Award-winning author, L.R.Knost

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Sexting: Irresponsible at Seventeen Magazine

[By L.R.Knost, author of  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 available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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teen sextingIn this digital era not only is the world available literally at our fingertips, but a whole new world has opened for predators, pedophiles, perverts, and porn purveyors to assault our children. From predators posing as children to draw children into online relationships and then lure them into real-life danger to pedophiles using the power and anonymity of the internet to traffic in child pornography, our children are at risk in ways that are increasingly difficult to monitor, filter, and protect them from. We are advised to supervise their online activities, but how are we to know that little twelve-year-old Patsy from piano class is actually fifty-year-old Patrick from prison or that fourteen-year-old Joey from the local gym is actually forty-eight-year-old Jimmy from the local jail?

Talking with our children about the dangers, staying in-tune with them so we recognize when they are stressed or feeling pressured or guilty, working on intentional connection and two-way communication so that our children feel safe and comfortable with us, and maintaining an open, non-judgmental relationship throughout their childhood so that they know they can come to us for help with anything, anytime, anywhere are all vital elements in keeping our children safe from adults who would do them harm.

But what about when it’s other children who are the danger? What about when they are violated by an in-real-life friend? Most of us have had the conversations about stranger-danger and friend-danger and good-touches and bad-touches and our children know what constitutes a personal violation in the physical sense, but do they know what constitutes a violation online and via text and Instagram and other digital media?

Children are increasingly becoming victims of virtual and visual sexual harassment by their own peers and are being bullied either into reciprocating and/or into silence. One such sexual victimization is called ‘sexting’ and has become a huge problem across cultural, ethnic, and gender boundaries. Sexting involves one party taking a graphically nude picture of themselves or of just specific body parts, and texting them to another party. These pictures sometimes get shared from one young person to the next, resulting in ruined reputations and often intense bullying. Children like thirteen-year-old Hope Witsell have been so viciously bullied and horribly humiliated that they have taken their young lives to escape the torture.

Released into this environment by Seventeen Magazine, whose target market is from tweens to teens (ages 12 to 19), is a recent article entitled “What’s with the Pics, Dude?” This incredibly irresponsible article about sexting portrays young males as hapless victims of their own sexual and approval needs and young females as those responsible for redirecting the young men into more appropriate behaviors. The young males are characterized as “needing reassurance that they are desirable” and “fishing for a compliment” and as “figuring you’ll be excited” and “hoping to start a game.” While the young females victimized by the sexting are warned that they may be in danger of “trouble from the law” and that in order to “protect” themselves they should conceal the incident from their parents and from school officials. The damage done to a vulnerable girl who may be humiliated and frightened and looking for guidance as to how to handle the situation, but is told to hide it and to respond with a flirty response and a “cute selfie” instead of cutting off communications with the young man and seeking adult support is incalculable. And the danger the young lady is placed in, whether she may be intimidated into silence or pressured into reciprocation which may then put her in the situation faced by the young victims who committed suicide after their sexting pictures were shared, is very real.

I can only hope that parents are paying attention not only to their children’s online activities and digital interactions, but also to what they are reading so that they can filter the dangers and counteract the misinformation that abounds. Parents, your children have access to the internet, at home or the library or at school or at a friend’s house. And they have access to iPhones and other devices that can take, send, and receive pictures. Be aware. Be in-tune. Be intentional. Focus on maintaining your connection and keeping the lines of communication open. And don’t wait until your child brings these dangers to your attention. Bring them to theirs and let them know you are watching, and you’re available, and you are their safe place.

Related posts:

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Problem with Punishment

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Letter from a Teenage Son

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

Forever Friends: A Marriage of Equals

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

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married lifeCelebrating 29 years of marriage to my amazing, talented, generous, kind, hard-working, insanely intelligent, gentle-giant, burly-bear-of-a-hubby! Who would have thought that small, scared, unmarried, teenage girl of yesteryear who married her young love under all the wrong circumstances would have ended up still deeply-in-love and always-in-like with her forever-best-friend after six children and all the ups and downs and joys and tragedies of nearly three decades of marriage?!?!

