Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

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Hitting Doesn’t Lead to Hugging: Parenting an Angry Teen

angry teen 2[Reprinted from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost. Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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The teen years can hit a family with the force of a hurricane. Parents who practice control-based parenting and have felt confident in their control over their children up until this point often find themselves lost, dazed, and bewildered, entangled in a parenting morass of their own making. The truths they discover shock them and leave them vulnerable and defenseless in the face of outright or passive mutiny:

  1. Hitting doesn’t lead to hugging. Just ask the mother struggling with her teenage daughter who had become withdrawn around the age of twelve or thirteen, often spending hours in her room and refusing to engage with the rest of the family. The mother recognized that there was a problem at the time, but interpreted it as laziness, selfishness, and rebellion and responded with correction instead of connection. The mother says, “My daughter won’t accept discipline given in love anymore, and I don’t know how to control her behavior.” The ‘discipline given in love’ her daughter refused to accept was being spanked with a paddle wielded by a parent who then demanded an apology from the child for her behavior, followed by a hug. This mother is discovering that, now that her daughter has reached her teen years, she no longer accepts the hitting, and she no longer accepts the hugs, either.
  2. Lectures don’t lead to learning. Just ask the father who complained that every time he sat his son down to read him the riot act for something, he could see his son’s eyes glaze over as the teen retreated to an inner world. The father would repeatedly demand that his son pay attention, and his son would then quote his lecture verbatim, but nothing worked to change his son’s behavior. The father shared, “I don’t know what to do. How can I control my son if I can’t reach him?” What this father is discovering is that lecturing instead of listening is a one-way street that leads nowhere.
  3. Coercion doesn’t lead to cooperation. Just ask the mother who was so frustrated with her son’s inability to finish his math homework that she began to take his things and hold them as ransom to try to force him to cooperate. She emptied his room piece by piece, day after day, until she’d literally taken away everything he owned, including every article of clothing except for the clothes on his back. After six weeks of her son wearing the same clothes and sleeping on the floor, she said, “I don’t know what else I can take away from him. He doesn’t have anything left! How can I control him now?” What this mother is finding is that you can’t force cooperation and children outgrow coercion just like they outgrow clothing.
  4. Ridicule doesn’t lead to respect. Just ask the father who made his daughter post on Facebook that she had lied to her parents about her screen-time and couldn’t be trusted to have a laptop, so she wouldn’t be online for a month. The father was infuriated to then discover that his daughter was using her friends’ computers to go online, so he made her call every one of her friends’ parents and explain why she wouldn’t be visiting for the next month. When the father later found out his daughter was using the computers at the library to go online, he made her stand in front of the library with a sign that said, “I’m a liar.” A week later the father found his daughter online in the middle of the night, using a laptop borrowed from a friend. The father says, “What can I do? Every time I find a way to control my daughter, she finds a way around it. How can I make her respect me?” What this father is finding is that you can’t force respect. Ridicule and shame are disrespectful and only breed more disrespect.

What these parents are discovering, and what you may have already discovered yourself as your children have reached adolescence, is that no matter how much you escalate punishments, they won’t work to get your children under your control because one human can never really control another. Yes, you can overpower a small child, and you can use fear and intimidation and manipulation to force children to comply, but only for a season. Once they reach the teen years and their own identity begins to fully emerge, they gain enough separation to realize that they can finally say no to the hitting and threats and manipulations. They may say no with outright rebellion or by withdrawing into passive resistance, but they will say no, and then you are lost because you haven’t built a relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation. You’ve simply spent years forcing your will on a smaller, weaker human.

Can you make changes, even this late in parenting? Yes. Stop hitting, threatening, intimidating, coercing, shaming, and trying to control your child. Wipe the slate clean with a sincere apology, and then start rebuilding your relationship from the ground up:

  • Create a foundation of trust by proving yourself trustworthy. That means honoring your word that you won’t punish or manipulate your teen to try to control them, no matter what.
  • Sacrifice your own hopes and dreams for your teen and support their hopes and dreams. Will they make mistakes? Yes. That’s part of life. Let them make the mistakes without repercussion from you, and help them through the natural results of those mistakes so they will know they can count on you when life hurts.
  • Set limits with your teen instead of for your teen. Ask their opinion about curfews and relationships and housework. Tell them that it’s an honor system from this point on, no punishments, and ask them how you can help them to honor the limits they’ve helped set.
  • Remember that, while your teen is rapidly approaching adulthood, they are still a child and still need guidance. Don’t disconnect (i.e. give up) and just let your teen figure things out for themselves. Yes, they do need to try and fail and try again so they can learn from their mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need you. Your role at this point is supportive as you stay in-tune and available and help them to process all of the big transitions and emotions and events that happen in adolescence. Walk them through the problem-solving steps (see The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, Chapter Twenty-Five) as many times as they need you to so that they can learn how to become problem solvers themselves.
  • If they backtalk, LISTEN (see The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, Appendix B). If they struggle with homework, help them. If they lie, forgive them and work with them to come to a place where they feel safe to be truthful. If they break curfew, ask them why and work with them to sort out the problem.
  • Memorize these words, “I’m here. I hear you. How can I help?” They encapsulate the Three C’s of gentle parenting—Connection. Communication. Cooperation. Use them every day to rebuild your relationship.

The thing to remember is that you are the only adult in the relationship for the time being, so be the first one to listen, the first one to forgive, the first one to apologize, the first one to understand, the first one to back down and try to find another way when the going gets tough. Before you know it, your teen will be an adult, just like you… Just. Like. You. Make sure the ‘you’ they see is the ‘you’ that you want them to become.

Related posts:

When Toddlers Become Teens

The Color of Change

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

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy

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.


Healing Your Hurts So You Don’t Hurt Your Children

Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing From Your Past So You Don't Pass It Along To Your ChildrenI’m so excited to share the newest Gentle Parenting Workshop with you! This second workshop, Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing from Your Past so You Don’t Pass it Along to Your Children, will help you walk through the steps of recovery from a painful past, leading you on a journey of healing and forgiveness, of unloading negative emotional baggage into the past where it belongs instead of unloading it onto your children and passing it along to the next generation, and of renewal to open the pathway to a more peaceful and gentle approach to parenting.

“The key to freedom is forgiveness. Forgiveness drains the past of its power to drain the present of its peace. Keep in mind, though, that it’s a journey, an ongoing life-process, a day-by-day decision, not a destination.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean telling them that hurting us was okay. It means telling ourselves that it’s okay to stop hurting. It doesn’t mean we have to trust them again. It means we can learn to trust ourselves again because we deserve it. It doesn’t mean we have to give them a free pass back into our lives. It means we are free to take our lives back again. Forgiving is letting the hurts of the past go so that we can move freely into the future.”

The Gentle Parenting Workshop 2 walks you through five stages of healing and emotional freedom, including multiple action steps for you to take along the way from making the decision to change to identifying your triggers to forgiving your own mistakes of the past to coping when life hits hard.

“When a tragedy strikes in the form of a death or a life-changing illness or an accident, or when our lives are suddenly turned upside-down due to a divorce or other major life event, we need to grieve the loss of our old lives, our old ‘normal,’ our younger, more carefree, and unwounded selves, so that we can embrace our new normal and learn to live fully and joyfully again. Just as if a person had hurt us, we are hurting humans and we need to take the time and make the investment in self-care to work through the hurt and emerge a wiser, more mature, and more compassionate human.”

Remember, it’s easier to grow heart-whole children than it is to repair broken-hearted adults. Continuing to pass pain from one generation to the next is costly, but giving your children the gift of a happy childhood is truly priceless.

Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing from Your Past so You Don’t Pass it Along to Your Children ~ .99 cents on Amazon for Kindle, to download onto your computer, iPhone or other smart phone, or iPad

Other gentle parenting resources you may find helpful:

Gentle Parenting Workshop 1 Getting Started on Your Gentle JourneyGentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey

The Gentle Parenting Workshop series from award-winning author, L.R.Knost,  is a companion series to her best-selling parenting books, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day,’ ‘Whispers Through Time,’ and the newest release, ‘The Gentle Parent.’ This first workshop in the series, ‘Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey,’ will help you set your gentle parenting goals, identify specific parenting problems, and target practical solutions to help you along on your journey to gentle parenting.

 

Two Thousand Kisses a Day-Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesTwo Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

Calm, Reassuring, Likable ~ Written in L.R.Knost’s signature easy-to-read and conversational style, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ offers an overview of gentle parenting from birth through young adulthood along with concrete suggestions and insights into how to implement gentle parenting in each stage of childhood. Her seasoned and practical approach based on extensive child development research and years of parent mentoring as well as over twenty-five years of parenting her six children is as likable as it is reassuring. Parents with children of any age will find this information-packed book with its bite-sized chapters and practical approach to parenting a helpful and encouraging addition to their home library, as well as a welcome gift for new or struggling parents. ~The Parenting Review

 

Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of ChildhoodWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood

Sweet, Funny, Insightful ~ Award-winning ‘Whispers Through Time’ by L.R. Knost is destined to be a dog-eared favorite, passed down from generation to generation. L.R. Knost shows parents how to find their own answers for their own children and their own families in this guidebook as she challenges conventional thinking with a wisdom born of experience and a healthy dose of research to back it up. Written with the same unique blend of sweetness and humor, grit and honesty, reassurance and insight that made L.R. Knost’s first book, ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages,’ a best-seller, ‘Whispers Through Time’ has become a runaway hit in its own right. ~The Parenting Review

 

The Gentle ParentThe Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline

Relaxed, Reassuring, Practical ~ Written by L.R.Knost, best-selling, award-winning author of ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’ and ‘Whispers Through Time,’ ‘The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline’ shares the simple secrets of a peaceful, happy home in the Three C’s of gentle discipline–Connection, Communication, and Cooperation. In her signature relaxed and poetic style, L.R.Knost gently guides parents through the steps of applying the Three C’s in real-life scenarios from tantrums to defiance to parenting a strong-willed child to healing a broken parent/child relationship. Practical and proven, this newest installment in the Little Hearts Handbook parenting series will be tucked into diaper bags, kept handy on nightstands, and shared with good friends for its research-backed, experience-based, and humor-rich insights, ideas, and inspiration. ~The Parenting Review

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.


When Toddlers Become Teens

[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.]

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sistersWith society’s propensity for blaming social issues on ‘kids these days,’ and with struggling, frustrated parents seeking support by sharing stories of their teens’ attitudes and ingratitudes, it’s not surprising that adolescence gets a bad rap.

But the truth is that teens are just people like the rest of us, subject to human imperfections and simply trying to find their place in the world. They may have some hormonal ups and downs, but just as women don’t appreciate being grouped together and defined by exaggerated stories of PMS and men don’t like every decision they make in middle-age to be labeled evidence of a midlife crisis, teens don’t deserve that kind of disrespectful stereotyping, either.

The thing is, adolescent behaviors that parents fear most such as rebellion, drug use, eating disorders, etc. don’t just appear out of nowhere. Teens don’t grow up in a vacuum. Our early parenting choices matter far more than we can imagine in those first months and years of our children’s lives. Our early parenting not only shapes who our children will become, but also has a powerful impact on our relationship with our teens. We are, literally, building our relationship with our teens while we’re parenting our toddlers and preschoolers.

Ideally, preparation for the teen years begins in infancy as we spend those first months of our children’s lives laying a foundation of trust. Then, in the toddler years, that preparation continues as we establish safe and reasonable boundaries with gentle guidance, patience, and proactive parenting like planning shopping trips around naps and bringing along snacks and favorite toys to avoid tantrum triggers.

In the preschool and middle years, preparation for adolescence builds on the trust foundation we laid in the first months and years of our teen’s lives as we grow a spirit of cooperation rather than compulsory compliance, establish a healthy relationship with our children based on teamwork instead of a dictatorship based on forced obedience, and create strong lines of communication rooted in hearing and being heard rather than the often-closed hearts and minds that result from lectures and control-based parenting.

The result…

  • Children who don’t have to fight for independence because they don’t have anything to rebel against or any motivation for rebellion
  • Children who feel that they are respected and that their opinions are heard and valued and therefore don’t have the angst to fuel negative attitudes
  • Children who trust and feel trusted and don’t want to lose what they instinctively know is of great value ~ our mutual trust relationship

Thus the groundwork is set for gently parenting through the teen years.

Once we’ve done the groundwork for the teen years, preparation shifts from preparing for adolescence to preparing our adolescents for adulthood. In the day-to-day parenting of teens, preparation means getting them and ourselves ready for their advent into adulthood by intentionally and incrementally handing over the reins of their lives into their inexperienced, but capable hands.

Another aspect of parenting our teens is participation in their lives. In the early years, participation means joining our little ones as they explore the world with mud-splattered walks in the rain and building tilted block towers which tumble and are rebuilt time and again. It means reading bedtime stories and welcoming midnight visitors in our beds and sharing morning tickle-fests and kissing imaginary boo-boos.

In the teen years participation means much the same, only instead of blocks tumbling, it’s plans and hopes and hearts that sometimes tumble into disappointments and need our support and understanding to be rebuilt. It’s midnight visitors who tap softly on our door and ask if we can chat for a bit. It’s shared hugs and cheers and tears and whispers of encouragement. It’s being there, being aware, being in-tune. It’s active, proactive, and intentional parenting.

And, finally, how we interpret our children’s behavior in the early years sets the stage in a very real way for how we will interpret their behavior in adolescence. In the early years, interpretation means that instead of assigning negative ulterior motives to our little ones’ crying, curiosity, outbursts, explorations, tantrums, and other behaviors, we seek to interpret what they are communicating and empathize with and validate their emotions. It means we try to meet the needs behind the behaviors first, opening the door to gentle guidance so that we can equip them with better ways of expressing their needs as they grow and mature.

