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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

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

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

married lifeMany of you have been following my oncology saga and have been so supportive with your comments, prayers, and thoughts, and I will be forever grateful for each and every one of you. Some have asked for an address to send cards and letters and pictures their little ones have drawn, so here that is for you:

L.R.Knost c/o Little Hearts Books, LLC
10524 Moss Park Rd.
Suite 204-288
Orlando, FL 32832

I know that Facebook doesn’t show all of my updates in your newsfeeds, so I thought I’d share all of the updates to this point for those who’ve missed them and then share my diagnosis at the end:

June 6, 2014

Okay, friends, I’m freaking out just a little bit here and need lots and lots of positive and hopeful stories! I’m going in on Tuesday for some tests. I have some lymph nodes that have been swollen for way too long and now I have a small lump under my arm and some numbness and tingling in that arm (makes typing interesting!) and some other minor stuff going on. Chances are it’s just a stubborn low level infection, but when people start running tests for scary stuff, things start getting really real. I’m super healthy and never go to the doctor, even if I do get sick. I prefer homeopathic remedies and don’t even take over-the-counter medicines, so just going to the doctor makes me uncomfortable. In fact, until this I didn’t even have a primary care doctor! So share some positive stories with me so I can focus on those, please!!! :)

June 10, 2014

Ugh. This is nerve wracking. I’m sitting here waiting to find out what tests they’re going to run, and I’m already stressed out, lol. How am I going to handle the wait for the test results! I have to say, finding a lump under your arm does not make for a peaceful heart. I’m having to focus copious amounts of self-control and intentional gentle thoughts to stay a peaceful mama at the moment, but the positive side is that practicing peace intentionally toward others has a rebound effect of peace from others that is incredibly healing and lovely. Prayers and positive thoughts welcome, gentle friends! <3

June 11, 2014

Raise your hand (or, you know, click like or leave a comment ;) ) if you are like me and say stupid things when you’re nervous. I’m pretty sure my incredibly likeable and excellent new doctor thinks I’m a world-class flake because I totally forgot to eat today (I do that when I’m writing sometimes, which I was before my appointment) but I forgot that I forgot to eat until she was scheduling a fasting blood test for me and I blurted out, “Oh, wait, we can do that now because I forgot that I forgot to eat today!” She looked at her watch and gave me a ‘mom look’ and said, “It’s 5:30. Don’t do that anymore.” What do you think she’d say if she knew I was up til 2-3 am every night working on my next book deadline? (Let’s just keep that a secret, lol.) Hope you’re having a great evening, mamas and daddies! :)

June 13, 2014

Someone tell me to stop Googling ‘swollen lymph nodes’ please! They’ve got me scheduled for tests Mon, Wed, Thurs, and Fri next week, so I’ll know something soon enough without reading all of this scary stuff. Ugh.

June 16, 2014

Full week of hospitals and doctors and tests for these swollen lymph nodes, friends, so it’ll be a bit quiet here on FB. I have a little one on breathing treatments, too, so positive thoughts and prayers for my family are much appreciated this week! <3

June 18, 2014

Heading out for more medical tests (lucky me ;) ) but just wanted to pop in and address a few comments I’ve seen recently. I’ve said this before, but it needs to be repeated:

“Little Hearts is not a religious page, but I am a Christian. My purpose in writing my newest release, ‘Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting,’ and sharing excerpts from it is to right wrongs within a specific community, not to convert anyone or preach to anyone. It’s not my job or my desire to subjugate anyone’s belief system. It is my job to protect children and educate parents about the immense power of kindness, gentleness, connectedness, communication, and compassion to create happy, peaceful homes. It doesn’t matter what culture, religion, gender, or ethnicity you identify with or lifestyle you live, you are welcome here with open arms to grow and learn together with us in this community of gentle parents, always.” <3

So, let’s take some time today to share a bit about ourselves here in the comments, to open up and get to know and appreciate the colorful array of backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and parenting choices represented here. Whether you’re attached or single, whether you’re Christian or Muslim or Hindi or atheist, etc, whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed or both, whether you bedshare or room share or have separate sleeping areas, whether you babywear or use a stroller, whether you work outside or inside the home, whether you live in the US or in some other place across this lovely planet, share a bit about what makes you uniquely and wonderfully you.  :)

June 20, 2014

Just a little vignette of gentle parenting at work from a bit earlier today I thought I’d share with you, mamas and daddies :) :

