Category Archives: gentle discipline

An Open Letter to Kelly Clarkson

In a January 10th interview, Kelly Clarkson defended her decision to spank her kids, saying in part: “My parents spanked me, and I did fine in life, and I feel fine about it, and I do that as well.  That’s a tricky thing, when you’re out in public, because then people are like, they think that’s wrong or something, but I find nothing wrong with a spanking.”  The following is my response to those remarks.

You love your kids.  I don’t doubt this.  You would give your life for them.  Like the rest of us, you’re doing the best you can with the information you have, and you have the added pressure of having your every decision critiqued by the general public.  I can’t pretend to know what that’s like.

I understand what you are saying here.  I do.  You are simply doing what your parents did, and probably their parents too. Those patterns run deep, and they require a lot of effort, self-reflection, and often painful realizations to break.  Your parents loved you after all, so why would they do something that hurt you?  The fact is, they just did the best they knew how to do, with the information that they had at the time.  But we’re not our parents.  And we have more information now.

You say you’re “fine”, which is one of the most common refrains that I hear from those who spank their kids.  But – and I say this in the most gentle way I know how – you’re believing a lie.  You’re not fine if you think it’s okay to hit children.  That’s what spanking is.  It’s hitting.  And it’s hitting someone smaller and weaker than yourself.

The great thing about the passage of time is that we can learn from the generations before us.  Our parents did (and didn’t) do all kinds of the things that we now know more about, and can ideally learn from and do differently.  We didn’t wear seat belts.  Or bike helmets.  People smoked through their pregnancies. They were encouraged to wean after just a few months, or even weeks.  Just the other day I was thinking about piercings (I’m currently in the process of healing my latest one), and how the old school of thought told us to twist the jewelry every day.  Now, of course, we know that this actually impedes the healing process, and that the best thing to do is to just keep them clean and leave them alone.

When we know better, we do better.

There is a big movement right now admonishing moms to stop judging each other, and instead just recognize that people do things differently.  To a large extent, I agree!  I don’t care if you make your kids a homemade balanced breakfast, or if they eat a Pop-Tart in the car on the way to school.  I don’t care if their bedtime is at 7:00 or 11:00.  I don’t care if they spend their free time watching SpongeBob or reading Moby Dick.

The thing is though, spanking is not a parenting issue.  It’s a human rights issue. Children, like all humans, have the right to be free from violence, especially in their own home.  They have the right to autonomy, to decide who does and does not touch their bodies, and when, and how, and for what reason.  Hitting your children not only teaches them that it’s okay to solve problems by hitting, but it specifically teaches them to hit people who are smaller and weaker than themselves.  It also seriously blurs the lines of consent, and lets them believe that, well, sometimes it’s okay for people to touch private areas of their bodies, as long as the person doing the hitting is unhappy with their behavior.

Hitting a spouse – or a friend or a neighbor or a stranger in a bar – is assault, and a serious offense.  There are even animal cruelty laws to protect animals.  46 of the 50 states have enacted felony penalties for certain forms of animal abuse.  The fact that there are no such laws to protect children does not make it right.  Your right to parent as you see fit never supersedes your child’s right to be free from harm in his or her own home.  Because make no mistake.  No matter how you frame it, spanking is still hitting.  And hitting in any way, shape, or form (other than in self defense) is violence.  And it’s wrong.

The ironic part?  Parents that spank do so because they think it’ll improve their children’s behavior.  But study after study shows that spanking actually has the opposite effect.   Spanking makes a child less likely to listen, not more.  It also contributes to later aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health problems.  This is real.  This is not an opinion, nor is it just empty words. Spanking is harmful, on every level, and the best of intentions (and absolutely, I believe that most parents are well-intentioned) doesn’t change that.

Our kids need our protection. They need our support and our guidance.  They need us to be living examples of what it means to be respectful and patient and kind.

More than anything though, they need our love.

And hitting should never, ever be conflated with love.


Filed under gentle discipline, gentle parenting, headlines, mindful parenting, parenting

6 Rules I’d Never Use For My Toddlers

  1.  I have evil friends who send me links to articles that they know I’ll want to refute, especially articles that are in list form.  I can never resist them.  They just make it too easy.  And,
  2. My obligatory disclaimer: This post is about ideas, concepts, and philosophies.  It is not an attack on an individual.  I don’t know the author of the original article.  In fact on a second look, I couldn’t even find an author credited.  It was published by a Montessori School.  They gave their point of view;  I’ll give mine.  It’s kind of how the internet works.

Having said that:

The article in question is one titled, Six Unusual Rules For Disciplining Your Toddler That Are Effective.  The author and I…. disagree.  🙂

I don’t have a toddler anymore (at the time of this writing, my youngest is 9), but I remember the toddler years very, very well.  The author and I do agree on one thing:  toddlers definitely require a very specific type of parenting.  But we part company on what that specific type of parenting might entail.  Toddlers need a ton of patience, a ton of understanding, and a ton of grace.  It is HARD to be 1. 2, 3 years old.  Their list, unfortunately, takes none of this into account.

Here are their six rules, and why I’d do things differently.

Rule #1: “If you’re in the room while I’m working, you need to work also.”

What’s the goal? As you complete your chores, your children should stop bothering you or help ….  Tell her she doesn’t have to help you, but she can’t just sit there and watch you; she must go in another room. She’ll have the option to help you with your chore and be with you or be by herself.

Oof.  This genuinely makes me sad.  First, kids (and toddlers especially!) love to be with their parents as they work, whether it’s on laundry, sweeping the floor, or making dinner.  They also generally love to “help” – help is in quotations only because a 12 month old unfolding your freshly folded laundry to put it in a new pile isn’t technically helping… but she sure feels proud about doing it!  As they get older, more able to follow directions, and more dexterous, they’ll enjoy helping in more and more ways.  And if they don’t want to help?  Maybe they just want to be with their parent.  Maybe they just enjoy your company.  Maybe they want to chat.  Good grief, let them!  Don’t banish them to another room. Life is short.  Time with your kids is precious and fleeting.  For real.  In a couple of months, my oldest “baby” is turning 21.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing parts about this point is when they say that this rule works because “she’s given a choice so she’ll feel as if she’s in control of the situation even though she’s really not.”  What’s described in this sentence is manipulation…. and manipulation of someone we love is never, ever a cool thing to do.

My alternative rule:  If you’re in the room while I’m working, you’re welcome to help.  If you don’t want to help, you’re welcome to just keep me company.

Rule #2: “You get whatever you get so don’t get upset.”

What’s the goal? It ends the bargaining over such things as the color sippy cup he gets, which kids TV character is on his paper plate, which sheets are on his bed, etc.