 

Here’s a bit about our gentle journey (so far!) and about this amazing man who has blessed our lives with his love and loyalty for so many years…

 

In addition to fixing our vehicles, finding the deal of the century on a new-but-broken front staircase bookshelvesloading washer/dryer set and fixing them (yay!) so I’ve got a top-of-line set for a not-top-of-the-line price, and reupholstering some old leather furniture for no other reason than that I love it and can’t bear to let it go, my hubcap also remodeled our stairs into staircase bookshelves and is creating a reading nook under the stairs for our little ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our anniversary this year he hacked an Ikea bookshelf and added industrial casters and custom-made a butcher block coffee bar Ikea bookshelf hacktop to make a coffee bar for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some other special projects and more awesomeness from this amazing man…

We’ve coslept with all of our little ones, but my cancer battle, surgery, and a recent flare of a birth injury has me in constant pain and my tossing and turning has been waking our toddler up multiple times a night. cosleeping sidecarNeither I nor my toddler is ready to stop cosleeping yet, so my hubby started sketching and measuring and pulling out stacks of wood he’d saved from other building projects, and the next thing I knew I had a custom cosleeper sidecar for our toddler! He matched our bed’s design and even built it in a loft-style so we could put our ‘welcome mattress’ (for our 7-year-old if she needs to sleep a bit closer to us after a nightmare or if she’s not feeling well or for whatever reason 🙂 ) under it. Both of my smallest children are enthralled with it, and I love it! I can sit nearby after getting everyone to sleep and work on my next book into the depths of each diy cosleeper sidecarnight, so grateful for an understanding hubby who is supportive of cosleeping and so incredibly resourceful and talented.

Of course, all of that is on top of working ten hour days, sometimes six days a week, to support our family. And here’s a bit more about this amazing man…

 

 

 

An Ordinary Man My husband is a hero. Maybe not the Superman kind of hero or the war veteran kind, but to the stranded motorist, to the struggling mother who can’t pay her grocery bill, he’s a hero of the best kind. He’s the kind of hero who is there in the moment of need with a calloused set of hands always ready to help, a quiet, friendly grin always ready to reassure, and a servant’s heart always ready to shrug off thanks or reward. He’s the kind of hero John Wayne played in his famous westerns…clear-eyed honesty, strength of character, courageous compassion…only in a real-life, flesh-and-blood man of honor, decency, and integrity… Read more

 

Mona Lisa Smiles In our family, mama having a break means daddy is the one who listens, at least for a little while, to the endless stories about snails that our little mud-magnet is into sharing at the moment. It means daddy takes a turn at the helm in helping our SPD girl cope when she gets overwhelmed. It means daddy takes our currently teething, clingy, diaper-rashed, sad little milk monkey out in the evenings to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to the moon (she’s a bit confused, but it’s adorable) so mama can take a shower alone. And, of course, all of that’s in addition to him running to the store, helping out around the house, fixing what’s broken, grilling dinner occasionally (okay, often!), etc… Read more

 

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting Our journey to a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, gentle disciplining, homeschooling, happy family of eight! Well, including our awesome son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and brand new grandson, I guess I should say family of 12! One boy, one girl, and one baby sure have come a long way, Baby! Read more

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Hubby & the Incredible Bicycle Transformation! Yes, that is me with my two littlest on a european-style cargo bike, and yes, my hubster built it for me! Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

beautiful old married coupleAnd it is my prayer that we will end up here, Beautiful Old Souls,  many years from now…An aged beauty tips her face up, and her elderly companion leans down out of life-long habit to catch her soft voice. His old eyes see past the ever-deepening lines to the vision of youth he married decades earlier. His hands reach out to steady her fragile, but oh-so-familiar frame, and she smiles the same smile he’s woken up to and kissed goodnight his entire adult life. Theirs is an old love, subtle with wear, ripe with age, its rich beauty lost to those without the palate to plumb its boundless depths or the senses to delight in its warm bouquet. They are a living love story, two hearts time-stitched into one, beautiful old souls stepping in tandem toward eternity… Read more

Related posts:

My Cancer Story, Part 1: The Diagnosis

I live. I laugh. I love. And, sometimes, I run away…

Parenting Through Cancer: Coping with Emotions

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

Our 7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

TWO MILLION Reads Celebration!!!