I’m one seriously stressed out mama these days with all of these medical tests, and that means I’ve got little ones who are showing some stress behaviors despite my best efforts to keep things as normal as possible in their lives during this diagnostic process. For instance, my super mellow non-tantrum-prone littlest had a major meltdown after I got home from my doctor appointment today. It puppycame out of the blue and made no sense whatsoever, but as she stomped and screamed about her stuffed animals’ “wenning” (“wedding”) being “Woo-end! Dust woo-end!” (“Ruined! Just ruined!”), I breathed through my initial stress reaction and took a few moments to listen and observe so I could respond intentionally and compassionately to the need she was expressing instead of just reacting to the behavior itself. I realized that even though she has no idea what’s going on, she was sensing the unease in the house and also was stressed by the unusual amount of time she’s spending apart from me while I go through these tests. I stayed close and told her that I was here and I heard her and asked how I could help her. At first she got angrier and tried to hit me, so I gently stopped her and told her that it was okay to be upset, but not okay to hit me, and I asked her if she needed something like a pillow to hit or kick or if she needed a calm-me-jar to shake. She screamed “No!” and shook her tiny fists, but didn’t try to hit again, then she calmed just enough to tell me “I mad a you, mama” (“I’m mad at you, mama”). I told her it was okay to be mad at me and asked if she knew why she was angry. She repeated that I had ruined her stuffed animals’ wedding (no idea how I was involved in the destruction of a stuffed wedding while at the doctor’s, lol), so I said that I was sorry and asked if I could help her to fix it, and after a few more moments of upset she calmed and wanted to hug and then decided to accept help to restore the wedding. We were able to reconnect through play and go on with our day peacefully, but more importantly she was able to work through some big emotions she was feeling and had no idea how to express.

Life will throw us curveballs and bad things sometimes happen, but our little ones only get one childhood and they need us to be the adults and help and guide and empathize and encourage and comfort them no matter what we’ve got going on in our lives. It’s not easy, but it is so important, and they are learning from us not only how to handle their emotions in the present, but also how to handle life’s stresses and hardships. They are always watching, always learning, and always so, so vulnerable and precious. It’s hard, yes, but so very worth the effort. <3

June 21, 2014

“We’re referring you to an oncologist for more tests.” It’s taken me a few days to process that. Scary words, yes, but they aren’t a diagnosis, just a step in the diagnostic process which I am still expecting to turn out just fine. I’m seeing an oncologist on Tuesday where I’ll learn what that further testing will be. I’m obviously a bit preoccupied and also time-pressed with all of the time I’m spending at hospitals and doctor’s offices, but I’ll still pop on Facebook off and on when I can. If you’ve messaged me with a question or posted one on the wall, please just know that I’ll get to as many questions as I can when I can, okay? Thanks for understanding. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon. :)

June 24, 2014

At the oncologist waiting to be seen. Anyone want to help keep my mind off of things by sharing something cute or sweet or funny your little one’s done lately? :)

June 29, 2014

For those of you following my oncology saga, my only update at the moment is that there are no updates. I have several more tests coming up to investigate the two small lumps next to my spine and several small, swollen lymph nodes in my neck, under my arm, and in my leg. I feel healthy and look and feel perfectly normal, but knowing that something ominous may be going on in my body makes me feel a bit like a deer in the headlights. As the benign causes get eliminated one by one, the chances of finding something like lymphoma increase exponentially. It’s like seeing danger race toward me and being frozen in place, unable to escape. I’m coping and keeping our lives as normal as possible outside of all the time I’m spending in hospitals and doctor’s offices, but I’ll be honest and tell you it’s really, really hard to think about anything else right now. My energy is focused on helping my children process all of this in age-appropriate ways and my sweet hubby’s energy is focused on supporting me and helping out wherever and whenever he can. I’m still here on the board a few times a day sharing what I can, but if I don’t get to your questions during this time, please understand. Thank you to everyone who has left comments and sent me messages and emails expressing your care and concern. You don’t know how much that means to me. I’m trying to share this process with you because I believe that giving you little vignettes of life in the midst of crisis and stress is as important as giving you slices of normal day to day life so that you can see and know that I’m ‘in the trenches’ with you every day and understand the highs and lows, struggles and monotony and joys and sorrows of real life. We are all connected in the deepest of human experiences, and I find such joy and comfort in knowing that this global community of gentle, loving parents is on this journey with me, whatever may come. I appreciate all of you more than you know. <3

