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defiance

Stealing God’s Gift: Free Will is a Gift to be Nurtured, Not a Curse to be Broken

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

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“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

“Many parents in using the rod of correction on their child do so with an obvious lack of vigor and often stop short of the child’s will being completely broken … Both my wife and I have often remarked that it is good that one of our children was not our firstborn. This particular child who came along later in our family was extremely willful and rebellious toward our authority and would often require sessions of correction lasting from one to two hours in length before the will would finally be broken … Even though you may think these methods of correction that God has ordered parents to carry out are bestial, abusive, and unloving, you are the one who is bestial, abusive, and unloving if you don’t obey God in this matter. Moreover, if you do not obey God your child likely will not be saved unless the Lord supernaturally in His mercy does so despite your disobedience.” (Ronald E. Williams, The Correction and Salvation of Children)

“She then administers about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water [about spanking a 3-year-old]” (Pearl, p. 62) …“Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final (p. 49)” (Michael Pearl, To Train Up a Child)

Where, exactly, did the pseudo-Biblical idea that a parent must break a child’s will originate? How did a person’s God-given will, their freedom of choice, their strength and individuality, come to be seen as the root of all sin Breaking their Willthat must be purged? At what point did “defeating” a child so that they are “totally broken” become the goal of Christian parenting?

Let’s go back to the model of servant leadership set by Jesus who said, “I stand at the door and knock…” (Revelations 3:20) Knock what? Knock humans on their backsides and pin them down while pummelling them until they are utterly defeated? Knock small children around until they are totally broken?

No, of course not. Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Jesus doesn’t barge in making demands to prove how big and tough he is. Jesus invites us to open the door of our lives and to invite him in as an honored guest, in return.

Look also at Deuteronomy 30:19 where God shares that it is from him that our ability to choose originates, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” Note that God doesn’t demand that we submit our free, God-given will, our ability to choose, to him. He simply invites us to align our will with his.

And look at James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God doesn’t chase us down, “sit on” us, or “use whatever force is necessary” (see Pearl quote above) to strong-arm us into submission. He reaches out to us and inspires us and opens his arms to us, inviting us into the safety and comfort and wholeness of a relationship with Love Himself.

Our will is a gift, an opportunity to choose right from wrong, and the vehicle through which God calls us to choose his Son. Without this amazing and wonderful gift, without the freedom to use our free will, Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross would be pointless.

Sin is a moot point in light of the grace we’ve been given. Grace is the point. The whole point. Everything leading up to the Cross pointed to the Cross, everything was settled on the Cross, and on the Cross in the outstretched Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverarms of Jesus grace was born. Sin only matters in the sense that when we voluntarily choose to stay within the boundaries God has given us, we are closer to him, more in-tune with him, and more aligned with his will. He does not stray from us, not ever. But we do stray from him. We are human, and as humans we learn by doing, by experiencing, by exercising our free will as we stretch and grow and discover and make mistakes and overcome life and are overcome by life, each trial and failure and success a learning experience. God doesn’t chase us down and crash through the walls we’ve put up and drag us back to repentance. He waits for us, always available, always forgiving, always loving us unconditionally, but never giving up as he calls out to us, inviting us gently to himself.

When it comes to parenting, we all know that some of God’s children are created with a remarkable strength of will, a powerful drive to explore and discover, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, an incredible need to know and be known, and with more energy than can be contained in a small body. Their frequent challenges to ‘the way things are’ can feel overwhelming to the most patient of parents, and their sometimes epic meltdowns when all of that extreme energy explodes out of their small frames can act like a tidal wave of emotion that gets everyone swept up in the maelstrom. These children who are given the gift of an indomitable spirit have all of the amazing characteristics of future world leaders, but their gifts need to be grown and nurtured and developed, not contained, stunted, and crushed.

A popular child-training book by Dr. James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child, has a markedly different approach to parenting strong-willed children, however: “Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted. . . two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, ‘You must obey me.’” In addition to the disputable Biblical interpretations of the ‘rod’ verses and the misuse of the word ‘obey’ in translating from the original language of the Bible, there is a fundamental difference in philosophies revealed here. In the positive parenting approach, children are born perfect and need only to be guided through the normal stages and behaviors of childhood. In the punitive parenting approach, children are born sinful and must be forced to submit to superior authority.

On a purely logical level, why would we fight a child for control when what we really want is for them to be in control of themselves? Why not, instead, help them to process those big emotions and learn how to direct their own energy and develop their own ability to control themselves? Why not follow Jesus’ example and invite our strong little future leaders to walk alongside us in tandem to learn and grow and discover together for the oh-so-brief season of their childhood?

On a practical level, though, the question is, “How can we partner with our children in positive and peaceful ways to guide them gently and effectively?”

Here is a chapter from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline to get you started on your gentle journey with your own little future leaders:

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child’

There are some children who are born into the world with the incredible life-gift of a strong will and an indomitable spirit. These children are often deeply misunderstood, and there are rows of books lining bookstore shelves with instructions about how to break their will, how to subdue their spirit, how to force their obedience. What an incredible loss of leadership, passion, and insight this world suffers when parents follow these punitive parenting practices. Not only can we parent these gifted children with gentleness and respect, but the gifts we get in return are priceless!

