Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

lashing out

Toxic Parenting: Spanking, Shaming, Threatening, Manipulating

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

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quote stop the violenceWant to help stop the bullying epidemic? Don’t act like a bully. Don’t hit, threaten, ignore, isolate, intimidate, ridicule, or manipulate your child. Children really do learn what they live…

I stood, frozen in shock, outside of the upscale bookstore where I would soon be signing my gentle parenting books and chatting with parents about alternatives to punishment-based parenting. A well-dressed young couple I’d spoken with just minutes before in a nearby pizzeria was getting into an expensive SUV several yards away from where I was standing, but the screams were crystal clear.

The young man was leaning over his wife who sat shrinking into her seat as he screamed in her face, “Get in the car! Get in the car!” over and over again. The woman was clearly confused, as was I. She was in the car, though not yet buckled up, so why in the world was the man screaming at his wife to get in? It suddenly dawned on me that what he wanted her to do was put her seatbelt on, but the man was too enraged to even realize that wasn’t what he was actually saying.

I glanced down at my little one who was shrinking back in fear and tried to organize my thoughts so I could cross the few yards separating me from the SUV and engage the man in conversation. If nothing else, I thought, reminding him that people were watching might help him to take a moment and compose himself.

But in the next second, the man suddenly yanked his wife out of her seat and landed several stinging blows on her bare skin before flinging her back into her seat, this time screaming at the sobbing woman, “You are not in charge! You are not in charge!” He then slammed her door shut, stomped around to his own seat, slammed his door, and pealed out of his parking space.

I quickly snapped a picture of the license plate with my iPhone and called the police to report the domestic violence I’d just witnessed. They immediately sent out an officer to track down the endangered woman and take the man into custody.

Now here’s the real story…

On a recent book tour I stood, frozen in shock, outside of the upscale bookstore where I would soon be signing my gentle parenting books and chatting with parents about alternatives to punishment-based parenting. A well-dressed woman and her two small children whom I’d chatted with just moments before in a nearby pizzeria were getting into an expensive SUV, but the screams were crystal clear.

The woman was leaning over her toddler and four-year-old who sat shrinking into their carseats as she screamed in their faces, “Get in the car! Get in the car!” at them over and over again. The children were clearly confused, as was I. They were in their carseats, though not yet buckled up, so why in the world was the woman screaming at her children to get in? It suddenly dawned on me that what she wanted was for the toddler to put her own arms in the straps, but the mother was too enraged to even realize that wasn’t what she was actually saying.

I glanced down at my little one who was shrinking back in fear and tried to organize my thoughts so I could cross the few yards separating me from the SUV and engage the woman in conversation. If nothing else, I thought, reminding the mother that people were watching might help her to take a moment and compose herself.

But in the next second, the woman suddenly yanked her toddler out of her carseat and landed several stinging blows to her chubby little legs before flinging her back into her carseat, this time screaming at the sobbing child, “You are not in charge! You are not in charge!” She then roughly buckled the little one in, stomped around to her own seat, slammed her door, and pealed out of her parking space.

As I stood there staring through tears at the tail lights speeding away, I realized that if I’d just witnessed a man doing that to his wife I could call the police who would intervene immediately because there are laws to protect adults from domestic violence, but there are no such laws protecting children in the US.

My opportunity was lost to touch those small children’s lives, and my heart aches for them. Was the mother just having a bad day? Was she angry at the snarky pizzeria cashier? Was she frustrated that dinner was pizza again because she’d been delayed at work? I don’t know, and, honestly, I don’t care. If a man was having a bad day, we wouldn’t accept that as an excuse for domestic violence.

Hitting any human being other than a child is against the law in the United States where it is legal for parents to hit their children whenever and wherever and with whatever they want to as long as it doesn’t leave lasting marks and, in nineteen states, for school officials to hit children with anything from rulers to two foot long boards. That is not acceptable. In fact, it is outrageous.

Though I know I can’t change the world for every child, I am determined to change the world for as many children as humanly possible. We don’t need new laws. We just need the domestic violence laws already in place to protect adults to be extended to protect our most vulnerable, voiceless, voteless citizens, our children.