June 30, 2014

Okay, this isn’t a rant, just something I want to share with you, friends…

I just had to delete a snide comment from the Little Hearts site, which I have to do every once in awhile. It doesn’t really bother me when people have a differing opinion as long as they express it politely, but that is rarely the case. One thing I’ve noticed is that these negative comments often come with riders like “in your idealized world” and “clearly written by someone who doesn’t have children” and “just wait until your children reach their teens” and “the writer has obviously never had to deal with a strong willed child” etc. The thing that really gets me, though, is how often these negative comments (and even reviews on my books) include things like “the writer only tells why punishment is bad, but doesn’t give alternatives.” There are hundreds of posts on the Little Hearts site with gentle parenting alternatives to punishment, and every single book I’ve written gives specific tools for working with children through specific behavior issues. In my latest book, ‘Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting,’ for instance, even though the focus of the book is on examining the doctrinal misinterpretations and misunderstandings that have led to the often harsh punitive parenting practices promoted by mainstream Christianity, I also included excerpts from each of my other books for the sole purpose of providing gentle parenting alternatives to that punitive parenting. And, as far as the other comments, there is an ‘About the Author’ page on the Little Hearts site that gives all the information people need about my background and children. For the record, though, I have six children from young adults all the way down to a preschooler, two of whom are strong-willed, three with sensory issues, two with ADD, and one with a significant learning disability. And as far as my ‘idealized’ world, I started my gentle journey as an unwed, pregnant teenager, and my hubby and I have been through layoffs and accidents and sicknesses and the loss of a son in our 27 years together so far, and right now we are facing a possible cancer diagnosis. So, no idealized world here. BUT I do have ideals, and I fight for them passionately. Having ideals simply means that I work for what I believe, and when I fail (and I do) that I keep working and trying again and again until I get it right. :)

July 5, 2014

Do you have anyone in your life who just always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time or a family member or friend who said the wrong thing when you were hurting? I sure do. On this oncology journey, for example, there have been a few times I wish I lived in a Hobbit Hole far, far away. The one time in my life that rain butterfly really stands out, though, is when my son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that was ‘incompatible with life.’ We knew he was going to die, and we were working our way toward accepting that and simply loving him as long as we had him when a long-time friend contacted me to tell me that I didn’t have enough faith because if I did, my faith would heal my son. I remember feeling like I’d suddenly been punched in the stomach by someone I trusted just when I needed support and understanding the most. That was unbelievably hurtful, honestly, but I realized something then and at other times when the wrong words were said at the wrong times that has helped me to respond to the heart of the person rather than to their words. I realized that every person’s belief system is a collection of deeply held hopes that are based on their own unique life experiences, and when they share words of comfort and advice it is really their hope that they are offering. While I may not agree with their belief system, I can appreciate their heart and respond to their intention rather than their articulation with a simple smile and a hug. And then I can let the words themselves fade away and focus on the loving heart that prompted the person to reach out. We all need hope. And we all want to share our hope with others who are hurting. When it is shared in a less-than-expertly-wrapped package, we have the choice to discard the wrapping and accept the beautiful gift of hope.

July 5, 2014

I try to prepare ahead for ‘life’ as much as possible because I’m a planner by nature, but sometimes life just happens and you have to roll with it. I admit that I’m overwhelmed with life right now as I spend day after day in hospitals and at doctor’s offices undergoing tests in this present curveball life has thrown at me, and yet a truth that I’ve discovered over time and experience still holds true…It’s the unexpected that catches me by surprise and creates the most joy, the most pain, the most memorable of life’s moments, because it is the unexpected that we remember most, whether good or bad, ordinary or extraordinary. It is those unexpected moments that make life beautiful and mundane and exhilarating and painful and unutterably, exquisitely rich…moments all wrapped up in small, timeless vignettes of shared tears and laughter and hugs and arguments and hopes and failures. It’s hard to treasure those moments in the moment, I know, when the tears seem to outnumber the giggles and the pain seems to outweigh the joy and the hopes seem to be crushed by the failures, but as the years go by and these present moments become part of the past, they soften and mellow and one day we suddenly discover that the things we were so desperate to leave behind are the very things we hold onto as our most precious memories. Don’t try to treasure these moments as they happen, mamas and daddies. It’s just not possible to see the beauty and the strength and the wonder of our daily lives without the clarity of hindsight. But do hold onto the knowledge that these days will pass and one day you will look back and be so proud of yourself for your successes and forgiving of your failures, and try to remember that all the hard moments and small triumphs and tired tears and warm hugs and little frustrations and big belly laughs will be the most beautiful memories imaginable when tiny, pattering feet grow into the footsteps that will take your children out into the world to create a lifetime of memories of their own. :)

July 7, 2014

Back in the hospital for the day for a contrast CT. Then I’ll see the oncologist on Wed. for results and to see where we go from here. What are you up to today, mamas and daddies? Want to share some cute stories about your little ones to keep me distracted? :)

July 9, 2014

Well, saw the oncologist today for some results and he had good news and bad news. The good news is that the swollen lymph nodes didn’t show signs of malignancy, so they are just reacting to something else going on. The bad news is that they found two small masses in my lungs and one in my liver, so I’m off to a consulting pulmonary oncologist tomorrow, then an MRI and then a PET scan over the next few days, then we’ll discuss the results. Ugh. This is kind of starting to freak me out. :(