Take a look at some of the common descriptions used when referring to the characteristics of a strong-willed child:

Demanding, Insistent, Stubborn, Bossy, Cocky, Difficult, Challenging, Fixated, Contrary, Rebellious, Defiant

Now look at some of the common characteristics of adults who are world leaders, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, innovators, world-class athletes, and the like:

Decisive, Determined, Persistent, Authoritative, Confident, Valiant, Gutsy, Committed, Resourceful, Nonconforming,Bold

Note that the characteristics are the same, but the characterizations are negative when applied to a child and positive when applied to an adult.

Other characteristics of strong-willed children that coincide with the characteristics of adult leaders in their fields are:

  • They are typically highly creative and intelligent.
  • They are usually passionate and intense in their interests and beliefs.
  • They often have an insatiable need to know ‘why.’
  • They typically learn by doing.
  • They tend to have an intense need to test the status quo.
  • They are typically highly perfection-oriented, but often that is focused on their expectations of themselves instead of others.
  • They tend to need high levels of validation.
  • They usually have an intense need to be heard.
  • They often have a strong need for emotional safety.
  • They tend to be resistant to change unless they feel like they have some control over the change.
  • They are often highly sensitive.
  • They are typically intensely focused on their latest project or interest.
  • They tend to be conscientious and highly committed.
  • They are usually intensely independent.

While there’s no doubt that it’s a challenge having a child who seems to challenge everything, there are ways to work with them rather than against them to preserve and nurture their unique gifts. Maintaining a healthy parent/child relationship is vital as you work to find a balance between setting limits with your richly spirited child while not limiting their freedom to stretch and grow and develop into the person they were created to be.

The key to preserving your trust relationship with your child is remaining calm and present and supportive, even while setting and maintaining reasonable boundaries. It is helpful to remember that the most strong-willed children tend to be the ones who identify the most strongly with their parents. So instead of viewing their seemingly constant challenges as defiance or attempts to thwart authority, work to parent from a place of understanding that your strong-willed child is actually on a discovery mission and is doing endless ‘research’ on you by testing and retesting and digging and chiseling to discover all of your quirks and foibles and ups and downs and strengths and weaknesses. This kind of testing isn’t negative unless you make it into a battle of wills instead of responding with gentle, respectful guidance. Taking this stance will help you to keep from seeing the challenges as personal insults and, instead, see the challenges as attempts to learn and grow and understand.

There is no doubt, though, that parenting a child with the gift of a strong will is a constant exercise in patience and self-regulation. The personal growth you will experience is invaluable as you seek to parent with empathy and wisdom and compassion, but it can be draining and will often stretch you far, far out of your comfort zone. Knowing that and being prepared for it will help you cope with the inevitable stresses, and being ready ahead of time with some specific strategies for handling the challenges will help you to respond calmly and effectively.

This is a good place to revisit the Three C’s of gentle discipline—Connection, Communication, and Cooperation.

Connection ~ Maintaining a secure connection with your spirited child is vital. It is the springboard from which all of your interactions with your child will originate, and it is the touchstone to which you will both return, again and again and again, when your relationship gets strained and stained and stretched.

  • Play word games, board games, rough-and-tumble outdoor games, silly face in the mirror games. Play is the language of childhood, so make sure to speak your child’s language every day.
  • Laugh together. Humor is an undervalued parenting tool. But it lowers defenses, inspires smiles, brings people together, and reconnects hearts.
  • Read storybooks, chapter books, travel brochures, encyclopedias, anything that will inspire you to dream together, talk, plan, get excited, share interests.
  • Focus more on who your child is than on what your child does. Remember, you’re growing a person, not fixing a problem. So make sure to spend time getting to know the person, not just the child. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Just walk together, talk together, share ice cream cones, spot shapes in the clouds, and enjoy each other.

Communication ~ Children have their own ‘inner world’ of thoughts and plans and problems and worries and hopes and dreams that are occupying their time and attention, so a lack of cooperation is often simply the result of having a different agenda than we do. Getting some insight into that ‘inner world’ is key in guiding and growing them respectfully.