This is just being controlling for the sole sake of being controlling.  I ask you, seriously, WHY can’t your child have the sippy cup he wants, or the paper plate that he wants, or his preferred sheets on his bed?  The answer to that question generally lies somewhere in the vicinity of, “Because they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want!” And/or “Because they need to learn that life isn’t fair!”  Yes, sure.  We can’t always get what we want.  And life isn’t always fair.  But guess what?  These are lessons that life and circumstances will, unfortunately, teach them… ideally with you as the parent at their side to help them navigate.  You don’t need to actually CREATE harsh lessons for your kids just because you can!  On the contrary, home should be the safe space, the soft spot to fall, the place where you can drink from your favorite cup.  I have a favorite cup (actually I have several of them, depending on my mood, what I’m drinking, etc) and I always make sure to use it.  Am I so inflexible that I literally can’t muster up the emotional fortitude to drink out of another one if need be?  Of course not. But you guys:  we all have likes and preferences.  A favorite cup is such a simple, simple way to honor your kids’ likes and wishes and show them through that one small gesture – which feels like a BIG gesture – that you love them.

My alternative rule:  I will always try to listen to your needs, respect your requests, and YES… you can have the purple sippy cup.

Rule #3: “We aren’t going to argue about money.”

What’s the goal? Prevent your toddler from pleading and begging for things.

Here’s the thing about money (and I have been married for nearly 25 years and we have run the full gamut when it comes to our money situation):  There are three general scenarios when it comes to requests at the store.  1) Sometimes you simply don’t have the money for something.  You just don’t have it.  In which case, it’s entirely appropriate to tell your child, “I’m sorry, we can’t buy that today, but we can put it on your wishlist/get it next payday/save up for it”, whatever.  This is both honest and fair.  Might your child still be upset or disappointed?  Sure!  I’m sometimes upset and disappointed when something’s out of my price range too.  But you honor their feelings, you help them through it, and you move on.  2) Sometimes you do have the money, and you don’t want to part with it for some reason.  Maybe you’re judging how they want to spend it.  Maybe you want to spend it on yourself.  Maybe you just feel inconvenienced by the whole thing and saying “no” seems the simplest option.  If that’s the case, I’d gently suggest doing a little work to find out why you’re saying no.  Maybe you have a perfectly valid reason.  Or maybe you’re being a hypocrite who’s telling her child, “We’re not buying extras today,” at the very moment that you’re paying for your overpriced Trenta caramel iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso.  (True story) Getting at the “why” is important, for both of you.  3) You do have the money, and you say, “yes!”  This is honestly one of my simplest pleasures as a parent.  I love being able to be in the moment, and gift my kids with something that will make them happy…. whether a pack of gum, a cake pop from Starbucks, or more slime supplies from Hobby Lobby.  There is nothing wrong with saying yes to your kids.

Learning to say yes more often to my kids was one of the simplest, single most life-changing parenting decision I’ve ever made.  We are designed to want to give to those we love (in both tangible and non-tangible ways)  It feels good to give because it IS good to give!  It is a win-win for both parties.  The author’s takeaway from this point is, “The way this works is if she asks for you to buy, say, a toy then you say “yes” or “no” and nothing more.” I think my kids, even as young kids, are always deserving of honestly, the right to ask questions, and the right to a discussion.  (P.S.  A discussion isn’t the same thing as an argument.)

My alternative rule:  If we have the means, I will try to say “yes” to your requests as often as possible.  If I say, “no”, you are absolutely welcome to ask why, and I will always give you an honest answer.

Rule #4: “There isn’t any such phrase as ‘I’m bored’.”

What’s the goal? This teaches your small fry to entertain himself.

So, first of all, I have taken some long (LONG), required history classes in college with really, really dry teachers.  BOREDOM IS REAL.  Let’s just start there.  It’s not a bad thing to be bored (some great ideas sometimes manifest themselves out of boredom), nor is it a bad thing to help your child think of something to do to alleviate said boredom, if he desires that help.  We all get bored from time to time.  As adults, we’ll often say, “Hey, I’m bored.  Want to go for a walk, go see a movie, go get some frozen yogurt?” This rule is another example of expecting your child to be a robot, rather than a human being… AND expecting more of him than you do from adults.  People get bored!  It’s okay!  Your “small fry” will learn to entertain himself all on his own, all in his own time.  It’s controlling and cruel to tell him 1) that he’s not allowed to feel something 2) that the something he reports feeling doesn’t even exist, and 3) that you refuse to help him with the problem – if he does in fact, view it as a problem.  If one of my children announces that they’re bored (which they honestly don’t do all that often, mostly because they do know how to entertain themselves, despite my not having ever implemented rule #4) I’d ask if they wanted some help thinking of suggestions.  Oh and by the way, making your kids do chores when they’re bored – a popular suggestion in mainstream parenting – is also controlling, and cruel, and completely counter intuitive to actually helping them learn to navigate boredom in a healthy way.

My alternative rule:  If you’re feeling bored, feel free to ask me to help brainstorm.

Rule #5: “I’m not working after 8 pm.”

What’s the goal? It creates established bedtimes as well as time for yourself …Tell your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 pm. But hold firm to your conviction and pretend that it’s out of your control.

From the “It should go without saying” department:  Parenting is a 24 hour job.  I hate to break it to you.  Yes, time for yourself is important, and yes, as kids get older you’ll be able to have more flexibility in this area.  But when kids are little, especially when they are toddlers, they might need you at 9:00.  Or at midnight.  Or at 2:00 in the morning.  I’m really glad that this was a rule we never implemented in my family, because some of my favorite memories of the kids were snuggled up on the couch watching TV together, sitting around the kitchen table for endless amounts of time, piling in bed to watch a movie.  Chatting. laughing, having deep conversations.  I wouldn’t give any of it up, for any amount of missed sleep.  I’M THE MOM.  I’m always the mom, and I don’t stop being the mom just because the clock strikes a certain hour.

Also, telling “your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 PM” is a flat-out-unabashed lie.  Like manipulating, lying isn’t something you should do to people you love.  It’s just not.

My alternative rule:  I’m your mom 24 hours a day.  Full-stop.

Rule #6: “When you talk that way, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

What’s the goal? It helps to stop screaming, rudeness and whining.

This is the only rule that I (kind of, sort of) agree with, only in the sense that it’s okay, and preferable, to set boundaries for yourself, and for how you’re treated.  But – and it’s a big but – just like adults, kids are allowed a full range of emotions, of feelings, and of opinions.  Sometimes strong feelings come out sideways (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we whine when we’re upset (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment that we might not otherwise say (this does not just apply to kids). And sometimes we take things out on the most convenient target, even if it’s someone we love (again… this does not just apply to kids).  We are HUMAN BEINGS, and we possess a giant array of feelings, of behavior, and ways of expressing ourselves. In a perfect world, we’d all behave politely and communicate maturely every second of every day.   But it doesn’t always work like that.  Which is where grace comes in.  Sometimes heaping amounts of grace.  Yes, setting boundaries is important, and yes, it’s absolutely okay to talk to your child – in much the same way you’d talk to an angry spouse or friend or family member – about their delivery (for lack of a better word).  But their feelings, like ALL their feelings, have validity.

