Award-winning author, L.R.Knost

Posts tagged “parenting

Are You a Parent ‘Reject’?

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

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toddler girl puppy costumeCapri points at the front door every morning and says, “Daddy, go!” Her daddy feels a bit rejected, especially on the weekends when he doesn’t have to go to work and his little girl cries because he won’t leave! 

When Daddy and Luca play tickle monsters after bathtime, Mommy tries to join in, but Luca grabs Mommy’s hand and drags her back to her computer chair. Her mommy feels like she’s just the parent workhorse while Daddy gets to be the playmate. 

Micah cries and yells, “No-no, Daddy!” when Daddy tries to help with bedtime. Daddy feels like he’s missing out on some of the most important memory-making parts of his little guy’s childhood.

While these parents’ feelings are, of course, valid, the rejection they are feeling is actually a misinterpretation of their children’s actions. Small children are creatures of habit. They’ve only recently arrived in this world and everything is strange and new and big and loud and confusing, so it makes sense that they find comfort and security in repetition and routine. That’s the reason they ask us to read the same book to them over and over and…well, you get the idea.

As they begin to learn and grow, they categorize things in order to understand them. That’s why right at first every animal is a ‘kitty’ and every drink is ‘juice.’ This same process of learning through categorization applies to relationships, as well. Children are constantly observing and studying their parents and the roles each of them play, and then using that information to construct a mental ‘schematic’ of their world.

If a child is accustomed to one parent doing the bedtime routine while the other is busy cleaning up after dinner, a sudden change in that routine may disrupt the little one’s schematic, and they will often resist or have a meltdown.

Understanding that it is the break in routine, the unexpected happening when a small child has settled in their mind what the ‘expected’ is, that is at the root of the issue can help a parent to overcome their feelings of rejection and focus on working toward a solution in a way that meets their child’s security needs.

Here are five ideas to try if you or your partner are a parent ‘reject’:

1.)    When you know a routine is going to change, talk about it with your child ahead of time to prepare them. For instance, if your little one is used to Daddy going to work and you have a day off coming up, you can say, “Daddy gets to stay home and play tomorrow!” the evening before and then in the morning, “This is the day I get to stay home and play! What should we do first?”

2.)    If you’d like to share the diapering duties, but your little one is used to just one parent doing the changes, start by having the non-diapering parent assist for a few changes, then switch roles, but continue to do it together until your baby is comfortable with the new routine.

3.)    The same ideas apply to bedtime or bathtime routines, dropping off or picking up your little one from preschool, or any other routine your child is used to. If you need to change the routine, talk about it ahead of time to prepare them and then try to walk through the routine a few times together before switching roles or sharing the routine.

4.)    If one parent has a special play time with your little one, instead of trying to join in, why not choose a separate time for the three of you to play together? That will allow them to have a special bonding time for just the two of them while providing an opportunity at another time for you all to bond as a family.

5.)    Keep in mind that, especially for very young babies, their survival instinct may make them quite partial to their mommy for the first few months to a year old or even a bit beyond. That is a natural, normal, and healthy design inbuilt to ensure that they stay attached to their source of food and comfort. If a securely attached baby is having trouble bonding with anyone other than mommy, instead of trying to detach baby, try building your bond while baby is happy and content in mommy’s arms. Play peek-a-boo, make fishy-faces, read picture books, and just chat with baby. That will help your little one to begin to associate you with the same safety and comfort they feel in mommy’s embrace while building your own secure bond with them.

Related posts:

The Terrible Trouble with Toothbrushing: A Toddler’s Perspective

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

 

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Crazy, Beautiful, Wonderful Life!

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

  ~The Story of Us~

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

Many, many years ago (25, to be exact!) a small, scared, pregnant, teenaged girl walked down the aisle to her tall, scared, clueless, young man and they said their “I do’s.”

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

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

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

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

As their precious little guy got bigger and began to explore his new world, the young couple delighted in everything he did and simply moved him and/or distracted him with songs and toys if he got into things. They couldn’t bear the thought of hurting their son, so just pulled him into their laps for a time-in cuddle and chat if he got upset or needed to settle or be redirected…and then they were gentle discipliners!

As time went by and more children entered the family (six, to be exact!) other issues such as education and socialization had to be made, and, while at first the young couple followed the norm and the first two of their children started out in public school, it just didn’t sit well with the parenting style they’d developed. Neither one of them had ever known anyone who homeschooled, so that was a truly scary idea, but public education wasn’t for them and they were just too ’economically challenged’ to afford any kind of private school. So, they did what they’d always done and withdrew their children from school and figured it out as they went along…and then they were homeschoolers!

Now, this journey might sound like an easy one when summed up this way, but I can assure you it wasn’t. The young couple, my amazing husband and I, encountered strong criticism of our parenting choices over and over through the years from many, and a refusal to accept or accommodate those choices from some.

  • We were warned that our marriage would suffer at the very least, and our babies would suffocate at the worst, if we slept with them in our bed instead of putting them in isolation to sleep.
  • We were informed that my breasts would look like deflated balloons and reach my knees by my thirties if I breastfed beyond a couple of months (if that!).
  • We were admonished that our children would grow into spoiled brats if we responded to their needs instead of teaching them to ‘deal with it’ and ‘self-soothe’ their own, and would end up criminals if we encouraged and guided them instead of spanking them.
  • We were advised that our children would be uneducated social outcasts (i.e. homeless or still living at home at forty!) if we homeschooled them instead of putting them into the institutional public education system.

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

As for the dire warnings listed above:

  • Our beautiful, strong, loving marriage is in it’s 26th year.
  • Our children all survived cosleeping (our littlest, 19 months, is still safely and contentedly sleeping in our bed).
  • My breasts are, well, normal except for being a couple of cup sizes larger at the moment since I’m breastfeeding a toddler, lol.
  • Our children are, in order, a 24 yr old pastor (he’s our firstborn son mentioned in the story above who just welcomed his first son eight weeks ago!), a 22 yr old family therapist, a 17 yr old in his third year of pre-med at university, 12 and 5 yr old beautiful and well-behaved homeschooled girls with lots of friends (soooo not social outcasts!), and a sweet and happy 19 month old baby girl. Not a brat or criminal in the bunch!

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

So there you have it~our journey to a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, gentle disciplining, homeschooling, happy family of eight! Well, including our awesome son-in-law, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and brand new grandson, I guess I should say family of 12! One boy, one girl, and one baby have come a long way, Baby!

~Us Now~

It’s hard to believe that tumultuous young love story has now spanned a quarter of a century, surviving lay-offs, loss, injury and illness and embracing life, love, joy and oneness. Two became one, then blossomed into a family of eight, now expanded to a family of twelve (with more to come!). We really have come a long way, Baby! 25 years down and a lifetime more to go, God willing!

~The Story Continues~

Our Big, Happy Family!

Me with my two littlest girls riding the European style bike my hubby built!

My two oldest girls

My oldest son with his family

My littlest love

Our newest little heart <3

Our pre-med son, Doc with my hubby and littlest love

My little love and I

Our newest little heart <3

My oldest daughter and her hubby

My little peanut (daughter #3)

My girls <3

Doc (son #2)

Our oldest son, Rev

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Toddler Fighting Sleep? 20 Peaceful Sleepy-Time Tips

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

Sleeping toddlerToddlers are infinitely curious little dynamos that may seem like clones of the Energizer Bunny…they keep going and going and going and…well, you get the idea! Even little ones who were supposedly ‘good’ sleepers in infancy often seem to lose the ability and/or the desire to sleep once they reach toddlerhood. Add a baby sibling (or one on the way!) to the mix, and you can find yourself right back to that zombie-mama state you thought you’d left behind after those first few exhausting newborn months. So what’s a zombie-mama to do? Here are a few tips to try and recapture some precious zzz’s for both yourself and your little one(s) and to turn those dreaded bedtime battles into peaceful bedtime snuggles:

  1. Stop stressing. Sometimes we get so focused on the latest study or research that tells us that the average child needs ‘x’ amount of sleep for optimal brain development, or how many naps the average child needs, or what time the average child should go to bed or wake up that we forget we aren’t growing an ‘average’ child. We’re growing a unique individual who may need more sleep or less sleep, or may be an early bird or a night owl, or may naturally sleep in long stretches or may sleep in shorter spurts. There is a wide range of normal, so try to stop focusing on the latest research and start focusing on discovering the normal sleep rhythms and needs of your own perfect little person!
  2. Speaking of sleep rhythms, start keeping a log of your little one’s sleep patterns. You may be surprised to find that they are getting more sleep than you think they are! For two weeks, write down what time your child falls asleep for naps and bedtimes, what time your child gets up, what activities precede nap and bedtimes (play, tv, bathtimes, books, etc.), how long before falling asleep those activities take place, how long the bedtime routine takes each night, how long it takes your child to fall asleep, etc. Keep in mind, the more detailed you make the log, the more information you’ll have to work with in addressing any sleep issues you’re having.
  3. Once you have a good idea of where you are, you can decide where you want to go. If your sleep log reveals that your little one is getting enough sleep (which, believe it or not, is normally the case since children are typically quite adept at knowing what they need and following their body’s cues!), you can relax and go with their own unique flow. Sometimes, though, when you have other children or need your child’s sleep patterns to fit your work schedule better or if your little one has adopted some sleep habits that are making life a bit difficult, you might want to tweak your little one’s sleep rhythms to fit more easily into your lifestyle. If that is the case, remember that tiny changes make for an easier transition than big ones.
  4. If you do need to tweak you little one’s sleep patterns, start by making a list of priorities. Do you want them to go to sleep earlier? Do you want them to sleep for longer stretches? Do you want to shift their naps to a different time of day? Write down the changes you want to make in order of importance, then write a specific plan to work with your child’s rhythms and personality to try to implement those changes.
  5. If your little one is taking forever to fall asleep at night, look at your sleep log and see if there is anything that could be contributing to the problem. For instance, if they’re watching tv in the evenings it may seem like they’re settling down in preparation for going to bed, but in actuality all that stillness combined with the stimulation of the lights and sounds are building up a kinetic energy in their little body that’s likely to come out in a burst of activity just when you’re ready for them to go to sleep! Other things that may be contributing to bedtime battles are hunger, a too-short or too-stimulating bedtime routine, a too-late nap, over-tiredness, or even just not being tired that early in the evening.
  6. To eliminate hunger as a contributor to bedtime battles, and also to help your toddler sleep for longer stretches, try adding a late snack with sleep-inducing foods rich in tryptophan and calming magnesium such as almonds, sunflower seeds, milk, yogurt, bananas, apples and peanut butter.
  7. A consistent bedtime routine isn’t just about performing the same rituals in the same order every night. It’s far more about starting bedtime consistently at around the same time each evening. Look at the log you created to find clues as to whether you’ve got a night owl or an early bird on your hands, and take your little one’s natural rhythms into consideration along with your own needs (i.e. getting up early for work, needing time with your spouse, etc.) when establishing their routine.
  8. A slow nighttime routine is always better than a speedy one, and toddlers tend to respond better when they have some semblance of control over their lives, so slow down in the evenings and give your toddler some control over their bedtime by cutting out colorful pictures of each element of the routine and pasting them on magnets or ping-pong balls, then let your toddler arrange the magnets in the order they want to do bedtime or pick the ping-pong balls out of a jar for a fun element of surprise.
  9. If there’s a particular element of the bedtime routine that your toddler resists, such as tooth-brushing, move that element entirely out of the routine so your toddler doesn’t relate it with bedtime. Try some of these toddler tooth-brushing tips and brush your little one’s teeth at least half an hour before starting your bedtime routine.
  10. Too little outside time and not enough rough-and-tumble play is a big contributor to sleep issues, so make sure that your little one is getting a daily dose of sunshine along with plenty of free play time to run and climb and jump and explore. Don’t forget to join them with some tickles and giggles to get those delightful belly laughs going and to fill their little lungs with healthy doses of oxygen and their little hearts with healthy doses of love.
  11. Another thing your sleep log may reveal is that your toddler just isn’t tired at the time you are trying to get them to sleep. If your log shows a consistent, quiet bedtime routine that your toddler enjoys and participates in, but they still don’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of laying down, try shifting bedtime later in 15 minute increments to see if that helps.
  12. If naptime is a problem, first check your daily routine to see if it’s just too busy for your little one to have enough time to relax and go to sleep easily. Remember that, while we may be able to work with our little ones to help their sleep patterns to fit our lifestyles a bit better, we can’t expect these tiny people who are so new to the world and have so many needs that may conflict with our plans to be the ones to do all the compromising!
  13. To shift the timing of your toddler’s nap, first look at your log and see if it’s reasonable to expect them to go to sleep earlier or later based on their current bedtime and wake time. It may be that you need to gradually shift their bedtime and/or wake time before you begin to try to shift their naptime. Any changes you want to make should be done in no more than 15 minute increments, and you should wait a several days between each shift for your child time to adjust.
  14. If you are making adjustments to your child’s sleep routine and they start resisting, slow down. You may even need to take a step or two back and wait a bit before moving forward again. Remember, the objective is to work with your child’s natural sleep rhythms and personality. If they resist, they are communicating their needs to you, and, as the adult, it’s up to you to ‘read’ your little one’s behavior and respond to the needs they don’t know how to articulate any other way so that you can make sleeping a peaceful part of each day instead of a daily battleground.
  15. Don’t discount the value of darkness to lull little ones to sleep and white noise to block out ambient noises. Also, make sure to use dim reddish or orangish lights for nightlights. Blue lights have been shown to suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
  16. If you have an infant whose sleep rhythms you’re juggling as well as a toddler with sleep issues, start by creating a log for each of them. Follow the same suggestions above for your toddler as needed while letting your spouse have some one-on-one time with your infant. If you don’t have help, try wearing your baby in a wrap while going through your nighttime routine with your toddler or putting your baby to sleep before your toddler’s bedtime, if possible.
  17. If you have issues with getting your infant to sleep because of your toddler’s noisy interruptions, try putting together a basket of quiet time toys that only comes out when it’s your baby’s bedtime to keep their novelty value for your toddler.
  18. Remember, often what parents interpret as a toddler (or an infant) fighting sleep is actually them fighting separation from their primary attachment figures. Nighttime can be a dark and scary time for a little person, and being forcibly separated from the people they count on all day to take care of their needs and comfort them when they’re afraid merely compounds the issue. Laying down with your little one and softly humming or telling a quiet story or simply being near can allay those fears and help them to drift off to sleep more quickly and peacefully.
  19. If you’ve been cosleeping and are ready to transition your toddler to their own space, try these gentle transitioning tips.
  20. Last, but certainly not least, keep in mind that these early days of childhood will pass quickly and your little one will mature in their sleep rhythms as surely as they will grow in stature and independence, and soon they won’t need the same time-intensive parenting they need now, though they’ll always need the same intense love, just in different ways.