  • Listen with your heart. Listen ‘between the lines’ to what your child is communicating through their behavior. Listen and listen and listen some more. That is always, always the first step in communicating with your child.
  • Reflect, connect, and redirect. Reflect what you hear, whether it’s communicated by your child’s behavior or their words. This not only validates their emotions and lets them know that you hear and understand them, but it also helps them to understand their own emotions. For instance, if your child is upset that he can’t have a cookie after brushing his teeth for bedtime, try saying, “I hear you. You’re upset because you want a cookie.” Then reestablish your connection, “I like cookies, too!” and offer a solution, “How about we go pick out the two best cookies and put them in a special container that we can take to the park in the morning?”
  • Don’t take non-compliance as a personal insult. A strong-willed child is very much their own person with their own agenda. Focus on inviting cooperation instead of demanding obedience. Whether it’s staying in bed or cleaning up or whatever the issue, make it a team effort and come up with a game plan ahead of time. For example, you could say, “You seem to be having trouble staying in bed at night. What do you think would help you to be more ready to go to sleep when it’s time for bed?” or “It’s important to pick up our things so they don’t get broken, let’s put on the timer and work together for ten minutes and see who gets the most picked up.”
  • Make a firm commitment not to resort to punishments to control behavior. The resentment that comes from being punished absolves children in their own minds of responsibility. It doesn’t teach them responsibility, and resentment can actually cause a lot of the behaviors you are trying to avoid.
  • Communicate daily, outwardly to your child and inwardly to yourself, the positive aspects of your child’s personality. When the focus is on ‘fixing’ a child, they get the message that they are somehow broken, and that is not a healthy self-image to take into adulthood.
  • ‘No’ is not a complete thought. It is an imperative, a command. It doesn’t teach. It tells. If you want your child to learn to think like an adult, take the time to explain your adult thinking.
  • Remember that children, especially when they are upset, open ‘conversations’ through their behavior, and it’s up to us, the only adults in the relationship, to gently guide them toward continuing those conversations verbally as well as equipping them with the resources to be able to do so.
  • Also keep in mind that the social mores of rudeness simply aren’t inborn and don’t apply to early interactions with our children. They are learned by imitating how we as parents behave. Politeness is a heart issue that cannot be imposed by the will of another unless we want it to only be an external façade instead of a heartfelt courtesy. Helping your strong-willed child learn to speak kindly means speaking kindly to your child as well as offering guidance when they’ve been rude such as saying, “That is not a nice tone of voice” or “That isn’t a kind thing to say” and then offering a do-over “Can you try saying that to me again more nicely? I’ll always try my best to be nice to you, and I would like you to try to do the same for me.”

Cooperation ~ Always keep at the forefront of your parenting goals that you are seeking thoughtful cooperation, not mindless compliance. That way you will remember to treat your child as a thoughtful individual with ideas and needs and feelings of their own instead of a mindless drone there to do your bidding.

  • Set clear limits and explain them in age-appropriate terms. Remember, if you want to invite cooperation, you have to actually issue the invitation to cooperate!
  • Limit the number of limits. Spirited children are often stressed children simply because of their own intense emotions and reactions to things, so set them up for success by keeping your limits few and clear and by maintaining them consistently.
  • Make sure to let your child have a voice in determining the limits so they feel like they have some control over their lives and so they feel some ownership over the limits.
  • Brainstorm together ways of helping everyone to work together. Some ideas are to come up with hand signals or words that remain your little secret codes to indicate when it’s time to leave the park or to do homework or to dial the activity level or noise volume down a few notches.
  • Invite cooperation by creating daily routines together. Don’t be surprised if your child ends up being the one who is a stickler for following the routine, even to the point of nagging you to follow it. These gifted children tend to be all-in, fully focused and committed, and they’ll expect you to be the same!
  • Cooperate with your child’s needs and personality by working with them rather than against them. For instance, if you know that your child has a hard time leaving a project, give them plenty of time to find a good stopping point when you need them to leave it for a while. Or if you know that your child has a hard time following directions at bedtime, try writing or drawing the tasks that need to be done (i.e. toothbrushing, pajamas, etc.) on ping-pong balls and put them in a small ‘bedtime jar’ so your child can feel some control over their routine as they independently pick out the balls one by one for a ‘surprise’ nighttime order of tasks or take them all out and decide what order to do them in themselves.
  • If you are already locked in a head-to-head power struggle, put away your boxing gloves so your child will (eventually!) feel safe putting away theirs. When you battle with your child, you may win a skirmish or two, but you will lose the treasure…your trust relationship. Putting away the gloves means slowing down, breathing through your own emotions, and finding a way to work through the issue together. Remember, you’re the adult in the relationship, but that doesn’t give you the right to overpower your child; it gives you the responsibility to empower your child. That involves modeling the tools of diplomacy—communication, cooperation, compromise—that you want your child to stock in their own emotional toolkit.

Remember, the children who come into the world with their ‘boxing gloves on’ so to speak are often the ones who become the biggest world changers. It’s not easy raising these little world-changers, I know (Believe me, I know. Two of my six are world-changers-in-the-making!), but the rewards are phenomenal!

“The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail.”
Lamentations 3:22

Related posts:

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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


Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

gentle journeys book clubStarting JUNE 1, 2014!!!

Several readers have asked about a virtual book club for gentle parenting books like ones they’ve seen on other sites. I asked for some input on Facebook to see if there was enough interest and it got a great response, so we’re on!

How it will work:

We’ll do a chapter a week, and I’ll post one discussion question per day on the Little Hearts Facebook page to be discussed in the comments there as well as sharing the questions here on the Little Hearts website to be discussed in the comments onsite. Participants will share thoughts and ask questions about the chapter and about issues they’re having at home that relate to the chapter. Everyone can chime in to answer each others’ questions and discuss their own experiences. At the end of each week I’ll publish a round-up of the week’s discussion (minus the names of the participants) here on the Little Hearts website. I will update this post with a list of discussions as they become available.

