked by the etchings of our past.

When our childhood is filled with safety, joy, and secure attachments, we take the tools of healthy relationships and life choices with us into adulthood. But when our childhood is marred by pain, insecurity, small boy and fear, we not only enter adulthood lacking the tools to create a healthy, happy, successful life, but we also carry a heavy baggage of unresolved anger, confusion, and anxiety with us into the future. We may forgive and heal and move on, but the reality is that the scars we carry, though perhaps faded and forgotten, remain part of who we become.

Recognizing that our perceptions and beliefs about parenting are rooted in our own childhood experiences is a vital step toward parenting from a place of intention rather reaction.  It is in that recognition, as we discover that we are carrying forward practices that will negatively impact our own children, that we become empowered to step back and unpack our childhood baggage in the past where it belongs rather than unloading it onto our children in the present and setting them up carry the negative practices and resultant baggage into their own adulthood.

But what about when destructive parenting practices are carried forward intentionally? What about when parenting practices become generational, passed from parent to child with conscious intent? Why are some parenting choices, even those such as spanking which research has shown to have powerfully negative impacts on children and the adults they will become, carried on from one generation to the next in the vast majority of homes across the planet?

Studies have revealed that in excess of 90% of American parents admit to spanking their children at some point in their childhood, and more than 50% concede that they employ spanking on a regular basis. Worldwide, it is estimated that in excess of 80% of children are spanked, typically in the most vulnerable early developmental years.

While cultural influences and stressors such as economic hardship and family instability and a lack of education are all certainly involved in the continuing high rates of physical punishment of children, one factor that cannot be overlooked in its continuation is the prevalence of punitive parenting guides that promote such practices. These books that instruct parents on the tenets of child-training and behavioral modification often use spanking as the ‘gold standard,’ the ultimate tool for controlling children, and many of these guides intimate or even outright state that parents MUST spank children because, in their view, “the Bible commands it.”

In order to stop the damaging generational cycle of violence against children, we need to take on that pseudo-Biblical viewpoint, disseminate the doctrinal beliefs underpinning it, and make sense of the original texts in the original language of the Bible.

Jesus the Gentle ParentHere is an excerpt from Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting that does just that:

Parents worldwide have one thing in common…a deep, heartfelt desire to raise their children ‘right,’ to do their best to raise healthy, responsible, happy people. And, again almost universally, those parents look to others to help guide them on their parenting journey. Sometimes they look to their own family or to close friends, but often they seek out parenting guides, trusting that what they read in a book from a parenting ‘expert’ must be right…right?

What they don’t realize is that anyone can write a parenting book, and it’s often the expertise in marketing rather than in parenting that sells the most books. Here are excerpts and quotes from some of today’s most widely read and trusted self-proclaimed parenting experts:

“After ten acts of stubborn defiance, followed by ten switchings, he surrendered his will to one higher than himself.” (about whipping a 15 month old) …”Don’t wait until they are one year old to start training.  Rebellion and self-will should be broken in the six-month-old when it first appears” …never show mercy. One squeak of a scream gets a switching.” (about whipping a 3-year-old) …“For young children, especially during the first year, the rod is used as a training tool. You use something small and light to get the child’s attention and to reinforce your command. One or two light licks on the bare legs or arms will cause a child to stop in his tracks and regard your commands. A 12-inch piece of weed eater chord(sic) works well as a beginner rod. It will fit in your purse or pocket. Later, a plumber’s supply line is a good spanking tool…A baby needs to be trained all day, everyday.”(Michael Pearl, To Train up a Child)

“Pain is a marvelous purifier…It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely… Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less, but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining… I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears.”(Dr. James Dobson, Dare to Discipline)

“Even at mealtime, be looking for training opportunities in order to avoid retraining. Don’t allow poor eating habits– such as fingers in the mouth, playing with food, and spitting out food–to become a normal pattern of your child’s behavior. It only means correcting the child at a later date” (Ezzo, Babywise II, p. 44) …”Chastisement [spanking] is the price paid to remove the guilt thus free the child from his burden. If the parents do not remove the guilt, the child lives under the weight of sin.” (Gary Ezzo, Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 212 )

“A parent must recognize and see clearly that Biblically beating his child sensitizes that child not only to the fact of sin but also to its ugliness. In addition, the child will see that the penalty must always be paid when we sin…The one who does not Biblically beat his child, in a loving and consistent way, in a very real sense predisposes that child for hell and even has a very direct part in sending him there.”  (Ronald E. Williams, The Correction and Salvation of Children)

“The rod is a parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured and controlled use of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying God…If you fail to spank, you fail to take God’s Word seriously. You are saying you do not believe what the Bible teaches about the import of these issues. You are saying that you do not love your child enough to do the painful things that God has called you to.” (Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart)

These self-styled parenting ‘experts’ and others mandate strict, unemotional behavioral controls, often enforced punitively, stemming from a shared core ideology that children need to be trained…trained to self-soothe, trained to sleep alone, trained to play independently, trained to instantly obey.

Much of the root of the idea that children need to be trained comes from the Old Testament verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

The word translated train up in that verse is the Hebrew word chanak/chanokh which translated literally means ‘to dedicate or to initiate.’To dedicate means to ‘commit to a special use’ and ‘to focus on a specific purpose.’ To initiate means to ‘introduce to, create an appetite or a taste for’ and ‘to set on the path.’ In every other Old Testament usage of chanak/chanokh it is translated ‘to dedicate or to initiate’ except for the ‘train up a child’ verse.

Thus, the verse literally reads…

Train up Introduce a child to/set a child on the path in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

That verse, coupled with a handful of others such as the ‘spare the rod’ verses (see Chapter Eleven of Jesus, the Gentle Parent for a discussion of the original translations and misinterpretations of those verses), has led to an entire parenting paradigm based on Old Testament practices of rigid expectations and harsh consequences, purported to be ‘God’s way.’ (Read more)

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.

