Tag Archives: gentle parenting

Parenting Forward


I recently met with a student who was having a hard time reconciling her mother’s instinct with the pressures from family and friends to parent in a more socially acceptable way.  We had a long, heartfelt talk, and here are some of the “heart-lights” we had that I want to share with you.

If nothing else, remember that you alone are responsible for your child.  You have to live with them, you alone will bear the joy and the guilt of all your decisions. Acknowledging and accepting that, know that trusting your instinct is right and worthy.

Parenting with the end goal in mind looks different than parenting decisions made for immediate behavior modification.  Yelling when it’s not an emergency, hitting, slapping, intimidation, etc., will probably get your child to stop doing what they are doing or get them to do what you want them to do against their will. Taking the time to think about why you are seeing this behavior, asking ourselves if there is a way to change their focus or solve a problem takes time…and if your child is having a full-blown public nuclear meltdown, it may activate our own issues with “being a good/bad parent” or attracting attention, or our stories about acceptance and rejection.

It can be so hard to parent what I call the “long way” when your child is acting out. It is much easier to bargain, bribe, or force the outcome that is easiest in the short term.  Going the long way means letting them cry or tantrum in public, taking the time to ask questions and listen to your child, try to figure out exactly what they need or find a solution, and then patiently see it through so that interactions are loving and peaceful. It may mean changing our plans and trying again another day.

Speaking specifically to the times when our children get loud, the goal of parent intervention is to stop the tears or the tantrum.  We have stories deeply ingrained in our culture about parents who can’t control their children, and therein lies one of the problems. It is a mindful decision to treat them as little humans with their own set of feelings and desires, instead of chattel to control or do our will.

In my mind, the first thing we can examine as a culture is this idea of needing to control children.  Why not start with changing the paradigm? Instead of “children that behave” why not shift the focus to “adults that can make decisions”? It means acknowledging that children are human beings that are going to need to learn to navigate life, with all its ups and downs.

When we start to parent with the idea that our children need to be equipped to be whole, loving, and capable humans when they leave our home, it may drastically change the reasons why we chose to do or not to do when the time comes to teach them the lessons that come with the situations that challenge them.  With that mind, it gives us permission to parent them per what we feel is best for them. Each child is ready for different milestones at different times.

Here are some of the different areas of disagreement with heart-led parenting versus socially-based parenting that came up in our discussion.

Some children are ready to sleep on their own before they are a year old, other children need the warmth and comfort of a parent or sibling into early childhood or the elementary years. Would it help you to know that in other cultures, they consider our practice of tucking children in to sleep by themselves is considered neglectful and sad for the child? Read THIS article or THIS article by Dr. James McKenna on The Natural Child Project site, and THIS one on Fatherly.com (warning: the title is a bit abrasive).

Oh the places you could go with this topic.  Here is the information on the side of extended breastfeeding if that is your choice…

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children are breastfed at least until 6 months old, and to continue breastfeeding after that point – link HERE.

Drs. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold published a STUDY in March 2010 with these findings: If 90% of new mothers in the USA were breastfed just to the six-month mark, it would save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs – read more about that HERE

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until a child is two years old…really!! Read their statement HERE

So there are three huge pros in your corner if you want to breastfeed, and continue past the 12-month “normal”.  I hope you are encouraged to follow your own rhythm when it comes to breastfeeding your Sweet Pea.

This is the age of mindful eating. We know there are inflammatory foods (list HERE), we know the benefits of probiotics (links HERE and HERE), we know that when offered healthy food,  children will eat it (read THIS fascinating study).  It is okay to trust that if you consistently put healthy choices in front of your child, they will not starve, and they will eat healthy food.

So what if you don’t eat out at fast food restaurants, or it takes you five minutes to place your child’s order at a restaurant? You alone are your child’s advocate until they know what is good for them and know how to place their own order.  And you will be so proud of seeing their healthy food choices and their awesome physical health when you see how they compare to their peers.  They will spend more time in the classroom and less time in the doctor’s office when they eat healthy, whole food.  It is worth it!!

Behavior modification:
Another loaded discussion.  I would invite you to trust your mama bear instinct here.  Also, try to address your own hang-ups about being a “good” parent and/or giving and receiving love.

