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rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

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

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

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


Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

gentle journeys book clubStarting JUNE 1, 2014!!!

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

How it will work:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Available discussions:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Chapter One Discussion

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

When Toddlers Become Teens

The Color of Change

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy

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


The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

Healing Your Hurts So You Don’t Hurt Your Children

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

The Incredible Power of the Whisper

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

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


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.


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

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

 

 

 

 

~The birth story of a book~

A mother is born…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the dire warnings listed above:

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

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

A gentle parenting advocate is born…

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

A book is born…

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

*also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

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


Bringing Up Binary: Raising an Obedient Computer

Dear Customer Service,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Frustrated

 

Dear Frustrated,

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

Sincerely,

Shak N. Mihed

 

Related posts:

The Trouble with Kids Today

Better Children, Better World

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

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

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

In Cold Blood

Practical Gentle Discipline

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

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

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


You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

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

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

There are three things to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.


Babes and Boundaries~A Gentle Parenting Perspective

[Reprinted from Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost. Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood also now available on Amazon]

Parenting is soooo tiring and frustrating at times. Sometimes you just want to sit a small child down and say, “Do you know how much easier your life (and mine!) would be if you’d just be REASONABLE?!?” But we know that wouldn’t do any good because the words ‘reasonable’ and ‘toddler/preschooler’ just don’t play well together. The thing to remember is that gentle parenting doesn’t mean parenting without boundaries.

Believe it or not, the foundation for discipline (guiding, leading, teaching…NOT punishment ) begins in the newborn and infancy stages. When parents respond quickly, consistently, and gently to their baby’s cries, the trust relationship that the parent is establishing becomes the cornerstone for later discipline. Boundaries need to be established for a child’s safety and growth into a successful citizen of our world. A child who is secure in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight to be heard or to have his needs met is more open and adaptable to limits. And when the ‘limit-setter’ is a person the child trusts, the enforcement of those boundaries becomes a matter of connection and communication instead of conflict and struggle.

So, what might setting and enforcing boundaries using gentle parenting look like in real life? Here are a few examples:

  • Your 18 month old has begun hitting you whenever you try the ‘remove and distract’ method of keeping her from sticking things into power outlets. In addition to covering the outlets with safety covers, a gentle parenting approach to hitting at this age would be to gently hold your child’s hand when she tries to hit, look her in the eye, and say quietly and firmly, “Gentle” or “Gentle hands,” while stroking your cheek with her hand. This sets a boundary that hitting is not okay while demonstrating what behavior is acceptable. Don’t expect this to be a one-time deal, though. Little ones learn through consistent and patient repetition.
  • Your 2 year old drops to the ground in limp protest every time you try to leave ANYWHERE! First, giving a toddler some warning that a change is about to occur respects their often intense interest in and focus on their own activities. A gentle parenting approach might be to utilize the ‘countdown to leaving’ method to give them a time context (i.e. “Five more minutes! That means you have enough time for five more horsey rides on grandpa’s back!”… “Four more minutes! That means you can have four more jumps into the ballpit!”… “Three more minutes! That means you have enough time to build three more towers and knock them down!”… “Two minutes left! That means you have enough time to go down the slide two more times!”… “One more minute! That means you can look at one more book!”). Remember, children aren’t little robots we can just upload the right program into and expect it to work perfectly every time, so when your little human still impersonates a limp noodle despite your best efforts, quietly acknowledge his distress, “It’s hard to leave when you’re having fun, isn’t it?” and then gently pick him up and move him to the car/stroller, etc.
  • Your 3 year old flat out refuses to wear shoes, period. In addition to giving choices, “Do you want to wear the red boots or the blue sneakers today?” and offering her the opportunity to assert her independence, “Would you like to put your shoes on yourself or do you want mommy to help?” sometimes all that is needed is a simple question, “Why don’t you want to wear shoes?” Three year olds are typically becoming articulate enough that, if they aren’t already stressed, they can do a pretty good job of explaining themselves. You might be surprised to hear something like, “Tomowow my boos hut my toes,” which when translated means, “The last time I wore my boots they hurt my feet, and now I think all shoes will hurt me.” Moving on to a more verbal communication stage of your relationship with your child when they’re ready might seem a no-brainer, but parents often get caught up in patterns of parenting from previous stages and it just doesn’t occur to them to simply ask their child what’s wrong. Again, this won’t always work, so when your little bohemian still rejects all things soled, calmly let her know that she will remain in the stroller/sling/cart and not do any walking until she decides she’s ready to put on her shoes.