Finally, the author says, “When toddlers do any of those things, they’re only looking for drama or attention.”  Maybe so.  But if they’re looking for attention in such a volatile way, perhaps it’s because they’ve failed to get it elsewhere.  Perhaps their “screaming, rudeness, and whining,” is in fact, a literal cry for help.  Behavior never exists in a vacuum.  Find out why it’s happening, and you can address your issue.   Ignoring your child, shutting him down, or insisting he stay quiet will ultimately only make the situation (and your relationship) worse.

Children are to be seen AND heard.

My alternative rule: Come to me when you’re upset, and we’ll figure it all out together.


The article closes with this:

We’re sure there are more fantastic rules like these out there—or perhaps you can create some of your own. Yes, it’s true that some of these (or maybe all) aren’t really rules but rather an announcement of policies in your home. Either way, whatever you call them, they’re sure to make your life (and your toddler’s) go a bit smoother.

Sure, it’ll make your life go a bit smoother if your goal is to have quiet, compliant, obedient children.  But if you want to have…. REAL children?  Children who feel valued, and confident, and loved?  Children who know who they are, who own their feelings, who stand up for what’s right? Children who are capable of healthy and genuine connections with their parent/s and with the people around them?  You might consider doing the exact opposite.


Filed under gentle discipline, gentle parenting, mindful parenting, parenting

I’m Not The Meanest Mom


I realized something recently.  As adults, we like to hear stories of other adults performing some sort of kindness.  We like the feel-good stories of people helping their fellow man, standing up to injustice, or showing love to a total stranger.  It restores our faith in humanity.  It makes us feel good, and it motivates us to be kinder ourselves.  Kinder.  Gentler.  More compassionate. You know what we don’t see all that often?  People sharing about the times they weren’t all that kind, or respectful, or compassionate. And sure, we’re human. We’ve all done it:  We have a bad day, and we inadvertently and regrettably take it out on some poor nearby soul.  But we don’t rush to share those days, because we recognize – both on an intellectual level and on a heart level – that it’s not exactly something to brag about.

But when it’s a parent being unkind towards a child?  We* (as a society) not only tolerate this bad behavior, but we embrace it.  We actually cheer it on.

When it comes to kids, we glorify violence.  We celebrate cruelty.

So while we seem to have it right when it comes to adult on adult behavior, our collective treatment of our children is abhorrent, and getting more concerning by the day. Baby, we’ve got a long way to go.

I feel like it started with the laptop shooting dad, but it has multiplied at an alarming rate since then.  This trend of publicly parenting through bullying, shame, and intimidation is everywhere.  I feel like I can’t go a single day anymore without seeing another one.    Parenting has become a contest, but a sick one.  A contest not to find the sweetest mom, or the most competent mom, but the meanest mom. Everything is backwards.  Meanness is exalted, spitefulness is praised.   Parents boast about how mean they are to their kids, and instead of gently suggesting alternatives (or possibly better yet, denying them any attention at all), we put them on a pedestal.  We feed this very cycle of unkindness.  A quick perusal of the comment threads on any one of these public shamings tells us everything we need to know.  Hundreds, and yes, thousands of positive comments, singing the praises of meanness, shouting their rallying accolades, and devouring anyone who dare stand up for the children.

How can we do this to these little ones, the most vulnerable members of our society?  The people who need the most empathy and the most tender care, are being maligned, minimized and mistreated.

And we’re watching it happen.

I don’t know the answer.  I don’t.  I know we need to keep talking about it.  I know we can’t quietly sit back and accept it.

But it starts at home.  It starts with our own kids.

And listen, I’m the first one to admit I’m not a perfect mom.  None of us are.  I struggle sometimes with patience.  I sometimes let sleep deprivation get the better of me and am unnecessarily short with my kids.  I have to constantly remind myself to live in the moment.  I have to constantly remind myself not to sweat the small stuff.

Yes, I apologize to my children often.

But the big difference between me and the “meanest mom” supporters is that I’m saddened by mean behavior (by or towards anyone), not buoyed by it.  So no, I won’t pat you on the back for celebrating meanness.  No, I won’t be offering any “Atta girl!”s or “Way to go!”s or “Good job, mom!”s.  No, I won’t praise you for being unkind.

And I get it.  My opinion is the unpopular one.  The cool kids are all worshiping at the alter of childism.  Well, I opt out.  I don’t want to be a part of your club.  I don’t stand in solidarity with anyone who rallies around the idea of mistreating children.  I don’t care how loud your voices are.  I don’t care how many members you have.  I don’t care how good your cookies are.

I Opt Out.

In my life, in my world, I will celebrate kindness.  I will cheer for compassion.  I will stand up for grace, and forgiveness, and gentle communication.

Children learn from our actions.   Throwing away a child’s ice cream (because in his childlike excitement he forgot to say “thank you”) doesn’t teach him to say thank you, it doesn’t teach him what it means to be polite, and it doesn’t teach him gratitude.  It teaches him that if someone doesn’t behave in the way we want, that it’s okay to bully them, and that it’s okay to take someone else’s things.

Children learn from our actions.  Spanking a child for misbehaving doesn’t teach him right from wrong.  It teaches him that “might makes right”, that pain and fear are effective motivators, and that it’s okay to use physical force on someone who’s younger and more vulnerable than you.

Children learn from our actions.  Sending a child to time out when he’s having a hard time doesn’t teach him to think about his actions. It teaches him that mom is going to isolate him from her attention, her love, and her touch, at the very moment when he is needing them the most.

Children learn from our actions.  Publicly shaming a child a for making a mistake doesn’t teach him not to do it again.  It teaches him, again, to use bullying to solve his problems.  It teaches him that he can’t trust the one person he should be able to trust the most.  It teaches him to feel worthless, and ashamed, and humiliated… making him even MORE likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

Children learn from our actions.  Punishing a child (as opposed to kindly communicating, listening, and guiding) does not teach him respect.  Or responsibility.  Or accountability.  It teaches him to be bitter.  To be angry.  To be spiteful.  It teaches him to be extrinsically motivated by the fear of mom’s negative repercussions, rather than intrinsically and positively motivated by his own internal sense of right and wrong.

If you want to raise kids that are polite, respectful, and kind, start by being polite, respectful, and kind to your kids.

It starts with you.  It starts with us.

Let’s stop glorifying bullies, and start treating our kids the way we’d like to be treated ourselves.

Kids are people too.



