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A Sea Change: Obedience is Not the Goal

[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.]

“Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”
James 3:4

toddler on a sailboatOh, the toddler years, those delightful days when little ones begin to discover that they are, indeed, separate individuals from their parents and begin to test the waters to see how far out to sea their little boats can take them when they’ve got a full head of steam. This is the age when parents begin to wonder how in the world to tether their little steamboats to the docks or scuttle them in shallow waters to slow them down.

Obedience becomes a hot topic at moms’ groups and men’s breakfasts, at playdates and on park benches as parents wrestle with this new developmental stage that often shows up, unwelcome and unannounced, and the desperate, bewildered question being debated is always the same:

“How can I get my child to obey?”

Take a moment and examine what that question really means, though. Does it mean, “How can I control my child?” or does it mean, “How can I help my child learn self-control?” It’s an important distinction because the first meaning is external and temporary (i.e. only effective as long as the controlling factors are ever-present and escalate as the child grows) and the second meaning is internal and intrinsic. In the first, the rudder of a child’s ship is firmly removed from the child’s hands again and again as the parent and child struggle for control of the ship. In the second, the rudder remains in the child’s hands as the parent guides, instructs, and leads the way with their little steamboat sheltered alee of the parent ship.

Parents often feel lost at sea, themselves, when it comes to the best course for guiding and growing their children in the storm-tossed waves and murky waters of childhood behaviors, and many churches try to meet parent’s needs by offering parenting books and classes. A vast number of those resources are, unfortunately, based on a punitive, authoritarian model. These books, and the classes based on the books, claim to be Biblical, but miss the heart of the Father entirely and mislead and even intimidate parents into believing that they must train their children into instant, unquestioning obedience in order to raise their children ‘God’s way.’

Consider, though, that Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16) referring to how we will recognize his children. And what is the fruit of the Spirit? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-control. What’s missing? Nothing. God’s Word is perfect. And yet obedience is not included as a fruit of the Spirit. It is not mentioned as a measure of love for God or evidence of a relationship with God. That certainly doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to listen to his wise counsel and remain within the safe boundaries he’s shared with us. What it does mean is that it’s a heart issue, not an obedience issue, and he wants our trust and thoughtful, considered cooperation, not our fear-driven, mindless obedience.

Did you know, in fact, that the word obey doesn’t even appear in the original texts of the Bible? When the English translators of the King James version of the Bible encountered the Hebrew words hupakouo/hupakoe and shema/lishmoa they discovered that there wasn’t an exact English equivalent, so they chose the word hearken in their translations which subsequently became an archaic term and was later changed to obey.24 So, what exactly do the original words in the Bible mean?

Hupakouo/hupakoe – to hear from above; to listen for; to lend an ear to1,2,3

Shema/lishmoa – to understand, to internalize, to ponder, to reflect upon1,2,3 

And, in the negative form, rather than the word disobedience in the original texts, there is…

Parakouo – to close one’s ears to; to ignore1,2,3

The same mistranslation also occurs from the original Greek texts of the New Testament where peitho and peitharcheo are translated into, respectively, obey and disobey but actually mean…

Peitho – to be persuaded; to be moved; to respond25 

Peitharcheo – to remain unpersuaded; to be unmoved by; to be unresponsive to25

Also translated into obey in English are the Greek words phulasso and teron and their various conjugations, all of which mean to watch, to observe carefully, to give consideration to25.

Taken together, the meaning of what is now translated obey in the original text of the Bible is more accurately read ‘listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to.’ That is a far, far different meaning than the ‘instant obedience’ often held up as the epitome of Christian faith and evidence of love for God and, by extension, the goal of so-called ‘Biblical parenting.’

Before we address the parenting conundrum of instant obedience versus thoughtful consideration, let’s look at several verses in the Bible with the original meanings restored:

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to it.” (Luke 11:28) 

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23) 

Children, obey listen to, thoughtfully consider, and respond to your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)

One other interesting note is that the word translated punish in the English versions of the Bible is from the Hebrew word avon and from the Greek kolasis/kolazo. Look at the contrast in meanings:

Punish (English) – to inflict a penalty upon; to exact retribution; to make suffer26 

Avon (Hebrew) – to carry guilt; to bear one’s own iniquity1,2,3 

Kolasis/kolazo (Greek) – removed; separated25 

The word used in English translations of the Bible, punish, conveys an external infliction of negative consequences, while the original words, avon (Hebrew) and kolasis/kolazo (Greek) convey internal, self-imposed consequences (i.e. carrying the weight of guilt/shame) and natural consequences (i.e. being estranged).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment bearing one’s own iniquity, carrying guilt, feeling shame, being estranged. (1 John 4:18)

Jesus came to take our place, to bear our iniquities, to carry our guilt, to free us from shame, and to reunite us with our Father, and the literal translation conveys that truth perfectly.

The thing is, instant obedience and thoughtless compliance based on fear of punishment will always be an external and temporary ‘fix’ for behavior issues, as evidenced by the increasingly defiant and disconnected Israelite nation in the Old Testament, while thoughtful consideration and cooperation are internal, a heart-deep and soul-to-soul connection inspired by compassion, respect, and communication. Consider this passage from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline:

Someone once wrote, “Obedience is doing what you’re told, no matter what’s right. Morality is doing what’s right, no matter what you’re told.” History preserved the quote, but not the source with any credibility, but it’s a wise statement nonetheless.

Growing children with an inner compass that guides their steps toward kindness and compassion and generosity of spirit is far, far and away superior to training children to operate on automatic pilot. Parents often focus so much time and energy on trying to make their children obey in the small moments of life that they forget to step back and take a panoramic view of how their parenting choices may affect their children’s life course.

‘Instant obedience’ is the new catch-phrase in many popular parenting articles and books, but the reality is that, while instant obedience may be convenient for parents in the moment, it can have powerful negative impacts on the adults their children will become.

Training children into instant obedience is the equivalent of disabling their inner guidance system and strapping on a remote-controlled rocket. The end result may be adults who are easily controlled by others or adults who are deeply divided, constantly fighting the external controls, but hampered by an erratic, immature inner compass that never had the chance to develop properly.

