When I was a new parent, a well meaning older mother gave me a bit of unsolicited advice. She told me to be sure and always keep some things in my “parenting tool kit,” that they would be needed almost daily and easy access was key to success. She told me to always keep these things on hand, whether in a basket at home or in my purse if we were out: something to spank with, a notebook and pen for making check marks to tally bad behavior, a water bottle (this was in case the child had been crying), and the Bible (I am a lover of the Bible, but in the context this mama was using it, I was not a fan).
I never followed her advice. I knew for sure that I was not that kind of parent, though I didn’t yet know what type of parent I was. So I ignored her tool kit and did my own thing. As time went on, my husband and I discovered and embraced the type of parents that we were, and as more time went on, we began to guide other parents on their journeys. Then I remembered that tool kit. And it made me sad. So, I decided to create my own, a gentle parenting tool kit.
Anyone can build a gentle parenting tool kit and I promise, it will be a worthwhile addition to your family. This tool kit can be used to continue peace or to promote it. Instead of using harsh punishments to change behavior, calm a tantrum, or reconnect, use the tools that work best for your children in this tool kit (and of course, add your own as you see fit). You simply need:
- Cozy blankets – we have a large pile of blankets in our living room; afghans, quilts, fleece. Coziness and comfort is one of the top things that helps to settle troubled hearts. When my kids are worked up and crying or yelling, gently wrapping them up in a blanket helps them to get their bearings back. The added benefit is the big hug from mama that happens when they get the blanket wrapped around them. I know this seems overly simplistic, but I’m telling you, a cozy blanket works wonders.
- Fave books – Books work best for connection in down time or re-connection after a tantrum has ceased. Although they can be a great distraction from a tantrum for toddlers. When the little dude is yelling and hitting as we all know two year olds can, I can typically sit him on my lap, grab one of his board books, and start reading. Usually by page three he’s chill. For the bigger kids though, a book doesn’t typically stop their emotions. It does promote the cozy atmosphere needed for re-connecting after emotions have run high. You can also add the Bible in here as a rebuttal to the other mom’s tool kit. While she included the Bible in order to reprimand and bring guilt, I would read the Bible with the kids in order to promote grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
- Water – another simplistic tool. You’ll notice this one was also in the other mom’s tool kit. There is a double purpose to water in the gentle parenting tool kit. One purpose is that if the child has been throwing a fit, they will need water once they calm down. The other purpose can be to help them calm down. One of my kids gets so lost in themself when they are upset, that they just keep crying until something stops them for just a second. Water works wonderfully for that quick pause. I offer water to her, she usually takes a sip. That few seconds of sipping water causes her to come back to herself, and afterwards she is levelheaded and ready to talk and re-connect.
- Calm-down jars – You can read all about these on L.R. Knost’s blog, but I will simply say they are an easy and very effective tool for calming tantrums in your little ones. It’s another distraction that helps them get ahold of themselves after they’ve worked through those big emotions and are ready to move on.
- Art supplies – another tool for working through emotions. Not necessarily effective for calming a tantrum, but very helpful for walking through the aftermath. Also a great activity when redirection is necessary.
- Books for mama and papa – I am the kind of person who needs constant affirmation, encouragement, and support for my endeavors, so I always have a great parenting book in my current reads pile. Many books I have read over and over again. It’s a sort of coaching and encouragement to me, and helps me to have ideas at the ready when I am at a loss for how to proceed. Some of my top picks are The Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost, The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl, Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon, The Soul of Discipline, and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.
- doTERRA’s Emotional Aromatherapy Diffused or Touch Kit – This is such an important part of the tool kit and has been a total game changer in our home. Not only do I know what to diffuse during the day to maintain a relative peace, but I am able to change what is diffusing to address any needs that arise. The touch kit is incredibly helpful when the kids are in the midst of tantrum or frustration. A little Peace to the back of the neck or Console on the temples and there is an immediate calming effect. I have begun recommending either the diffused or touch kits to my coaching clients because I can’t really imagine parenting without them at this point. I even offer a huge discount on the diffused kit because I am that passionate about it.
- Smart Phone – I’m not even ashamed. When all else fails, or when I’m out and have nothing else with me for some reason, this little beauty does the trick. My top choices for helping my upset kiddos with a smart phone are nature videos and train videos, though sometimes a toddler puzzle or coloring app does the trick.
You’ll notice that some of these tools are used for connection and working through issues, while others are for calming and helping during tantrums or melt-downs. Both are important, both are necessary for gentle parenting. You can’t reconnect or work through an issue while the child is in the midst of chaos manifesting on their outside, you need to weather that storm first, and then walk through the cause together.
These are some super simple things you can start building your gentle parenting tool kit with right this minute, and begin to add peace to your home and family. What else would you add to your tool kit?