This came roaring to a head for us when Otter was three years old.  She went through this phase of hitting me when she was angry…and one day when I was tired and worn down and I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth, “When you hit me, it makes me feel like you don’t love me.”  That came from a deep and old place, a story that I had from my past. It validated why I do not want to hit our children, and made me even more dedicated to the theory of “gentle parenting”.

Here are some of my favorite parenting resources for you to explore:

Laura Markham – aha! parenting – gentle parenting resource

Janet Lansbury – gentle parenting resource

L.R. Knost – Little Hearts – gentle parenting resource

Positive Discipline – great ideas to help set boundaries and keep them without intimidation

Five Love Languages – discover what moves your family members, and then love them the way that speaks to their heart


What are your thoughts?  What are other areas you feel heart-led about and you find hard to talk about or outright disagreements with your family or friends?


Spanking: Not an option


If you told my 25-year-old self that I would be totally opposed to spanking when I became a mother, that Krystyna would have scoffed at you. What could be wrong with it? Kids need discipline from time to time, and spanking definitely yields results. I was spanked, and I turned out ok. Right?!?

Enter the voice of a wise woman I worked with – one sentence started to shift my perspective on the whole spanking thing. I commented on how lovely her children were to be around, and asked about her parenting style. I was shocked to hear that she didn’t spank them; I just assumed all well-behaved children had been paddled into submission. As it turns out, this mama believed in and practiced gentle parenting, even though I didn’t know the term at the time.

Q: “You have never spanked them?”
A: “Never – spanking is a big person hitting a little person – nothing makes sense about that.”

Wait…WHAT did she just say?

The decision not to spank was sealed when I gave birth to Puma. As I held her in my arms that very first hour, I knew that hitting her on purpose, with intention to punish or discipline, was not going to be an option.

And so started the mental shift from considering spanking an acceptable form of discipline, to striving to find as many other natural consequences and gentle parenting techniques as possible.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from L.R. Knost:

LRKnost ChildishLRKnost Meltdown2

Childish behavior is normal…for children. <3 http://t.co/T8goym3P6Z
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Sunday, March 15, 2015

Let’s practice what we preach. <3 http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Gentle Parenting Go-Tos

Parenting with intention is easy when our cups are full and we are rested.  Realistically, how many of those days we *actually* have depends on the season we are in as a family.  Do you need resources to help stay gentle? Here are some websites that have been helpful to me, and other students in our SPB community:

Aha! Parenting
“Are you looking for that Aha! Moment to transform your child’s behavior, or maybe your own?
Whether you’re wondering how to handle a specific challenge, just figuring out your child-raising approach, or ready to tear your hair out, you’ve come to the right place.
You know what an Aha! Moment is, right?
With our child, it’s that lightning flash of insight, when suddenly we see things from another perspective, and everything has the potential to be different. This website has Aha! moments for parents of every age child, from pregnancy right through the teen years.”

Janet Lansbury
“Raising a child is one the most important and challenging jobs we will ever have. It brings a considerable amount of joy. It can also be confusing, discouraging and haphazard. My goal is to provide clarity, inspiration (and maybe a smile or two) by sharing insights I’ve gained through my parenting classes, my experiences as a mother, and studies with my friend and mentor Magda Gerber. This blog is dedicated to her memory.”

L.R. Knost
“Sharing gentle parenting tips, articles, and research with parents who want to learn how to connect with their little ones instead of just correcting them. Connect to correct—>gentle, effective, empathetic parenting—>happy, confident, well-mannered children—>joyful, peaceful homes filled with love and laughter.”

“I publish a variety of things here. Letters to my children explaining different parenting choices that I/we make. Information about breastfeeding, attachment parenting babywearing and other topics that fall into the category of “gentle parenting”, and whatever comes to mind.”

Positive Discipline
“Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. Based on the best selling Positive Discipline books by Dr. Jane Nelsen, it teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults (including parents, teachers, childcare providers, youth workers, and others).”

