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My Parenting Wish: Through A Child’s Eyes

It’s Wishes Week here at Little Hearts Books and we’re wishing your host a happy birthday by sharing our own parenting wishes!

What would I change in the parenting world if I had a fairy “parenting” wand? As I considered that question, every possibility seemed to boil down to one thing: compassionate understanding.

Adulthood brings with it an awareness of the world that lends perspective to situations. Children have much less of this life experience on which to draw. They act as a child, they speak as a child, and they see things through a childish perspective. They usually have the best of intentions even when their actions suggest otherwise.

And yet too often parents will automatically ascribe negative intent to their child’s immature actions. Children are seen as being defiant, deceptive, and manipulative. In talking with others about their childhood and thinking back to my own, there are many recollections of the injustice and indignation felt when negative intent was ascribed to the child’s motives. There are memories of being punished for things not done or not known to be wrong. There are memories of being misunderstood, of having feelings overlooked, and of feeling angry, afraid, ashamed, anxious, insecure, violated, and unloved. There is also the knowledge that communication and understanding would have been far more effective and connective than the yelling, shaming, spanking, or other punishments received.

My parenting wish is that parents would have the ability to view situations through their child’s eyes. When we take the time to consider our child’s perspective or to talk with them through what happened, we find more often than not that their motives were sincere and good at best, and merely ignorant (lacking in experience, understanding, and wisdom) at worst.

Is he “pestering” you, or is he lonely? Is she being “bratty”, or is she hungry and tired? Is he “mean”, or is he confused and overwhelmed by changes in his life? The labels and motives we apply to our children affect the way we view them and act towards them. Looking past the actions to the driving needs behind them often presents a very different view.

With that in mind, we can assign positive intent to our children’s actions, approaching the situation with compassion and understanding. Their intent need not play into our response. When we are parenting with love and grace, using gentle discipline rather than the behaviour modification tools of punishment and praise, we will generally respond in the same manner regardless of their underlying motive. This saves us the guessing game of discerning our children’s hearts, and by assuming the best in them, we set high standards for them to aspire to.

Discipline means “to teach”, and we can teach our children the appropriate action to replace an inappropriate one without needing to first determine whether their intent was good or bad. Repeated issues may call for more focused discipleship in that particular area, but the response to the situation itself should not vary depending on the parent’s view of the child’s motives.

We can’t presume to know our children’s hearts. Assuming the best, taking time to consider their perspective, and responding with compassionate understanding will serve to encourage our children and strengthen our relationship with them. This connection and relationship must remain the focus of our parenting, as it is the foundation and driving force behind all other areas of parenting and discipline.

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Cynthia is the mother of two little boys, an inquisitive preschooler and an energetic toddler. She blogs at The Hippie Housewife, where she shares her thoughts on attachment parenting, natural living, life as a Jesus-follower, and more, all tied together through her journey towards a more intentional life.

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.

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