Interpretation in the teen years means exactly the same. We listen, assume the best, meet needs, listen more, give grace for being human, empathize with and validate emotions, listen and listen some more, and continue to create open hearts and minds through connection and communication so that our gentle guidance can be heard and received and trusted.

Here’s the thing, yes, our teens are human and they will act like the imperfect beings they are at times, just like we all do. But when we’ve grown our little humans in an atmosphere of connection, communication, and cooperation, those imperfect human moments stay exactly that…moments. They don’t explode into rebellion or fester into addictions or plummet into depression because they’ve been punished, suppressed, and ignored. They are simply normal, small moments of life that we work through together before they become big life problems.

If, however, you are new to the idea of gentle parenting and wonder if it’s too late to rebuild and repair your relationship with your children, the answer is, “No.” One of the miracles of human nature is the ability to forgive, heal, and start again. Here are some links to articles with specific suggestions for walking with your children through that process so you can begin your gentle journey in parenting peacefully, kindly, and effectively with your older child:

The Color of Change

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

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy
 

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.


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

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

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toddler hittingToddlers and preschoolers are still in the early stages of learning to communicate verbally. Add to that the fact that they have little-to-no impulse control and very immature social skills, and you’ve got a recipe for an instinctive physical response (i.e. hitting, kicking, biting, hair pulling, throwing things, etc.) to situations when they are frustrated, angry, excited, scared, or just tired and out-of-sorts.

Many parents who practice gentle discipline wonder where their little one picked up the behavior, not realizing that it is a normal and age-appropriate reaction, albeit an undesirable one. Very often parents are advised to spank their child to train them not to hit others, especially those who are smaller and weaker than they are.

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. As mentioned in the last chapter, though, 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 they’ve reacted physically to their stress.

The plain truth is, though, that even if punishment was effective as a deterrent, a gentle response to physical aggression is literally the only response that a parent can make that won’t actually reinforce the aggression. Responding with counter-aggression by powering-up on a child, whether physically or verbally, merely reinforces the idea that ‘might makes right’ and that whoever is the dominant figure at any given moment has the right to force others to bend to their will.

Obviously, parents who practice gentle discipline don’t believe that hitting a child to teach them not to hit others is an appropriate or even logical option. But knowing that they don’t want to resort to physical punishment and knowing what to do instead are two different things entirely.

So, what other options does a gentle parent have when confronted with a little one who has started lashing out physically whether from anger, frustration, or excitement?

  1. Supervision! Supervision! Supervision! When you have a child who is acting out physically, it’s vital to remain in visual contact with them whenever they are with other children. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important not to leave small children alone with a child who is struggling with physical aggression. Some steps you can take are to either take the child with you when you have to leave the room, take the other child/children with you, or use baby gates to section off areas where you can separate the children to play (in a non-punitive manner) when you have to be out of visual range momentarily.
  2. Intervention. Consistent intervention by an observant parent, preferably before the situation escalates to physical aggression, is essential in order to protect the other children. When you see your child heading toward a physical response to a situation, reminding them to use their words or offering a solution to the problem will often help avert a lash out. If your child has already started to become physical, but hasn’t fully escalated, reminding them to “Use your gentle hands” will give them a little head’s up that they are headed in the wrong direction and give them an opportunity to redirect themselves. Suggesting alternative options will equip your child with the tools they need to handle their feelings in acceptable ways.
  3. Prevention. If scratching or biting are issues be sure to keep your little one’s nails trimmed and try to stay on top of teething pain. When it comes to teething, small children are frequently either dealing with swollen gums from a tooth starting to come in or one that has just come in, so being aware of that and using amber necklaces, keeping a supply of damp, frozen washcloths available, and giving a bit of ibuprofen when needed are good preventatives to biting.
  4. Remind and redirect. If hitting, biting, scratching, etc. are the result of over-exuberance, consistently reminding a little one to “Use your gentle hands. Can you show me your gentle hands?” or that “Teeth are for smiling, not biting. Can you show me your smile?” and offering specific alternatives such as clapping their hands to show their excitement will help to redirect them to more appropriate expressions of their big emotions.
  5. Respect. Respecting a child’s possessions helps them to share by offering them the chance to choose. Feeling more in control of what does or does not need to be shared is a proactive step toward a child feeling more in control of their body and impulses. You might allow their room to be off-limits to their siblings or possibly have a ‘special’ toy box where they can keep a select few toys that they don’t have to share, but can only play with in their room or when the other children are sleeping or otherwise occupied. If a situation arises where they aren’t willing to share something, they can have the option to choose to put that toy in the ‘special’ toy box, but will need to decide which toy to take out of the box to share in its place.
  6. Outlets. Children who feel out-of-control need outlets for their big feelings. If they’re angry, they can go to their room and punch a bop bag or go outside and throw or kick a ball around. But if they’re headed toward a meltdown, they may need help processing their feelings, and a Calm-Me-Jar and time-in (see Chapter Eight) may be the best option.
  7. Practice. Role playing can be helpful with a child who repeatedly lapses into physical aggression. You can take turns being the ‘hit-ee’ and ‘hitter’ (avoid using labels such as ‘victim’ and ‘aggressor’ with your child) and show them different ways of handling situations that you know have caused them difficulties in the past.
  8. Silliness. One of my favorite tools when dealing with toddler’s and preschooler’s aggression is playing the ‘I’m the boss of you, hands!’ game (can also be used for teeth, feet, etc.) in which I remind them that they are the ‘boss’ of their hands and ask them to tell their hands what they can or cannot do. (i.e. Me: “What are you going to tell your hands if they try to snatch a toy?” Child: “I’ll tell them, ‘No way, hands! I’m the boss of you!”) Little ones love the idea of being the boss and generally respond well to this type of play.
  9. More silliness. For younger, non-verbal children who may not be ready for the “I’m the boss of you, hands!” game yet, if they’ve hit, pinched, snatched, etc. try ‘checking’ to see if they have gentle hands by exaggeratedly examining their hands and then kissing each palm and declaring, “Yep, that’s a gentle hand, all right!” The positive, declarative statement will help them to develop a positive self-image and set the foundation for self-control as they grow up believing that, yes, they are good and gentle little people!
  10. Modeling. If your child has already hit someone, you will need to first address the injured child’s needs.  If you’re angry with your child for hitting, and you very well may be, it’s okay to share that with them in a calm voice and let them know that you need a moment to console the injured child and to calm down before you will be ready to talk with them. What you are actually doing is modeling self-control and coping mechanisms, important components for your child to learn in order to master their impulse to lash out.
  11. Teaching empathy. Reflect what the other person might be feeling, “It hurts your sister when you scratch her. Why don’t we go ask her if she’s okay? If she has an owie, we might need to get a bandage for her.” It’s very intriguing for little ones to feel like they can ‘fix’ something, and often the idea that they have that kind of power makes them more likely to feel they have the power to use their gentle hands, too. The positive impact of learning to think and care about the feelings of others, though, is the real power that will enable them to begin to control the impulse to lash out.
  12. Verbalize. Offering words to express your child’s feelings of anger or frustration when they have lashed out (i.e. “I see that you don’t want to share the ball. That makes you angry. I’m sorry you’re angry, but I can’t let you hit. What can you do instead of hitting when you’re angry?”) will help your child learn how to verbalize their feelings over time instead of simply acting on them as well as reminding them of the options you’ve provided for them to redirect their big feelings into acceptable outlets.
  13. A place for time-outs. When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, etc.) and a gentle redirection has already been given, another option is to try 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. When your child decides that the toy is ready to behave, you can have your little one tell the toy it has to listen to them because they are the boss. Again, humor is a great communicator! Remember, though to listen and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, a time-in with your little one might be needed. Remaining in-tune with your child will help you to read the situation and respond appropriately.
  14. Expectations. It’s important in all aspects of parenting to frequently take a step back and examine your expectations to make sure that they are reasonable in regard to your child’s age, developmental stage, temperament, etc. Unrealistic expectations can put significant pressure on a child and cause a great deal of frustration and stress which can lead to aggressive behaviors as well as conflict in your parent/child relationship.
  15. Honesty. If physical punishment has been a part of your parenting, removing that entirely from your parenting toolbox is a great start toward easing some of the anger, stress, and frustration that is fueling your child’s aggression. Being honest with your child about your own struggles with handling things physically as well as apologizing for using threats, intimidation, and physical pain to control them in the past will begin the healing process in your relationship.

Always try to keep in mind that behaviors are communication. Listening ‘between the lines’ to your child’s aggression will help you to discern whether your child’s behavior is communicating an unmet need such as hunger, a nap, or attention (Yes, attention is a valid need!) or if they are communicating a big emotion that they’re having trouble processing or if they are simply out of their depth and need an adult to help them handle a situation. Children are actually great communicators, just not necessarily verbally. It’s up to us adults to ‘listen’ carefully, empathetically, and calmly to our children’s behavior and then offer them our gentle guidance, wisdom, and support.

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 Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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.


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

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

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cat in the hat calm jarWhen 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 AquapodTM 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.

“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!” ~ L.R.Knost

Related posts:

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 Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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.


Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy

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

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mom and daughterFrom kicking and rolling and stretching to being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic cadence of a mama’s heartbeat, little ones spend the first months of their existence wrapped in a warm, dark, gently swaying cocoon, a life-giving embrace, the ultimate hug, readying themselves for their grand entrance to the world.

Then, in those first moments of life beyond the womb, when the muffled sounds of the outside world become clear and the muted lights become glaringly bright, a warm chest with the scent of life-sustaining milk and the sweet sound of a familiar heartbeat welcome the little one to the comfort and safety of a mama’s arms.

In the days, weeks, and months following, little fingers and toes are counted and kissed again and again and again. Soft cheeks are snuzzled and a fuzzy little head is nuzzled, and two thousand kisses a day seems a reasonable number to a mama’s heart overflowing with tenderness for this tiny new member of the family.

Then comes the rolling and sitting and crawling and walking, and soon the two thousand kisses dwindle to brief morning cuddles before a toddler is off to explore the world, healing kisses on boo-boos, and goodnight snuggles with a bedtime book.

Time passes and the little one grows in independence, getting up and dressed and ready on their own, grabbing their own band-aid for a scrape, and reading themselves to sleep. Gone are the snuzzles and nuzzles of infancy, and the two thousand kisses a day are simply sweet memories.

Growing independence, though, doesn’t have to mean growing separation. Humans were created to be relational beings. We may outgrow our dependency, but we never outgrow the need for community, interaction, appreciation, reassurance, and support.

Infants, children, and adults alike all share this life-long need for connection. While over time that need will also be met through friendships, business engagements, social interactions, and the like, family relationships are the steady and sure bedrock of secure connection and belonging that ground us and assure us that our needs will not go unmet even in the darkest of times.

Attachment parenting is often misconstrued to be simply about breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. But, while those are possible choices for creating and maintaining a secure parent/child connection in the early years, they are just a small sampling of the relationship-building choices that parents can make throughout their children’s lives.

As little ones outgrow the ‘two thousand kisses a day’ stage, parents can begin consciously creating ‘two thousand connection points a day’ to replace those tender expressions of love with age-appropriate expressions of appreciation and approval, love and support.

From responding empathetically to a preschooler’s whine, to paying attention to a seven-year-old when they tell their endless stories, to listening ‘between the lines’ to the angst of a teen, maintaining a secure parent/child connection beyond infancy is simply about meeting emotional needs consistently, intentionally, and relationally.

Creating two thousand connection points a day isn’t about quality time, and it isn’t even about the quantity of time spent with our children. It is, instead, about being there in the small moments, the moments that matter to our children, and consciously meeting with them right where they are. It is about…

    • Simply smiling and letting our eyes light up with welcome when our children walk in the room
    • Maintaining eye contact when our children talk to us instead of letting our eyes constantly stray back to our laptop/iPhone
    • Voicing our sincere appreciation for their latest ‘masterpiece’ or victory or achievement
    • Expressing our affection physically in whatever way our children are comfortable with, whether it’s a wrestling match, a knuckle pound, or a hug
    • Giving our children our undivided, wholehearted attention when they share their latest treasure or sing a never-ending song they make up as they go or just want to sit and be close for awhile
    • Listening to what our children need to say without the threat of repercussion
    • Inferring what they aren’t able to express verbally
    • Welcoming our children into our daily lives, whether we are discussing politics or cooking dinner or fixing the toilet
    • Allowing our children to express their emotions, even when they aren’t pretty
    • Validating their anger, hurt, frustration, or embarrassment instead of minimizing or dismissing their feelings
    • Helping them to process those emotions by listening and reflecting back what we hear
    • Guiding them toward understanding of their own feelings and empathetically equipping them with coping mechanisms for the future
    • Sharing our own hurts, disappointments, and mistakes in age-appropriate terms so they’ll know it’s okay to be human
    • Honoring our children’s intense need to avoid embarrassment by offering guidance privately and respectfully, even if their behavior issue is public and/or disrespectful
    • Sharing their interests even if the life-cycle of a snail wouldn’t be our first choice of dinner conversation
    • Offering choices so they can grow in independence and confidence
    • Supporting them even when their choices lead to disappointment or failure
    • Being gently and kindly and completely honest about our own disappointment or hurt when their behavior negatively affects us so they’ll know they can trust us to be truthful, even in the hard things
    • Helping them whenever and wherever they express a need for assistance so they’ll know they never have to go life alone

These connection points are all about maintaining and enriching a strong parent/child relationship through all of the ages and stages of childhood so that, through a foundation of trust and mutual respect, parenting takes the form of guiding instead of punishing, encouraging natural growth instead of forcing independence, and creating a strong, intimate, interwoven family fabric that will stand the test of time.