July 12, 2014

Words you want to hear from a pulmonary oncologist, “Hopefully it’s benign.” Words you don’t want to hear from a pulmonary oncologist, “It’s a pretty big mass, though, and you do have one big risk factor.” You know, I’m not an angry person. I’m not walking wounded, blaming my childhood traumas and anything and everything else I can for my adult mistakes and issues. But it does make me angry that I even have “one big risk factor” for lung cancer because I have never smoked, don’t drink and so have never been clubbing or hung out in smoke-filled bars, never done any drugs, and don’t have any diseases that increase my chances of lung cancer…but because my biological father spent the first few years of my life filling my tiny, developing lungs with second-hand smoke before he abandoned me, I now have “one big risk factor” for a potentially deadly disease. Please, mamas and daddies, if you or anyone else in your child’s life is a smoker, don’t expose your children to it, not ever. It’s not their choice to fill their little lungs with a carcinogen, but they may be the ones who have to face the consequences of your choices one day. <3

July 13, 2014

For those of you following my oncology saga, I’m having an MRI on Wednesday and a PET scan on Friday this week. I’ll be radioactive after my PET scan for a few hours and have to stay away from my littlest, which neither of us will enjoy particularly, but my older children will keep her occupied. (Oh, and my older children are rather excited about the radioactivity, btw. They’re pretty sure I’m going to turn into a superhero, lol. Any thoughts on what my superhero name should be?  ;) )

July 14, 2014

I shared the status above yesterday, and I so appreciate the amazing support and love that you mamas and daddies poured out in the comments. Thank you all so much. Your encouragement and prayers are absolutely priceless. There was one comment, though, that stood out because it was abrasive and sarcastic (I deleted it and won’t share it here because I don’t want the commenter to feel targeted by this post) and I wanted to share my thoughts about it with you to share how I process things ‘in real life.’ I’m going through a scary, difficult time right now, and I’m human just like everyone else, so my immediate internal reaction was a lot of negative and chaotic feelings. But instead of responding defensively and reactively to the person, I breathed through those negative feelings instead of acting on them and simply waited for the internal storm to pass. Then I reread the comment with the much clearer eyes of peace and compassion and ‘read between the lines’ to see that this person was clearly reacting to their own internal storm. I don’t know what private pain fueled their reaction, but I do know that it is hurting people who hurt people, and so I can give this hurting person grace and compassion. That is my ‘in real life’ processing in a nutshell.  :)

July 16, 2014

I’m back in the hospital on this grey and stormy morning for some more tests as I continue my oncology saga, mamas and daddies. Some of you have asked why I’m willing to share such a scary and difficult time in my life with you, and I wanted to share my thoughts about that before I go in for my next test. The thing is, we all share in these things in one form or another. We all have good times and bad times and hopes and fears and successes and failures and joys and traumas and triumphs and tragedies in our lives. We all have to live and work and be good citizens and spouses and friends and parents and just good people, even in the midst of crisis. That’s just part of the human experience, and I believe that all of our human experiences have value, even the hard ones. We can learn and grow and develop empathy and compassion through our experiences if we don’t allow ourselves to be hardened and embittered by them. And we can exponentially expand the value of our experiences if we share them instead of isolate ourselves with them. Sharing the hard things in my life like the devastating loss of my son, Sammy, makes those hard things a little less hard, a little more bearable, because knowing that someone else finds comfort and healing in my words is deeply comforting and healing for me. And sharing this scary oncology saga with you as I go through it makes it just a bit less scary because I know how life-enriching it is seeing someone go through a difficult time and watching how they process it and learning that sharing the good things in life, the necessary things like kindness and hope and compassion, doesn’t just stop when bad things happen. Giving those good things to my children, to my husband, to my family, to my friends, both in real life and virtually, becomes even more necessary, more precious, a gift that I can continue to give even though I am scared and stressed and feeling overwhelmed. The precepts of gentle parenting…respect, understanding, connection, communication, cooperation…don’t just apply to children, and they aren’t just for stress-free, idyllic times in our lives. They are ideals, yes, but that just means that they are the goals we shoot for, day in and day out, even in the midst of crisis, even when we’ve failed, even when we’re hurting, even when life stinks. I’m sharing my journey here so that you can see that I’m living what I write, what I believe, what I KNOW, even when life is hard. <3

July 18, 2014

Ugh. It’s 2:30 am and my littlest just started vomiting out of the blue. I’ve got to be up at 7 am to go for my PET scan in this endless oncology saga and I’m going to be radioactive and have to stay at least five feet away from her for 24 hours, but all she’s going to want to do is cuddle with mommy because she’s not feeling well. This stinks. :(

me mri 2July 18, 2014

Took a selfie before my MRI. Now I’m heading in for some more oncology tests. This time it’s my PET scan, so I’ll be radioactive for the next 24 hours. I’ll try to write something super once my superhero powers kick in. :)

