I recently read a book that completely changed my perspective on so many things revolving around parenting, discipline, and even my view and understanding of God. I wanted to share my biggest takeaways from the book, Jesus the Gentle Parent, by L.R. Knost, because it really impacted me and was so eye opening! I want to encourage y’all to read it too!
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Before reading this book I had very different views on parenting. “Gentle parenting,” “positive parenting,” “gentle discipline” “peaceful parenting,” and other similar terms are often criticized. There is a huge misconception that if you use these types of parenting methods, that you’re creating entitled children who are allowed to do and get whatever they want with no consequences for their actions, and basically turning them into spoiled brats. This couldn’t be further from the truth. (Although I’m sure there people that just don’t try to discipline at all in the name of gentle parenting which could cause confusion.) BUT, gentle parenting is an amazing tool that can yield kind, compassionate and respectful children, by treating them with kindness, compassion, and respect; As well as giving them the grace so freely given to us by our own Heavenly Father. Read on to find out my favorite takeaways from this book and why I “converted,” if you will, to gentle parenting!
This book looks at our Heavenly Father as the perfect “parent!” As Christians, our goal is to become more like Christ. We want our children to become like Him too. This book looks at who God is, the characteristics of Jesus, and the fruits of the Spirit to show us how to treat our kids the way our Heavenly Father treats us! The book wisely says “you are your children’s first taste of God, their first understanding of love, their first vision of grace.”
Modeling the kind of behavior and qualities we want our kids to have is the key. Children learn far far more from watching our behavior and how we react to things than any amount of lecturing or telling them how we want them to behave. This puts a great deal of responsibility on us to always try to respond to them in a Christ-like manner. Easier said than done, am I right? The classic ‘ol question WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) is a perfect thing to ask yourself everyday in every situation. So let’s look at some verses that describe what we should be striving for:
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
“But the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
These verses pretty much sum up the entirety of who Jesus is and the qualities of His character that we should emulate for our kids. This is a great reminder for me to keep myself in check and to keep striving to become more like Christ, because little eyes are watching. 🙂
The root word of discipline is disciple which means to teach, model, and guide. This is what Jesus did with His disciples. When faced with a difficult situation with children, it is important to pause and really think about what you think Jesus would do in that situation. How would He respond to them? He would respond with compassion, grace, kindness, gentleness, and love. This is where gentle Christian parenting comes in.
You may wonder how to get kids to listen using gentle methods, or maybe you’re laughing and saying it would never work. One excellent point that this book made was that when people ask this question, what they really mean is, “how can I control my child?” The answer is that you don’t. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with kids (from toddler to teenager) knows you can’t control them. They are their own person with their own free will. With gentle parenting, it’s not about learning how to control your children, it’s about helping your children to learn how to control themselves. This was a lightbulb moment for me. It makes so much sense! It’s about working with your kids instead of against them. It’s about inviting cooperation rather than mindless compliance. This book goes through the “three C’s” of gentle parenting which are connection, communication, and cooperation. The whole thing is about building a strong foundation and relationship with your child. The book goes into much more detail with lots of practical application you can use which I know I will refer to often when my son is a bit older.
Ephesians 4:26 says “in your anger, do not sin.” Anger isn’t the sin. Emotions are not sinful. (Another lightbulb moment for me!) But strong emotions can cause you to sin. This book helped me to see childhood behaviors in a new light. Anytime a child is acting out, it is another way that they are communicating. This is actually true for people of all ages. Of course, this doesn’t excuse sinful behavior by any means, but as parents we have to see beyond the behavior and see the need they have first and foremost before addressing the behavior. Being quick to anger, yelling, punishing them or sending them to their room to deal with their problem alone solves nothing and usually makes the situation worse.
Young children literally cannot deal with big emotions, like anger, sadness, and frustration in “rational” calm ways yet. Often times adults don’t even handle these emotions well, let’s be real. But children lack impulse control as well as communication skills. The result is often tantrums or acting out in some way. This completely normal and all children will do it at some point on some level. Even adults lose their cool sometimes without these excuses. Viewing this behavior as a normal part of development that they need help to work through helps change your mindset. Instead of seeing a naughty child who needs to be punished or scolded, you see a child who’s having a problem and needs help and probably some extra attention and love to work through it with you.
There’s a quote that says “when people are the most unloveable, they need love the most.” And this couldn’t be more true for children. When they are acting the most difficult, they need us the most. It’s our job to be there for them in their time of need and use those times as teachable moments and to provide guidance and counsel. Gentle parenting isn’t an easy way out of the hard stuff or letting your child run wild. I think gentle parenting is actually harder because it requires so much more patience, self control, and maturity from the parent. It means finding compassion and empathy and grace for a child who might be driving you crazy. But in the long run I believe the results of the extra efforts will be so worth it in creating a strong trusting relationship with your children and being able to model Christ’s love to them; His unconditional, unfailing, merciful love.
After having Gabe I started praying that God would give me wisdom as a parent and that I’d do the best job with Gabe that I possibly can; That he would grow up to be a kind person with a love for God. I stumbled on this gentle parenting stuff, I believe, as a result of my prayers and It has been an incredible tool for me. This book particularly has changed my heart and given me a fresh perspective on many things. I no longer see “bad” kids. I have so much more empathy and compassion and a better understanding of what’s going on in their little minds. I also have a better understanding of God’s love for His children and for me! I’ve known God all my life and I know we will never be able to fathom His love for us, but I feel like I understand it a little more than I did before. Another positive is that I have a lot more confidence as a new mom now instead of being fearful of the toddler years up ahead of us.
If you’re curious to learn more about gentle Christian parenting, I would highly encourage you to grab a copy of Jesus, the Gentle Parent by L. R. Knost! Its great for parents to be and new parents, all the way up to experienced parents and grandparents. It a quick easy read and has so many tips for practical application in your parenting and will really challenge what you believe, if this is a new concept to you. There are also a few gentle Christian parenting blogs that I have been immersing myself in and learning so much through their stories and amazing examples! I’ll link my favorite resources and blogs below if this has sparked your interest or if you need more practical advice/application tips about how to discipline children gently with grace.
Additional Resources & Links:
- Awesome post from Find Your Mom Tribe blog relating Christ’s compassion to the compassion we should have for our kids, and a real life example of a beautiful moment where she was able to help her son when she responded to his behavior in love.
- I LOVE this post from Playful Notes blog that shows another great example of how she reacted to a seemingly ridiculous tantrum gently with empathy and had a very happy, surprising ending.
- Physical punishment: What would Jesus do? Read this chapter from Jesus, the Gentle Parent and learn about the context and original Hebrew language in the controversial “rod” verses.
- Another great Post from Playful Notes about how to help kids deal with big emotions in a gentle way.
- Awesome post from gentle Christian parents at Sallie Borrink blog about why they changed their minds about corporal punishment with their daughter. Very great insights in this one!
- 10 Ways Kids Appear to be Acting Bad but Aren’t is a great secular post that examines normal childhood behaviors from a more science-y psychological standpoint- its really interesting and gave me a new perspective.