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 Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

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

gracie megaphoneThere 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.” (see Appendix B in The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline for more ideas)

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!

Related posts:

Healing Your Hurts So You Don’t Hurt Your Children

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

The Incredible Power of the Whisper

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

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.


Are You a Parent ‘Reject’?

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

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toddler girl puppy costumeCapri points at the front door every morning and says, “Daddy, go!” Her daddy feels a bit rejected, especially on the weekends when he doesn’t have to go to work and his little girl cries because he won’t leave! 

When Daddy and Luca play tickle monsters after bathtime, Mommy tries to join in, but Luca grabs Mommy’s hand and drags her back to her computer chair. Her mommy feels like she’s just the parent workhorse while Daddy gets to be the playmate. 

Micah cries and yells, “No-no, Daddy!” when Daddy tries to help with bedtime. Daddy feels like he’s missing out on some of the most important memory-making parts of his little guy’s childhood.

While these parents’ feelings are, of course, valid, the rejection they are feeling is actually a misinterpretation of their children’s actions. Small children are creatures of habit. They’ve only recently arrived in this world and everything is strange and new and big and loud and confusing, so it makes sense that they find comfort and security in repetition and routine. That’s the reason they ask us to read the same book to them over and over and…well, you get the idea.

As they begin to learn and grow, they categorize things in order to understand them. That’s why right at first every animal is a ‘kitty’ and every drink is ‘juice.’ This same process of learning through categorization applies to relationships, as well. Children are constantly observing and studying their parents and the roles each of them play, and then using that information to construct a mental ‘schematic’ of their world.

If a child is accustomed to one parent doing the bedtime routine while the other is busy cleaning up after dinner, a sudden change in that routine may disrupt the little one’s schematic, and they will often resist or have a meltdown.

Understanding that it is the break in routine, the unexpected happening when a small child has settled in their mind what the ‘expected’ is, that is at the root of the issue can help a parent to overcome their feelings of rejection and focus on working toward a solution in a way that meets their child’s security needs.

Here are five ideas to try if you or your partner are a parent ‘reject’:

1.)    When you know a routine is going to change, talk about it with your child ahead of time to prepare them. For instance, if your little one is used to Daddy going to work and you have a day off coming up, you can say, “Daddy gets to stay home and play tomorrow!” the evening before and then in the morning, “This is the day I get to stay home and play! What should we do first?”

2.)    If you’d like to share the diapering duties, but your little one is used to just one parent doing the changes, start by having the non-diapering parent assist for a few changes, then switch roles, but continue to do it together until your baby is comfortable with the new routine.

3.)    The same ideas apply to bedtime or bathtime routines, dropping off or picking up your little one from preschool, or any other routine your child is used to. If you need to change the routine, talk about it ahead of time to prepare them and then try to walk through the routine a few times together before switching roles or sharing the routine.

4.)    If one parent has a special play time with your little one, instead of trying to join in, why not choose a separate time for the three of you to play together? That will allow them to have a special bonding time for just the two of them while providing an opportunity at another time for you all to bond as a family.

5.)    Keep in mind that, especially for very young babies, their survival instinct may make them quite partial to their mommy for the first few months to a year old or even a bit beyond. That is a natural, normal, and healthy design inbuilt to ensure that they stay attached to their source of food and comfort. If a securely attached baby is having trouble bonding with anyone other than mommy, instead of trying to detach baby, try building your bond while baby is happy and content in mommy’s arms. Play peek-a-boo, make fishy-faces, read picture books, and just chat with baby. That will help your little one to begin to associate you with the same safety and comfort they feel in mommy’s embrace while building your own secure bond with them.

Related posts:

The Terrible Trouble with Toothbrushing: A Toddler’s Perspective

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

 

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.


Baby on the Way! 25 Tips to Prepare Children for a New Sibling

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

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toddler kissing mommy's pregnant bellyPregnancy is a time of introspection, excitement, and, often, anxiety for most new mamas. When those new mamas also have other small children at home, that anxiety can become overwhelming as they worry about how they’ll cope with more than one child and how the current little loves of their life will cope with a new sibling. While these are very valid concerns, there are steps you can take to prepare your child for a new sibling and help them to adjust when the new baby arrives that will also help you to cope with life as a mama of more than one little blessing.

Once you discover you’re expecting, you’ve got months and months to prepare your child for the arrival of a new sibling, so here are 25 tips for during your pregnancy and after the new baby arrives to make the new baby transition a smoother and sweeter journey for everyone:

  1. Help your older child make their own ‘sister/brother on the way’ announcements so they feel like they are part of the transition from the beginning.
  2. Bring them along to sonograms, doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby things, etc.
  3. Reassure them that parents’ love multiplies instead of divides and that they will always be loved and important. Point out other families with more than one child so they can see that truth for themselves. If they’re old enough to understand, try a simple illustration such as letting them put different colors of water beads, one for each family member including the baby-on-the-war, into a glass of water. Tell them the water is like love, and it grows the beads into a rainbow of beautiful colors just like love grows our hearts bigger and bigger so there’s plenty of love for everyone.
  4. Present the new baby-on-the-way as ‘theirs,’ a special gift sent just for them so they will have a best friend for life. Talk about their friends who have siblings and how they always have someone to play with and someone to help them when they need it.
  5. Find children’s books about welcoming a new sibling, taking care of a new baby, when mommy breastfeeds, etc. to read to them before the birth. Here is a great list to get you started.
  6. Let them help decorate the nursery, put together the stroller, pack up the hospital bag (or prepare for your homebirth), buckle in the car seat, etc.
  7. Ask the person giving your baby shower to let your child ‘co-host’ and help with the party planning, set-up, serving snacks, and playing games.
  8. Help them make a special ‘welcome’ gift for the new baby and wrap it in paper they’ve decorated with stamps or finger paint.
  9. Buy them a special ‘welcome’ gift that you give them when they visit their new sibling for the first time. One idea is to buy them a child-sized baby carrier along with a doll, some diapers, wipes, mini baby blankets, etc. so they can take care of their baby while you take care of yours.
  10. Help them make their own family scrapbook with places to put the new baby’s pictures and pictures of them with their new little sibling when the new baby comes.
  11. Tell them stories about when they were born and show them pictures of their homecoming and first weeks of life.
  12. Let them help you work on updating their baby book.
  13. Take them to pick out a baby book for the new baby.
  14. Begin an open-ended conversation about how they’re feeling about having a new baby in the family to allow them to express their natural worries about how their role in the family might change, if they will still be able to play with their own toys, if the baby will cry a lot, etc. Continue this conversation throughout your pregnancy and after the new baby arrives to keep the communication lines open and your connection intact.
  15. Take them to visit the hospital and stop at the gift shop to buy a baby gift and a little treat for them to build excitement.
  16. Have lunch at the hospital cafeteria two or three times leading up to your birth to help them get used to the environment.
  17. Work on building other attached relationships with significant adults in your child’s life (spouse, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) so that your little one is used to having their needs attended to by someone other than mama at times and so they can play and get one-on-one time with another caregiver while mama is busy with the new baby.
  18. On their first visit with their new sibling, let them sit in bed with you and hold their new little sibling. Have a ‘big sister/brother’ t-shirt for them to wear and take lots of pictures of both of them together and with other family members. Ask whoever you have caring for your older child to stop on the way home to print out a few of the pictures and then help them put the pictures in the scrapbook they created with you at home.
  19. When the new baby arrives continue to present the baby as ‘theirs’ to love and enjoy and care for. Include them in helping with diaper changes, snuggling on your other side with storybooks for you to read while nursing/feeding the new baby, singing the baby to sleep, etc. Make sure you invite them to participate instead of insisting because they may need some time to adjust to the newness of everything before they’re ready.
  20. Keep your expectations in line with your child’s developmental stage and make accommodations whenever possible. For instance, expecting a toddler to willingly give up their crib to a new baby is probably unrealistic. Moving your toddler to a new bed early in your pregnancy and then involving them in getting the crib ready for the new baby later on, after they’ve adjusted to their new bed, might be more successful.
  21. If your older child is a toddler or preschooler, you can expect some regression into babyish behavior as they work to adjust to their new role and find their place in the new family dynamic. Don’t respond with punishment, shaming, or pressure to ‘be a big boy or girl.’ Instead allow them the space and time they need to explore how it feels to be a baby again while at the same time drawing their attention to the benefits of being the older sibling (i.e. “Look how you can walk on your strong legs wherever you want to go! Your baby sister can’t walk yet, can she?” or “Wow, you can pick out your own shoes and even put them on yourself! Your baby brother can’t do that yet, can he?” or “Look at all the yummy foods you get to eat. It’s nice being bigger so you don’t have to just have milk, isn’t it?”)
  22. Be specific about how your child should treat the new baby. Instead of “Be nice!” try “Can you use a kind voice with your brother?” and instead of “Don’t be so rough!” try “Can you give your sister a gentle hug?”
  23. Make sure your child’s boundaries are clear and consistent. If you let them hop around the baby’s bouncer to make the new baby laugh one day, you can be sure they’ll try bouncing around the baby’s bouncer again and again and again. If you think that’s dangerous, set a clear boundary, explain the reason for the boundary, and give them an alternative (i.e. “Hopping next to the baby is dangerous. You might fall on the baby and hurt him! That would make you sad, and the baby would be sad, too. If you need to hop, you can hop like a bunny over here next to me.”)
  24. Keeping a consistent, familiar routine for your older child will help them to feel less out-of-control as they adjust to all of the other changes going on in their life. Make sure you’re flexible and in-tune with your child’s changing needs, though. They will most likely communicate their natural anxiety at this big transition in the family with some acting out behaviors, clinginess, whining, and/or resistance to bedtime and other normal routines. For instance, they may have been fine with one story and a hug at bedtime before the new baby arrived, but after their new sibling comes home they may need extra cuddles, time, and the reassurance of your love and ongoing commitment to their wellbeing before they’re able to go to sleep.
  25. Talk, talk, talk to your little ones throughout each and every day. Your hands may be busy more often than not, but you can still maintain that all-important connection through communication!

Keep in mind that nothing will completely eliminate the possibility of some jealousy, regression, or acting out when a new baby arrives because it’s a huge transition and it will take time for everyone in the family to adjustment, but these suggestions will go a long way toward setting the stage for the smoothest transition possible.

quote new second babyRelated posts:

Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

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.


Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

[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 Stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

bridge over troubled water

We all have times when we struggle, when life gets hard, when stresses overtake us and the constant demands to grow and change and learn inherent in simply being human just feel like too much to bear.

Children are no different than adults in that they, too, can often feel overwhelmed by life. The sheer volume of growth and change and learning integral to childhood inevitably produce stress, though that isn’t necessarily a negative for all children. Some children, just like some adults, seem to have an innate ability to cope with stress, to adapt to change, and to face and conquer challenges. Some personalities even thrive on it!

But then there are those children who simply seem to struggle with life. Growth spurts cause incredible stress and discomfort. Change produces intense anxiety and resistance. And learning, being introduced to new thoughts and ideas, being stretched and challenged, inspires unease and distress.

These children are often labeled problem children, strong-willed, difficult, entitled, or brats. The reality, though, is that these are often the most sensitive children, small people who were created to be intimately in-tune with their bodies, their environment, and their fellow human beings. They feel, deeply and empathetically, other people’s pain and distress. They endure shifts in their surroundings like frontal assaults to their safety and security. They experience touch and movement of their bodies, and growth within their bodies, with painful intensity.

All too often, these sensationally gifted children are misunderstood. Their strong reactions to stimuli are misinterpreted as willfulness and stubbornness. They are punished instead of helped, controlled instead of supported, hurt instead of heard.  Their uniqueness, gifts, and insights are forced underground where they often simmer in silence, bursting forth in flashes of rage or turning inward in brooding depression.

These children don’t need labels. They don’t need to be contained or controlled. They need what all children need…love, understanding, and guidance to grow into the gifted, unique individuals they were created to be.

Helping and supporting your sensitive child who is struggling is like building a bridge over troubled waters using the Three C’s of gentle discipline:

Connect:

  1. Observe and really get to know, understand, and appreciate the gifts and needs of the unique little person you are privileged to parent.
  2. Build a foundation of trust and respect in your parent/child relationship by ‘listening’ to the needs being expressed by your child’s behavior even when their behavior seems completely out of proportion to the situation.

Communicate:

  1. Keep an open door policy, particularly in the late evening hours when the house is quiet and everyone else is settled for the night. Sensitive children often need stillness to feel safe enough to begin processing all of the overwhelming stimuli and emotions they experience throughout the day.
  2. Help them to verbalize their feelings and experiences by listening to their hearts and not just their words, and quietly offering observations to help them to put things into perspective.

Cooperate:

  1. Work with your sensitive child to help them find coping mechanisms that will help them deal with overwhelming sensations, emotions, and situations. Some ideas are to offer them options such as…
    • wearing noise-cancelling headphones to block out extraneous noises
    • escaping to a Cozy Cave to take a break from the stresses of daily life
    • creating a private code word that they can use to let you know they are feeling overwhelmed or that you can use to alert them that they may need to take a break or to dial things down a notch or two
  1. Equip them with tools to express themselves in acceptable ways (i.e. “It’s not okay to be rude, but it is okay to tell someone you need a break” or “It’s not okay to run away at school, but it is okay to go to your teacher and tell them you’re having a hard time.”)
  2. Work with them intentionally on a daily basis to overcome the stresses and minimize the impacts of what is, to us, normal daily life, but to them can be deeply troubling experiences.

Building a strong, supportive bridge into the future with your sensitive child will provide them with the coping skills they’ll need as adults to overcome normal stresses and challenges as well as those that come when life inevitably flows into troubled and turbulent waters.