Grace has a Face…It’s Yours

[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.]

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“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”
Luke 18:16

toddler girlThe tiny girl stood timidly at the top of the stairs, her small face anxious as she called out in toddler-eze, “Dada, do you comin?”

The man sitting in front of a small group of church leaders gathered in his living room grimaced. “Oops! Forgot I told her I’d be up in five minutes to tuck her in and say her prayers.” He shook his head and glanced around the room with a self-deprecating grin, “I forget my promises more often than not, unfortunately. Hazards of a busy schedule, I guess.” He sighed, “I told her to wait in her bed for me. Now I have to go spank her, poor thing. It’ll be the third time today. I wish parenting was easier.”

An older man stood and gestured to the others in the room to gather around the man. “Let’s pray for strength for our brother to fulfill his fatherly duties unwaveringly and cheerfully.”

As the church leaders joined hands and prayed, the lone woman in the group stood aside. She looked from the tiny face still peering down through the stair railing to the gathering of adults solemnly praying over the little girl’s father, her heart racing as a flood of memories darkened her mind.

The prayer ended, and the father started up the steps.

The woman’s breath caught in her throat as a smile lit the toddler’s face when she saw her daddy approaching, her little hand reaching out trustingly to take his as he led her back to her bedroom. The bedroom door closed and silent moments passed, then muffled thwaps and cries of pain split the silence. A few minutes later the door opened, letting the sound of the small girl’s sobs drift clearly down the stairs before they were muffled again as the father emerged, his own eyes wet with tears, and closed the door softly behind him. The father hastily wiped his eyes, then rejoined the group downstairs.

The church leaders patted the father on the back, reassuring him that everyone made mistakes and forgot things at times, so he shouldn’t feel guilty about forgetting his promise to his child. They offered a few pieces of sage advice about securing a child’s unquestioning obedience with consistent punishment and reminded him to be unwavering in its application.

Then they returned to their meeting, trying to come up with a church program to share the unconditional love and freely given grace of their Heavenly Father with the wounded, the broken, the lost. The woman excused herself, and as she moved toward the front door she heard one man propose that they call the new program, ‘Grace is for Everyone.’

She barely made it to her car before collapsing into soul-shaking sobs.

The woman had been that little girl, once upon a life-time ago. Now she was the wounded, the broken, the lost. Her childhood wounds so often gaped and grasped, sucking any momentary joy from her heart and unexpectedly festering into flashes of anger that shocked her when they suddenly surfaced. Her broken trust shattered her relationship with her heavenly Daddy again and again as she grappled to understand and accept an unconditional love that she had never experienced at the hands of her earthly father. Her way seemed littered with roadblocks and pitfalls as she wandered in the darkness of a lost world, terrified that she would fail and be lost forever.

With a shuddering breath, the woman started her car and drove away, her heart aching for a tiny girl sobbing herself to sleep alone in a dark room and for an adult who would soon be doing the same thing.

*This is a true story. Some details have been changed for confidentiality.

How much different might it have been if the story had gone this way, instead:

The tiny girl stood timidly at the top of the stairs, her small face anxious as she called out in toddler-eze, “Dada, do you comin?”

The man sitting in front of a small group of church leaders gathered in his living room grimaced. “Oops! Forgot I told her I’d be up in five minutes to tuck her in and say her prayers.” He shook his head and glanced around the room with a self-deprecating grin, “I forget my promises more often than not, unfortunately. Hazards of a busy schedule, I guess.” He sighed, “I told her to wait in her bed for me. Now I have to go apologize to her, poor thing. It’ll be the third time I’ve had to apologize for dropping the ball today. I wish parenting was easier.”

An older man grinned and said, “Go take care of your little girl. We can wait.”

The father started up the stairs.

As the church leaders chatted while they waited for the man to return, the lone woman in the group sat silently. She looked at the tiny face still peering down through the stair railing, and her heart raced as a flood of memories darkened her mind.

The woman’s breath caught in her throat as a smile lit the toddler’s face when she saw her daddy approaching, her little hand reaching out trustingly to take his as he led her back to her bedroom. The bedroom door closed and silent moments passed, then muffled giggles wafted through the silence. A few minutes later the door opened, letting the sound of the small girl whispering, “Dood night, Dada!” drift clearly down the stairs as the father emerged, his eyes wet with tears, and closed the door softly behind him. The father hastily wiped his eyes, then rejoined the group downstairs.

As the father sat down, he cleared his throat, a bemused smile lighting his face. “I guess that’s why Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me,’” he said, “because children are so good at Jesus the Gentle Parent final front covergiving unconditional love and forgiving and trusting. No matter how many times I disappoint that little girl, no matter how many promises I break, she always forgives me and trusts me completely.”

The church leaders smiled and nodded, reassuring him that everyone made mistakes and forgot things at times, so he shouldn’t feel guilty about forgetting his promise to his child, after all, he was only human. They offered a few pieces of advice about juggling a busy schedule with children and reminded him that family always comes first.

Then they returned to their meeting, trying to come up with a church program to share the unconditional love and freely given grace of their Heavenly Father with the wounded, the broken, and the lost, both in their church and in their community. One leader mentioned, “I think that beautiful analogy about your daughter you just shared would make a perfect starting point for our program.” As the others in the room nodded their approval, someone proposed that they call the new program, ‘Grace is for Everyone.’

A few minutes later, the meeting broke up and everyone made their way home, but the woman sat in the dark driveway in her car with tears running down her cheeks.

She had been that little girl, once upon a life-time ago, waiting…hoping for a father’s love, but she had never received the compassion and humanity that she had witnessed that evening. Her childhood wounds so often gaped and grasped, sucking any momentary joy from her heart and unexpectedly festering into flashes of anger that shocked her when they suddenly surfaced. Her broken trust shattered her relationship with her heavenly Daddy again and again as she grappled to understand and accept an unconditional love that she had never experienced at the hands of her earthly father. Her way seemed littered with roadblocks and pitfalls as she wandered in the darkness of a lost world, terrified that she would fail and be lost forever.

