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

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

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

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 Just ask the mother struggling with her teenage daughter who had become withdrawn around the age of twelve or thirteen, often spending hours in her room and refusing to engage with the rest of the family.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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

When Toddlers Become Teens

The Color of Change

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy

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


When Toddlers Become Teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

The result…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Color of Change

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy
 

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


Parenting in Public: Toddler Time!

[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.]

toddler parentingYou’re sitting in a restaurant waiting the prerequisite ten to fifteen minutes for your food to be served, chatting quietly with your spouse and two-year-old, when it happens, that dreaded moment that every parent fears…the sudden switch from table companion to meltdown mayhem when life as you and every patron, staff member, and passerby know it is turned inside out and upside down.

That moment is known as ‘Toddler Time’ which is aptly named because it is, in fact, all about time from the perspective of a toddler. That insignificant ten to fifteen minute waiting period for food to arrive is actually eons in toddler time, eons of hunger, eons of boredom, eons of stillness, eons of being expected to act like the adult that they are years and years (eons!) away from becoming. But you really don’t want to be housebound for all of those eons, right? And yet more and more public places are becoming child un-friendly with snarky signs saying they’ll give your child an espresso and a pony if you don’t control them, or charge you extra if you dare to enter their establishment and support their business with your hard-earned money, or even flat out ban you altogether if you bring ‘the beast’ out in public with you!

And what about those hazy, lazy summer days at the park with the laughter of children floating in the air, mommies wearing sleeping babies in their carriers while chatting and keeping eagle eyes on their precious little monkeys dangling from brightly colored jungle-gyms, when the dreaded moment suddenly hits, and all goes quiet as every eye turns toward the poor soul who called out those awful, awful words, “It’s time to go!” The words echo against the lowering sky, which has conveniently decided to threaten rain just to add to the sheer madness of the moment, and then the shrieking begins. In toddler time, an hour at the park is gone in the blink of an eye, and fun things like being strapped into car seats and baths and naps awaiting at home just add insult to injury.

So what’s a parent to do?

Here are a few preemptive tools for your gentle parenting toolbox:

  1. Gather a few special ‘quiet’ toys and keep them in a Quiet Bag in the car. To keep their novelty value, only get them out when you go into a store or restaurant and let your little one play with one toy at a time until it’s time to go, saving one last special toy for the car ride home. Some ideas for stocking your Quiet Bag are
  • felt busy books
  • playdoh
  • picture books
  • white-erase boards
  • coloring books
  • small, unlined notebooks
  • crayons or washable markers
  • mini stuffed animals
  • small play figures such as superheroes, dollhouse dolls, cars, trucks, etc.
  • chunky, age-appropriate puzzles
  • Calm-Me-Jar
  1. Making a habit out of wearing your little one or letting them ride in a cart or stroller while in stores and keeping them happily occupied while secured in a highchair or on your lap when in restaurants are proactive steps that will help prevent issues with running around and getting into things.
  2. Keeping your little person occupied is always a good place to start, but if yelling or screaming still become an issue, try responding with a whispered question or two. It’s pretty much irresistible for little ones to quiet down to hear what you’re saying, and even better if what you’re saying is super silly…”I think my nose went outside for a walk.” (with a conspiratorial ‘shared secret’ look) “Could you check for me to see if it’s back yet?” (crossing your eyes to see for yourself)
  3. With the dreaded leaving-the-park issue, try bringing snacks your small one loves, and instead of saying “Time to go!” try saying “Snack time!” and describe the yumminess waiting for them, all the while gently guiding them to the car. Or brainstorm with your little one ahead of time to come up with a fun activity to do after the park like playing a favorite game together or stopping by the library to pick up a new book to read together. The idea is to involve your toddler in the planning so they feel like they have some control over their lives and also to have something fun to look forward to that will help them through transitions (which are always hard for little ones).
  4. Don’t forget to pack your ‘funnybone’ for a back-up plan! Humor is a powerful parenting tool, and car seats presented as rocket ships to the moon, shared naptimes (parents can always use the extra sleep!) on marshmallow planets, highchair-bound movie directors with mommy and daddy as the actors, and shopping carts cars that continually stall and need to be fixed by their little riders are all inventive ways of keeping little people too busy and happy to meltdown. (Not to mention that these are great ways to reconnect with your little one and remember just how adorable they really are!)

Actively work at avoiding confrontations and meltdowns by giving choices, staying engaged, listening to your child, and paying attention to triggers such as hunger, tiredness, sickness, etc. When our parenting goals shift from meeting needs and guiding actions to controlling our children, they invariably rebel and the battle is on, not a happy circumstance at any time, but especially difficult to handle in public! (And, in the long run, that makes for an ‘us against them’ relationship that sets the stage for an unhappy home, particularly when the teen years arrive.)

Related posts:

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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


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

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

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

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

The concept of using consequences, physical or otherwise, as a deterrent for hitting is based on the misconception that small children have the capacity for forethought (i.e. “If I hit, I will get in trouble. Therefore I will not hit.”) and that they are choosing to disobey. As mentioned in the last chapter, though, the prefrontal cortex, where reasoning, logic, and forethought take place, is highly immature in toddlers and preschoolers and actually doesn’t develop fully until the mid-twenties. Small children act instinctively and impulsively even when not stressed simply because that is what they are developmentally capable of, but when they are stressed, even the small amount of self-control they may have attained flies right out the window, and before they know it they’ve reacted physically to their stress.