Equipping children with a healthy, well-functioning internal guidance system, an inner compass, takes time, patience, and self-control on the part of the parents. Certainly not a convenient alternative! While it may not be convenient to slow down our hectic life pace and really connect with our children, it’s that connection that enables their internal guidance system to come online. While taking the time to really communicate may be a sacrifice, it’s in that communication that the directions on their inner guidance system are set. And, while working cooperatively with our children may take more time and effort, the fact is that inviting cooperation rather than forcing compliance raises leaders instead of reaping followers.

Clearly, teaching our children to control themselves is far more effective in the long-term than trying to control our children, but how, specifically, can we go about equipping them with those all-important internal controls?

  • Model instead of manipulate.
  • Invite instead of intimidate.
  • Support instead of shame.
  • Encourage instead of enrage.
  • Teach instead of threaten.
  • Listen instead of lecture.
  • Help instead of hurt.
  • Parent instead of punish.

Instant obedience and mindless compliance are poor goals, indeed, when raising children. A thoughtfully questioning, passionately curious, and humorously resourceful child who delights in inventing ‘compromises’ and who endlessly pushes the boundaries tends to become a thoughtful, passionate, resourceful adult who will change the world rather than being changed by the world.These are simple truths, and yet their effects are profound when we embrace them and incorporate them into our parenting. Connection, Communication, and Cooperation, the Three C’s of gentle parenting, are powerful and effective tools in guiding our children toward self-control to help them learn to steer their own ships, and, if we are to be fishers of men, then isn’t a ship headed out to sea exactly what each of us should be, anyway? Instead of mooring our children to the shore, let’s sail alongside them in the sometimes calm, sometimes stormy, but always glorious sea of life, keeping them sheltered on our leeward side until they are ready to sail alone.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13

Related posts:

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

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Did Jesus Have a Temper Tantrum?

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?

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.


Did Jesus have a Temper Tantrum?

[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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Jesus angry temple“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.’”
Matthew 21:12-13

 

Temper tantrum: (n.) a loss of mental balance or composure, esp. an outburst of anger or irritation

It may seem a bit disrespectful to label Jesus’ takedown in the temple courtyard as a temper tantrum, but according to the dictionary definition of a tantrum, that would be an accurate designation. He acted out his overwhelming emotions by flipping over tables and throwing chairs and chasing people away in a God-sized, epic tantrum that must have shocked the religious to their core and rocked the pharisaical back on their heels.

So what’s the deal? Are temper tantrums signs of a child’s sinful, selfish nature, as the child-training set are so quick to accuse, or are they normal expressions of overwhelming emotions? Let’s see what the child-trainers have to say:

“A temper tantrum is an absolute rejection of parental authority. Parents should isolate the child (with a promise of consequences), then follow through with chastisement [spanking] after the child settles down.” (Gary Ezzo, Growing Kid’s God’s Way)

“…tantrums are a form of challenging behavior that can be eliminated by one or more appropriate spankings.(p. 108)” (Dr. James Dobson, The New Dare to Discipline)

“A seven-month-old boy had, upon failing to get his way, stiffened, clenched his fists, bared his toothless gums and called down damnation on the whole place. At a time like that, the angry expression on a baby’s face can resemble that of one instigating a riot. The young mother, wanting to do the right thing, stood there in helpless consternation, apologetically shrugged her shoulders and said, “What can I do?” My incredulous nine-year-old whipped back, “Switch him.” The mother responded, “I can’t, he’s too little.” With the wisdom of a veteran who had been on the little end of the switch, my daughter answered, “If he is old enough to pitch a fit, he is old enough to be spanked.(p. 79)” (Michael Pearl, To Train Up a Child)

“If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round. ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking.’”(Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart)

So, what do you think, parents? Is acting out of overwhelming emotions a sin that must be punished as the child-trainers claim or is it normal human behavior? Is there even such a thing as normal human behavior, or is human behavior itself sinful by its very nature? Is having overwhelming emotions, in and of itself, a sin?

Sin, Biblically speaking, is acting outside of God’s nature. Since Jesus is God in the flesh, he was clearly acting within God’s nature at all times, even though he was also fully human. So, Jesus’ actions and his human behaviors, his normal human behaviors, all fell within the boundaries of God’s nature and therefore were and are not sinful.

Let’s go back to Jesus and breakdown the takedown in the temple. He was angry. He toppled tables. He threw things. He chased people away. But Jesus was and is sinless, so clearly being angry, being overwhelmed by big emotions, and acting on those emotions are not sins, in and of themselves.

When does acting on emotions become sinful, then? The answer lies in Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Note that it doesn’t say, “Getting angry is a sin.”

Emotions can lead to sin when they remain unsettled, are left to burrow deeply into our hearts and take root, and when we subsequently respond with spite, bitterness, vengeance, or rage.

As parents, then, how can we help our children when they are overwhelmed by their emotions, when they tantrum and cry and act out their big feelings? Does it make sense to expect them to cope with their big emotions alone or to suppress their emotions so they remain unsettled?

Of course not. Our children need us to parent them, not punish them.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.”
(Psalm 46:1b)

Just as God is “our refuge and strength” and “an ever-present help” that is what we need to be for our children, to reflect the heart of our Father to our own little ones. We can help them to process their emotions. We can work with them to resolve their problems. And we can equip them with the life skills they’ll need to handle their emotions on their own when they grow into adulthood.

As you read on, remind yourself that having emotions is not a sin and needing help processing those emotions is a normal part of childhood:

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 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 Aquapod 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. (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

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!

“God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in times of trouble”
Psalm 46:1b

Related posts:

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

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?

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.


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

[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 Childhoodand The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

 

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3 

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todder with teddy bear“I need prayer to help me trust God.”

“I need to learn to trust God more.”

“I’m really struggling with trusting God.”

Over and over and over in Christian circles we hear these prayer requests and confessions. Again and again we try and struggle and fail to trust God with our lives, our decisions, our hopes, our dreams, our plans, our needs, our fears, our mistakes. We assign accountability partners and prayer buddies to help each other in our struggle to trust. We take classes and read books and attend seminars. And yet still, we struggle and we fail and we wonder why we find it so hard to trust.

Maybe the problem is that we aren’t asking the right question, though. Perhaps the question isn’t, “Why can’t we trust?” but rather…

“How can we trust someone we’ve been trained not to trust?”

Consider this scene:

“Father: You didn’t obey Daddy, did you?

Child: No.

Father: Do you remember what God says Daddy must do if you disobey?

Child: Spank me?