Gentle parenting is definitely a lifestyle choice – it invites me to be my best self so that I am available to be the parent I want to be for my children. Another great reminder from L.R. Knost:

LRKnost Breathe
Posted by L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources on Friday, April 10, 2015

I hope you find the inspiration you need from these wise parents. Choosing to breathe is not necessarily instinctive or easy. It is however, so, so worth it. The parent-child bond is so precious, and they are with us for such a short amount of time in their lifespan. Gentle parenting helps me make the most of that time, and truly treasure our children as the amazing teachers and human beings that they are.

P.S. Huge thanks to our SPB community that inspired this post <3

I’m human, and the struggle is real some days!! HERE is an anecdote about our season of toddler tantrums with Otter – it took a lot of deep breaths to be peaceful those days!!

Tales from the Toddler Side: Tantrums

We have had a rough Spring as parents. Daddy Bruss and I have parented three children already; we’re thinking we have this parenting thing figured out…and along came Otter.  She is growing us again – literally since her Birth-Day we have had to be willing to learn other ways, because very little of what worked with our other children is working with her.

Her huge tantrums this Spring all started with a transition in our home.  We switched around the use of some rooms in our home, and she got her own room.  She was totally unsettled and she could not understand how she had her own room, and was still welcome in our room (we co-sleep). Moving her clothes out of our closet and into hers, and her toy box from our room to her room; those were especially challenging.

While transitioning, the hallways and the normally empty spaces are stacked high with boxes.  This was totally foreign to Otter – she is the type of kiddos that likes her structure.  This was a total mess within the walls of her safe place.

On top of that, there was a weekend when I was gone most of the day for a training workshop.  And if that wasn’t enough, her Daddy flew out and was gone for four days, one of which overlapped with the time I was gone.

Cue meltdown.  And another one. And another one after that.  At the height of tantrum season, she was having 2-4 meltdowns a day. We had a good six week stretch where we had some pretty long and interesting days.  “Struggle” is an understatement.  I felt like the worst mom in the world.  Almost everyday, I wondered how I going to keep it together when 25 pounds of toddler was breaking me down at every turn – nothing I did, or didn’t do, seemed to abate the tears and the tantrums.

It was pretty brutal.  She was hurting herself, and lashing out at me with pinching fingers and hitting hands.  The depth of our emotions surprised me.  I knew I loved my child, and then again, I felt such resentment for the places we were going emotionally.

I have worked so hard to find my Peaceful Mama and keep Crazy Mama at bay. It was **really** hard to take those deep breaths on the days when Crazy Toddler showed up instead of my sweet baby girl.

I struggled between giving in to her demands to stop the self-harm, and shutting myself down because I could not handle it anymore.  Truth be told, it was hard on all of us. There were days when the other Sweet Pea kids acted out because they saw that meltdowns got my attention and were a priority. It was akin to that metaphor of putting out fires and never getting ahead.

There was one particular moment that stands out in that whole stretch of time.  A little frame: at the same time that we are going through all this emotion as a family, I am also doing some work on identifying archetypal voices for a class I am taking. Out of the blue,during one of the interactions with Otter when she is hitting me, this message comes through to me loud and clear, “When you hit me, I feel like you don’t love me.”

BAM. Lightening moment. I fell to the floor in tears, realizing that my reaction to her hitting is coming from a deep place of feeling rejected and unloved as a child.

For the record, I was a child in an era when spanking was the accepted form of discipline, and I wasn’t abused.  It simply was the mainstream way to do things, and in all other ways I knew I was loved.  We always had a caring home environment, food, clothing, and lots of affection otherwise.

Recognizing what was being triggered inside of me as Otter was hitting me was a turning point. In my Adult, I can reason with the Child statement and write a new story: “My parents love me, they did the best with what they knew.  My child loves me, she is acting out of a place of feeling powerless-fear-hurt-anxiety-insert feeling here.”  Knowing and being able to inner-dialogue worked really well to shut down Crazy Mama when the hitting started, and bring in Peaceful Mama right from the start.

We are on the other side of this rough patch now, and that is such a relief.  We survived because first of all, Daddy Bruss came through in a big way and acted as the fire extinguisher when things got out of hand.  No matter the time of day, he would pop out of his home office and help bring the volume level down. We were also a united front – we both gave Otter the message that self-harm was not acceptable, and that we loved her too much to let her hurt herself.