One other note about parental boundaries is that it’s not just your children who will challenge them! Everyone and their mother (or especially their mother!) will take every ‘misbehavior’ by your child as an opportunity to give you unsolicited and often unwanted advice. Remember, when it comes down to it, it’s you, the parent, who determines what limits to set. Mrs. In-My-Day, Cousin Know-It-All, Mr. My-Way-Is-The-Only-Way, and Neighbor Nose-In-Everyone-Else’s-Business all have their own ideas that make sense to them, and that’s fine, but you are not them! You the unique parent of a unique individual, and you have the sole responsibility to raise that individual as you see fit (with reasonable limits set by your community as to what constitutes abuse, neglect, etc).

In practical application, boundaries do reflect the culture and environment in which a child lives. In a small, rural community in Spain, doors may be left open day and night and the neighbors may all be related. Small children might have the freedom to wander in and out of houses, play ball in the middle of the road, and plop down for an afternoon nap on a neighbor’s sofa. In a busy, urban city such as New York, doors may be kept locked, people may never have even met their neighbors, and playing in the street might be tantamount to a child endangerment charge.

The point is that boundaries aren’t a one-size-fits-all list that you can buy from Barnes & Noble, put on the fridge, and slap a sticker on every time a child complies. Boundaries are personal limits determined by the parent’s values and priorities and culture as well as reflecting the age and maturity of their child and the unique attributes of their community.

It may ‘take a village’ to raise a child, but remember, it’s you, the parent, who’s the leader of your tribe!

Related posts:

 

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


Testing the Boundaries~What’s A Parent To Do?

attitude[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 now available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

Challenging behavior in our children can be really…well, challenging! How do you ‘handle’ a child who suddenly refuses to wear shoes or sit in her carseat/seatbelt or eat, period? Here are some tips to help you regain that snuggly, loving relationship you used to enjoy before your baby became a…gulp…PERSON!

1.)    Remove the word ‘handle’ from your parenting vocabulary entirely. Your child isn’t a lion to be tamed or a dog to be trained! He’s a person, an individual with thoughts, interests, concerns, wants, and needs that are totally separate from yours. Respecting him as a separate individual not only models the value we need to place on others in our homes and communities, but also sets the stage for a mutually respectful relationship in his teen years and beyond.

2.)    Slow down! Often simplifying our lives is the key to simplifying our parenting issues. Rushing a child from one activity to the next doesn’t expand her horizons; it stunts her creativity and inherent zest for life, which are the building blocks of a life-long love of learning. When she digs her heels in, pay attention! She’s trying to communicate a very deep need for time and space to learn about the world, to play and grow, and to just ‘be.’

3.)    Small children have very little control over their lives, and the more powerless they feel, the more likely they are to make eating, getting dressed, going to the potty, etc. a battle of wills. Giving choices, engaging your child in making plans, and being flexible and responsive on a daily basis are good ‘proactive’ parenting, but little people are notorious for their awkward timing in deciding to suddenly assert their independence! Be prepared for those challenging moments by deciding ahead of time how you will respond. (See below for some ideas!)

4.)    Listen, listen, listen! The first question parents ask me is almost always, “How do I get my child to listen?” And my first response is usually, “How well do you listen?” As Ralph Waldo Emerson so aptly put it, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” In other words, our children learn best by imitation. If every time our little ones ask for our attention we say, “Just a minute,” then we cannot expect instant attention from them. If when they speak to us our eyes constantly stray back to our computers and iPhones, we should not be surprised if they have a hard time looking at us when we ask them to. Listening is a two-way street that starts and ends with us, the adults.

5.)    Boundaries are our friends! Many people believe that Gentle Parenting is a form of un-parenting, but nothing could be further from the truth. Gentle Parenting is involved parenting~interactive, engaged, active parenting. It takes focused attention, planning, participation, research, and so much more to be an empathetic, responsive parent who is in tune with their child’s needs and who is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to meet those needs. That said, in any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. It is in the choosing and maintaining of those boundaries that Gentle Parenting distinguishes itself. In a gently parented home, boundaries are focused on guiding rather than controlling children and are maintained through empathetic and creative resolutions rather than harsh punitive consequences. (See below for some ideas!)