Father: That’s right. I must spank you. If I don’t, then I would be disobeying God. You and I would both be wrong. That would not be good for you or for me, would it?

Child: No. (A reluctant reply)”

(Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, p. 31)

“I have to hurt you to please God.” That is the message this child hears. And, one day, this child will be an adult who asks for prayer to learn to trust, if he even wants a relationship with Someone he believes demands that he be hurt by those he loves most, Someone he has been trained to distrust.

Parents systematically breaking down a child’s innate ability to trust simply makes no sense. The world will hurt, disappoint, and disillusion our children through the years, no doubt, but the brief season of childhood is a time to strengthen our children, not weaken them, and true strength is forged in gentleness, guided by wisdom, and steeped in peace. Our children need us to be their guardians, their protectors, their safe harbor in life’s storms:

Imagine a ship damaged at sea, broken and sinking fast, heading for the safety and shelter of the harbor only to be stopped at the end of the breakwaters, the line between storm-tossed sea and calm waters, and told to clean up their deck, fix their rudders, and examine their ship logs to see where they went wrong, all while still in danger of sinking in the rough seas.

Now imagine a child, roughed up by his own bad choices or suffering at the hands of her own human weaknesses, hoping to find a safe harbor in a parent’s healing embrace, but instead being punished, spanked, or sent to isolation in a corner or in their room…leaving them all alone in a stormy sea of human emotions when what they really need in that moment is to reconnect with us. In their most difficult moments, they need our wisdom and guidance and the reassurance that, no matter what mistakes they make, no matter how badly they fail, no matter how far they fall, we will always, always be there to help them and heal them and forgive them and love them.” (Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages)

Isn’t that what God offers us, even in our most difficult moments? Wisdom. Guidance. Reassurance. Forgiveness. Unconditional love.

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

And yet isn’t that what we have so much trouble trusting in as adults?

Trust and fear cannot coexist, and God certainly doesn’t intend them to. That is why Jesus says over and over, “Do not be afraid,” throughout the New Testament. One stumbling block, though, is the use of the word ‘fear’ in Jesus the Gentle Parent final front covertranslations of verses such as, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Proverbs 9:10) which lead us to believe that we must be afraid of God in order to honor him. But, while fear repels, wonder invites. The Hebrew word, yirah, which is translated ‘fear’ actually means, ‘to see or be seen clearly’ or ‘to have a heightened awareness of’ or ‘to flow’ as in ‘to flow with overwhelming emotion.’ In Hebrew, it is taken to mean ‘to overflow with or be overcome by trepidation’ only when used in the context of danger, but ‘to overflow with or be overcome by awe and wonder’ when used in the context of a good and mighty God. So, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” would more accurately read, “Being overcome with awe and wonder at the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Perhaps if we parent our children the way God parents us, with mercy, understanding, and gentle guidance, our children’s ability to trust will be strengthened rather than broken, and as adults they won’t struggle to trust God as we so often do. Then, instead of running and hiding from God when life hits hard and the world batters and bewilders our children, perhaps they will go running to him, trusting that he will be there with outstretched arms… [end excerpt]

Related posts:

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Tattered Tapestries: Weaving Trust Through the Chaos

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

Gentle Journeys: A Book Club for a New Generation

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.


Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting

by

L.R.Knost

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  Jesus, the Gentle Parentwalk 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.

Here’s a bit from the foreword by Samuel S. Martin (Biblical scholar and author residing in Israel):

“Jesus, the Gentle Parent is a book to read, reread, and internalize.

In these pages, you will find keen insights and powerful Scriptural truths which I am only beginning to grasp the significance of, myself. Before agreeing to write the foreword for Jesus, The Gentle Parent, I carefully read and examined how L.R. had engaged the subject, and I can say without hesitation that I am a better person, a better father, a better human being, and a better Christian for doing so.

I come from a background of high academic achievement in the area of Biblical studies. My late father, Dr. Ernest L. Martin (1932-2002) was one of the founding members of the Foundation for Biblical Research and an internationally recognized Biblical scholar with multiple books and academic credits to his name.

Growing up, I lived in Israel (my permanent adult residence since 2001) for five summers, living in the Bible lands while my father was involved in the largest excavation taking place in the Middle East at that time. For my summer vacations, I toured Biblical sites in Israel as well visiting Greece and seeing where St. Paul journeyed.

I grew up in a house with a room dedicated to my father’s library which numbered over 10,000 volumes when he passed away. These are the tools that I was taught to use. I’ve been exercising these tools now for some twenty years as I have studied and written exhaustively about doctrinal issues, including publishing a book on corporal punishment (spanking) in the Bible in the hope of shedding new light on that issue.”

Check out Samuel Martin’s book: Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy

Other gentle parenting resources you may find helpful:

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

 

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.”

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.


Jesus, the Gentle Parent – Cover Reveal!

Jesus the Gentle ParentMy next book will be released early in May, and I’m so excited and yet so nervous about it. This book is a departure from my first three books in that it focuses on Christian parenting and takes on Dobson, Ezzo, Pearl, Tripp, and others who use the Bible to intimidate parents into believing that they have to demand instant obedience, threaten, control, spank their children, etc. in order to parent ‘God’s way.’ The backlash may be unpleasant, but this book needed to be written to debunk the supposedly Biblical doctrines that these child-training manuals are based upon. My hope is that Jesus, The Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting will release Christian parents from the hold these punitive, graceless ideas have over mainstream Christianity so that they can study and pray and listen for God’s leading on their parenting journeys, and I hope that the next generation of children raised by Christian parents will spend their childhood having the concept of grace lived out in their homes and families. Excerpts coming soon!

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.

Other gentle parenting resources you may find helpful:

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

 

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.”

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

The Measure of Success 

  • Mother Teresa never went to medical school, never married, never had children, begged for food at some points in her life…and won a Nobel Peace Prize, established 610 Missions in 123 countries before her death in 1997, and brought hope, healing, and comfort to millions.
  • Steve Jobs dropped out of college after only one semester, returned soda bottles for money to buy food, got fired from a company he helped to found…and, by Forbes estimates, was worth $8.3 billion dollars at the time of his death.
  • Thomas Edison spent a total of three months in public school before being labeled ‘addled’ and removed to be homeschooled, never attended college, bounced from one job to another, often being fired due to work accidents…and at the time of his death in 1931 held more than 1,093 patents including the phonograph and motion picture camera and had founded four companies including General Electric, which is still in existence today. 