Related posts:

25 Tips to Prepare Children for a New Sibling

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

Transitioning from Cosleeping: A Toddler’s Own Space

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

The Terrible Trouble with Toothbrushing: A Toddler’s Perspective

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Helping Unique Learners Find Their Genius ♥

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

~Skipping, marching, swinging while singing

~Climbing

~Balance beam

~Bicycling

~Piano

~Sorting

Brain-organizing activities…

~Memory matching

~Tonal music

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

~Design-matching building

~Sensory bins

Eye-tracking activities…

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

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

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

Visual-motor learning…

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

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

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

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

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

 

Related posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you give a toddler a book

He’ll climb into your lap

While he’s in your lap

He might lay his head on your chest

When he lays his head on your chest

He’ll hear your heartbeat

When he hears your heartbeat

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

 

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

 

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Baby on the Way! 25 Tips to Prepare Children for a New Sibling

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

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toddler kissing mommy's pregnant bellyPregnancy is a time of introspection, excitement, and, often, anxiety for most new mamas. When those new mamas also have other small children at home, that anxiety can become overwhelming as they worry about how they’ll cope with more than one child and how the current little loves of their life will cope with a new sibling. While these are very valid concerns, there are steps you can take to prepare your child for a new sibling and help them to adjust when the new baby arrives that will also help you to cope with life as a mama of more than one little blessing.

Once you discover you’re expecting, you’ve got months and months to prepare your child for the arrival of a new sibling, so here are 25 tips for during your pregnancy and after the new baby arrives to make the new baby transition a smoother and sweeter journey for everyone:

  1. Help your older child make their own ‘sister/brother on the way’ announcements so they feel like they are part of the transition from the beginning.
  2. Bring them along to sonograms, doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby things, etc.
  3. Reassure them that parents’ love multiplies instead of divides and that they will always be loved and important. Point out other families with more than one child so they can see that truth for themselves. If they’re old enough to understand, try a simple illustration such as letting them put different colors of water beads, one for each family member including the baby-on-the-war, into a glass of water. Tell them the water is like love, and it grows the beads into a rainbow of beautiful colors just like love grows our hearts bigger and bigger so there’s plenty of love for everyone.
  4. Present the new baby-on-the-way as ‘theirs,’ a special gift sent just for them so they will have a best friend for life. Talk about their friends who have siblings and how they always have someone to play with and someone to help them when they need it.
  5. Find children’s books about welcoming a new sibling, taking care of a new baby, when mommy breastfeeds, etc. to read to them before the birth. Here is a great list to get you started.
  6. Let them help decorate the nursery, put together the stroller, pack up the hospital bag (or prepare for your homebirth), buckle in the car seat, etc.
  7. Ask the person giving your baby shower to let your child ‘co-host’ and help with the party planning, set-up, serving snacks, and playing games.
  8. Help them make a special ‘welcome’ gift for the new baby and wrap it in paper they’ve decorated with stamps or finger paint.
  9. Buy them a special ‘welcome’ gift that you give them when they visit their new sibling for the first time. One idea is to buy them a child-sized baby carrier along with a doll, some diapers, wipes, mini baby blankets, etc. so they can take care of their baby while you take care of yours.
  10. Help them make their own family scrapbook with places to put the new baby’s pictures and pictures of them with their new little sibling when the new baby comes.
  11. Tell them stories about when they were born and show them pictures of their homecoming and first weeks of life.
  12. Let them help you work on updating their baby book.
  13. Take them to pick out a baby book for the new baby.
  14. Begin an open-ended conversation about how they’re feeling about having a new baby in the family to allow them to express their natural worries about how their role in the family might change, if they will still be able to play with their own toys, if the baby will cry a lot, etc. Continue this conversation throughout your pregnancy and after the new baby arrives to keep the communication lines open and your connection intact.
  15. Take them to visit the hospital and stop at the gift shop to buy a baby gift and a little treat for them to build excitement.
  16. Have lunch at the hospital cafeteria two or three times leading up to your birth to help them get used to the environment.
  17. Work on building other attached relationships with significant adults in your child’s life (spouse, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) so that your little one is used to having their needs attended to by someone other than mama at times and so they can play and get one-on-one time with another caregiver while mama is busy with the new baby.
  18. On their first visit with their new sibling, let them sit in bed with you and hold their new little sibling. Have a ‘big sister/brother’ t-shirt for them to wear and take lots of pictures of both of them together and with other family members. Ask whoever you have caring for your older child to stop on the way home to print out a few of the pictures and then help them put the pictures in the scrapbook they created with you at home.
  19. When the new baby arrives continue to present the baby as ‘theirs’ to love and enjoy and care for. Include them in helping with diaper changes, snuggling on your other side with storybooks for you to read while nursing/feeding the new baby, singing the baby to sleep, etc. Make sure you invite them to participate instead of insisting because they may need some time to adjust to the newness of everything before they’re ready.
  20. Keep your expectations in line with your child’s developmental stage and make accommodations whenever possible. For instance, expecting a toddler to willingly give up their crib to a new baby is probably unrealistic. Moving your toddler to a new bed early in your pregnancy and then involving them in getting the crib ready for the new baby later on, after they’ve adjusted to their new bed, might be more successful.
  21. If your older child is a toddler or preschooler, you can expect some regression into babyish behavior as they work to adjust to their new role and find their place in the new family dynamic. Don’t respond with punishment, shaming, or pressure to ‘be a big boy or girl.’ Instead allow them the space and time they need to explore how it feels to be a baby again while at the same time drawing their attention to the benefits of being the older sibling (i.e. “Look how you can walk on your strong legs wherever you want to go! Your baby sister can’t walk yet, can she?” or “Wow, you can pick out your own shoes and even put them on yourself! Your baby brother can’t do that yet, can he?” or “Look at all the yummy foods you get to eat. It’s nice being bigger so you don’t have to just have milk, isn’t it?”)
  22. Be specific about how your child should treat the new baby. Instead of “Be nice!” try “Can you use a kind voice with your brother?” and instead of “Don’t be so rough!” try “Can you give your sister a gentle hug?”
  23. Make sure your child’s boundaries are clear and consistent. If you let them hop around the baby’s bouncer to make the new baby laugh one day, you can be sure they’ll try bouncing around the baby’s bouncer again and again and again. If you think that’s dangerous, set a clear boundary, explain the reason for the boundary, and give them an alternative (i.e. “Hopping next to the baby is dangerous. You might fall on the baby and hurt him! That would make you sad, and the baby would be sad, too. If you need to hop, you can hop like a bunny over here next to me.”)
  24. Keeping a consistent, familiar routine for your older child will help them to feel less out-of-control as they adjust to all of the other changes going on in their life. Make sure you’re flexible and in-tune with your child’s changing needs, though. They will most likely communicate their natural anxiety at this big transition in the family with some acting out behaviors, clinginess, whining, and/or resistance to bedtime and other normal routines. For instance, they may have been fine with one story and a hug at bedtime before the new baby arrived, but after their new sibling comes home they may need extra cuddles, time, and the reassurance of your love and ongoing commitment to their wellbeing before they’re able to go to sleep.
  25. Talk, talk, talk to your little ones throughout each and every day. Your hands may be busy more often than not, but you can still maintain that all-important connection through communication!

Keep in mind that nothing will completely eliminate the possibility of some jealousy, regression, or acting out when a new baby arrives because it’s a huge transition and it will take time for everyone in the family to adjustment, but these suggestions will go a long way toward setting the stage for the smoothest transition possible.

quote new second babyRelated posts:

Ten Steps to Surviving the First Three Months with a Newborn

The Gift of Breastfeeding

Love in the Time of Cosleeping

300+ Nicknames for Your Babykins…Doodlebug…Snugglebunny…

Babywearing Basics Resource Guide

Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Bouncing Back into Shape after Baby

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

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

bridge over troubled water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect:

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

Communicate:

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

Cooperate:

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

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

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

 


Related posts:

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

The Problem with Punishment

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

The Incredible Power of the Whisper

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water Studio Version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Rethinking Tattling

[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

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tattling“She won’t share!”

“He took my crayon!”

“They won’t let me play with them!”

“He looked at me!”

“She poked me!”

“They’re jumping on the couch!”

“He won’t be my friend!”

Few things irritate adults as quickly as a tattle-tale. The kneejerk response is often “Stop tattling!” or “Handle it yourself!” or even to shame or punish little tattlers.

But stop for a moment and think: What is being communicated? What is a child actually trying to tell us when they tattle? What message is a child getting by our response?

Tattling is, in effect, a child seeking wise counsel for a situation they don’t know how to handle. When faced with a conflict that just weeks or months earlier would have resulted in tears or snatching or hitting or some combination of all three, a child who has matured and begun to develop some self-control is learning to stop and think instead of just react. But what do they do if no solution presents itself? What if they’ve tried to reason or negotiate with the object of their conflict and been unable to come to a resolution?

What do adults do when they don’t know what to do? Typically, they either respond with maturity and seek out someone they respect and trust to help them deal with the situation, or they degenerate into chaotic emotions and resort to anger, power-plays, and manipulation. Often their response is influenced by their own childhood and how they were taught or not taught, as the case may be, to handle conflict.

When a child tattles, what they are actually doing is a rudimentary form of the advanced life skill of ‘Pause. Think. Respond.’ but they need help finding an appropriate and effective response. The child who seeks out an adult for guidance is indicating trust in the adult and respect for the adult’s opinions and abilities. If the adult reacts with irritation, “Stop tattling!” or rejection, “Handle it yourself!” or punishment, the child learns not to trust, not to seek guidance, and not to share struggles and problems with those entrusted with their care, a potentially dangerous mentality, as we’ll discuss later. In addition, an excellent teachable moment is lost.

When a child approaches a trusted adult with a problem, the child is saying, “This is important. Hear me. Help me.” This is a wonderful opportunity to guide the child through the process of conflict resolution. So often we relegate life skills such as conflict resolution to textbooks and worksheets, if we address them at all. But learning is far more powerful and effective if it is tied to real-life, real-time issues that are important to us, that impact our lives, that matter.

So how do we handle the kneejerk irritation response when confronted with a tattling child? First, tossing out the tattling label entirely helps to adjust our mindset and focus on the child’s need for guidance. We can rename it ‘sharing’ or whatever else will help us in the rethinking process (though in our home it is just a normal and accepted part of our parent/child interaction and doesn’t have a name of its own to distinguish it from any other kind of communication).

Next, we can have prepared responses ready so that we aren’t ‘stuck’ when we’re trying to cope with our instinctive irritation in the same moment that we need to focus on helping an upset child in need of guidance.

Here are some possible responses:

If the child is over-wrought…

  • “I can see you’re upset. Let’s take a minute and breathe together, and then we’ll be able to think clearly.”

When the child is calm enough to talk…

  • “Can you tell me what happened to upset you?”
  • “Why do you think they did that?”
  • “How do you think we should handle that?”
  • “What could you have done differently?”
  • “What would you want them to do if you had been the one to do that?”

Often just feeling heard is enough to help the child find their own solution to the problem, but if further guidance is needed we can brainstorm solutions with them, walk them through some possible scenarios, or step in and help them to resolve the problem.

In addition to teaching valuable conflict resolution skills, giving our children the sure knowledge that they aren’t alone in the world and don’t have to cope with life on their own is a vital message. Logically speaking, does it really make sense to teach our children that they can’t trust us with their problems, can’t come to us when they’re stressed and don’t know how to cope, can’t seek wise counsel when confronted with situations that are beyond their ability to handle?

The potential ramifications of that mindset are chilling. Can we really expect children to have the mental clarity and emotional maturity to be able to distinguish ‘good’ telling from ‘bad’ telling when faced with bullying or peer pressure or sexual predators? It’s well known that sexual predators manipulate children with threats such as, “No one will believe you,” and, “No one will listen, anyway.”

Guarding our children against those lies, against the bullies, against pressure from their peers is essential, and keeping the communication doors flung wide open is certainly a powerful step in the right direction.

Related posts:

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

The Problem with Punishment

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

Why Whining is a Win!

The Color of Change

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


All the ‘Right’ Parenting Moves

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

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“Gentle Parenting doesn’t cure childhood because childhood isn’t a disease. It doesn’t fix children because children aren’t broken. Time is the only cure, the only fix. Time passes. Childhood ends. Gentle parenting simply recognizes normal childhood behavior as normal and guides children through the normal ages and stages of childhood with compassion and respect.”

~L.R.Knost

mommy's little kittyEver have one of those days where you make all the ‘right’ parenting moves, but your children still act like children? (Do I hear a resounding “YES!!!” bouncing off the walls of cyberspace? Lol.) Of course we all have, and a whole lot more than just one day, too!

I’m still chuckling over the comment someone left me that said something along the lines of me clearly never having had a ‘problem child’ and wishing me good luck if I ever have more than one child because then my chances of having said ‘problem child’ would increase. For the record, amongst my six children I have two with sensory issues, one with full-blown Sensory Processing Disorder, two with ADD, one with Auditory Processing Disorder, and two who would be labeled ‘strong-willed’ or ‘high-maintenance’ or even ‘problem children’ by people who want to label children.

quote imperfect humanThe thing that people so often misunderstand, though, is that gentle parenting is not about stopping our children from being children. It’s about guiding our children through childhood with gentleness, compassion, and respect. It’s about viewing normal childhood behavior as normal, and working with our children in developmentally appropriate ways to teach and inspire and encourage them to become the extraordinary people they were created to be.

So, when my extraordinary little people act like children and I make all the ‘right’ parenting moves and yet it still turns out to be a frustrating, tiring, out-of-sorts kind of day for all of us, that’s perfectly okay with me. We all have days like that. We start over again the next day…and the day after that…and the day after that. That’s just how crazy, beautiful, wonderful life with children goes. ♥

 

For more gentle parenting resources, check out:

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Why Whining is a Win!