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

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

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

  1. Supervision! Supervision! Supervision! When you have a child who is acting out physically, it’s vital to remain in visual contact with them whenever they are with other children. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important not to leave small children alone with a child who is struggling with physical aggression. Some steps you can take are to either take the child with you when you have to leave the room, take the other child/children with you, or use baby gates to section off areas where you can separate the children to play (in a non-punitive manner) when you have to be out of visual range momentarily.
  2. Intervention. Consistent intervention by an observant parent, preferably before the situation escalates to physical aggression, is essential in order to protect the other children. When you see your child heading toward a physical response to a situation, reminding them to use their words or offering a solution to the problem will often help avert a lash out. If your child has already started to become physical, but hasn’t fully escalated, reminding them to “Use your gentle hands” will give them a little head’s up that they are headed in the wrong direction and give them an opportunity to redirect themselves. Suggesting alternative options will equip your child with the tools they need to handle their feelings in acceptable ways.
  3. Prevention. If scratching or biting are issues be sure to keep your little one’s nails trimmed and try to stay on top of teething pain. When it comes to teething, small children are frequently either dealing with swollen gums from a tooth starting to come in or one that has just come in, so being aware of that and using amber necklaces, keeping a supply of damp, frozen washcloths available, and giving a bit of ibuprofen when needed are good preventatives to biting.
  4. Remind and redirect. If hitting, biting, scratching, etc. are the result of over-exuberance, consistently reminding a little one to “Use your gentle hands. Can you show me your gentle hands?” or that “Teeth are for smiling, not biting. Can you show me your smile?” and offering specific alternatives such as clapping their hands to show their excitement will help to redirect them to more appropriate expressions of their big emotions.
  5. Respect. Respecting a child’s possessions helps them to share by offering them the chance to choose. Feeling more in control of what does or does not need to be shared is a proactive step toward a child feeling more in control of their body and impulses. You might allow their room to be off-limits to their siblings or possibly have a ‘special’ toy box where they can keep a select few toys that they don’t have to share, but can only play with in their room or when the other children are sleeping or otherwise occupied. If a situation arises where they aren’t willing to share something, they can have the option to choose to put that toy in the ‘special’ toy box, but will need to decide which toy to take out of the box to share in its place.
  6. Outlets. Children who feel out-of-control need outlets for their big feelings. If they’re angry, they can go to their room and punch a bop bag or go outside and throw or kick a ball around. But if they’re headed toward a meltdown, they may need help processing their feelings, and a Calm-Me-Jar and time-in (see Chapter Eight) may be the best option.
  7. Practice. Role playing can be helpful with a child who repeatedly lapses into physical aggression. You can take turns being the ‘hit-ee’ and ‘hitter’ (avoid using labels such as ‘victim’ and ‘aggressor’ with your child) and show them different ways of handling situations that you know have caused them difficulties in the past.
  8. Silliness. One of my favorite tools when dealing with toddler’s and preschooler’s aggression is playing the ‘I’m the boss of you, hands!’ game (can also be used for teeth, feet, etc.) in which I remind them that they are the ‘boss’ of their hands and ask them to tell their hands what they can or cannot do. (i.e. Me: “What are you going to tell your hands if they try to snatch a toy?” Child: “I’ll tell them, ‘No way, hands! I’m the boss of you!”) Little ones love the idea of being the boss and generally respond well to this type of play.
  9. More silliness. For younger, non-verbal children who may not be ready for the “I’m the boss of you, hands!” game yet, if they’ve hit, pinched, snatched, etc. try ‘checking’ to see if they have gentle hands by exaggeratedly examining their hands and then kissing each palm and declaring, “Yep, that’s a gentle hand, all right!” The positive, declarative statement will help them to develop a positive self-image and set the foundation for self-control as they grow up believing that, yes, they are good and gentle little people!
  10. Modeling. If your child has already hit someone, you will need to first address the injured child’s needs.  If you’re angry with your child for hitting, and you very well may be, it’s okay to share that with them in a calm voice and let them know that you need a moment to console the injured child and to calm down before you will be ready to talk with them. What you are actually doing is modeling self-control and coping mechanisms, important components for your child to learn in order to master their impulse to lash out.
  11. Teaching empathy. Reflect what the other person might be feeling, “It hurts your sister when you scratch her. Why don’t we go ask her if she’s okay? If she has an owie, we might need to get a bandage for her.” It’s very intriguing for little ones to feel like they can ‘fix’ something, and often the idea that they have that kind of power makes them more likely to feel they have the power to use their gentle hands, too. The positive impact of learning to think and care about the feelings of others, though, is the real power that will enable them to begin to control the impulse to lash out.
  12. Verbalize. Offering words to express your child’s feelings of anger or frustration when they have lashed out (i.e. “I see that you don’t want to share the ball. That makes you angry. I’m sorry you’re angry, but I can’t let you hit. What can you do instead of hitting when you’re angry?”) will help your child learn how to verbalize their feelings over time instead of simply acting on them as well as reminding them of the options you’ve provided for them to redirect their big feelings into acceptable outlets.
  13. A place for time-outs. When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, etc.) and a gentle redirection has already been given, another option is to try the Time-Out Toy Box. Little ones generally find the concept of a toy being put in time-out rather humorous and go along with the removal without a fuss. When your child decides that the toy is ready to behave, you can have your little one tell the toy it has to listen to them because they are the boss. Again, humor is a great communicator! Remember, though to listen and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, a time-in with your little one might be needed. Remaining in-tune with your child will help you to read the situation and respond appropriately.
  14. Expectations. It’s important in all aspects of parenting to frequently take a step back and examine your expectations to make sure that they are reasonable in regard to your child’s age, developmental stage, temperament, etc. Unrealistic expectations can put significant pressure on a child and cause a great deal of frustration and stress which can lead to aggressive behaviors as well as conflict in your parent/child relationship.
  15. Honesty. If physical punishment has been a part of your parenting, removing that entirely from your parenting toolbox is a great start toward easing some of the anger, stress, and frustration that is fueling your child’s aggression. Being honest with your child about your own struggles with handling things physically as well as apologizing for using threats, intimidation, and physical pain to control them in the past will begin the healing process in your relationship.

