As a young parent, I was told that I had to be strict with my kids, that I couldn’t let them manipulate me, that I had to establish my authority with them from a young age, otherwise I would lose total control of my household–and worse, the souls of my children. This called for inflexible rules, a firm voice, and spanking for any act of defiance, disobedience, or disrespect.
And I tried. I hate to admit that I parented this way for several years, but it was the way I was parented and any doubts I expressed were met swiftly with directives that I must stay the course or risk wayward children. So in those years when my tender little ones were learning and growing and trying to figure out this great big world and their people in it, I was struggling to control them using force and punishment.
But….. It.Did.Not.Work. My heart was broken. My spirit ached. I was acutely aware of the hypocrisy of trying to teach my kids to be kind and gentle when many times I was the opposite of that. Their “bad” behavior rarely changed, or it only changed when I was threatening punishment.
Then one day I was reading the daily office and in two different readings were references to love being kind (Psalm 69 and 1 Corinthians 13). And all I could think of was that if love is kind and I am not being kind to my children, then I am not showing them love. And I decided I had a lot of work to do and that I could not possibly spank them or harshly punish them going forward.
This was a wonderful revelation, but also created a vacuum in my parenting resources, as I had no reference for where to go next. If kindness was my goal, how does that translate into maintaining one’s footing in the family? Was anarchy the only alternative?
Thankfully, I discovered L.R. Knost, whose posts on social media provided wisdom and guidance. It turns out, there is an entire movement of Gentle/Peaceful/Respectful parents who believe that rather than control, the goal of parenting is to help our children grow into the wonderful humans they were born to be, cultivating a willingness to grow alongside them. Rather than starting from a place of assuming the worst and taking every behavior and reaction as defiance or disrespect, they offer resources to help you look behind the behavior for opportunities to nurture compassion, kindness, and respect.
Ms. Knost reminds us that children are hard-wired to connect with those who care for them and that rather than betraying that connection with punishment, shame, and harm, we can always find ways to respond with love and empathy to strengthen the bond and encourage growth.
One of the best things about the content L.R. Knost creates for her pages is that you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate and learn from it. You can be someone in the process of healing from wounds you carry from your own childhood. You can be a person who spends time with other people’s children. You can be that person who doesn’t even especially like kids and who judges parents of rowdy kids in the supermarket. All of us can take something away from the wisdom she shares because she reminds us that the deepest truth about our humanity is that all of us flourish when we are embodying compassion, empathy, kindness, and care.
I’m so grateful not only for finding a new way to parent, but also for finding L.R.’s work and all that I have learned from it. For someone I have never met, she has contributed greatly to the transformation of my parenting and my life. She is my Friday Favorite this week and I encourage you to check her out.
You can find L.R. Knost on Facebook at L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources and on Instagram at @lrknost