With a slight smile, the woman started her car and drove away, her heart swelling with the unfamiliar feelings of hope and healing as she thought of a tiny girl peacefully sleeping in the safety of her father’s love and of an adult who might actually be doing the same thing for the first time in as long as she could remember.

Here’s the thing, parents, either grace is sufficient for all or it is sufficient for none. There is no in-between. You are your children’s first taste of God, their first understanding of love, their first vision of grace. How you treat them in that capacity will inevitably affect their relationship with Christ. Choose love, because he is Love in the flesh. Choose gentleness, because he is the Gentle Shepherd. Choose grace, because he died so that you could.

Grace has a face…

It’s yours.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
Philippians 4:9

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

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?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

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.

Gentle Journeys Book Club: Two Thousand Kisses a Day-Chapter One Discussion Questions

gentle journeys book clubHow it works:

We cover a chapter a week as we go through a book club selection. One discussion question is posted per day on the Little Hearts Facebook page to be discussed in the comments there and also here on the Little Hearts site to be discussed in the comments. Participants share thoughts and ask questions about the chapter and about issues they’re having at home that relate to the chapter. Everyone can chime in to answer each others’ questions and discuss their own experiences. At the end of each week a round-up of the week’s discussion (minus the names of the participants) is published on the Little Hearts website. New comments are always welcome, even after the discussion for the chapter has ended. All comments are moderated for content and relevance. Participants are automatically entered in a monthly book prize drawing.

This week we are discussing the first chapter of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages. Feel free to discuss current or previous questions here in the comments or click over to the Little Hearts Facebook page to join the discussion there. :D

Two Thousand Kisses a DayDay 1: Before reading ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages’ what was your perception of Attachment Parenting and/or Gentle Parenting, and after reading the first chapter, did your perception change and, if so, in what way?

Day 2: Attachment Parenting could also be called ‘Instinctual Parenting.’ Are there any parenting choices you instinctively made that you were surprised to discover fit naturally into the Attachment Parenting model?

Day 3: Attachment parenting concepts go hand-in-hand with gentle parenting in infancy, but some don’t believe that gentle discipline is necessary to maintain a healthy parent/child relationship. Do you feel that gentle parenting is central to maintaining the trust relationship built by attachment practices in infancy, or do you think that trust can be preserved in a punitive parenting environment?

Day 4: If you’re in the infancy stage, what benefits have you seen so far from attachment/gentle parenting? If you’re beyond the infancy stage, have you found the transition from the early attachment practices difficult or has it been a smooth transition for you and your little one?

Day 5: What conflict or criticism, if any, have you encountered in your attachment/gentle parenting journey so far, and how has reading peaceful parenting materials such as ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ helped you in your journey?

Day 6: Have you felt supported in your gentle journey? If so, share who or what has helped you most. If not, what can we do to provide the support you need here in our gentle parenting community?

 

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.

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

[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.]

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“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

“Many parents in using the rod of correction on their child do so with an obvious lack of vigor and often stop short of the child’s will being completely broken … Both my wife and I have often remarked that it is good that one of our children was not our firstborn. This particular child who came along later in our family was extremely willful and rebellious toward our authority and would often require sessions of correction lasting from one to two hours in length before the will would finally be broken … Even though you may think these methods of correction that God has ordered parents to carry out are bestial, abusive, and unloving, you are the one who is bestial, abusive, and unloving if you don’t obey God in this matter. Moreover, if you do not obey God your child likely will not be saved unless the Lord supernaturally in His mercy does so despite your disobedience.” (Ronald E. Williams, The Correction and Salvation of Children)

“She then administers about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water [about spanking a 3-year-old]” (Pearl, p. 62) …“Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final (p. 49)” (Michael Pearl, To Train Up a Child)

Where, exactly, did the pseudo-Biblical idea that a parent must break a child’s will originate? How did a person’s God-given will, their freedom of choice, their strength and individuality, come to be seen as the root of all sin Breaking their Willthat must be purged? At what point did “defeating” a child so that they are “totally broken” become the goal of Christian parenting?

Let’s go back to the model of servant leadership set by Jesus who said, “I stand at the door and knock…” (Revelations 3:20) Knock what? Knock humans on their backsides and pin them down while pummelling them until they are utterly defeated? Knock small children around until they are totally broken?

No, of course not. Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Jesus doesn’t barge in making demands to prove how big and tough he is. Jesus invites us to open the door of our lives and to invite him in as an honored guest, in return.

Look also at Deuteronomy 30:19 where God shares that it is from him that our ability to choose originates, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” Note that God doesn’t demand that we submit our free, God-given will, our ability to choose, to him. He simply invites us to align our will with his.

And look at James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God doesn’t chase us down, “sit on” us, or “use whatever force is necessary” (see Pearl quote above) to strong-arm us into submission. He reaches out to us and inspires us and opens his arms to us, inviting us into the safety and comfort and wholeness of a relationship with Love Himself.

Our will is a gift, an opportunity to choose right from wrong, and the vehicle through which God calls us to choose his Son. Without this amazing and wonderful gift, without the freedom to use our free will, Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross would be pointless.

Sin is a moot point in light of the grace we’ve been given. Grace is the point. The whole point. Everything leading up to the Cross pointed to the Cross, everything was settled on the Cross, and on the Cross in the outstretched Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverarms of Jesus grace was born. Sin only matters in the sense that when we voluntarily choose to stay within the boundaries God has given us, we are closer to him, more in-tune with him, and more aligned with his will. He does not stray from us, not ever. But we do stray from him. We are human, and as humans we learn by doing, by experiencing, by exercising our free will as we stretch and grow and discover and make mistakes and overcome life and are overcome by life, each trial and failure and success a learning experience. God doesn’t chase us down and crash through the walls we’ve put up and drag us back to repentance. He waits for us, always available, always forgiving, always loving us unconditionally, but never giving up as he calls out to us, inviting us gently to himself.