[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

whiningIt’s seven o’clock and you’re finishing up the dishes before starting bedtime baths. And then it starts…the whining. Every. Single. Night. Your four-year-old knows the routine. She knows you are going to read her favorite bedtime book. She knows you will let her choose which pajamas to wear. She knows she has to brush her teeth. But that doesn’t stop her from standing in the kitchen night after night whining about the same things.

So what’s the deal? Short-term memory loss? An innate desire to drive you crazy? A disorder of the vocal cords that makes using a normal voice impossible after the sun sets and every time she doesn’t get her way all day long?!?

Here’s a shocker for you: Whining is actually a sign of maturity! Yep, that unnerving, endless, nails-on-a-chalkboard, make-your-head-explode whine is a sign that your little one is growing up and, get this, gaining self-control! I can see your heads shaking, but read on, parents, caregivers, and bleeding ears of the world, read on.

Whining, believe it or not, is an advanced skill. Babies come into the world with exactly one form of verbal communication–crying. They may smack their lips and root for the breast when hungry. They may arch their back or wiggle in discomfort when they need a diaper change. But when physical expressions don’t result in needs being met or their needs are emotional rather than physical, then crying is always the ‘default’ communication. Every need, every discomfort, every bit of loneliness or anxiety or frustration or stress has to be communicated through that one single venue.

Over time as babies grow into toddlers, they begin to learn new ways to communicate, pointing, grunting, picking up a few words here and there, and they move into a more interactive stage wherein they make attempts to communicate in these new ways, but fall back very quickly into crying if they aren’t understood and responded to quickly.

As time goes on, toddlerhood gives way to the preschool years and language skills advance, becoming the main source of communication for a little one. But even so, their grasp of language is limited and their prefrontal cortexes (center of forethought/pre-thinking skills) are still developing. This leads to a rather dichotomous situation in which they know what they want to say, but often can’t quite put the words together quickly or clearly enough for us oh-so-impatient adults.

As they work to communicate, their frustration levels rise and stress hormones sap the blood flow from those underdeveloped ‘thinking’ portions of their brains and, just when they need the use of language the most, they begin to lose the ability to articulate their needs. As toddlers they would fall quickly back into crying at this point, but as preschoolers their more advanced self-control helps them to avoid immediately dissolving into tears and, instead, they fall into the ‘middle-ground’ of whining.

Whining is, in fact, just an advanced form of crying and, as such, is just as grating on the nerves as crying because it is designed to get the attention of a caregiver. The difference is actually in our attitudes toward whining. We accept crying as a normal part of baby and toddlerhood, but label the whining of a preschooler ‘bratty’ and ‘spoiled’ and refuse to listen to them until they ‘use their normal voice’ just when they need us to listen the most!

If we, as adults, would adjust our mindsets to accept the normalcy of whining, it would lose a bit of its power to annoy while enabling us to respond empathetically to our children when they’re mustering all their newly-developed coping skills to avoid a meltdown.

So, what can we do when our little ones lapse into ‘whine-eze’ and we feel like tearing our hair out? Well, as always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

  • Pay attention to the time of day whining seems to occur most often.
  • Watch for triggers such as hunger, missed naps, and over-hurried schedules.
  • Make whatever adjustments you can to prevent the whining before it starts.
  • If all else fails and the whining does commence, remember that your little one is struggling to communicate in that moment. Respond by slowing down, sitting with them or kneeling down in front of them, and giving them your full attention.
  • Use a quiet, soothing tone to reassure them, and listen patiently all the way through as they work their way back through the frustration and find the words to express themselves.
  • You may not be able to give them the toy or snack or whatever else it is they want at that moment, but giving them the chance to be heard is often enough to forestall an all-out meltdown.

More than anything, though, giving your little ones the gift of your time and attention when they need it most (and often seem to deserve it least) will help foster that all-important connection that provides the basis for gentle guidance and boundary-setting. And, as an added bonus, children who feel heard tend to outgrow the whining stage much earlier than children who feel like they have to fight to be heard.

Related posts:

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The ‘NO’ Zone

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

Whether you are an expectant parent, a new parent, or a seasoned parent, looking for a parenting book that resonates with your beliefs can be almost as overwhelming as parenting itself. The choices are practically endless when it comes to mainstream (read: punitive) parenting guides. In fact, if you go to the library or browse the shelves at Barnes & Noble or check out Amazon’s best-sellers in the parenting genre, you will find a predominance of popular, punishment-based, obedience-focused parenting guides. But when it comes to parenting guides with positive, practical, effective alternatives to punitive parenting, the choices are a bit more limited and can be harder to find. Here are more than a dozen positive parenting books for you that have beat the odds and worked their way through the maze of mainstream punitive parenting guides to become best-sellers:

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Gentle ParentThe Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R.Knost

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

 

Jesus the Gentle Parent final front cover

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

 

the other baby book 1The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz

Massaro and Katz are helping mothers reclaim a simpler, more connected first year with their babies. Readers will find eight fun-to-read chapters filled with baby-friendly practices, along with stories from moms in-the-know. In a soothing yet sassy voice, the authors present compelling research on topics like birth, holding your baby, breastfeeding, infant sleep, pottying babies (yes, really!), sign language, baby-led solids, and self-care for moms. The book also features contributions from leading practitioners in baby care: Dr. James McKenna, Dr. Janet Zand, Naomi Aldort, Gill Rapley, Nancy Mohrbacher, and more.

 

Sleeping with Your BabySleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping by James J. McKenna

Intelligent, respectful, and informative, ‘Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide’ is your guide to understanding how to make night-times with your baby safe, fun and relaxing! Written by the world’s foremost authority on co-sleeping, James J. McKenna, Ph.D. Professor of Biological Anthropology, Director, Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre.

 

 

 

The Attachment Parenting BookThe Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William Sears and Martha Sears

Might you and your baby both sleep better if you shared a bed? How old is too old for breastfeeding? What is a father’s role in nurturing a newborn? How does early attachment foster a child’s eventual independence? Dr. Bill and Martha Sears — the doctor-and-nurse, husband-and-wife team who coined the term “attachment parenting” — answer these and many more questions in this practical, inspiring guide. Attachment parenting is a style of parenting that encourages a strong early attachment, and advocates parental responsiveness to babies’ dependency needs. “The Attachment Parenting Book” clearly explains the six “Baby B’s” that form the basis of this increasingly popular parenting style: Bonding, Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Bedding close to baby, Belief in the language value of baby’s cry, Beware of baby trainers. Here’s all the information you need to achieve your most important goals as a new parent: to know your child, to help your child feel right, and to enjoy parenting.

 

Beyond the SlingBeyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik

Attachment parenting rests on one revolutionary principle: you already know the majority of what you need to know to be an incredible parent. Popularized by physicians like Dr. William Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon, attachment parenting directly contradicts the two hundred years of Western culture that has convinced us that we need a lot of help: help giving birth; help “teaching” our baby to sleep; help just being a parent. ‘Beyond the Sling’ is not that kind of parenting book.

Mayim Bialik shows us that by understanding the basic theories of attachment and infant development—and incorporating age-old childrearing methods like breastfeeding, baby wearing, gentle discipline, and co-sleeping—we can truly be the parents that nature intends us to be. With a PhD in neuroscience and a specialization in the hormones of attachment, Bialik is uniquely qualified to explain the science behind the method and how it’s your evolutionary right to tap into your intuition and enjoy every stage of parenthood. A mother of two young boys, she also offers a firsthand account of how she came to follow the tenets of attachment parenting, plus a down-to-earth guide to making this lifestyle work for every kind of family.

 

How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids will TalkHow To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This bestselling classic includes fresh insights and suggestions as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, including innovative ways to:

-Cope with your child’s negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, and disappointment
-Express your strong feelings without being hurtful
-Engage your child’s willing cooperation
-Set firm limits and maintain goodwill
-Use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline
-Understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise
-Resolve family conflicts peacefully

Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals around the world, the down-to-earth, respectful approach of Faber and Mazlish makes relationships with children of all ages less stressful and more rewarding.

 

Unconditional ParentingUnconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn

In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking, “What do kids need — and how can we meet those needs?” What follows from that question are ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.

One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful, and largely unknown, research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That’s precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it’s not the message most parents intend to send.

More than just another book about discipline, though, Unconditional Parenting addresses the ways parents think about, feel about, and act with their children. It invites them to question their most basic assumptions about raising kids while offering a wealth of practical strategies for shifting from “doing to” to “working with” parenting — including how to replace praise with the unconditional support that children need to grow into healthy, caring, responsible people. This is an eye-opening, paradigm-shattering book that will reconnect readers to their own best instincts and inspire them to become better parents.

 

Playful ParentingPlayful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen

Have you ever stepped back to watch what really goes on when your children play? As psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen points out, play is children’s way of exploring the world, communicating deep feelings, getting close to those they care about, working through stressful situations, and simply blowing off steam. That’s why “playful parenting” is so important and so successful in building strong, close bonds between parents and children. Through play we join our kids in their world–and help them to:

-Express and understand complex emotions
-Break through shyness, anger, and fear
-Empower themselves and respect diversity
-Play their way through sibling rivalry
-Cooperate without power struggles

From eliciting a giggle during baby’s first game of peekaboo to cracking jokes with a teenager while hanging out at the mall, Playful Parenting is a complete guide to using play to raise confident children. Written with love and humor, brimming with good advice and revealing anecdotes, and grounded in the latest research, this book will make you laugh even as it makes you wise in the ways of being an effective, enthusiastic parent.

 

The Honest ToddlerThe Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan

The Honest Toddler provides an indispensable manual to parenting that places the toddler’s happiness front and center. Outrageously confident and sweetly indignant, the Honest Toddler tackles everything from preferred toddler foods (unbroken crackers and undiluted juice), sleep- and potty-training methods (none), playdate etiquette (mi casa es not su casa), and the proper response to random aggression at the playground (Embrace it. Park justice is messy but swift).

The result is a parenting book like no other, one that will leave moms and dads laughing, and maybe crying, as they recognize their own child in the ongoing shenanigans of one bravely honest toddler. Lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, this toddler’s eye-view is a real eye-opener for parents, giving valuable insight into the inner workings of the toddler mind.

 

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Dr. Laura MarkhamPeaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Laura Markham

A groundbreaking guide to raising responsible, capable, happy kids…Based on the latest research on brain development and extensive clinical experience with parents, Dr. Laura Markham’s approach is as simple as it is effective. Her message: Fostering emotional connection with your child creates real and lasting change. When you have that vital connection, you don’t need to threaten, nag, plead, bribe—or even punish.

This remarkable guide will help parents better understand their own emotions—and get them in check—so they can parent with healthy limits, empathy, and clear communication to raise a self-disciplined child. Step-by-step examples give solutions and kid-tested phrasing for parents of toddlers right through the elementary years.

If you’re tired of power struggles, tantrums, and searching for the right “consequence,” look no further. You’re about to discover the practical tools you need to transform your parenting in a positive, proven way.

 

The Whole Brain ChildThe Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

In this pioneering, practical book, Daniel J. Siegel, neuropsychiatrist and author of the bestselling Mindsight, and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson offer a revolutionary approach to child rearing with twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children. The authors explain—and make accessible—the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The “upstairs brain,” which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth.

Complete with age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.

 

Bloom book coverBloom: Helping Children Blossom by Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young

A Lovely Listopia of Practical Approaches to Behavioral Issues ~ From Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Lynne Kenney and Behavioral Specialist Wendy Young, ‘Bloom: Helping Children Blossom’ is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers. ‘Bloom’ provides insights into the emotional development of children, offers specific ‘scripts’ for how to communicate effectively when dealing with behavioral issues, challenges parents to examine their own emotional responses, and provides detailed professional resources for parents who feel their children may need therapeutic assistance and support. Down to earth and practical, ‘Bloom’ is refreshingly written in an approachable, conversational style that makes its resources as accessible as they are invaluable.

 

Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting 2The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes

Do you want to create a more positive and peaceful home? Are you tired of parenting formulas and techniques that just don’t work and leave you feeling at odds with your child? Learn the 5 principles of positive parenting and discover how to bring connection and peace back into your relationship with your child. You’ll learn a new way in which to relate to your child, one which fosters connection rather than disconnection, respect rather than rebellion, and cultivates a healthy relationship which you can enjoy throughout the years.

Written by best-selling author, blogger, and the founder of Positive-parents.org whose Facebook community is more than 40,000 strong, Rebecca Eanes is not a typical parenting ‘expert’ but writes parent to parent with the inspiring message of creating peaceful homes through positive parenting.

 

Positive Parenting in ActionPositive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood by Laura Ling and Rebecca Eanes

Parenthood is a beautiful journey. We don’t have to become adversaries with our children; doing so is very unnatural to our humanity. We are all wired for connection, for closeness, and for love. Positive parenting frees us to move from the traditional parenting roles which create friction and rebellion and allows us instead to move into a more natural role which creates cooperation and peace. The inevitable conflicts that arise in a relationship no longer define the relationship, but serve as stepping-stones to greater understanding and connection.

There is an abundance of resources available which tell parents why traditional parenting practices are not optimal, but few help parents learn what to do in place of traditional practices. In this book, we’ll discuss the principles of positive parenting, and then we will go through more than 40 scenarios to show you what it looks like when these principles are put into action.

 

Screamfree ParentingScreamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel

ScreamFree Parenting is not just about lowering your voice. It’s about learning to calm your emotional reactions and learning to focus on your own behavior more than your kids’ behavior . . . for their benefit. Our biggest enemy as parents is not the TV, the Internet, or even drugs. Our biggest enemy is our own emotional reactivity. When we say we “lost it” with our kids, the “it” in that sentence is our own adulthood. And then we wonder why our kids have so little respect for us, why our kids seem to have all the power in the family. It’s time to do it differently. And you can. You can start to create and enjoy the types of calm, mutually respectful, and loving relationships with your kids that you’ve always craved. You can begin to revolutionize your family, starting tonight.

Parenting is not about kids, it’s about parents. If you’re not in control, then you cannot be in charge. What every kid really needs are parents who are able to keep their cool no matter what. Easier said than done? Not anymore, thanks to ‘ScreamFree Parenting’ the principle-based approach that’s inspiring parents everywhere to truly revolutionize their family dynamics. Moving beyond the child-centered, technique-based approaches that ultimately fail, the ScreamFree way compels you to:

Focus on yourself ~ Calm yourself down ~ Grow yourself up

By staying calm and connected with your kids, you begin to operate less out of your deepest fears and more out of your highest principles, revolutionizing your relationships in the process.