We’ll start with Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages which lays the connection foundation for gentle parenting, then we’ll move on to Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood which provides the communication component, then The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline which shares specific tools for working cooperatively through common behavior issues, and then Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting which addresses misconceptions about the supposed Biblical commands to spank, demand instant obedience, assert absolute authority, demand submission, etc. After that we will spend a couple of weeks going through the Little Hearts workshops together starting with Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey and then moving on to Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing from Your Past so You Don’t Pass it Along to Your Children.  (More info about each of the books below)

After that we’ll move on to other positive parenting books, each of which I’ll preview to make sure they are in line with gentle parenting philosophies before I select them for our book club.

The result will be an awesome resource for parents…an ever-growing ‘library’ of positive parenting book recommendations with chapter by chapter discussions for parents to have free access to as they navigate their own personal gentle parenting journeys.

As a bonus, and just for fun, I’ll draw a random name from the participants on the last day of each month and give away a ‘door prize.’ So fun!

Here is more info about each of the books we’ll be going through together to begin with:

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

 

Jesus the Gentle Parent final front coverJesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting Intelligent, Well-Researched, Compassionate ~ L.R.Knost has done it again. With her compassionate tone, relational style, and intelligent, well-researched writing, Jesus, the Gentle Parent is like a refreshing, peaceful walk through the scriptures with a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide. This book differs from Two Thousand Kisses a Day, Whispers Through Time, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline in that it takes a Christian approach to parenting as L.R. takes on big names in the Christian child-training sect such as Dr. James Dobson, Tedd Tripp, Gary Ezzo, and Michael Pearl, breaking down their doctrine and reexamining such issues as spanking, instant obedience, submission, free will, and more in light of the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the scriptures. As always, L.R. offers gentle parenting alternatives along with real-life examples of their applications, but in Jesus, the Gentle Parent she goes even further and shares parenting insights based on the life of Jesus that will turn the mainstream Christian world on its head. This is truly a grace-based parenting book which shows parents how to be “their children’s first taste of God” by following in the gentle, wise, grace-filled footsteps of Jesus. ~ The Parenting Review

Back cover: In this examination of mainstream Christian parenting practices and the doctrinal beliefs behind them, best-selling author, L.R.Knost, debunks common cultural and theological beliefs about spanking, original sin, sin nature, submission, authority, obedience, breaking a child’s will, and more, along with providing grace-filled, gentle solutions to behavior issues.

 

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.

 

 

 

Gentle Parenting Workshop 2: Healing From Your Past So You Don't Pass It Along To Your ChildrenGentle 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.

“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.”

Available discussions:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Chapter One Discussion

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.


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.


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.


‘The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline’

The Gentle ParentI’m so excited to share the release of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, the third book in the Little Hearts Handbook series! The first reviews are in, and The Gentle Parent has already received 5-Star ratings and been called “food for a gentle parent’s soul” and “reassuring, relevant, and relatable for parents with children of all ages.” The Parenting Review shared this about The Gentle Parent:

“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.”

Here’s a peek at the book trailer:

Back cover copy

Written by best-selling parenting and children’s book author and mother of six, L.R.Knost, ‘The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline’ provides parents with the tools they need to implement the Three C’s of gentle discipline–Connection, Communication, and Cooperation–to create a peaceful home and a healthy parent/child relationship. Presented in bite-sized chapters perfect for busy parents and written in L.R.Knost’s signature conversational style, ‘The Gentle Parent’ is packed with practical suggestions and real-life examples to help parents through the normal ups and downs of gentle discipline on the road to raising a generation of world changers.

Table of Contents

~Introduction

Chapter 1  The Problem with Punishment offers insight on the punishment versus discipline debate.

~A Gentle Beginning

Chapter 2  Foundations: Setting the Stage for Discipline shares how our parenting choices in the first days and weeks and months of our children’s lives affect discipline in later stages.

Chapter 3  Castles in the Air: Building on Trust shows how laying a foundation of trust and building on it day by day, night by night, gentle response by gentle response creates the parent/child relationship essential to gentle discipline.

Chapter 4  Safe Surroundings shares simple ways to use baby proofing as visual boundaries to begin gentle limit-setting.

Chapter 5  Reasonable Expectations offers insight into normal child development and how our expectations affect our parenting.

Chapter 6  The Three C’s of Gentle Discipline presents the basic tools of gentle discipline and their components.

~Toddler Time

Chapter 7  Sandbox Soapbox: Toddler Insights shares parenting insights from a toddler’s perspective.

Chapter 8  Toddlers, Tantrums, and Time-In’s, Oh my! gives specific interventions and preventions for coping with and preventing tantrums.

Chapter 9  When Things Get Physical: Hitting, Kicking, Throwing, and Biting offers tools for working through the physical stage with toddlers and preschoolers.

Chapter 10  Testing the Boundaries shares insights and parenting techniques for guiding children through testing behaviors.

Chapter 11  Parenting in Public provides specific parenting tools for coping with behaviors in public places such as parks, shops, and restaurants.