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

Related posts:

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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


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.


Helping Unique Learners Find Their Genius ♥

middleschool girl

[From Raising Bookworms: Life, Learning, and Literacy by L.R.Knost available 2014; 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 now available on Amazon]

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

middleschool girlHomeschooling a unique learner can be challenging simply because they don’t get the benefit of access to testing and professional support without a lot of initiative, research, phone calls, and door-knocking on your part. But the trade-off is the freedom to tailor your teaching and learning environment to your child’s needs, and that is of incredible value when educating a unique learner.

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Unique learners have beautiful minds just waiting to find their genius. We just need to look outside of the box to help them find it!

Here are some of the tips, tools, and techniques I’ve learned through years of homeschooling my unique learners to help them work through the challenges they face on a daily basis:

1.)    Lighten up…Everything in life is easier if you take it with a grain of salt and learn to laugh. Our unique learners will have more struggles and challenges than the average person throughout life, not just during their school years. That is an unavoidable fact. But who wants to be ‘average’ anyway? Help them to celebrate their uniqueness and embrace the future with grace and humor by sharing your own struggles, modeling coping techniques, and being able to laugh at your own mistakes. Make ‘even missteps are valuable steps on the road to success’ your homeschool motto!

2.)    Play…Children learn best through play, and that applies to therapy, as well. Experience is the only true path to learning, so let their imaginations soar as they do the hard work of learning to cope with their unique challenges. (See some play-based, brain-enriching, and eye-tracking activities below)

3.)    Jazz it up…Music truly is medicine for the soul. Buy a good set of headphones (not earbuds) and play classic instrumentals softly while your unique learner is trying to concentrate, whether it be on reading or writing or drawing, etc. Filtering out the cacophony of life and soothing their stress levels with the gentle strains of Mozart are only some of the benefits of music. Another benefit is that the rhythms, cadence, and timing of music actually have an organizing effect on the brain!

4.)    Exercise…Invest in an exercise bicycle (We got ours for $15 from a yard sale!) that lets your unique learner sit in a comfortable seat while pedaling. The cross-over action of pedaling also has an organizing effect on the brain, and, if used while reading or playing video games (Video games can be great exercises for eye-tracking if you choose the right ones!) can actually increase the speed and effectiveness of learning.

5.)    Get crunchy…Believe it or not, another ‘brain organizing’ activity is chewing, particularly crunchy foods, while reading, etc. Some good choices are pretzels, carrot sticks, celery, granola, and nuts. (If you’ve got a sensory sweetie like I do, be careful to let them choose something that won’t send their senses into overdrive.) Sugarless chewing gum can be substituted when you go places where foods aren’t appropriate, but still would like to offer your child a calming, organizing aid.

6.)    Listen, listen, listen…Your unique learner will have more than their share of stress and possibly a harder time articulating it than others might. Slow down and really focus on what they are communicating. Listen ‘between the lines’ to their heart, their hurts, their fears, their needs. Be their safe place, their source of comfort and renewal.

7.)    Hug it out…Physical closeness is healing, and so make sure that along with the extra struggles and challenges your unique learner faces, they get lots of extra cuddles, snuggles, and hugs. When they get older, a gentle touch on their shoulder or a light hand on their arm will be instantly calming and comforting because it will tap into those feelings of comfort and closeness from earlier childhood.

8.)    Watch and learn…Just as every child is different, every child with challenges is unique in how they manifest those challenges and how they handle them. Paying careful attention to your own unique learner’s personality, struggles, aversions, triggers, etc. will give you clues as to how to help them learn to cope. With SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), for example, avoiding unpleasant stimulus and providing needed stimulus is the name of the game. Typically, you’ll want to provide a quiet learning area at home, lots of freedom to move, permission to step away and de-stress when they feel overwhelmed, etc. and, when going out, avoid buffet-style restaurants and loud, crowded shopping and entertainment venues.

9.)    Guide them gently…Discipline (guiding, modeling, teaching, etc.) invites communication and strengthens your parent/child connection. Punishment stifles communication and strains parent/child connections. Keep those vital lines of communication open and your parent/child connection healthy by providing consistent boundaries and gentle guidance, being open to discussion, and modeling the desired behavior.

10.)   Read, read, read…Successful readers are not simply those who understand the mechanics of reading any more than successful biking is understanding the mechanics of a bicycle. Readers are born when a love for reading is fostered. Let them see you reading often. Cuddle up and read to them when they are young. Co-read (you read a sentence, they read a sentence, etc) when they are new readers or when they are tired or struggling. Let them read comics (The relation of pictures to words is a huge aid in reading comprehension.). For more reading tips, see Raising Bookworms.

 

Here are some exercises and activities that have helped my Renaissance Girl with her challenges with SPD, dyslexia, ADD, visual/auditory processing disorders, dyscalculia, etc:

Gross motor and fine motor cross-over exercises to get the two sides of the brain communicating more efficiently…

~Bouncing a brightly colored ball back and forth between us using alternate hands (left, right, left, right, etc.)