I also got a much needed “day off” to reflect on what was happening, why it was happening, and what I could do as the mother, the nurturer, to help get our family through this season of tantrums.  Here are some of the things that came into focus that day:

  1. I took the time to think about each child’s love language, and wrote down ideas on how I could meet fill their love tank on a daily basis.
  2. I took to heart Dr. Laura’s advice that we are our child’s “North Star”.  When you have four children, finding time to interact with each one intentionally takes, well, intention. So I created a system to keep track of whose turn it is to get ‘private time” with Mommy and Daddy.  Then, actually using the system – that has been *huge*.
  3. I wrote down what I expected from myself as the mother, where I was conflicted, and some steps to bridge the gaps between wanting to be a guide for our children, and actually being the guide I know I can be for them.
  4. I committed to bringing back (for myself) more of the structure that I crave. If I start the day on my schedule, then I feel on top of my game, which in turn affects how I feel about my abilities, positively impacts my emotions, etc., and that facilitates a day with Peaceful Mama at the helm.
  5. I decided that we were only going to work together in our homeschool for 25 minute stretches at a time.  This gave all of us a break from each other, and we also found that there was more fun in each day.  It has worked so well, that this is going to be the standard for our homeschool days going forward.

The good news is that we are all still in one piece, and things are much better “for now”.  Here are some resources that helped me focus on what Otter needed from me as she was struggling through all the emotions she was feeling:

Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Laura Markham


Quote from Charlotte Mason
“Every day, children need something to love, something to do, and something to think about.”

How about you? Which ideas or words of wisdom have helped you survive a toddler tantrum?

Monday Musings: Moving Past Anger

Sqaure A+E
We hosted a bonus class for Bradley students to meet our chiropractor on Saturday. Since our lives have been immeasurably enriched since we started chiropractic care. we invite him to share the benefits of chiropractic care with our students. As a Bradley™ dad, he also has some amazing tips on coaching back labor. Since they involve physical manipulation of the sacrum, we leave that info to the professional!

And then – the reason why he is a “bonus class”. He is a wealth of information on all things parenting and life. On this visit, he really stressed the importance of emotional health and well-being in the partnership before the baby arrives to have a better birth experience. He also shared that the stress level of the caregiver affects the immune health of the child.

As we seek to improve interpersonal communication, recognize that anger is unmet expectation.

Simple. It is not about you. It doesn’t need to spiral.

“You had an expectation – what did you want to happen?”

Whether you ask it of yourself, your partner, your child, or whoever it is that is angry, you have inserted a place for a breath. The answer to that question is something we can do something about. Or maybe it the start of a conversation than is long overdue.  Be it an action or a dialogue, maybe both, steps can be taken that remove the anger and restore the peace.

I am so looking forward to this new tool in our communication toolbox!

Do you think this could work for you?
If you already  have a “breathing space” question(s), what  works for you?

Monday Musings: Living Gentle

This is one of Cassandra’s favorite quotes that she shared with me over the weekend.  As it turns out, it is exactly what I needed today.  We have a second child down with a crazy fever.  Lying in bed with her today, cradling, nursing…when I had fun art projects planned, writing and posting to do…ugh.

This sense of UGH could have permeated our whole day if I had let it.  Instead, I am just breathing.  Breathing before I speak.  Breathing before I write.  Breathing as our nursling latches again.

And so far, so good.  I have caught myself a couple of times and changed my tone.  I chose to be flexible and simply set-up the art project without participating.  The work that resulted was great…one more confirmation that letting our children think and create for themselves is a great thing!

So, on this day that could have been full of the side effects of my disappointment, the kiddos have had a pretty decent day.  Puma made nutritious smoothies that also turned into popsicles, the only thing Otter has eaten today, besides chocolate chips.  Now Puma and Coach Bruss are making chocolate chip cookies (which was supposed to be “our” thing), and it will probably turn into the second thing Otter eats – LOL.  I can hope that we can all look at today and learn that gentleness and self-control are possible, even when things don’t go according to plan.

