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Archive for May, 2013

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

[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.]

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

angry child 4Your sweet little four-year-old has suddenly started throwing his food at the table every. single. night. You’ve tried giving him smaller portions of food, letting him help plan the meals, letting him help cook the meals. You’ve tried asking him to stop, demanding that he stop, pleading with him to stop. You’ve tried rewards, sticker charts, and offering desserts. You’ve put him in time-out, yelled at him, even threatened to spank him, which you’ve never, ever done before. But still he throws food at the table. 

Then it happens. You’re sitting down for dinner and ask your spouse how the job hunt went that day. A little motion catches your eye and you glance at your four-year-old just in time to see a meatball fly across the table from a small, sauce-covered hand. But something else catches your attention, too, and instead of focusing on the flying meatball, this time you focus on your child.  

In the split second before your little guy launched his food volley, you’d seen the fear, almost panic, in his eyes. Your mind races. Why, if he was so afraid of being spanked, would he go right ahead and throw his food? What in the world would make him do the very thing that might bring about the terrible consequence he seemed to be in a panic over? 

You hear a deep sigh from your other side. Your spouse seems to be trying to control his urge to retaliate against the little food-fighter across the table from him. Teeth gritted tightly, he grabs a napkin, scoops up the meatball next to his plate, and resumes the conversation. 

“Nothing. No one’s hiring. I don’t know what we’re going to do.” 

Before you get a chance to respond, a meatball whizzes past your ear and lands smack in the middle of your husband’s plate, splashing marinara sauce all over his shirt. He comes out of his seat with a roar and glares at the little guy who is glaring right back at him, now seemingly unafraid, almost taunting his father to make the next move. 

But this time your husband sees something different. He sees the little quivering chin and the small clenched hands and realizes something else is going on. Quietly, he rounds the table and scoops his little fighter into a tight hug, irrespective of the marinara now coating both of their shirts. He doesn’t say a word, just sinks into the chair with his son wrapped in his arms and holds him close against his heart. 

As you see your angry, defiant son suddenly melt into his father and bury his face in his daddy’s neck with body-wracking sobs, your own anger melts away. Soon, a small, tear-stained face peeks out and your heart breaks when your son looks back and forth between you and your husband, and his little voice croaks out, “What are we gonna do? Where will we live? Are we gonna starve?” before dissolving in sobs against his daddy’s chest again. 

That’s when you realize dinner conversations have revolved around your husband’s job loss and job search for months. Conversations from the past weeks run through your head, and you remember discussing getting a job outside the home to supplement the income from your own home-based business and putting your son into daycare. You remember your husband talking about selling your house, about where you would move, about saving on groceries and other bills. You cringe as you recall mentioning a friend who lost everything, including his home and marriage, when he lost his job. 

What had your little preschooler been thinking all this time? What terror must he have felt imagining losing his home, not having enough food to eat, and even his mommy and daddy divorcing? The panic you’d seen in his eyes suddenly made all-too-much sense. He had no way of articulating his fears, the fears he’d felt and heard from you and your husband, but that neither of you had thought to discuss directly with him so that you could offer reassurance and comfort and answer his questions.  

You’re so, so thankful that you hadn’t gone as far as actually hitting your son for the first time ever in an attempt to control him, and you vow to yourself that you will never threaten or try to coerce or manipulate your child again, just as you wouldn’t your husband. You commit to finding better ways to communicate with your son, to remain in-tune with him, to focus on the need behind the behavior instead of just trying to control the behavior, to connect with him, and to equip him with better ways of communicating his needs. 

As your husband looks up, his eyes wet with tears and his little man still clasped close to his heart, you meet his gaze and see the same realization, the same commitment, the same resolve. Life will still throw you curveballs, but from here on out you’ll handle them together, all together.