~Skipping, marching, swinging while singing

~Climbing

~Balance beam

~Bicycling

~Piano

~Sorting

Brain-organizing activities…

~Memory matching

~Tonal music

~Free-style building with blocks, Tinker Toys, Legos, etc.

~Design-matching building

~Sensory bins

Eye-tracking activities…

~Laser pointer games-following a laser pointer light in a darkened room, pointing to moving targets (i.e. bubbles), etc.

~Ceiling tracing-following the seam of the wall and ceiling from corner to corner moving only the eyes

~Video games-Flash Focus and Brain Age are good choices for the Gameboy. Wii Fit, Carnival Games, and Sports Games are good for the Wii. There are also great games for improving eye-tracking for the X-box, Playstation, and online. If you do the research to find what best fits your child’s interests, you’ll have much better participation!

Visual-motor learning…

~Clay letters-tactile learning by forming letters and words on a template with clay or dough

~Contextual learning-Children with dyslexia tend to learn better in context than by breaking things down to their parts, so phonics-based learning is often mind-boggling for them. Flashcards are a no-go because speed and movement impede their attempts to focus rather than help them. Writing-based learning such as copying and illustrating short poems, copying a short sentence from a wall-mounted chalkboard or large paper taped to the wall and illustrating it, writing and illustrating their own stories, and writing stories on the computer are great ways to help them learn to read.

~Once they are beginning to read, graphic novels, large-print chapter books on topics that interest them, and continued creative writing are excellent practice.

~Online reading games can be helpful, but only if they are untimed (Timed anything is a huge stressor and sets them up for frustration and failure.) and your child feels comfortable with the level of activity and brightness on the screen as otherwise these can cause headaches and their eyes to tire quickly.

These tips are not, of course, exhaustive or a replacement for professional therapies. But as you work your way through what can often be a labyrinth of paperwork, meetings, appointments, etc. on your way to finding the services your child needs, these may help to ease the wait a bit. :)

 

Related posts:

Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms

It’s time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…it’s time to let children be children again. A Return to Childhood

Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl

Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice. Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!

In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Live to Play~Play to Learn~Learn to Live!

 

If you give a toddler a book

He’ll climb into your lap

While he’s in your lap

He might lay his head on your chest

When he lays his head on your chest

He’ll hear your heartbeat

When he hears your heartbeat

He’ll probably ask if you can hear… If You Give A Toddler A Book…

 

Einstein recognized his unique lens and often commented about it and about how organized education systems didn’t accommodate individuality and creativity. Here is a look into this ‘unique learner’s’ mind in his own words…Beautiful Minds

 

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 Incredible Power of the Whisper

whispering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Playground Confessions~Look Who’s Talking!

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

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


The ‘NO’ Zone

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

toddler saying no pointing fingerThe life of a small child is comprised of a daily onslaught of tempting surfaces begging for the artistry of a crayon, tall places crying out to be scaled, lovely little objects in need of a mouth or nose to visit, and dozens of other alluring glass and liquid and sharp things to be explored through the physics of gravity, the kinetics of concoctions, and the application of Newton’s Laws of Motion. There is only one force powerful enough to defeat this nearly irresistible call of adventure, imagination, and discovery…the No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Better Children, Better World

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


When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

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

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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

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 Color of Change

[Portions 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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parachute

So few parents today were raised peacefully and respectfully by their own parents that it’s no surprise that a big issue in the gentle parenting community is how to overcome the stumbling blocks of change. Moving from a control-based parenting style, whether you’re used to spanking or time-outs or reward charts or some combination of the three, to a connection-based parenting style is a heart and mindset change as much as it is a lifestyle change. The undeniable fact is that change is hard work. Whether you’re trying to overcome your own childhood or your own already-established parenting habits, you can expect it to get harder before it gets easier. Just like with any lifestyle change, you will hit walls along the way, and they might even knock you back a step or two. Here are five tips to help you keep calm and carry on to achieve your parenting goals:

1)      Commit to no hitting or other physical expressions of anger or frustration, and let that be your starting point, the line in the sand that you absolutely won’t cross. Just like in marriage, if you don’t make a commitment, there’s nothing to keep you from straying back into old patterns.

2)      Rethink your parenting role and move from trying to force or manipulate or plead or coerce or use any other tactic to try to control your child’s behavior and instead build a desire in your child to cooperate because they trust you to make good decisions and to want them to be happy and safe. Do that by taking all of that energy that’s been going into trying to control their behavior (external controls) and focusing it on trying to build your connection and modeling the behavior you want to encourage (building internal controls).

3)      Examine what you’re modeling. If right now you are insisting on your own way and reacting emotionally with anger and power-plays to your child’s lack of cooperation, what are you modeling? Stubbornness and lack of emotional regulation (i.e. adult-style tantrums). If, instead, you connect with your child, engage them in creative problem-solving, and work together with them toward a resolution to whatever issue you’re having, what are you modeling? Compromise, resourcefulness, and cooperation. Definitely worthwhile life lessons!

4)      Keep working on you. Remind yourself that it’s your emotions and experiences and expectations that are causing your outbursts, not your little one’s behavior. Ask yourself why you’re so upset. Let yourself explore your inner triggers. Work through that internally instead of reacting to it externally.