 

Spirit Led ParentingSpirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer

Over the years, a mainstream approach to Christian parenting has emerged, and it’s one that promotes sleep training and feeding schedules for infants, warns that spoiled children and marital discord are certain by-products of homes where newborns are over-indulged, and promotes these methods as the Biblical way to care for a new baby. Unfortunately, the message of mainstream parenting advice preys on the universal fear of new parents everywhere: the fear that if they stray from the program, their babies and their marriages will suffer.

In Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year, two mothers share their stories. They tell of a journey that began in fear-soaked, tear-stained days marked by an overwhelming fear of failure that eventually found redemption in discovering the freedom to ignore the wisdom of man and follow the direction of the Spirit.

Sharing from their unique experiences as well as their shared philosophy, Megan and Laura play the role of big sisters, wrapping their arms around the shoulder of the new mother trying to navigate the confusing world of life with a baby and answering those important questions:  “What if the ‘right’ way doesn’t feel ‘right’?” and “Could there be more than one way to honor God as I care for my baby?”

There is another way.  That’s what they wish they had been told as new mothers. And it’s the message they are passionate about sharing with new parents everywhere.

 

abcAttached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker

Practical parenting advice for the modern age…In its most basic form, “attachment parenting” is instinctive. A crying baby is comforted and kept close to parents for protection. If hungry, he or she is breastfed. And while it is understood that there is no such thing as perfect parenting, research suggests that there is a strong correlation between a heightened sense of respect, empathy, and affection in those children raised the “attachment parenting” way.

Using the Eight Principles of Parenting, readers will learn:

  • How to prepare for baby before birth
  • Why breastfeeding is a must for busy moms
  • When to start feeding solid food
  • How to respond to temper tantrums
  • Sleeping safety guidelines and the benefits of cosleeping
  • Tips for short separation
  • How to practice positive discipline and its rewards
  • Tips for finding and maintaining balance
  • The benefits of using a baby sling and implementing infant massage
  • Tips on dealing with criticism from those opposed or unfamiliar with AP style
  • The dangers surrounding traditional discipline styles of parenting

Contrary to popular belief, “attachment parenting” has been practiced in one form or another since recorded history. Over the years, it had been slowly replaced by a more detached parenting style—a style that is now believed by experts to be a lead contributing factor to suicide, depression, and violence. The concept of “attachment parenting”—a term originally coined by parenting experts William and Martha Sears—has increasingly been validated by research in many fields of study, such as child development, psychology, and neuroscience. Also known as “conscious parenting,” “natural parenting,” “compassionate parenting,” or “empathic parenting,” its goal is to stimulate optimal child development. While many attachment-parenting recommendations likely counter popular societal
beliefs, authors Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker are quick to point out that the benefits outweigh the backlash of criticism that advocates of detached parenting may impose.

 

Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me by Samuel S. MartinThy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Samuel S. Martin

Thorough, well-referenced, grounded in solid information, unquestionably scholarly, yet pleasurably readable, obviously written by a man with the deepest reverence for God’s Word and the responsibility of handling it accurately.  This isn’t the work of a secular author who is trying to twist religious arguments to back himself up.  It is the work of a brother in Christ who fully accepts the authority of Scripture.  Honestly, I can’t imagine any serious student of the Bible reading this and still believing that spanking is Biblically endorsed. ~ Dulce de Leche

 

 

 

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Letter from a Teenage Son Who Was Spanked as a Small Child

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

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

dear mom     A gentle mama overseas gave me permission to share parts of our email exchange that spanned several months and ended with a deeply touching letter from her son:

Hi, I spanked my three elder sons when they were younger. I am a very gentle person so it was never in anger ( I struggled to do it but read how I had to gain control). My teenage sons love me very much and seem to have no hassles at all with listening and respecting me. I have raised my younger two daughters, aged 8 years and 19 months without hidings. As I read up on gentle parenting only after their births, I am struggling with both of them to respect and listen. Ok the baby is still so little! But my oldest daughter is really loving and kind, but does not listen! My sons spoke to me the other day and said I have no authority with them and why don’t I just spank them already. I am at a cross roads. My older daughter of 8 is too old to spank! Have I made a mistake? My baby girl is so sweet and I don’t want to smack her on her bottom but I feel like when she throws tantrums it takes me ages to negotiate and in the end she gets her way, whereas when my boys were little they threw a tantrum and all I said in a calm voice was “stop or you will get a smack on the bottom” and they stopped shortly. I want to be a good parent, but above all I want my babies to be safe and know to listen. Please encourage me with facts as to why I must stick to no spanking for defiance, because I am very confused now.

I shared You’re Not the Boss of Me! and Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline with this gentle mama and discussed how changing parenting styles is hard on parents, but sometimes we forget how hard it can be for children, too. Her older sons were upset with their mother for not spanking their little sisters as they were spanked. They felt like spanking was good enough for them and remembered being forced to obey and didn’t understand why their mother was letting their sisters get away with not listening. In our discussion, I asked her to look at it another way–she would never allow her older sons to hit their little sisters, but her boys wanted the little girls to be hit like they were. Thinking of it that way understandably upset her…

My boys are very gentle boys and have never hurt their sisters and would never HIT their sisters and they don’t wish for them to be HURT. They are incredibly protective. And a lot more polite and caring than almost all of their friends. I have a lot of children over to play and I really don’t see a mean bone in my boys’ bodies. They just feel that their sister is disrespectful towards me and at times her not listening makes it unpleasant for everyone. They feel there should be consequences to her actions.

Here is the rest of our email conversation: I hear you, mama. Replacing euphemisms like spanking, smacking, hidings, etc. by their definition, hitting, is very uncomfortable. The thing is, even domestic violence used to have euphemisms such as “reasonable smacking of wives” and “necessary chastisement” in order to make them more palatable. It wasn’t until society began to call it what it was, hitting, abuse, beating, violence, that society’s views changed. The same is true for parenting. If we want to change, we have to face the reality of what we are trying to change from. If we whitewash it with euphemisms, our motivation to change will be diminished and our chances of success limited. Your sons sound like wonderful boys, and I’m sure they love their sisters in the same way you loved your boys even while you were spanking them. But now you want something better for your little ones, and it’s not too late for you to want that same better thing for your boys, either. Yes, they got hit when they were little and misbehaved. And now they think hitting is the way to control small children, which is why they want you to hit their little sisters. But if you talk with them honestly about regretting having hit them and ask for their support as you try to move away from using threats and hitting to control their sisters and trying to work toward a communication-based, peaceful parenting style, then your sons will begin to learn that maybe hitting children isn’t they best way to raise them. And, since you will be communicating with your sons respectfully and honestly, you will actually be modeling the exact kind of parenting you are wanting to use with their little sisters…connection, communication, respect–an invitation to cooperate. It’s not easy, mama, but your boys will end up more peaceful parents themselves if you take the time to involve them in your transition to gentle parenting with not only them, but their little sisters, too.

I am trying to wrap my head around it all. We were raised with abuse and my older four children’s dad, who is no longer around, abused us too. But I am remarried to a very gentle man who does not agree with spanking, so he supports me now in trying. I will persevere. Thank you.

I know you are, mama. And it is so, so hard. The Little Hearts community of parents are all here for one reason, to support and encourage and share with each other on our gentle parenting journeys. None of us are perfect, and all of us have things to learn and struggles to overcome. Working together will help all of us do better, though, and that’s why we’re here. ♥

(A few days later): I have been reading your work and thinking about my parenting ways so much! I considered myself a gentle parent all these years, simply because I never smacked in anger but out of a duty almost to stick to the “rules” I had been taught in Christian Parenting books on disciplining etc. I am a loving Mommy and meant well, but something always bothered me about smacking my boys. I was told it bothered me because I had not been properly raised. Anyhow I was praying as I was washing the dishes today and felt my heart swell and a rush of emotions. I am so positive that the Lord spoke to me. I felt completely determined to follow your advice and believe now in my heart that this gentle parenting is the right way to love and care for children. I sat my sons down and read a few of your quotes etc. to them. I then apologized for smacking their little bottoms when they were younger when they were defiant instead of talking it through with them better. My sons all hugged me tight and my 16 year old son said, “Mom, we’re sorry we didn’t listen to you because we don’t care that you smacked us but we care that you had to be someone you aren’t to feel you had control of us. It’s not in your nature to smack, Mom, that’s why you were always so upset after you smacked us, because it changed how you felt about YOU. Now you can be the parent you will be proud of.” Ah it broke my heart. I am so grateful I found your wisdom. I will never meet you to thank you, but I am sending you gratitude across the oceans!!

Oh, mama, that’s so beautiful. Your boys sound like amazing young men!

(Weeks later): Things are working well. Thank you for your wise kind heart. I am loving raising my children this way!!  I am truly happy for the first time. I have always loved being a mother, but hated the confusion and regret after hidings, never sat well with me. Always had to psych myself up to go get the wooden spoon, take them to smack bottom…ahhhhhhggggg the knot I get in my tummy just thinking if it! Really pleased I saw the light and had the strength of my convictions at last TO CHANGE. I found your site two years after I decided no more hidings! So I had been doing the gentle parenting thing already, but I almost gave up. I am so grateful to you for encouraging us all to wait for the greater long term reward.

Thank you, mama. You don’t know how much that means to me to hear that! ♥

(Months later): My son wrote a letter to me. I thought it may help other parents. I cried so much I felt sick. I regret the past. I used to think I was such a great mom. I thought I was fair and set good boundaries and tried to protect them from their biological dad’s temper by ‘keeping them in line.’ I am working daily to heal my older sons. This letter was confirmation and also the realization that we cannot escape consequences. My son is loving and affectionate towards me, but is this letter ok? I mean in your opinion is he ok?

Letter from a Teenage Son Oh, mama, that made me tear up. Your guy is more than okay. He’s brilliantly more than okay! He’s thoughtfully working through his feelings and sharing them with you honestly because he trusts you with his big emotions. And he’s extrapolating from his experiences and yours and coming up with a life plan based on a strength of character that is very, very evident in his writing. ♥

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

♥ Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time ♥

Related posts: When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions The Problem with Punishment Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time 12 Steps to Gentle Parenting Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline The Color of Change Children of Violence

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

[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 through Amazon and other major retailers.]

balktalk is a cry for helpWith more than 90% of parents admitting to spanking or otherwise physically punishing their children at least occasionally, mainstream American parenting can certainly be defined as punitive. If you go to the library or browse the shelves at Barnes & Noble or check out Amazon’s best sellers in the parenting genre, you will find a predominance of popular, punishment-based, obedience-focused parenting guides. Whether its spanking or time outs or removal of privileges or time confined in their room, the vast majority of children in the United States are raised with punitive parenting.

When it comes to children talking back to parents, many of these punitive parenting guides dictate a zero-tolerance policy. By their definition, backtalk is often characterized as verbal or emotional abuse of parents, defiance, rudeness, or threats:

  • Verbal or emotional abuse of parents is considered any statement that insults or hurts a parent such as, “You’re so mean!” or “I wish I didn’t even have parents!” or “I hate you!”
  • Defiance is any statement containing the word “No” in response to a parental      command.
  • Rudeness is defined as anything from deep sighs to rolled eyes to stomped feet.
  • Threats are any statements that give conditions such as, “If you take away my cell phone, I’ll just go get a new one!” or “If you don’t drive me to my friend’s house, I’m walking there!”

These parenting guides direct parents to decide which punishment to mete out when their child talks back to them, specifying that the deciding factor should be whichever punishment would be the most unpleasant, painful, and distressing for the child. Punishments are to be carried out swiftly and without discussion. When the retribution for the child’s actions is over, it is to be followed with a lecture laying down the laws of the family. Again, no discussion is allowed, but if the child expresses appropriate penitence, love and hugs can then be offered.

In addition to the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of children being subjected to this kind of harsh, punitive parenting, I’m saddened by the upside-down reasoning that shuts communication down instead of utilizing it to bring healing, understanding, and restoration to the parent/child relationship.

Take a look at the order of parenting prescribed: First, punishment meted out by the parent. Second, lecture delivered by the parent. Third, conditional reconnection based on a proper expression of remorse to the parent from the child.

In gentle parenting, the order and intent of parenting would be the polar opposite: First would come listening for the need behind the behavior and reconnecting with the child at the point of need. Second, would be initiating a two-way communication about the problem and brainstorming about how to address the issue in ways that will meet everyone’s needs. Third, would be offering guidance and equipping the child with better ways to express needs in the future.

The punitive parenting approach focuses on the child as the problem and attempts to solve the problem by ‘fixing’ the child through intentionally unpleasant external forces.

The gentle parenting approach focuses on the child having a problem and attempts to help the child solve the problem through connection, communication, and inviting cooperation.

Now look at the definitions of backtalk–verbal and emotional abuse of parents, defiance, rudeness, and threats. The questions that immediately arise are: What about the parents? Are they held to the same standards as the children? Or do they threaten? Do they say ‘No’? Do they sigh? Do they hurt their children?

As parents, our actions will always be reflected in our children’s behavior. Children learn what they live. No amount of lecturing can undo the powerful impact on a child of their parent’s own behavior and choices.

When a child backtalks, sometimes also referred to as mouthing-off or sassing, they are in the throes of a huge, internal maelstrom of emotion. Whatever they are reacting to in the moment, whether it’s being told ‘no’ about something or being asked to do or not do something, it is rarely those issues that are at the root of the problem. The moment at hand is just the tipping point causing a fissure in the child’s heart that lets out a bit of the steam inside. The real concern should be that there is, metaphorically, steam in the child’s heart to begin with.

It is at this point that parents have the opportunity to model self-control and self-regulation by controlling their own knee-jerk reaction to their child’s backtalk. Instead of meeting fire with fire, childish outburst with childish parental outburst, child’s tantrum with adult tantrum, parents can slow down, breathe through their own emotions, and then listen through the fiery storm of their child’s words to the hurt, fear, and anger behind the words.

In the same way that “a gentle answer turns away wrath,” a soft-voiced, “Let’s take a minute and calm down so we can work through this together, okay?” from a parent is a magical, healing balm that immediately begins to diffuse tough situations and creates an atmosphere in which connection and communication can bring effective, peaceful solutions not only to the issue at hand, but to the inner turmoil that prompted the outburst in the first place.