Filed under bullying, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, headlines, mindful parenting, parenting

When You Can’t Walk Into Their Room Without Tripping

Toshiba Exif JPEG

Photo Credit:  Matt Gromes

The newest parenting-related picture to go viral on Facebook is a photo of a huge stack of filled trash bags.  Mom captioned the photo with the explanation that her teenage daughter wouldn’t clean her room, so the mom bagged everything up, and was making her daughter pay her $25 a bag to get her stuff back.  It was hard to tell just how many bags there were, as they were all stacked on top of each other, but there were clearly enough for the daughter to owe her mother at least a few hundred dollars.

As is usually the case, the comments were overwhelmingly positive, and the mother was almost universally praised.    I’m always kind of amazed at the feedback on these things.  I’d like to think – really, I need to think – that there are people out there who don’t feel right about it, but who just don’t know what else they would do in that situation.   Or maybe there are people who want to offer some alternatives, but they are shamed into silence by the “Stop being so judgmental!!” crowd.  (By the way, when you publicly boast online about how proud you of are how you’re punishing your children, you are explicitly inviting feedback.   It’s the way the internet works)

Dialogue is a useful thing.  Lots of parents can relate to the struggle of kids and messes, but not every parent chooses punishment and/or shame as a parenting tactic.  There are alternatives to navigating even the messiest of messy rooms, that do not involve bagging up all their stuff and throwing or giving it away, or making them earn it back.

As with everything else, it all begins with relationship:

1. Recognize that everyone is different.  Personality and individual constitution play a big role here.  Some people are naturally very tidy.  Some make a mess everywhere they go.  I am very much the latter.  And while I’ve come to appreciate how much better I operate in a clean, uncluttered environment, it is something that I have to continually work on.  I am 42 years old, and I still have to make a conscious effort to keep things picked up.  Harping on me or shaming me would not only not encourage me, but would also make me angry, and even less likely to put forth the effort.  Kids are no different!  If you make them feel badly about themselves, they’ll live up to the negative.  Instead, help and encourage them, and see what a difference it makes, both in their behavior and in your own peace with the situation.   Accept them the way they are, and resist the urge to compare and pit one against the other. Comments like, “Why can’t you be more like Henry?” are hurtful, and leave scars that last well beyond childhood.

2.  Adjust your expectations.   I am not a big fan of the phrase, “Pick your battles,” but bedroom cleanliness is one area where it may apply.  It’s okay – and yes, even a positive thing! – for them to have the freedom to keep their own personal space the way they like it. Some things shouldn’t be negotiable, for good reason (for example:  leaving food or trash laying around can attract bugs;  too much clutter on the floor can become a safety hazard)  But there is a whole range of happy compromise in between hospital corners and things-are-growing-faster-than-bacteria-in-a-petri-dish.  Adjusting your own expectations and working with your child, rather than against him, go a long way towards both keeping the peace in the home and your relationship intact.

3.  Model taking care of your own things.   I have found, again and again, that when I’m in a good routine myself, the kids tend to magically follow suit. Show them what it looks like to take pride in your home.  Pick up after yourself. Put things away after you use them.  Don’t grumble about housework.  Treat it as an act of service for yourself, and for your family.  Your kids learn far more from watching you than they do from any speeches you may give them about cleanliness.

4.  Ask them to pick up before things get out of control.  I think we have a tendency … (and when I say “we”,  I mean “I”) … I think we have a tendency to let things fester and not say anything about them while they build.  Then, we inevitably get resentful, the situation gets blown out of proportion, and we finally burst.  We finally say something, or ask for help, and we’re not very nice about it.   It is a whole lot easier – and more peaceful for all involved – to say, “Can you please pick up these legos on the floor so I can tuck you in without hurting my feet?” than it is to deal with the fallout of a room that’s reached a level of “We need to rent a dumpster and fill 87 trash bags if we want to see the floor again.”   Getting into good habits, working together, and talking to your kids instead of barking orders helps the entire household run more smoothly and peacefully.  Plus, it is far less work to deal with little messes as they happen than it is to deal with giant messes that have been accumulating over time.

5.  When it does get bad, ask if you can help.  So, you’re thinking, “Picking up before things get out of control sounds nice in theory, but that ship has already sailed.”  I so get it.  Speaking as both a mom and as a person who has a natural tendency to let messes take over:  I think that when it gets to that point, it isn’t so much that your kids don’t want to pick up as it is that they are overwhelmed at the enormity of the project and don’t even know where to start. The struggle is real!  Ask if you can help.  Break it up into smaller jobs and tackle it together.  Do whatever works well to get the job done.  Make it a game, set timers, play some music.  If they don’t mind you touching their things (some of my kids would rather do it themselves, some welcome the assistance), you can even surprise them by doing it for them.  It’s a huge gift to give them, and my daughter in particular is always so thankful.  Then, once you’ve gotten it under control again, re-visit #4.  Repeat as necessary.

6.  Help/encourage them to periodically cull through their belongings.  The less “stuff” you have, the easier it is to keep it organized.   Every so often (ideally a couple of times a year, or at least before big gift-giving occasions like Christmas) help them go through their things to see if there’s anything they don’t want anymore that they can then sell, donate, or give away. Personality plays a large role here too.  Some kids have no problem giving up toys that they don’t play with anymore, even if they just got it a year ago. Others really like to hang on.    Respect where they’re at, and work with them on solutions.  Help them find new homes for the things they don’t want, and help them organize and store the things that are staying.


It is a frustrating feeling indeed when messes get out of control.  But giving into that frustration and unloading it via yelling, punishing, or shaming your kids doesn’t help anyone… not you, and certainly not your child.   Instead, take a deep breath, – or 10 or 100 – take the emotion out of it, and work together on solutions.   You’re not going to change your child (and really, would you want to??!!), but you can help him with strategies he can use, both now and in the future.

And as for you as the parent?   Remind yourself as often as necessary that kids are all different, and that that’s okay.  Tell yourself that you’ll respect your kids where they’re at.   Work with your kids on keeping their rooms tidy, but recognize that the space is ultimately theirs, and that that’s okay too.  Decide what is non-negotiable and let go of the rest.

And if all else fails, just shut the door.


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Filed under gentle discipline, gentle parenting, housekeeping, parenting

Book Review: Gentle Firmness by Stephanie Cox


It is clear that fear is the main effect of spanking, no matter how it is done. Believing that God wants children to be hit often leads many children to struggle with their relationships with God or to be so afraid of Him that they totally reject Him.

~ Stephanie Cox

Gentle Firmness, by Stephanie Cox, is one of the most important new books to join the gentle parenting movement, particularly for Christians.  Thorough and well-researched, it takes an unflinching look at the history of spanking within the Christian faith;  why the Bible doesn’t actually say what so many well-intentioned pro-spankers think it says; the harmful and often long-term effects of spanking;  and finally, practical suggestions on what peaceful parents can do instead.