Chapter 12  Crying Wolf: Don’t Be an Old Yeller! gives insight into the consequences of yelling at children.

Chapter 13  Toxic Parenting: Spanking, Shaming, Threatening, Manipulating contrasts peaceful, connected parenting with punitive, controlling parenting and their outcomes.

Chapter 14  All the ‘Right’ Parenting Moves gives insight into the basic truth that we are imperfect humans raising imperfect humans in an imperfect world and therefore no parenting will produce perfection.

~A Preschooler with a Plan

Chapter 15  Hurting Parents, Hurting Children shares ways parents can heal from their emotional baggage instead of passing that baggage along to the next generation.

Chapter 16  The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child offers parents with the tools to help children gifted with a rich and vibrant spirit blossom while still providing them with guidance and limits.

Chapter 17  You’re Not the Boss of Me redefines defiance to give parents a new perspective and offers insights to help parents work through the more challenging behaviors of childhood.

Chapter 18  A Place for Me shares the value of children having a small space of their own to escape from the stresses and sensory overload that can often spark behavioral issues.

Chapter 19  When Children Act Out: Reflecting Our Emotions provides insight into the often unexpected outbursts that signal a child’s need for help in coping with family issues.

Chapter 20  For Everything There is a Season encourages parents to slow down and recognize the basic truth that children are not small adults and to appreciate the beauty of childhood through the eyes of their children.

~Middle Childhood: Becoming Their Own Person

Chapter 21  Thoughtful Cooperation vs. Thoughtless Compliance offers tools for equipping children with inner guidance systems rather than external controls.

Chapter 22  The Butterfly Effect shares intentional shifts we can make in our parenting choices to change the trajectory of our children’s future.

Chapter 23  The Color of Change provides step-by-step changes parents can make to move from a punitive, control-based parenting style to connected, communication-based parenting.

Chapter 24  Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child offers insight into the world of the sensitive child and offers parents the tools to guide and support their sensory-gifted children gently and successfully.

Chapter 25  Raising Problem Solvers shares strategies to help parents provide their children with effective problem-solving tools to take into the future.

~Gentle Parenting: Teens and Beyond

Chapter 26  Children of Violence gives a glimpse into a real-world scenario that children experience every day and offers insight into the root of violence and bullying in our society.

Chapter 27  The Discipline of Choice examines the life lessons learned through a teen’s their own choices and the value of unconditional support from a connected parent.

Chapter 28  Helping Hurting Teens compares and contrasts the results of punitive, control-based parenting on adolescents and offers parents alternatives to punishments.

Chapter 29  Twelve Life Lessons for Daughters and Chapter 30  Twelve Life Lessons for Sons reach out and touch parents’ hearts to reawaken their memories of their own adolescent struggles and esteem issues to help them connect with where their teens are so that they can more empathetically and effectively guide them through the often turbulent adolescent years.

Appendix A 

Five Gentle Tools for Handling Lying shares a practical and gentle approach to lying.

Appendix B

Backtalk is Communication – LISTEN tackles the startling truth that when children talk back they are actually communicating.

Appendix C

Twelve Steps to Gentle Parenting: Setting Yourself Up for Success offers a twelve month, step-by-step approach to work toward a more gentle style of parenting.

Sample Chapters

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Book Reviews and Author Interviews

I’m so honored to have these wonderful people and organizations participating in the book tour for The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline. (Links will be added as the tour stops go live!)

The Natural Parent Magazine – Australia

Dr. Laura Markham – Clinical Child Psychologist

Green Child Magazine Holiday Gift Guide

Parenting Beyond Punishment

Kidlutions: Solutions for Kids

Evolutionary Parenting

The Threlfalls

Synergy: Gentle Parenting Resources ~ South Africa

Diary of a Natural Mom

Dulce de Leche

Susan Heim, author/editor ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Peaceful Parenting

The Guggie Daily

Family Review Center

The San Francisco Review

The Peaceful Housewife

The Path Less Taken

Littles Rule the Roost

The Mahogany Way 

The Hippie Housewife

You can check out more reviews here: The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline

*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.

Also, *FREE!* to download on Kindle (can be downloaded to your computer, iPhone, or iPad) all day on November 1st and 10th ~ Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey

Gentle Parenting Workshop 1 Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey
“The Gentle Parenting Workshops from award-winning author, L.R.Knost are companions to her best-selling parenting books, Two Thousand Kisses a Day, Whispers Through Time, and her newest release, The Gentle Parent. The 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.”

 

 

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.


Letter from a Teenage Son Who Was Spanked as a Small Child

[L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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

dear mom     A gentle mama overseas gave me permission to share parts of our email exchange that spanned several months and ended with a deeply touching letter from her son:

Hi, I spanked my three elder sons when they were younger. I am a very gentle person so it was never in anger ( I struggled to do it but read how I had to gain control). My teenage sons love me very much and seem to have no hassles at all with listening and respecting me. I have raised my younger two daughters, aged 8 years and 19 months without hidings. As I read up on gentle parenting only after their births, I am struggling with both of them to respect and listen. Ok the baby is still so little! But my oldest daughter is really loving and kind, but does not listen! My sons spoke to me the other day and said I have no authority with them and why don’t I just spank them already. I am at a cross roads. My older daughter of 8 is too old to spank! Have I made a mistake? My baby girl is so sweet and I don’t want to smack her on her bottom but I feel like when she throws tantrums it takes me ages to negotiate and in the end she gets her way, whereas when my boys were little they threw a tantrum and all I said in a calm voice was “stop or you will get a smack on the bottom” and they stopped shortly. I want to be a good parent, but above all I want my babies to be safe and know to listen. Please encourage me with facts as to why I must stick to no spanking for defiance, because I am very confused now.