2,000,000 READS CELEBRATIONWhat an amazing thing to know that my gentle parenting articles have now been read over TWO MILLION times by people from more than 200 countries around the globe! Visitors have logged in from such wonderfully exotic places as Fiji, Nepal, Rwanda, Cameroon, the Congo, Malawi, Montserrat, Seychelles, Madagascar, and many, many more!

To say a huge ‘Thank You’ to all of my readers for their support, shares, likes, and follows, I asked the 18,000+ gentle parents on my Little Hearts Facebook Page what they’d most like me to offer as a celebration — a giveaway or a book sale — and they overwhelmingly voted for a book sale. So I’ve asked my publisher to drastically drop the prices on all of my parenting books for a one-time, 48-hour Celebration Sale. For the next two days the normal price of $8.99 has been deeply discounted to $5.99 and if you buy a paperback edition you can get the Kindle edition for only .99 cents to keep or to give as a gift! And, so those who voted for a giveaway don’t feel left out, I’m also giving away a $25.00 Amazon gift card. To enter to win, simply share this post and leave a comment saying you shared…super easy! [Contest runs through 11:59 EST on January 16th. Winner will be randomly selected and notified by email. Open worldwide.]

Here’s an overview of each book courtesy of The Parenting Review :

Two Thousand Kisses a Day-Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and StagesTwo Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages by L.R.Knost

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 TimeWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L.R.Knost

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 by L.R.Knost

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

Gentle Parenting Workshop 1 Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey

In Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey L.R.Knost does what she does best, offering clear, practical, doable steps as she gently guides parents to find what works with their own children and families. This workshop delivers exactly what it promises as it helps parents to discover their parenting strengths and weaknesses and establish goals to become the parents they want to be, and it does so with the usual conversational and reassuring style that has made L.R.Knost a best-selling, award-winning author and successful parenting consultant. The Parenting Review

*For international purchases of all Little Hearts parenting books click here.

Most-read articles:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting: A Year of Baby Steps to a Happier Family

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Ten Steps to Surviving the first three months with a newborn

200 Ways to Bless your Children with a Happy Childhood

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

Why Whining is a Win

 

My deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who are walking out the gentle parenting journey in your own homes and who have helped to spread the message of gentle parenting to the far reaches of this great big beautiful planet we all share! Together we are truly changing the world, one little heart at a time. ♥

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

Parenting in Public: Toddler Time!

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

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

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

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

So what’s a parent to do?

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

Reading Challenge 2014!

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

reading challenge 2014Experts agree that the single best way to turn children on to a life-long love of reading is to simply read to them. Not only is reading to our little ones wonderful for their education, though, but it is also a fun and easy way to build and maintain a strong parent/child connection. Let’s join together this year and commit to reading to our children (or with them if they’re older!) every day of 2014.

Old books, new books, read books, glued books (a nod to my favorite children’s author, Dr. Seuss!), it doesn’t matter what you read. Just read! Read old familiar books your children ask for over and over and over. Read new books you check out from the library or buy from your local independent bookstore. Read books from your own childhood that are passed down through your family. Read books you write together with your children and glue into construction paper pages tied together with yarn. Just read, read, read! (And stop back by and leave a comment with an update now and then to share how you’re doing and which books are your children’s favorites!)

Here are a few links to some book lists to get you started:

Bookworm weighs in on must-have books for your children in Little Hearts’ How to Build a Home Library for Bookworms from Tots to Teens series. Check out…

25 Must-Have Books for Baby Bookworms

25 Must-Have Books for Toddler Bookworms

25 Must-Have Books for Preschool Bookworms

For more ideas about sharing a love of learning with your children, here is my virtual reading room, its bookshelves filled with literacy tips, book recommendations, literary quotes, learning through play ideas, and more. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a cozy chair, and join me on the journey of a lifetime…