While there are thankfully a growing number of prominent Christians speaking out against spanking, this particular book stands out for a couple of reasons.  Though it is woven with personal accounts, it is rooted in research, history, and details.  The entire first section of the book clearly shows exactly how the practice of corporal punishment within the Christian faith comes from man, not from God.  Cox gives detailed accounts of the influence of Jonathan and Susanna Wesley, and the beliefs of Calvinism, had on spanking.  It goes on to illustrate the very real lifelong effects of this kind of parenting (I was happy to see that she thoroughly addressed the oft heard, “I was spanked as a child, and I’m fine!”)

One complaint that I often hear from pro-spankers is along the lines of, “Well that’s all well and good.  But if you don’t spank, what do you do?”  It’s easy for a spanking advocate to make the leap in thinking that says that if you don’t spank, then you must not discipline at all. That is of course not the case, and Cox spends Part Four of the book discussing exactly that. It’s important to note that she isn’t advocating for swapping spanking with other types of punishments such as time-out either.  What she espouses is truly parenting in Jesus’s footsteps:  parenting – and by extension, disciplining – with kindness, compassion, and grace. Lots and lots of grace.

I am utterly thankful for this book, and for Stephanie Cox and the important work that she is doing.  My own personal knowledge of the history of spanking was spotty at best, and while I truly believed that the Bible did not advocate spanking, my responses to the contrary generally never got more in-depth than, “Jesus wouldn’t hit a child.”  This book, and Stephanie’s research, fills in all those gaps.  It provides the answers, it cites the research, it documents the history.  It exposes all the misinformation, and puts Christians firmly (but gently :)) on the right track of truly following the Bible when it comes to matters of parenting.

The tagline reads, “Conveying the True Love of Jesus to Your Children Through His Example,” and that’s exactly what it does.  This is truly a refreshing and encouraging book, one that should be on the bookshelves of churches and Christian parents everywhere.

You can follow Stephanie on the Gentle Firmness Facebook page here.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.*



Filed under book reviews, gentle discipline, gentle parenting

Hitting is Hitting is Hitting



On March 27th, 2014, an NFL player named Ray Rice was indicted by a grand jury for third-degree aggravated assault on his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer.  This past week, the website TMZ released footage of him punching Palmer, which led to the Baltimore Ravens terminating his contract.

Also this week:  Adrian Peterson, another player with the NFL, was indicted for child abuse when his child’s mother noticed whipping injuries on their 4 year old son’s legs, and took him to a doctor who contacted the authorities. Peterson was benched by the Minnesota Vikings, but was reinstated three days later.

Like most people, I’m angry and saddened and frustrated by these stories of violence in the news.  In this instance though, the disparity of the public’s reaction to these two similar cases has left me particularly cold.  I would say I was shocked, but sadly I’m not.  This is 2014, and children are still seen as second-class citizens.

While few are defending Rice – people overwhelmingly, and rightly, realize that it’s not okay to use physical violence against your partner – many are rising up to speak out in support of Peterson, who was just as violent, only against a small child.  

“He should be able to discipline as he sees fit.”

“That’s just the way people are raised in the South”

“People need to butt out and let him parent however he wants.”

“I don’t get why he’s in legal trouble for disciplining his own kid.”

“Someone explain what Adrian Peterson did that was considered child abuse?”

“I don’t see what the big deal is.  I got my ass whooped as a child, and I turned out fine.”

Let me be very, very clear when I say this:  There is NO defense for what he did.  There is no defense or justification or excuse for hitting a small child, ever.  What he did was wrong.  It pains me to have say it out loud, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  It is wrong.

And to the people who are out there saying, “Yeah, he took it too far.  There is a difference between spanking and beating.  There’s nothing wrong with spanking/some kids need it/they have to learn, etc,”  I humbly offer that you are indeed part of the problem.


Stop making it a game of semantics.  Stop pretending that it’s okay to hit children if you add certain qualifiers.  Stop refusing to see spanking for what it is.  Stop believing that children are lesser beings than other humans.  Stop perpetuating the cycle of violence.  Stop ignoring the fact that if you’re still advocating for hitting people smaller than you that you are not fine.  Stop equating DISCIPLINE with PUNISHMENT.  Stop defending people who hit their children, and start speaking out for the people who can’t speak out for themselves.

And to my fellow Christians?  Stop using misinterpretations of the Bible as an excuse for hitting children.  It’s an unending conversation, and I’m not having it anymore.  I will no longer publish, acknowledge, or respond to any comments that claim the Bible commands us to spank.  Read Jesus the Gentle Parent.  Read Gentle Firmness. Read Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me (this one is a free download).  Read the words of the people who have put in the time and the research and the study that shows that the Bible just doesn’t say what you think it says.  Don’t let ignorance be an excuse.

As a Christian (and just as a caring human being), I believe that relationships should start from a place of love and respect.  I believe this to be true of ALL relationships, but especially the relationship between parent and child. Hitting has no place in any loving relationship.  Our children look up to us.  They learn from us how to navigate the world.  How to solve problems. How to get along with others.  How to deal with conflict.  Hitting our children, for any reason, raises them to be people who believe that hitting is a reasonable, acceptable way to interact with others.  It raises them to be people who, unless they fight to break the cycle, will hit their own children.

It raises them to be individuals who defend people like Adrian Peterson.

Stop the justification and the word games and the Bible-verse-slinging.  Spanking, swatting, switching, popping, tapping… paint it any color you’d like.  It’s all hitting, and it’s all wrong.


Filed under gentle discipline, gentle parenting, headlines, parenting

We ALL Need Boundaries – some thoughts on my nanny response, one week later




Nauseating.  That’s one of the most recent comments I’ve read in response to my 5 (Alternative) Reasons post, which has since become my single most viewed, and most shared, post of all time.  Truth be told, I’ve grown sort of fond of the one-word critiques. They’re succinct, to-the-point, and require no attention on my part.  They rip right off like a band-aid. Plus, there’s just something exhausting (albeit mildly amusing) about reading the three paragraph diatribes expressing disgust and irritation and annoyance at the mere existence of my words.

That’s not to say that I didn’t receive positive comments as well.  I did!  I read many lovely and encouraging words of support, and I appreciated every single one of them.  Sometimes I get bogged down in feelings of, “No one understands” (which tends to extend into, “I must be a horrible writer”), so hearing that someone both gets what I said, and even concurs with me is hugely validating.   Thank you for that, truly.

Ah, but the critics abound.

And after a week of reading, and reflecting, and ruminating, I’ve recognized some honest objections that deserve some follow-up.  In keeping with the spirit of the original post, I’ve organized them into five main categories.  In no particular order:

1.  You suck / I hate this / This is the worst piece of drivel I’ve ever read.  Just kidding. Not about getting those comments, but about them deserving a response.  Every time something I’ve written is shared more than a few times, sooner or later I get the above responses, nearly verbatim (I’ve filtered out the F – words.  You’re welcome) And honestly, I can really only feel sorry for people who 1) feel so badly about themselves that they need to try to tear others down, and 2) have nothing better to do with their internet time than troll blogs that they hate.   Also in this category are the people who made comments about gentle parenting producing “spoiled rotten little brats”, and sadly there were lots of them.  The issue of spoiling is one to be discussed for sure… but not with people whose first line of defense is to resort to calling children names.  I’d like to think we’re all adults here, and as such should be able to have conversations sans name-calling.