For more tips for parenting your sensitive child and helping them learn coping mechanisms to deal with stresses, see The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline.

 


Related posts:

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

The Incredible Power of the Whisper

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water Studio Version

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard,
I will comfort you

I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease 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.


Rethinking Tattling

[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

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tattling“She won’t share!”

“He took my crayon!”

“They won’t let me play with them!”

“He looked at me!”

“She poked me!”

“They’re jumping on the couch!”

“He won’t be my friend!”

Few things irritate adults as quickly as a tattle-tale. The kneejerk response is often “Stop tattling!” or “Handle it yourself!” or even to shame or punish little tattlers.

But stop for a moment and think: What is being communicated? What is a child actually trying to tell us when they tattle? What message is a child getting by our response?

Tattling is, in effect, a child seeking wise counsel for a situation they don’t know how to handle. When faced with a conflict that just weeks or months earlier would have resulted in tears or snatching or hitting or some combination of all three, a child who has matured and begun to develop some self-control is learning to stop and think instead of just react. But what do they do if no solution presents itself? What if they’ve tried to reason or negotiate with the object of their conflict and been unable to come to a resolution?

What do adults do when they don’t know what to do? Typically, they either respond with maturity and seek out someone they respect and trust to help them deal with the situation, or they degenerate into chaotic emotions and resort to anger, power-plays, and manipulation. Often their response is influenced by their own childhood and how they were taught or not taught, as the case may be, to handle conflict.

When a child tattles, what they are actually doing is a rudimentary form of the advanced life skill of ‘Pause. Think. Respond.’ but they need help finding an appropriate and effective response. The child who seeks out an adult for guidance is indicating trust in the adult and respect for the adult’s opinions and abilities. If the adult reacts with irritation, “Stop tattling!” or rejection, “Handle it yourself!” or punishment, the child learns not to trust, not to seek guidance, and not to share struggles and problems with those entrusted with their care, a potentially dangerous mentality, as we’ll discuss later. In addition, an excellent teachable moment is lost.

When a child approaches a trusted adult with a problem, the child is saying, “This is important. Hear me. Help me.” This is a wonderful opportunity to guide the child through the process of conflict resolution. So often we relegate life skills such as conflict resolution to textbooks and worksheets, if we address them at all. But learning is far more powerful and effective if it is tied to real-life, real-time issues that are important to us, that impact our lives, that matter.

So how do we handle the kneejerk irritation response when confronted with a tattling child? First, tossing out the tattling label entirely helps to adjust our mindset and focus on the child’s need for guidance. We can rename it ‘sharing’ or whatever else will help us in the rethinking process (though in our home it is just a normal and accepted part of our parent/child interaction and doesn’t have a name of its own to distinguish it from any other kind of communication).

Next, we can have prepared responses ready so that we aren’t ‘stuck’ when we’re trying to cope with our instinctive irritation in the same moment that we need to focus on helping an upset child in need of guidance.

Here are some possible responses:

If the child is over-wrought…

  • “I can see you’re upset. Let’s take a minute and breathe together, and then we’ll be able to think clearly.”

When the child is calm enough to talk…

  • “Can you tell me what happened to upset you?”
  • “Why do you think they did that?”
  • “How do you think we should handle that?”
  • “What could you have done differently?”
  • “What would you want them to do if you had been the one to do that?”

Often just feeling heard is enough to help the child find their own solution to the problem, but if further guidance is needed we can brainstorm solutions with them, walk them through some possible scenarios, or step in and help them to resolve the problem.

In addition to teaching valuable conflict resolution skills, giving our children the sure knowledge that they aren’t alone in the world and don’t have to cope with life on their own is a vital message. Logically speaking, does it really make sense to teach our children that they can’t trust us with their problems, can’t come to us when they’re stressed and don’t know how to cope, can’t seek wise counsel when confronted with situations that are beyond their ability to handle?

The potential ramifications of that mindset are chilling. Can we really expect children to have the mental clarity and emotional maturity to be able to distinguish ‘good’ telling from ‘bad’ telling when faced with bullying or peer pressure or sexual predators? It’s well known that sexual predators manipulate children with threats such as, “No one will believe you,” and, “No one will listen, anyway.”

Guarding our children against those lies, against the bullies, against pressure from their peers is essential, and keeping the communication doors flung wide open is certainly a powerful step in the right direction.

Related posts:

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

The Problem with Punishment

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

Why Whining is a Win!

The Color of Change

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.


Why Whining is a Win!

[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

whiningIt’s seven o’clock and you’re finishing up the dishes before starting bedtime baths. And then it starts…the whining. Every. Single. Night. Your four-year-old knows the routine. She knows you are going to read her favorite bedtime book. She knows you will let her choose which pajamas to wear. She knows she has to brush her teeth. But that doesn’t stop her from standing in the kitchen night after night whining about the same things.

So what’s the deal? Short-term memory loss? An innate desire to drive you crazy? A disorder of the vocal cords that makes using a normal voice impossible after the sun sets and every time she doesn’t get her way all day long?!?

Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on.

Whining, believe it or not, is an advanced skill. Babies come into the world with exactly one form of verbal communication–crying. They may smack their lips and root for the breast when hungry. They may arch their back or wiggle in discomfort when they need a diaper change. But when physical expressions don’t result in needs being met or their needs are emotional rather than physical, then crying is always the ‘default’ communication. Every need, every discomfort, every bit of loneliness or anxiety or frustration or stress has to be communicated through that one single venue.

Over time as babies grow into toddlers, they begin to learn new ways to communicate, pointing, grunting, picking up a few words here and there, and they move into a more interactive stage wherein they make attempts to communicate in these new ways, but fall back very quickly into crying if they aren’t understood and responded to quickly.

As time goes on, toddlerhood gives way to the preschool years and language skills advance, becoming the main source of communication for a little one. But even so, their grasp of language is limited and their prefrontal cortexes (center of forethought/pre-thinking skills) are still developing. This leads to a rather dichotomous situation in which they know what they want to say, but often can’t quite put the words together quickly or clearly enough for us oh-so-impatient adults.

As they work to communicate, their frustration levels rise and stress hormones sap the blood flow from those underdeveloped ‘thinking’ portions of their brains and, just when they need the use of language the most, they begin to lose the ability to articulate their needs. As toddlers they would fall quickly back into crying at this point, but as preschoolers their more advanced self-control helps them to avoid immediately dissolving into tears and, instead, they fall into the ‘middle-ground’ of whining.

Whining is, in fact, just an advanced form of crying and, as such, is just as grating on the nerves as crying because it is designed to get the attention of a caregiver. The difference is actually in our attitudes toward whining. We accept crying as a normal part of baby and toddlerhood, but label the whining of a preschooler ‘bratty’ and ‘spoiled’ and refuse to listen to them until they ‘use their normal voice’ just when they need us to listen the most!

If we, as adults, would adjust our mindsets to accept the normalcy of whining, it would lose a bit of its power to annoy while enabling us to respond empathetically to our children when they’re mustering all their newly-developed coping skills to avoid a meltdown.

So, what can we do when our little ones lapse into ‘whine-eze’ and we feel like tearing our hair out? Well, as always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

  • Pay attention to the time of day whining seems to occur most often.
  • Watch for triggers such as hunger, missed naps, and over-hurried schedules.
  • Make whatever adjustments you can to prevent the whining before it starts.
  • If all else fails and the whining does commence, remember that your little one is struggling to communicate in that moment. Respond by slowing down, sitting with them or kneeling down in front of them, and giving them your full attention.
  • Use a quiet, soothing tone to reassure them, and listen patiently all the way through as they work their way back through the frustration and find the words to express themselves.
  • You may not be able to give them the toy or snack or whatever else it is they want at that moment, but giving them the chance to be heard is often enough to forestall an all-out meltdown.

More than anything, though, giving your little ones the gift of your time and attention when they need it most (and often seem to deserve it least) will help foster that all-important connection that provides the basis for gentle guidance and boundary-setting. And, as an added bonus, children who feel heard tend to outgrow the whining stage much earlier than children who feel like they have to fight to be heard.

Related posts:

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 Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!

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.


Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

balktalk is a cry for helpWith more than 90% of parents admitting to spanking or otherwise physically punishing their children at least occasionally, mainstream American parenting can certainly be defined as punitive. If you go to the library or browse the shelves at Barnes & Noble or check out Amazon’s best sellers in the parenting genre, you will find a predominance of popular, punishment-based, obedience-focused parenting guides. Whether its spanking or time outs or removal of privileges or time confined in their room, the vast majority of children in the United States are raised with punitive parenting.

When it comes to children talking back to parents, many of these punitive parenting guides dictate a zero-tolerance policy. By their definition, backtalk is often characterized as verbal or emotional abuse of parents, defiance, rudeness, or threats:

  • Verbal or emotional abuse of parents is considered any statement that insults or hurts a parent such as, “You’re so mean!” or “I wish I didn’t even have parents!” or “I hate you!”
  • Defiance is any statement containing the word “No” in response to a parental      command.
  • Rudeness is defined as anything from deep sighs to rolled eyes to stomped feet.
  • Threats are any statements that give conditions such as, “If you take away my cell phone, I’ll just go get a new one!” or “If you don’t drive me to my friend’s house, I’m walking there!”

These parenting guides direct parents to decide which punishment to mete out when their child talks back to them, specifying that the deciding factor should be whichever punishment would be the most unpleasant, painful, and distressing for the child. Punishments are to be carried out swiftly and without discussion. When the retribution for the child’s actions is over, it is to be followed with a lecture laying down the laws of the family. Again, no discussion is allowed, but if the child expresses appropriate penitence, love and hugs can then be offered.

In addition to the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of children being subjected to this kind of harsh, punitive parenting, I’m saddened by the upside-down reasoning that shuts communication down instead of utilizing it to bring healing, understanding, and restoration to the parent/child relationship.

Take a look at the order of parenting prescribed: First, punishment meted out by the parent. Second, lecture delivered by the parent. Third, conditional reconnection based on a proper expression of remorse to the parent from the child.

In gentle parenting, the order and intent of parenting would be the polar opposite: First would come listening for the need behind the behavior and reconnecting with the child at the point of need. Second, would be initiating a two-way communication about the problem and brainstorming about how to address the issue in ways that will meet everyone’s needs. Third, would be offering guidance and equipping the child with better ways to express needs in the future.

The punitive parenting approach focuses on the child as the problem and attempts to solve the problem by ‘fixing’ the child through intentionally unpleasant external forces.

The gentle parenting approach focuses on the child having a problem and attempts to help the child solve the problem through connection, communication, and inviting cooperation.

Now look at the definitions of backtalk–verbal and emotional abuse of parents, defiance, rudeness, and threats. The questions that immediately arise are: What about the parents? Are they held to the same standards as the children? Or do they threaten? Do they say ‘No’? Do they sigh? Do they hurt their children?

As parents, our actions will always be reflected in our children’s behavior. Children learn what they live. No amount of lecturing can undo the powerful impact on a child of their parent’s own behavior and choices.

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.

In the same way that “a gentle answer turns away wrath,” a soft-voiced, “Let’s take a minute and calm down so we can work through this together, okay?” from a parent is a magical, healing balm that immediately begins to diffuse tough situations and creates an atmosphere in which connection and communication can bring effective, peaceful solutions not only to the issue at hand, but to the inner turmoil that prompted the outburst in the first place.

Meeting a child at their point of need when that need is expressed through meltdowns, yelling, disrespect, or defiance takes patience, self-control, and empathy on the part of a parent, which can be a huge growth experience for the parent if they, themselves, were not parented that way. But the impact of living those positive life skills in front of our children is immeasurable.

Parenting isn’t a perfect science and parents aren’t perfect people, but creating an overall atmosphere of respect in a home starts with the parents modeling respect in their own tone of voice, in their own reactions to stressful situations, in their own interactions with their children.

It’s not easy, for sure. But the best things, the most valuable things, in life rarely are. Working toward being understanding, available, and responsive to our children’s needs yields a priceless return in our relationship as the years fly by and adulthood looms. Not meeting those needs, though, may have serious negative consequences…

Dear Daughter,

You entered your teen years with a bang a few years ago, and the explosions have been shattering our home ever since. I’ve begged, threatened, bribed, and punished; cried, shouted, and bargained; but I just can’t find a way to reach you anymore. You constantly say I don’t listen to you, but how can I when you won’t talk to me? You say I don’t understand you, but how can I when you push me away? You say we aren’t a family, but then spend every day with earphones in your ears, blocking us out. You ask me why I hate you, then roll your eyes when I tell you I love you. How did it come to this? We used to be such a happy family. Please, let me be there for you during this huge transition in your life. Let’s really try to communicate with each other. I’m just lost here, honey, and I need you to reach out and help me reconnect with you. I love you.

Your Dad 

 

‘Dear’ Dad,

Happy family? Are you kidding me? No, I guess not. You never did get it. Okay, you asked, so I’ll tell you. You were always happy because you were always in control. Want to know why I don’t talk to you now? Because you never listened when I was little. When I was scared in my room at night and called you, you either ignored me or threatened to spank me if I didn’t go to sleep. I’d lay there, crying so hard I’d almost throw up, terrified of the sounds and shadows in my room, but even more terrified of you. So, sorry, but I don’t buy that you’re ‘there for me’ when it’s only ever been at your own convenience. When you were mad at something I’d done and I tried to explain myself, you’d call it backtalk and smack me in the mouth. So forgive me if I don’t really believe you when you say you want to ‘communicate’ with me now. When I’d try to show you a dance I’d made up or tell you about how someone had pushed me on the playground, you couldn’t even be bothered to look away from your stupid computer while I was talking, so if I’m wrapped up in my electronics, I learned that little trick from you, Father Dear. Oh, and reconnect? Really? That implies that we were once connected. But when I was a little girl and invited you into my world and asked you to play with me, you were always too busy. So if you don’t understand me, sorry, but that invitation expired years ago. Want to know why I think you hate me? Because your actions told me so. Your ‘love’ is just words.

