“There he is!” (via The Path Less Taken)
The words were my husband’s, and the day was February 19th, 1997. We’d just gotten our first-ever look at our new son, the son that would transform us at once from simply a couple, to a couple of parents. I remember looking at him, his tiny body buried beneath the full head of black hair and the skin he’d yet to grow into. I remember staring at his face, memorizing its features, almost made breathless by a sudden realization: He was a whole, unique, brand-new person. And he was my son.
We would go on to have three more children after that day, and each time I welcomed them with that same sense of awe. What would they look like? Who would they be? Not just extensions of my husband and myself, they were their own little individuals. They had their own personalities, their own indomitable spirits, and their own beautiful souls.
So much of what mainstream parenting advice has to offer is based on the supposition that children need to be controlled, manipulated, and otherwise forced into behaving a certain way. In effect it tells us that they are somehow lesser citizens who wouldn’t possibly do the right thing unless they were prodded, punished, or cajoled into doing so. Gentle parenting believes very much the opposite. At its core, it is simply a call to return to treating children like people. To move away from a top-down system of rewards and punishments to one of love and partnership. It’s not about trying to be a perfect parent, but about striving to be a connected parent. It’s about placing your relationship with your children first, and about giving them the respect and the consideration that they both desire and deserve.
Every parenting decision I’ve made since that first day 14 years ago has been sent through the same filter: Is this manner of treating someone the same way I’d treat anyone whom I dearly loved? Am I showing them gentleness, kindness and respect? Am I treating them the way that I myself would want to be treated? Will this action or these words bring us closer together or will they pull us further apart?
I have made mistakes as a parent to be sure. But as I look back at the last fourteen years, the moments I’ve wished I could take back have always been the moments when I’ve been too reactive. Too quick to speak, and too slow to listen. Too quick to focus on a behavior, and too slow to focus on the child. Too quick to judge, and too slow to understand.
Not once have I regretted being gentle, or thoughtful, or kind. Not once have I ever thought, “What I really needed was to be more tough with them.” No, time and again, the answer was the same: What was needed was more compassion. More kindness. More understanding.
My relationship with my kids is one based on love, trust, and respect. It is a living, breathing organism that only thrives when it is made a priority. It only grows when it is tended to. And just like any other relationship, I get back whatever it is I put in. The best part about a good relationship with your kids though, is that you get it back ten times over.
Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.