2.  But kids need boundaries!  I absolutely agree.  Kids do need boundaries.  We all need healthy boundaries, regardless of our age.  Lovingly and respectfully helping our children establish and maintain their own personal boundaries is an important part of any kind of mindful parenting…. which is why I’ve never – in this post or any post – stated otherwise.  The people who are raising this objection are reading something that simply isn’t there. One of the limitations of a blog post as a means of communication is that it’s just a snippet of a larger philosophy; not the whole picture.  I would have to add about a jillion disclaimers to every post to head off this kind of assumption, and nobody wants to read that.  So let me just state for the record, as clearly and plainly as I possibly can:

Gentle parenting does not mean that there are no boundaries.  It does not mean that there are no limits.

It means that boundaries and limits are not something that are arbitrarily prescribed for the child through control, coercion, and punishment… but rather something that are navigated together, with respect, compassion, and mutual communication.

3.  But kids need to hear the word no / they need to learn that life won’t always hand them everything they want!  I have a thing for a good caprese salad.  There’s a local pizza place down the street from us that has the BEST caprese appetizer.  They serve it in a stack, and it’s drizzled with a balsamic reduction that is just about the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my life.   Seriously.  My mouth’s watering just thinking about it.  The last time we went there, we all sat down, ordered our drinks, and ordered the caprese…. only to be told that they’d run out, and would we be interested in some garlic bread or antipasto instead?

Life sometimes deals us a “no”, this much is true.  From small things like appetizers, to larger things like desired jobs.  And certainly, sometimes as parents, things such as circumstances, finances, or practicality dictate that we need to tell our children “no” as well.  I’m not arguing that fact at all.  But the thing is, it’s an inevitable fact that kids WILL learn about the “no’s” of life in time… and as for me, I would much rather my children view me as the person they can always trust with their disappointment when life hands down the “no”… and not the person who delivered an utterly unnecessary “no” just to teach them a lesson.  They will learn about no’s!  When I need – legitimately and genuinely need – to tell my children no, they understand.   They may be disappointed (just as I was disappointed when I couldn’t have my salad) but they understand.  And knowing that those times will and do come, I view my job as being their soft spot to fall when it happens, not as the person doling out more disappointment in order to “toughen them up”.  The world makes us tough enough.

So yes, when it’s at all possible, I’m going to say, “YES”, with no disclaimers, and no apologies.

And while I’m on the subject of life and toughness:  one person who disagreed with my post stated that she could never be as “soft” as me.  She said it as an insult, and while there is clearly a difference between respectful and being “soft”, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that are much worse things to be called.  The world is full of harshness.  I can’t help but think that a little more softness – in ourselves and in our children both – could only be a positive thing.

4.  To each his own / Everyone needs to do what works for them / There’s no right or wrong way to parent / We need to support each other, not judge each other

This is hands down one of the most frustrating things I ever hear in regards to parenting.  YES, we need to support each other.  YES, every family is going to look different.  But complacency – especially when it comes to how someone is treated – is never going to help anybody.  Not speaking out against harmful practices (yes, I’m calling some of the nanny’s recommendations harmful) is never going to help anybody.  Not advocating for kindness and compassion is never going to help anybody.  Children are far too often marginalized in this society, treated as “less than”, viewed as second-class citizens.  And we do no one… not the children, and not their parents, who are arguably trying their best to do right by them… any favors by not first recognizing and then talking about this very real issue.

and related to this:

5.  “I think the easiest thing one can do is critique another’s work. Instead of polarising views how about a piece of work that is put forward on it’s own merit.   I’m not a fan of they said this, I say that.”  I quoted this comment simply because it was one of the last ones that I read, and it was fresh in my mind.  But it wasn’t unique.  There were several that said essentially the same thing.  Why did I have to attack the nanny?  Why did I have to be so mean?  So judgmental?  So petty?  Why couldn’t I just write a positive piece about my own views instead of comparing myself to her?

Well first, I don’t disagree.  It IS easy to respond to something that’s already been written, especially something that’s all neatly laid out in a list.  Bullet-point lists almost beg to be answered.  In all fairness though, I was not critiquing someone else’s work.  I don’t know the nanny.  This was not about her personally, and it was not about her work.  It was about ideas. About philosophies.  Philosophies that an alarmingly high number of people – in fact millions of people – were accepting as fact and gospel.  Why shouldn’t alternative views also deserve to be heard?

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy writing responses to someone else’s article.  In fact, few things fill me with such a “damned if I do, and damned if I don’t” kind of dread.  I never respond to these things when I first become aware of them… in fact, I mostly wish they’ll quietly go away.  But then they’re shared again and again.   People praise them again and again.  One by one my readers start to send me the links….. “Have you seen this yet?”  “Would love to hear your response to this!”  “I hope you’re writing a rebuttal to this”  “Can you believe this nanny??”    So I’ll carefully write my response, truly trying to be as kind and as diplomatic as possible.

Every time, these posts are far and away my most read and most popular.

And every time, I’m told how glad you are that I wrote them.

And every time, I’m scolded:  “You’re so, so….. MEAN!”

I cannot win.

As for a piece of work that’s put forward on its own merit:  I write those all the time.  My blog is full of them. They’re just not as widely read or shared as this kind of post.

Which is … uncomfortable for me.

Because in real life, I’m just a quiet, soft-spoken mom.  My kids think I’m a big dork.  My husband thinks I’m neurotic.   I dislike drama; I avoid confrontation.  I hate the icky feelings that come with being the center of attention in any way, especially when I’m being looked at with such critical eyes.  I am the last person in the world you’d expect to take some big stand for anything.  I never planned on writing, or growing, a blog.  I never, ever strove to convince anyone that “my” way of parenting is the right way.

But I continue to do what I do and write what I write for one reason:  I think how we treat kids matters.   I think kindness matters.  I think compassion matters.  I think this is worth discussing…. and discussing and discussing… if it means that even one child will be treated with a little more patience, or a little more understanding.

Even if it earns me a title of “nauseating.”