The perception of success is multifarious: professional standing, educational accomplishments, athletic achievement, celebrity status, humanitarian impact, political clout, financial freedom, personal fulfillment, etc. But what is success, exactly? 

Success, put simply, is the accomplishment of a purpose…which leads us to the definition of purpose. 

Purpose is defined as the reason for which something exists. The eternal question…. “Why are we here?” 

Ah, now we begin to see why success has such a seemingly ephemeral definition, shifting like a mercurial mist, there and gone again before it can be grasped and examined and quantified. 

Those of us who believe in a Creator may be said to have an edge in deciphering the matter, but even then there are endless debates about what our Creator’s purposes are for His creation, how those purposes are to be fulfilled, etc, etc, etc… 

 

The definition of success…

The determination of purpose…

These are not simply matters for philosophers and theologians to discuss. 

Every moment of every day, we live out what we believe. Every decision is based on an inner set of values that guide us and determine our direction in life. If we don’t consciously evaluate our inner guidance system and make informed, intentional choices about what we believe, we end up operating on the ‘default setting,’ a reactive position dictated by our past. Childhood experiences, adult traumas, things we’ve read and heard, things we’ve done and things that have been done to us, what we’ve witnessed and what we’ve participated in, all combine into a mishmash of knee-jerk responses to circumstances that often take even us by surprise! 

 

Purposeful Parenting 

When it comes to parenting, our definition of purpose dictates our definition of parental success, which, in turn, determines our daily parenting choices. 

Consider… 

 

The Tiger Mother

This term, popularized by Yale Law School professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, reflects the belief that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” a belief held by the vast majority of Asian parents. Based on this, the Tiger Mother believes that “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” If a child comes home with a B on a test, “there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.” The Tiger Mother believes that children owe their parents everything and “must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.” Success to a Tiger Mother equals perfect performance, period. Amy Chua shares an example of this mindset in “The Wall Street Journal” essay, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Here’s a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called “The Little White Donkey” by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it’s also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.

Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

“Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.

“You can’t make me.”

“Oh yes, I can.”

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn’t even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn’t think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn’t do the technique—perhaps she didn’t have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

“You just don’t believe in her,” I accused.

“That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of course I do.”

“Sophia could play the piece when she was this age.”

“But Lulu and Sophia are different people,” Jed pointed out.

“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

To the Tiger Mother, the performance is what matters, not the process or the person. Success equals perfect performance, period.

 

The Helicopter Parent

Coined by Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay in the 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, the term Helicopter Parent refers to the over-protective, over-involved, over-indulgent parent who seeks to ‘bubble wrap’ their children to protect them from every possible danger, every potential failure, and every conceivable disappointment. The Helicopter Parent is heavily invested in the emotional health and safety of their child based on the belief that success equals comfort and ease in life.

 