5)      Choose a touchstone in a color that will help to keep you grounded, something to look at or hold on to when you feel yourself slipping back into old thinking and behavior patterns. It could be a necklace or bracelet or key chain in a color that captures the essence of the parent you want to be to help you stay focused as you work your way toward becoming that parent. Colors have psychological implications, so some good choices might be blue which is the color of peace and trust; turquoise which is the color of communication; pink which is the color of unconditional love; or magenta which is the color of harmony. You can also place the color around your house as a reminder of the peaceful home you’re trying to create and as a symbol of change and renewal to help you remember to stop and breathe and think before responding to your child.

Remember, it’s a huge change to go from demanding obedience to inviting cooperation, and if you are already in an adversarial pattern with your child, that process will take extra time and patience. And keep in mind that no parenting ‘works’ to change a child into an adult or into a perfect little puppet. Children are imperfect humans being raised by imperfect humans in an imperfect world, after all! But shifting your thinking from expecting, or demanding, obedience to working with your child, understanding them, connecting with them, and inviting them to cooperate (i.e. Instead of “If you don’t put your dinner dishes in the sink, you won’t get ice cream for dessert” try “Let me know when your dishes are in the sink so I can get your ice cream for you.”) is the first and most important step toward a gentler style of parenting and a more peaceful home.

*Having gentle parenting tools ready and available in your ‘toolbox’ will go a long way toward helping you to stick to your commitment to be a more gentle parent. Here are some links to practical alternatives to punishment:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

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

*Also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

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.


Two Thousand Kisses a Day~Book Reviews & Author Interviews

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

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

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

 

The Single Crunch TSC Review

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

 

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

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

 

Gentle Christian Mothers ~ Book Review and Author Interview

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

 

Dulce de Leche ~ Book Review

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

 

The Twin Coach ~ Book Review

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

 

Smooth Parenting ~ Book Review

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

 

The Path Less Taken ~ Book Review

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

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

 

Littles Rule the Roost ~ Book Review

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

 

Kerenthrelfall

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

 

Diary of a Natural Mom

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

 

The Guggie Daily ~ Book Review and Author Interview

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

Table of Contents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sample chapters:

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

200 Ways to Bless your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

 

 

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

 

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


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

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

 

 

 

 

~The birth story of a book~

A mother is born…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the dire warnings listed above:

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

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

A gentle parenting advocate is born…

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

A book is born…

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

*also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

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


The Problem with Punishment

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

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

teddy bear 1Want to know a dirty, little secret about punishment?

It doesn’t work.

Punishment may be able to control a child’s behavior temporarily while they’re small or when they are in their parents’ presence, but it cannot control the person.  As with all humans, outward behavior is merely a reflection of our inner selves: our needs, our hurts, our emotional states.

While the temporary ‘payoff’ of punishment may be compliance, the need behind the behavior is never addressed and those needs merely get driven underground and often emerge later in more potentially damaging behaviors such as lying, sneaking, anger, outright rebellion, depression, aggression, addictions, etc.

In the same way that treating a brain tumor by merely taking a pain reliever doesn’t address the underlying issue, masking the symptoms of an underlying need with punishment-induced compliance doesn’t solve the problem; it intensifies it.

Want to know another dirty, little secret about punishment?

It requires constant escalation.

In order to maintain the temporary effect of controlling behavior, the punishment, or threats of punishment, must constantly be ramped up. Parents who start out with popping a tiny hand escalate to smacking a chubby little leg, then paddling a small bottom. Over time, as their children’s needs which have been driven underground emerge in ever-increasing behavioral issues, parents often find that they are resorting to yelling and threats and physical punishment more and more often.

quote just when they need us the mostEven parents who use punishment-based parenting approaches other than physical punishment find that they must escalate and escalate to keep their children under ‘control.’ Behavior charts, time-outs, grounding, and removing privileges are some examples of non-physical punishment-based parenting. While these behavior modification techniques may be less painful to children physically, they still don’t address the underlying needs being communicated by the behavior and often are nearly as destructive to the parent/child relationship.

Using isolation such as time-outs or sending children to their room separates them from their source of guidance and comfort just when they need it the most and not only misses a golden opportunity to help the child learn coping mechanisms for dealing with their emotions, but also fractures the very connection that should provide the safety for expressing those emotions. Using behavior charts, removal of privileges, grounding, etc. separates children from their parents by creating an us-against-them mentality that inevitably leads to conflict instead of creating a teamwork mentality that leads to cooperation.

Here’s the thing, effective parenting and, more specifically, effective discipline, doesn’t require punishment. Equating discipline with punishment is an unfortunate, but common misconception. The root word in discipline is actually disciple which in the verb form means to guide, lead, teach, model, and encourage. In the noun form disciple means one who embraces the teaching of, follows the example of, and models their life after.

On the flip side, the root word in punishment is the Latin word punire which in verb form means to penalize, chastise, castigate, inflict harm, humiliate. There is no noun form of punire or its English equivalent, punishment.

Many of today’s most popular self-proclaimed parenting ‘experts’ equate physical punishment with discipline and go to great lengths to describe the best methods and tools for hitting children as well as instructing parents to maintain a calm, controlled, and even cheerful demeanor as they ‘lovingly’ hit their children.

It is interesting to note here that, when it comes to the law, crimes of passion are treated as less heinous than premeditated, planned, and purposefully executed crimes which are termed ‘in cold blood.’ And yet when physically punishing a child, a crime in many places across the globe, hitting in anger or frustration (i.e. passion) is deemed wrong by proponents of spanking, while hitting children with calm and deliberate intent (i.e. premeditation) is encouraged.

