This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.
Discipline is one of the parenting biggies, those huge issues that every parent comes up against at one point or another. Like sleep issues, discipline pushes parents’ buttons. We feel out of control when our children have temper tantrums, are disobedient or do things that hurt others. Today’s parents are expected to be in control of their children, to make them mind and to keep them quiet in public. However, the truth of parenting is that the control we have over our children is tenuous at best. Children are their own people and want to take charge of their own lives. Even infants attempt to control their world by crying to bring a parent back to their side at night. Coming to terms with our lack of control as parents can help us improve our relationship with our children, which will inspire better behaviour from them.
What is Gentle Discipline?
Gentle Discipline is a style of discipline based on mutual respect. Parents who use gentle discipline avoid punishments such as spankings, slapping, time-outs and shame. Instead, gentle discipline focuses on helping children work through difficult emotions and frustration in a supportive and empathetic environment and using discipline as a method of teaching children instead of simply punishing them for misbehaviour and rewarding them for good behaviour. Gentle discipline does not primarily aim to control children through external motivators such as rewards, praise or punishment, but rather aims to teach children how to control their own behaviour based on their own judgment and motivation. This intrinsic motivation has been shown to be more rewarding and satisfying than external motivators. See Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards for more on how praise and punishments affect behaviour. Gentle discipline aims to raise children who are able to make decisions about the right thing to do by themselves instead of being told what to do by someone else.
Gentle Discipline Resources
Learning how to practice gentle discipline in your own family can mean challenging many of the assumptions and experiences that have shaped your beliefs about how adults and children should interact. In fact, learning about gentle discipline is likely to change the way you look at much of the world of paid employment, meaning and purpose in life when you start to see the way external motivation is used to control behaviour in adults and children alike. Here are several great resources to help you challenge your beliefs and learn new ways to interact with your child.
Alfie Kohn - Unconditional Parenting, Punished by Rewards
Barbara Coloroso - Kids are worth it!
Dr Harvey Karp – The Happiest Toddler on the Block
Naomi Aldort – Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves
In a world that seems like everyone is out to coerce somebody else into doing something, being a parent who attempts to discipline without punishment or reward can feel like being a fluorcescent yellow fish swimming upstream over rapids and whirlpools. For me, practicing gentle discipline feels like walking across a balance beam – in order to do it successfully I need to concentrate on the connection between myself and my child. Our connection is the beam my feet are walking along, the fiber that joins us together and supports us both. I also need to keep my eye fixed on my destination; I want my children to grow up feeling respected and loved, to have confidence to try things and learn from their mistakes. These are the things that keep us balanced, the things that make gentle discipline work. Without that connection or an eye on my goals and destination as a parent, I slip up and discipline with shouts, bribes, punishments and impatience. Everybody makes mistakes, even parents committed to using gentle discipline techniques make mistakes sometimes. We all fall off the balance beam. What matters is getting back up there, trying again, and learning how to keep your balance in many different situations.
If you’re looking for more insight on what Gentle Discipline is and how to parent a young child from that perspective, check out my ebook, The Parenting Primer: A guide to positive parenting in the first six years.
Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.
Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!
Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.
Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline
- Gentle Discipline 101 at The Parent Vortex
- The Power of Praise (hint: it’s not what you think) at Mighty Marce
- Golden Rule Parenting at Novel Mama
Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)
- Choosing Joy at Raising My Boychick
- Making It Fun – The Power of Play at Schmoopy Baby
- Assuming the Best Intentions at Hobo Mama
Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)
- 50’s Childhood – Guest Poster, Connie at Baby Dust Diaries
- I Have The Urge To Spank But I Choose Not To at Breastfeeding Moms Unite
- Mistakes at Breastfeeding Momma
- Undermining General Beliefs about Corporal Punishment at Authentic Parenting
- Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life
Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)
- A Tiny Word With a Powerful Impact at Little Green Blog
- Parenting a Toddler With Loving Guidance at Little Snowflakes
Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)
- A Positive View on Tantrums at Edenwild
- The Terrible Two (and Two Parenting Strategies to Replace Them) a guest post by Code Name: Mama on Good Goog
- Gentle Parenting During Toddler Tantrums at Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense
- Gentle Parenting Ideas from a Toddler’s Perspective at Code Name: Mama