Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time
by L.R. Knost
I am so happy to host L.R. Knost of “Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting” as she continues with the excitement of not only promoting her new book “Two Thousand Kisses a Day“, but Changing the World, One Little Heart at a Time”.
Seven-year-old: I made a mistake, and I was sad. I thought you might not like me anymore.
Me: I will always, always like you because I know you. I know how kind and good and amazing you are. But I know something else about you, too. I know you’re not perfect, and you never will be. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s okay because I’m not perfect, either. Your whole life never forget that imperfect me likes (and loves!) wonderful, imperfect you.
Seven-year-old: You’re my best friend, mama.
This conversation I had with my little girl is a small, real-life vignette that portrays my parenting philosophy beautifully ~ grace, interaction, honesty, communication. I have two adult children, two teen children, a first grader, and a toddler. I don’t spank, don’t use time-outs, don’t ground or send children to their rooms. In short, I don’t punish them, ever. Period.
How, then, is it possible to raise responsible, thoughtful, respectful, successful adults? Without facing consequences for their actions, how will they learn what’s right and wrong? Life is filled with consequences. How are they going to handle life in the real world if they don’t learn about it at home?
These are the questions I get from parents on a daily basis (some phrased a bit more politely than others ). But if you really look at their questions, you can see they’ve already got the answer themselves. The answer is there in the word ‘learn.’ “How will they learn…if they don’t learn at home?”
I want my children to learn in the safety of our home to be responsible, that I trust them. I want them to learn to be thoughtful, so I pause and think before I respond to them. I want them to be respectful of others, so I treat them with respect from the first moments of their lives. I want them to be successful, so I teach them that money and things don’t make a person a success; making the world a kinder, happier, better place is what makes a person a success.
In other words, I live out how I want my children to turn out. I live it not only in front of them, but also to them. And I share my heart, my hurts, my struggles with them so they learn that it’s okay to be human. Learning in our home is accomplished by example and by active, ongoing, intentional communication.
Behavior is simply communication that doesn’t yet have the words or the self-control to be expressed verbally. So instead of punishing ‘mis’behavior, I look for the need being expressed by the behavior. I meet the need before addressing the behavior because a need met is a problem solved (or prevented!). Once the need is met, the way has been paved to communicate better ways of expressing needs in the future, and so then and only then do I offer guidance because only then will the guidance be effective.
Another question I encounter frequently is, “What if it doesn’t work for my child?” The simple answer is…it won’t. If to ‘work’ means to stop a child from being a child, it won’t work. Curiosity will lead them from one adventure to another as they climb and explore and experiment. Exuberance will lead them to shout and shriek and laugh. Inexperience and frustration will lead them to whine and cry and tantrum. They will continue to be children, and human, no matter how gently (or harshly) they are parented.
What gentle parenting will do, though, is give parents effective tools to guide their children through all of the normal ages and stages of childhood peacefully and respectfully without filling their hearts with anger, resentment, and hurt.
Anecdotally, and to address one other question I am often asked, yes, I have raised (and am raising!) all six of my children with gentle parenting. Of my six children, two are what most would call high-needs or strong-willed. Gentle parenting is particularly effective with challenging children. Strong will equals strong need and focusing on those needs defuses rather than escalates behavioral issues. My objective is always first and foremost to meet the needs which typically involve reconnection and being heard, then to work with my child on equipping them with coping skills to handle their overwhelming emotions, and finally to address the behaviors themselves when my child is calm and open and ready to cooperate.
While it’s true that life can and will throw hardship and challenges at our children, as parents it isn’t our job to ‘toughen up’ our children to face a cruel, heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless. Parenting with gentleness, grace, and kindness is a simple, and simply beautiful, way to change the world, one little heart at a time.
Purchase your copy of “Two Thousand Kisses a Day” by clicking here. Check out the picture above to see how you can get a free E Copy of the book with purchase! Enter to win a copy of L.R. Knost’s children’s book “Petey’s Listening Ears” TODAY ONLY here:
Children’s book and parenting author, L.R.Knost, is an independent child development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources. A mother of six, her children range from 25- years down to 25-months-old. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages is the first in her Little Hearts Handbooks series of parenting guides. Other works by this award-winning author include the Wisdom For Little Hearts and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins children’s picture book 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.