When it comes to parenting, we all know that some of God’s children are created with a remarkable strength of will, a powerful drive to explore and discover, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, an incredible need to know and be known, and with more energy than can be contained in a small body. Their frequent challenges to ‘the way things are’ can feel overwhelming to the most patient of parents, and their sometimes epic meltdowns when all of that extreme energy explodes out of their small frames can act like a tidal wave of emotion that gets everyone swept up in the maelstrom. These children who are given the gift of an indomitable spirit have all of the amazing characteristics of future world leaders, but their gifts need to be grown and nurtured and developed, not contained, stunted, and crushed.

A popular child-training book by Dr. James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child, has a markedly different approach to parenting strong-willed children, however: “Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted. . . two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, ‘You must obey me.’” In addition to the disputable Biblical interpretations of the ‘rod’ verses and the misuse of the word ‘obey’ in translating from the original language of the Bible, there is a fundamental difference in philosophies revealed here. In the positive parenting approach, children are born perfect and need only to be guided through the normal stages and behaviors of childhood. In the punitive parenting approach, children are born sinful and must be forced to submit to superior authority.

On a purely logical level, why would we fight a child for control when what we really want is for them to be in control of themselves? Why not, instead, help them to process those big emotions and learn how to direct their own energy and develop their own ability to control themselves? Why not follow Jesus’ example and invite our strong little future leaders to walk alongside us in tandem to learn and grow and discover together for the oh-so-brief season of their childhood?

On a practical level, though, the question is, “How can we partner with our children in positive and peaceful ways to guide them gently and effectively?”

Here is a chapter from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline to get you started on your gentle journey with your own little future leaders:

The Gift of 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!

Take a look at some of the common descriptions used when referring to the characteristics of a strong-willed child:

Demanding, Insistent, Stubborn, Bossy, Cocky, Difficult, Challenging, Fixated, Contrary, Rebellious, Defiant

Now look at some of the common characteristics of adults who are world leaders, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, innovators, world-class athletes, and the like:

Decisive, Determined, Persistent, Authoritative, Confident, Valiant, Gutsy, Committed, Resourceful, Nonconforming,Bold

Note that the characteristics are the same, but the characterizations are negative when applied to a child and positive when applied to an adult.

Other characteristics of strong-willed children that coincide with the characteristics of adult leaders in their fields are:

  • They are typically highly creative and intelligent.
  • They are usually passionate and intense in their interests and beliefs.
  • They often have an insatiable need to know ‘why.’
  • They typically learn by doing.
  • They tend to have an intense need to test the status quo.
  • They are typically highly perfection-oriented, but often that is focused on their expectations of themselves instead of others.
  • They tend to need high levels of validation.
  • They usually have an intense need to be heard.
  • They often have a strong need for emotional safety.
  • They tend to be resistant to change unless they feel like they have some control over the change.
  • They are often highly sensitive.
  • They are typically intensely focused on their latest project or interest.
  • They tend to be conscientious and highly committed.
  • They are usually intensely independent.

While there’s no doubt that it’s a challenge having a child who seems to challenge everything, there are ways to work with them rather than against them to preserve and nurture their unique gifts. Maintaining a healthy parent/child relationship is vital as you work to find a balance between setting limits with your richly spirited child while not limiting their freedom to stretch and grow and develop into the person they were created to be.

The key to preserving your trust relationship with your child is remaining calm and present and supportive, even while setting and maintaining reasonable boundaries. It is helpful to remember that the most strong-willed children tend to be the ones who identify the most strongly with their parents. So instead of viewing their seemingly constant challenges as defiance or attempts to thwart authority, work to parent from a place of understanding that your strong-willed child is actually on a discovery mission and is doing endless ‘research’ on you by testing and retesting and digging and chiseling to discover all of your quirks and foibles and ups and downs and strengths and weaknesses. This kind of testing isn’t negative unless you make it into a battle of wills instead of responding with gentle, respectful guidance. Taking this stance will help you to keep from seeing the challenges as personal insults and, instead, see the challenges as attempts to learn and grow and understand.

There is no doubt, though, that parenting a child with the gift of a strong will is a constant exercise in patience and self-regulation. The personal growth you will experience is invaluable as you seek to parent with empathy and wisdom and compassion, but it can be draining and will often stretch you far, far out of your comfort zone. Knowing that and being prepared for it will help you cope with the inevitable stresses, and being ready ahead of time with some specific strategies for handling the challenges will help you to respond calmly and effectively.

This is a good place to revisit the Three C’s of gentle discipline—Connection, Communication, and Cooperation.

Connection ~ Maintaining a secure connection with your spirited child is vital. It is the springboard from which all of your interactions with your child will originate, and it is the touchstone to which you will both return, again and again and again, when your relationship gets strained and stained and stretched.

  • Play word games, board games, rough-and-tumble outdoor games, silly face in the mirror games. Play is the language of childhood, so make sure to speak your child’s language every day.
  • Laugh together. Humor is an undervalued parenting tool. But it lowers defenses, inspires smiles, brings people together, and reconnects hearts.
  • Read storybooks, chapter books, travel brochures, encyclopedias, anything that will inspire you to dream together, talk, plan, get excited, share interests.
  • Focus more on who your child is than on what your child does. Remember, you’re growing a person, not fixing a problem. So make sure to spend time getting to know the person, not just the child. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Just walk together, talk together, share ice cream cones, spot shapes in the clouds, and enjoy each other.

Communication ~ Children have their own ‘inner world’ of thoughts and plans and problems and worries and hopes and dreams that are occupying their time and attention, so a lack of cooperation is often simply the result of having a different agenda than we do. Getting some insight into that ‘inner world’ is key in guiding and growing them respectfully.