I shared You’re Not the Boss of Me! and Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline with this gentle mama and discussed how changing parenting styles is hard on parents, but sometimes we forget how hard it can be for children, too. Her older sons were upset with their mother for not spanking their little sisters as they were spanked. They felt like spanking was good enough for them and remembered being forced to obey and didn’t understand why their mother was letting their sisters get away with not listening. In our discussion, I asked her to look at it another way–she would never allow her older sons to hit their little sisters, but her boys wanted the little girls to be hit like they were. Thinking of it that way understandably upset her…

My boys are very gentle boys and have never hurt their sisters and would never HIT their sisters and they don’t wish for them to be HURT. They are incredibly protective. And a lot more polite and caring than almost all of their friends. I have a lot of children over to play and I really don’t see a mean bone in my boys’ bodies. They just feel that their sister is disrespectful towards me and at times her not listening makes it unpleasant for everyone. They feel there should be consequences to her actions.

Here is the rest of our email conversation: I hear you, mama. Replacing euphemisms like spanking, smacking, hidings, etc. by their definition, hitting, is very uncomfortable. The thing is, even domestic violence used to have euphemisms such as “reasonable smacking of wives” and “necessary chastisement” in order to make them more palatable. It wasn’t until society began to call it what it was, hitting, abuse, beating, violence, that society’s views changed. The same is true for parenting. If we want to change, we have to face the reality of what we are trying to change from. If we whitewash it with euphemisms, our motivation to change will be diminished and our chances of success limited. Your sons sound like wonderful boys, and I’m sure they love their sisters in the same way you loved your boys even while you were spanking them. But now you want something better for your little ones, and it’s not too late for you to want that same better thing for your boys, either. Yes, they got hit when they were little and misbehaved. And now they think hitting is the way to control small children, which is why they want you to hit their little sisters. But if you talk with them honestly about regretting having hit them and ask for their support as you try to move away from using threats and hitting to control their sisters and trying to work toward a communication-based, peaceful parenting style, then your sons will begin to learn that maybe hitting children isn’t they best way to raise them. And, since you will be communicating with your sons respectfully and honestly, you will actually be modeling the exact kind of parenting you are wanting to use with their little sisters…connection, communication, respect–an invitation to cooperate. It’s not easy, mama, but your boys will end up more peaceful parents themselves if you take the time to involve them in your transition to gentle parenting with not only them, but their little sisters, too.

I am trying to wrap my head around it all. We were raised with abuse and my older four children’s dad, who is no longer around, abused us too. But I am remarried to a very gentle man who does not agree with spanking, so he supports me now in trying. I will persevere. Thank you.

I know you are, mama. And it is so, so hard. The Little Hearts community of parents are all here for one reason, to support and encourage and share with each other on our gentle parenting journeys. None of us are perfect, and all of us have things to learn and struggles to overcome. Working together will help all of us do better, though, and that’s why we’re here. ♥

(A few days later): I have been reading your work and thinking about my parenting ways so much! I considered myself a gentle parent all these years, simply because I never smacked in anger but out of a duty almost to stick to the “rules” I had been taught in Christian Parenting books on disciplining etc. I am a loving Mommy and meant well, but something always bothered me about smacking my boys. I was told it bothered me because I had not been properly raised. Anyhow I was praying as I was washing the dishes today and felt my heart swell and a rush of emotions. I am so positive that the Lord spoke to me. I felt completely determined to follow your advice and believe now in my heart that this gentle parenting is the right way to love and care for children. I sat my sons down and read a few of your quotes etc. to them. I then apologized for smacking their little bottoms when they were younger when they were defiant instead of talking it through with them better. My sons all hugged me tight and my 16 year old son said, “Mom, we’re sorry we didn’t listen to you because we don’t care that you smacked us but we care that you had to be someone you aren’t to feel you had control of us. It’s not in your nature to smack, Mom, that’s why you were always so upset after you smacked us, because it changed how you felt about YOU. Now you can be the parent you will be proud of.” Ah it broke my heart. I am so grateful I found your wisdom. I will never meet you to thank you, but I am sending you gratitude across the oceans!!

Oh, mama, that’s so beautiful. Your boys sound like amazing young men!