July 18, 2014

Stage 1 of ‘radioactive mama’ is complete! When I left for my PET scan at the crack of dawn, my son laid down with my little cosleeper so she wouldn’t be alone and scared if she woke up and so he could handle things if she started throwing up again (he’s my pre-med guy <3 ) but she didn’t wake up or throw up. Success for Stage 1! Now my middle two are playing with my two smallest and keeping them away from me per the oncology dr’s instructions. So many more hours to go, though! Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. :)

July 24, 2014

If you’ve left me a question in the private messages and haven’t received a reply, please know that I’m not intentionally ignoring anyone. I just haven’t been able to keep up with everything while I’ve been spending so much time in hospitals and at doctors during this seemingly never-ending oncology saga. Some of the testing has caused adverse reactions, and I pretty much feel like I’ve been hit by a truck most days, lol. I’ll get to as many questions as I can over the weekend, okay? Thank you so much for your patience, gentle friends!

July 29, 2014

In the van on the way to my oncology appt:

Renaissance Girl (15): “If anyone ever tries to mind-control me, I’m just going to say ‘wannawannawannawanna’ over and over until they stop trying to take over my brain.”

Me: “Ooookay.”

Older brother: “Sorry. It’s my fault. I let her read my comics.”

Me: “Ah…”

#lifewithteens ;)

July 29, 2014

For those of you following my oncology saga, I’m going in for surgery tomorrow or the next day (they’re calling me at the crack of dawn to tell me when to head in to the hospital) to biopsy the “suspicious node” in my lung. The node is in the center of my chest at the back and bottom of my right lung, so it’s pretty difficult to access. They actually talked about removing a portion of my lung (yikes!), but they are going to try to put me into a cat scan machine to guide the hollow core biopsy thing between my ribs and see if they can get it to the right area of my lung. It’ll be an outpatient surgery as long as there are no complications, but since they are technically puncturing my lung there is a risk of pneumothorax (my lung could collapse o_O) in which case they’ll have to put in a chest tube and I’ll be in the hospital for a few days so my lung can heal. I’ll get the results of the biopsy next week, I guess. Then I’m headed up to Mayo with all of my scans and labs and results so they can evaluate everything and possibly do another biopsy, this time on my lymph nodes.

I’ll be honest, at the moment I’m far more scared of the lung surgery than the possibility of malignancy, but I’m guessing that will change once the surgery is over and I’m waiting for the pathology results. I appreciate you, friends, more than you know. All of the support and prayers and encouragement you have given me through this has been absolutely priceless. Thank you all. I’ll update when I can.

July 30, 2014

Okay, on my way into surgery in a few minutes. Thank you all for your support and prayers. <3  ttyl!

July 31, 2014

Here’s the latest update: I got the call first thing yesterday and went in for surgery soon after. They ended up having to go in through my back right next to my spine (o_O). I had an adverse reaction to the meds and also ended up with a probable minor pneumothorax (a small pocket of air trapped outside of my lung) which makes it very difficult and painful to breathe. I’m a bit better today, though, and hopefully will have the results from pathology sometime next week. Thank you to everyone who took the time to pray and send me positive thoughts and encouragement. I’ll update when I know anything.  :)

August 4, 2014

So I may or may not get results of my biopsy today which, of course, necessitates me being late because I had to paint my toenails. Clearly, you have to have pretty, pink toenails if you’re facing a possible cancer diagnosis, lol. On a more serious note, though, this particular type of biopsy is only about 50% accurate when it comes to negatives/false-negatives so I don’t know that I’ll really know much even if I do get the results today. Next step is lymph node biopsy which is far more accurate. I kind of wish they’d have just started there, but they have their reasons, I guess. This diagnostic process seems endless, but I think I’m getting to the stage where the process feels like a safer place to stay than actually getting a diagnosis. Nearly all of the benign causes have been ruled out already. Kind of scary. Well, more than ‘kind of,’ to be honest. All of your support, encouragement, and prayers are helping, though, more than you know. Thank you! <3

August 4, 2014

For those of you following my oncology saga, I got the results of my biopsy today and…well, they recommended another biopsy, only this time of my lymph nodes instead of my lung. Not entirely unexpected since they couldn’t get to the lung node with the hollow core biopsy and had to settle for a fine needle biopsy which has only a 50% accuracy rate. They were able to rule out lung cancer and metastatic melanoma, which is great. BUT the biopsy did indicate some findings that are highly suspicious for lymphoma, which is actually what they’ve been suspicious of from the beginning. We’ve been working our way toward a lymph node biopsy all along, so that isn’t surprising. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated about what’s to come when I know myself. Thank you for your love and support, mamas and daddies! You’re awesome. <3

August 5, 2014

Since I’m a “difficult to diagnose case” I’ve been referred to the Oncology Department at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. My first appointment is August 11th.