  • Listen with your heart. Listen ‘between the lines’ to what your child is communicating through their behavior. Listen and listen and listen some more. That is always, always the first step in communicating with your child.
  • Reflect, connect, and redirect. Reflect what you hear, whether it’s communicated by your child’s behavior or their words. This not only validates their emotions and lets them know that you hear and understand them, but it also helps them to understand their own emotions. For instance, if your child is upset that he can’t have a cookie after brushing his teeth for bedtime, try saying, “I hear you. You’re upset because you want a cookie.” Then reestablish your connection, “I like cookies, too!” and offer a solution, “How about we go pick out the two best cookies and put them in a special container that we can take to the park in the morning?”
  • Don’t take non-compliance as a personal insult. A strong-willed child is very much their own person with their own agenda. Focus on inviting cooperation instead of demanding obedience. Whether it’s staying in bed or cleaning up or whatever the issue, make it a team effort and come up with a game plan ahead of time. For example, you could say, “You seem to be having trouble staying in bed at night. What do you think would help you to be more ready to go to sleep when it’s time for bed?” or “It’s important to pick up our things so they don’t get broken, let’s put on the timer and work together for ten minutes and see who gets the most picked up.”
  • Make a firm commitment not to resort to punishments to control behavior. The resentment that comes from being punished absolves children in their own minds of responsibility. It doesn’t teach them responsibility, and resentment can actually cause a lot of the behaviors you are trying to avoid.
  • Communicate daily, outwardly to your child and inwardly to yourself, the positive aspects of your child’s personality. When the focus is on ‘fixing’ a child, they get the message that they are somehow broken, and that is not a healthy self-image to take into adulthood.
  • ‘No’ is not a complete thought. It is an imperative, a command. It doesn’t teach. It tells. If you want your child to learn to think like an adult, take the time to explain your adult thinking.
  • Remember that children, especially when they are upset, open ‘conversations’ through their behavior, and it’s up to us, the only adults in the relationship, to gently guide them toward continuing those conversations verbally as well as equipping them with the resources to be able to do so.
  • Also keep in mind that the social mores of rudeness simply aren’t inborn and don’t apply to early interactions with our children. They are learned by imitating how we as parents behave. Politeness is a heart issue that cannot be imposed by the will of another unless we want it to only be an external façade instead of a heartfelt courtesy. Helping your strong-willed child learn to speak kindly means speaking kindly to your child as well as offering guidance when they’ve been rude such as saying, “That is not a nice tone of voice” or “That isn’t a kind thing to say” and then offering a do-over “Can you try saying that to me again more nicely? I’ll always try my best to be nice to you, and I would like you to try to do the same for me.”

Cooperation ~ Always keep at the forefront of your parenting goals that you are seeking thoughtful cooperation, not mindless compliance. That way you will remember to treat your child as a thoughtful individual with ideas and needs and feelings of their own instead of a mindless drone there to do your bidding.

  • Set clear limits and explain them in age-appropriate terms. Remember, if you want to invite cooperation, you have to actually issue the invitation to cooperate!
  • Limit the number of limits. Spirited children are often stressed children simply because of their own intense emotions and reactions to things, so set them up for success by keeping your limits few and clear and by maintaining them consistently.
  • Make sure to let your child have a voice in determining the limits so they feel like they have some control over their lives and so they feel some ownership over the limits.
  • Brainstorm together ways of helping everyone to work together. Some ideas are to come up with hand signals or words that remain your little secret codes to indicate when it’s time to leave the park or to do homework or to dial the activity level or noise volume down a few notches.
  • Invite cooperation by creating daily routines together. Don’t be surprised if your child ends up being the one who is a stickler for following the routine, even to the point of nagging you to follow it. These gifted children tend to be all-in, fully focused and committed, and they’ll expect you to be the same!
  • Cooperate with your child’s needs and personality by working with them rather than against them. For instance, if you know that your child has a hard time leaving a project, give them plenty of time to find a good stopping point when you need them to leave it for a while. Or if you know that your child has a hard time following directions at bedtime, try writing or drawing the tasks that need to be done (i.e. toothbrushing, pajamas, etc.) on ping-pong balls and put them in a small ‘bedtime jar’ so your child can feel some control over their routine as they independently pick out the balls one by one for a ‘surprise’ nighttime order of tasks or take them all out and decide what order to do them in themselves.
  • If you are already locked in a head-to-head power struggle, put away your boxing gloves so your child will (eventually!) feel safe putting away theirs. When you battle with your child, you may win a skirmish or two, but you will lose the treasure…your trust relationship. Putting away the gloves means slowing down, breathing through your own emotions, and finding a way to work through the issue together. Remember, you’re the adult in the relationship, but that doesn’t give you the right to overpower your child; it gives you the responsibility to empower your child. That involves modeling the tools of diplomacy—communication, cooperation, compromise—that you want your child to stock in their own emotional toolkit.

Remember, the children who come into the world with their ‘boxing gloves on’ so to speak are often the ones who become the biggest world changers. It’s not easy raising these little world-changers, I know (Believe me, I know. Two of my six are world-changers-in-the-making!), but the rewards are phenomenal!

“The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail.”
Lamentations 3:22

Related posts:

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

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?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

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.

Hurting People Hurt People: Does Bullying Begin at Home?

[Excerpt from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost. 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 also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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“By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.”
Jean Baptiste Girard

I love words. I love language. I love playing with old, staid quotes and classic literature titles, stories and raising bullieslegends, clichés and adages, and weaving them into unique or humorous settings.

But along with loving word play, I’m very aware of the power of language. Words can bring life, “It’s a boy!” and love, “I do!” and words can bring death, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing more we can do.”