Meeting a child at their point of need when that need is expressed through meltdowns, yelling, disrespect, or defiance takes patience, self-control, and empathy on the part of a parent, which can be a huge growth experience for the parent if they, themselves, were not parented that way. But the impact of living those positive life skills in front of our children is immeasurable.

Parenting isn’t a perfect science and parents aren’t perfect people, but creating an overall atmosphere of respect in a home starts with the parents modeling respect in their own tone of voice, in their own reactions to stressful situations, in their own interactions with their children.

It’s not easy, for sure. But the best things, the most valuable things, in life rarely are. Working toward being understanding, available, and responsive to our children’s needs yields a priceless return in our relationship as the years fly by and adulthood looms. Not meeting those needs, though, may have serious negative consequences…

Dear Daughter,

You entered your teen years with a bang a few years ago, and the explosions have been shattering our home ever since. I’ve begged, threatened, bribed, and punished; cried, shouted, and bargained; but I just can’t find a way to reach you anymore. You constantly say I don’t listen to you, but how can I when you won’t talk to me? You say I don’t understand you, but how can I when you push me away? You say we aren’t a family, but then spend every day with earphones in your ears, blocking us out. You ask me why I hate you, then roll your eyes when I tell you I love you. How did it come to this? We used to be such a happy family. Please, let me be there for you during this huge transition in your life. Let’s really try to communicate with each other. I’m just lost here, honey, and I need you to reach out and help me reconnect with you. I love you.

Your Dad 

 

‘Dear’ Dad,

Happy family? Are you kidding me? No, I guess not. You never did get it. Okay, you asked, so I’ll tell you. You were always happy because you were always in control. Want to know why I don’t talk to you now? Because you never listened when I was little. When I was scared in my room at night and called you, you either ignored me or threatened to spank me if I didn’t go to sleep. I’d lay there, crying so hard I’d almost throw up, terrified of the sounds and shadows in my room, but even more terrified of you. So, sorry, but I don’t buy that you’re ‘there for me’ when it’s only ever been at your own convenience. When you were mad at something I’d done and I tried to explain myself, you’d call it backtalk and smack me in the mouth. So forgive me if I don’t really believe you when you say you want to ‘communicate’ with me now. When I’d try to show you a dance I’d made up or tell you about how someone had pushed me on the playground, you couldn’t even be bothered to look away from your stupid computer while I was talking, so if I’m wrapped up in my electronics, I learned that little trick from you, Father Dear. Oh, and reconnect? Really? That implies that we were once connected. But when I was a little girl and invited you into my world and asked you to play with me, you were always too busy. So if you don’t understand me, sorry, but that invitation expired years ago. Want to know why I think you hate me? Because your actions told me so. Your ‘love’ is just words.

‘Your’ Daughter

 

Not all children react this way to harsh, punitive, control-based parenting, of course. Some children, due to personality, other influences and mentors in their lives, or simply as a survival instinct, will turn out okay despite how they are parented.

But ‘okay’ is too mediocre a goal when it comes to growing our children into the adults who will one day lead our world. Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood. Let’s grow excellent, outstanding, remarkable adults who will be world changers for the next generation and the generations to come.

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Children of Violence

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


The Incredible Power of the Whisper

whispering

[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.]

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a whisper is worth two thousand when it comes to parenting. In the same way that the instinctive human reaction to someone raising their voice is to raise our voice one octave higher, to out-shout the shouter, to over-power the person powering-up on us, the instinctive human response to someone whispering is to quiet down, to lean-in, to listen.

As parents, it’s up to us to exercise the wisdom and maturity to control our own instinctive reaction to our children’s piercing screams, ear-shattering shrieks, and mind-blowing, foot-stomping, out-of-control fits. Small people have big emotions and need help processing them. Their cries as babies and shrieks and tantrums as toddlers and meltdowns as preschoolers are, literally, cries for help.

Ignoring or punishing them, or reacting with anger ourselves, simply forces them to bury their unresolved emotions and causes us to miss an opportunity to not only share our wisdom by helping them process their big feelings, but also to guide our children toward more appropriate ways to communicate as they grow. In some cases, when a child’s emotions are forced underground it results in a child who simmers with hidden rage just waiting to explode again or, worse, the rage may turn inward and result in a child who is withdrawn, detached, or even depressed.

Having parenting tools ready and waiting for the inevitable challenges of raising little humans is wise. When emotions begin running high, and as parents we can feel our own stress levels rising, knowing we have a well-stocked parenting toolbox with tried and tested tools helps us to keep our cool so that we can parent more intentionally and effectively.

In the first weeks of life, a baby has one ‘default’ mode of verbal communication…crying. They may give physical cues to their needs such as chewing on their hands to indicate hunger or the beginning of teething, but their verbal communication takes the sole form of crying.

From those first tiny squeaks and mewls of a newborn, a baby’s cries mature into whimpers, squeals, screams, and sobs, all communicating one thing: “I need help.” When we respond to our baby’s cries quickly and gently, whether it’s to feed them or change them or give them a cuddle, we communicate in return, “I’m here. You can count on me.”

But then there are those times when we’ve fed them, changed them, burped them, rocked and cuddled and walked with them, and their piercing screams still shatter the silence…and our hearts. Those are times when parents often begin to feel overwhelmed, stressed, sometimes even resentful and angry because no matter what they try, they can’t ‘fix’ their baby and make them stop crying. It is in those moments of frustration and distress that we need to breathe in deeply to calm ourselves, then stop stressing over trying to ‘fix’ our baby and instead whisper in our little one’s ear, “I’m here. I’ve got you. We’ll get through this together.” They may not understand our words, but they will hear our heart.

The truth is that a baby’s cries can’t always be ‘fixed’ and sometimes the need they’re communicating is the need to express their emotions, but they always, always need the comfort and assurance that they will be heard and that their needs will be met and that they can trust us to be there for them, no matter what.

Once a baby reaches the crawling, exploring, discovering stage, they often have a great time experimenting with the volume, pitch, and range of their voice, much to the chagrin of their parents and pretty much everyone else within earshot. The ear-shattering squeals and bellows and joyful shrieks at this stage can be disconcerting to us parents, to say the least, especially when our little falsetto performs their operatic interpretation in public places such as doctor’s offices, libraries, and restaurants.

This is a prime opportunity to exercise the power of the whisper. When the first shriek splits the silence, we can hold our finger to our lips, smile like we’re inviting them to join in on a secret, and whisper, “It’s whisper time. Let’s use our little voices together.” Making a game out of it invites cooperation rather than demands obedience, a much more effective parenting technique, and practicing little voices together demonstrates what we want our little one to do instead of simply telling them what we don’t want them to do.

Don’t be surprised if it takes many repetitions over several outings before your little one begins to get the idea, though. As with all parenting, time and patience and an awareness (and acceptance!) of what is normal for each developmental stage is key.

Toddlers and preschoolers are famous for their big tantrums sparked by big emotions and big frustrations. Obviously being aware of and avoiding tantrum triggers such as hunger, tiredness, and over-stimulation is important. But even with the most proactive parenting, there may still be times when our little ones have unexpected, incomprehensible, inconsolable tantrums.

When faced with a toddler or preschooler in the throes of a tantrum, if we know what caused the tantrum, we can validate the emotion with a soft-voiced, “You’re angry (disappointed, sad, hurt) because you (fill in the blank).” Often just hearing their feelings put into words is enough to calm a toddler who is frustrated at their inability to express themselves, but sometimes they need a bit of time and support to work through their big emotions.

If the tantrum continues we need to stay calm and present and remember that we are modeling self-control and self-regulation when we practice those skills instead of having an adult-style tantrum in response to our child’s tantrum. Instead of trying to control our child’s outburst with demands or threats or bribes, we can simply stay close and whisper, “I hear you. I’m here.”

The secret of the whisper in taming a tantrum can be seen in the difference between dumping a bucket of water on a fire, which can force the fire underground where it may smolder and reignite unexpectedly, versus spraying a gentle mist on the fire so it’s slowly and fully extinguished, leaving the ground saturated so the fire won’t reignite. Settling your little one quietly and patiently with a whisper is the gentle mist that saturates them with your unconditional love and support so they don’t simmer with hidden rage that may erupt spontaneously again.

Remember, no matter the problem, kindness is always the right response. When your child is having a problem, stop, listen, then respond to the need, not the behavior. The behavior can be addressed later, after the need has been met, because only then is the door to effective communication truly open.

The thing to keep in mind is that there is no cure for childhood. There is no parenting secret that will ‘work’ to keep children from being children. Children will cry. They will tantrum. They will yell and giggle and climb and run and throw things and build things and hit and hug and explore and make glorious mistakes and incredible discoveries. They will be human. They will be children. And that’s more than okay. That’s beautiful, messy, wonderful childhood, just as it should be.

Parents are guides through the incredible journey of childhood, not to keep their children from experiencing childhood, but to keep them safe as they learn the magnificent life lessons that childhood has to offer.

Related posts:

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Playground Confessions~Look Who’s Talking!

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


The Terrible Trouble with Toothbrushing: A Toddler’s Perspective

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

toddler toothbrushing 2A Toddler Speaks…

Okay, let’s just get right to the point. I don’t like having my teeth brushed. In fact, I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that I flat-out despise having my teeth brushed. And I’ve got good, solid reasoning on my side.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

  1. Teething hurts, and I’ve always got either a tooth burrowing its way painfully through my gums to the surface or a newly-emerged tooth still partially embedded in inflamed gums or a tooth that’s just fully come in and is surrounded by irritated gums. Can you say, “Ouch!!!”
  2. I have very little control over the outside of my body. People (You know who you are!) are always picking me up without warning and putting me places I didn’t ask to go and wiping my face off without asking (Those wash cloths totally cover my mouth and nose, btw. Suffocation = not cool.) and putting clothes on me without even asking my opinion (Yes, I do have an opinion, and it is a valid one even if I can’t articulate why those purple pants bother me or why the brown shoes feel better than the blue ones.) and the list goes on. So losing control of the inside of my body is a really, really big deal!
  3. Ever heard of a gag reflex? If not, you should Google that. It’s real.
  4. Seriously, would you like someone getting all up in your face with a stick and shoving it in your mouth? (Btw, you might want to consider brushing your teeth before trying to brush mine. Or at least use a breath mint.)

Okay, so now that we’ve considered the facts, let’s take a look at a few suggestions to make toothbrushing a happier experience for all of us (Mainly me, of course.):

  1. I like choices, so how about offering some? You can let me choose between two brushes or two toothpastes or whether I want to brush before or after my bath. I may still be a bit resistant, but I’ll feel a little more in control of what happens to me.
  2. Speaking of choices, there are tons of toothbrushes out there, and some even have handles so I won’t feel like it can go down my throat and some have soft bristles all the way around the top so I can chew on it and get a lot of brushing out of the way painlessly. Who knows, it might even feel good on these aching gums!
  3. This should go without saying, but seriously, remember the sore gums, gag reflex, etc. Be aware. Be careful. Be gentle!
  4. Again, this should be obvious, but I am a real, live, thinking person with real, valid feelings, so how about asking if I’m ready to have my teeth brushed? And if I’m not ready, how about respecting that and modeling a bit of that patience you want me to learn (At least, I’m guessing that’s what you want me to learn since every time I ask you to play with me or get me something you say, “Just a minute, honey.” Just saying.) and waiting a few minutes. We could read a book or sing a song or something to get me in the toothbrushing mood.
  5. And speaking of modeling, go ahead and brush your teeth first while I hang out on your hip and watch. Seeing that it doesn’t hurt you and that everyone has to brush their teeth is very reassuring. Better yet, let me have a crack at brushing your teeth before you brush mine. Turn-about is fair play, right?
  6. I really do need to feel like I have some control over my body (Foundation for potty transitioning and all that sort of thing, you know.) so how about letting me brush my own teeth first and then you just finishing the job up and getting in all the hard places?
  7. Silliness is my language, so definitely get your funny-bone in action. Try calling toothbrushing more palatable names like ‘tickling the ivories’ or ‘tackling the tooth monsters’ or ‘tickle teeth time.’ I may or may not go along with your goof-ball approach, but I’ll appreciate the effort.
  8. Get your groove on and start singing your way to sparkling teeth. You can make up toothbrushing words to the ‘A,B,C Song’ or ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ or whatever song you like. Something like “This is the way we brush our monkeys…no, that’s not right…This is the way we brush our toes…” combines silliness with singing. Win-win! By the time you’re done messing up the song my teeth are all brushed, and I’m giggling so hard I don’t even realize it!

Well, that about covers it. Give it some thought, will you? Your toddlers will thank you!

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

Remember, parents, gentle approaches to childhood issues won’t necessarily ‘work’ to eliminate normal behaviors, and resisting toothbrushing is a totally normal behavior, unfortunately. Gentle parenting is about working with your child through normal behaviors as kindly and respectfully as possible. They may still resist, but they will get that you aren’t just forcing things on them. Over time, your gentle and respectful approach will bear fruit, though, in a healthy, connected relationship.

Related posts:

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Playground Confessions~Look Who’s Talking!

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

When Children Hit~10 Tips for Parents

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

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

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

Easy Peasy DIY Parenting Tools

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


The ‘NO’ Zone

[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.]

toddler saying no pointing fingerThe life of a small child is comprised of a daily onslaught of tempting surfaces begging for the artistry of a crayon, tall places crying out to be scaled, lovely little objects in need of a mouth or nose to visit, and dozens of other alluring glass and liquid and sharp things to be explored through the physics of gravity, the kinetics of concoctions, and the application of Newton’s Laws of Motion. There is only one force powerful enough to defeat this nearly irresistible call of adventure, imagination, and discovery…the No!

Every child knows the power of the No to circumvent the most well-laid plans. Even tiny babies just weeks into the world are introduced to its power when they grasp a fistful of hair while nursing or reach for some lovely, squishy stuff while getting a diaper change. That itty bitty two-letter word is packed with a force beyond comprehension to a toddler, and when they finally figure out how to wrap their little lips around those letters and form the word “NO!” themselves, the possibilities seem limitless!

Do you want a cookie? “No!”…Well, actually, yes, but how cool is it that when I said “No!” I controlled whether or not someone gave me a cookie!

Do you want Daddy to hold you? “No!” Well, yes, but I got to decide whether someone held me or not for a change!

Do you want to play outside? “No!” Actually, I do, but do I really get to decide for myself where I go? Cool!

That kind of power and control can go to a little person’s head, for sure! And the change in the big people when the word is used against them clearly demonstrates its incredible value. Their faces go from happy to serious or even angry, and sometimes a little person can even make a big person yell. What dazzling power!

