About us

Welcome to our page. We are moms, educators and therapists who hold a firm belief in gentle, mindful parenting. We hope to empower you with current research, personal stories, and inspired readings to help you approach parenting through a mindful awareness of how your connection to your children affects their present and future behaviors and emotional intelligence. When children are treated with kindness, respect and unconditional acceptance they have the freedom to grow in to healthy, compassionate and responsible adults.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Giveaway: Whispers Through Time Kindle Edition

 Thank you everyone who entered to win a copy of L.R. Knost's "Whispers Through Time." The giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified. We look forward to having more giveaways in the future.


“It’s not our job to toughen our children up 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 you missed the $0.99 sale on Amazon last weekend you won't want to miss our giveaway! We're offering a free Kindle copy of L.R. Knost's "Whispers Through Time."

To enter the giveaway (1) share this giveaway, (2)  leave a comment saying you shared and (3) tell us why you'd like to win the book.

Giveaway begins today, Thursday, October 3 and ends Saturday, October 5 at midnight. We cannot guarantee that we'll see your entry on Facebook, so to ensure your name is counted please comment on this blog. Winner will be chose at random using Random.org.

We love Little Hearts Books (Gentle Parenting Resources) and L. R. Knost.
Best-selling parenting and children’s book 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, as well as a monthly parenting and education contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine. She is also a babywearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, homeschooling mother of six. Her children are a 25-year-old Pastor and married father of two; a 23-year-old married Family Therapist working on an advanced degree; an 18-year-old university pre-med student on scholarship; 13 and 6-year-old sweet, funny, socially active, homeschooled girls; and an adorable 25-month-old toddler. Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages and the newly-released  Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood are the first in the Little Hearts Handbook series of gentle parenting guides by L.R.Knost. The next book in the series, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, is due to be released November 2013. Other works by this award-winning author include a children’s picture book, A Walk in the Clouds, due to be released September 2013, and Petey’s Listening Ears, the first in her Wisdom for Little Hearts 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.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littleheartsbooks
Twitter: @LRKnost_Author
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lrknost/

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 Keys to Setting Limits that Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns

Guiding children sometimes includes setting limits or boundaries, and is a necessary part of keeping our children safe and helping them learn about themselves, their relationships, and the world around them. And we can guide children and set limits with them in ways that minimize tantrums simply by creating an emotionally nurturing environment and by our approach to limit-setting. This is also an opportunity for us to model respect, collaboration, and focusing on solutions!

We can choose to engage with our children and reinforce boundaries in ways that minimize triggering an emotionally overwhelming response.



5 Keys to Setting Limits That Minimize Tantrums



Respond With Intention

Model Appropriate Emotional Responses
 Use Positive Language
Implement Creative Solutions

When we set limits with our children, how we set the limit is key. In order to minimize tantrums and meltdowns it helps to consider their developmental ability to handle both the limit and the delivery of the limit. This does not mean we "fall all over ourselves" to keep from upsetting them; it simply means we consider their emotional development when we choose our approach to setting a limit. Children are able to deal with limits when they are set in ways that are emotionally nurturing.
Here are some examples of language you can practice with your children today:
Your toddler is throwing blocks and dumping toys all over the house...
Your immediate reaction is to think, "unsafe! big mess! stoooooooooop!"

Instead, take a deep breath and respond:
 "I can see you're having fun throwing the blocks and dumping the toys. We want everyone to be safe. You can throw them in this laundry basket or you can drop them on a pillow."
First we connect by acknowledging the fun our child is having. This allows our children to know we understand their actions and that we are in partnership with them versus have a power struggle against them. Then we take time to respond with intention, which models appropriate emotional responses by remaining calm and empathetic. Finally, we model positive language and show our child a creative solution so the child can continue to learn about the world in safe ways.

Your preschooler wants ice cream while you're cooking dinner.
Your immediate reaction is to think, "I'm working hard to fix a healthy dinner. Ice cream will ruin your appetite. No way!"

Instead, take a deep breath and respond:
"Ice cream is so yummy. Wouldn't it be fun to eat it all the time? We can have ice cream after we eat dinner."
First we connect by acknowledging our child's wishes, which maximizes a collaborative relationship with our child. We connect by acknowledging how fun it really would be to eat ice cream! Then we take time to respond with an intentionally appropriate emotional responses - we remain calm and empathetic; and we use positive language to set the limit, telling the child when s/he can have what she wants.

Another example: In May my daughter (age 4) and I bought sushi to eat before grocery shopping. She wanted ice cream first, so we talked about food as fuel for our bodies and she came up with a creative solution, "How about I dip my sushi in my ice cream?" I knew she was very hungry, so I agreed. She dipped her sushi in her ice cream until all the sushi was gone, then gobbled up the rest of her ice cream (mango, ginger sorbet...an excellent choice for a sushi dip, eh?! LOL). Knowing our children is an important part of this process too!

Your 7-year old wants to stay at the zoo until it closes even though everyone is exhausted after 7 hours at the zoo already.
Your immediate reaction is to think, "No. You're tired and we need to get home and have dinner before we all have a meltdown!"