6.)    Watch your attitude! Do you have angry eyes? A sharp tone? Do you issue commands and demand compliance? Do you sigh and roll your eyes when frustrated with your little one? All of these things contribute to creating resistance in children. Really, who wants to cooperate with someone who is demanding, impatient, sarcastic, angry, etc? Does feeling like a burden or a failure ever motivate anyone? Is a desire to please rooted in correction or connection? Think about how you like to be treated by authority figures (supervisors, law enforcement, etc.) and then treat your children the way you want to be treated! This not only reduces challenging behavior, but also models The Golden Rule~Do to others as you want them to do to you…an excellent life lesson!

Here are some ideas for your Gentle Parenting toolbox:

    • Little one refusing to put on shoes before leaving the house? First, ask him why he doesn’t want to wear them. A toddler most likely won’t be able to/want to explain, but you’re modeling courtesy and opening up a dialogue, both good connection points. A three-year-old, though, might just surprise you with a very logical, in their own mind at least, response! Second, don’t react; just scoop the shoes up, and take them with you. If the refusal to wear shoes continues at the park/in the library/at the doctor’s office, etc. calmly tell him he can sit in your lap or in the stroller and hang out with you until he’s ready to wear his shoes.

 

    • If a tantrum results, remember to stay calm (deep breathing, counting silently, and saying a quick prayer for guidance are all helpful!) and remain present. Some children respond well to a parent quietly talking, offering words to express what the child may be experiencing (i.e. “It’s frustrating when we have to do things we don’t like. I can see that you’re angry, and that’s okay. Let’s just sit here together for a while.”), while other children become more upset when a parent attempts to interact with them during a tantrum and are comforted simply by your quiet presence, a gentle back rub, or playing with a Calm-Me-Jar . Getting to know your child is an important part of Gentle Parenting and will help you to ‘read’ these situations so you can be responsive to their unique needs.

 

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

 

  • The most challenging, independent children tend to be the ones who need the most intentional parental reconnection. Strong will=Strong need! It is often the strongest-willed children who identify most closely with their parents, oddly enough. While there is no denying how difficult it can be to raise a strong-willed child, seeing the purpose behind the behavior can make the journey much more manageable. Try to view their seemingly constant testing as them doing ‘research’ on you, seeing where your strengths and weaknesses are, and discovering all the ins and outs of being you. Also, taking the time to explain why you make the decisions you do, why you said this, why you didn’t say that, answering the endless questions patiently and openly, can alleviate some of the challenging behavior by offering them insights into who you are without them having to ‘dig’ it out of you!

Related posts:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

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

Tots to Teens~Communication through the Ages and Stages

Parenting in Public: Toddler Time

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


Babies Do Not Manipulate-They Communicate

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

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black baby cryingOn a recent trip to the park, I overheard a parent ranting and raving about a little one “being a brat and always pitching fits.” It took me less than two seconds of looking at the child to realize his mother had put him down on hot asphalt without shoes on, and his ‘fit’ was actually cries of pain as he danced around trying to keep his poor little feet off the asphalt while trying to push past his mommy to get back into the car. In a few years this mother will wonder why her ten-year-old is always so sullen and silent.

Later the same day in Wal-mart, a three-year-old asked her mommy what plastic wrap was for. The mother rolled her eyes and snapped, “For wrapping food in plastic, duh.” A few years from now, this mother will confess to a friend that she has no idea why her nine-year-old is so mouthy and rude.

Minutes later, a two-year-old riding past me in a shopping cart pointed at a toy and babbled in her cute baby language, looking at her daddy with a delighted smile. Her father ignored her first few attempts to get his attention, then finally barked, “Shut up!” without ever looking at her. In a few years this father will complain to his co-workers that his teenaged daughter never talks to him.