And then when little ones manage a few more words in their vocabulary, they can add direct quotes from the most powerful beings they know ~ mommy and daddy. Quotes like, “I said ‘No’!” and “Don’t you tell me ‘No’!” and “No means ‘No’!”

The authority! The dominion! The clout! And using them against those powerful beings, watching them turn red in the face and yell and threaten…well, it’s a little scary and makes a small person feel really disconnected and upset…but the surge of intense pleasure at feeling powerful and in control almost makes them feel like a big person for a moment!

And that’s what they most long to be, just like mommy and daddy ~ big and strong and smart and powerful.

So what’s a mommy or daddy to do when confronted with the No from their little power-mongers? First, take a deep breath, and then engage those adult brains.

What inherent power is there, really, in a little two-letter word? Only the power we give it! What if, instead of that tiny word being able to push our buttons, we just disconnected the buttons entirely and didn’t react to the No at all? It would simply become a no, just another word to celebrate our precious little people adding to their fledgling vocabularies.

What if we backed up even further and disenfranchised the No from the beginning? When our newborn baby’s flailing hands caught a tiny fistful of hair, what if we just smiled and gently removed it and kissed those itty bitty little fingers?

When our intrepid little explorers discovered the wonders of kitchen cabinets, what if we used cabinet locks but left one or two full of pots and pans and plastic bins for them to discover?

What if when our little people headed for the walls to do their best Michelangelo interpretation on them, we simply intercepted them and offered alternative canvases?

Or what if when they ascended the kitchen cabinets, we just scooped them up and headed outdoors for some climbing adventures?

The thing is, the No is only the No when we, the adults, make it the No. And it can become simply a no when we get creative and interactive and stop using a tiny two-letter word like it has “Phenomenal Cosmic Power in an itty-bitty living space!” (Aladdin 1994)

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

7-Year-Old Gentle Parenting Crusader

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Better Children, Better World

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Stepping in When Parents are Out-of-Control

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

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gracie girl raincoatParents often ask how they can gently and effectively approach a parent who is berating or smacking or otherwise mistreating their child. While the reality is that there is no way to intervene without offending the parent, no matter how kindly it is done, that doesn’t necessarily mean we shouldn’t intervene. Obviously if we believe the child is in danger we should always contact the authorities immediately. Other times, though, there’s no real physical danger, but we can see the parent is out-of-control, is struggling with parenting, or is just too stressed or self-focused to care. What do we do then? Can we intervene in any meaningful, effective way? Should we even try?

To answer, let me first me share with you an interesting encounter my seven-year-old little funnyface had recently. She was away from me for four hours in a backstage room with around forty other two- to seven-year-olds for their second ballet recital of the day. A parent volunteer in the room apparently lost her temper with her five-year-old, grabbed her arm, and dragged her across the room with her daughter screaming and fighting to get away, then shoved her in a corner, yelled at her, and pinched her among other things. My seven-year-old related this to me on our way home from her recital and said:

“I saw the mom was having trouble balancing her temper, and I wanted to help her and her poor little girl in the pretty blue ballet dress. The mom cornered the little blue girl and kept yelling and pinching her and flicking her. So I went to her and told her that my mom wrote gentle parenting books and asked if I could have her address so I could ask you to send her one. She didn’t respond to me, but her friend who was there asked for your name, so I told her and she looked it up on her phone and found your books. And then I heard the mad mom tell her friend that she just didn’t know what to do. I said to her that she gets that reaction from her daughter because that’s the reaction she gives to her daughter. I told her that it was like putting a trail of gas all the way to her home because the fire will follow the gas and make the house on fire. Because, you know, anger is like fire. She didn’t talk to me, but her friend did, the one who looked your books up on her phone. I told her that if her friend didn’t know what to do, she just had to listen, because then she would know what to do. Listening is always the first step. And I said to her that kids aren’t just, you know, like things or nothings, we’re people. I wasn’t mean to her, mama. I was very kind when I talked to her even though she didn’t listen to me or talk to me back. I was kind because I wanted her to see how nice kindness felt, then maybe she would want to be kind, too.”

Did the mother suddenly decide to change her parenting? No. But her friend overheard the exchange and wanted to know more. Did the “little blue girl” escape the manhandling and anger of her mother’s adult temper tantrum? No. but she, too, overheard my daughter’s words, and she saw that someone cared. No one can possibly measure the impact a single moment of kindness has on another soul.

And what about my little funnyface? Children learn what they live. They imitate what they see their parents, their most powerful role models, doing. My children have seen me gently intervene on a number of occasions when a parent was out-of-control. They have patiently waited for my attention while I answered a parent’s email or message asking for help with a parenting issue. The older ones have proofread my books, and the younger ones have offered ideas for chapter titles and book covers. They have seen gentle parenting advocacy at work, day in and day out.

Children really do learn what they live. They also walk out what they learn in their own unique way. One of my six, my oldest daughter, went into psychology and became a Family Therapist. She now works with Social Services trying to help families at risk before their children end up in foster care. Another one feels other children’s distress so deeply that we’ve had to leave shops, restaurants, and parks because she gets so upset by ‘normal’ parenting, but she writes her feelings rather than confronting people directly. One day you’ll see her thought-provoking children’s books on store shelves, mark my words. My seven-year-old, as evidenced by the vignette above, is very much like her oldest sister, ready to take on the world in defense of the defenseless.

The value of stepping in when a parent is struggling with their parenting cannot be measured by the parent’s response alone. The parent will most likely be offended and respond negatively, if at all. That momentary break in the parental meltdown, though, does often give the parent a chance to pull themselves together and regain some semblance of control.

But far beyond the value of the moment is the value of a child, helpless in the hands of an angry parent, seeing that someone cares. Of far greater worth than the momentary discomfort of confrontation is the courage and willingness to confront with kindness. And the value goes on and on, in the life of the child, in the hearts of those who overhear and those who hear about it later, and in the life and heart and mind of those courageous enough to meet wrongs head-on and to do so with gentleness.

That value lives on in the beautiful heart and brave spirit of my sweet girl, my little funnyface, my seven-year-old gentle parenting advocate. She is the very definition of my motto, “Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time.”

If you are confronted with a situation in which a parent or other adult is mistreating a child, don’t hesitate to call authorities if the mistreatment constitutes abuse. But if the adult’s actions wouldn’t be considered abuse by authorities (even if you think they should), here are some ways to step in with the same gentleness and respect with which you would like the adult to treat the child:

  1. Walk over and speak to the child, quietly asking them what’s wrong and if you can help. Most adults won’t appreciate that, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to follow through with your offer, but the child will get the message that they aren’t alone in this world.
  2. Walk over and speak to the adult, calmly observing that you can see that they are having a hard time and you’d like to help. More often than not they’ll tell you to mind your own business, but sometimes they will unleash some of their frustrations in a torrent of complaints and you may be able to offer some constructive suggestions. Either way, the child will get the message that someone cares.
  3. Walk over and speak to both the adult and the child at the same time with a friendly smile and share that you’ve been there and understand the frustrations both of them are feeling. Ask if you can help with some suggestions about things that have helped you in similar situations in the past. The adult will often still react negatively, but the child will get the message that there is another way.

Giving the adult a chance to regain control of themselves and to remember that others are watching may at least temporarily stop the mistreatment. More importantly, however, the goal is to help the child feel less alone, less helpless, and more cared for. Never forget that an act of kindness in the life of a child has a ripple effect that expands immeasurably, affecting not only their present, but also impacting who they will become and how they, themselves, will treat others in the future. We may never see the results, but we can rest assured that, “”No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

Related posts:

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

Why Whining is a Win!

Rethinking Tattling

The Incredible Power of the Whisper

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Color of Change

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

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

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angry child 4Your sweet little four-year-old has suddenly started throwing his food at the table every. single. night. You’ve tried giving him smaller portions of food, letting him help plan the meals, letting him help cook the meals. You’ve tried asking him to stop, demanding that he stop, pleading with him to stop. You’ve tried rewards, sticker charts, and offering desserts. You’ve put him in time-out, yelled at him, even threatened to spank him, which you’ve never, ever done before. But still he throws food at the table. 

Then it happens. You’re sitting down for dinner and ask your spouse how the job hunt went that day. A little motion catches your eye and you glance at your four-year-old just in time to see a meatball fly across the table from a small, sauce-covered hand. But something else catches your attention, too, and instead of focusing on the flying meatball, this time you focus on your child.  

In the split second before your little guy launched his food volley, you’d seen the fear, almost panic, in his eyes. Your mind races. Why, if he was so afraid of being spanked, would he go right ahead and throw his food? What in the world would make him do the very thing that might bring about the terrible consequence he seemed to be in a panic over? 

You hear a deep sigh from your other side. Your spouse seems to be trying to control his urge to retaliate against the little food-fighter across the table from him. Teeth gritted tightly, he grabs a napkin, scoops up the meatball next to his plate, and resumes the conversation. 

“Nothing. No one’s hiring. I don’t know what we’re going to do.” 

Before you get a chance to respond, a meatball whizzes past your ear and lands smack in the middle of your husband’s plate, splashing marinara sauce all over his shirt. He comes out of his seat with a roar and glares at the little guy who is glaring right back at him, now seemingly unafraid, almost taunting his father to make the next move. 

But this time your husband sees something different. He sees the little quivering chin and the small clenched hands and realizes something else is going on. Quietly, he rounds the table and scoops his little fighter into a tight hug, irrespective of the marinara now coating both of their shirts. He doesn’t say a word, just sinks into the chair with his son wrapped in his arms and holds him close against his heart. 

As you see your angry, defiant son suddenly melt into his father and bury his face in his daddy’s neck with body-wracking sobs, your own anger melts away. Soon, a small, tear-stained face peeks out and your heart breaks when your son looks back and forth between you and your husband, and his little voice croaks out, “What are we gonna do? Where will we live? Are we gonna starve?” before dissolving in sobs against his daddy’s chest again. 

That’s when you realize dinner conversations have revolved around your husband’s job loss and job search for months. Conversations from the past weeks run through your head, and you remember discussing getting a job outside the home to supplement the income from your own home-based business and putting your son into daycare. You remember your husband talking about selling your house, about where you would move, about saving on groceries and other bills. You cringe as you recall mentioning a friend who lost everything, including his home and marriage, when he lost his job. 

What had your little preschooler been thinking all this time? What terror must he have felt imagining losing his home, not having enough food to eat, and even his mommy and daddy divorcing? The panic you’d seen in his eyes suddenly made all-too-much sense. He had no way of articulating his fears, the fears he’d felt and heard from you and your husband, but that neither of you had thought to discuss directly with him so that you could offer reassurance and comfort and answer his questions.  

You’re so, so thankful that you hadn’t gone as far as actually hitting your son for the first time ever in an attempt to control him, and you vow to yourself that you will never threaten or try to coerce or manipulate your child again, just as you wouldn’t your husband. You commit to finding better ways to communicate with your son, to remain in-tune with him, to focus on the need behind the behavior instead of just trying to control the behavior, to connect with him, and to equip him with better ways of communicating his needs. 

As your husband looks up, his eyes wet with tears and his little man still clasped close to his heart, you meet his gaze and see the same realization, the same commitment, the same resolve. Life will still throw you curveballs, but from here on out you’ll handle them together, all together.

Not every action by our children is a sign of trauma or deep, unresolved issues. But every behavior is communication. Behaviors can communicate simple needs such as hunger or the need for sleep. They can communicate unmet needs such as the need to be heard or the need to reconnect. They can communicate stress or discomfort over changes in routine or sickness. Or they can communicate big emotions our children need help processing.

But they can also be a reflection of and a reaction to our big emotions, our illnesses, our unmet needs, our stresses and anxieties, our emotional baggage. Just as children learn best by imitation, making it important to always be aware of the examples we set, their tendency to tune-in to our emotions and upsets makes it vital for us to stay in-tune with them so that we can alleviate their anxieties and answer their questions and ease their fears.

It’s important to be open with them in age-appropriate language about ongoing family issues or health problems or other stresses, but remember that children are not equipped to handle adult stresses and emotions, so be careful to avoid dumping your emotional baggage on them. If you’ve got traumas from your past or are dealing with any kind of emotional or mental instability, you need to work through those issues on your own or seek help so that they don’t negatively impact our relationship with our children.

Simply reacting to our children’s behavior rather than responding to the need motivating the behavior not only leaves us in the dark as to what our children are thinking and feeling, but also misses an opportunity to address the root of the behavior. When we pause, breathe through our own visceral reactions, and focus on our child instead of our child’s actions, we can better discern the need behind the behavior and meet that need, thus eliminating the behavior itself with no need for correction and opening the door to guiding our children to better ways of expressing themselves in the future. The end result is not only the resolution of the present issue, but also strengthening of the parent/child relationship and giving our children the reassurance that they aren’t alone in dealing with their stresses and questions and fears and can always come to us, their ‘safe haven’ in times of need.

If you’ve been parenting from a place of emotional neediness or stress, working through your own emotional baggage to a place of peace will help you to bring that peace into your parent/child relationship. It can be very difficult to step out of a reactionary cycle with your children, though. One pitfall many parents face when trying to move away from a punishment-based or reactionary parenting style is going too far in the opposite direction and failing to set firm, reasonable limits. Children need boundaries to feel safe and in control. If you’re having trouble balancing the desire to parent gently and peacefully with the need to guide our children to stay within reasonable boundaries, here are some tools that may help:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

The Color of Change

The Problem with Punishment

*Also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

 

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?

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


The Color of Change

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

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parachute

So few parents today were raised peacefully and respectfully by their own parents that it’s no surprise that a big issue in the gentle parenting community is how to overcome the stumbling blocks of change. Moving from a control-based parenting style, whether you’re used to spanking or time-outs or reward charts or some combination of the three, to a connection-based parenting style is a heart and mindset change as much as it is a lifestyle change. The undeniable fact is that change is hard work. Whether you’re trying to overcome your own childhood or your own already-established parenting habits, you can expect it to get harder before it gets easier. Just like with any lifestyle change, you will hit walls along the way, and they might even knock you back a step or two. Here are five tips to help you keep calm and carry on to achieve your parenting goals:

1)      Commit to no hitting or other physical expressions of anger or frustration, and let that be your starting point, the line in the sand that you absolutely won’t cross. Just like in marriage, if you don’t make a commitment, there’s nothing to keep you from straying back into old patterns.