The Cadre Parent

Loosely defined by author Pamela Druckerman in her book Bringing Up Bebe, and summed up in “The Wall Street Journal” essay, Why French Parents Are Superior, the Cadre Parent is one who compartmentalizes parenting into routines and rhythms. There is adult time and child time, eating time and snacking time, interaction time and play-alone time, etc. The Cadre Parent believes that successful parenting equals autonomy, and they train their children toward independence by maintaining a distant authority, a cadre (framework) of non-negotiable boundaries and schedules within which their children have the freedom to operate independently and with little to no adult interaction.

 ~~~~~~~~~~

There are, of course, many other distinctive parenting types as well as endless possible combinations of attributes from the different styles. The key to choosing a parenting style (or falling into one, as the case may be) is the basic belief system of the parent(s) as to what constitutes parental success based on their definition of purpose…in other words, their personal answer to the question, “Why are we here?”

 

Parenting On My Terms

For my part, I am a Gentle Parent based on my personal belief system. Success, to me, is defined as contributing to the world according to the gifts we’ve been given, which leads to my definition of parental success as raising children who are aware of their unique gifts and are able and willing to use them to benefit others and not just themselves. All of this is based on my belief that we are here for a higher purpose than any of mankind’s achievements could possibly reach, a purpose rooted in my belief in God’s personal involvement in and care for the world as evidenced by His sacrifice on the Cross.

So what does my parenting, based on this belief system, look like? Well, there’s a whole blog written about that subject! But for reference sake, my parenting can be summed up like this:

 

The Gentle Parent

I model my responses to my children based on Jesus’ interactions with His disciples. I live what I want my children to learn. I want my children to respect me, so I show them respect and model respect in my interactions with others. I want my children to be compassionate, so I treat them and others with compassion and empathy. I want my children to honor God, so I model His unconditional love for them and for others. I want my children to love to learn, so I encourage their natural curiosity and joy of discovery. I want my children to listen, so I actively listen to them. I want my children to serve others, so I serve others with and in front of them. I want my children to actively engage in our society, so I participate with and in front of them in civic activities. I want my children to practice self-discipline and restraint, so I stop and think before I speak or act. I want my children to enjoy the life they’ve been given, so I enjoy the life in each of them.

For the record (and to forestall the “that’s great in theory” comments!) of my six children, I have raised a 24 year old Pastor and a 22 year old Family Therapist, and I have a 17 year old in his third year of pre-med, 12 and 6 year olds I’m homeschooling (as I did the others), and a 21 month old toddling around delighting all of our hearts.

As to the age-old question… “Why are we here?” …my answer is quite simple, “I believe we’re here for the same reason my own children are here. My children are here because I wanted to bring into the world children to love and to care for and to share with the world, and we are here because our Father wanted to bring into a world He created children He loves and cares for and through whom He has special gifts to share with the world.”

 

 Related posts:

Babes and Boundaries~A Gentle Parenting Perspective

Pinky or The Brain?

Toddlers: Teens in the Making

 
 

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.


The Great Santa Claus Debate

[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 also available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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

St.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 than Jesus’ way…with a story? How else would my little ones be able to grasp the concept of such a gift? santa babyHow 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.

My children never outgrow their belief in Santa. When they’re ready we simply share the beautiful story of St. Nick and invite them to join us in the fun of becoming Santa for their younger siblings and for children in need in our community. They still get presents, of course, but they also get to experience a new facet of the wonder of Christmas through the excitement of secret-keeping and present-wrapping and plan-making and joy-giving. Becoming Santa is an exciting and wonder-filled experience for our children, a step toward adulthood that makes them feel like they’ve been entrusted with a wonderful secret and gives them an opportunity to experience the incredible joy of generosity.

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 wonderful 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 in 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 in unconditional love).

We have a 12 Days of Christmas tradition where everyone gets a small present (chocolate, a special pencil, 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.

Then, 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 meaning of Christmas central to your celebrations this year (I’ll be adding more as I find them):

Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

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

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!

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 Breastfeeding!

[Portions 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 available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

A newborn baby has only three demands.  They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence.  Breastfeeding satisfies all three.  ~Grantly Dick-Read

 Breastfeeding~Best for Babes

Breastfeeding, like exercise, is one of the most highly preventive and cost-effective ways to protect the health of mothers, babies, the  population, and the planet.  Yet, the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding among industrialized countries and one of the highest rates of infant mortality. Our rates of breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and asthma are growing at an alarming pace. It is estimated that normal breastfeeding rates could save the U.S. $13 billion and 911 lives annually on health care & associated costs for just 10 diseases.

Sweet, milky giggles
Baby’s trusting eyes look up
Forging bonds that last. R.H.

Latch and Positioning

Excellent information from Kellymom about how to get a comfortable latch and position for nursing.

 

 

 

The Guggie Daily: God Wants to Breastfeed His People

God is not just supportive, but is the ultimate breastfeeding (and babywearing- “he will carry them in his bosom”) advocate! 

 

 

The Normal Newborn & Why Breastmilk isn’t Just Food

“A newborn baby on mom’s chest will pick their head up, lick their hands, maybe nuzzle mom, lick their hands and start to slide towards the breast. Babies have a preference for contrasts between light and dark, and for circles over other shapes. Think about that…there’s a dark circle not too far away.”

 

 Breast Milk~The Original Soul Food

We have breasts to feed our young but we also have brains that tell us this is more than nutrition.. this is comfort, bonding, the original Soul food!

 

Biochemistry of Human Milk

“Breastmilk, unlike formula is a living organism.  When one looks at breastmilk under a microscope there is plenty of movement.  Contrast that with formula, where the petri dish reveals a stagnant state.  Formula is dead.  It cannot change to meet the needs of a particular infant.  It does not change during a feed…”

 

 While I Nurse You to Sleep

Lovely thoughts from a breastfeeding mama.

 

 

 

 What Kind of Woman Breastfeeds a Toddler?

An amazing array of women from every walk of life who share their breastfeeding journeys~Compiled and shared by The Mule

 

Low Milk Supply~Set up for failure

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), Asthma, Childhood Leukemia, Diabetes, Gastroenteritis, Otitis Media (ear infections), LRTIs (pneumonia, bronchitis, etc), Necrotizing Enterocolitis, Obesity, and other potentially life-altering or fatal conditions…

If you knew that there was one medicine or vitamin or herbal supplement that has been proven, PROVEN, beyond a shadow of a doubt in study after study by mainstream, published, respected doctors, researchers, and scientists, to significantly reduce the risk of every single one of those things listed above, would you give it to your baby?

Breast cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity…

What if that wonder drug could also drastically reduce your risk of each of these health threats?

13 billion…BILLION…dollars lost in the U.S. alone in PREVENTABLE medical costs.

If you knew that there was one thing you could do to save billions of taxpayer dollars that could go to feed the hungry, house the homeless, research cures for other devastating diseases, provide health care to the poor, would you do it?

The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in April of 2010 detailing just what that one medicine/vitamin/herbal supplement is…and the ‘miracle drug’ is none other than BREASTFEEDING. The study concluded that, “The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations.” And those numbers are only based on breastfeeding benefits for the first six months of life! The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, and others recommend breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life. Imagine the tally if the researchers had looked at the little lives lost and billions of dollars spent unnecessarily in a two year breastfeeding scenario instead of a six month scenario!

In 2009, the CDC released a Breast Feeding Report Card which showed that, while 74% of women start off breastfeeding, only 33% continue to three months and just 14% are exclusively breastfeeding by six months.

Clearly, then, the majority of women at least begin with the desire to breastfeed!

So why are breastfeeding rates so dismal in the United States? For one thing, U.S.hospitals scored a low D (63%) in their compliance with recommendations to provide breastfeeding support for women in a 2007 CDC survey. One issue is that hospitals routinely send home ‘failure’ packets of formula with new mommies “just in case,” which sit temptingly in pretty, complementary diaperbags waiting for the inexperienced new mommy to face her first breastfeeding hurdle, her first feeding worry, her first sleep-deprived need to find any reassurance that she’s doing a good job feeding her baby during those first weeks. Another issue is that hospital lactation consultants are typically stretched far too thinly amongst many patients and are only available for a few minutes to get new mommies started, and then most insurance companies don’t cover follow-up lactation support after mommies leave the hospital. Other issues in the hospital include delaying the new mommy’s ability to begin breastfeeding immediately by removing the baby to a warming bed instead of laying the baby on the mommy’s tummy, and too early interventions such as eye ointment, bathing the baby, and taking the baby to the nursery to be evaluated in the absence of medical necessity.

But, even so, 74% of American women triumph over these issues and leave the hospital having established breastfeeding with their newborn. So what happens then? Why does that number fall so dramatically by more than half to 33% by three months and by nearly 80% down to only 14% of women by six months?

Some contributing factors are mothers who must return to workplaces which don’t support breastfeeding with long lunches to return home to breastfeed or flexible schedules which allow for frequent pumping, and insurance companies which don’t cover lactation consultants or breast pumps, and, in a small percentage of cases, health issues with the mother or baby.

All of these issues certainly need to be addressed by hospitals, insurance companies and businesses, and the government can be of service in these areas by providing tax incentives, education, and support.

But there are still more subtle issues that negatively affect breastfeeding rates. Some of these include older mothers relishing in telling horror stories about cracked nipples, thrush, clogged ducts, etc; pediatricians who use weight charts based on formula fed infants and scaring new mothers into thinking their babies aren’t gaining enough weight; and the pervasive, but false, belief that formula is just as good as breastmilk for babies.

One issue, though, that seems to crop up far more than others is low milk supply. Somehow, even though mothers’ bodies are capable of miraculously growing a human being for nine months and bringing that precious new life into the world, those same life-giving bodies are failing to provide life-giving (and saving!) nutrition to those precious babies. Why? For some, it is certainly just fear-mongering by those pediatricians using the formula fed babies’ charts or by grandmothers who believe that all babies should be chubby that lead new mothers to believe they have low supply, but there does seem to be an ever-increasing number of babies legitimately labeled as failure-to-thrive with low milk supply labeled the cause.

One crucial piece of false information can be blamed for the vast majority of low milk supply issues in the absence of a documented medical cause.

That false information? New mothers are told their babies should sleep through the night.

That is one of the most pernicious lies ever foisted on new parents. Babies biologically should NOT sleep through the night. Not only is the deep sleep required to sleep through the night actually a recognized factor in SIDS deaths, but babies who sleep through the night are also not nursing to stimulate breastmilk production, thus their mother’s milk begins to dry up. Clearly, that’s not a healthy biological design!

Here is a picture of what this vicious cycle can look like:

Lydia battles the lack of breastfeeding support at the hospital and triumphantly goes home a breastfeeding mother, formula ‘fail’ packet tucked securely in the chic little complementary diaperbag in the trunk along with stacks of information about how healthy formula is and lots of lovely formula coupons.

She gets her precious baby home and settles in for her twelve week ‘babymoon’ before she has to return to work because that’s all the time her work allows. She’s already nervous about how she’s going to handle the return to work, leaving her sweet baby in someone else’s care, and trying to pump to maintain her milk supply and provide milk for her baby while she’s gone, but she pushes those thoughts aside and suppresses the anxiety as much as she can. The first few nights are pretty easy because her baby sleeps most of the time, so Lydia is able to get a little rest in between feedings. She reads up on some parenting advice in a couple of popular magazines and discovers that she should be working to schedule her baby’s feedings at 3-4 hour intervals. That makes her feel a bit worried because she’s just been feeding her baby whenever he seemed hungry, so she gets a notebook out and writes down a schedule.

Over the next couple of weeks, things get a bit more difficult as she walks and bounces and rocks her baby, anxiously watching the clock until she can satisfy her baby’s cries and nurse him. Her baby seems to be crying more and more often. As her stress level increases, she pours over parenting books and magazines, trying to find solutions to her baby’s distress. Over and over again, she reads that babies need to be on a strict schedule and be trained to self-soothe and sleep through the night.

Lydia desperately wants to be a good mother, so she braces herself and begins to stop nursing before her baby falls asleep and laying him down on his own to fall asleep alone. She cries listening to his screams, but confines herself to occasionally stepping into the room to pat him gently for a moment, tears streaming down her cheeks as she leaves him to cry himself to sleep.

A few weeks later, her pediatrician expresses some concern about her baby’s slowing weight gain, but cheerfully assures her that she has just become a ‘midnight snack’ for her little one and needs to begin cutting out night feeds so her baby can learn to sleep through the night.Lydia feels sick to her stomach as she leaves the doctor’s office, but is determined to put her feelings aside and be a good mother.

Lydia experiences some engorgement issues for the first few nights, but the discomfort is nothing compared her heartbreak at listening to her baby cry. Over the next few weeks, she notices a perceptible decrease in the volume of her breasts and her let down reflex feels weak. Her fears are confirmed when she takes her baby back to the pediatrician who is alarmed to find that Lydia’s baby has actually lost weight. Lydia leaves the pediatrician’s office with a diagnosis of failure-to-thrive for her precious baby, low milk supply for her, and a feeling of utter failure as a mother.

At home, Lydia searches for the chic little diaperbag with the formula ‘failure’ packet and mixes up a bottle, tears falling as she becomes just another statistic.