Did you know that there is less evidence linking lead exposure to developmental delays in children and asbestos to cancer than there is of the short and long-term detrimental effects of spanking? Study after study has confirmed that spanking (not just physical abuse, but any physical act of correction – smacking, hitting, swatting, slapping, paddling, switching, etc.) is directly linked to greater aggression and other behavioral issues, impaired cognitive development, and increased risk of depression and anxiety in childhood as well as long-term mental issues in adulthood. And yet the American public is still reluctant to dismiss the physical punishment of children as an option for parents and school systems.

It is not unusual for public opinion to evolve slowly. Until recent years, husbands hitting their spouses in the US was considered “reasonable chastisement of wives” and “a private family matter” by the courts and by law enforcement even though it has technically been against the law in all fifty states for decades. Now domestic violence in the US is viewed with outrage and abusers with disdain.

While the tide is ever-so-slowly turning regarding public opinion of the physical punishment of children, in excess of eighty-percent of Americans still believe spanking is a necessary part of raising a child according to a survey cited by a UN report. And in the nineteen US states where corporal punishment is still legal in the public school system, wooden paddles are used on children as young as preschool, and parents’ permission or notification is often not even required. By contrast, in every branch of the US military and in the US penal system, physical punishment has long been outlawed as it was deemed ‘cruel and unusual’ and a ‘use of excessive force.’

Clearly there is a disconnect when it comes to physical punishment of the most vulnerable and defenseless of our citizens, our children. Even in the face of study after study detailing the detrimental effects of physical punishment on young children, more than ninety-percent of American parents still admit to spanking their toddlers and preschoolers, even if they don’t believe that it is a good alternative. The responses to a recently released study linking a significantly increased risk of mental illness in adulthood to being spanked as a child point to some possible reasons for that dichotomy:

1.”I was spanked, and I turned out okay.”

Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, but why take the risk?

2. “I don’t want to raise a rotten brat!”

Studies link spanking to increased aggression and other behavioral issues, not decreased.

3. “I spank my kids because the Bible commands me to.”

Not only is spanking not one of the Ten Commandments, but commanding or even suggesting that parents hit young children is not found anywhere in the Bible. The handful of Old Testament ‘rod’ and ‘training’ verses used to support this theory are misinterpreted to refer to physical punishment instead of guidance, and the word translated ‘child’ in those verses is translated ‘young man’ in every other instance.

4. “They’re my kids, and nobody has the right to tell me how to raise them!”

Our laws are civil agreements as to what is and is not acceptable in our society. We once agreed that slavery was acceptable. Now we know better, and our laws reflect that. As research continues to reveal the detrimental effects of spanking, public opinion will begin to shift and our laws will naturally follow suit. It is the way of a democratic society.

5. “Nothing else works!”

Thoughtful, compassionate, proactive parenting works.

Beyond even the issue of spanking, though, the mindset of controlling children through external forces rather than helping them learn how to and desire to control themselves is where the real changes need to happen. When humans, whether they are adults or children, are pushed, the inbuilt reaction is to push back. When humans are pulled, the inbuilt reaction is to pull back. When they are threatened, intimidated, or shamed, it is only the size and strength of their opponent that results in submission and that submission is temporary. As soon as the opponent is eliminated from the equation, humans will pursue their own course, often more angrily and rebelliously and single-mindedly.

Becoming our children’s opponent is not healthy parenting and it doesn’t create a healthy parent/child relationship. It creates a destructive dynamic primed for conflict, rebellion, and escalation. Even when parents choose non-violent means to control their children such as isolation (i.e. time-outs) and behavior charts and other punishment/reward tactics, the basic truth is that they are modelling manipulation and coercion and are focused on controlling a child’s behavior externally rather than working with them to help them learn to control their own behavior through an internal guidance system.

In parenting there will always be times when your child’s behavior doesn’t meet your expectations. Recognizing that you are two distinct individuals with differing opinions and plans and wants and needs will help you to work with your child instead of clashing with them and creating an unhealthy dynamic in your relationship. Be aware that unhealed hurts and unforgiveness, even of yourself, will get in the way of a healthy relationship and take the steps you need to take in order to heal your relationship and yourself (see Chapter Fifteen of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline).

