Want to know a dirty little secret about punishment?
It doesn't work.
So starts the introduction for L.R. Knost's newest book, "The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline". And Knost couldn't be more right. Those few lines sum up everything I know as a mom and as a clinician. Savvy educators and administrators know this, too. This new book holds the answer to the parenting questions you hold deep in your heart. Today, we welcome L.R. Knost as our guest blogger. You can also read about Knost here.
Without further ado, I give you Knost:
One of my favorite times with my older children are our midnight chats when the house is still and quiet and I hear a little tap on my door and a whispered, "Are you awake, mom?" It's there in the deep stillness that my children, especially my quiet ones, are most likely to open up and share their hearts. Sometimes it takes a while to reach that deep well of emotion that us humans tend to keep hidden, so I'll sit on the edge of their bed and quietly chat with them about nothing until they naturally start talking about something, and then we'll work through their ‘something’ together.
Those precious midnight chats are a reflection and natural outgrowth of my parenting in their earlier years as I connected and communicated with my children to work with them instead of against them and to help them through their big emotions, their struggles, their behavior challenges, their life processing while inviting cooperation rather than forcing compliance.
The Three C's of Gentle Discipline
In The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, I share the Three C’s of gentle discipline—Connection, Communication, and Cooperation—and demonstrate real-life applications in each stage of development from early childhood through the teen years. Discipline (guiding, modeling, limit-setting, encouraging, supporting, etc.) is broken down into simple steps for each age and stage of childhood. From setting the foundations for discipline by building a trust relationship right from the start, to coping with tantrums and defiance, to parenting a strong-willed child, to walking peacefully with your teens through adolescence, The Gentle Parent offers effective solutions to a wide range of behavioral challenges as well as giving practical insights into how to parent proactively to avoid many common behavior issues.
The Three C’s of gentle discipline are based on these precepts:
The most effective thing parents can do to connect with their children is to view them as people, not problems, and to treat their children how they, the parents themselves, would like to be treated. It’s simply the Golden Rule applied to parenting, and it’s a wonderful life lesson to pass along to our children.
Hands down the most effective change parents can make to improve their communication with their children is to stop talking and start listening. As parents we sometimes get so focused on our natural need to be heard that we forget that there is another person in the relationship with just as strong of a need to be heard, but without the ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings that we as adults have. Slowing down, using our own adult maturity and self-control to put our need to be heard on hold for a bit, and focusing on really hearing our children and 'listening between the lines' to their behavior to discern needs they aren't able to articulate opens the door to a two-way communication.
Cooperation Cannot Result from Coercion
Force, coercion, threats, manipulation, isolation, intimidation, anything designed to control another human being rather than connect, communicate, and cooperate with another human being, automatically cause resistance in children, as they do with all people. These parenting tactics lead to a disconnected relationship and a break in trust and communication. The compliance parents may get from these external controls is not only temporary, but also damaging to the parent/child relationship. Cooperation cannot result from coercion.
Gentle Parent/Peaceful Heart
The Gentle Parent also addresses your heart-health as a parent. A peaceful response comes from a peaceful heart, so when your patience starts getting a bit thin you can learn to recognize that you need to do a bit of heart maintenance to restore your ability to parent with gentleness and respect. Working through your stresses, walking intentionally through forgiveness when someone hurts you, and making sure you are healthy emotionally are just some of the steps offered in The Gentle Parent to help you to grow your children in a healthy emotional environment.
The thing to keep in mind is that no parenting ‘works’ to stop children from being children, and that shouldn’t be the goal in the first place. “Even if our discipline approach is gentle, if we aren’t letting our children be children, then we are missing the heart of gentle parenting entirely. Knowing our children, staying in-tune with their needs, nurturing their uniqueness, growing them into who they were created to be instead of molding them into who we want them to be, those are the tenets of gentle, respectful, responsive parenting.” (Chapter 20, The Gentle Parent)
Imperfections and All
One of my catch phrases is, “I'm an imperfect human raising an imperfect human in an imperfect world, and that's perfectly okay.” That just means that it’s okay for children to be human, and it’s okay for parents to be human. “Parenting has nothing to do with perfection. Perfection isn’t even the goal, not for us, not for our children. Learning together to live well in an imperfect world, loving each other despite or even because of our imperfections, and growing as humans while we grow our little humans, those are the goals of gentle parenting. So don’t ask yourself at the end of the day if you did everything right. Ask yourself what you learned and how well you loved, then grow from your answer. That is perfect parenting.” (Chapter 14, The Gentle Parent)
Best-selling parenting and children’s book author and mother of six, L.R.Knost, is an independent child development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources. 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 in her Little Hearts Handbooks series of parenting guides. The newest book in the series, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline was just released on November 1, 2013. Other works by this award-winning author include the children's picture books Petey’s Listening Ears, and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series for ages 2 to 6, which are humorous and engaging tools for parents, teachers, and caregivers to use in implementing gentle parenting techniques in their homes and schools.