~~~~~~~~~

Feeling forced to ignore her natural mothering instincts because of prevailing mainstream parenting practices, Lydia’s anxiety steadily increased in her baby’s first weeks, negatively affecting her milk supply. Nursing on a schedule prevented her from receiving the stimulation of milk production inherent in the frequent suckling of a baby allowed to nurse on demand. But the breastfeeding coffin was sealed when night nursing ended and with it the loss of hours and hours of milk stimulation resulting in that modern epidemic ~ low milk supply.

Related links:

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

And Baby Makes Three~Surviving the first three months with a newborn!

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

Baby Led Weaning

Baby Talk

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Practical Gentle Discipline Guide

 

 

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.


30 Days of Thankfulness~Day 21~Fruit!

I am thankful for fruit!

 

~By Their Fruit They Will Be Known~ 

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Love ~ Many parents say they make their parenting choices out of love, and I believe that is so very true, but if God is love as He says He is (and He is!), then our love needs to reflect His in every way, including in our parenting. And how does God show His love? Sacrificially, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Modeling God’s sacrificial love in our parenting is reflected by making parenting choices based on our children’s needs, not our convenience. Responsive parenting is truly a picture of God’s sacrificial, unconditional love in that, as we respond to our children where they are, (“This is how God showed His great love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners [emphasis added]” Romans 5:8) comforting their cries, guiding their choices, providing for their needs, encouraging their individuality, we are, moment by moment, day by day, sacrificing our lives for them.

Joy ~ Parenting can be a challenge (Ask God. He’s got a lot of children, and they don’t behave all that well!) but taking joy in the journey and in our children makes all the difference. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’” (Luke 10:21) Take time out each day to enjoy your children, or, better yet, to tell them what joy they bring to your life and specifically what unique things you enjoy about them!

Peace ~ It’s so, so hard making parenting choices, knowing our actions (or inactions!) will have an incredibly profound effect on a precious little life. God knows and sees and cares about every detail of our lives and our children’s lives. And, in the same way that we want our little ones to trust us with their needs and concerns and desires, God wants us to trust Him and to have peace in Him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Patience ~ Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Children come into our lives as small bundles with big needs who don’t speak or understand our language and then proceed to grow into little people with their own temperaments, plans, and desires. Having patience as a parent should qualify as an extreme sport! But having and modeling patience with our children not only helps us to guide and grow them gently, but also encourages them to exercise patience with themselves and others throughout life…a rare, but lovely gift we can give the world through our children.