Instead, take a deep breath, consider their request, and respond:
"You've have had so much fun at the zoo today and you're not ready to leave. I had a lot of fun today too and I wish I had the energy to stay as long as you want. But I'm tired and hungry, and I don't want to be cranky with anyone. Let's choose one more animal to visit and then talk about a game to play on the way home."

First we connect with our child, then we let them know our own limits (we do have them!), and then we collaborate with our child on what they can do and use positive language to let our child know what they can look forward to doing in the future. Again, we take time to respond with an intentionally appropriate emotional response.

What are some more alternatives to responding to these situations in ways that model appropriate communication and solution-focused interactions? What are some other scenarios you want help with to minimize tantrums and create connections?

Of course these are ways to MINIMIZE tantrums and meltdowns, not eliminate them. To learn how to respond to temper flares and meltdowns look for our post coming soon...

"5 Steps to Help Children Tame Their Own Tantrums"

"How to Help Ourselves Tame Our Adult Tantrums"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trying to Parent by the Golden Rule

"Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated"
The golden rule is the core of parenting...
I treat my child the way I want to be treated.
I speak respectfully and with kindness.
I listen and hear her, and I work to understand her.
I invite her to learn from her mistakes without shame, blame, or pain.
I show her empathy and compassion.
I invite her to be a part of the planning and deciding.
I acknowledge her voice, her belonging, her significance.
I accept her unconditionally for exactly who she is right now.
 Sometimes I suck at following the golden rule...
I am imperfect. I make mistakes. I apologize.
I treat myself with respect and kindness.
I work to understand what is going on inside myself.
I give myself empathy and compassion.
I accept myself for exactly who I am right now.
I invite myself to learn from my mistakes.
...and I try, try, try again.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Healthy and Easy Energy Snack Recipe

As a mother who is always looking for quick, healthy snack options, I absolutely fell in love with these no-bake energy bites, which I adapted to meet the nutritional needs of my family. And while I'm neither a chef nor a nutritionist, I have spent the last 4+ years studying food and nutrition out of necessity since discovering my daughter had multiple food sensitivities as an infant (which impacted our family in all kinds of challenging ways). If I had to sum up all that I learned in a single sentence it would be "eat real food according to your individual body's needs." In other words, shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store and pay attention and trust your and your children's bodily response.

I hope your taste buds and your bodies enjoy these as much as we have!


Picture from Recipe Source: Gimme Some Oven
Stir all ingredients together until thoroughly mixed, then cover and chill for 15-20 minutes. Once chilled, roll into 1T size balls (you can make them any size, but we liked this size best). You can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


A friend of mine introduced me to this wonderful recipe, and she also includes these ingredients for some variations...we've tried them all with great pleasure, although not all at once, LOL
1/3 cup crispy rice
1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (dairy, soy, and gluten free)
1/4 cup dried raisins and/or cranberries

Note: I am going to try the oats soaked the next time I make them!

NOTE: Gimme Some Oven slightly adapted her recipe from Smashed Peas & Carrots. Feel free to check out both sites!

Here are some great books on health and allergies, for those interested.
Food Allergy Survival Guide
Nutritional Healing
Wheat Belly
Wheat Belly Cookbook
Practical Paleo

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Giveaway and Book Review: "Whispers Through Time"

Thank you everyone for joining us on your parenting journey.
The book winners were notified.


If you're interested in reading "Whispers Through Time" and/or "Two Thousand Kisses A Day" you can purchase them here:

Whispers Through Time ($7.19 + shipping)
Two Thousand Kisses A Day ($7.19 + shipping)

  Come back and tell us how you've applied these gentle parenting principles at home and remember to review it on Amazon!


“Whispers Through Time” is now available and we’re excited to promote it. Author L. R. Knost focuses on the importance of communication in parenting. While she acknowledges the challenges we face as parents, she also gently reminds us that the connection we have with them when we first meet their beautiful newborn eyes is the same connection we hope to have with them when they're teens and grown adults - and she explains how communication is the key to maintaining that amazing connection.

Knost asks us to consider our children's behaviors as attempts to connect and communicate with us, rather than actions to drive us crazy. Knost offers practical approaches to 

  • Temper tantrums
  • Whining
  • Tattling
  • Chatterboxes, and
  • The "I dunno" of adolescence

This approach to communicating with children empowers children and parents alike while maintaining the parent-child connection through gentle, respectful parenting practices.

TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY...simply comment on this blog.
Giveaway ends Saturday, June 22, 2013 @ 10p Eastern.
Winners will be chosen at random and notified on Sunday, June 23.
(This giveaway is not associated with Facebook, per Facebook rules.)


If you don’t want to wait to read the book, it is now available on Amazon:
This post is part of the Virtual Book Tour for the launch of L.R.Knost's newest release Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood. Click here if you’d like to check out all of the other stops on the tour! 

 About the Author


Best-selling parenting and children’s book 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 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 next book in the series, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline is due to be released November 2013. Other works by this award-winning author include the children's picture books A Walk in the Clouds, 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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Kid Doesn't Obey

It's true...my kid doesn't obey. She doesn't pick up her toys or set the table or get dressed if I tell her to. The thing is, she doesn't like being told what to do. But then, neither do I. In fact, there are times when I'm not sure I could do what someone tells me to do even if I wanted to. Can anyone relate?! What can I say...I grew up in a household where you obeyed "or else...!"