It is also interesting to note that, in the not-too-distant past, husbands hitting their wives was also viewed as not only a societal norm, but also a necessary part of maintaining a harmonious, successful marriage. In fact, a man who epitomizes the words calm and controlled, Sean Connery, shared his thoughts on the ’reasonable smacking’ of his wife in a 1987 interview with Barbara Walters in which he explained the necessity of using punitive methods to control women.

The core belief behind ‘reasonable smacking’ of wives was that there was no other effective way to control them. I agree. If controlling another human being is the goal, then force is necessary. Fear, intimidation, threats, power-plays, physical pain, those are the means of control.

But, if growing healthy humans is the goal, then building trust relationships, encouraging, guiding, leading, teaching, and communicating are the tools for success.

Many parents simply don’t know what else to do. They were raised with spanking and other punishment-based parenting methods as a means of control and “turned out okay” so they default to their own parents’ choices without researching alternatives to spanking or considering whether “okay” could be improved upon.

Consider this, more than 90% of American parents admit to spanking their children, and yet the common contention is that it’s a decline in spanking that is responsible for the purportedly escalating quote it's not our jobrates of youth violence and crime. Is it really the less than 10% of children who aren’t spanked who are responsible for all the problems of our society? Or could it be that the 90% of children who are subject to violence at home in the form of being slapped, paddled, smacked, yanked, whipped, popped, spanked, etc. are taking those lessons out into the world? Is it just possible that children who are hit learn to hit? That children who are hurt learn to hurt? Perhaps the lesson they are learning is that ‘might is right’ and violence is the answer to their problems, the outlet for their stress, the route to getting others to do what they want.

People throughout history have complained about ‘the trouble with kids today’ and they’ve pinned all the ills of their society on supposedly permissive parenting. They’ve ranted about out-of-control children, disrespectful youth, entitlement, spoiling, disobedience, violence, self-centeredness, etc:

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders…. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers.” ~Socrates, 5th Century BC

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” ~Plato, 5th Century BC

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint” ~Hesiod, 8th Century BC

“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.” ~Peter the Hermit, 13th Century AD

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Maybe, though, there isn’t really any ‘trouble with kids today.’ Maybe the problem is with parents who repeat the patterns their own parents set or with societies who view normal stages of development as somehow abnormal.

Maybe ’kid’s today’ are just kids like they have been through the ages, full of exuberance and curiosity and learning their way in a great big world, and a listening ear, gentle guidance, and trusted arms to turn to when inevitable mistakes are made are really all children need to grow up into kind, helpful, responsible, productive members of our society.

The bottom line is that addressing our children’s underlying needs, the actual causes of their behavior instead of just the behavior itself, is a far more effective parental approach as well as being significantly better for a healthy, mutually respectful parent/child relationship. Sending our children out into the world as adults with their needs met, with coping mechanisms in place for those times when the stresses overwhelm them, and with the knowledge of a safe haven where comfort is always available when the world hurts them is a powerful way to change the world for the better.

Maybe, just maybe, sowing peace in our homes is the answer for our children, our families, and our world, after all.

*Also printed in The Natural Parent Magazine

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Color of Change

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

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

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

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 Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

[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.]

So parents, here’s the scoop on tantrums:

They’re your fault.

Okay, okay, so maybe my toddlerhood contributes to them a teensy-weensy bit, but seriously…

You with the obsession with brushing teeth and bedtimes and matching clothes, enough already! Does it ever even occur to you that there’s another person (Yes, I am an actual separate person from you. Remember that whole cutting of the umbilical cord thing?) who might have an opinion about what goes in my mouth or when I’m tired or not or what I want to wear?

And you, the one who thinks carrots and kale are food. Really? You have all kinds of opinions about what tastes good and what doesn’t, but I’m not allowed to have any?

And don’t even get me started on the rush-rush, hurry-up craziness that has me being snatched up in the middle of my most fantastic block tower ever and strapped into a torture device (Btw, where’s your carseat?!?) and dragged from one place to another right through snack time. I can’t have an agenda? Don’t my interests mean anything?

Okay, so maybe I don’t know everything yet, but how am I going to learn if you just force these issues instead of communicating with me about things? That whole learning by osmosis thing (a.k.a. passive learning) didn’t work for you in college, and it won’t work with me, either.

You keep going on and on and ooooon about wanting me to listen. “Why won’t you listen?” “If you’d listen for once!” “Would you just listen to me?!?”  I’ve got three words for you…

Two. Way. Street.

Maybe instead of that whole failed learning by osmosis experiment you keep trying (You do know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, right? Okay, okay, just checking!) you could read the research and find out that I learn by active engagement (two-way conversation!) and imitation. Yep, that’s right. I learn from what you do, not just what you say.

So here’s the deal…

Want me to learn to listen? Then listen to me. Listen and respond to my cries when I’m a baby. Listen and reply to my babbling attempts at talking when I’m a toddler. Listen to my whining and respond patiently when I’m a preschooler. (I know it’s annoying, but whining is my last step, kind of like your ‘last nerve’ you complain I’m stomping on, before I have a meltdown. It’s my last-ditch effort to hold on to the tiny bit of self-control I’ve learned so far in my short life!) Listen and actually pay attention (a.k.a eye contact!) to my endless stories about snails when I’m in middle childhood and to my endless complaints and dramas when I’m in my teen years.

Want me to learn respect? Then show me respect. Show me that you respect my personal space by explaining the things you’re doing to me like changing my diaper or strapping me into a carseat. Show me that you respect others by not talking about them behind their backs (Yes, I can and do hear you!) or yelling at them on the road. Show me that you respect my opinions by asking for them and accommodating them when you can. (I know you won’t always be able to, but the times you do will help me to accept the times you can’t.)