  • When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn the mechanics of reading? Do you want them to love to read or just to know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started… 8 Tips for Raising Bookworms
  • Fairy tales in childhood are stepping-stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper “One more time” in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’
  • Imagination is the language of childhood, so speaking their language when introducing our language only makes sense. Let’s ditch the flashcards, turn off the educational dvd’s, and throw out the worksheets…because learning is child’s play! Alphabet Fun~Imagination From A to Z!
  • Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice… Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
  • There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
  • In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
  • Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Unique learners have beautiful minds just waiting to find their genius. We just need to look outside of the box to help them find it. Helping Unique Learners Find Their Genius
  • Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
  • My SPD/SLD/ADD (Sensory Processing Disorder, Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc) sweetie, aka Renaissance Girl, has raised the bar on my homeschooling skills more times than I can count. Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein…Beautiful Minds
  • Books + Time + Imagination = Endless possibilities! 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Your Children Busy
  • I’ve been scouring the web, the bookshelves, and my scattered brain for all the Seussical fun I could find for my little people and yours. Here are a few of my finds… Seuss-ified~Craft-astic~Snack-errific~Education-cool~Fun!
  • Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!
  • Truly, what is our goal for our children? Knowledge memorized in lists and tables and regurgitated on bubble-in tests? Or knowledge coupled with experience that leads to understanding and, ultimately, wisdom? Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
  • If you give a toddler a book | He’ll climb into your lap | While he’s in your lap | He might lay his head on your chest | When he lays his head on your chest | He’ll hear your heartbeat | When he hears your heartbeat | He’ll probably ask if you can hear his… If You Give A Toddler A Book…

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

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

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

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

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

What they really need is help…

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

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

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

Connection:

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

Communication:

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

Cooperation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

Two Thousand Connection Points a Day: Attachment Parenting Beyond Infancy

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

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mom and daughterFrom kicking and rolling and stretching to being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic cadence of a mama’s heartbeat, little ones spend the first months of their existence wrapped in a warm, dark, gently swaying cocoon, a life-giving embrace, the ultimate hug, readying themselves for their grand entrance to the world.

Then, in those first moments of life beyond the womb, when the muffled sounds of the outside world become clear and the muted lights become glaringly bright, a warm chest with the scent of life-sustaining milk and the sweet sound of a familiar heartbeat welcome the little one to the comfort and safety of a mama’s arms.

In the days, weeks, and months following, little fingers and toes are counted and kissed again and again and again. Soft cheeks are snuzzled and a fuzzy little head is nuzzled, and two thousand kisses a day seems a reasonable number to a mama’s heart overflowing with tenderness for this tiny new member of the family.

Then comes the rolling and sitting and crawling and walking, and soon the two thousand kisses dwindle to brief morning cuddles before a toddler is off to explore the world, healing kisses on boo-boos, and goodnight snuggles with a bedtime book.

Time passes and the little one grows in independence, getting up and dressed and ready on their own, grabbing their own band-aid for a scrape, and reading themselves to sleep. Gone are the snuzzles and nuzzles of infancy, and the two thousand kisses a day are simply sweet memories.

Growing independence, though, doesn’t have to mean growing separation. Humans were created to be relational beings. We may outgrow our dependency, but we never outgrow the need for community, interaction, appreciation, reassurance, and support.

Infants, children, and adults alike all share this life-long need for connection. While over time that need will also be met through friendships, business engagements, social interactions, and the like, family relationships are the steady and sure bedrock of secure connection and belonging that ground us and assure us that our needs will not go unmet even in the darkest of times.

Attachment parenting is often misconstrued to be simply about breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. But, while those are possible choices for creating and maintaining a secure parent/child connection in the early years, they are just a small sampling of the relationship-building choices that parents can make throughout their children’s lives.

As little ones outgrow the ‘two thousand kisses a day’ stage, parents can begin consciously creating ‘two thousand connection points a day’ to replace those tender expressions of love with age-appropriate expressions of appreciation and approval, love and support.

From responding empathetically to a preschooler’s whine, to paying attention to a seven-year-old when they tell their endless stories, to listening ‘between the lines’ to the angst of a teen, maintaining a secure parent/child connection beyond infancy is simply about meeting emotional needs consistently, intentionally, and relationally.

