Today, I wanted to look more closely into the concept of “Gentle Disciple“, “Simple Discipline“, “Loving Authority” or “Respectful Discipline“. I think this subject is often a sticky web of mixed concepts and expectations, including strands from our own childhood, inconsistent societal expectations, cultural overlays and personal expectations. Through this three-part series I will attempt to piece together what Gentle Discipline is, how it’s different from traditional punitive models of discipline, and most importantly how we can strive to consistently use it in our homes. A lot of my research on this subject is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, Kim John Payne, Magda Gerber, Janet Lansbury, Joseph Chilton Pearce, John Holt, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Alfie Kohn, to name a few.
Steps to Effectively and Consistently use Gentle Discipline in our homes
(advice for children up to age 7):
Familiarize yourself with the typical qualities of your child’s age group. Specifically, what is age appropriate behaviour and what are the developmental milestones he/she is experiencing?
- If you understand that a two-year-old is developmentally very likely to eat with his/her hands, throw food and make a mess, you’re less inclined to label the behaviour as bad or good and more inclined to continue to model table manners each day as she grows.
- The Gesell Institute Booklets are a great place to start reading about development development year by year.
Connect with your child each and everyday.
- Connect with your child daily using physical touch, eye contact, conscious listening and real presence
- Daily connection is the number one discipline tool that will carry you through all your years of parenting
- For a general rule of thumb: No choices for children ages 1-5, two options maximum for children ages 5-7
- Choices overwhelm children and intimidate very young children. Young children want to know that you are taking care of them, making decisions for them and creating protective boundaries for them
Have a strong Family Rhythm.
- Seasonal, Weekly and Daily Rhythms are the anchors that provide security to your young child.
- If you have a strong bedtime rhythm it is less likely your little ones are going to fight sleep because it’s the same routine each and every night. Whereas if your evenings are always a little bit different it’s hard for your young child, they do not have any subtle cues to signal to them that it’s now time to begin quietening down and getting to sleep
Do your own inner work.
- Take some time each day to fill yourself up, however you do this: creative expression, prayer, journalling, meditation or exercise
- “If you want to change the world, start with yourself”- Gandhi
Speak pictorially to your young child.
- Try to avoid direct commands or use too many words and details when speaking to a young child
- Instead of, “Come and sit down for dinner” you could say, “Little Kangaroo, hop over here and fill your belly with some warm food”.
“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.”
– from Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
- If your young child has crossed a boundary sit him/her on your lap and very simply explain that “we don’t…” or “Now you must sit with me until…”
Lead by example.
- If you ask a young child to tidy up their toys, you must help them!
- If you lose your temper, be sure to apologize to your children afterwards
What are some of the ways you hold boundaries in your home? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.
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