"Communication is the core of all parent/child interaction. Whether parents choose to brandish it like a sword to control their children or wield it like a mallet to hammer their children into shape or whisper it like an invitation to follow, communication is the means of parenting. What is lacking in the sword and the mallet is connection, sharing, understanding, camaraderie...that 'commune' element of communication."
From the introduction to L.R. Knost's Whispers Through Time: Communication through the ages and stages of childhood, these gentle yet straight-forward words set the tone for the rest of the book. Along with its predecessor, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle parenting through the ages and stages, both new and seasoned gentle parents will find this a worthy resource.
Each of the book's short chapters is concise and to-the-point, making it an easy read for parents who are often short on time. The book takes the reader from newborn through adolescence to explore typical development and effective communication at each stage. Beginning with the baby stage, the author describes the importance of intentional and responsive communication from the first moments:
"Communication begins at the moment of birth. Interwoven in those precious moments after a newborn is placed on a mama's belly are the first cry, the first eye contact, the first rooting for the breast, and the first opportunity to respond, to meet needs, to connect."
In her signature no-nonsense style, L.R. Knost ends the baby section with a reminder of the impact our perceptions of our children have on who they will become down the road:
"So, who are you raising, parents? An innocent child or a cunning manipulator? It's vital that you decide, because your perception of who your child is and what motivates them will influence not only your attitude toward your child, but your response to your child as well.
Remember, who you think you are raising is who you will raise!"
The baby stage is followed by the toddler stage, and L.R. Knost tackles tantrums, "no's", shrieks, and connecting through play. Woven throughout it all is this gentle reminder:
"No matter the problem, kindness is always the right response. When your child is having a problem, stop, listen, then respond to the need, not the behavior. The behavior can be addressed later, after the need has been met, because only then is the door to effective communication truly open."
Next up are the preschoolers, including lying, whining, and "why's". Again, the focus throughout is effective communication regardless of what behavior the parent is dealing with at the moment:
"All behavior, including lying, is communication. Focusing on the need behind the behavior instead of the behavior itself or the lie it prompted will actually solve the problem rather than simply address the symptom of the problem."
Middle childhood discussions include tattling, tone, apologies, and more. Reminding us that our words matter, L.R. Knost says:
"Parents, choose your words wisely, carefully, thoughtfully. In the same way that violence begets violence and anger begets anger, kindness begets kindness and peace begets peace. Sow words of peace, words that build, words that show respect and belief and support. Those are the seeds of a future filled with goodness and hope and compassion, and aren't those the things we really want for our children, after all?"
Also included is the challenging reminder that what we model to our children speaks loudest of all:
"Consciously, intentionally, and consistently living out how we want our children to turn out is the most powerful and effective character training there is. The lessons they will take into the future will consist far more of how we treat them than what we teach them."
The teen years chapters cover backtalk, friendship, and giving our teens both the space and opportunity to open up to us about what's going on in their head and their heart. Following up on her earlier delineation between punishment (penalty for undesirable behavior) and discipline (guidance toward desired behavior), the author reiterates the importance of this difference:
"The punitive parenting approach focuses on the child as the problem and attempts to solve the problem by 'fixing' the child through intentionally unpleasant external forces.
The gentle parenting approach focuses on the child having a problem and attempts to help the child solve the problem through connection, communication, and inviting cooperation."
More than anything, communication must be between two people, not dictated from one to another:
"For effective communication to take place, both parties need to hear the other. If both are focused on trying to be heard at the same time, neither will end up being heard. As the only adult in the parent/child relationship, it's up to you to listen first, to understand first, to acknowledge and validate your child first. You have the maturity and self-control to be patient and wait to be heard. Your child doesn't, especially when emotions are running high.
Parents who are focused on control often find the idea of an interactive response rather than instant, unquestioning obedience from their child to be an uncomfortable concept. It's in that exchange of thoughts, though, that children learn how an adult thinks and that they begin to internalize the belief systems and values parents ultimately want their children to take into adulthood."
So much truth packed into such a little book.
L.R. Knost is generously giving away the first two books in her Little Hearts Handbook series, Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages.
Congratulations, Amanda, on being randomly selected as the winner of the giveaway!
Other stops and opportunities to win during this Book Tour are listed on L.R. Knost's Book Tour page, along with a book trailer and sample chapters.
About the Author
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.