Creating two thousand connection points a day isn’t about quality time, and it isn’t even about the quantity of time spent with our children. It is, instead, about being there in the small moments, the moments that matter to our children, and consciously meeting with them right where they are. It is about…

    • Simply smiling and letting our eyes light up with welcome when our children walk in the room
    • Maintaining eye contact when our children talk to us instead of letting our eyes constantly stray back to our laptop/iPhone
    • Voicing our sincere appreciation for their latest ‘masterpiece’ or victory or achievement
    • Expressing our affection physically in whatever way our children are comfortable with, whether it’s a wrestling match, a knuckle pound, or a hug
    • Giving our children our undivided, wholehearted attention when they share their latest treasure or sing a never-ending song they make up as they go or just want to sit and be close for awhile
    • Listening to what our children need to say without the threat of repercussion
    • Inferring what they aren’t able to express verbally
    • Welcoming our children into our daily lives, whether we are discussing politics or cooking dinner or fixing the toilet
    • Allowing our children to express their emotions, even when they aren’t pretty
    • Validating their anger, hurt, frustration, or embarrassment instead of minimizing or dismissing their feelings
    • Helping them to process those emotions by listening and reflecting back what we hear
    • Guiding them toward understanding of their own feelings and empathetically equipping them with coping mechanisms for the future
    • Sharing our own hurts, disappointments, and mistakes in age-appropriate terms so they’ll know it’s okay to be human
    • Honoring our children’s intense need to avoid embarrassment by offering guidance privately and respectfully, even if their behavior issue is public and/or disrespectful
    • Sharing their interests even if the life-cycle of a snail wouldn’t be our first choice of dinner conversation
    • Offering choices so they can grow in independence and confidence
    • Supporting them even when their choices lead to disappointment or failure
    • Being gently and kindly and completely honest about our own disappointment or hurt when their behavior negatively affects us so they’ll know they can trust us to be truthful, even in the hard things
    • Helping them whenever and wherever they express a need for assistance so they’ll know they never have to go life alone

These connection points are all about maintaining and enriching a strong parent/child relationship through all of the ages and stages of childhood so that, through a foundation of trust and mutual respect, parenting takes the form of guiding instead of punishing, encouraging natural growth instead of forcing independence, and creating a strong, intimate, interwoven family fabric that will stand the test of time.

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

The Great Santa Claus Debate

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

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Christmas wonderSt.Nicholas was just a man, but he was a man with a mission.  Born in the third century, he grew up to be an intensely kind-hearted man who was especially devoted to children’s issues and helping the poor. He was a Greek Bishop who defied the established Church in order to go out among the ‘unwashed masses’ and live his life as the ‘heart and hands of Jesus.’ While many miracles and legends about him evolved through the centuries, his penchant for leaving secret gifts is the one that captured the hearts and imaginations of people world-wide, leading to the present-day legend of Santa Claus.

I, like many new parents, struggled with the idea of perpetuating a ‘false belief’ and thus undermining my children’s trust. But then I turned to the Bible and saw how Jesus, who spoke absolute truth always, often spoke that truth in stories. He knew something about people’s hearts that I needed to learn as a young parent. He knew that the human mind is logic, analysis, reason, and that the human heart is imagination, creativity, love. He knew that sometimes you have to bypass people’s minds and speak straight to their hearts, those well-springs of wonder, for true understanding to occur and that often the deepest truths are the ones that are too big for the human mind to receive and can only be grasped by the heart.

When it comes to the breathtaking gift of the Christ-Child, the Eternal Creator born of a woman, God Himself wrapped in swaddling clothes, the I AM in a manger, what better way to share such an absurd and immense truth Kneeling Santathan Jesus’ way…with a story? How else would my little ones be able to grasp the concept of such a gift? How would they embrace the wonder? How could I possibly break down the impossible into a pedantic lecture? Would the improbable make more sense in a dissertation?

And so I chose the way of the parable. I embraced Christmas in all its glory, decorated and baked and showered my little ones with gifts, all while sharing the story of the birth of a Baby. Woven through every event, every tradition, every memorable moment of our family’s Christmas, is the celebration of the wondrous gift of a Savior. We watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and all the other fun Christmas shows together. We read bedtime stories about Christmas elves and magical toys and talking animals. And when my children ask me if Santa really exists, I tell them yes, because it’s true. Every parent who carries on St. Nicholas’ tradition of leaving secret gifts, of being the heart and hands of Jesus, of sharing the wonder, excitement, and glory of the most extraordinary Gift ever given to mankind, every one of us is Santa Claus.

I believe in Santa Claus because I am Santa Claus…and you are, too!