August 5, 2014

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
L.R.Knost

Every time that quote is shared I get comments and messages from people saying things like, “Maybe gentle parenting works in your ideal world, but people have to live in the real world,” and, “If you lived in the real world like the rest of us you’d know that crap about not toughening up your children is just setting them up to be bullied and walked all over for the rest of their lives.” I understand where those comments are coming from. The world can be cruel. And the world can be heartless. I know that first hand. Here’s a bit of my story:

My parents divorced when I was a small child. I was neglected and abused while in the ‘care’ of my biological father who spent 99% of his waking hours drunk, locked me in his car in the parking lot of various bars so he could get even drunker, got in drunken brawls that I broke up, left me with his Reflections on Gentle Parentingabusive addict sister whose own children were taken away for child abuse repeatedly, and more often than not spent the little money he had on alcohol instead of food, leaving me to go to bed hungry and often left alone while he went out drinking again. Thankfully, he eventually abandoned me and my mother got full custody. My mother (who astounds me to this day with her ability to remain strong and kind and good despite what my biological father put us through) eventually remarried, and my wonderful new stepfather adopted me when I was sixteen. I got pregnant soon after and married my baby’s daddy. My amazing hubby and I have struggled through multiple lay-offs, injuries, sicknesses, and the loss of thirteen babies, including a set of triplets I lost at three months pregnant and our sweet son, Sammy, who we lost at birth. In the midst of all of that, we had our six children, four of whom were preemies. Of our six, we have some with asthma, a couple with heart issues related to their prematurity, three with sensory issues (one with full-blown SPD, severe dyslexia, ADD, visual and auditory processing issues, and other learning disabilities), and two of our children are gifted with wills of steel. My oldest son has been through two spinal surgeries in the last couple of years, and, in the last year alone, my hubby was injured in a terrible mower accident that kept him out of work for almost three months and then a few months later was out of work again after a foot injury, and, to top it all off, I have been going through months of diagnostic testing for suspected lymphoma.

So, no, my world is not and never has been ideal. But, yes, gentle parenting is not only possible, but POWERFUL, even (or especially) in the midst of ‘real life.’ And kindness, goodness, compassion, and gentleness are not weaknesses in this often cruel and heartless world. They are the strengths that make navigating this world and changing it for the better possible. L.R. <3

August 13, 2014

Playing at the park with my little ones today in between tests and appointments at Mayo.  Looks like I’ve got a major surgery coming up soon to take out the part of my right lower lung with the mass in it. Pathology will confirm or eliminate lymphoma at that point. I’ll know for sure on Friday and update then. Thank you all for your love and support. You’re awesome. :)

August 15, 2014

Things you don’t want to hear an oncologist say:
“I’m getting ready to say some scary things.”
#MayoClinic #NotMyBestDay #MoreLater

August 22, 2014

I appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than you know. I haven’t had my ‘D-day’ yet (diagnosis day) so I’m being careful about what I share. This thing has taken so many turns that I want to wait until I get an official diagnosis before sharing it with everyone. The doctors at Mayo are 99.9% certain that it is cancer, but the rare type of tumor that I have is even rarer in its location (it’s not lung cancer, but the tumor is in my lung) and presentation, so they don’t know if it’s a met (secondary tumor) thrown off from a primary tumor somewhere else or if it’s localized. I’ll be having a major lung resection to remove the part of my lung with the tumor in the next couple of weeks, then they’ll know more about prognosis and treatment plans, etc. I’m trying my best to keep the Little Hearts page updated with a regular stream of memes and posts and updates at the moment so if I have an extended downtime while fighting this beast I won’t lose everything I’ve worked so hard to build. My main focus right now, though, is helping my littlest ones through all of this upheaval as we’ve had to travel six hours round trip for appointments, sometimes more than once a week, and I’ve been gone from my smallest for more time than I’ve ever been gone before. My older children have been amazing about stepping up and taking care of the little ones so my hubby can keep working and keep our insurance up to date, but it’s wearing on all of us already and we haven’t even begun to actually deal with the surgery and recovery and whatever treatments are to come yet. I’ll keep you updated as soon as I know more. :)

August 23, 2014

Many of you have asked how you can help as I head into this major surgery next week and then possibly chemo/radiation treatments in the coming months. One super helpful thing you can do is share some of your ideas with me. I’m very concerned about my little cosleeper, Cricket, and how she’s going to handle being away from me while I’m in the hospital. My eight-year-old, Funny Face, is also already showing some anxiety, and I’ve been working with her to help her process her feelings and fears. On a very practical level, though, I’m looking for ways to help my oldest children cope with the two littlest who will undoubtedly be stressed and probably exhibiting stress behaviors such as difficulty sleeping and unwillingness to cooperate. One thing I’m doing is buying small presents for each of them (wrapped up and labeled ‘From Mommy – I love you to the moon and back, and I’ll be back very soon! ‘) so that each night my older children (one of whom will be taking my place cosleeping with my little Cricket) can remind the little ones that they have something special waiting for them in the morning and each morning when they wake up without mommy’s special cuddles they’ll have a gift from me to open instead. I’m also spending time with my little ones at the house they’ll be staying at so it will feel comfortable and familiar to them, and I’m stocking the fridge and pantry with their normal foods, bringing along their own blankets and pillows, and packing a few of their favorite toys to bring.