So, my kid isn't obedient. But she is one hell of a collaborator! See, she wants to be invited to pick up her toys, set the table or get dressed. She also wants to be a part of the planning and decision making process - which means these things happen with a sense of rhythm, rather than on demand. She wants her ideas and opinions to be heard and understood for their unique value. And truly, she has some ideas that have a value all their own...priceless and exquisite...especially when it comes to the rhythm of picking up! LOL

And really, don't we all want to be heard? To be invited into the planning and decision making? To feel our opinions are valued and valid? Don't we all want to feel a sense of belonging in our families, at work, and among friends? To feel that what we think and what we contribute has some significance?

What holds true for us hold equally true for our children.

So my kid isn't obedient? So what?! Neither am I!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Giveaway: The Conscious Parent Program

Hello to everyone who entered the Conscious Parent online program Giveaway!

Thank you for participating in our giveaway. We hope you found a helpful resource for bringing a sense of connection, collaboration and energy to your family.

And because we want everyone to win, here is the link to the FREE Connection and Collaboration teleconversation introduction series: healing anger and guilt through the parent-child relationship.
You can learn more about the free teleconversation by clicking here.

Listen and Enjoy!
Parenting Beyond Punishment

P.S. The winner of the giveaway was contacted by Connection and Collaboration to set up their account. We used the List Randomizer and Random Number Generator on www.random.org. Thanks again for participating!

Connection and Collaboration is offering 1-month access to Part 1 of their 6-module program. Each of these flexible, self-paced program modules are designed for the myriad of busy parents who struggle with personal upsets (overwhelm, anger, guilt, frustration, disappointment...) and everyday parent-child issues (eating, bedtime, sibling rivalry, hitting, power struggles...). The goal is to help you parent from a place of abundance, so that you can parent joyfully and with ease and energy.

In this program you will...

identify the parent you want to be

discover and fulfill your own personal self-care needs within your current life circumstances

cultivate self-compassion as a way to create more energy for yourself and more patience with your children

learn practical parenting tools focused on connection and collaboration with yourselves and your children

release yourself from the sole burden of responsibility

help your children develop a sense of self-responsibility, capability, belonging, significance



Share this giveaway in as many fun and creative ways you want, then comment on this blog and tell us all the creative ways you shared...and how many times!

Your Facebook page, a friend's page, your blog...(tag PBP!)
Play groups, FaceTime, Email...
Shout it out your window to neighbors and friends!



LIKE the Connection and Collaboration Facebook page, tell them you want to win the giveaway, and tag Parenting Beyond Punishment!



 To learn more about the Conscious Parent online program visit their website:


The winner will be chosen at random and notified on
4/30 by 12am EST.

*** This giveaway is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Facebook***


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Parenting From a Place of Abundance

We've been working with parents online for over two years now via our Parenting Beyond Punishment Facebook page. We understand the struggles facing parents intimately. And in the face of so many stories of struggle and disconnect we learned to take breaks to replenish ourselves.

We've come up with a number of ways to reach out to parents who desperately want to parent with love, respect and connection: blog posts, pictures with quotes, individual messaging, book recommendations, status updates, educational articles, etc. And our readers continue to request online workshops, mp3 recordings, online chat sessions, and other ideas that we continue to consider. When it comes down to it, parents face a number of obstacles on their parenting journey which we simply can't help them address through articles, quotes, blog posts and online learning sessions that only address the behaviors of children. Sure, those things help, but there's more to what's going on than behavior.

We find ways to write the same basic principles in order to help parents better understand the specific behaviors of their children:
  • Children communicate to us through their behavior
  • Children's behavior reflects their needs - when they "mis-behave" it is because they are behaving in ways they "mis-takenly" believe will get those needs met.
  • Children are communicating their needs in the only ways they know how.
  • Once we meet the needs behind a child's behavior we can then guide them toward more pro-social ways to communicate with us, and we can help them learn to meet those needs themselves.

The thing is, children aren't the only ones whose needs aren't being met and who are communicating those unmet needs through their behavior.

Many parents feel...
...overwhelmed, unfulfilled and disappointed
...guilty for needing a moment to themselves
...out of control
...disconnected from their children
...resentful, frustrated, and angry, and feel guilty for feeling that way
so they...
 ...get angry and lose their patience with their children
...remain stuck parenting in reaction to their own childhood experiences
...struggle daily to parent respectfully
when they actually want to...
...set boundaries that support themselves and their children
...feel a sense of connection with their children
...parent from a place they fills their heart
So how do we apply our understanding of needs and behaviors to truly empower parents?
Maybe if we start with the basics: every human needs to feel a sense of belonging and significance no matter their age. Humans are biologically wired to long for emotional connection, to have a sense of power over their own lives, to be capable, and to make meaningful contributions. A child will show her need for belonging and significance isn't being met in the same way a parent will shows her need for belonging and significance isn't being met.

But here's the thing...

The hardest thing we have to learn as parents is that it's no one else's job to meet our needs.**

When we become parents our own needs grow exponentially because we are giving so much to our children. And for those of us whose intent is to parent from a place of love, respect and connection, it is essential for us to learn to meet our own needs, to replenish ourselves so that we can live the life we want, full of connection, meaning, and joy.