When it comes to raising children, the power of words cannot be overestimated. From how the labels we use influence our own perceptions of our children and their perceptions of themselves to how children’s immature grasp of language limits their understanding and responses, words exercise immense power over the life of a child.

Just as important as being careful of the labels we use and having an understanding of language development in young children, though, or even more so, is being aware of the propensity for stressed and angry adults to ‘power-up’ on children and use language as a weapon. The lash of the tongue on the heart of a child can have devastating and lasting consequences.

“You stupid little idiot!”

“Can’t you do anything right?”

“Why did I ever have you?”

“I hate my life!”

“You are totally useless!”

Words live and breathe and grow in our hearts until they either bear life-giving fruit ~ comfort, security, confidence…or fester into infectious, oozing wounds ~ despondency, anxiety, rage.

There is great truth to the belief that bullying begins at home. Children learn what they live. Just as violence begets violence, so angry parents tend to result in angry children, and parents who ridicule tend to produce sarcastic children, and critical parents tend to generate negative children, and on and on.

Whether the children end up the bully or the bullied, aggressive with their peers or with themselves, cutting down others or cutting themselves, the fact is that hurting people hurt people, and children raised with violence or condemnation in whatever form they take are hurting people.

Words matter. They matter desperately…as desperate as a five-year-old is to hear she’s good, as desperate as a ten-year-old is to hear he’s smart, as desperate as a fifteen-year-old is to hear she’s valuable.

The truth is that we all make mistakes. We all say the wrong thing sometimes. We get angry and frustrated and overwhelmed and verbally lash out at these tiny, impetuous, energetic, often incomprehensible, but always vulnerable little people we’ve been entrusted with the care and raising of. And often we don’t apologize because we don’t want to appear weak or to admit we’ve made a mistake or we’d rather just let it be or it doesn’t even occur to us that we should apologize to a child. But words can heal, too, and an apology is a necessary step in the healing process.

But when verbal blows go untended, souls become scarred. When lashing out becomes the norm, damages begin to mount. And when children with battered souls grow into adults, the vicious cycle often continues in the form of domestic violence, substance abuse, or other destructive behaviors.

Parents, choose your words wisely, carefully, thoughtfully. In the same way that violence begets violence and anger begets anger, kindness begets kindness and peace begets peace. Sow words of peace, words that build, words that show respect and belief and support. Those are the seeds of a future filled with goodness and hope and compassion, and aren’t those the things we really want for our children, after all? [end excerpt]

Related posts:

The Color of Change

When Toddlers Become Teens

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Rethinking Tattling

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

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

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.

Breastfeeding: Manna from God

[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 Childhoodand The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7

breastfeeding baby sepiaJesus’ mother, Mary, didn’t practice attachment parenting when raising little Jesus. The Bible does tell us that she breastfed Jesus, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” (Luke 11:27). The culture of the time tells us that she likely coslept with him in the small, one or two room house typical of that period and that she wore him close to her heart in the daylight hours in a wrap to keep him safe from the snakes and scorpions and other dangers that populated the region. So it is certain that she was a breastfeeding mama and almost certain that she was a cosleeping and babywearing mama.

But Mary didn’t practice attachment parenting as she was growing a tiny Savior. She simply parented Jesus in the naturally instinctive way that mothers have mothered their little ones since time began. Attachment parenting is merely a term coined much later to tie these natural parenting choices and others in with the modern research of psychologists like John Bowlby who found that the healthiest emotional and relational adults tended to have strong early attachments with a parent or primary caregiver.

The Bible reinforces those research findings by not just referring to breastfeeding as providing life-sustaining nutrition, but also as a source of comfort and connection, “For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts.” (Isaiah 66:11)

God’s biological design for breastfeeding weaves a developing infant’s needs with a mother’s needs into a delicately synchronized dance, and even daddies get in on the dance! There is an inbuilt, biochemical response to the birth of a baby that affects both sexes in similar, though somewhat different ways. As the birth of a new baby nears, a mother’s oxytocin level, known as the ‘love hormone’ because of its ability to create warm feelings of safety and attachment, increases as part of the preparation for bringing a new life into the world and sustaining that life at her breast. Daddies also experience a rise in oxytocin, as well as an increase in estrogen, which results in their brains being pre-wired to love and protect their mate and offspring. Then, after birth and throughout the breastfeeding relationship, oxytocin levels in mamas and daddies remain elevated, rising and falling in rhythmic peaks and valleys in response to a baby’s ever-changing needs. This is no accident of nature. This is a beautiful biological design.

This lovely and perfect design also reveals itself in the balance of nutrients present in breastmilk. Breastmilk has the perfect composition of calories, nutrients, fats, and other components to ensure the optimal development of a growing infant. The composition of breastmilk shifts to accommodate growth spurts, sicknesses, and other needs throughout a mother and child’s nursing relationship. Interestingly, the ratios of each of the components change throughout the day to offer the most energy during the daylight hours and the highest concentrations of sleep-inducing nucleotides during nighttime feeding, so if a mama is pumping and storing breastmilk, it’s important to label the time of day the milk was pumped to avoid giving the more stimulating daytime milk at night!

Beyond the nutritional and bonding benefits of breastfeeding, there are also amazing health benefits to both mama and baby:

A reduction in the risk of SIDS, asthma, childhood leukemia, diabetes, gastroenteritis, otitis media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), necrotizing enterocolitis, and obesity are just some of the protective benefits for babies. For mothers, breastfeeding has been correlated with a significant decrease in the risk of diseases such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name just a few.