Note: I don’t ever use Santa Claus as a threat (i.e. “I’m calling Santa right now if you don’t…” or “Santa’s watching, and you won’t get any presents for Christmas if…”) first because a parable’s purpose is to teach, not to manipulate or control, and second because what I am teaching is the wonder and miracle of receiving a free gift, one that can’t be earned because it is freely given! Manipulating my children into ‘performing’ might work temporarily, but am I really trying to raise works-driven Christians, or am I trying to teach my little people about the incredible gift of grace?

Here are some of the ways we focus on Jesus for Christmas:

Children learn best and most happily through play, so letting my little people ‘play Santa’ (i.e. wrapping up their toys and ‘surprising’ each other, making ornaments and delivering them to a nursing home, shopping at the dollar store for Operation Christmas Child, etc.) is a very important part of our Christmas traditions. And the best part is…they’re playing Santa for Jesus!

Leading up to Christmas, we marvel about how Jesus loves us so much He wants us to get presents on His birthday (truly awe-inspiring to children and a lesson in sacrificial giving!) because all He wants for His birthday are smiles and happy hearts.

Then we brainstorm ways to give Jesus as many ‘birthday presents’ as possible (a lesson on generosity). We work together to share Christmas cheer with everyone we meet, but focus our best efforts on the grumpiest people because they don’t smile as often and so their smiles make really special gifts for Jesus (a lesson on unconditional love!).

We have a 12 Days of Christmas tradition where everyone gets a small present (chocolate, a coloring book, etc), and we read Christmas picturebooks every evening, building excitement for the Christmas morning celebration of the BEST GIFT EVER!

On Christmas Eve, we go to a special church service and then, after celebrating Christmas with family, we go home and make a fire in the fireplace (in Florida weather!) and make s’mores and hot chocolate and read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke.

On Christmas morning, we have a ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ party before opening presents, complete with a birthday cake and candles and singing ‘Happy birthday to  Jesus!’

Here are some other resources on making the true meaning of Christmas central to your celebrations this year (I’ll be adding more as I find them!):

The 12 Elves of Christmas: An Advent Storybook

Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

A Very Toddler Christmas 24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday

7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

 

What traditions does your family have to keep Christ in Christmas? Share them in the comment section!

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

The Twelve Elves of Christmas~An Advent Storybook

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

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“If you love all of the Elf on a Shelf ideas floating around the internet, but don’t like the idea of using Santa as a threatening figure who sends elves to spy on children and report back to him, then this new children’s book that will be released next year is for you! With a lyrical cadence and engaging rhymes, The Twelve Elves of Christmas shares the real meaning of Christmas while capturing the fun of playing hide-n-seek with a dozen visiting elves as they help you and your children count down to Christmas with shared acts of kindness, giving, and love. A new Christmas classic, for sure!”

The Parenting Review

 

Here’s a small excerpt (don’t want to give it all away!) and some of the very early concept art from The Twelve Elves of Christmas which will be released next year. Based on the concept that kindness begets kindness and giving spirits come from hearts that are overflowing with love, the book will include hundreds of creative ideas for using your elves to share the true meaning of Christmas with your children in fun and unexpected ways.  Enjoy the sneak preview!

 

***The Twelve Elves of Christmas***

It’s Christmastime! It’s on the way!

It’s time for elves to come and play!

Jingle, Merry, and Snowflake, too

Are bringing friends to share with you

 

elves concept art 2Holly, Jolly, Kringle, and Yule

Twinkle, Happy, and Noel, too

And last but not least are Carol and Frost

Mapping their route so they won’t get lost!

 

Each will visit, just one a day

Coming to help in some small way

With acts of kindness they will share

Joys of giving from hearts that care

 

 

Look for happy, small elf faces

Hiding in all kinds of places

Find them in boxes and on shelves

Look high and low for your friend elves

 

They’ll make your bed and feed the cat

They’ll clean the spot where your toys sat

They’ll bring small gifts, surprises, too

They’ll write kind notes like, “I like you!”

 

And when you find your friendly elves

Then you can become elves yourselves!

Go give your elves to someone new

Share some help and a smile or two

 

These friendly elves come every year

Bringing loads of Christmas cheer

To fill our hearts with love each day

So we have more to give away!

~ L.R.Knost

 

The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate

24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday… A Very Toddler Christmas

The Reason for the Season… Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques… Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

Fairy tales in childhood are stepping-stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. 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 the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

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