Want me to learn compassion? Then show me compassion. Respond kindly and gently when I’m upset or angry or just out-of-sorts. Stay close when my emotions overwhelm me and I have a meltdown moment. (I need your presence and compassion the most when I seem to deserve it or even want it the least!)  And model compassion by treating others kindly in front of me.

Want me to learn self-control? (This is a big one!) Then show me self-control. Take a parental time-out when you get tired or overwhelmed or angry so I learn how to handle those big emotions. Count to ten and take some deep breaths instead of yelling or hitting. And pace yourself in this big world. I need to learn that it’s okay to take care of myself and not feel like I have to fill every moment with plans and schedules and agendas. I’ll learn that from watching you choose wisely from the many opportunities and pressures life will offer.

Okay, so to wrap this up. My tantrums don’t just come out of nowhere. They are the result of tiredness, hunger, frustration, anger, etc. You can prevent them, or at least minimize them, by keeping me fed and rested, by paying attention to my preferences, interests, and attempts to communicate, and by communicating kindly and patiently with me about upcoming changes or things I might not like. And keep in mind, I’m always watching and absorbing everything that goes on around me, so make sure you’re living what you want me to learn!

Related posts:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The No Zone

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

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


Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

[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.]

Many people believe that gentle parenting is a form of unparenting, but nothing could be further from the truth. Gentle parenting is involved parenting ~interactive, engaged, active parenting. It takes focused attention, planning, participation, research, and so much more to be an empathetic, responsive parent who is in tune with their child’s needs and who is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to meet those needs. That said, in any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. It is in the choosing and maintaining of those boundaries that gentle parenting distinguishes itself. In a gently parented home, boundaries are focused on guiding rather than controlling children and are maintained through empathetic and creative resolutions rather than harsh punitive consequences. If you’d like to transition to a more gentle mode of parenting, but don’t know where to start, below are links to alternatives to punishment, and here is a guide to help you set yourself up for success in your journey to gentle parenting…12 Steps to Gentle Parenting.

 

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

The concept of using consequences, physical or otherwise, as a deterrent for hitting is based on the misconception that small children have the capacity for forethought (i.e. If I hit, I will get in trouble. Therefore I will not hit.) and that they are choosing to disobey. The fact is that the prefrontal cortex, where reasoning, logic, and forethought take place, is highly immature in toddlers and preschoolers and actually doesn’t develop fully until the mid-twenties! Small children act instinctively and impulsively even when not stressed simply because that is what they are developmentally capable of, but when they are stressed even the small amount of self-control they may have attained flies right out the window, and before they know it (literally!) they’ve reacted physically to their stress. Read more

 

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

Typically, I advise parents to use Time-Ins instead of Time-Outs in order to connect-to-correct, but there is one area that I advise the use of Time-Outs…the ‘Time-Out Toy Box!’ When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, drawn on, fought over, etc) and a gentle redirection has been given, the next step for the toy is to be put in the ‘Time-Out Toy Box.’ Little ones generally find the concept of a toy being put in Time-Out rather humorous and go along with the removal without a fuss (the toy can be returned after an exaggeratedly stern warning to the toy letting it know what is expected of it and that it must listen to ‘the boss’ ~the child, lol. They love that!), but remember to communicate, listen, and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, it may be that the inappropriate behavior was more than just…Read more

 

 

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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…Read more

 

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

Punishing them, yelling at them, sending them to their room, or putting them in time-out disconnects them even further from their source of security and not only delays a resolution of the issue, but misses an opportunity to equip them with the tools they need to handle future problems.

One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar…Read more

 

strong willed child

Parenting 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! Read more

 

 

balktalk is a cry for help

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

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. Read more

 

teddy bear 1

The Problem with Punishment

Want to know a dirty, little secret about punishment?

It doesn’t work.

Punishment may be able to control a child’s behavior temporarily while they’re small or when they are in their parents’ presence, but it cannot control the person.  As with all humans, outward behavior is merely a reflection of our inner selves: our needs, our hurts, our emotional states.

While the temporary ‘payoff’ of punishment may be compliance, the need behind the behavior is never addressed and those needs merely get driven underground and often emerge later in more potentially damaging behaviors such as lying, sneaking, anger, outright rebellion, depression, aggression, addictions, etc. Read more

 

toddler saying no pointing fingerThe ‘No’ Zone

The 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! Read more

 

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

I-spy Water Jars, Quiet Bags, Calm-Me-Jars, Cozy Corners, Punch Bags, and more…Read more

 

 

 

 

 

To a Toddler Sharing is a 4 Letter Word~MINE!

Almost from the moment a baby is born, parents teach them not to share. “No, no, sweetie. That’s mommy’s” and “That’s daddy’s, not yours” accompanied by the removal of whatever the forbidden item is are daily realities for little ones. This is unavoidable, of course, since bacteria-ridden keys don’t belong in little mouths and iphones don’t work well when soaked in drool.