Filed under gentle discipline, gentle parenting, parenting

Book Review: Jesus, the Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost




“We are our children’s first experience of God.  How we treat them, how we respond to them, what we model for them, those are all images of parenthood that are imprinted on our children’s hearts from the moment of birth, and they will carry those images with them for life.  God’s unconditional love, his gentleness, his compassion, his acceptance, his sacrifice…. those are the images our children need to see reflected in our parenting, to have tenderly woven into the fabric of their childhood, to carry forever as whispered memories etched on their hearts, echoing the heart of God.” ~ L.R. Knost


I was so excited when I first heard that L.R. Knost was releasing a book about gentle Christian parenting.  I absolutely adored her previous books – all of which I’ve reviewed here on my blog – and I knew that this newest offering was one that was sorely needed in the landscape of gentle parenting resources.  Far too many well-meaning Christians (and I do believe that they are well-meaning) mistakenly believe that the Bible instructs parents to parent with harshness, when the opposite is true.    Jesus was in fact all about love, grace, and gentleness, and Knost understands this oh so well.

In what I believe is her best book to date, L.R. Knost combines personal experience, well-researched scripture, and inspirational testimony to take the reader through what the Bible does (and does not) have to say about how we should be parenting as Christians.  With the same straightforward yet warm and conversational tone I’ve come to appreciate in all her writings, she guides and encourages, teaches without preaching, and gently corrects and re-directs the misguided and often harmful messages given through the years by Christian parenting “experts” such as Gary Ezzo, James Dobson, and Michael Pearl.

So much more than a book about a personal opinion, Jesus, the Gentle Parent digs deep into scripture and doctrinal belief, examining the main tenets of mainstream Christian parenting advice, debunking widely-held beliefs about what it means to parent in biblical way, and providing practical and scripturally sound alternatives to guiding your children with unconditional love, grace, and gentleness.

Not shying away from any of the tough questions, she tackles such issues as spanking, sin, authority, obedience and submission…. and what it all means (and doesn’t mean) –  to a gentle parent whose desire is to parent in Jesus’s footsteps.

I have been a parent for 17 years, and this beautiful book has truly touched my soul like none other.  It simultaneously taught me something new, and strengthened what I already knew in my heart of hearts to be true.  Jesus was a man of endless compassion and grace – more grace than we can ever understand – and the only way for our children to truly experience it is if we, as their parents, give it to them.   I am deeply indebted to L.R. Knost for getting this very important message out there, and into the hands and hearts of Christian parents around the world.

You can buy Jesus, the Gentle Parent here.




Best-selling parenting and children’s book author, L.R. Knost, is an independent development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, as well as a monthly contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine.  She is also a babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling mother of six.  Her children are a twenty-six-year-old married father of two;  a twenty-four-year-old married Family Therapist working with at-risk children and families; a nineteen-year-old university pre-med student on scholarship; fifteen- and eight-year-old sweet, funny, socially active, homeschooled girls; and an adorable and active toddler.

Books by award-winning author L.R. Knost, include Two Thousand Kisses a Day:  Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, Whispers Through Time:  Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, The Gentle Parent:  Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, and her newest release, Jesus, The Gentle Parent:  Gentle Christian Parenting, the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook parenting guide series; as well as her children’s picture books:  A Walk in the Clouds, the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series;  and Petey’s Listening Ears, the first in the Wisdom for Little Hearts series, which are humorous and engaging tools for parenting, teachers, and caregivers to use in implementing gentle parenting techniques in their homes and schools.



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Filed under bible, book reviews, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, mindful parenting, parenting

Five Words & Phrases We Need to Stop Saying About Moms and Motherhood

It’s a tricky thing, parenting.  We’re often our own worst critics, berating ourselves for our mistakes, and second-guessing our choices.  Add to that the near constant barrage of opinions from society at large, and we have a recipe for confusion, self-doubt, and self-flagellation. In this current era of blogs, social media, and instant information, we have the unique opportunity to be able to connect with and support other parents like never before. We can help each other explore new ideas. re-examine old ones, and make healthier choices for our children and families.

But we’re sabotaging the conversation, in a big way… and it might not be the way you think. The following are things I hear on my Facebook page on a regular basis, comments that are not only not helping, but are actively hurting (and in some cases, outright stopping) the dialogue on parenting, and preventing others from hearing new perspectives.

1.  Mommy Wars –  You guys.  We really need to retire this phrase.  “Mommy Wars” just don’t exist. There is only a war if you choose to engage in one.  Motherhood is a journey, not a competition, and every mother you meet is going to be in a different place in her journey.  If you come across a person or an article or a blog post with a different opinion than your own (which, by the way, is not the same thing as a “war”), and it makes you angry, you have a CHOICE. Every time.  Remember, you don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.  You can walk away.  You can realize that one person’s perspective is not the same thing as a personal attack on you. You can take an honest look at yourself and try to determine why your feelings and reactions were so strong in the first place.  You can open yourself up to learning something new.  You can use it to further your own dialogue on good parenting.  Oftentimes the best, most productive discussions arise from people who disagree and can do so kindly…. people who can put aside their own egos, discuss the issue at hand, and learn from it. But that can only happen if you stop crying, “Mommy wars!” every time someone has a contrary opinion to your own.  We are not in a war, and continuing to insist that we are only stops you from being able to move forward.

2.  “Sanctimommy” – This ridiculous word is like “Mommy Wars”‘s modern day cousin.  A mom shares an opinion or a perspective or a counter to some popular bit of advice, and toes get stepped on.  A nerve is struck, and someone inevitably says it: “Stop being such a SANCTIMOMMY!”  It is silly and juvenile.  No good ever comes from name-calling.  Let’s just start there.  It’s pretty much just good manners 101.  Beyond that though is this pervasive belief that the sharing of an opinion that may make you uncomfortable is the same thing as being sanctimonious, or judgmental, or out to prove that “my way is better than your way.” This is not a competition. (See number one)  Just a couple of nights ago, I shared a popular parenting article about a “creative” way to ground your kids, along with my reasons for choosing to do things differently.  A respectful conversation followed, until it was abruptly interrupted with, “You need to butt the hell out of other people’s lives.  Stop being so judgmental, and making others feel inferior.”  Clearly, I struck a chord.  But here’s the thing:  I can’t make someone feel inferior.  Can’t do it.  No one can.  The only person who’s in charge of how she feels is the person who owns said feelings.     If you’re feeling judged or uncomfortable from something you’ve read, those are your feelings to have and to examine.   Sharing opinions does not equate to being sanctimonious and judgmental, and frankly, if it did, the accuser in this scenario would be just as guilty as the accused (actually, moreso, because she was rude on top of it.)  Do people ever share things in an inflammatory way?  Sure.  And if and when it happens, we can choose to walk away.  Let’s stop this.  Let’s choose to stop taking everything as a personal attack.   Let’s choose to assume positive intent.  Let’s choose to help one another.  Let’s choose to actually dialogue. Let’s choose to stop throwing around words like “Sanctimommy”  and “judgmental.”   The reason I continue to write about parenting issues (quite honestly, sometimes the only reason) is that I want to help new and/or questioning parents to find healthy ways to have closer, more joyful, more connected relationships with their kids. The only way any of us can do that is through conversation…. conversations that peel apart ideas, question the status quo, and really dig into why we do and do not make certain parenting decisions. Effective conversations simply cannot be had with people who come out of the gate calling names and making inflammatory accusations, and such behavior does nothing to help other parents.