(Weeks later): Things are working well. Thank you for your wise kind heart. I am loving raising my children this way!!  I am truly happy for the first time. I have always loved being a mother, but hated the confusion and regret after hidings, never sat well with me. Always had to psych myself up to go get the wooden spoon, take them to smack bottom…ahhhhhhggggg the knot I get in my tummy just thinking if it! Really pleased I saw the light and had the strength of my convictions at last TO CHANGE. I found your site two years after I decided no more hidings! So I had been doing the gentle parenting thing already, but I almost gave up. I am so grateful to you for encouraging us all to wait for the greater long term reward.

Thank you, mama. You don’t know how much that means to me to hear that! ♥

(Months later): My son wrote a letter to me. I thought it may help other parents. I cried so much I felt sick. I regret the past. I used to think I was such a great mom. I thought I was fair and set good boundaries and tried to protect them from their biological dad’s temper by ‘keeping them in line.’ I am working daily to heal my older sons. This letter was confirmation and also the realization that we cannot escape consequences. My son is loving and affectionate towards me, but is this letter ok? I mean in your opinion is he ok?

Letter from a Teenage Son Oh, mama, that made me tear up. Your guy is more than okay. He’s brilliantly more than okay! He’s thoughtfully working through his feelings and sharing them with you honestly because he trusts you with his big emotions. And he’s extrapolating from his experiences and yours and coming up with a life plan based on a strength of character that is very, very evident in his writing. ♥

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

♥ Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time ♥

Related posts: When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions The Problem with Punishment Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN 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.


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 ‘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.


When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Color of Change

The Problem with Punishment

*Also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

 

Related posts:

Stealing God’s Gift: Free Will is a Gift to be Nurtured, Not a Curse to be Broken

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Fear Doesn’t Lead to Faith: Becoming Your Child’s Safe Place

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

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


Bringing Up Binary: Raising an Obedient Computer

Dear Customer Service,

I think my computer needs professional help. I just don’t know what to do anymore. It won’t respond to me half of the time, and the other half its response is so slow it might as well not respond at all! I need help, and I don’t know where else to turn. Here’s the story:

I remember how excited I was when I first got my computer. I carefully cut the tape on the box, gently lifted it out, and gingerly settled it in the well-appointed and super organized office I’d had decorated and waiting for what seemed like forever.

Now what to do? I’d never owned a computer before and was so nervous I’d somehow break it. I searched through manuals and how-to’s for dummies, looking for tips from experts and guidance from other computer owners with years of experience. It was so frustrating because everyone seemed to have a different opinion about what to expect and what was important and how to handle all the hardware and software issues that were bound to crop up with computer ownership.

Over time, though, I got more comfortable in my new role as a computer owner. My tentative key tapping became more confident, and I operated my computer like a pro. But then minor irritations began to creep up. I’d input a command and have to wait for my computer to process before it responded, but why should I have to wait? I’d issued the same commands hundreds of times since my computer had arrived. Shouldn’t it obey instantly? I certainly thought so! So, I’d push the enter button a couple more times, and then a couple more, then some other buttons, and the darn thing would freeze up on me!!! Seriously?!?

I’m no push-over, believe me, and I wasn’t about to be manipulated by my own computer! So, I started unplugging it every time it froze. After a few minutes, I’d plug it back in again, but even after extending its time-out of the outlet to longer and longer periods, my computer was still giving me that ring of delayed obedience and then freezing when I pushed its buttons. So, I started giving it a gentle whack on its CPU. (No, I was not abusing it. I was just giving it a little tap to get its attention!) But nothing seemed to be working. I was still having to wait for it to process my commands, and it was actually getting worse!

Then my computer started popping up demands, right in front of what I was working on! “Updates needed.” “Virus software update available.” Me, me, me. I want. I want. I want. Isn’t it amazing how completely self-absorbed computers are? Didn’t my computer realize I had a schedule to keep? I had things that needed to get done, an agenda, a life! And on top of all that, I’d just purchased a new little laptop that needed my attention. Why couldn’t my computer understand that it just had to do what it was told and stop giving me a hard time?!? Selfish, that’s why!

Well, time went on and my computer kept up it’s delayed obedience and just kept escalating its constant demands with pop up after pop up after pop up. But I knew better than to give in. All it wanted was attention! So I alternated between time-out of the outlet and well-deserved whacks to the CPU, but all I got was slower and slower obedience, longer and longer freezes, and just general unresponsiveness.

I’ve tried to be a good computer owner, but I’m at the end of my tether. Please help!

Sincerely,

Frustrated

 

Dear Frustrated,

Computers are designed to process input. Basically, that means you get out what you put in. That “demand for attention” is actually your computer communicating a need for input from you, whether it’s for an update or a virus scan or whatever it’s indicating it needs. If you meet it’s needs, that will not only stop the “demands” but also free it up to run more smoothly and responsively for you. As far as the “delayed obedience,” that’s just how computers are built. It needs time to process your input so that it can respond appropriately. Pushing its buttons over and over is actually causing the freezing you’re concerned about, and unplugging your computer when it freezes just shuts it down right when it’s trying its hardest to work things out. Remember, interaction between owner and computer is the core of computer processing. Finally, stop “whacking” your computer. Call it what you want…hitting, tapping, popping, or whatever…it’s just causing internal damage and resulting in the very problems you’re trying to solve.