The silver lining?  Thank goodness that Otter is still nursing.  She is refusing ibuprofen and most food, so skin-to-skin, liquid food is just what our toddler needs right now.  Everything else has gone on, the world is not going to end because I didn’t get to do what I had planned today…nourishing and nursing this sweet pea back to health is definitely the best choice I could make for today.

Thank you, Parenting Wild Things, for the great mantra and the beautiful image.  HERE is a link to the post that featured this image.

That day I would rather forget

We spend our summer months in a small town in the Rim Country of Arizona.  Going up there, I have a lot of help with packing and with the kiddos – “many hands make light work”.  It is fun – we are all looking forward to the cool pines, the summer house, the time in the green surroundings and the afternoon rains.  The energy rides high and moving is a dream.

We arrive – we unpack – life is amazing.  As a parent, I have less pressure.  We do a summer schedule for school, so there is more time for writing during the day and more sleep.  There are no alarm clocks.  Instead of appointments and classes every day we do one thing a two days a week: horseback riding.  More time in the beauty of creation and watching our children enjoy something and working together.  Once a month, we go to Lego club.  Farmer’s Market on Saturdays where we run into friends from town and “lowlanders” that summer like us.

It is an amazing gift for our family.

Summer is over and now we are gearing up for life back in our hometown.  Hello, moving day.

Wednesday I felt the complete opposite of “idyllic”.  I was feeling perfection pressure because we have friends coming up to use the house this weekend.  I wanted the drawers perfect and the cabinets perfect and the beds perfect.  Because perfect is.  I was feeling time pressure because I overslept. I had planned to spend “perfecting” before the kiddos woke up.  That was gone because I woke up late, and besides, I wanted to get down here in time to have our nanny help us unpack.  As if that wasn’t enough on my plate, I was rushing to make it back in time for our afternoon appointments at 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm.  I was feeling parenting pressure – could I really have them watch television all morning while I packed?  Why are my children using their hands hurtfully today?  Why isn’t this “gentle parenting” thing working on the day when I need it the most??

I kept it all inside for about four hours.  And then I Y.E.L.L.E.D.  The top-of-my-lungs why are you people driving me crazy yell.  I hate myself.  I wonder how yelling can be any different than hitting when it is that kind of yelling.

So I own it.  I tell them I am sorry.  I can’t ask for forgiveness yet…I have to earn that.  I ask them if that was the Crazy Mommy.  I ask if we can all make different choices.  Then I ask if I can yell in a fun way because I still feel like I need to yell.  So I start saying everything with a funnier yell.  I blow off some steam.  We all start laughing and have a great lunch together.

BlogSPF diner

Sweet Pea Kids (AZ) and I had one more meal at our favorite diner. Daddy s too big to sit at the counter – they were thrilled to eat there that day and did pretty well with the “spin-ny stoos”.

I still feel a pit in my stomach.  I Y.E.L.L.E.D. at these beautiful little people entrusted to my care.  I scared them.  I wounded them a little and lost their trust – how much, time will tell.  I hate myself.  I hate that part of me that yells.  I can’t be proud of the fact that I don’t spank them because yelling is not any better.

I forgot one very important thing that day: If I was feeling pressure as an adult, how could I forget that these little people are also feeling?  I talk about newborns adjusting to life outside of the womb to our students.  How could I forget about my own children?  Yes, they are talking.  However, they don’t tell me, “Mommy, I feel…can you help me?” because as parents we do not model that.  (Note to self: start talking/ processing out loud some more.)

Looking back, their behavior was absolutely understandable.  One of our children is devastated because we have our house for sale.  As much as we love our summer home and our summer town, we are pragmatic.  It can’t be reasonable to keep up two households for three months of use per year – an 8-year old can’t possibly “get” that – all she knows is that she is hurt and angry about the decision because she will miss her summer friends.  Another child can’t understand that his favorite things are coming with him and he keeps unpacking them, and can’t understand why I am still putting them back in their place to make the move.  Our youngest just wants to nurse because she can feel turmoil (and as it turns out, I just saw a new tooth yesterday).

I forgot them.  I didn’t listen to the words they weren’t saying.  So as much as I would rather forget that Wednesday happened, I can’t.  I have to remember.  I have to do better next time.  I owe it to them.

Has anyone else been there?  How do you handle it?  How do you do better for next time?