The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline is the third book in L.R. Knost’s series of Little Heart Handbooks. (The other two in this series: Two Thousand Kisses a Day and Whispers Through Time.)
As she does in her previous books, Knost explains in The Gentle Parent the importance of treating our children as people — with respect, and with one-another-love (or the Golden Rule). This book centers on implementing the three C’s of gentle discipline — Connection, Communication, and Cooperation.
The Gentle Parent does not attempt to lay out a robust theology of the need for gentleness in parenting. Some Christian parents, having come from a background where everything must be spiritualized in order to be useful, may find this an element that creates a difficulty in utilizing some of the information. However, while Knost states her Christian beliefs elsewhere, this book is addressing the broader issue of punitive parenting in mainstream society, not merely the Christianized version of it. As such, the book reads like a practical guidebook and parenting coaching kit. Knost also helpfully address a lot of common misconceptions of gentle parenting, and also addresses some of the societal expressions of and excuses for the continuation of punitive parenting techniques.
Like her previous books, one of L.R. Knost’s greatest gifts in her writing is her willingness to place herself in the shoes of the child, and to treat that child with gentleness, respect, and self-sacrificing, Golden Rule-love. After reading through her books, I am reminded each time that one of the most influential factors in how a parent responds to his or her children has to do with communication. (Communication requires lots of listening and a little bit of understanding on how both our words and actions communicate!) So often, parents misunderstand a child’s reaction or behavior as defiance or misbehavior when the child is simply using age-appropriate means attempts to communicate. On the flip side, it is often easy to forget how our parental knee-jerk reactions, responses, and treatment of our children can communicate to our children something entirely different than what is intended.
Although I consider myself on the convinced side of taking a gentler approach to parenting, there are still elements of this book I will practice differently in my home. However, I think that any parent at any point on the spectrum of parenting ideologies could glean from this book a number of helpful, practical tools. Specifically, the book offers a lot of incredibly practical ideas — from helpful, physical stress-release tools for children, to practical play ideas, to ideas of how to rephrase communication with kids.
Again, like in previous works, the tone and scope of the book create the feeling that Knost is coming alongside parents and acting like the parents she describes: gently guiding and counseling toward growth. Her approach is at times firm, but gentle, and her voice is clear and precise.
Knost acknowledges that we as parents will fail. On the flip side, even when we have been “perfect parents” our children will also still make wrong choices and poor actions. She offers grace to both children and parents. Along the same lines, she points out that even in the best and worst of parenting situations, the children are their own individuals and may not turn out as the expected “product.”
Excerpts that stood out to me:
“Boundaries are our friends. Many people believe that gentle parenting is a form of un-parenting, but nothing could be further from the truth. Gentle parenting is involved parenting–interactive, engaged, active parenting. It takes focused attention, planning, participation, research and so much more to be an empathetic, responsive parent who is tune with their child’s needs and who is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to meet those needs. That said, in any home, like in any civilized society, boundaries are necessary for everyone’s safety and comfort. It is in the choosing and maintaining of those boundaries that gentle parenting distinguishes itself. In a gently parented home, boundaries are focused on guiding rather than controlling children and are maintained through empathetic and creative resolutions rather than harsh punitive consequences.”
“Yelling silences your message. Speak quietly so your children can hear your words, not just your voice.”
“Working with our children instead of against them is a foreign concept to most parents, but therein lies the secret to a peaceful, happy home and the healthy parent/child trust relationship that the Three C’s of gentle discipline — Connection, Communication, and Cooperation — are built upon.”
“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 and opportunity to address the root of the behavior.”
“Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer retribution for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions, not retributions.”
Note: On November 10, Knost will be offering a her Gentle Parenting Workshop 1 for free.
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