2)      Rethink your parenting role and move from trying to force or manipulate or plead or coerce or use any other tactic to try to control your child’s behavior and instead build a desire in your child to cooperate because they trust you to make good decisions and to want them to be happy and safe. Do that by taking all of that energy that’s been going into trying to control their behavior (external controls) and focusing it on trying to build your connection and modeling the behavior you want to encourage (building internal controls).

3)      Examine what you’re modeling. If right now you are insisting on your own way and reacting emotionally with anger and power-plays to your child’s lack of cooperation, what are you modeling? Stubbornness and lack of emotional regulation (i.e. adult-style tantrums). If, instead, you connect with your child, engage them in creative problem-solving, and work together with them toward a resolution to whatever issue you’re having, what are you modeling? Compromise, resourcefulness, and cooperation. Definitely worthwhile life lessons!

4)      Keep working on you. Remind yourself that it’s your emotions and experiences and expectations that are causing your outbursts, not your little one’s behavior. Ask yourself why you’re so upset. Let yourself explore your inner triggers. Work through that internally instead of reacting to it externally.

5)      Choose a touchstone in a color that will help to keep you grounded, something to look at or hold on to when you feel yourself slipping back into old thinking and behavior patterns. It could be a necklace or bracelet or key chain in a color that captures the essence of the parent you want to be to help you stay focused as you work your way toward becoming that parent. Colors have psychological implications, so some good choices might be blue which is the color of peace and trust; turquoise which is the color of communication; pink which is the color of unconditional love; or magenta which is the color of harmony. You can also place the color around your house as a reminder of the peaceful home you’re trying to create and as a symbol of change and renewal to help you remember to stop and breathe and think before responding to your child.

Remember, it’s a huge change to go from demanding obedience to inviting cooperation, and if you are already in an adversarial pattern with your child, that process will take extra time and patience. And keep in mind that no parenting ‘works’ to change a child into an adult or into a perfect little puppet. Children are imperfect humans being raised by imperfect humans in an imperfect world, after all! But shifting your thinking from expecting, or demanding, obedience to working with your child, understanding them, connecting with them, and inviting them to cooperate (i.e. Instead of “If you don’t put your dinner dishes in the sink, you won’t get ice cream for dessert” try “Let me know when your dishes are in the sink so I can get your ice cream for you.”) is the first and most important step toward a gentler style of parenting and a more peaceful home.

*Having gentle parenting tools ready and available in your ‘toolbox’ will go a long way toward helping you to stick to your commitment to be a more gentle parent. Here are some links to practical alternatives to punishment:

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

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

*Also published in The Natural Parent Magazine

Related posts:

When Children Act Out ~ Reflecting Our Emotions

The Problem with Punishment

Backtalk is Communication…LISTEN

Bridge Over Troubled Waters~Parenting a ‘Problem’ Child

The Taming of the Tantrum: A Toddler’s Perspective

The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Positive Parenting Guides

 

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Imagination is the Language of Childhood

a walk in the clouds concept art collage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If “play is the work of childhood,” as Fred Rogers so aptly put it, then imagination is truly the language of childhood.

Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources is focused on helping parents to see things from their children’s perspective in order to connect and communicate, guide and inspire, and support and encourage their children throughout childhood and beyond.

Children’s books are a wonderful avenue for parents to connect with their children through that lovely language of childhood…imagination. Little Hearts Books LLC is excited to announce the July 2013 release of L.R.Knost’s newest children’s book, A Walk in the Clouds. Written in a playful, rhythmic cadence…

Little toes high in the air
Waving round without a care
Walking cross the sunlit sky
Spotting cloudy shapes go by
A duck floats in a crystal sea
Look! A bird’s nest in a tree
A dancing hippo takes a bow
And there’s a tiny little cow
Laughing penguins all lined up…

and illustrated with whimsical cloud shapes of dancing hippos, laughing penguins, and more, A Walk in the Clouds captures that magical childhood experience of laying in the cool grass while spotting shapes in the clouds drifting overhead and celebrates the pure and simple joy of ‘doing nothing’ that makes childhood such a beautiful season of life. For some ideas about connecting with your children through play, check out this Bucket List for a Happy Childhood!

Petey's Listening EarsOther children’s books by L.R.Knost include Petey’s Listening Ears the first in the Wisdom for Little Hearts picture book series focused on equipping parents with gentle parenting tools while entertaining and gently guiding children, and Grumpykins, a soon-to-be-released series by L.R.Knost, that develops children’s emotional health and intelligence as little Grumpykins’ bad attitude and grumpiness brings giggles as well as understanding about emotions, perceptions, and self-regulation.

L.R.Knost is the author of the Little Hearts Handbook series of parentingTwo Thousand Kisses a Day-Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages guides. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and  Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood are the first two books in the series. The next book in the series, due to be released in November of 2013, is The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline.

Other books in the Little Hearts Handbook series due to be released in 2014 are

  • Gentle Christian Parenting: Reflecting the Heart of Jesus
  • Raising Bookworms: Sharing a Love of Reading with Children.
  • Gentle Beginnings: The First Year

To find out more about the Little Hearts Handbooks, click here for reviews, sample chapters, author interviews, contact and media information, and giveaways!

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


7 Parenting Tips for Working from Home with Young Children

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

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work at home momWith economies struggling all over the world, more and more mamas and daddies are trying to juggle work and children. Working from home is one way to earn a living or supplement your household income while still parenting full-time, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Here are seven tips to help you parent your little ones gently while operating a home business:

1. Think ‘routine’ instead of ‘schedule.’ Gentle parenting is very much about being in-sync with your child’s needs. Being tied to an inflexible schedule will only cause stress and conflict as your child’s needs evolve from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year. Children do, however, enjoy the comfort and familiarity of a regular routine, and knowing what to expect helps them to make transitions throughout the day. So, instead of making a minute to minute schedule, try working with your child to establish a routine that’s flexible enough to adjust to meet their fluctuating needs, but builds into your day the time you need to devote to your work. For example, a routine could look something like this:

    • Morning cuddles, breakfast, playtime with mommy
    • Playtime while mommy works
    • Snack and storytime with mommy
    • Play while mommy works
    • Lunch and outside playtime with mommy
    • Naptime while mommy works
    • Playtime with mommy
    • Playtime while mommy works
    • Help mommy with dinner
    • Dinnertime
    • Help mommy clean up after dinner
    • Playtime while mommy works
    • Evening snack
    • Bathtime, bedtime story, cuddles, night-night time

Notice that there are no time limits, only a loose plan for the day that you can adjust if your little one is sick or teething or just needs some extra mommy time during the day. A younger baby will need more naps during the day and can be worn in a baby carrier for naps and/or in place of playtime, and some toddlers and preschoolers will outgrow their need for naps earlier than others, and some will need more outside time, etc. so you’ll want to come up with a routine that accommodates your child’s age, sleep needs, and temperament. Also, of course, if your spouse or a trusted family member or friend is available to help, be sure to include them in your routine.

2. Children love the novelty value of new toys, so get a box for each of your working days of the week. Label each box with one day of the week and place a set of toys in them that you only bring out on that day. Remember to think outside the box (lol) and don’t only choose store-bought toys. One box could be full of paper towel and toilet paper tubes and various sizes of bouncy balls and hot wheels, etc. so your little one can make tunnels and chutes and all sorts of inventions. Another box could have kitchen utensils and bowls and pots and pans. Don’t be afraid of a little mess, either! Children are washable, and messy play can keep them happily engaged for long stretches of time, so in one box you could have a plastic tablecloth from the dollar store or even a little blow-up wading pool, some paintbrushes, and shaving cream. Just put down the tablecloth or blow up the pool and add a touch of different colors of food coloring to a few small bowls of shaving cream let your little Picasso go to town! The trick is to be creative and choose things that are out of the ordinary that will engage your child’s imagination, not just keep them busy.

3. For older preschoolers or early elementary ages, an independent project is an excellent idea to help them stay happily engaged while you’re working. During your work periods, provide your child with an ongoing project that they’re interested in and can work on independently. It can be a paint-by-number project, a jigsaw puzzle, a simple model car, a jewelry making set, or any number of other things. Since time is a hard concept for young children, setting a timer for your work periods and having a little sticker chart on the fridge for you and your child to ‘clock in’ and ‘clock out’ of work might be a fun, helpful part of your routine, as well.

4. Meal planning is a huge, huge help in freeing up time and mental energy. Take the time to write out a list of every meal you know how to make that your family likes, then break each of those meals down into their ingredients. Save the list on your laptop, and then twice a month simply cut and paste two weeks of meals into a Word doc. Then print it out, cross off any ingredients you already have on hand, and ‘voila’ you have a shopping list and menu for two weeks done in one shot!

5. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Be realistic about your commitments and expectations for yourself. Have fruit and cheese for breakfast most mornings instead of eggs and pancakes and sausage. It’s healthier, faster, and there’s less to cleanup! Resign from any pre-working-at-home commitments you can such as directing your church’s Vacation Bible School or doing the book work for your local community center. No one expects you to be able to do everything, and someone else can take on those tasks while you’re doing double duty as a work-and-stay-at-home-mom. And, once you’ve cleared up your commitments, avoid the temptation to fill up your time with playgroups and playdates and mommy-and-me classes. Your little ones need you, not activities.

6. Don’t be afraid to go mobile. Find a local park that is suitable for your child’s age and temperament (i.e. Don’t go to a park with a lake if your little one is a runner, and don’t choose a playground with only big kid slides and jungle gyms if you’ve got a toddler.). Once you’ve found a park that’s a good fit, take your laptop or iPhone and answer emails or return phone calls or do other simple tasks that you can manage while swinging your little one in a baby swing or watching your toddler dig in the sand. Make sure you take the time to play with them while you’re there, too, and don’t worry if you get a few judgmental looks from other parents. They don’t know your life, but you know you’re doing the best you can to meet your child’s needs while doing what you need to do for work, so take comfort in that knowledge.

7. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! We can get so caught up in meeting our family’s needs at times that we forget to take care of our own needs. Make sure you include a bit of downtime in your routine each day to simply be still and have a cup of coffee or read the newspaper or simply stare out the window and daydream for a few minutes. Take the time on a regular basis to do your nails, go have your hair done, and make a lunch date with a friend. Even if you bring your little one with you, you’ll still be out and about in a non-working environment for a bit and actually get to feel like an adult. If you’ve got a teething baby or a sick child and aren’t getting much sleep at night, take a nap during the day when your little one’s asleep instead of working during their nap. You may get a bit less work done, but you’ll enjoy your life and your family more, and isn’t that really the point of it all anyway?

*Article by L.R.Knost, reprinted from The Natural Parent Magazine

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

10 Ways to Play with your Children when Play is the Last Thing on your Mind

11 Tips to Beat the Weary Dreary Mama Blues

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Celebrating One MILLION Pageviews!!!

happy earthI am humbled and amazed (but clearly not speechless! 😉 ) to know that the articles I write here on Little Hearts have been read one MILLION times. A MILLION! That’s 1,000,000! Wow! And that’s not all. My site stats have logged readers from 123 countries spanning the globe reading my site in the last two weeks alone! They’re not just accidentally landing here and clicking away, either. They typically stay for 10, 20, sometimes 30 or more minutes at a time and read post after post after post. People visit from Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Germany, Bosnia, Australia, Vietnam, Romania, Malaysia, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Iceland, Slovenia, Qatar, and the list goes on and on and on.

To know that the nights spent typing away on my little laptop while my children sleep nearby (or typing one-handed while nursing!) are not wasted, to feel that I’ve touched hearts to make a real difference in the lives of children,  to see that what I write resonates literally around the world is deeply humbling and incredibly validating for me. It gives me hope that true, lasting change is possible for a globe that is suffering from violence and power-mongering.

quote toughen upIf we as parents stop using violence and intimidation to control our children and instead work together with them through connection and communication, the adults we send into the world when they are grown will be world changers.

It’s not our job to toughen up our children to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless. If I can help make that happen in even a small way, then the many sleepless nights and the one-handed typing while nursing and the neglected laundry will be well, well worth it!

little hearts product giveawayAs a ‘thank you’ to all who have read and shared my articles and bought my books and shared their thoughts and encouragement, I’m hosting a Facebook Party! today, March 20th 2013, from 2 pm to midnight EST. Join me for giveaways every hour and fun Q & A’s and word games so we can get to know each other better!

Check out some of the awesome Little Hearts products that I’ll be giving away–>

At midnight there will be a Grand Prize package, too, so don’t miss it!

See you there!

 

You might also be interested in:

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ~ Book Launch Tour

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

29 Messages in a Bottle

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

The Bookshelf: To Read or Not To Read

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


10 Ways to Play with Your Children when Play is the Last Thing on Your Mind

[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.]

playtimeLet’s be honest. Parents are adults, and not every adult is comfortable sitting on the floor playing with stuffed animals for hours at a time. We don’t always eagerly jump in puddles or make mudpies. We often have heavy things weighing on us…health issues, financial strains, layoffs threatening, marital conflict…and playing is simply the very last thing on our minds.

But the reality that play is the language of childhood and that our children need us to connect with them on their terms is on our minds. The truth that childhood is such a brief season of life and if we blink too long we’ll miss this precious time with our children just adds to the weight we carry, making playing with them seem like just another burden, another demand on our already stretched-too-thin time, attention, and patience.

The thing is, though, that our children do need us to connect with them in play. It’s in the simplicity of play that children sort through the complexity of life and, like puzzle pieces, put it all together to make sense of the world. Play is how they process the overwhelming task of acclimating to a big, strange, sometimes scary world, and they need to feel securely connected to us and in close communication with us as they find their way. Play provides that connection and builds those oh-so-important channels of communication that are essential in a healthy parent/child relationship.

That, of course, leaves us in the dichotomous position of our needs versus our children’s needs which in and of itself is not conducive to a healthy relationship. So what’s a busy, overburdened, stressed parent to do?