Communication in my son’s Tae Kwon Do classes is called, “The link between the world and me.” In the parent/child relationship, communication is entirely…hear this…entirely the responsibility of the parent. From the moment a child enters the world, they are trying to communicate. Crying, grunting, making eye contact, mirroring expressions, all of these things are the instinctive tools built into infants to reach out into a brand new world and make contact. They can do no more. It is entirely up to the parent to make the connection, to respond, to build those all-important ‘lines of communication’ that will be so vitally important to parents in later childhood. Communication is not something that just happens. It is not something that begins when a child becomes verbal, and it’s not a product of a child’s advancing maturity. Communication is a process, a relational building block, a result of intentional and responsive parenting.

quote babies cannot manipulate 2Crying is often mischaracterized as manipulation, and adults are certainly capable of using it that way. But to project such motivations on a baby is to grant them a level of skill and control far, far beyond their capabilities, and that is a potentially disastrous mistake. A parent’s perception of the motivation behind their child’s behavior is often the single most powerful determinant of the parent’s response. And the parental response or lack of response to a nonverbal child’s cries either builds or damages their communication and connection. There is no in between, no neutral.

Babies cannot and do not manipulate. They communicate. Listen. Respond. You aren’t being manipulated. You are being a parent.

And hear this well, parents, your relationship with your teenager is being established now, while your child is still a toddler. Your discipline issues with your nine-year-old are being minimized or intensified right now, while he is reaching out to you in infancy. Preschooler’s tantrums are being moderated or exacerbated at this moment by your response or lack of response to your baby’s cries.

And the responsibility for building communication and connection with your child doesn’t end when your child becomes verbal. There is a reason children aren’t classified as adults until they are, in fact, adults. They simply do not have the judgment, experience, or maturity of an adult. Parents, you are the center of your child’s world for many years, and they will model themselves after the example you set.

If you listen to them, they will learn to listen. If you are rude to them, they will learn to be rude. If you treat them with respect, they will learn to be respectful. If you are angry, demanding, and harsh with them, they will learn to be angry, demanding, and harsh.

You decide every day by your parenting choices what kind of an adult you are going to raise. So live out how you want your children to turn out. That is the heart and soul of gentle, effective parenting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

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

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.


C.S.Lewis~A few quotes from my favorite writer

 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

 
 

 

 
A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

 

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.

 

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

 

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

 

 

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

 

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

 

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

 

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”

 

With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere.

 

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.

 

 

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

 

Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.

 

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

 

 
 
I gave in, and admitted that God was God.

 

 

What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.

 

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

 

Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.
 

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

 

You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.

 

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-Ins, Oh My!

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

When 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 under-developed, mushy ‘ball of playdoh’ waiting to be formed) is flooded with cortisol, aka 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.

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.

Drawing them close (time-in), offering words to help them express their frustrations (reflective language), and modeling coping skills and self-control for them are all ways of reconnecting with them to help them successfully navigate their present difficulty as well as cope with those 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.

Here are our Calm-Me-Jars~

They are made from the little round plastic Coke bottles sold around Christmas time. (Other times of the year you can get Aquapod water bottles which are similar.) I like them because, first, they aren’t glass (who really wants to hand an upset toddler or preschooler a glass anything?!?) and, second, they are perfect for small hands to shake and manhandle to their heart’s content.

Glitter glue gel didn’t work at all because it stayed all clumped up. Just basic craft glitter glue from the Dollar Tree worked really well, though. Cold water kept the glue clumpy, too, so lukewarm tap water is the best bet. I used colored glitter glue with a tiny drop of food coloring in the colored Calm-Me-Jars, and just silver glitter glue with the clear one. I also added actual glitter to each jar because the glitter in the glue was itsy bitsy. The combination of the two types of glitter really turned out pretty. Add about one ounce of glitter glue in each bottle and then as much glitter as you like and a tiny bit of food coloring if you want to make the colors deeper.

When each of the bottles had the look we wanted, we glued the tops down with hot glue, then added ribbons for decorations. Our original Calm-Me-Jars are approaching a year old, and they haven’t become cloudy or clumpy, etc, so it seems that as long as you keep the lids on, they’ll last indefinitely! Here’s a closer view:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cat in the Hat Can Help You with That!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(If you’re really into Dr Seuss, here’s some Seussical fun for your little one!)

When my littler 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 or, if they aren’t ready to be touched, I stay close by 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.