 So, we need to figure out what it is parents really need in order to move from a focus on their children's behaviors to a focus on the child's unmet needs.

I believe in order to truly parent from a place of love, respect and connection we need to parent from a place of abundance. And to do this we to nurture ourselves in many of the same ways we nurture our children: empathy, compassion, self-care....

To this endeavor, I've been gathering data and working with two amazing colleagues to develop an online program to help people who are looking to approach parenting from a intentional place of love, respect and connection.*

We started with a free introductory course in April, Healing Anger and Guilt Through the Parent-Child Relationship, where we asked people to join our conversation on navigating the personal struggles we face as parents. In addition to addressing some specific behaviors in our question and discussion sessions, we focused on 3 main points:
  • Using anger and guilt as an internal GPS
  • Ways to reset ourselves when we're triggered
  • The freedom found in collaborating with ourselves and our children

Now we're offering The Conscious Parent Online Program - a 6-part workshop series to help parents learn to bring greater ease, freedom, and fulfillment into their parent-child relationship. We created the program with a couple of things in mind: family counseling is expensive, and parents are already busy, stressed, and juggling multiple schedules! So we wanted to provide an affordable service that was also convenient.

In this program you will
Identify your personal parenting goals
Identify your self-care needs
Increase your confidence as a parent
Reduce distressing emotions
Free yourself from feelings of shame, criticism, overwhelm and hurt
Decrease the friction and stress between you and your children
Create the freedom you want inside your busy day
Empower your children to be active willing participants in family life

As a participant you...
Have community support in a private forum where participants share their struggles and successes;
Have professional support from the collaboration team;
Bypass traffic, babysitters, and additional schedules to juggle;
Engage in a personalized parenting consultation that is only 25% of the cost of traditional modes of consultations and family counseling*.
If you're ready to have support on your parenting journey please join our community today!
Need a reason to invest in yourself and your children?
Mother's Day
Father's Day
Your parent-child relationship
Your sanity
...the list goes on and on...
I hope you'll join us on the Conscious Parent journey
beginning on May 6, 2013.
*For more information about my colleagues Neca and Francoise click on their names.* 
**I read a version of that quote from "The Organic Sister," also on Facebook, and it landed right inside my heart**

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bathing Struggles

Bath time and washing is a real challenge for some children and their parents. Children may resist taking a bath for many reasons: it's not fun, they don't like the feeling of being naked, they feel unsafe while washing their hair, they don't like being cold afterward, etc. Our job as parents is to discover why they don't want to bathe, and then begin to help them work through their resistance.

Here's a few questions to ask ourselves (especially if we're trying to discover why our very young children resist bath time):

Do I rush bath time?
Am I patient during bath time?
Is bath time fun or a chore?

Then take the time to understand your child's perspective; find out why they don't want to bathe, "I notice you really don't want to take a bath. Let's talk about what you don't like." Listen without interrupting, correcting, or trying to fix the situation. Remember, they are simply trying to explain their point of view, which is equally as valid as our own point of view.
After they come up with some things they don't like, invite them to collaborate with you in finding ways to fix those things, "let's think of some ways we could keep the water out of your eyes when we wash your hair." Let them come up with some ideas...and try their ideas even if they seem odd!
It's always good to offer children information, so talking to them about why they need a bath is important, "I know you don't want to take a bath. So I thought we could chat about why everyone needs to get clean. Have you ever noticed animals cleaning themselves?" Let them try to come up with some animals...if they don't you could point out the birds bathing themselves in the birdbath or in puddles, or cats licking their paws. "All animals clean themselves in order to keep their skin healthy and clean of bugs and dirt. Just like we do as humans." Leave some room for them to talk about animals and how they might get clean. Let it be a fun way to connect with each other. Invite them to pretend to be those animals in the bath!
It's also important to offer them choices, and remember to keep the choices within the realm of the task of getting clean:
Do you want to take a bath or a shower?
Do you want to wash your hands first or your feet?
Do you want to wash your hair or do you want me to wash your hair?

 Finally, set up some agreements. It’s really not important to bathe or wash ourselves every day (see articles here and here). So guide them in a discussion on how many days to wash their hair each week (1-2?) and how many days to bathe or shower (2-3?). Let them talk while you write down what they say. Remember to use curiosity questions such as, "what happens if we've had a really fun day painting outside in the mud and we get particularly dirty, but it's not a bath day?" And let them come up with solutions - maybe they just want to run in the sprinkler! You will have to navigate your values in helping them in these agreements. Finally, post the agreements where you all can see them so when your child decides not to bathe on a bath night you can refer back to them, “we made some agreements, let’s go look at them. Where are we in our bathing agreements?” Then you can give some empowering choices, "do you want to bathe in your bath tub or mommy's bath tub?" or "Do you want bubbles or plain water?" "Would you like to use those glow sticks tonight?" Remember, the agreements are always open for revision if you or your child discover they aren't working out as planned, "I notice our agreements aren't really working for us. What can we change to make them better?"