‘Your’ Daughter

 

Not all children react this way to harsh, punitive, control-based parenting, of course. Some children, due to personality, other influences and mentors in their lives, or simply as a survival instinct, will turn out okay despite how they are parented.

But ‘okay’ is too mediocre a goal when it comes to growing our children into the adults who will one day lead our world. Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood. Let’s grow excellent, outstanding, remarkable adults who will be world changers for the next generation and the generations to come.

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Children of Violence

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 Incredible Power of the Whisper

whispering

[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.]

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a whisper is worth two thousand when it comes to parenting. In the same way that the instinctive human reaction to someone raising their voice is to raise our voice one octave higher, to out-shout the shouter, to over-power the person powering-up on us, the instinctive human response to someone whispering is to quiet down, to lean-in, to listen.

As parents, it’s up to us to exercise the wisdom and maturity to control our own instinctive reaction to our children’s piercing screams, ear-shattering shrieks, and mind-blowing, foot-stomping, out-of-control fits. Small people have big emotions and need help processing them. Their cries as babies and shrieks and tantrums as toddlers and meltdowns as preschoolers are, literally, cries for help.

Ignoring or punishing them, or reacting with anger ourselves, simply forces them to bury their unresolved emotions and causes us to miss an opportunity to not only share our wisdom by helping them process their big feelings, but also to guide our children toward more appropriate ways to communicate as they grow. In some cases, when a child’s emotions are forced underground it results in a child who simmers with hidden rage just waiting to explode again or, worse, the rage may turn inward and result in a child who is withdrawn, detached, or even depressed.

Having parenting tools ready and waiting for the inevitable challenges of raising little humans is wise. When emotions begin running high, and as parents we can feel our own stress levels rising, knowing we have a well-stocked parenting toolbox with tried and tested tools helps us to keep our cool so that we can parent more intentionally and effectively.

In the first weeks of life, a baby has one ‘default’ mode of verbal communication…crying. They may give physical cues to their needs such as chewing on their hands to indicate hunger or the beginning of teething, but their verbal communication takes the sole form of crying.

From those first tiny squeaks and mewls of a newborn, a baby’s cries mature into whimpers, squeals, screams, and sobs, all communicating one thing: “I need help.” When we respond to our baby’s cries quickly and gently, whether it’s to feed them or change them or give them a cuddle, we communicate in return, “I’m here. You can count on me.”

But then there are those times when we’ve fed them, changed them, burped them, rocked and cuddled and walked with them, and their piercing screams still shatter the silence…and our hearts. Those are times when parents often begin to feel overwhelmed, stressed, sometimes even resentful and angry because no matter what they try, they can’t ‘fix’ their baby and make them stop crying. It is in those moments of frustration and distress that we need to breathe in deeply to calm ourselves, then stop stressing over trying to ‘fix’ our baby and instead whisper in our little one’s ear, “I’m here. I’ve got you. We’ll get through this together.” They may not understand our words, but they will hear our heart.

The truth is that a baby’s cries can’t always be ‘fixed’ and sometimes the need they’re communicating is the need to express their emotions, but they always, always need the comfort and assurance that they will be heard and that their needs will be met and that they can trust us to be there for them, no matter what.

Once a baby reaches the crawling, exploring, discovering stage, they often have a great time experimenting with the volume, pitch, and range of their voice, much to the chagrin of their parents and pretty much everyone else within earshot. The ear-shattering squeals and bellows and joyful shrieks at this stage can be disconcerting to us parents, to say the least, especially when our little falsetto performs their operatic interpretation in public places such as doctor’s offices, libraries, and restaurants.

This is a prime opportunity to exercise the power of the whisper. When the first shriek splits the silence, we can hold our finger to our lips, smile like we’re inviting them to join in on a secret, and whisper, “It’s whisper time. Let’s use our little voices together.” Making a game out of it invites cooperation rather than demands obedience, a much more effective parenting technique, and practicing little voices together demonstrates what we want our little one to do instead of simply telling them what we don’t want them to do.

Don’t be surprised if it takes many repetitions over several outings before your little one begins to get the idea, though. As with all parenting, time and patience and an awareness (and acceptance!) of what is normal for each developmental stage is key.

Toddlers and preschoolers are famous for their big tantrums sparked by big emotions and big frustrations. Obviously being aware of and avoiding tantrum triggers such as hunger, tiredness, and over-stimulation is important. But even with the most proactive parenting, there may still be times when our little ones have unexpected, incomprehensible, inconsolable tantrums.

When faced with a toddler or preschooler in the throes of a tantrum, if we know what caused the tantrum, we can validate the emotion with a soft-voiced, “You’re angry (disappointed, sad, hurt) because you (fill in the blank).” Often just hearing their feelings put into words is enough to calm a toddler who is frustrated at their inability to express themselves, but sometimes they need a bit of time and support to work through their big emotions.

If the tantrum continues we need to stay calm and present and remember that we are modeling self-control and self-regulation when we practice those skills instead of having an adult-style tantrum in response to our child’s tantrum. Instead of trying to control our child’s outburst with demands or threats or bribes, we can simply stay close and whisper, “I hear you. I’m here.”

The secret of the whisper in taming a tantrum can be seen in the difference between dumping a bucket of water on a fire, which can force the fire underground where it may smolder and reignite unexpectedly, versus spraying a gentle mist on the fire so it’s slowly and fully extinguished, leaving the ground saturated so the fire won’t reignite. Settling your little one quietly and patiently with a whisper is the gentle mist that saturates them with your unconditional love and support so they don’t simmer with hidden rage that may erupt spontaneously again.

Remember, no matter the problem, kindness is always the right response. When your child is having a problem, stop, listen, then respond to the need, not the behavior. The behavior can be addressed later, after the need has been met, because only then is the door to effective communication truly open.

The thing to keep in mind is that there is no cure for childhood. There is no parenting secret that will ‘work’ to keep children from being children. Children will cry. They will tantrum. They will yell and giggle and climb and run and throw things and build things and hit and hug and explore and make glorious mistakes and incredible discoveries. They will be human. They will be children. And that’s more than okay. That’s beautiful, messy, wonderful childhood, just as it should be.

Parents are guides through the incredible journey of childhood, not to keep their children from experiencing childhood, but to keep them safe as they learn the magnificent life lessons that childhood has to offer.

Related posts:

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Playground Confessions~Look Who’s Talking!

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

Testing the Boundaries~What’s a Parent to Do?

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-Ins, Oh My!

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

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 ‘NO’ Zone

[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.]

toddler saying no pointing fingerThe 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!

Every child knows the power of the No to circumvent the most well-laid plans. Even tiny babies just weeks into the world are introduced to its power when they grasp a fistful of hair while nursing or reach for some lovely, squishy stuff while getting a diaper change. That itty bitty two-letter word is packed with a force beyond comprehension to a toddler, and when they finally figure out how to wrap their little lips around those letters and form the word “NO!” themselves, the possibilities seem limitless!

Do you want a cookie? “No!”…Well, actually, yes, but how cool is it that when I said “No!” I controlled whether or not someone gave me a cookie!

Do you want Daddy to hold you? “No!” Well, yes, but I got to decide whether someone held me or not for a change!

Do you want to play outside? “No!” Actually, I do, but do I really get to decide for myself where I go? Cool!

That kind of power and control can go to a little person’s head, for sure! And the change in the big people when the word is used against them clearly demonstrates its incredible value. Their faces go from happy to serious or even angry, and sometimes a little person can even make a big person yell. What dazzling power!

And then when little ones manage a few more words in their vocabulary, they can add direct quotes from the most powerful beings they know ~ mommy and daddy. Quotes like, “I said ‘No’!” and “Don’t you tell me ‘No’!” and “No means ‘No’!”

The authority! The dominion! The clout! And using them against those powerful beings, watching them turn red in the face and yell and threaten…well, it’s a little scary and makes a small person feel really disconnected and upset…but the surge of intense pleasure at feeling powerful and in control almost makes them feel like a big person for a moment!

And that’s what they most long to be, just like mommy and daddy ~ big and strong and smart and powerful.

So what’s a mommy or daddy to do when confronted with the No from their little power-mongers? First, take a deep breath, and then engage those adult brains.

What inherent power is there, really, in a little two-letter word? Only the power we give it! What if, instead of that tiny word being able to push our buttons, we just disconnected the buttons entirely and didn’t react to the No at all? It would simply become a no, just another word to celebrate our precious little people adding to their fledgling vocabularies.

What if we backed up even further and disenfranchised the No from the beginning? When our newborn baby’s flailing hands caught a tiny fistful of hair, what if we just smiled and gently removed it and kissed those itty bitty little fingers?

When our intrepid little explorers discovered the wonders of kitchen cabinets, what if we used cabinet locks but left one or two full of pots and pans and plastic bins for them to discover?

What if when our little people headed for the walls to do their best Michelangelo interpretation on them, we simply intercepted them and offered alternative canvases?

Or what if when they ascended the kitchen cabinets, we just scooped them up and headed outdoors for some climbing adventures?

The thing is, the No is only the No when we, the adults, make it the No. And it can become simply a no when we get creative and interactive and stop using a tiny two-letter word like it has “Phenomenal Cosmic Power in an itty-bitty living space!” (Aladdin 1994)

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Better Children, Better World

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.


Whispers Through Time ~ Book Reviews, Author Interviews & Book Trailer

My first book trailer! This was sooooo fun. My children had a blast making it! My toddler decided she was going to join me during my segment, lol, so you’ll see me chatting with her a few times. Nothing wrong with a glimpse of real life, though, right? So, without further ado, here is the official book trailer for Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood. Enjoy!

I’m so honored to have these incredible voices for children reviewing Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood:

Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood

Sweet, Funny, Insightful: Whispers Through Time by L.R. Knost is destined to be a dog-eared favorite, passed down from generation to generation. As long as there are children being born into this world and toddlers having tantrums and teens racing toward adulthood at an alarming pace, there will be parents who will turn to this book for guidance. Why? Not because L.R. Knost has all the answers, but because she shows parents how to find their own answers for their own children and their own families. This guidebook challenges conventional thinking with a wisdom born of experience and a healthy dose of research to back it up. Written with the same unique blend of sweetness and humor, grit and honesty, reassurance and insight that made her first book, Two Thousand Kisses a Day, a best-seller, Whispers Through Time is sure to become a runaway hit in its own right. An absolute must-have for any home library. Highly recommended!

Dr. Laura Markham of AhaParenting Audio interview with the author

The Natural Parent Magazine Book trailer and summary

Kidlutions: Solutions for Kids Book review and contest

Parenting Beyond Punishment  Book review and giveaway

The Path Less Taken Book review

Mommy Perks Book trailer and review

The Hippie Housewife Book review and giveaway

Diary of a Natural Mom Book review and giveaway

The Mahogany Way Book review and giveaway

Parenting with Understanding Book review and giveaway

Dr. Lynne Kenney: The Family Coach Book Trailer and review

Nurture Parenting Magazine  Book trailer and giveaway 

 

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 ‘Communication: Whispers Through Time’ explores  the importance of communication and connection in parent/child relationships.

Chapter 2 ‘Baby Talk’ celebrates those first moments and days and weeks of communication between newborns and parents.

Chapter 3 ‘Becoming Mommy’ shares the beauty of embracing parenthood.

Chapter 4 ‘Baby Signing: A Gentle Introduction to Communication’ introduces the concept of using baby signs to communicate.

Chapter 5 ‘The Power of Perception’ explores the connection between a parent’s perception of their child’s motives and the parent’s response.

Chapter 6 ‘Eleven Tips to Beat the Mama Blues’ shares eleven ways to work through those sometimes hard, sometimes humdrum days of parenthood.

Chapter 7 ‘The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective’ explores life from the perspective of a toddler and offers guidance on how to use communication to reduce or eliminate tantrums.

Chapter 8 ‘The NO Zone’ shares ideas for how to respond when a toddler discovers how to use the word, “NO!”

Chapter 9 ‘The Secret of the Whisper’ offers a unique response to little people’s sometimes big emotions.

Chapter 10 ‘Ten Ways to Play When Play is the Last Thing on your Mind’ shares ten ideas for weaving play into an ordinary day

Chapter 11 ‘A Listening Heart’ breaks down the concept of listening and offers ideas for how to pinpoint the issue if listening is a problem.

Chapter 12 ‘A Child’s Heart’ shares a glimpse of the power of communication and connection.

Chapter 13 ‘Why Whining is a Win’ offers a unique perspective on that age-old annoying behavior…whining.

Chapter 14 ‘Can We Talk?’ explores adults’ use of figurative language and the confusion that can result for children.

Chapter 15 ‘Age of Reason: Why, oh Why, Do They Always Ask Why?’ examines why the why stage is so important.

Chapter 16 ‘Five Gentle Tools for Handling Lying’ shares a practical and gentle approach to lying.

Chapter 17 ‘Rethinking Tattling’ explores the importance of listening to tattling.

Chapter 18 ‘The Artist in the Child’ celebrates the differences in children through the unique perspective of the artist.

Chapter 19 ‘Whisper Words of Wisdom’ examines the unseen wounds that thoughtless words can inflict.

Chapter 20 ‘Love Means Sometimes Having to Say You’re Sorry’ shares the importance of making things right when you’ve done something wrong.

Chapter 21 ‘The sWord and the sTone’ covers the importance of living what you want your child to learn.