If they’ve hit someone or thrown something, I first reflect what my little person is feeling (after tending to the other child if they are hurt or upset), then, when they’re a bit calmer, I go on to reflect what the other person might be feeling, “It hurts Sissy when you hit her.” Then I offer a suggestion about the next step. “Why don’t we go ask Sissy if she’s okay? If she has a boo-boo, 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 all the difference in the frequency and intensity of meltdowns, not to mention the positive impact of learning to think and care about the feelings of others.

When an older preschooler/early elementary-aged child is about to have a meltdown, I first try to help them begin to recognize those feelings by verbalizing for them, “I see you’re feeling upset. It’s hard not getting things we want, isn’t it?” (Or “having to do things we don’t want to” etc). Then, depending on how much they seem to need connection vs. simply calming down, I either ask if they want to use their Cozy Corner (see below) to help them calm down, “Do you want to head over to your Cozy Corner for a few minutes and grab one of your Calm-Me-Jars so you can have a break for a bit?”

Or if they need to connect, I scoop them against my side into a big hug and head into the Cozy Corner with them (or just my rocking chair) for a cuddle (aka a time-in). While we’re cuddling, or before if they’re feeling too angry to be touched, I let them shake the Calm-Me-Jar as hard and often as they want right at first as a physical outlet for their intense feelings, watching to see when their breathing begins to even out and their body to relax. 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.” Sometimes we sing a quiet song or I offer to read a book or pray with or for them, depending on the circumstances.

When my five-year-old is mad at one of her siblings, she’ll often bring one of her Calm-Me-Jars (Goodnight Moon is a favorite at night!) and work out some of the upset physically by shaking the jar like crazy and telling me how angry 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, 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. (With Starry, Starry Night we sometimes sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; with Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina she likes to dance her frustrations away while the glitter dances with her; and with Nemo Under the Sea we speak ‘whale’ like Dorry or make fishy faces at each other.)

The key to all of this 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 nuts and accomplish nothing, whereas when some of my older ones were little they really liked to talk things through (and still do!).

Here are some Cozy Corner ideas for when your little people need a little space to cope with this great big world:

Set aside a small corner of the family room so they can still be close to you and let them help decorate it and choose a favorite blanket, some comfy pillows, and a few special books and stuffed friends to keep there. Here’s a cool tutorial for how to make this tent for under $25!

Let them help name their special place so they’ll know it’s theirs. Some suggestions are Cozy Corner, Comfort Zone, Quiet Cave, or Happy Place. And keep in mind, the Cozy Corner is a place for little ones (usually preschool and older) to go when they decide they want a break, not when we decide they need a break (or that we need a break, lol!). It’s a safe, comfortable, quiet place for them to relax alone if they want to or for us to join them for a time-in cuddle or chat.

 

 

 

And, for times when all else fails, sometimes a little fairy magic is all it takes to turn a bad day into a good one or to help a little one fall asleep. When your toddler/preschooler is a bit cranky, sloooww down, give lots of cuddles, listen, listen, listen, and ask if they need you to sprinkle some fairy dust on them to turn their frown upside down! For sleeping issues, sprinkle a bit of fairy ‘sleeping’ dust on their bed and stay with your little one, softly humming, stroking their back, or just quiet and reassuring, depending on their needs (they’ll let you know!) until they’re asleep. It’s typically the long, dark, lonely separation from mama causing the problem, instead of a sleep issue, anyway!

You can click on the picture to follow the link to buy these adorable fairy dust jars filled with microfine glitter, or you can go to Michaels and buy some cute little bottles and microfine glitter (You can find it next to the fabric paints and t-shirts instead of with the regular glitter, for some reason. Lol) and make your own little bottles of fairy dust!

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Testing the Boundaries~What’s A Parent To Do?

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

One Slippery Sock & Other Silly Tools for your Parenting Toolbox!

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

The No Zone

Jesus~The Gentle Parent

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.


Whisper Words of Wisdom…Let it be

“Whisper words of wisdom, let it be”~The Beatles

Don’t hesitate to speak truth to children. Speak wisdom daily, openly, honestly, but speak it gently, briefly, and respectfully so they can receive it…and then let it be…give them time to process it, embrace it, and, one day, they will live it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.