Sincerely,

Shak N. Mihed

 

Related posts:

The Trouble with Kids Today

Better Children, Better World

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

The Measure of Success~Chinese Parents and French Parents Can’t BOTH Be Superior!

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

In Cold Blood

Practical Gentle Discipline

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

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.


You’re Not the Boss of Me!

[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.]

Few things ignite a parent’s temper like defiance. It feels like a slap in the face, a direct challenge to our authority. Power card…played. Gauntlet…thrown. Challenge…accepted?

Time out! No, not time-out as in punish your child, but time out as in hit the parental pause button, take a step back, assess the situation, and get some adult perspective.

There are three things to consider:

  1. Behaviors are communication. What is your child trying to communicate?
  2. Is the behavior really defiance, or did your child’s action hit a nerve in you for some reason?
  3. If the behavior is, in fact, defiance, what circumstances preceded it?

Once you’ve assessed the situation, you can more effectively address it. If your child is communicating an unmet need such as a need for more interaction from you, a need to be heard, or if they simply need an outlet for their energy, you can first meet those needs and then offer your child ideas about how to better communicate their needs to you in the future.

The same process applies if your child’s behavior is communicating stress, anger, fear, or insecurity. Taking a step back allows you to not only see the emotion behind the action, but also gives you a moment to consider if there have been any big transitions in your child’s life such as a move or change in childcare or a recent illness (or, possibly, a breach in trust if you have ‘lost it’ and yelled, threatened, or spanked) that they may have big feelings about but are not able to articulate. First you can meet those emotional needs with empathic listening, offering words to help them articulate their feelings, apologizing if you have broken trust with them, and providing an outlet for their pent up emotions. Then you can address their behavior by giving them options for expressing their needs in more acceptable ways.

Meeting their needs before addressing their behavior is vital because it lowers their defenses, clears whatever is cluttering up your parent/child connection, and opens the pathways to communication, in effect turning on their listening ears!

*On a side note, be aware that it is possible, especially with very young children, that what you are interpreting as defiance is actually age-appropriate curiosity and exploration. A twelve month old who repeatedly pulls the cat’s tail may be experimenting with the interesting sound the cat makes, the soft texture of the fur, her own feeling of power, or just trying to find out if pulling the tail is as ‘not-okay’ after her nap as it was before. Little ones too young to grasp the concept of permanence (typically those less than twenty-four to thirty months) live very much in the moment and cannot be expected to understand the permanent nature of rules and limits. Removing temptations (commonly referred to as baby-proofing) is not only for their safety, but is also a visual form of limit setting. A common misconception is that removing temptations is passive or indulgent parenting, but it is actually proactive parenting (whereas passive/indulgent parenting would be simply allowing the behavior) and is an effective and gentle beginning to the process of boundary setting.

If in taking a step back to assess the situation you discover that your child’s behavior isn’t really defiance, but a nerve was hit in you that caused you to perceive it that way, you can first address your child’s need and then their behavior, if necessary, but then take the time to address your own needs. Perhaps you have an unmet need to be heard by your spouse, boss, or even your own parents, or maybe there is a wound from your past that needs to be healed or a source of stress in your life that is causing you to feel overwhelmed. Taking an honest look at your own needs and hurts and stressors and dealing with those issues will not only benefit your parenting, but your life in general!

If your ‘time out’ assessment reveals that the circumstances preceding your child’s defiance contributed to it, you can learn from that and find ways to avoid those circumstances in the future. For instance, you may realize that hunger or tiredness or over-scheduling are triggers for your child’s behavior. Or you may see that your wording is provoking a negative response. (The word ‘no’ can be a trigger for a power struggle. Try rephrasing your no’s into yes’s. For instance, instead of “No, you can’t have ice cream until after dinner” you could 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?” The objective is to set the same limit, but phrase it in a way that invites cooperation instead of triggering opposition.) You might realize you are inadvertently communicating your own stress to your child or even taking it out on them. Or you may have slipped into a negative parenting pattern and be ‘powering up’ on your child, in effect throwing down the gauntlet yourself, and they are merely reflecting your behavior. Whatever the case may be, learn from it, make the necessary adjustments, repair your relationship with an apology if needed, reconnect with your child, and then share ideas about better ways both of you can handle things in the future.

Keep in mind, though, that sometimes what parents perceive as defiance is really just a child testing their boundaries to make sure that they are secure. Children need to know they’re safe, and a parent who is confident and comfortable enough in their leadership to calmly and gently guide their child to stay within their boundaries is very reassuring. The goal of gentle parenting, however, is not controlling children, but equipping them to control themselves (in other words, we want to teach them to be ‘the boss’ of themselves!) So if your child is testing their boundaries, be careful to respond with guidance, not punishment.

Finally, remember, you are raising a little human with thoughts, needs, ideas, and a personality all their own. They aren’t perfect any more than you are, and expecting perfection will lead to conflict, not connection. When they make mistakes, choose understanding, not anger. When they make poor choices, choose guidance, not punishment. And when they challenge your authority and throw down that gauntlet of defiance, choose peace, not warfare. Remember, you don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to!

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

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.