Chapter 22 ‘Chatterboxes and Dreamers: Is Your Child an Introvert or an Extrovert?’ discusses the different parenting approaches to different personalities.

Chapter 23 ‘I is for `I dunno’ and That’s Good Enough for Me’ shares some insights into the mysteries of the adolescent mind.

Chapter 24 ‘Backtalk is Communication: LISTEN!’ tackles the startling truth that when children talk back they are actually communicating.

Chapter 25 ‘My Huckleberry Friend’ shares the reasons that a parent should not only be their child’s friend, they should be their best friend.

Chapter 26 ‘Whispering Winds of Change’ explores the process of letting them go while still holding them close.

Chapter 27 ‘Messages in a Bottle: Our Hope for the Future’ shares thirty-two messages to write on the hearts and minds of your children before sending them out into the world.

Appendix A ‘Tips for Talking to Teens’

Appendix B ’12 Steps to Gentle Parenting’

Sample chapters:

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

10 Ways to Play when Play is the Last Thing on Your Mind

If you’d like to know more about Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages or Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, click the links to read more editorial and reader reviews.

Note: For those outside the US who would like to purchase books by L.R.Knost without Amazon’s high international shipping costs, a limited supply is available directly from the author here.

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.


When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

[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 Stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood 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

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.


Authors and Social Media: Book Promotion 101

social media vintage typewriter[By L.R.Knost, author of  Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood now available on Amazon.]

There was a time when authors could focus solely on honing their craft…obsessing over each word choice, laboring to perfect the cadence of every sentence, endeavoring to transform thoughts, dreams, ideas into written words worthy of publication. While those things must still take precedence over all else, the reality of the publishing world we now live in demands that we also don the hats of the expert marketer and the seasoned publicist. Times are hard for publishers struggling to keep up with the ever-changing electronic age, and marketing budgets are reserved for those who don’t need them…the already famous, the noteworthy, the known.

So, what is a struggling new writer, traditionally published or self-published, to do? The secret is the same one we follow when writing our masterpieces, only instead of, “Write what you know,” it’s “Harness what you know.” And what do most younger-generation writers know? Social media, of course!

We already know how to operate on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Tumblr, and more, and as new media outlets crop up, we’re the first to jump in and see what they are all about. So let’s use them for the one thing we need most—EXPOSURE! We want to be discovered. We want to be heard. We want to be read. And, to be perfectly honest, we want to sell books!

Here are some ways to leverage three of the top social media outlets you already use (or should be using!) to market your books so you can get back to what matters most…writing! (I’m just going to assume you already have a blog and are regularly writing posts relevant to your genre. If you don’t have a blog yet, start there!)

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Pinterest:

  1. Make sure your profile bio is interesting and relevant.
  2. Create an author board like this one and pin anything you write, whether it’s a magazine article, a blog post, or a book, with a brief description.
  3. Use hashtags (i.e. #parenting, #education, #poetry, #nonfiction, #romance, #fantasy, etc.) to help people find your pins.
  4. Create a board like this one for every book you write, preferably just before it’s released. Add relevant pins such as your book cover, giveaways, book reviews, character sketches you’ve shared on your blog, etc.
  5. Make sure your boards aren’t one-dimensional. In other words, create boards that show your interests other than writing such as cooking or reading or crafting or hiking or traveling so other pinners will get to know you as more than just an author and also to provide a way to interact.
  6. Engage with other pinners by regularly repinning the best of other people’s pins onto relevant boards, as well as commenting on and liking pins and following boards and people that interest you.
  7. Choose one or two chapters of your book and share them as blog posts like this with links to your Amazon sales page (or wherever you want to direct people to purchase your book), then pin to your relevant boards, but not all at once. Remember, no one likes a spammer!
  8. Create group boards like this and invite contacts you’ve made who share similar interests to join. Sharing pins and interests is a great way to network!

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Facebook:

  1. Create an author page separate from your personal page.
  2. Do some research and find other pages that share similar interests to your work and ‘like’ them. For example, my Facebook page reflects my focus on parenting, and the pages I’ve ‘liked’ share similar parenting philosophies to the ones I write about.
  3. Interact with the pages you’ve ‘liked’ by commenting on and sharing their posts and images. It’s important to build relationships with like-minded pages not only because their followers often follow you, as well, when they see you interacting on the page, but also because those page administrators may end up being enthusiastic book tour hosts when your book is released!
  4. Share your blog posts two or three times after publishing them, preferably at different times of the day to reach a broader audience.
  5. Interact with your followers by replying to their comments and by posting the occasional question in your status updates. An example would be asking something like, “If you could visit anywhere in the world (or if you write sci-fi you could say “anywhere in the universe,” lol) it would be ___________.”
  6. Create memes (images with text) with quotes from your books and share them along with the link to a relevant blog post or to your Amazon sales page (or wherever you want to direct people to purchase your book).
  7. Host giveaways, being careful to follow Facebook’s rules, and offer your followers freebies such as signed copies of your book or signed book-plates for your books they’ve already purchased.

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Twitter:

  1. Twitter is all about networking, so be sure to not only check people’s bios before following them to see if their interests are relevant to yours, but also read through their last few tweets to get a good feel for their purpose for being on Twitter. If you don’t like giveaways or inspirational quotes or political rants, then you’ll want to know before following if that’s what someone’s tweets are all about!
  2. Just as with Facebook, tweet your blog posts two or three times after publishing, preferably at different times of the day to reach a broader audience.
  3. Use relevant hashtags, as with Pinterest, so your tweets will show up in searches about your subject.
  4. Use a link shortener such as bit.ly or goo.gl for your blog post links to leave lots of space for an intriguing teaser to make people want to click and follow.
  5. Make sure to use less than the maximum 140 characters in your tweet to leave room for retweets.
  6. Reply to and retweet other people’s tweets regularly to engage, interact, and, hopefully, attract the attention of people with whom you’d like to network.
  7. Tweet images and videos relevant to your subject to engage your followers in new and interesting ways.

The main thing to keep in mind is that success breeds success…as in helping other people achieve success will have a direct impact on your own success. A ‘me first’ mentality won’t get you far on social media, hence the word ‘social’ in the term. So be social, be nice, be helpful, do for others all the things you’d like others to do for you. Believe me, working together we’ll all achieve our goals faster and enjoy the journey a lot more!

Anything to add? Share it in the comments!

Related posts:

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

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.


Five Gentle Tools for Handling Lying

preschooler (2)[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

The line between fantasy and reality is very blurry for small children. They still believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. They are convinced that they can talk to animals and can fly if they wear a cape and are faster runners if they wear their ‘fast shoes.’ They think the moon follows them home and that if they stretch as tall as they can, they can touch the stars. It’s one of the most beautiful and celebrated facets of the innocence of childhood, but also one of the most misunderstood.

When a little boy puts a bowl on his head and makes up a fantastic story about rocketing to the moon in a cardboard spaceship, adults smile nostalgically and applaud his imagination. When that same little boy finds himself stuck in the uncomfortable position of being caught sneaking cookies from the pantry and makes up a story about the cookies accidentally falling off of the shelf into his mouth, those same adults often shame the child.

When a little girl perches on the arm of the sofa and tells a tall tale about pirates and stormy seas and walking the plank, her parents will laugh and join in the fun, but then she will often be punished if she spins a tale to cover her tracks after she stuffs a towel down the toilet to see if it will flush and finds out that stuffed up toilets overflow instead.

Communication is a complex skill, full of hidden nuances and subtle connotations and social mores that are far, far beyond the capacity of young children to understand. And yet they are often held to an impossible standard of perfection by the adults in their life. Interestingly, those adults holding them to such a high standard rarely hold themselves to the same standard, though. What adult, when faced with a traffic fine for speeding, hasn’t protested that they didn’t know they were going over the speed limit? How often do adults say “I love your new haircut” or “You haven’t aged a day” when the opposite is true? How many adults call out of work sick when they aren’t actually sick or return something to the store after using it and say it’s unused or tell their spouse to say they aren’t home when a phone call comes in they don’t want to answer?

How, then, when adults are the ones modeling how communication should be used, can they expect children to somehow know instinctively when it is and isn’t acceptable to lie? How can parents expect children to have the fortitude and maturity to simply accept the discomfort of telling the truth when they, themselves, so easily and often lie to avoid their own discomfort?

And yet parents are often horrified and embarrassed when their child lies. So much so, in fact, that they react to their own emotions instead of responding appropriately to the child and the situation, and they end up shaming and/or punishing their child.

Think about it realistically for a moment, though. If children lie because they’ve seen the adults in their life lie, is shaming or punishing them fair? If they lie because they are uncomfortable and fearful, will making them more uncomfortable and fearful solve the problem? If they lie because it’s normal for their developmental stage, does it seem reasonable to hold them accountable for it?

Having a few tools ready and available in your parenting ‘toolbox’ helps to avoid these ineffective and rather hypocritical adult reactions to children lying:

First, be aware that the safer your children feel with you, the less likely they will be to lie. Removing the motivation of fear and discomfort will go a long way toward making your children trust you with the truth, no matter what it is.

Second, even when children feel safe they may lie simply because small children often say how they wish things were and really believe they can make it happen just by saying it! Bearing this in mind can help you to see that innocent imagination at work that you enjoy so much in other settings and help you to exercise more patience and understanding.

Third, when confronted with a lie, the best response is to calmly state the truth yourself, assure the child that they can always tell you the truth, and then move on without punishing the lie or giving the lie any more power or attention.

Fourth, all behavior, including lying, is communication. Focusing on the need behind the behavior instead of the behavior itself (or the lie it prompted) will actually solve the problem rather than simply address the symptom of the problem.

Fifth, keeping in mind that, over time, your children will mature enough to verbalize their needs instead of acting them out if their needs are met consistently and with understanding and respect while they are younger will help you to stay calm and focused. The end result will be healthy communication and trust with no need to lie.

Imagination truly is the language of childhood. It only makes sense to try to understand their language instead of insisting they perfect ours. We are, after all, the only adults in the relationship!

Related posts:

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

29 Messages in a Bottle

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

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.


Celebrating One MILLION Pageviews!!!

happy earthI am humbled and amazed (but clearly not speechless! ;) ) to know that the articles I write here on Little Hearts have been read one MILLION times. A MILLION! That’s 1,000,000! Wow! And that’s not all. My site stats have logged readers from 123 countries spanning the globe reading my site in the last two weeks alone! They’re not just accidentally landing here and clicking away, either. They typically stay for 10, 20, sometimes 30 or more minutes at a time and read post after post after post. People visit from Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Germany, Bosnia, Australia, Vietnam, Romania, Malaysia, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Iceland, Slovenia, Qatar, and the list goes on and on and on.

To know that the nights spent typing away on my little laptop while my children sleep nearby (or typing one-handed while nursing!) are not wasted, to feel that I’ve touched hearts to make a real difference in the lives of children,  to see that what I write resonates literally around the world is deeply humbling and incredibly validating for me. It gives me hope that true, lasting change is possible for a globe that is suffering from violence and power-mongering.

quote toughen upIf we as parents stop using violence and intimidation to control our children and instead work together with them through connection and communication, the adults we send into the world when they are grown will be world changers.

It’s not our job to toughen up our children 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. If I can help make that happen in even a small way, then the many sleepless nights and the one-handed typing while nursing and the neglected laundry will be well, well worth it!

little hearts product giveawayAs a ‘thank you’ to all who have read and shared my articles and bought my books and shared their thoughts and encouragement, I’m hosting a Facebook Party! today, March 20th 2013, from 2 pm to midnight EST. Join me for giveaways every hour and fun Q & A’s and word games so we can get to know each other better!

Check out some of the awesome Little Hearts products that I’ll be giving away–>

At midnight there will be a Grand Prize package, too, so don’t miss it!

See you there!

 

You might also be interested in:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ~ Book Launch Tour

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

29 Messages in a Bottle

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

The Bookshelf: To Read or Not To Read

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.


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

[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.]

playtimeLet’s be honest. Parents are adults, and not every adult is comfortable sitting on the floor playing with stuffed animals for hours at a time. We don’t always eagerly jump in puddles or make mudpies. We often have heavy things weighing on us…health issues, financial strains, layoffs threatening, marital conflict…and playing is simply the very last thing on our minds.

But the reality that play is the language of childhood and that our children need us to connect with them on their terms is on our minds. The truth that childhood is such a brief season of life and if we blink too long we’ll miss this precious time with our children just adds to the weight we carry, making playing with them seem like just another burden, another demand on our already stretched-too-thin time, attention, and patience.

The thing is, though, that our children do need us to connect with them in play. It’s in the simplicity of play that children sort through the complexity of life and, like puzzle pieces, put it all together to make sense of the world. Play is how they process the overwhelming task of acclimating to a big, strange, sometimes scary world, and they need to feel securely connected to us and in close communication with us as they find their way. Play provides that connection and builds those oh-so-important channels of communication that are essential in a healthy parent/child relationship.

That, of course, leaves us in the dichotomous position of our needs versus our children’s needs which in and of itself is not conducive to a healthy relationship. So what’s a busy, overburdened, stressed parent to do?