Finally, a word about bathing and the parent-child relationship. If you've had a tough day, your child is particularly resistant toward bathing and you simply can't be patient, consider skipping the bath. Be sure to acknowledge what's going on, "I am really tired and I am concerned that I just don't have enough patience for us to enjoy bath time tonight. If you decide you want a bath, let me know, otherwise let's have your bath tomorrow night when we're both in a better space." You could also offer the sponge-bath option.


 Simple Steps to Creating Positive
Bath Time Experiences
  1. Go Slow. Don't rush bath time. If you are in a hurry, consider a simple sponge bath, or even waiting until you have more time. When kids feel rushed they feel stressed. This is especially true when it is time to wash hair. Go slow, try to keep the water out of their eyes, keep a washcloth handy or let them hold it over their eyes, etc.
  2. Be Present. There is nothing more thrilling for a child than having their parent's undivided attention, no phone, no computer, no distractions. When they're bathing it gives us the opportunity to connect with them and to let them know we value them. And it's a beautiful opportunity to listen to them talk about their day, their dreams, and to generally get a sense of what's going on in their world.
  3. Empower them. Let them make some decisions about what to wash and when. Ask if you can help, rather than just reaching in and taking over. Use questions to remind them about where to watch, rather than instructing them on what to do, "I see your face is clean, what else needs to be scrubbed on your head?"
  4. Play. Children who have time for free play are less stressed, and bath time can be a wonderful time for free, creative play. Play At Home Mom has loads of creative and fun bath time ideas. And if you click here it will take you to a list of fun bath toys on amazon. But you don't have to get fancy; children are happy to splash around and create their own worlds of fantasy, especially if you're there giving them your undivided attention.

Note: When my own daughter feels resistant to washing her hair I sometimes let her wash my hair, then we switch. When I was a nanny one of the girls didn’t like washing her hair either and she would put a dry washcloth over her eyes while I very slowly rinsed her hair out without pouring water over her face; it really helped her feel safe and remain calm. And inevitably there would be those times I hurried, her face got wet, and it would set us back.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Helping Older Children Who Hit

My 7-year-old, who never hit, now hits out of anger. No one in our house hits, but all of the sudden she hits in a rage, and it hurts! If you have any ideas on how to address this behavior peacefully without punishment I would love to read them. Thank you!
We want to approach our older children in the same gentle way as our younger children (see this article here), while also using more age-appropriate collaborative conversations.

It's important to invite her to talk about what's going on and work with her on what you two can do together to help her work through her feelings of overwhelm and express herself without hitting. So, sometime when you're both calm, cuddled up and connected you might have a conversation that sounds something like this...
"Sienna, I’ve noticed you’ve been having some big emotions, and sometimes it seems you feel overwhelmed. It's important that each of us feel safe in our home, both physically safe and emotionally. I thought you and I could talk how you can let me know you're having big feelings in ways that are safe, maybe we can have a special word or hand signal, kind of like when we high-five when the kitchen is clean. Do you have any ideas?"
Then it's important to listen to your daughter without interupting, correcting or attempting to "fix." Hear what she says, and when she has an idea for how to tell you she's struggling, try to figure out how to make it work. If she struggles to come up with an idea after several minutes, then you might suggest something like this and practice it with her:
"Mom, I'm having a tough time, can you sit with me."
Hand signal: lightly tapping her head.
Write a note or draw a picture.

Sometimes children act in these aggravated ways when they're experiencing a developmental change. And while this could be the case for your daughter, it sounds like something else may be going on with her causing her to feel overwhelmed and unsure how to ask for help. So it's also important to asking yourself some questions:
  1. Have there been any changes at home?
  2. Have there been any changes in the family?
  3. Have there been any changes in her community (school, friends, etc.)?
Changes can come in the form of life, death, moving, sickness, a new bed, etc. And if she’s reacting to change you’ll want to center your conversation with her around those changes…
“Sienna, I know it’s a big change to move to a new bedroom. I’m wondering how you’re feeling about it?” (Listen to her, empathize, and allow her to feel/think these things without trying to fix anything) “Is there something we can do to help you feel better or less overwhelmed?” (Try to implement her ideas if at all possible no matter how improbable they may seem to you. Listen to her, empathize, and allow her to feel these things without trying to fix anything).

Also, I can never emphasize enough the importance of connection. When our children feel disconnected from us they often show us through their behavior. And, of course, the best way to connect with them is to play with them. I wrote an article about play here, and you can get lots of creative play ideas at Play At Home Mom (our sister blog/site) and other online child-centered creative play sites. The important thing to remember is to have uninterrupted time with just her, even if it's only for 30 minutes a day where you do what she wants to do without a cell phone, computer, or other distractions. One woman told me that she used bath time to focus on her child, play, and connect. Use whatever time you can!

Finally, it's important to pay attention to the environment of your home, the rhythm and scheduling in your family, and the amount of adult media your daughter may be exposed to. You can learn more about the effects these factors have on children's emotions and behaviors on the Simplicity Parenting website, or in Kim John Payne's book, Simplicity Parenting.

Here are some book recommendations for working with children:


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Free Teleconversation - Healing Anger and Guilt Through Parenting

Hello! We have a FREE 4-part teleconversation designed to help parents heal the anger and guilt that interferes with their relationship with their children.

A Special invitation to honor all of who you are...and your child too!