Additionally, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in April of 2010 that concluded, “The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations.” Those numbers are only based on breastfeeding benefits for the first six months of life. The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and others recommend breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life. Imagine the tally if the researchers had looked at the lives lost and billions of dollars spent unnecessarily in a two year breastfeeding scenario instead of a six month scenario. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

Some stumbling blocks in the breastfeeding relationship that mamas may encounter include the modern societal view of breasts as solely sexual objects which often leads those in public places, including many churches, to shame mothers into hiding in restrooms or vehicles or at the very least using covers that make breastfeeding far more difficult and clumsy than it needs to be. Biblically speaking, breasts are referred to half as often in reference to sexual relationships as they are in reference to the God-designed breastfeeding relationship between mothers and their little ones. Again, that is no accident!

Breastfeeding is not shameful and should not be hidden. As one of our current world leaders, Pope Francis, said during a 2014 baptism ceremony at the historic Sistine Chapel,

“Today the choir will sing, but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise. Some will cry because they are not comfortable or because they are hungry,” Francis said, according to Reuters. “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here.”

He didn’t tell them to leave or to cover up or to make their babies wait. He tenderly told the young mothers to feed their babies when they’re hungry. End of story.

Another stumbling block to a healthy, full-term breastfeeding relationship is the increasingly prevalent diagnosis of low milk supply:

Even though mothers’ bodies are capable of miraculously growing a human being for nine months and bringing that precious new life into the world, those same life-giving bodies seem to be failing in ever-increasing numbers to provide life-giving nutrition to those precious babies because of issues with low milk supply.

Why is this happening? For some, it is certainly just pediatricians using formula-fed babies’ growth charts instead of breastfed babies’ charts or family and friends who believe that all babies should be chubby and content that lead new mothers to believe they have low supply, but there does appear to be an increasing number of babies legitimately labeled as failure-to-thrive with low milk supply determined to be the cause. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

Often the low milk supply is caused by forcing babies to sleep alone and training them to sleep through the night. The fact is that babies aren’t biologically designed to sleep through the night. They are, though, biologically programmed to crave closeness with their mothers, and their proximity to and access to the breast throughout the night stimulates ongoing production of breastmilk, keeping up the mother’s supply naturally.As a simple matter of survival, it makes biological sense that God would build into babies a need to be near their primary source of safety, nutrition, and comfort:

Babies biologically should not sleep through the night. Not only is the deep sleep required to sleep through the night actually a recognized factor in SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but babies who sleep through the night are also not nursing to stimulate breastmilk production, thus their mother’s milk may begin to dry up. Clearly, that’s not a healthy biological design. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

The bottom line is that breastfeeding is a biological norm created by God to meet a baby’s needs in the healthiest and most convenient way. That said, there are certainly times when a mother can’t breastfeed due to a medical condition, life circumstances, adoption, or other factors. In those cases mamas can still achieve a healthy attachment and strong, loving relationship and even boost their oxytocin ‘love hormone’ levels by holding their little ones close to their hearts during feeding, making eye contact and exchanging smiles and coos and giggles, kissing and nuzzling their babies’ fuzzy little heads, keeping their little ones close during the day in a baby wrap or sling, taking time out for a few periods of ‘kangaroo care’ each day, and meeting nighttime needs quickly, gently, and consistently. (end excerpt)

Related posts:

Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

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?

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

 

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.

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

[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 Childhoodand The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”
Psalm 23:4

child belt spankingOne of the hot-button issues when it comes to discipline and children is, of course, spanking, and the more Christian and conservative the audience, the more hot the debate becomes. And yet there are no verses in the New Testament that support spanking, smacking, whipping, or otherwise hitting children.

In the Old Testament there are a total of five verses that have been interpreted to encourage, or even command, the use of physical punishment on children. All five of those verses are in the book of Proverbs. The word ‘proverb’ in the original Hebrew text is mashal and defined as a parable, prophetic and figurative discourse, symbolic poem, pithy maxim (i.e.a collection of wise metaphors and adages).

Of interest is that ancient Hebrew had many words for children, each denoting a specific stage of childhood and many a specific gender:

yeled or yaldah – newborn boy or girl

yonek or yanak – nursling baby

olel – nursling baby who also eats food (translated ‘young child’ in Lamentations 4:4 KJV)

gamal – weaned child (around 3-4 years old)

taph – young child, one who still clings to their mother

elem or almah – firm and strong, older child

na’ar (masc.) or na’arah (fem.) – independent child, young adult child (includes older adolescents and young adults)*

The word translated ‘child’ and ‘children’ in those Old Testament rod verses is na’ar, which when literally translated, means ‘young man.’

Let’s look, also, at the words translated ‘discipline’ and ‘punish’ and ‘rod’ and others:

The word muwcar is translated ‘discipline’ and means, literally, ‘verbal instruction and teaching.’ In Hebrew culture muwcar was vernacular for ‘let us reason with one another’ implying a mutual discussion for learning purposes. And towkechah is translated ‘reprove’ or ‘rebuke’ but also means ‘reason with, convince, prove, persuade.’ Neither of these words means to physically punish in any way, shape, or form.

Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverThe word nakah is translated ‘punish’ in most English translations of the Bible, though its literal translation is ‘beat’ as in “The sun beat down on his head,” implying a constant presence; or ‘hit’ as when beating back an enemy or punishing a slave or criminal; or ‘smite or smitten’ which can mean ‘hit or trigger the conscience’ or ‘be favorably impressed, enticed, or entranced’ as in, “He was smitten with the idea of a new bicycle.”

The word shebet is translated ‘rod’ and means, literally, ‘shepherd’s crook’ and, in Hebrew culture, was a means not only of guiding and protecting sheep, but also a symbol of leadership. The markings on the head of the shebet often identified the head of a family or tribe, letting everyone know who to go to for guidance and protection. The shebet, then, denotes wisdom, leadership, and protection.

The word muwth is translated ‘die’ and has several meanings related to death including ‘to follow a path of destruction.’

The word ‘ivveleth is translated ‘foolishness’ but also means ‘inexperience, naivety, silliness.’

And, finally, the Hebrew word sane is translated ‘hate’ and yet means ‘does not love’ or ‘does not choose or show a preference for.’