3.   To each his own.  I completely understand why people say this.  I do.  It’s important to respect individual decisions when those decisions aren’t infringing on anyone else.  And there are many, many areas in which it could apply….  what a family chooses for education;  where they live;  whether or not they choose to practice a religion;  what kind of jobs they have, and whether or not they choose to have both parents working or one of them staying home.  Etc. But “to each his own” can be a remarkably unhelpful comment when it comes to parenting, and this is why:  it encourages complacency,  a shrugging of the shoulders, and an attitude of “Eh, whatever works for them.”  And when kids are being treated in disrespectful ways, we should never be satisfied with complacency.  Children unfortunately aren’t often given a voice.  We have to be that voice on their behalf. A lot of times parents aren’t aware of alternatives.  A lot of times they haven’t received the support or the resources to realize that they have other options. A lot of times they just haven’t stepped outside themselves long enough to really see what it is they’re doing, why they’re doing it, or what kind of effect it’s having on their relationship with their children.   The way – the only way – we can help each other with solutions is by talking about it.  And that can’t happen if the conversation is summarily dismissed with a flippant “to each his own.”   

4.   Different methods work for different kids.   I understand why people say this too.  I have four very different children, which is what I imagine parents are referring to when they say things like this.  But while they all have different personalities, different ways of relating with myself and others, and different learning styles, my core value of aspiring to parent gently and with respect remains unchanged among the four of them.     Much like “to each his own,” falling back on a “different methods work for different kids” as a reason to spank for instance, can lead to a failure to investigate other options.  People will tell you that some kids need to be spanked, but that is not the case when you’re aware of alternatives.  And while lots of things may “work” in the moment, it doesn’t mean they are the healthiest, most respectful choices. As an aside, my one child who conventional parenting would have dictated “needed” to be spanked is now the most gentle, laid-back teenager you could ever hope to meet.    Our kids are not ours to experiment with.  They are human beings, and our “method” of relating to them should be treated with the same care, attention,  and respect as it would with any other loved one.  Our efforts are best put towards partnering with them and helping them come up with solutions, not in trying out new ways to punish them.

5.   I was _________ and I turned out fine.

Oh how this one frustrates me.  Often used in defense of spanking, it rings as a very strange and stubborn refusal to learn something new.  First, I would argue that if you’re advocating for something like using physical force against a small human being who is 1/4 of your size, you’re probably not as fine as you believe.  Secondly, don’t we want better than “fine” for our own kids?   I know I do!   Previous generations have done all kinds of things that we now know to do differently.    Babies used to be held on their parents laps in cars, not secured in car seats.  We now know that car seats save lives.  I used to drive my bike all over creation without a helmet. We now know that helmets save lives, too.  My mother in law tells a story of how she remembers being in the hospital after giving birth to my husband (in the 70’s)…. her new baby in one arm, and a lit cigarette in the other.  Of course, that’s no longer allowed, because we know that it’s not exactly good for the baby.   And I say this not to fault our parents…. not at all!  I have great parents.  My husband has great parents.  Like the rest of us, they loved their kids and did their best with the information that they had at the time.   But one of the wonderful things about life is that there are always new things to learn, always new information to be absorbed.  And when we know better, we should do better.  To refuse to do so in an effort to cling to old ways is categorically unfair… unfair to ourselves, unfair to our kids, and unfair to the generation that’s coming up behind them.  We can do better.  We can always do better.



Despite the naysayers who continually try to get me to feel otherwise, I have faith in my fellow moms.  I do.  I believe that everyone reading this is smart, and strong, and willing to cut through the BS, drop the ego, and ask the hard questions.  I believe that we can put our focus on parenting, and parenting well; and that we can do away with the unhelpful words and comments up above, which, at the end of the day, are nothing more than noise.



Filed under gentle discipline, gentle parenting, mindful parenting, parenting

Christianity, Sin & Gentle Parenting

I recently received an email that said, in part:

I am writing in hope you can help me understand how you reconcile the fact that we are born sinners in need of a Savior with gentle parenting. I find it hard to understand how children who are sinners can be “trusted to make the right decision”. I know as a sinner myself I can often not be trusted to make the right decision. I also find biblical examples where sin has consequences. The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished. Can you help me understand how you and your husband reconcile those things? Thank you so much for your time.

It’s actually a question I’ve gotten fairly frequently, in various forms.  I’ve never fully answered it, but it wasn’t until this email that I realized why.  I can’t answer it.  And I don’t mean to be contrary or disrespectful when I say that. It’s just that I am viewing this, and living it, from an entirely different paradigm.  I believe in gentle parenting largely BECAUSE of my faith, not in spite of it.  So for me, there is nothing to reconcile.

First, this sentence:  “I find it hard to understand how children who are sinners can be “trusted to make the right decision”” is built on the (common) misconception that someone who does not punish does not discipline, and that someone who believes in gentle parenting must just leave kids to their own devices, hoping and trusting that they’ll do the right thing.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Truly leaving your kids to make all their decisions on their own with no parental guidance is permissive parenting…. which is very much the opposite of what I write about. Gentle parenting is based on relationship.  It’s based on communication and connection and gentle guidance and partnership.  Do my kids make bad choices sometimes? Sure!  We all do. That’s why we have parents, and other loved ones, and God, and a conscience, and a moral compass… to guide us, to help keep us accountable as we navigate the world, and yes, to offer us grace and forgiveness when we screw up.

Second, “The entire Gospel message is based on the truth that sin needs to be punished” is just not something that I subscribe to or believe.  I believe that the entire Gospel message is based on love, and grace, and forgiveness.  It’s about “God so loving the world that he sent his only begotten son….”  It’s about the fact that it’s because of “grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…”  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I have been given FAR more grace and forgiveness than I deserve.  I screw up daily.  I screw up hourly.  There’s a better than average chance that I’ll make a poor decision before I finish writing this blog post.

But here’s the thing:  God hasn’t given up on me.  I am cherished exactly as I am.   I am loved. Unconditionally.  I am forgiven.  Again and again.  God believes in me and trusts me, and knows that because of those things I want to do better.  I want to be the person He created me to be.

That’s the kind of parent I want to be for my own kids.  If I can offer even a fraction of the love and grace that God extends to me, it’ll be a step in the right direction.  My guide (in all things, but particularly as a parent) is Jesus.  Jesus was, of course, never a parent, but you know how he treated kids?  With kindness.  With gentleness.  And with more patience than I could ever hope to muster.

And finally, as to sin having consequences:  Yes, bad decisions have consequences.  I’ve made enough of them myself to know this much is true. But life deals out those consequences all by itself.  And God?  God gives second chances.

I figure that’s the least I can offer my own kids.


Filed under bible, faith, gentle discipline, gentle parenting