Kindness ~ My grandmother’s favorite verse was “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”  (1Corinthians 13:4-5) This is a beautiful example of how the Bible encourages us to treat others…including our children! Taking time out on occasion to examine our parenting practices and evaluate them in terms of how loving and patient and kind we are to our little ones is a vital part of effective parenting. It’s also important to make sure we aren’t parenting ‘for the neighbors,’ in other words, we aren’t making parenting choices based on a ‘who has the best kid’ competition (envy, boastful) or out of embarrassment over our children’s behavior (pride). Are we easily angered by our children? Do we dredge up their mistakes time and time again? If so, consciously working to break those bad habits and replace them with love and patience and kindness will have a dramatically positive impact on our parenting.

Goodness ~ “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” (Mark 4:8) Of all things, shouldn’t our very first desire in parenting our children be to till the soil of their little hearts so tenderly, so carefully, so intentionally that their hearts are “good soil,” ready, eager, and willing to receive the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection for their sins? Instead of focusing on punishing our children’s mistakes, their ‘sins,’ thus negating the Gospel and undermining the very purpose for Jesus’ suffering, shouldn’t we model the grace and mercy and forgiveness we ourselves have been given? So what, exactly, is “good soil”? Agriculturally speaking, which is what the parable Jesus told was based on, “good soil” is well-drained (not bogged down by over-watering, i.e. over-indulgent parenting), fresh (not over-used or over-worked, i.e. over-bearing parenting), fertilized (filled with good nutrients, i.e. needs met), composted (mixed with rubbish, i.e. sinful!), and enriched (earthy minerals intact, i.e. connected to their source~their parents).

Faithfulness ~ “The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.” (Isaiah 38:19) God is faithful in His promises, faithful in His love, faithful in His parenting. In all things we need to reflect His character to our children so that when we tell them about ‘His faithfulness’ it isn’t only in words, but also in deeds. And what is faithfulness, exactly? It is defined as constancy, dependability, care, trustworthiness, devotion, honor, attachment, commitment. So let us parents, as reflections of God, be faithful to exhibit constancy, dependability, care, trustworthiness, devotion, honor, attachment, and commitment in our parenting choices!

Gentleness ~ “Let your gentleness be evident to all”…except your children. No, of course the Bible doesn’t say that! God actually instructs us to “Let your gentleness be evident to ALL (emphasis added)” in Philippians 4:5. Tender, compassionate, merciful, warmhearted, sensitive, approachable, good-humored…these are all synonyms for gentleness, and gentle parenting reflects all of these qualities. Let’s take a look at the antonyms (opposites) of the word gentle in the thesaurus~harsh, tough, violent, sharp, rigid, severe, unrelenting, unforgiving, punitive, unpleasant, pitiless, stern. “Let your gentleness be evident to all” including (especially!) our littlest, most defenseless, and truly precious gifts from God~our children!

Self-control ~ “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28) City walls being broken through was a tragedy of great proportions in the Bible, whereas a city gladly throwing open its gates to welcome its King was a time of rejoicing. The ‘city walls’ were used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to a person’s will. Many times the words ‘break a child’s will’ are thrown around and spoken as if directly from the mouth of God. But God, as our heavenly Parent, doesn’t seek to break our wills. Instead, He teaches us to trust Him by His own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and by His self-control in not stomping us out of existence as we deserve by our sinfulness. And, after building that trust-relationship with us, He gently calls us to joyfully and voluntarily lay down our wills out of trust and gratitude and to open our hearts and minds and lives to Him, welcoming in our King. This is the heart of trust-based obedience!

Related links: 

 

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

Gentle Discipline Resources

 
 

Confession and A Challenge

A Tale Of Two Worlds

Too Late For Teens

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 Discipline Resource Guide

[Portions reprinted from The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost available November 2013; 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.]

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

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

There are three things to consider…Read more

 

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

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

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

strong willed child

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

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

 

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter

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

 

 

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

 

Tots to Teens~Communication through the Ages and Stages

The evolution of children’s communication proceeds at a steady and relatively predictable pace, though the timing is influenced by factors such as individual personality, cognitive development, home environment, etc. Here’s what to expect through the ages and stages…

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Discipline & Behavior via Dr. Sears

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Positive Parenting in Action: Exploration/Danger via Positive Parenting

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

 

 Gently Parenting Teens

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Proactive Discipline and Well-behaved Children  via Gentle Christian Mothers

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 Gems via Mothering by Grace

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

 

Why Spanking is Never Okay via Peaceful Parenting

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

 

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.


10 Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

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

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So, your precious baby has finally arrived! After a perfect pregnancy and blissful labor and delivery, you’ve come home (in your pre-pregnancy clothes, of course!) with your beautiful baby, ready to start life as the perfect parents of a perfect child. Yeah, right! Actually, after a pregnancy in which you threw up more times than you can count and yet still managed to gain an embarrassing amount of weight, and where your feet swelled to unrecognizable lumps at the bottom of your legs, you finally suffered through a hideously long, painful labor and delivery only to arrive home (in your largest maternity outfit which barely fit!) with a screaming, vomiting, miniature human being who can’t tell you why he’s upset and who poops what can only be described as TAR! What are you going to do now?!?

First, call your mommy! No, really, if you have a mom or a grandma or an aunt or a good friend who has any experience with babies, ask for help! As long as there have been babies being born, there have been women gathering around to help new mamas through those first intense weeks with a newborn. Experienced helpers can make all the difference in how well you survive the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, and vast uncertainties that come with being a new parent.

Beware, though, the experienced helpers who are a bit too helpful and try to push you out of the way even to the extent of trying to guilt you into leaving your baby behind to go on a walk or a date-night ‘for the good of your marriage.’ In the first place, having to leave your baby behind to preserve your marriage isn’t a great precedent to set with your husband. You two are in this together and setting a precedent of family first is a good idea! And secondly, the whole point of having help is not only for you to recover, but also so you can become experienced yourself in taking care of your baby. And on that note…

Second, while accepting help is vital, make sure that everyone knows that this baby is YOUR baby and YOU will decide what is best for you and your child. Listen to all the advice; take what makes sense to you; and chuck the rest. Let your helpers do the housework and the cooking and the errands while you take care of and get to know the new little addition to your family. If your instincts tell you to hold your baby, even while she sleeps, then hold your baby even while she sleeps! If your instincts tell you to nurse your crying baby even though you just nursed fifteen minutes ago, then nurse your baby!  God gave you those instincts for a reason, so don’t ignore them!

Third, I know we’ve all heard the ‘sleep when your baby is sleeping’ advice. Listen to that advice! Short little naps may not seem all that helpful in theory, but they can be lifesavers when getting used to the rigors of new parenthood. And keep reminding yourself that it will get better, because it will!