Enter, the playful parent who weaves humor into the humdrum, tummy tickling into the routine, dancing into the dreary, and silly songs into the mundane. Here are ten ways to weave playful parenting into the ordinary moments of everyday life:

  1. When your baby is an infant, babywearing is the secret to playful connection and communication building. Wearing your baby close to your heart, singing and swaying and placing soft kisses on a tiny head while doing dishes and sweeping the floors and taking the dog for walks is a lovely, low-stress way to weave playfulness into your day.
  2. When your baby is a bit older, continue wearing him as long as you both are comfortable with it because riding high on your hip or back lets him see the world from your vantage point and offers everyday moments to play with bubbles in the sink as you wash dishes, to dance through the house as you put away laundry, and to giggle together as you grocery shop.
  3. Daily routines offer awesome opportunities to play as you ‘tickle’ your little one’s teeth instead of brush them, ‘capture’ wild shoes that try to escape when you’re leaving the house, and ‘wrestle’ with your little pajama monster before bed.
  4. Wrangling a reluctant child into the carseat is often a dreaded daily task. Try making a game out of it by tickling a little tummy while you buckle up straps or blowing some bubbles to distract your little one or making up a silly buckle-up song to ease the transition.
  5. While driving, turn off the radio and make up silly stories or songs or simply talk about where you’re going or what you see as you drive.
  6. Reading to your little one from birth onward is the single best way to raise a reader. Try making it more interactive by acting out the story or using different voices to read or letting your child guess what’s going to happen on each page before you read it.
  7. Getting out the door in the morning can be a challenge. Turn it into a real challenge by having hopping contests to the car. Let your little one win and give tickle-kisses as their prize!
  8. Bathtime is a great time for fun. Set sail to distant shores with your little pirate and search for hidden treasure or go on a safari and find jungle animals floating in piles of bubbles or go spelunking and make cave drawings on the sides of the tub with bath crayons.
  9. As your children get older their need for playful connection and communication is still strong. Play word games in the car. Turn math homework into playtime by using manipulatives to help them work things out. Cook together while singing pop tunes. Arm wrestle at the dinner table. Have a quick pillow fight in the morning to put everyone’s grumpies to sleep.
  10. Chores are a real chore. Try turning them into a game, instead! Get out a board game with dice and every time someone rolls they not only move their game piece, but pick up the same number of toys and put them away and then race back in time for their next turn.

The central idea here is to intentionally weave fun and play and connectedness and communication into your everyday moments to turn ordinary days into extraordinary memories that will last a lifetime!

Related posts:

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

11 Tips to Beat the Weary Dreary Mama Blues

12 Tips for Gently Parenting Your Adult Children (Hint: It starts when they’re newborns!)

Tots to Teens~Communication Through the Ages and Stages

The Bookshelf: To Read or Not To Read

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids~An Interview with Dr. Laura Markham

Dr. Laura Markham’s website, AhaParenting.com, is one of my favorite go-to resources to share with parents. With sound advice based on clinical and personal experience and supported by research, Dr. Markham offers excellent guidance for parents looking for help in their gentle parenting journeys.

Now, there’s a new resource from Dr. Markham that I’m delighted to share with you: her new parenting guide, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting! With a personable approach, clear explanations, and anecdotal illustrations, you’ll find Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting an easy-to-read, helpful resource to keep on hand and to share with other parents in need of a little guidance. (Check back here on Monday for a chance to win a copy for free!)

Dr. Markham honored Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources with the opportunity to be a part of her virtual book tour to launch her new book by engaging in an online interview with me. Here is the transcript from our surprisingly candid and insightful interview:

Welcome, Dr. Markham! Will you share your background/experience/education with my readers?

I’m trained as a clinical psychologist. When I got my PhD at Columbia University, my mentor was Dr. Larry Aber, an attachment theorist who ran the Barnard Toddler Center.

I was fascinated by the longitudinal studies that followed children over time and found that securely attached children are easier to raise, do better in school, are better liked by teachers and peers, are more professionally successful, are happier, are healthier, have better romantic relationships and marriages, enjoy parenting more, and are more likely to themselves raise securely attached children.

Unfortunately, only about 60% of children in the US (this varies a bit across cultures) are estimated to be securely attached, leaving the other 40% to struggle emotionally for their entire lives. And yet, this is something we can change – by working with parents! We can accurately project whether a child will be securely attached by interviewing the mom before the child is even born, and we can work with the parents to help them resolve their own attachment issues to raise a securely attached child. Every parent deserves that opportunity.  That’s why I specialize in parenting.

So you advocate Attachment Parenting? 

I’m an Attachment Theorist, but Attachment Parenting is not quite the same as Attachment Theory.

Attachment Parenting is a set of practices – for instance, wearing your baby, breastfeeding and co-sleeping – that are thought to promote a secure attachment. As an Attachment Theorist, I think it’s important to point out that while these practices may facilitate more responsive parenting—which does indeed contribute to a secure attachment—they are not the actual cause of ‘secure attachment.’

What creates a secure attachment is a parent who is warmly responsive to the needs of her unique child and able to accept the full range of his emotions. That means, for instance, that as a parent it’s important that we’re able to tolerate our child being angry at us, or clingy, or crying. To do that, we have to be able to stay calm and regulate our own feelings, and nurture our child through his emotions. That’s what creates attachment security.

Do you recommend babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping?

I lived those practices with my own children, and they made my life easier and my babies happier. I personally believe they help us to be more responsive as parents, and research is emerging to back that up. So yes, I recommend them.  But my point is that if it doesn’t work for you to use one or more of these practices, for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a responsive parent with a securely attached child.

How has your own parenting journey contributed to your work and to your new book?

When my son was born 21 years ago, my midwife told me before I left the hospital that I should begin right away to let my son cry at night so he would sleep better. My instincts, and my training, told me that was wrong. The more suggestions I heard, the more I realized that most parenting advice we take for granted in our culture was inherited from previous generations who did not have access to the longitudinal and brain research that we have now.

For instance, we now know that the advice during the last century to “Leave your baby to cry and he’ll learn to self-soothe” simply isn’t true – babies’ brains develop the wiring to soothe themselves by being soothed by their parents. Babies who are left to cry may stop crying because they’ve learned that no one comes, but their cortisol levels are still measurably high, indicating that they’re still stressed. That stress and fear has to come out somewhere, in the baby’s cranky moods or clingy behavior.

Another example is the pervasive practice of time-outs. Children act out because they’re in the grip of strong emotions, just as adults do. Sending them off alone to calm down gives them the message that having emotions is a bad thing, and that they’re all alone to learn to manage their overwhelming, scary feelings. And punishment actually hinders moral development—it doesn’t help the child behave better.

When my son was born, I saw so many parents around me struggling. Parenting is the hardest work we do, as I learned first hand, and parents don’t get the support we need and deserve. But I also saw parents unknowingly creating problems with their children by following well-intentioned, but misinformed, advice.  These were wonderful people who loved their children without reservation and only wanted what was best for their children. They would have been horrified to learn that their own actions were making their kids act out more. So I wanted to support parents and help them get a better start with their children.

What influence did your own childhood experiences have on your parenting philosophy?

My parents both loved me, but they were divorced and had their own challenges. They couldn’t handle their own emotions, much less mine. I remember vividly how fast I had to grow up, how lonely I felt, how I was looking in all the wrong places for someone to love me as a teenager.

Now, I couldn’t have explained to you, even as a 16-year-old, what was wrong. But having that experience, I can say with total certainty that every child who is acting out is sending us an SOS for understanding, connection, and help with their emotions—no matter how incomprehensible their behavior may be to us.

How is it that you came out of those experiences okay?

Parents often ask me that when they hear about my childhood. I spent years in therapy and years meditating. I still have to work at taking care of myself; it doesn’t come naturally because I wasn’t taken care of. And I’m just lucky that I didn’t have additional risk factors – like ADHD, or a vulnerability to addiction – or I might not have made it to adulthood.

But there are two positive takeaways here:

1. No matter what your childhood was like, you can heal it and be the parent your child needs.

2. No parent is perfect, because we’re human. Luckily, children are pretty resilient. What we do right is more important in creating the solid foundation for our kids than those times we mess up.

What has most impacted your parenting philosophy?

My understanding of children includes my training in child development, especially Attachment theory, which I’ve already mentioned. What I see parents struggling with is always emotions – their own, and their child’s. We all need a loving “witness” so we can heal our emotional hurts, which I first learned from Virginia Axline and Carl Rogers, and then saw Aletha Solter put into practice with babies.

Of course, recent neurological findings have helped me flesh out and evolve my approach, so I’m a fan of Dan Siegel and Allan Schore. Finally, my specialty is practical solutions to the issues of everyday family life, so I’ve learned from countless leaders in the field –Adele Faber, Magda Gerber, Patty Wipfler, Larry Cohen, Jane Nelsen, and so many more.

How does the style of parenting you advocate build trust to set the stage for a peaceful, mutually respectful parent/child relationship throughout the childhood and adolescent years? 

Every time we listen to our crying baby, tantruming toddler, or whining preschooler and respond to her needs, we build our child’s trust that we’re on her side, looking out for her best interests.

Every time we resist our impulse to lash out with punishment, and instead help our child with the feelings that are driving her behavior, we help her gain the emotional skills to manage her behavior.

Every time we seek first to connect, and only then to guide, we help our child want to follow our guidance.

That slow accretion of respectful interactions is what builds the strong relationship we all want with our children. Our children learn that’s how to live in relationship, so they’re naturally respectful, compassionate and considerate. They treasure their relationship with us, and would no more damage that relationship — by lying to us, or defying us — than they would set fire to the house, and for the same reasons.

I now have a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old. We never had the rocky teen years that scare parents. I think that tough teen stage is completely unnecessary; it’s created by a parenting style that doesn’t meet kids’ needs.

If you had to sum up your parenting philosophy in a single sentence, what would it be?

Choose love.

Or more specifically:

Manage your own emotions so that you can listen, empathize and stay connected with your child as you guide him. When you get upset, breathe through it and don’t take action until you’re centered again so you have access to your deeper wisdom.

Dr. Markham, thank you so much for including ‘Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources’ in your virtual book tour, and good luck with the launch of ‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting’!

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dr. Laura Markham trained as a clinical psychologist, but she’s also a mother, so she understands parents as well as kids.  Her new book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. You can get Dr. Laura’s free daily or weekly emails online at AhaParenting.com, the home of Aha! Moments for parents of babies through teens.

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


3 Simple Steps from Diapers to Potty

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

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

I have an adorable little diaper-bottomed 26 month old who will never be potty-trained. She will, however, in her own time, move from diapers to potty as easily as she went from rolling to scooting, from scooting to crawling, from crawling to walking. As a mama of six from 25 years down to 26 months old, I’ve supported my little people through the transition to pottying plenty of times, and I’ve learned to go with the flow. (Sorry. I have mentioned that I like wordplay, right?)

So, what does ‘going with the flow’ mean in the diapers-to-potty stage?

It means no charts, no stickers, no rewards, no punishment, no pressure, no ‘training’ of any kind.

It means I don’t drive myself nuts looking for signs of ‘readiness’ or getting frustrated by accidents or worrying about what anyone else thinks.

It means my children and I are on the same team, period. I don’t set my little ones up for a power-struggle, don’t shift our relationship from connected to contentious, don’t push them to develop according to some arbitrary schedule.

It means letting my little ones learn about what their bodies can do simply and naturally on their own time-table.

And it means not ascribing ulterior motives to normal behavior.

Humans have a God-given, in-built instinct to seek privacy when emptying their bowels, a vital protection against the spread of disease in ancient times. Modern parents, though, often believe a child who seeks a little alone-time to poop is “hiding because they know they’re doing something wrong.”

That attitude from parents gives children the message that normal bowel functions are somehow shameful and disgusting. That often not only pushes children to seek even more seclusion while pooping, but can also lead to ‘holding’ behaviors with their resultant medical issues and can actually delay the transition to pottying, the exact opposite effect the parents are trying to achieve!

Also, when asked if they are pooping, small children will frequently deny it and even run away. Parents tend to interpret that as lying and often will punish the child, creating an even more challenging environment for little ones to try to navigate their way from diapers to potty. Again, it is a normal human instinct to regard bowel habits as a private issue, and children are in the unfortunate position of not having the ability to articulate their need for privacy with anyting more than a “No!” and a quick getaway.

Parents who recognize that the diapers-to-potty transition is a normal progression of early childhood just like learning to crawl and walk and talk will take the same approach they did with those milestones:

    1. Let the child determine the time-table. There is a huge range of ‘normal’ when it comes to timing of developmental milestones, including pottying.
    2. Encourage, don’t push. Just as with rolling, crawling, etc. offering lots of praise and applause without being insistent allows the child to develop at their own pace in a stress-free, supportive environment.
    3. Model the desired behavior and offer the opportunity to experiment. Sharing our own experiences with our children is our most powerful teaching tool, and experimentation is the foundation of true learning.

Remember, the connection we maintain throughout these transitions in our children’s lives builds the trust and communication so vital to a healthy parent/child relationship.

Here’s what the transition from diapers to potty looks like at our house:

$3.99 Ikea spice rack as a bathroom bookshelf!

From the time my babies can walk (sometimes even earlier) they regularly join me when I go to the bathroom. They sit on a little potty that’s always available or they walk around, familiarizing themselves with this new play-space, and we read books or chat or sing or just hang out.

I occasionally ask if they want to take off their diaper and sit on the little potty, and sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Eventually, the day comes that they pee-pee (we call it ‘peep’ 🙂 ) in the potty.

Then, of course, we sing the pee-pee song, “Pee-pee in the po-tay! Pee-pee in the po-tay!” and dance through the house and everybody else joins in and it’s a great time.

Sometimes, that one event is kind of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for my little ones, and the potty games are on! They start asking to go more and more and are usually out of diapers, accident free, within a couple of weeks. No pressure, no stress, and very little mess.

Sometimes, though, it’s a one-off and my little one happily continues in diapers, visiting the bathroom with me off and on, sometimes hanging out on the potty, sometimes not. Then, when they’re ready, they let me know and their own potty game is on!

The thing is, barring developmental issues, children always, always eventually make the transition to using the potty and end the diaper-bottomed season of their life. In our home they just do it in their own time. It’s as natural and joyous of a developmental milestone as crawling, walking, or talking and, for us, just as celebrated!

Note: There is a rather intense debate in the parenting community over the use/misuse of praising children. While throwing a “Good job” or “Awesome” at a child just to brush them off is…well, a brush off, honestly sharing your excitement and pride in your children is never a bad thing. In our family, we celebrate all ‘firsts’ with our children, praise their efforts and offer encouragement and help when they’re struggling, and admire their accomplishments when they succeed. You can read more about praise here.

Related posts:

Toddler fighting sleep? Here’s help!

Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

The Problem with Punishment

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.


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