Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

praise

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.


Helping Unique Learners Find Their Genius ♥

middleschool girl

[From Raising Bookworms: Life, Learning, and Literacy by L.R.Knost available 2014; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline now available on Amazon]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

~Skipping, marching, swinging while singing

~Climbing

~Balance beam

~Bicycling

~Piano

~Sorting

Brain-organizing activities…

~Memory matching

~Tonal music

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

~Design-matching building

~Sensory bins

Eye-tracking activities…

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

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

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

Visual-motor learning…

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

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

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

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

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

 

Related posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you give a toddler a book

He’ll climb into your lap

While he’s in your lap

He might lay his head on your chest

When he lays his head on your chest

He’ll hear your heartbeat

When he hears your heartbeat

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

 

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

 

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


It’s Okay to Praise Your Child, Just Like it’s Okay to ‘Like’ this Post

As writers, we’ve all had the experience of publishing a piece we’ve worked hard putting together, and then posting it to Facebook, sharing it on Twitter, and pinning it on Pinterest…and having it just sit there, unliked, unshared, untweeted, and unpinned. Now, logically, we might know that only a small percentage of our audience sees what we share at any given time. And we know that, while some pieces we write hit just the right note at the right time and go flying around the blogosphere, others might need time to catch on or might simply remain a lonely, little, unread, unloved piece of ourselves that we’ve bravely put out there and the world has overlooked. But even knowing all of that, in those times when we share and no one hears us, when we bare our hearts and no one responds, the silence can feel like rejection, the work can feel pointless, the investment can feel wasted.

Our readers have lives of their own that usually don’t include hours of research and writing and editing and formatting and tagging and linking. They may not realize that their likes, comments, and shares are major motivators for us. They might not understand that, while our passion for our message, whatever that may be, is what drives us, their response is like a pat on the back, and a simple “Well said!” can make our day. And they may not be remotely conscious of how deflating, demoralizing, and depressing that awkward, deafening silence can be when a post goes ignored.

Most of us don’t make a penny from our blogs, but we’re okay with the heavy time investment, the personal sacrifices, and the risks involved in sharing our hearts so transparently…as long as we are heard. And how do we know if we’re being heard? Our readers’ responses, their ‘likes,’ their pins and tweets and shares, and their comments that tell us they’re listening, that they care, and that they appreciate our work.

And what makes writers want to quit? What makes them want to shut down their laptops, hang up their message, and go back to watching sit-coms, reading books, or doing whatever they used to do when they actually had downtime? Well, certainly meanness from people who’d rather cause trouble than just move on to another site, for one, but often it’s simply the silence that drains away the motivation. Sharing your heart with a world that doesn’t respond makes a person feel small, insignificant, unappreciated.

Enter the child.

A child comes to his mother with a drawing that resembles a game of pick-up-sticks and proudly announces that he’s designed a new airplane. She grins and says, “Good job!” and he runs off happily to draw some more pick-up-stick inventions. But his mother is cringing at her choice of words, wishing she’d stopped mid-diaper change with the new baby and turned her full attention to her son and said something like, “I see that you worked hard. You used lots of colors,” or something, anything that didn’t pander to his need for attention or approval. What if she turned him into a ‘praise junkie’?!? Bad mom! she castigates herself. When her son returns a few minutes later and enthusiastically shows her his pick-up-stick submarine, she’s ready. She smiles awkwardly, nods her head and says, “You obviously are trying to use your imagination. I see that you are in a creative mood. What else are you going to invent today?” in a stiff and unnatural tone. Her son stands there for a moment, not quite sure how to respond, then shrugs and drifts off to another activity.

Now, clearly, using “Good job” as a brush-off in lieu of taking the time to pay any real attention to a child is the core issue that parenting experts are getting at when they encourage parents to focus on the child and the effort instead of the product or achievement. But so often parents read these kinds of articles and come away feeling, as a concerned mother recently expressed to me, “Like I’m doing it all wrong. I feel like I’m messing up my child when I tell him I like what he’s done.” That mother wasn’t brushing her child off with her praise. She was interacting with her child with a natural, honest enthusiasm that may now be damaged by something she read. It breaks my heart to think of her little guy running up to show her his latest creation only to be met with an unnatural and stilted response because his mother is afraid her instincts aren’t good enough.

Here’s the thing, a healthy, natural, loving parent/child relationship trumps all. It is the foundation for autonomy, not merely a satellite aid to independence. It is the wellspring of confidence and trust that leads to exploration, creativity, and innovation. It is the safe harbor from which daring and boldness and risk can be launched to take on the world.

A parent whose focus is on connection will respond to their child’s need in the moment, whether that need is praise for a job well done or encouragement in the face of failure. A parent focused on ‘getting the words right’ may well inadvertently leave their child’s present needs unmet because they are afraid to respond naturally.

Just as it is the hungry child, not the satisfied child, who craves food, it is unmet needs that lead to attention seeking behaviors and unspoken approval that can create ‘praise junkies’ as the unpraised child seeks to fill the very human need we all have for validation.

Just as with adults, and specifically with those of us who are writers, children need to know they are being heard and appreciated. A ‘like’ on a post to us is like a pat on the back to a child, and a “Well said!” to a writer is like a “Good job!” to a child. In the same way that these acknowledgements don’t undermine our driving passions, but support and encourage them, spontaneous and sincere expressions of appreciation to a child don’t undermine a child’s passion to learn and grow and become. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. A parent’s sincere, spontaneous praise encourages and motivates a child to blossom in the warmth of their approval.

With my six children, while they are infants I am happy to let them independently scoot and shuffle and roll in an effort to reach a toy, but I am there to offer help the second they express frustration so they will grow up knowing that they never have to struggle alone in life. When they are older and happily working on a drawing or popsicle-stick invention, I don’t hesitate to spontaneously express my enjoyment of their creation. That isn’t interference. It’s a connection point, a message that they don’t have to actively seek my approval for it to be theirs.

I know that the world won’t always treat my children kindly. I know that failure, disapproval, and rejection will inevitably be a part of their lives. But I want my children to grow up knowing that there is one place in the world where help is always available, and approval, acceptance, and appreciation are always freely offered. I want my children to have the assurance of a safe harbor to return to so that they will have the confidence to take on all the challenges the world will throw at them.

And so, parents, the message here is this: Read and research and educate yourself about all the various ideas and methods and theories about how to raise happy, healthy, confident children, but at the end of the day remember that you are your child’s parent. You love your child more and know them better than anyone else on earth. Don’t let anything stop you from responding naturally and lovingly to your child’s needs, whether those needs are for a high-five, a “Good job,” a thumb’s up, or just a great big bear hug.

Remember, the only bad praise is the sincerely meant praise that is silenced. ~L.R.Knost

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matt. 25:21

 

Listen to the sound of silence.

Related posts:

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Your Baby isn’t Trying to Annoy You; He’s Trying to Communicate!

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

Jesus~The Gentle Parent

3 Simple Steps from Diapers to Potty

A Place to Rest~Becoming Your Child’s Safe Harbor

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

The Butterfly Effect

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

I Spy…A Bad Mom

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.