  • Does your own childhood impact your parenting?
  • Do you sometimes struggle to parent respectfully?
  • Do you find yourself feeling disconnected from your children?
  • Do anger and frustration affect how you parent?
  • Do hostility and frustration spill over into your relationship with others?
  • Do you find yourself with a short fuse in public settings, like in traffic or in the grocery store line?
  • Do you want to parent from a place that fills your heart?
  • Do you wish you could set boundaries that support you, your children, and your work?
We have a special invitation for you to Hear the Conversation as we dismantle the mystery and challenges you experience in parenting.

That’s right, when you feel guilty because you got angry, and you lost your patience with your child. The words you wish you could take back. The daily struggle you encounter because… well, because the truth is life isn’t just as you dreamed it would be…

You feel resentful, frustrated, and angry. And you feel guilty for feeling that way.

We know what that feels like too!

Who We Are

AmyFace-228x300Amy C. Bryant is the founder of Wild Child Counseling, LLC, a gentle parenting consultation and counseling resource for parents and families. She empowers parents to connect with their children in respectful and meaningful ways, with collaboration and play as the main emphasis. Amy also founded “Parenting Beyond Punishment,” an online blog and FaceBook community for parents who want to move out of the reward-punishment parenting paradigm and into a more connection-centered approach to working with their children. She also contributes to Play At Home Mom, a blog designed to help parents connect with their children through play. Amy earned her Masters of Science and Specialist in Education degrees in professional counseling with a focus on children and adolescents. After graduation, she began her own research on the parent-child relationship and its effects on childhood outcomes, an interest that continues to flourish as she navigates her connection with her own soulful daughter.

neca2Neca C. Smith is the founder of AidevO People Consulting, LLC a personal and professional growth and development firm. She is also the author of “Anger Intelligence (TM): Changing the Way You Think About Anger” Workbook and “Triggers: What Sets Us Off at Work and What to Do About It” eBook. Neca is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Life Consultant that has a passion for her clients live life well and coaching them to experience peace where there is chaos, clarity where there is confusion and movement where there is stagnation.

Francoise_099-198x300 Françoise Everett is the founder of Guilt-Free Mothering, a breakthrough resource for entrepreneurial moms who desire to create a life they love. She works with extraordinary, conscious mothers to guide them to unprecedented personal success in motherhood and in business.
Françoise has studied extensively with Asian masters. She is a certified yoga teacher, energy healer, and brain education instructor. Prior to becoming a soul-centered entrepreneur and success mentor to mothers, she had a successful 12-year career at The Boston Consulting Group, a prestigious international consulting firm. Françoise holds a BS in Marketing from BabsonCollege and an MS in Communications Management from SimmonsCollege.
Françoise considers motherhood to be the highest calling in her life. She is the mother of her beautiful daughter Malia, lovingly adopted from China in 2003.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2-Year Old Hitting

Any tips on a 2-year old who hits? I feel like I have tried everything. I hug him and try to talk him through it. I say, "I understand you're frustrated, but we don't hit; hitting hurts. Try to let me know what's wrong." We have tried time out, re-direction, and ignoring. It's getting worse, especially when we're out in public. He also does it at home. He will be happy as can be playing with me or daddy and out of no where he starts hitting us. I normally say ‘no hitting. Mommy doesn’t want to play when you hit’ and I get up. His reaction to this is to follow me crying and hitting me. Or he will just come up and smack us. I need advice I'm struggling.

You’re definitely giving him some of what he needs by offering him a hug (acceptance of his emotions), naming his emotions (developing emotional intelligence), and telling him you don’t like it because it hurts (teaching appropriate boundaries). Young children are still learning to communicate. So when they have a need, they tell us in the only way they know how - through their behavior. Your son believes that hitting you will help him get his needs met; this misunderstanding is developmentally appropriate and common. As parents our job is to figure out what the need is that he is expressing with his hitting behavior, to meet that need, and to teach him ways to express that need in appropriate ways.There are a couple of things you can add to your approach to help him out while he’s learning to communicate his needs in more effective ways. I always recommend this approach to helping children learn appropriate expressions of their needs.

  1. Accept emotions and name them (emotional intelligence):
    “You’re angry and you want to hit."
  2. Model appropriate boundaries:
    "Mommy is for gentle touches." (you can gently stop his hand)
  3. Show him what he can do:
    "Here is a gentle way to get my attention." (gently rub his hand on your face or your arm.")
  4. Tell him what he can do:
    "You can say 'I'm mad!' or you can stomp your feet."
  5. Time and patience: children need time for their brains to become developmentally ready to understand, process, learn, and implement new behaviors. So continue to patiently guide him for however long he child needs in order to begin to embrace this new approach to expressing his needs. Every child is different, and there are many behaviors you'll be guiding him through!
While reading through your description the first thing I thought was "he's trying to get your attention and connect with you." Especially since he follows you when you leave him after his initial misguided attempt to get your attention. When our children try and fail to get our attention they often become overwhelmed with big emotions. These emotions often triggers us as parents, "my kid just hit me and is now having a meltdown because I chose to remove myelf from the situation?! Sheesh!" But our children didn't see the limit we set, they felt abandoned. So this is the time when our children need us to move closer to them more than ever. When he hits you the next time (after your initial few times of guiding him) you can encourage him to think about what he can do:

It is important that everyone feels safe in our home. When you hit me I feel unsafe. What can you do to help me feel safe?