But the challenge comes when our little ‘reflectors’ are expected to share their toys with anyone and everyone who takes a liking to them…Read more

 

 

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

One of the hot-button issues when it comes to discipline and children is spanking, and the more Christian and conservative the audience, the more hot the debate becomes! There are no verses in the New Testament that support spanking, flogging, whipping, or otherwise hitting children. In the Old Testament there are…Read more

 

 

Your Baby isn’t Trying to Annoy You; He’s Trying to Communicate! From the moment a child enters the world, they are trying to communicate. Crying, grunting, making eye contact, mirroring expressions, all of these things are the instinctive tools built into infants to reach out into a brand new world and make contact. They can do no more. It is entirely up to the parent to make the connection, to respond, to build those all-important ‘lines of communication’ that will be so vitally important to parents in later childhood. Communication is not something that just happens. It is not something that begins when a child becomes verbal, and it’s not a product of a child’s advancing maturity. Communication is a process, a relational building block, a result of intentional and responsive parenting. Read more

 

Babes and Boundaries~A Gentle Parenting Perspective Gentle parenting doesn’t mean parenting without boundaries! Believe it or not, the foundation for discipline (guiding, leading, teaching…NOT punishment ) begins in the newborn and infancy stages. When parents respond quickly, consistently, and gently to their baby’s cries, the trust relationship that the parent is establishing becomes the cornerstone for later discipline. Boundaries need to be established for a child’s safety and growth into a successful citizen of our world. A child who is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight to be heard or to have his needs met is more open and adaptable to limits. And when the ‘limit-setter’ is a person the child trusts, the enforcement of those boundaries becomes a matter of connection and communication instead of conflict and struggle. So, what might setting and enforcing boundaries using gentle parenting look like in real life? Read more

 

Parenting in Public~What’s in Your Quiet Bag? More and more public places are becoming child un-friendly with snarky signs saying they’ll give your child an espresso and a pony if you don’t control him or charge you extra if you dare to enter their establishment and support their business with your hard-earned money or even flat out ban you altogether if you bring ‘the beast’ out in public with you! So what’s a parent to do? Read more

 

 

 

Discipline & Behavior via Dr. Sears

You probably never thought of attachment tools, such as breastfeeding and babywearing, as being acts of discipline, but they are. Attachment parenting is like immunizing your child against emotional diseases later on. Your knowledge of your child becomes like a sixth sense enabling you to anticipate and control situations to keep your kids out of trouble. Discipline is based on building the right relationship with a child more than using the right techniques.

 

Parenting toddlers made simple. via T.E.A.C.H. Through Love

Toddlers can be loud, boisterous, erratic, funny, messy, witty and smart all at the same time. They soak up everything they see and hear and that includes our reactions to their actions.

 

 

What Children Need Most When They Deserve It The Least via Happy Families

Parents prefer not to have their authority questioned. So rather than considering why a child may be resisting, they up the ante, doing their best puffer-fish impersonation, and make threats.

 

Positive Parenting in Action: Exploration/Danger via Positive Parenting

Don’t mistake independence for defiance. Some toddlers are more strong-willed and independent than others. My first son was very mellow and content under my wing, while my second wanted independence early. He doesn’t want to hold my hand in parking lots (we’ll address that one!) because he says “I can walk by myself!”

 

Gently Parenting Teens

With a healthy relationship based on open, honest communication, issues can be addressed as they arise and in a respectful and timely manner instead of a teen feeling the need to go ‘underground’ with their behavior or problems. Here are some practical tips for raising teens in a respectful and peaceful manner.

 

 

Gentle Discipline: So what DO you do? via The Path Less Taken

Some people, for any number of reasons, do not know about alternatives. They don’t know that there’s another way. Some people want to do things differently, and want to break their cycle, but they honestly do not know where to start.

 

 

Proactive Discipline and Well-behaved Children via Gentle Christian Mothers

Most people seem to think that physical punishment is the only way to elicit good behavior and assume that children who aren’t given prompt and regular spankings will be out of control “monsters”. Well, my kids are not perfect little robots. They have to be reminded to do things and they fight with each other. But my focus is not so much on obedience (do what I say right now!) as you might have expected. Instead my focus is on raising kids who are generally polite and content and care about how those around them feel. And that’s what I’ve got, kids who are noticeably considerate to adults and other children alike.

 

6 Steps to Stop Yelling Dr. Laura Markham/Aha Parenting.com

We all know that our kids respond better if we don’t yell. Instead of escalating a difficult situation, if we can stay calm, it settles everyone else down. Our relationship with our child strengthens. They cooperate more. They start to control their own emotions more. Bottom line: How can you expect your child to control his own emotions if you don’t control yours?

 

The One Thing You Can Do That Will Drastically Improve Your Interactions with Children via Real Child Development

If there was one thing you could do differently that would drastically improve your interactions with children would you want to know? Would you like to know the key that would increase cooperation, reduce tantrums, fighting and negative behavior?

 

Gems via Mothering by Grace

This is a FAST way of making your child feel loved, valued and secure. GEMs help your kids feel affirmed and noticed, so their need to get your attention in negative ways decreases. Your energy levels will rise as you enjoy your child and remember what it’s all about. By focusing on your child and meeting their emotional needs for connection you are actually taking care of yourself at the same time. It takes only a few minutes to have a GEM, yet the positive effects last for ages.

 

Why Spanking is Never Okay via Peaceful Parenting

Scientific research shows that physical punishment does not work in the long run, is associated with an increased risk for many behavioral and psychological problems, and is simply unnecessary given that we have non-violent discipline techniques that are very effective.

 

Gentle Discipline Toolbox via Dulce de Leche

Gentle, effect tools for your parenting toolbox!

 

 

 

 

Related links:

Jesus~The Gentle Parent

In Cold Blood

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

My Little Caboose and the Very Bad, No Good…Month :(

Image credit: Aaron Courter Photography, Melissa Lynsay Photography, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, Google Images

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.