Tag Archives: gentle discipline

Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part Three

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

Limit choices.

  • 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”.

Use Time-Ins.

“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. 

Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part Two

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.

How is Gentle Discipline different than the traditional Punitive Models of Discipline?

Alfie Kohn lists the way punishment fails in his article Punitive Damages:

  1. It makes people mad.  As a form of control punishment enrages and disempowers the receiver and even worse, the victims may eventually become victimizers.
  2. It teaches power.  Punishment provides the child with a model for expressing power over another.
  3. It eventually loses its effectiveness.   As children become more and more desensitized to punishments they become less and less effective.
  4. It erodes our relationships with our kids.  When we punish we become power enforcers instead of carers who lovingly connect and guide our children.
  5. It distracts kids from the important issues.  Punishment doesn’t lead to children reflecting on their wrongs- instead it turns their anger (and distracts from the original issue) towards the punisher.
  6. It makes kids more self-centered.   A child’s focuses on how h/’she is personally affected by the punishment (or potential punishment) instead of exploring why there is a boundary that needs to be met in the first place.

So now that we know that punishments and rewards are not helpful, what is the difference between a punishment and a boundary?

For me, Gentle Discipline infers remaining connected to your child while simultaneously setting and holding boundaries. As an ever-evolving parent with ever-evolving children the boundaries I set are also constantly evolving. But I am getting more and more clear about how to set them and how to hold them.

In Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Barbara J Patterson writes about “being a calming force in the midst of chaos”. Meghan Leahy describes boundary setting as the parent being the beautiful garden wall (boundary) that is neither punitive nor judgemental- just loving, firm and unwavering. Carrie Dendtler describes holding boundaries as remaining “Ho Hum“. When we reflect on our own children it quickly becomes clear that they are more responsive to loving guidance when we empathize with them and resist the temptation to be punitive.

As a parent it’s important to remember that you can move and shift boundaries if you feel the need. They are not set in stone. Of course consistency is important, but often when we’re not holding a boundary it’s because we as the parent do not have clarity about why we are holding it in the first place. When you feel that there is a specific boundary that your child is constantly pushing and which you are not holding well, re-connect with your WHY. Ask yourself, Why am I holding this boundary in the first place? Why is it important? Simply answering this question clearly is enough to resolve the issue one way or the other.

Boundaries have a myriad of purposes- boundaries keep children physically and emotionally safe, healthy and happy. Boundaries inform older children about group dynamics and foster empathy for others.

The final part of this Gentle Discipline series will delve into how we can create and hold boundaries in our home depending on our children’s ages and developmental stages.

For me personally, not allowing anyone to snack before dinner is a very easy boundary to set and hold (even if it means a lot of emotional upset from hungry children), limiting screen use is another very easy boundary for me to set because I feel it is a strong family value for us. Boundaries I have trouble with are things like limiting my eldest’s bedtime (he just loves reading- “one more page”, he begs! “And reading is so good for him”, I think…). I also have trouble preventing little ones from toddling into our bed in the middle of the night (my need for a proper night’s sleep clashes with the empathy and attachment I feel my three-year-old needs at night sometimes, plus I know she will eventually grow out of it). For me, the boundaries I struggle to hold are clearly the boundaries I feel wishy-washy about myself. When the conviction is there, I hold them. When I do not feel clarity about why I am holding a boundary, I simply don’t hold it. And in these cases I need to re-assess why and if I want the boundary to be continued to be held.

Do you struggle with setting and holding some boundaries in your home? Which are easy for you to hold and which are more difficult?

Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part One

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.

love

Part One- What is Gentle Discipline?

The word ‘discipline’ comes from the latin discipulus. Discere is from the latin ‘to learn’. Pullus  refers to a pupil or student. It is interesting to note that pupils (students) and pupils (the small black part of our eyes) come from the same latin root- pupa which means doll (think of puppets).

Self-knowledge can be obtained only by looking into the mind and virtue of the soul, which is the diviner part of a man, as we see our own image in another’s eye. And if we do not know ourselves, we cannot know what belongs to ourselves or belongs to others. – From Plato’s Alcibiades.

With this etymological background in mind, I believe that discipline does not infer just the guiding or teaching of an other, but begins with the Self.

Gentle Discipline begins with the parent

  • For me, mindful parenting means taking responsibility for and being fully present with our own feelings and actions and modelling this awareness to our children. This definition indicates a certain level of self-awareness and self-control over our moment-to-moment reactions
  • We as parents need to be inwardly clear with what we expect and why we expect it so that when we do create an expectation we have the resolve to follow through so that this expectation is met

Gentle Discipline moves beyond punishment and reward systems

  • Punishment and rage break the child’s will, the capacity to overcome obstacles and explore the unknown, which is learning itself. They will leave him or her with no self-confidence, no faith in themselves and they will fumble or retreat at every little difficulty of challenge“. – Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Studies have shown that punishment and reward systems are detrimental to a child’s healthy emotional and cognitive development
  • Instead, we as parents should aim to use appreciative and descriptive praise and learn to rely only on natural consequences

Gentle Discipline requires follow through

  • Language affects a child’s mind – focus on what you want to have happen instead of what you don’t want. Avoid negatives such as “Don’t hit your brother” and replace them with positive guidance such as “We use gentle hands” or for the older child, “Please be gentle”.
  • A useful parenting affirmation is: “My word is gold. I will walk my talk, I will follow through, I will consider before I speak” If we know we can’t follow through or realize we don’t care that much- don’t make idle threats!

Gentle Discipline is unique for each child

  • Recognizing that what works for one child will have no effect on another is important. We are all unique and come to this world with differing temperaments and personalities. Even when we’re in the same family our environment and the way we perceive it is completely individual.
  • As a family unit, yes there are some boundaries that need to be met by all of us. But within those boundaries there can be creative freedom and interpretation.

Gentle Discipline requires forgiveness, unconditional love for both your child and yourself

  • Holding grudges or resentments is never helpful or productive. Do not focus on past emotions and conflicts – instead focus on the current conflict or challenge that you are facing now.
  • Before bed, go through your  “bad day” in your mind. Review each moment, where you were triggered and ask yourself why. Reflect on this and then the hardest part- let it go!
  • “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher

If you find some time to do some inner work this week, it might be helpful for you to explore (and journal) what discipline means to you. When and how does it work in your home? When do you have trouble with it? And diving even deeper into self-inquiry: Why might that area be challenging for you?

We would all be honoured to hear your thoughts if you’d be courageous enough to share.