I’d love to hear your ideas about how to make this easier for everyone, both for my little ones and for my older ones who will be stressed themselves but still need to take care of their little sisters.  :)

quote bucket list mommyAugust 27, 2014

The recovery from the surgery to remove this tumor, I’m told, will take months, and then I may be going into months of chemo/radiation which will make doing some of the things we love to do as a family impossible for a time. My two littlest have been increasingly clingy and cranky recently as my surgery date approaches and, while some believe that preparing children for a separation involves getting them used to separation by leaving them for increasing periods of time, I’m taking the opposite approach. I’m spending time with them in the places and with the people that will be caring for them so they will be comfortable with those people and places. And I’m filling their buckets with my time and my presence and my patience and with laughter and cuddles and sweet memories that we are building together. We’ve been to the zoo and we’ve painted and gone to book stores and spent time exploring new parks and going on walks and just hanging out together in the quiet peace of our home. Here is the Bucket List for a Happy Childhood that I wrote awhile back with some of the things that we do on a regular basis along with some we’re revisiting to make new memories these days. :)

August 28th, 2014

Many of you have asked me how I’m staying so calm and positive in the face of a rapidly approaching surgery to remove the tumor that doctors are 99.9% certain is a rare form of cancer. The simple answer is, “I’m not, at least not entirely.” There are times I feel overwhelmed and stressed and can’t help thinking about the ‘what-ifs’ and times I worry desperately about my children’s futures. Those are the times that I gently ‘parent’ myself and I find my children gently ‘parenting’ me. When I’m lying awake, too stressed to sleep, I tell myself, “It’s okay to be scared and overwhelmed. Those feelings are normal,” and then I try to identify specifically what it is I’m stressed about at that moment and come up with at least one solution, one proactive thing I can do, to address the issue. Once I’ve identified the problem and come up with a solution, I can sleep more easily.

When I’ve spoken with a bit less patience than I normally do to my littlest, she will first ‘check with me’ to see if I’m mad at her, “Do you mad a me, mama?” (“Are you mad at me, mama?”) and I’ll say, “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to speak so impatiently to you. I’m feeling a little stressed, but it’s not your fault.” Then she will climb into my lap, put her tiny hands on my face, look into my eyes, and say, “Wet’s bweef togedew, k?” (“Let’s breathe together, okay?”) Note: I don’t get mad at this tiny little newcomer to our world, not ever, but she’s in the stage of identifying emotions and often will ask about emotions as a part of her learning process.

Gracie blue eyes 2My little Funny Face (8) is gifted with a will of steel and a heart of gold. She’s clingy right now, having a bit of trouble sleeping, asking a lot of questions, and using the word ‘cancer’ frequently (causes a minor shock to run through me every time, but I’m getting used to it…I guess) because that’s how she processes things, chipping away at them and examining them and familiarizing herself with them. She is alternately acting out her own stress and worries (and we’re working together through those feelings and behaviors) and stepping up to help in any way she can.

My sensory sweetie, Renaissance Girl (15), is like a lovely, sweet, emotional barometer. When I’m getting overwhelmed she will often simply feel it without me saying or doing anything, and she’ll quietly ask if I need her to take the smaller ones for a bit so I can have a break. She’s also been making dinner on a regular basis, which, as you’ll know if you’ve followed Little Hearts for any length of time, is a HUGE blessing for me. I haven’t set the kitchen on fire in over a month!

My pre-med guy, Doc (now 20!), is that stalwart rock of a person that everyone needs to have in their lives. He’s preparing for his MCAT’s, working on his medical school application, taking classes to get certified as an EMT so he can work his way through med school, and is working his schedule around helping out with the girls and has arranged time off to go with us when we move temporarily to Jacksonville for my surgery and recovery. The girls are used to being with him at home, so this is greatly easing my mind about how they’ll handle me being in the hospital for several days.

My older children are checking in with me frequently to see what they can do to help, rearranging their work schedules to be available during and after my surgery, and pulling together to put in place a plan for my surgery, recovery, and possible treatments afterward.

And, of course, my burly bear of a hubby is being his normal amazing self, offering to talk when he thinks I need to, asking what he can do to make all of this easier, taking the small ones for ice cream and to the park, and simply being the good, kind, and wonderful person that he is.

So, no, I am not all zen about facing surgery and cancer. I am human. I am scared. I am overwhelmed at times. But, I’m using the gentle coping strategies that I normally employ with my children, and I’ve got my incredible family support system, and I have all of your wonderful and supportive thoughts and prayers to help me through.