Whenever things escalate to the point where you withhold affection and connection in order to punish or try to control behavior, and certainly if you are hitting or if you are hurting your child emotionally through threats, intimidation, and shaming, you can be sure you’ve stepped off the gentle discipline path. But there is always a way back, and that’s through reconnection, owning our mistakes, and starting again. The bottom line is that we cannot control another human being. We can force external obedience temporarily, but only by constantly escalating the threats, emotional manipulations, and punishments which accomplish nothing in the long run and do far greater damage than they are worth.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of parents not only deeply love their children, but, based on the information and experiences they have to work with, are also making the best parenting decisions they know how to make. Working with our children instead of against them is a foreign concept to most parents, but therein lies the secret to a peaceful, happy home and the healthy parent/child trust relationship that the Three C’s of gentle discipline—Connection, Communication, and Cooperation—are built upon.

Related posts:

The Color of Change

When Toddlers Become Teens

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

Rethinking Tattling

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

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

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

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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


Hurting People Hurt People: Does Bullying Begin at Home?

[Excerpt 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, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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“By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.”
Jean Baptiste Girard

I love words. I love language. I love playing with old, staid quotes and classic literature titles, stories and raising bullieslegends, clichés and adages, and weaving them into unique or humorous settings.

But along with loving word play, I’m very aware of the power of language. Words can bring life, “It’s a boy!” and love, “I do!” and words can bring death, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing more we can do.”

When it comes to raising children, the power of words cannot be overestimated. From how the labels we use influence our own perceptions of our children and their perceptions of themselves to how children’s immature grasp of language limits their understanding and responses, words exercise immense power over the life of a child.

Just as important as being careful of the labels we use and having an understanding of language development in young children, though, or even more so, is being aware of the propensity for stressed and angry adults to ‘power-up’ on children and use language as a weapon. The lash of the tongue on the heart of a child can have devastating and lasting consequences.

“You stupid little idiot!”

“Can’t you do anything right?”

“Why did I ever have you?”

“I hate my life!”

“You are totally useless!”

Words live and breathe and grow in our hearts until they either bear life-giving fruit ~ comfort, security, confidence…or fester into infectious, oozing wounds ~ despondency, anxiety, rage.

There is great truth to the belief that bullying begins at home. Children learn what they live. Just as violence begets violence, so angry parents tend to result in angry children, and parents who ridicule tend to produce sarcastic children, and critical parents tend to generate negative children, and on and on.

Whether the children end up the bully or the bullied, aggressive with their peers or with themselves, cutting down others or cutting themselves, the fact is that hurting people hurt people, and children raised with violence or condemnation in whatever form they take are hurting people.

Words matter. They matter desperately…as desperate as a five-year-old is to hear she’s good, as desperate as a ten-year-old is to hear he’s smart, as desperate as a fifteen-year-old is to hear she’s valuable.

The truth is that we all make mistakes. We all say the wrong thing sometimes. We get angry and frustrated and overwhelmed and verbally lash out at these tiny, impetuous, energetic, often incomprehensible, but always vulnerable little people we’ve been entrusted with the care and raising of. And often we don’t apologize because we don’t want to appear weak or to admit we’ve made a mistake or we’d rather just let it be or it doesn’t even occur to us that we should apologize to a child. But words can heal, too, and an apology is a necessary step in the healing process.

But when verbal blows go untended, souls become scarred. When lashing out becomes the norm, damages begin to mount. And when children with battered souls grow into adults, the vicious cycle often continues in the form of domestic violence, substance abuse, or other destructive behaviors.

Parents, choose your words wisely, carefully, thoughtfully. In the same way that violence begets violence and anger begets anger, kindness begets kindness and peace begets peace. Sow words of peace, words that build, words that show respect and belief and support. Those are the seeds of a future filled with goodness and hope and compassion, and aren’t those the things we really want for our children, after all? [end excerpt]

Related posts:

The Color of Change

When Toddlers Become Teens

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

Rethinking Tattling

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

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

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


Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

gentle journeys book clubStarting JUNE 1, 2014!!!

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

How it will work:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Available discussions:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Chapter One Discussion

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


Healing Your Hurts So You Don’t Hurt Your Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other gentle parenting resources you may find helpful:

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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


When 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.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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


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

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

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

cat in the hat calm jarWhen a little person feels frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain old out-of-sorts (read: tantrum time!) it’s tempting for parents to focus on correction rather than connection. But when children are intensely stressed, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which in early childhood is an underdeveloped, mushy grey sponge waiting to be formed, is flooded with cortisol, the ‘stress hormone.’ The result is what is known as the fight-freeze-or-flight syndrome in which higher brain functions (learning, reason, self-control) are markedly hampered and lower brain functions (instinct, physical reactions) take over. This is an in-built survival mechanism that gradually comes under conscious control through years of growth in a safe and supportive environment. Interestingly, it is theorized that this underdeveloped ‘sponginess’ is why small children are able to learn new languages more quickly than older children and adults. They are, in a very literal way, absorbing information raw, unhampered by the processing and reason of a more mature brain.