Not every action by our children is a sign of trauma or deep, unresolved issues. But every behavior is communication. Behaviors can communicate simple needs such as hunger or the need for sleep. They can communicate unmet needs such as the need to be heard or the need to reconnect. They can communicate stress or discomfort over changes in routine or sickness. Or they can communicate big emotions our children need help processing.

But they can also be a reflection of and a reaction to our big emotions, our illnesses, our unmet needs, our stresses and anxieties, our emotional baggage. Just as children learn best by imitation, making it important to always be aware of the examples we set, their tendency to tune-in to our emotions and upsets makes it vital for us to stay in-tune with them so that we can alleviate their anxieties and answer their questions and ease their fears.

It’s important to be open with them in age-appropriate language about ongoing family issues or health problems or other stresses, but remember that children are not equipped to handle adult stresses and emotions, so be careful to avoid dumping your emotional baggage on them. If you’ve got traumas from your past or are dealing with any kind of emotional or mental instability, you need to work through those issues on your own or seek help so that they don’t negatively impact our relationship with our children.

Simply reacting to our children’s behavior rather than responding to the need motivating the behavior not only leaves us in the dark as to what our children are thinking and feeling, but also misses an opportunity to address the root of the behavior. When we pause, breathe through our own visceral reactions, and focus on our child instead of our child’s actions, we can better discern the need behind the behavior and meet that need, thus eliminating the behavior itself with no need for correction and opening the door to guiding our children to better ways of expressing themselves in the future. The end result is not only the resolution of the present issue, but also strengthening of the parent/child relationship and giving our children the reassurance that they aren’t alone in dealing with their stresses and questions and fears and can always come to us, their ‘safe haven’ in times of need.

If you’ve been parenting from a place of emotional neediness or stress, working through your own emotional baggage to a place of peace will help you to bring that peace into your parent/child relationship. It can be very difficult to step out of a reactionary cycle with your children, though. One pitfall many parents face when trying to move away from a punishment-based or reactionary parenting style is going too far in the opposite direction and failing to set firm, reasonable limits. Children need boundaries to feel safe and in control. If you’re having trouble balancing the desire to parent gently and peacefully with the need to guide our children to stay within reasonable boundaries, here are some tools that may help:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Color of Change

The Problem with Punishment

*Also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

 

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?

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


A Mother’s Day Wish

[By L.R.Knost, author Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon]

A Mother’s Day wish for moms who change the world everyday because they are the world to a little heart ♥

quote i wish you

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Top Little Hearts Posts

 

 

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


Making Moving Easier for Children

Making Moving Easier for Children

[By L.R.Knost, author of 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 available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

Transitions are hard on everyone, and when the whole family is affected such as in a big move to a new home, parents often get so caught up in the logistics of the move and their own stresses that helping their children cope with the move can get lost in the chaos. Here are a few things you can do to ease the transition for your little people without adding more stress to yourself:

  1. With small children, it can be tempting to build up the move beforehand to make it seem like an exciting adventure, but over excitement can be just as stressful and overwhelming to small children (and big ones!) as anxiety can be. Instead, try to keep things as low-key as possible. Wait until it’s close to time to actually start packing before discussing the move with your little one, and then use simple, age-appropriate language to tell them that you are all moving together (emphasize together so there’s no misunderstanding!) to a new house.
  2. Show them pictures of the new house, the new yard, their new room, the kitchen, bathroom, living room, etc. Ask them where they’d like to put their bed and draw it on the picture with a marker. Do the same with their toy box, toothbrush, high chair, sandbox, and anything they ask about to reassure them that their things are coming along on the move and to begin to familiarize them with their new space. Give them a marker and another set of pictures of the new house to draw on so they can begin to make it their own.
  3. Put boxes in their room a few days before the move and let them begin to pack their own things in their own time. You can go back and repack the boxes when they’re asleep or playing elsewhere if needed. Giving them some control over the move will help tremendously with their feelings of being taken away from their familiar home.
  4. Keep a few familiar toys out for the actual move to help your little one see that their things are coming with them. If possible, let them help with loading the boxes from their room onto the truck, too. Knowing that their toys and clothes and bed are coming with them on the move is very comforting.
  5. Pack a travel bag with new toys and activities and healthy, familiar snacks for moving day. The novelty of the new toys will help them to travel more happily, and the familiar snacks will keep their tummies settled and hunger at bay making for a calmer trip for all.
  6. At the new house, unpack your little one’s things first if at all possible so that they can see for themselves that they made the trip and can begin settling in right away. Take the time to play with them, too. It’s amazing how a few minutes of playing together can settle a small child when they’re stressed!
  7. Don’t be surprised if your little one is clingy and whiney for a few days after the move. After unpacking their things, don’t try to rush to unpack everything else all at once. Give your child all of the time and attention they need to help ease the transition for them.
  8. Nighttime can be the hardest for children in a new home, so be prepared for lots of cuddling and possibly a night visitor in your bed for a while. Being there for your little one at night is as important as being there for them in the day!
  9. Involve them in unpacking and putting away everything from kitchen utensils to books to linens to clothes. Children are very tactile, and actually touching all of the places and putting familiar things from their old home away in the new home can help them to begin to feel at home themselves.
  10. Stick to familiar routines such as bedtime, naptime, etc. But don’t be rigid about schedules. Your little one has been through a huge change and needs extra attention and understanding from their source of comfort and security…you!
  11. Introduce new things like playgroups, pediatricians, babysitters, churches, etc. slowly, spread out over as long a period of time as possible. The move itself is overwhelming enough in its newness without adding in a ton of other unfamiliar things right away.
  12. Find some things near your new home that are familiar to your little one from your previous home such as a chain grocery store, toy store, restaurant, etc. Seeing and visiting familiar places is vastly reassuring for small children because they can see for themselves that you can still buy them food and other necessities even though you’ve moved.

Giving your child the reassurance that some things will remain the same even when so many things have changed helps to stabilize and assure them that their needs will still be met and life will still go on in many of the same patterns and routines they are used to. Remaining calm and available for your little one, even in the midst of your own stresses over the move, is key. But take care of yourself, too. Change is hard on everyone, so cut yourself some slack and don’t try to do everything at once. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

*A mama shared a great idea: “When we moved we made my just-turned-3-year-old son a picture book.  It told a story of a little boy who had to move, showed photos of our old house, and told about what things (toys, furniture, etc.) would go to the new house with pictures of the boy’s new room, yard, activities he’d do in the new house, a moving van, boxes, etc.  It included emotion pictures, too, and the story talked about how sometimes the boy felt scared/sad/excited/nervous/etc. It went through the whole process til a happy ending with the boy and his family settled into the new house.  The boy’s name in the book, of course, was my son’s and the photos were all of his stuff and of the actual house we were moving to. He loved the book.  Read it almost everyday, sometimes many times a day when he’d start to stress out.  I only forgot one thing.  Neither my husband or I thought to explain that our pets would come with us.  The first night we slept at the new house, the cats stayed behind so we could get things settled a little first.  Big boy made it through two horribly stressful days of hauling stuff to the new house, fighting back the meltdowns, until his little world fell apart that first bedtime in the new place.  Two hours of tears later, he finally managed to say that he was sad that we’d never see the cats again.  OH!  We felt so bad!! A year later he still talks about the move a lot.  It is amazing what an impact a change like that makes on a small child!”

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Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

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.


11 Tips to Beat the Dreary Weary Mama Blues

11 Ways to Overcome the Dreary Weary Mama Blues[Portions reprinted 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 and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

Mountains of laundry. Piles of toys. Diapers and dishes and dust. Sticky fingerprints to wipe. Muddy shoeprints to mop. Bills to pay. Appointments to keep. Shopping to do…

The parenting list is endless because ‘done’ doesn’t exist in a world where little ones live and play and grow. But parents are people, too, and we can get overwhelmed at the sheer redundancy of the cycle of life with children if we don’t intentionally take the time to feel the joy of little arms wrapped around our necks and to find something of ourselves in the busyness of daily life. If you’re on the verge of losing the battle of the blues, here are eleven ways to energize, prioritize, and conceptualize your way back to a healthier, happier you!