When we read the five ‘rod’ verses with the literal translations of the words above, the meanings become more clear.

So Proverbs 13:24 reads:

“He who spares his rod wisdom, leadership, protection hates does not love, does not choose or show a preference for his son, but he who loves him disciplines offers verbal instruction and teaching to him promptly.”

Proverbs 22:15 reads:

“Foolishness Naivety, silliness, inexperience is bound up in the heart of a child young man; the rod of correction wisdom, leadership, protection will drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 29:15 reads:

The rod Wisdom, leadership, protection and rebuke reasoning with, convincing, proving, persuading give wisdom, but a child young man left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

And, the last two ‘rod’ verses, found in Proverbs 23:12-26 read:

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.

Do not withhold discipline verbal instruction and teaching, reasoning together from a child young man; if you punish guide, trigger his conscience, favorably impress, entice/entrance them with the rod wisdom, leadership, protection, they will not die follow a path of destruction.

Punish Guide, trigger his conscience, favorably impress, entice/entrance them with the rod wisdom, leadership, protection and save them from death following a path of destruction. 

My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Buy the truth and do not sell it—wisdom, instruction and insight as well. The father of a righteous child young man has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!

My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.”

Such a beautiful image of a father tenderly and diligently sharing his wisdom with his son, isn’t it? Clearly, applying these scriptures to small children is not in line with a literal interpretation. It actually makes more sense to apply them to the disciples, which is exactly what Jesus does with his twelve ‘sons.’

Beyond translations and interpretations, though, and of far greater import, what seems to get lost in the spanking debate is that Jesus brought grace and mercy as his methods and message for a reason. The purpose of the law in the Old Testament was to highlight the need for a Savior because humans simply cannot live perfectly.

Jesus came to fulfill the outward requirements of the law that highlighted man’s sins and replace them with an inner heart change. He demonstrated in many ways that the law (outer governance and control through fear of punishment) was no longer to be a rigid yoke with its heavy burden of cleansing and rituals and sacrifices and punishments, but instead was to be a kingdom of the heart, of mercy not sacrifice, because the sacrifice was Himself.

Jesus stopped the people from stoning the prostitute (John 8:2-11) which was a requirement in the Old Testament. (Deuteronomy 22:21-22)

Jesus healed people and traveled on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14) which was punishable by death in the Old Testament. (Exodus 31:14-17 and Numbers 15:32-36)

Jesus consorted with ‘sinners’ and ate with them (Luke 15:1-2) despite the admonitions in Proverbs 13:20. (the same book in the Bible with the ‘rod’ scriptures)

Jesus showed again and again that if we accept him as our Savior, we are called to be “ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

We accept that Jesus brought a new and better way, a way of the heart, “Not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3b), but don’t seem to want to acknowledge that better way with our children. We accept God’s grace and forgiveness for ourselves, but often don’t share those gifts with, and model them for, our children. But we are our children’s first taste of God. Is it any wonder people have such a hard time understanding grace and mercy and unconditional love when they may not have been taught those things by their earthly parents and don’t exercise them with their own children?

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, he tore open the veil dividing man from God and brought a new kingdom, a kingdom of inner governance through the Holy Spirit whose fruit is “peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Nowhere does Jesus say to follow him except when it comes to our children. He doesn’t say to offer grace and mercy and forgiveness to everyone except our children. The Bible doesn’t tell us to show the fruit of the Spirit to everyone except our children.

If we truly believe that, based on five verses in the Old Testament with disputable translations and debatable interpretations, we are being disobedient to God’s commands if we don’t spank our children, then we must take that belief and walk it out fully.

In other words, if we must obey that supposed command, then we must obey all the other commands such as,,,

  • an “eye for an eye” (Exodus 21:24) and stoning adulterers (Leviticus 20:10) …but didn’t Jesus bring forgiveness?
  • we shouldn’t feed the homeless because “if a man doesn’t work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) …but aren’t we supposed to be the heart and hands of Jesus?
  • we shouldn’t give Christmas shoeboxes to prisoners’ children because “the sins of the father are visited on the children” (Exodus 20:5) …but isn’t the “kingdom of heaven made up of such as these?” (Matthew 19:14)

My point is summed up in this verse:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)

In other words, if you feel bound by those five verses, then you must be bound by all.

If you truly believe that those five verses have been interpreted correctly and that “spare the rod, spoil the child” (Note: There is no verse in the Bible that says ”spare the rod, spoil the child.” That phrase is actually from a satirical poem called Hudibras by Samuel Butler first published in 1662.) refers to an actual physical rod (instead of a symbol of guidance and loving correction…i.e. discipleship) and that the word used for ‘child’ refers to a toddler or small child instead of the actual linguistic translation meaning ‘young man,’ then so be it.

But do you really believe that Jesus’ New Covenant is for everyone except children? That grace, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness are for adults only?

The disciples made that mistake, and Jesus said to them,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)

Five verses with questionable interpretations versus following Jesus’ example…no contest. [end excerpt]

…….

*Note: Hebrew is a very descriptive, picturesque (i.e. visual) language. In describing something that is out of the ordinary, words were often used to convey a deeper meaning using word pictures. That is the case with the word na’ar which means, literally, ‘independent male’ and refers to a young man, but is also used as a word picture in rare circumstances to convey an unnatural independence when referring to an infant or young child who has been ‘ripped away’ or become unnaturally ‘independent’ from the nurturing presence of a parent. This is the case with Moses as he was placed in a basket and sent away from his mother as an infant (yeled in Hebrew throughout the text of the Exodus account except for one word picture, na’ar, indicating the baby’s separation from his mother) and with Samuel who was left at the temple by his mother at a young age. In those unique instances, the word picture of a male made independent by unnatural circumstances is conveyed by the use of the word na’ar.  In every other instance, na’ar literally means a male of independent age, a young man.

Related posts:

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?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

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.