Expecting young children to have the maturity and self-control to overcome this God-given survival instinct is unrealistic. Threatening, punishing, or even reasoning with them while their higher brain functions are suppressed is futile and actually just adds more stress to the situation (more stress = fuel on the tantrum-fire!).

What they really need is help…

  • First, help coping with their big emotions
  • Then, help reconnecting with their source of safety and security (you!)
  • And last, help processing the problem that sent them into a maelstrom of emotion in the first place.

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

This is where the Three C’s of gentle discipline come into play.

Connection:

  • Remaining present and supportive until they are able to calm down enough to accept your help
  • Drawing them close when they’re ready (time-in)

Communication:

  • Validating their emotions by labeling them and empathizing (i.e. “You’re sad because we have to leave the park. I’m sad, too. The park is fun!”)
  • Offering words to help them express their frustrations using reflective language (i.e. “It’s hard to do things we don’t like, isn’t it?”)

Cooperation:

  • Helping them move on by redirecting their attention to the future (i.e. “When we get home we’re going to make a snack. Would you like grapes or bananas today?”)
  • Modeling coping skills and self-control by calming your own reaction to their meltdown and helping them process their big emotions

These are all ways of reconnecting with your toddler or preschooler to help them successfully navigate their present difficulty as well as to cope with difficulties they’re confronted with in the future.

One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar made from small, round, plastic bottles such as AquapodTM water bottles. They are perfect for small hands to shake and manhandle to their heart’s content.

To make your own Calm-Me-Jar, fill up a plastic water bottle with warm water and basic craft glitter glue in whatever color you like. You can add some extra glitter and a drop of food coloring to customize your glitter jar to your child’s tastes, and then when you have the look you want, be sure to hot glue the top on to prevent spills.

When my little ones have meltdowns, or, if I can catch it, before they reach that point, I pull out one of the Calm-Me-Jars and shake it up and just let them hold it while I hold them (when they are ready to be held) and talk or sing quietly. When I feel their body relaxing and their breathing slow down, I might say something like, “It’s sad when we can’t have a toy, isn’t it?” or whatever else will reflect what they seem to be unable to express.

When an older preschooler or early elementary-aged child has a meltdown, or, again, before if I can catch it, I first connect, “I’m here. I can see you’re upset. How can I help?” and listen as they try to verbalize their feelings. If they’re having trouble with the words, instead of immediately supplying the words for them, I’ll offer them a Calm-Me-Jar and ask if they’d like to show me how they’re feeling. They will often shake the Calm-Me-Jar vigorously while jumping up and down and twisting all around, which is a great physical outlet for their intense feelings. I watch until I see their movements slowing and their breathing evening out, and when they’ve calmed just enough to hear me, I quietly talk them through the calming process, “Look at all that fairy dust bouncing around like crazy! I bet that’s how it feels inside when you’re so upset. Look at how it’s starting to slow down and settle to the bottom. If we breathe really slowly, we can feel ourselves settling like the fairy dust. Want to try it with me?” Then, if there are any behavior issues we need to address, we’ll work through those afterward when they’re calm, connected, and capable of interacting and understanding.

Here’s an example of how Calm-Me-Jars are helpful in ‘listening between the lines’ to my children’s behavior so I can meet them where they are and help them process their big feelings:

My five-year-old is a tiny girl with BIG emotions, and she really likes using Calm-Me-Jars to work through her feelings. We’ve put several together such as a silvery one she named Goodnight Moon, a light blue one she named Nemo Under the Sea, a pink one she named Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina, and a dark blue one she named Starry, Starry Night. When she is mad at one of her siblings, she’ll often bring me one of her Calm-Me-Jars (Goodnight Moon is a favorite in the evening!) and work out some of her upset physically by shaking the jar like crazy while she jumps up and down and tells me how mad she is. When she’s a bit calmer, we’ll have a little cuddle and watch the glitter settle while saying goodnight to the moon, all the furniture, and whatever other silliness we come up with until she’s calm. If there’s a discipline issue or she needs some help working things out with a sibling, we’ll work through it at that point because I know that’s when she can hear me and really process what I’m saying. If she chooses Starry, Starry Night we might sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or step outside and see if there are any stars out yet. If she decides on Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina she’ll often dance her frustrations away while shaking her Calm-Me-Jar. And if she picks out Nemo Under the Sea we’ll ‘speak whale’ like Dory from Finding Nemo or we’ll make fishy faces at each other until we’re both giggling.