  1. Go outside! No joke. Taking your problems and frustrations outside shrinks them down like shrinky-dinks in an oven. When you’ve got the warm sun on your face and you’re watching your little ones tumbling in the green grass and you’re listening to giggles replace their whines, life feels good again.
  2. Write it down to turn your frown upside-down. Seriously, writing down a list of all the good things in your life in one column and the bad things in another helps to restore a healthy perspective.
  3. Go to the dark side. No, really, take a good look at the bad things on your list and see what you can do to cross off or minimize some of the things on the bad side. Sometimes just eliminating one sore point or reducing one stressor can make a world of difference!
  4. It’s okay to have a disposable day. Take one day a week and use paper plates and plastic cups and utensils to give yourself a chance to catch up on those pesky dishes. It’s okay. Really.
  5. The Earl of Sandwich invites you to dine. Another way to beat the dishes doldrums is to have a sandwich day. Egg sandwiches for breakfast. Cheese sandwiches for lunch. Turkey sandwiches for dinner. And who really needs to have a plate to lay their sandwich on, anyway? A paper towel will do for a plate and a napkin all in one!
  6. A load a day keeps the mountain away. Doing one load of laundry every day instead of storing it up for a huge ‘laundry day’ once a week is one way to tame a daunting mountain into a doable molehill.
  7. Spray the stickies away. Little people usually love spray bottles or water guns, so harness that love for some rock ‘em sock ‘em cleaning help. Put a pair of daddy’s white sports socks on little feet and little hands and arm your small ones with a bit of water in a spritzer or water gun, then join them for an all-out blitz on fingerprints, dust bunnies, and jelly smears!
  8. There can never be too many cooks in the kitchen. The littlest member of the family can be worn in a baby carrier while the cook cooks or the cleaner cleans. For tinies who are a bit bigger, instead of barring them from the kitchen, turn them into little sous chefs and let them measure and sort and stir. If they’re too little for actual cooking, put pots and pans and measuring bowls on the floor with a bit of sudsy water so they can whip up a storm while you’re cooking or cleaning. Afterward, scooch some towels across the floor with your feet for a bit of exercise and a semi-cleaned floor as a bonus!
  9. And speaking of exercise, get some of that groovy stuff. Doing knee bends while you brush your teeth, lunges while vacuuming and babywearing, and boogying with your children to some funky music while straightening can all contribute to a mood-lifting, age-defying, endorphin-releasing surge of healthy goodness while weaving in some far out fun!
  10. Daydreamer, dream on. Don’t forget that you’re a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen, gift-to-the-world, and you’ve got a super-special purpose for being here. Raising your children is an amazing and wonderful privilege, but you’ll have a lot of life left to live once your children are out of the early stages of intense need for your time and attention. So take a few moments every day to dream those dreams while staring out the window over a steaming cup of coffee, and journal those thoughts and ideas and plans. Your time will come, mama!
  11. Don’t forget the chocolate! Everyone likes to be appreciated, and a sweet reward at the end of the day says “Good job” like few other things can. So stash some luscious dark chocolate next to a good book and escape the joyful chaos of life with littles for a few minutes every evening after everyone’s asleep and the still-messy house lies quiet and serene. The mess will be there in the morning, but the quiet moment won’t. Relax, mama. You deserve it!

Any super, stress-busting ideas you’d like to share? Pull up a chair in the comment section and share away!

Related posts:

Healing Your Hurts So You Don’t Hurt Your Children

7 Parenting Tips for Working from Home with Young Children

20 Parent Savvy Pinterest People to Follow

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

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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