Fourth, whether you’ve chosen to breastfeed or bottle feed, expect your little one to eat erratically right at first. Remember, babies nutritional needs were met with a constancy and lack of effort in utero that can’t be fully replicated outside the womb. Their tummies are only about the size of a walnut in the first days, so they can’t eat enough at a feeding to last them more than two or three hours at most, and often far less! Also, if you’re breastfeeding it’s common to worry that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, but if you keep in mind how itty bitty their little tummies are, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take much to fill them up. Things to consider with breastfeeding are getting a good latch and establishing your supply, among others, and it’s often helpful to consult a lactation specialist for guidance. There are excellent resources available in most communities through your local hospital as well as online resources such as La Leche League and Kellymom.com.

Fifth, while bathing baby may be fun, it really isn’t necessary and might be rather traumatic for them. ‘Topping and tailing’ is a term that means taking a warm, wet cloth (no soap) and gently washing their eyes (inner corner to outer corner to avoid infection), face, ears, head, and neck, and then washing their bottom, being careful to clean out all the little cracks and crevices. Follow that with cord care (gently cleaning the cord area with a cotton swab moistened with a bit of alcohol or just water), and you’re done!

babywearing daddy 4Sixth, birth is a huge transition for a baby. From a warm, dark, weightless environment where all their needs are met, sounds are muffled, and mama’s heartbeat lulls them to sleep, they are abruptly ejected into a cold, loud, bright world where they experience hunger and discomfort and loneliness and fear for the first time. You can help your little one cope by easing the transition for him. Keeping the lights a bit dimmer and the sounds a bit more muted right at first is helpful in welcoming your baby to your world. Also, it’s helpful to wear your baby in those first transitional weeks (and often far longer when you discover how convenient it is!). Babywearing is a term that refers to using a baby carrier, wrap, or sling to keep your baby close to you where he can hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth and closeness in an approximation of your womb. All of these things will help to reduce your baby’s stress as he acclimates to his new environment, and a less stressed baby tends to result in a less stressed mommy. And, don’t forget daddy! Babywearing is a wonderful way for daddies to bond with their babies. Studies have shown that close physical contact between fathers and their infants causes a hormonal response similar to when a mother gives birth, increasing the nurturing response naturally and paving the way for a healthy attachment and strong parent/child relationship.

Seventh, there is a big divide in parenting circles between the ‘co-sleepers’ and the ‘crib-sleepers’ so be aware that whichever choice you make will probably be challenged by more than one of your friends or relatives or even complete strangers who seem to have no issues with giving advice to someone they don’t know! Bottom line, if you choose to co-sleep, check here for ‘safe co-sleeping’ options, and then follow your instincts! If you choose to put your little one in a crib or bassinet, do yourself a favor and put it next to your bed to reduce your travel time in the middle of the night. You’ll thank me, I promise!

Eighth, your baby is completely and totally helpless in every way. Her main mode of communication is crying. Medical experts agree that it isn’t possible to spoil a newborn, and you are just at the beginning stages of building a trust relationship, so respond promptly to your little one’s cries! Your immediate response to your baby’s needs will help her begin to learn that she can count on you when she needs you and that she doesn’t have to ‘fight’ for your attention. Babies left to cry-it-out often do sleep through the night sooner than babies whose needs are responded to because they have learned to give up on their needs being met. But that ‘gain’ of sleeping through the night is accomplished at the ‘loss’ of trust, and the long-term consequences  of a child giving up on her parents simply aren’t worth it.

Ninth, baby yourself! Whether you’ve had a c-section or a vaginal birth, your body has been through the wringer; your hormones are all over the place; and your lack of sleep is not helping matters! Have someone make you a ‘survival basket’ with water bottles, granola bars, minty gum, hand sanitizer, diapers, baby wipes, burp rags, and, most importantly, chocolate! It needs to be small and light enough for you to take from room to room with you while carrying your baby. Also, have someone make a comfy area in your living room for you to nurse (with your survival basket within reach!) and a changing area so you don’t have to go back and forth to the bedroom or nursery throughout the day. Take showers when you can. Accept casseroles and other offerings of meals from friends and church members and co-workers. And, if you don’t have help for the housework, just do the bare minimum so you can rest and recover and focus on getting to know your precious new baby!

Tenth, baby your marriage! This is a huge, huge, huge transition for you and your husband, so both of you apologize to each other in advance for any temper tantrums, thoughtless words, or unmet needs that might (will!) occur in the foreseeable future. You are going from ‘the two of us’ to ‘we three’ and, just as with anything else, change isn’t easy. Husbands, it’s not about you right now, period. Yes, you have your own issues to deal with in becoming a parent for the first time, but you need to put that aside for the first weeks and concentrate on your wife and child. Your wife isn’t just having to deal with becoming a mommy, but her body has been through an incredible transition during the previous nine months followed by the trauma of labor and delivery followed by crashing hormones, the trials of learning to breastfeed (or deal with engorgement issues if choosing to bottle feed), and the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn’s erratic sleep patterns. If she’s also had a c-section, you can add major abdominal surgery to that list! So, husbands, put your own issues aside and baby your wife and baby for the time being! Wives, a little verbal acknowledgement goes a long way with husbands, so try to muster up enough energy to tell your husband that you appreciate him and understand that he is trying to figure out this new life just like you are, and assure him that eventually you will be you again! (Yes, you will. It just takes time!)

Final thoughts: One of the things that has kept me going through giving birth to six children (and losing several others along the way) is the assurance that ‘this too shall pass.’ As with all changes in life, it takes time to adjust, but reminding yourself that this ‘will pass,’ and you will adjust, and life will go on is very, very helpful! Also, take time to enjoy the little things–the sweet smell of your newborn’s tiny head, the soft sounds of his breathing as he sleeps, the sight of your spouse staring into your beautiful baby’s eyes–because too soon this time will pass and these precious moments will become mere memories. Congratulations and God bless!

quote just wanted you to know 5Related links:

Breastfeeding: Manna from God

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

A Boy, A Girl, and A Baby~Journey to Gentle Parenting

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Mona Lisa Smiles

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

Four Ways Attachment Parenting Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS

The Science of Sleep: Newborns

Where Did You Learn Love, Child?

 

quote where did you learn love feet 2

 

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