As you can see, my feisty little girl’s choice of Calm-Me-Jar shows me what she needs to do to work through her emotions of the moment, whether it’s to act things out physically in acceptable ways or to connect through song or through silliness.

The key is being in tune with your little one enough to understand their personality and work with it instead of against it. My five-year-old is spunky and silly, so having a long, serious talk would drive her crazy and accomplish nothing. We quickly decide together how she’ll approach whatever the problem was the next time she encounters it, and then she’s ready to move on, whereas when some of my older ones were little they really liked to talk things through (and still do!). My toddler, on the other hand, doesn’t have tantrums because that simply isn’t part of her own unique personality, but she’s still fascinated by her Calm-Me-Jar and loves to sit with me and watch the “pintess faywe dut” (“princess fairy dust”) glitter settle when she’s feeling a bit cranky or out-of-sorts.

Remember, there is no cure for tantrums because they are simply a normal result of a normal developmental stage of childhood. Trying to avoid tantrum triggers (tiredness, hunger, overstimulation, etc.) is always a good first step, along with remaining in-tune, responsive, and available, but when all else fails and a tantrum does occur, reacting with an adult tantrum is tantamount to throwing fuel on a toddler-tantrum-fire. So instead of losing it when your little one loses it, take an adult time-out, breathe deeply to gain control of your own emotions, and then grab the Three C’s of gentle discipline from your parenting toolbox and work with your child, not against them.

“Reactors react to a crisis with a meltdown. Responders respond to a crisis with help. To raise a mature, stable adult, be a first responder, not a nuclear reactor!” ~ L.R.Knost

Related posts:

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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


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

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

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

Here’s a peek at the book trailer:

Back cover copy

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

Table of Contents

~Introduction

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

~A Gentle Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

~Toddler Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~A Preschooler with a Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Middle Childhood: Becoming Their Own Person

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

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

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

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

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

~Gentle Parenting: Teens and Beyond

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

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

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

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

Appendix A 

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

Appendix B

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

Appendix C

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

Sample Chapters

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Book Reviews and Author Interviews

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

The Natural Parent Magazine – Australia

Dr. Laura Markham – Clinical Child Psychologist

Green Child Magazine Holiday Gift Guide

Parenting Beyond Punishment

Kidlutions: Solutions for Kids

Evolutionary Parenting

The Threlfalls

Synergy: Gentle Parenting Resources ~ South Africa

Diary of a Natural Mom

Dulce de Leche

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

Peaceful Parenting

The Guggie Daily

Family Review Center

The San Francisco Review

The Peaceful Housewife

The Path Less Taken

Littles Rule the Roost

The Mahogany Way 

The Hippie Housewife

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

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

bridge over troubled water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect:

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

Communicate:

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

Cooperate:

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

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

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

 


Related posts:

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

The Incredible Power of the Whisper

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water Studio Version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Parenting~A Lesson in Quantum Physics

einstein 5

[By L.R.Knost, author of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

Those old psychologists, Newton and Einstein, sure did have human nature figured out, didn’t they?

Wait. What? Psychologists? I thought Newton and Einstein were physicists!

Well, yes, they were. But since when haven’t humans been bound by the laws of the universe? Take a look:

Newton’s Third Law of Motion…Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…i.e. ‘If you pull me, I’ll pull back. If you push me, I’ll push back.’

Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation…Attraction between bodies…i.e. ‘We are drawn toward what invites us. If you lead me, I will follow.’

Sounds simple enough. Now for a harder one:

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity… The interactions of bodies are due to the influence of bodies (relative to one another) on the geometry (curvature, perspective) of space-time…i.e. ‘What is true is true, but what is perceived to be true depends upon where you are when you look at it. Perception, then, affects reality because we act on our perception of reality, not reality itself. Our action then sets in motion a new reality. It is impossible to separate perceived reality from absolute reality because the two become one through symbiosis.’