Enter, the playful parent who weaves humor into the humdrum, tummy tickling into the routine, dancing into the dreary, and silly songs into the mundane. Here are ten ways to weave playful parenting into the ordinary moments of everyday life:

  1. When your baby is an infant, babywearing is the secret to playful connection and communication building. Wearing your baby close to your heart, singing and swaying and placing soft kisses on a tiny head while doing dishes and sweeping the floors and taking the dog for walks is a lovely, low-stress way to weave playfulness into your day.
  2. When your baby is a bit older, continue wearing him as long as you both are comfortable with it because riding high on your hip or back lets him see the world from your vantage point and offers everyday moments to play with bubbles in the sink as you wash dishes, to dance through the house as you put away laundry, and to giggle together as you grocery shop.
  3. Daily routines offer awesome opportunities to play as you ‘tickle’ your little one’s teeth instead of brush them, ‘capture’ wild shoes that try to escape when you’re leaving the house, and ‘wrestle’ with your little pajama monster before bed.
  4. Wrangling a reluctant child into the carseat is often a dreaded daily task. Try making a game out of it by tickling a little tummy while you buckle up straps or blowing some bubbles to distract your little one or making up a silly buckle-up song to ease the transition.
  5. While driving, turn off the radio and make up silly stories or songs or simply talk about where you’re going or what you see as you drive.
  6. Reading to your little one from birth onward is the single best way to raise a reader. Try making it more interactive by acting out the story or using different voices to read or letting your child guess what’s going to happen on each page before you read it.
  7. Getting out the door in the morning can be a challenge. Turn it into a real challenge by having hopping contests to the car. Let your little one win and give tickle-kisses as their prize!
  8. Bathtime is a great time for fun. Set sail to distant shores with your little pirate and search for hidden treasure or go on a safari and find jungle animals floating in piles of bubbles or go spelunking and make cave drawings on the sides of the tub with bath crayons.
  9. As your children get older their need for playful connection and communication is still strong. Play word games in the car. Turn math homework into playtime by using manipulatives to help them work things out. Cook together while singing pop tunes. Arm wrestle at the dinner table. Have a quick pillow fight in the morning to put everyone’s grumpies to sleep.
  10. Chores are a real chore. Try turning them into a game, instead! Get out a board game with dice and every time someone rolls they not only move their game piece, but pick up the same number of toys and put them away and then race back in time for their next turn.

The central idea here is to intentionally weave fun and play and connectedness and communication into your everyday moments to turn ordinary days into extraordinary memories that will last a lifetime!

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

11 Tips to Beat the Weary Dreary Mama Blues

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

The Bookshelf: To Read or Not To Read

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.


Two Thousand Kisses a Day~Book Reviews & Author Interviews

Two Thousand Kisses a DayBook Reviews, Author Interviews, and Chapter Breakdown:

The Natural Parent Magazine ‘The Birth Story of a Book’

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages is an introduction to the ideas behind gentle parenting and provides practical examples of its application in each of the developmental stages of childhood such as the transition from diapers to potty, problems with sharing, coping with picky eaters, guiding children gently through behavioral issues, and more…

 

The Single Crunch TSC Review

L. R. Knost’s ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through The Ages & Stages’ is a gentle nudge from a fellow momma who’s been there, done that; and who happens to also be a parenting author and child development researcher.  A mother six times over, it quickly becomes clear that her point of view is based not only on biology and sound evidence – these practices have actually enriched her own family life and her latest book is a letter to other parents detailing how we too can strengthen our family’s connection as well, when applied with practicality.

 

Our Muddy Boots ~ Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

“Of my six children, two are what most would call high-needs or strong-willed. Gentle parenting is particularly effective with challenging children. Strong will equals strong need and focusing on those needs defuses rather than escalates behavioral issues. My objective is always first and foremost to meet their needs, which typically involve reconnection and being heard, then to work with my child on equipping them with coping skills to handle their overwhelming emotions, and finally to address the behaviors themselves when my child is calm and open and ready to cooperate.”

 

Gentle Christian Mothers ~ Book Review and Author Interview

L. R. Knost’s ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through The Ages & Stages’  gently presents a strong case for gentle parenting and shares helpful, practical wisdom, presenting gentle parenting in a way that makes it doable. She speaks with a calm, reassuring voice, encouraging parents to live what they want their children to learn, to build strong and healthy connections with their children, and to enjoy their children, plus, importantly, she shares ways to help make these things happen. One highlight of the book is her chapter on The Problem with Punishment (which can be read online). Two Thousand Kisses is a wonderful introduction to gentle parenting.

 

Dulce de Leche ~ Book Review

I loved this book.  More than just the content, which was excellent, I loved  what this book did in me as I was reading it.  I have read books by punitive authors such as Ezzo, the Pearls, Tripp and others who left me feeling at war with my children.  I would find myself being less patient, quick to anger and assigning evil intent to their motives.  In contrast, when I read Two Thousand Kisses a Day, I felt so light and loving.  Little love waves kept splashing on my family the whole day, and we all experienced more peace, joy, patience, kindness and self control.

 

The Twin Coach ~ Book Review

L. R. Knost’s ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through The Ages & Stages’ reads like gentle suggestions from a good friend. The author is an independent child development researcher and mom of six (6!) children ranging in age from toddlerhood to young adult. Although Two Thousand Kisses a Day covers a broad ranges of ages and stages, the chapters are short and easy to read. The author provides understandable scenarios to illustrate her points and often gives easy to follow suggestions for every-day difficulties, such as doing chores in the house or feeding a picky eater, from a gentle parenting point of view.

 

Smooth Parenting ~ Book Review

In Two Thousand Kisses a Day L.R.Knost gives clear examples, fantastic suggestions and clear information for gentle parents wanting to develop secure, healthy, lifelong connections with their children. In the book she doesn’t only give guidance on how to parent during the formative years of a child, but also during their teenage years and young adulthood. L.R.Knost is a mom of six children herself, which gives her a valuable perspective of 25 years raising children.
‘Two thousand kisses a day’ become ‘two thousand points of connection a day’ as our children grow up. As L.R.Knost describes it “Creating two thousand connection points a day isn’t about quality time, and it isn’t even about the quantity of time spent with our children. It is, instead, about being there in the small moments, the moments that matter to our children, and consciously meeting with them right where they are.”

 

The Path Less Taken ~ Book Review

Two Thousand Kisses a Day is truly a breath of fresh air amongst all the harsh traditional parenting books advocating for punishments, rewards, and control.  It takes you back to what parenting should be:  a respectful partnership.  A dance between parent and child, where everyone’s voices are heard, and everyone’s needs are met.

And while it speaks beautifully to the wonderful parts of parenting, it doesn’t gloss over the hard parts either.  The author also speaks with great candor about a few difficult moments she had with her children, as well as how she handled them as a gentle parent, and what she learned from the process.  It is honest, and it is enlightening.

 

Littles Rule the Roost ~ Book Review

Two Thousand Kisses is based on guiding your child  from infancy to adulthood using connection and encouragement through the ups and downs of life rather than punishment and control.

 

Kerenthrelfall

L.R.Knost is certainly gifted in her emotional intelligence and in her ability to view life from a child’s perspective. It is this gift that makes her an excellent adult voice for children and babies, and in a tone that comes across strongly and compassionately throughout the book. (As one of many examples of her ability to view life through the eyes of a child, I found her discussion on how children learn about sharing to be quite helpful.)

 

Diary of a Natural Mom

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by parenting and children’s book author, L.R.Knost, has been described as “a book you’ll devour in one sitting and then keep close at hand for easy reference as your children grow” and “like sitting down for a cuppa with a good friend.” Other reviewers have said it has “an easy, conversational, parent-to-parent tone” which “refreshingly does exactly what it promises: it shows you how to parent gently, with kindness, compassion, and connection, always keeping that
strong and healthy relationship with your child at the forefront of your journey.”

 

The Guggie Daily ~ Book Review and Author Interview

A mother to six children, L.R.Knost has been parenting for 25 years. She’s not just excited about gentle parenting, she’s lived gentle parenting from pregnancy all the way through every stage with their own joys and struggles. And she shares with you concrete ideas for every age and stage in an understanding, reasonable way.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 Two Thousand Kisses a Day to Two Thousand Connection Points a Day gives an overview of gentle parenting.

Chapter 2 Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn shares ten steps to ease the transition when a new baby joins the family.

Chapter 3 Co-sleeping Like a Baby covers co-sleeping options from room-sharing to bed-sharing.

Chapter 4 Breastfeeding: The Healthiest Start shares some startling information about the health and economic costs of low breastfeeding rates and offers insight into some of the most common reasons new mothers struggle to breastfeed. (Note: The author also struggled with breastfeeding her first two babies and makes no judgments about formula feeding.)

Chapter 5 Babywearing, aka Making Your Life Easier covers the many conveniences of babywearing along with offering helpful resources to find what works for you.

Chapter 6 To a Toddler Sharing is a Four Letter Word: MINE gives insight into a toddler’s perception of sharing and offers tips about how to encourage sharing through role-playing and modeling.

Chapter 7 Three Simple Steps from Diapers to Potty shares the author’s experiences in simply letting her children transition naturally from diapers to potty without training.

Chapter 8 Gentle Weaning offers tips for gently helping little ones through weaning from breastfeeding.

Chapter 9 Picky Eater? Here’s Help! shares tips from simple menu ideas to the psychology behind mealtime battles.

Chapter 10 Are You a Parent Reject? covers the rejection parents often feel when little ones seem to prefer one parent over another.

Chapter 11 Gently Setting Limits shares ideas for setting boundaries with empathy,  creativity, and flexibility.

Chapter 12 My Little Caboose and the Very Bad, No Good…Month shares some of the author’s own struggles with parenting and the gentle connections she used to work through them with her children.

Chapter 13 The Problem with Punishment offers insight on the punishment versus discipline debate.

Chapter 14 Age of Fear: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety shares simple, creative ideas to help children cope with fear and anxiety.

Chapter 15 Bucket List for a Happy Childhood offers two hundred ideas for connecting with your children and building happy memories.

Chapter 16 Mommy Guilt: The Human Factor covers the guilt-trap parents often fall into and help in working toward a more healthy perspective.

Chapter 17 A Place to Rest: Becoming Our Children’s Safe Harbor offers insight into the need for unconditional acceptance and love in childhood.

Chapter 18 Death of a Butterfly: Helping Children Cope with Loss shares simple steps to walk through loss with children.

Chapter 19 Chores Sh’mores offers alternatives to the chore battle to build more cooperative teamwork.

Chapter 20 Live What You Want Them to Learn shares insight into the importance of walking out the character traits you want to grow in your children.

Chapter 21 Is Your Child an Introvert or an Extrovert? offers checklists to help you determine whether your child has introvert or extrovert tendencies and how to adjust your parenting to meet their unique needs.

Chapter 22 Into the Looking Glass: Teens and Self-Esteem shares insights into the intense self-consciousness that often characterizes the teen years and offers ideas for helping your adolescent to cope.

Chapter 23 Gently Parenting Teens gives an overview of the value of gentle and connected parenting in the teen years.

Chapter 24 Talking to Teens offers practical tips for communicating with your teen.

Chapter 25 Dealing with the Hard Stuff shares insight into communicating with adolescents about difficult issues such as sex, politics, religion, etc.

Chapter 26 Too Late for Teens? offers practical steps to work toward a more gentle parenting style and connected relationship for parents who are just now discovering gentle parenting.

Chapter 27 Twelve Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children shares ideas for growing and maintaining a healthy, connected relationship with your adult children.

Chapter 28 Twelve Steps to Gentle Parenting offers a twelve month, step-by-step approach to work toward a more gentle style of parenting.

 

Sample chapters:

Ten Steps to Surviving the first three months with a newborn!

200 Ways to Bless your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

 

 

If you’d like to know more about Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, just click the link to read more editorial and consumer reviews.

 

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.


Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

Two Thousand Kisses a Day Book Cover 2Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon:

 

 

 

 

~The birth story of a book~

A mother is born…

Many years ago (26 to be exact!), a small, scared, pregnant, teenage girl walked down the aisle to her tall, scared, clueless, young man and they said their “I do’s.”

 But what were they going to do? No earthly idea! They didn’t have the internet to surf for blogs about parenting and marriage, couldn’t afford the few paltry magazines available on those subjects at the time, and weren’t convinced that the way their parents had raised them was exactly how they wanted to raise their unexpected little blessing. So, they simply joined hands and hearts and figured it out the old-fashioned way…through trial and error.

The young girl gave birth prematurely and, after a terrifying NICU stay, brought home her barely 5 lb baby boy. Since the young couple were living on one income and were barely able to feed themselves, it made sense to them to breastfeed their little one. Neither one had ever even seen a mother breastfeeding her baby or even heard of a lactation consultant and no one at the hospital had mentioned breastfeeding at all, so the two young people just kept working through the cracked, bleeding nipples, engorgement, over-supply, and other issues until they got it figured out…and then they were breastfeeders!

Neither one of the young couple had ever read a parenting book or had ever even heard the words ‘cry-it-out,’ and the young girl discovered their first night home how much easier it was to clear away all of the pillows and blankets to keep her baby safe and then simply take her little guy into bed with her and breastfeed him when he was hungry…and then they were co-sleepers!

‘Self-soothing’ was another term the two young people had never heard, so the two of them just did what came naturally and picked up their baby when he fussed or grunted or just looked cute and finally found it easier to just snuggle their little preemie into a baby carrier and tote him around with them wherever they went…and then they were babywearers!

As their precious little guy got bigger and began to explore his new world, the young couple delighted in everything he did and simply moved him or distracted him with songs and toys if he got into things. They couldn’t bear the thought of hurting their son, so punitive parenting just wasn’t an option. They decided to treat their little guy like a person instead of a possession and communicate with him instead of punishing him…and then they were gentle discipliners!

Now, this journey might sound like an easy one when summed up this way, but I can assure you it wasn’t. The young couple, my amazing husband and I, encountered strong criticism of our parenting choices through the years:

  • We were warned that our marriage would suffer at the very least, and our babies would suffocate at the worst, if we slept with them in our bed instead of putting them in isolation to sleep.
  • We were informed that my breasts would look like deflated balloons and reach my knees by my thirties if I breastfed more than a few weeks.
  • We were admonished that our children would grow into spoiled brats if we responded to their needs instead of teaching them to ‘deal with it’ and ‘self-soothe’ their own, and would end up as social outcasts or criminals if we encouraged and guided them instead of spanking them.