Another idea that comes to mind is POWER. Everyone needs to feel they have some control over their lives, and toddlers are no different. They have a deep need to express their power over themselves because they have so very little power and control over what goes on in their lives. So it may also be helpful to find ways to empower him:

"Do you want to sit on my lap or beside me?"
"Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want me to?"
Do you want to put on a shirt or shorts first?
"What do you need to do to finish getting dressed?"
"Where do we keep your clothes?"

Finally, children REALLY want to connect with us, and they do this best through play. In the words of the great Adlerian play therapist and child advocate Dr. Gary Landreth, "Birds fly, fish swim, children play." Children communicate and learn about the world around them through play; it is their language. If we are to truly connect with our children then the best way to do so is through PLAY!

For more information about the power of play you can read my article on Play At Home Mom here . And for more specific play ideas for connecting with your children please visit Play At Home Mom!

To learn more about the importance of play in child development and the parent-child connection you can check out these books through our aStore:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Listening and Cooperation

Perhaps you've heard the phrase "practice what you preach." I know I heard it a lot growing up...and yet I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. Maybe because there always seemed to be a lot more "preaching" than "practicing," even from those who were saying it. Unfortunately I think this is still the case for most parenting today. Most parents expect their children to behave in ways they, as parents, are not able to behave themselves. And if we cannot model the behavior we want our children to learn, who are we to flinch when they mimick our example?

So what does it mean to model the behavior you want to see in your children? Of course it means saying "Please, Thank you, Excuse me, I'm Sorry." I don't believe in making children say any of these things because it doesn't encourage authenticity (see this post byVickie at Demand Euphoria). Besides, children learn these phrases simply by hearing us use them. But there's more to what we model than social niceties because there is so much more to life than being polite. So modeling the behavior we want to see in our children also means modeling those very behaviors we are so quick  to demand from our children. And listening and cooperation seem to be pretty high on the list of complaints from parents.

"My child ignores me."
"My child won't listen."
"My child refuses to cooperate."
"Listen to me when I'm talking to you."

Here's an example of how we fail to practice what we preach:
It's time for Natalia to get dressed, so her mom asks her to pick out some clothes. She responds with, "can you come with me?" Her mom is busy cleaning breakfast dishes, so she says, "no, you can do it yourself." And for the next 25 minutes while she's cleaning up she's also engaged in a power struggle with her child over picking out clothes because she chose not to listen to her child's needs or cooperate with her request.
Now imagine if she chose to listen and cooperate instead:
Natalia asks, "can you come with me?" and her mom responds, "sure! Give me 5 minutes to clean these dishes. Could you bring me your cup and dish?" Together they finish the clean up and head to the bedroom, where Natalia's mom now has the opportunity to guide Natlaia through the dressing process in a playful manner, "hmmm, where can we find those clothes?" The simple choice to listen and cooperate just transformed a 25 minute power struggle into 15 minutes of connection with her child, plus it modeled the prosocial behaviors of listening and cooperating, while also building a sense of capability within Natalia, who now feels heard, engaged, and honored.

Listening and Cooperation
If we don't listen to our children when they're talking to us, they learn not to hear us us when we're talking to them.
If we don't cooperate with our children when they request our help or our presence, they will not cooperate with our requests.

What are we really modeling?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Alternatives to "No"

As parents it's difficult to change our expectations for our children until we first understand their developmental abilities. And one area where we grossly misunderstand our children is in the use of the word "no."
"No" is such an easy word to use, especially with a toddler; it's short and to the point:

"No hitting"
"No playing with food"
"No splashing"

It seems like such a simple sentence to understand, but it turns out it's not that simple at all. In fact, kids really don't understand the word "no" the way we think they do. John Piaget studied cognitive development in children and found that their ability to perceive, interpret, and comprehend events are far different from an adults' ability. And because of this difference they are unable to learn appropriate behaviors from the command "no."

Here are some wonderful alternatives to "no" that model the respectful behavior we want them to develop:
  • Rethink "no" - is this something you can actually say YES! to? Like splashing in the tub or pool, stirring the oatmeal on the table, throwing soft objects in the air? Many things children do are simply their developmentally appropriate way of learning about the world.
  • Tell them what you want them to do instead (example: instead of saying "no hitting" you can say, "use gentle touch" then show them what it means to use gentle touch)
  • Offer choices (example: do you want green or yellow shorts, do you want an orange or pink cup, do you want to bathe first or brush your teeth first, do you want strawberries or blueberries, etc.)
Besides, I think most of us can agree that when we "no" them all day they eventually stop paying attention to us, and then they start saying "NO" back to us! And wow is that fun. Once we're able to stop "no"-ing them we find ourselves connecting more with them and actually knowing them (sorry, I couldn't resist!).

Here is some more helpful information to keep in mind about our children and the word "no."

The word "no" is forever to a small child. When they ask for a cookie and you say "no" they think they will never get a cookie again - ever. Wow. And while it may be incredibly tiring to empathize and give an explanation for everything, the longterm benefits are immeasurable. When you take the time to empathize and explain, you're building trust; they learn that you follow through and mean what you say, and they learn to self-regulate. Plus you prevent the emotional upheaval that goes along with a child who thinks she'll never get another cookie!