This I know, I cannot control all of the random happenings of life, but I can control my response to them. This is a hard thing, but not the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. I have survived in the past, and I will survive this…no, I will do more than just survive. I will not only live through cancer…I will continue to live and love and enjoy my life and my family and my work throughout this cancer journey. I think my new motto is going to be ‘I cancerVIVE’ because I can, and I will. (Vive is French for ‘to live’ or ‘live long’ and has the connotation of a zest for life, to be full of life, a life well lived)

Here’s a video from this time last year with me and my four youngest, just so you can put faces to names (well, nicknames :) ):

September 3, 2014

My littlest is too young to know how serious all of this is, and yet somehow she knows, and so she clings to me as if her very life depended on it and she cries that it’s too hot or too cold or she’s thirsty or hungry or full. Those are the only words she has right now to express the unease that she instinctively feels as the time that “mama goin’ a hotiboo” (“mommy’s going to the hospital”) rapidly approaches. I offer to turn on or off the fan, offer drinks and food, but nothing satisfies and her clinging and crying intensify. And so I hold her close and whisper, “I hear you, sweet girl, I hear you. Mama’s right here,” and my heart breaks because I want to promise her I’ll always be right here, I want to promise her a lifetime, and yet for the first time I can’t. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I guess you never really do, but you think you have forever and there’s so much confidence and comfort in that thought. I can’t promise her forever, as much as my heart aches to, and so I simply hold her and tell her I’ll love her forever because that is a promise I can keep. This is so hard.

napping in mommy's arms 2September 3, 2014

We leave for the 3 hour drive to Mayo in Jacksonville early tomorrow (Thursday, September 4th). My pre-op is scheduled for that afternoon and my surgery for the following morning on the 5th. I broke down when I started packing for the hospital and realized that, for the first time ever, I couldn’t pack my two littlest’s clothes in my suitcase along with mine like I usually do because we were going to be apart. So I stopped packing. Holding my little one is way better than packing, anyway.

 

September 4, 2014

Okay, final update (and a small anatomy lesson as a bonus :) ) on this crazy oncology journey before my surgery, friends. The working diagnosis at this point is a rare pulmonary neuroendocrine tumor. The neuroendocrine system is a network of cells distributed throughout the human body. It consists of nerve cells and endocrine cells and exists to regulate all of the functions of the other body organs and systems. Neuroendocrine cancers can be localized or spread throughout the body. The doctors at Mayo won’t know if or how far the cancer has spread until they get me into the operating room. They plan to collapse my lung (o_O), take out the portion with the tumor, and then look for any evidence that the cancer has advanced beyond the tumor. I’ll know within a day or two if their diagnosis was correct and what kind of treatments I’m facing. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: Neuroendocrine cancer is often a ‘signal’ cancer that either precedes or coexists with other cancers. Super scary stuff. But I cancerVIVE…and I will. I have to…

My littlest is barely out of diapers and just self-weaned in February. She NEEDS her mama.

My Funny Face (8) often conceals her sensitive heart behind her will of steel. She NEEDS her mama to gently guide her to a happy, healthy balance between her heart and her indomitable spirit.

My Renaissance Girl (15) already struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, severe Dyslexia, and a myriad of other issues that she handles with incredible grace and maturity for her age. But she NEEDS her mama to continue to support and encourage her and protect her as she grows.

My youngest son, Doc, newly graduated from university at the tender age of nineteen and working to get into med school, takes the weight of the world on his strong young shoulders. He NEEDS his mama to remind him to live and laugh and love because life is not all work and responsibility.

My oldest daughter and her gentle hubby are pregnant with their first child. She NEEDS her mama for those middle-of-the-night calls from a first-time mother in search of wisdom and guidance, and she needs her mama to remind her that she’s doing a good job and that she’ll never be a perfect mother and that’s okay because she’ll always be the perfect mama for her children.

My oldest son and his sweet wife are expecting their third little one. He NEEDS his mama to listen and understand when he’s stretched and stressed and overwhelmed and to remind him that he is a good man and father and daddy when he feels like he’s not enough.

My kind-hearted hubby is the strength and bedrock of our family. He NEEDS his wife to grow old with him and hold hands and take walks and laugh at corny jokes and see beyond the inevitable signs of age to the young lovers who first made each other’s hearts race and now make each other’s hearts melt.

And this crazy, beautiful, messy world needs me, too. I’ve made it my life’s mission to ‘Change the World, One Little Heart at a Time,’ and I have not completed that mission, not by a long shot. I am not done. I have work to do, both for my family and for the world. I’m not going anywhere.

Peace and blessings, gentle friends. Ttys :)

Related posts:

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Forever Friends: A Marriage of Equals

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.