These challenges to our parenting style were difficult at the time, and they sometimes even resulted in people choosing to de-friend us (not Facebook de-friending, in real life!), but that had the powerful positive effect of making us really examine what our beliefs were and, as a result, strengthening and solidifying our values, our marriage, and our family.

As for the dire warnings listed above:

  • Our beautiful, strong, loving marriage is in its 27th year.
  • Our children all survived and thrived on co-sleeping (our littlest is still safely and contentedly sleeping in our bed) and have, in their own time, moved happily to their own rooms.
  • Except for being a couple of cup sizes larger at the moment since I’m breastfeeding a toddler, lol, my breasts are normal despite the fact that I’ve breastfed little ones for a cumulative 10+ years of my adult life!
  • Our children are, in order, a 25-year-old Pastor (our firstborn son mentioned in the story above who is now a husband and father of two!), a 23-year-old Family Therapist, an 18-year-old pre-med university student on scholarship, 13- and 7-year-old beautiful and well-behaved homeschooled girls with lots of friends (soooo not social outcasts!), and a sweet and happy 2-year-old baby girl. Not a spoiled brat or criminal in the bunch!

Our journey to gentle parenting has had another, somewhat unexpected, effect. While we may not agree with others’ parenting choices, we have been on the receiving end of criticism far too long not to have learned this lesson: Gentle parenting is for parents, too! We have learned to respond gently to our friends who don’t agree with us, even when they don’t respond gently to us. Responding with harshness and criticism doesn’t work with adults any better than it does with children! Responding gently to those who disagree with us may or may not affect their parenting choices, but what it does do is model respectful behavior and conflict resolution to our children and, most of the time, preserve dear friendships.

A gentle parenting advocate is born…

This journey also resulted in a passion for children and family harmony that launched me many years ago into the world of parent coaching and child advocacy and later initiated the creation of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources as a consulting and educational resource for parents, caregivers, and educators. The culmination of this work led to the development of a series of gentle parenting handbooks designed to equip parents with the information and tools they need to gently guide their children from infancy through toddlerhood and the preschool years and on through middle childhood, the teen years, and beyond.

A book is born…

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages is the first in the series. It is an introduction to the ideas behind gentle parenting and provides practical examples of its application in each of the developmental stages of childhood such as the transition from diapers to potty, problems with sharing, coping with picky eaters, guiding children gently through behavioral issues, and more!

*also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

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.


12 Steps to Gentle Parenting: A Year of Baby Steps to a Happier Family

ttkad

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

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

 

notebook paper 12 STEPSIt’s been said that it takes twenty-one days to make or break a habit and that change comes easiest and lasts longest when it’s undertaken in small, bite-sized chunks. Those same principles apply when trying to transform your parenting, as well. Simply resolving on January 1st that, from that day forward, you are going to be a gentle parent and trying to change everything all at once is just setting yourself up for disappointment, frustration, and, more than likely, failure followed by that age-old enemy of peace…mommy guilt.

Instead, try setting yourself up for success by taking a year of ‘baby steps’ to create real, lasting transformation in your parenting. Here are 12 steps you can start any time of the year, not just on January 1st, that offer practical, effective guidance to help you on your journey to gentle parenting. Keep in mind, though, that failure is a natural, normal part of change, so remember to give yourself grace when you fail. (Also, giving yourself grace is good practice for learning to extend that same grace to your children, which is a hallmark of gentle parenting!)

 

January (Step 1)

notebook paper SLOW DOWNSlow down! ~ Gentle parenting is, at its core, based on a strong, healthy parent/child connection, so intentionally including time in your life to build and maintain that connection is vital. Start the year off by examining your daily and weekly schedule and looking for things to reduce or eliminate. Add up how much time your children spend in school, sleeping, in daycare, with babysitters, at sports practices, in music lessons, etc. and look at how much or little time is left over. Time for your family to connect, time to play, time to simply be, are just as important as those activities, if not more so! Eliminate and reduce what you can, and look for ways to build connection into the things you can’t eliminate. For instance, if your child has homework each night, why not sit down and work through the homework with them? As humans, we learn better through interaction, anyway, so you’ll not only be connecting, you’ll be enriching your child’s education in the process! Another area that might benefit from a connection ‘rehab’ is that morning rush to get ready and out the door. Try getting everyone up a half hour earlier to ease the morning stresses that often lead to conflict and can result in a parent/child disconnect.

 

February (Step 2)

notebook paper LISTENListen! ~ Once you’ve slowed down enough to breathe, it’s time to stretch yourself and grow as a parent. Like most changes in life, it won’t come easy, but the rewards are well worth it. Fred Rogers said, “Listening is where love begins,” meaning that when we listen, we really get to know someone, learn about what motivates them, and understand their thoughts, hopes, dreams, hurts, disappointments, etc. All behaviors communicate underlying needs, and what we learn about the inner life of our children by listening to them will help us to focus on the needs behind the behaviors instead of simply correcting the ‘symptoms’ (i.e. the behavior).

As a parent, it may seem instinctive to insist that our children listen to us so that our guidance and/or correction can be heard. In fact, the number one complaint I get from most parents is, “My children just don’t listen!” to which I respond, “Do you?”

The reality is that if a child doesn’t feel they are being heard, then even if they stand silently ‘listening’ while we lecture or rant or even just talk, the child is simply rehearsing in their brain what they want to say rather than actually doing any effective listening. As the only adults in the parent/child relationship, it’s up to the parent to be the first to listen, to really listen, because we are the ones with the maturity and self-control to be able to patiently wait to be heard.

 

March (Step 3)

notebook paper LIVE ITLive what you want them to learn! ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Consciously, intentionally, and consistently living out how you want your children to turn out is the most powerful and effective character training there is. If you want your children to be kind, be kind. If you want them to be respectful, respect them. If you want them to learn self-control, model self-control. If you want them to be compassionate, treat them with compassion. If you want them to feel joy, enjoy them. If you want them to feel valuable, treasure them. The bottom line is, your children are always watching and learning, so make sure what they see in you is what you want to see in them!

 

April (Step 4)

notebook paper BREATHEBreathe! ~ We all get overwhelmed by the seemingly endless demands of life at times, so this month remind yourself to relax and consciously focus on enjoying your children. It’s just a fact of human nature that when we enjoy something, we pay more attention to it, value it, and treat it better. Applying that fact to parenting, it makes sense to be intentional about taking time to laugh and hug and simply be with our children. Here’s a ‘bucket list’ full of ideas for simple, memorable fun to share with life’s most precious treasures, your children!

 

May (Step 5)

notebook paper READBook it! ~ It’s been said that our treasure lies where our time, attention, and love is invested. While having special family outings and activities is a wonderful way to enjoy our children, it is in the daily routines and busyness of life that the parent/child connection can often suffer the most. One of the best ways to stay connected with our children is to build time into each day to invest in them, and one of the best investments is in a love of reading.  A love of reading is born on the lap of a parent, in the soothing cadence of a mother’s voice reading the same beloved story night after night, in the rhythmic sway of a rocking chair, and in the comfortable rustle of well-worn pages being turned one after another after another. A quiet bedtime routine that includes a nighttime story will not only help bedtime to be happier and smoother, but will also incorporate vital time for you to reconnect with your children at the end of every day.

 

June (Step 6)

notebook paper YESTurn your ‘no’s’ into ‘yes’s’! ~ In any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. With gentle parenting, setting limits focuses on connection and empathetic communication rather than control and punitive consequences. This month try setting limits using gentle parenting by turning your ‘no’s’ into ‘yes’s.’ Instead of “No, you can’t have ice cream until after dinner,” try “I know you love ice cream. I do, too! We’re getting ready to eat right now, but what flavor would you like after dinner?” This invites cooperation instead of triggering opposition, another hallmark of gentle parenting!

 

July (Step 7)

notebook paper PLAYPlay!~ They say that the family that plays together, stays together, and there’s great truth to that. Play is the language of childhood, and through play we get to know and connect with our children on their turf, in their native language, and on their terms. It’s a powerful moment in a parent’s life when they suddenly see their sweet little one as a separate, intelligent, worthy human being who can plan, make decisions, snap out orders, and lead other humans on a journey through an imaginary rainforest or on a trip through outer space. This month, try taking on the role of follower in your child’s land of make-believe, and you’ll discover a whole new world in which your child is strong, confident, and capable, and you’ll come away with a deeper connection with and appreciation for the person, not just the child.

 

August (Step 8)

notebook paper EAT WELLEat well! ~ Along with all of the exercise you’ll be getting playing with your child, take stock of the kinds of food you’re providing to fuel their little engines and enrich their minds. Good nutrition may not be the first thought that pops into people’s minds when they think of gentle parenting, but studies have shown that many behavior issues and sleep problems have their root in unhealthy eating habits, nutrient-poor diets, and food additives (dyes, preservatives, etc.). Children, especially littler ones, don’t take change well as a general rule, and changes to the foods they eat are on top of the list of changes they’ll resist. As a gentle parent, working with, instead of against, our children will help to make eating healthy a fun family project instead of a food fight. Try letting your children help you make weekly menus and shop for the fresh ingredients you’ll be using, and let them help you cook, too. If they feel like a part of the change instead of a victim of it, they’re far more likely to cooperate. If you have picky eaters, don’t hesitate to serve them the same foods you normally do, just with a few added healthy ingredients slipped in to make them healthier. For ideas on ways to make healthy changes more fun, click here.

 

September (Step 9)

notebook paper LAUGHDon’t forget your funny bone! ~ Often the best parenting advice is simply~Chill out! Relax! Laugh a little, for goodness’ sake! Sometimes as parents we get so caught up in ‘fixing’ our children that all we see are problems. We start focusing so much on preparing our children for their future that we forget to let them live in the present. One of the main problems with that is that children are, by their very nature, creatures of the ‘now,’ living fully immersed in each present moment. G. Mistral said, “Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are formed, his mind developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.” This month, pull out your dusty, old funny-bone, the one that used to keep you in stitches when you were a child, and laugh, on purpose, every day with your child. You’ll be amazed at how a good belly laugh can turn even the worst day into something a little easier to handle and how much a giggle-fest can heal the little rifts that tend to occur in the parent/child connection throughout each day.

 

October (Step 10)

notebook paper BUILDIf you build it, they will come! ~ A shared project can offer a real chance to get to know your child on an entirely new level, so this month find something to build together. Choose something they are interested in, whether it’s a model rocket or tree fort, and watch them blossom as they learn and build and grow. Your role is supportive~finding the materials, helping to read the instructions, offering suggestions or help when they struggle, etc. Simply being there through the process will enrich your connection with your child and offer you valuable insights into their interests and learning style, which will provide tools for you to use when helping them with their homework or homeschooling them.

 

November (Step 11)

notebook paper GRATITUDEGratitude is an attitude! ~ Teaching our children to be grateful involves far more than simply instructing them to say, “Thank you.” We all want to be appreciated, and children are no different. Modeling the things we want to see in our children is the single most powerful mode of instruction, so living a life of gratitude ourselves goes a long way toward raising our little ones to be happy, grateful humans. Openly appreciating our children, telling them what we like about them, and thanking them for the things they do is a sure-fire way of inspiring an attitude of gratitude in their little hearts. This month, be intentional in finding things to praise in your children. Don’t be falsely enthusiastic or use “Good job!” as a brush-off to get them to leave you alone. Instead, honestly tell them what you like about them. Tell them ‘thank you’ when they remember to brush their teeth without being told or help their little sister with her block tower. Let them know you think their artwork is beautiful and don’t hesitate to give them a pat on the back for a job well done when they straighten their room. Remember, it is the hungry child, not the satisfied child, who craves food, and, in the same way, it is unmet needs that lead to attention seeking behaviors and unspoken approval that can create ‘praise junkies’ as the unpraised child seeks to fill the very human need we all have for validation.

 

December (Step 12)

notebook paper CELEBRATECelebrate! ~ Take time this month to give yourself a pat on the back for working toward your goal of becoming a gentle parent. Congratulate yourself for all that you’ve accomplished and take stock of your successes as well as your failures. Don’t focus on your mistakes. Simply learn from them, forgive yourself, and move forward. Look back at where you were as a parent a year ago and compare that to where you are now. Don’t worry if you haven’t come as far as you’d like. Life is for living and learning and growing, and another year is about to start with a chance to move forward into a new beginning. Everything you’ve invested in your children in the last year has been worthwhile, and everything you’ll invest in the coming years will build on the foundation you’ve begun. So take this month to celebrate you and to enjoy the return on your investment!

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Do you see a theme throughout this gentle parenting ’12-step program’? Getting to know and enjoy your children as individuals, intentionally focusing on building and maintaining a strong and healthy parent/child connection, and living what you want your children to learn are the bedrocks of gentle parenting. Walking through these steps, revisiting them when you find yourself struggling, and appreciating the incredible, miraculous gifts that each individual child brings into the world will keep you growing as a gentle parent day after day, month after month, year after year. Live. Laugh. Love. Enjoy!

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

 

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost now available on Amazon

*Also published in  The Natural Parent Magazine

Related posts:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

The Color of Change

The Bookshelf~To Read or Not to Read

The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Testing the Boundaries~What’s a Parent to Do?

Picky Eater? Here’s Help!

100 Ways to Tell the Difference Between a Child and a Weed (in case you were wondering)

I Spy…a Bad Mom!

It’s Okay to Praise your Child

25 Reasons NOT to Keep your Children Busy

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.