Here's how this might sound:
"Mommy, cookie?"
"I know you would really like a cookie, huh? I understand. They sure are tasty. Yes, you may have a cookie after dinner."
(child cries)
"You are very sad because you really want a cookie now. It's so hard to wait. You may have one after dinner."

Finally, here's a personal story:
Today my child wanted to wear flip flops on his hands and walk, "like a dog" (on his hands and feet) in home depot. I told him "sure!" Then he said, "Daddy says I can't do that at home depot." So we talked to Daddy together to figure out why Daddy said that. We asked, "Are we hurting anyone? Are we hurting ourselves? Are we damaging anything?" Soon Daddy realized his automatic "no" was just a knee jerk reaction, and he apologized to our son for not thinking it through. So we took our "puppy" to home depot. It can be hard to be mindful. But it's worth every moment!

YES - you may wear flip flops on your hands and pretend to be a dog at Home Depot


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Throwing and Playing with Food

My 11 month old son throws his food when in his highchair and screams. We have been practicing sign language for months and no matter what we do he still throws his food and screams. I would love some suggestions.

Sign language is a wonderful tool for helping young children communicate their needs. I remember using both verbal and sign language to communicate my daily activities to my daughter and being so excited when she started using it on her own to communicate with me. Keep it up - before long he"ll likely be communicating with you in the ways you model communicating to him.

Let's talk about developmentally appropriate behaviors. It may be a relief to know that kids throw, spill, taste, swirl, flick and otherwise "play" with food and other objects as a means to understanding their world. Think of it as an experiment in science, physics, art, psychology, etc. all wrapped up in a single meal (and maybe in every meal and snack from birth to age 4)! Through sensory exploration children begin to learn the laws of physics (there goes the water out of the cup), emotional intelligence (mom sure looked over here quickly when I did that) and color hues (oh! green puree plus orange puree makes brown puree) simply from exploring their food. So, while I'm not saying you can't guide him toward more socially acceptable behaviors, it may help to know that these behaviors are a normal part of your child's learning process and not meant to be a direct assault against your sense of cleanliness or manners.

So, how do we guide them toward more appropriate behaviors? First, children need to be able to explore their environment in sensory-stimulating ways in order to get their need for stimulating learning experiences met (check out Play At Home Mom for more ideas on fun and creative sensory exploration).  Once children have a regular outlet for sensory exploration they then become free to learn other uses for food (as adults we call this use of food "nourishment" and we use "manners" - sometimes I laugh at our ability to take the fun out of everything). This isn't to say your son won't still explore his food at the table, but he may be more likely to eat his food and perform more sensory explorations at other times - just keep in mind he's still going to eat in developmentally appropriate ways, which aren't as neat as most adults eat! LOL

Once you're meeting his need to learn about his environment you can guide him toward the socially appropriate behaviors at the table. So when he throws his food off the table you can say in a kind tone, "you want to throw the peas, but peas are for eating. You can eat the food with your fingers or use a spoon" or "I know it's fun to throw the carrots, but carrots are for eating. When you're done we can go throw a ball (or fill in your own activity)." He'll need a number of gentle and consistent reminders throughout the course of the meal, and for several weeks...even months. Expect him to play with his food; encourage him to keep it on the table. I know a lot of parents embrace the throwing and then have their child help clean up. This is a great option because he is learning cause and effect while also having some time to connect with you and help, which builds a sense of capability.

This brings us to the the third part of your dilemma, so let's talk about behaviors that are driven by unmet needs. Rudolph Dreikers says, "there's no such thing as a misbehaving child, only a discouraged child." Together, with Alfred Adler, he often discussed the meaning behind children's behaviors, which they called "Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior." Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott developed an approach to these behaviors called "Positive Discipline," in which they help parents identify the 4 Mistaken Goal of Misbehavior." Once parents understand the goal of their children's misbehavior they are then able to help children learn appropriate behaviors by first meeting their children's unmet needs, then helping them learn to meet their needs in more socially appropriate ways.

My guess is that he is either screaming to get your attention, screaming because he is excited about the science experiment of eating, or it's possible he's screaming because he really hates the high chair and would be more content in your lap. We'll address the former because the latter will take care of itself when he has a chance to do those science experiments in other settings, as we discussed earlier. So here are some things you can try to help guide your child's behavior. When he screams you can offer him your company or give him some alternative ways to get your attention:
  • "Oh, you'd like to get out of your highchair and sit on my lap. You can say "lap." Then let him sit on your lap and eat.
  • "Oh, you'd like for me to sit with you and eat," then join him.
  • "You'd like my attention. You can get it by calling my name "mama." Then join him at the table.

I know my daughter loves to sit and eat as a family. In fact, when I feed her by herself she is less likely to participate in the meal in ways that meet MY needs (sit quietly, eat neatly, finish you food). So I try to remember her needs when she spills her water, drops her strawberries and scrambles down to play tag with the dog.

Discover the meaning behind your child's behavior, the need that is driving them to scream, cry, whine, hit, run, etc. Once you understand your child's needs you will be more equipped to address the behavior and begin to guide them toward expressing those needs in positive ways instead.