Whew. Heavy stuff. Okay, this one requires a bit more explanation. Take it away, Einstein!

“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”

Thank you, Professor Einstein! So, what you’re saying is that time did not change, the perception of time changed, right? And when you then act on that perception, in this case perhaps by being late for an appointment because you’ve miscalculated the time with the nice girl, your lateness changes actual reality by either making someone else wait or having to reschedule the appointment or something along those lines?

“Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter.”

Got it. So we (are) matter, bound by time, living in space, and subject to gravity. Everything affects everything else’s reality, including our perceptions of reality, even if they’re skewed. Thank you for your time! (Haha, a little relativity humor for you there, Professor.)

Soooo…how does all of that apply to parenting? Well, clearly, a parent’s perception of reality determines how they react to their child, thus determining their child’s reality. Then their child’s own perception of that reality determines their response to their parent which in turn determines…hmmm. That’s getting a bit confusing. Let’s look at some examples.

 

Crying

To one parent, a baby’s cries in the night are perceived as an attempt to manipulate.

To another parent, a baby’s cries in the night are perceived as an expression of need.

In each case, the parents’ perception will determine their response to their baby which, in turn, will impact the reality the baby will learn about the world.

In the case of the parent who perceives that the baby’s cries are manipulative, the parent may not respond to the baby. The baby, who has no perception of time or object permanence, then experiences reality with the perception that he will be alone forever. If that perception of reality is reinforced night after night, that may affect the baby’s perception of the world as an unstable reality which may, in turn, affect the baby’s behavior as he grows which will then impact his parents’ response, etc.

 

Tantrums

To one parent, a tantrum is a child lashing out in anger at not getting her own way.

To another parent, a tantrum is a cry for help in coping with big emotions.

In the case of the parent who perceives the tantrum as a cry for help, the parent may offer the child a hug or a touch or simply their presence to help her calm down, and then the parent may help the child process the emotions that brought on the meltdown. The child, who may be too young to articulate or even understand her feelings, may then experience reality as a safe place to grow and learn which, in turn, may influence her overall behavior which will then impact her parents’ response, etc.

 

Tattling

To one parent, tattling is an annoying habit designed to get another child in trouble or just to get attention.

To another parent, tattling is an attempt to get help in coping with a situation the child doesn’t know how to handle.

In the case of the parent who perceives the tattling as an attempt to get help, the parent  may listen and offer suggestions or may intervene, again based on the child’s relayed perception of the conflict and the parent’s received perception of the conflict. The child may then perceive that she is not alone to fight her battles in the world which, in turn, may influence her to more readily seek help when in doubt or in need which may cause others to perceive that she is not an easy target for bullying or victimization, etc.

 

In all of these cases and more, the parents’ perceptions influence their own responses which then sets off a chain of reactions that influences the actual reality that the parent and child experience.

In Einstein’s Theory of Relativity this kind of reactionary chain of events is referred to as the space-time continuum…one thing leading to another to another to another.

But the good news is that there is a huge difference between humans and celestial bodies besides just mass. We have the advantage in the universe because we have consciousness. We can step out of the continuum and examine our path and make intentional changes to positively affect our reality. As parents, when we take the time and effort to determine our responses with intention instead of mindlessly reacting, we also positively affect our children’s reality and, thus, their future.

Einstein was very aware of our human capacity to redirect our own continuum. He said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

In other words, when we face problems and challenges, continuing with the same fruitless patterns, the same thoughtless responses, the same ineffective reactions that brought us to that point is…well, pointless! And so, in parenting, when we are confronted with behavioral issues and our modus operandi (present method of parenting) isn’t working, we don’t have to continue in that continuum. We can step back, examine our perceptions and actions and intentions, and make whatever changes are necessary to redirect ourselves and lead our children down a happier, more peaceful, more successful path.

So there you have it…the physics of parenting!

Related posts:

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

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

Gentle Discipline Resource Guide

Rethinking Tattling

Baby Talk

The Butterfly Effect

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 Hit~10 Tips for Parents

[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.]

Toddlers 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 in which they are frustrated, angry, 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 unacceptable 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. (more…)

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.