What is Gentle Discipline? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 11-25-2014, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
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What is Gentle Discipline?

Mothering has long upheld a philosophy of gentle discipline and firmly upholds in that a child should never be physically or emotionally punished. In promoting gentle discipline we are always looking for ways to support and encourage new parents, especially those who have never known that discipline need not be punitive. We'd love to hear from our members with experience in raising their own children in a gentle way. Please share your advice and wisdom!

If you were to meet or talk to a parent struggling with how to discipline a child - someone who had never heard of "Gentle Discipline" - how would you explain it? What would be your best tips for avoiding physical punishment and taming their own anger? What articles and books would you recommend for them to read? We'd like to gather everyone's input and create a resource article to be featured on the site. So please do share whatever you have that you feel would be of benefit to the comunity here at Mothering and beyond.

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#2 of 13 Old 11-25-2014, 10:34 AM
 
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Can't wait to hear some of these responses! I'm a mom of 2 littles, and our 2.5 yr old has just entered into the area where small types of intervention have been needed.
I struggle with discipline, as I was physically disciplined as a child. I don't have a lot of experience to draw from nor can I really get meaningful advice from my parents (who were great parents overall and give me great advice in other domains).
I try to work an angle of prevention most of the time, anticipating where she is headed before issues arise (like hunger, need for nap, drink, hug, etc), as most of her challenging behaviors come from one of these issues. But sometimes it's impossible to predict this stuff.
Right now, we are using a mostly " time-in/time out" sort of arrangement where we talk about what happened and why it's not ok to hit/bite/spit-throw (time in) when she is in a place to discuss, and a "time out" approach when she is out of control/too upset/melting down. Our time outs aren't meant to be punitive in nature, but more of a chance to step away and collect oneself. It consists of going to her room (with or without a parent, depending on the situation)
I'm not sure I'm doing this right as I'm sure we all struggle with this. This is a welcome discussion for me!
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#3 of 13 Old 11-27-2014, 03:59 AM
 
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Basically, you are doing it right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sierramtngirl View Post
Can't wait to hear some of these responses! GIANT SNIP
As I say, I think you are firmly on the right path.

Some hints to those who are trying this for the first time;

1) please remember to stick to a fixed timeout (eg, 1 min, 2 mins, whatever you have decided is appropriate for your child) as adding extra mins for additional undesired behaviour as they are taken to 'the naughty step' is counterproductive.

2) Show no personal displeasure when meltdown or undesired behaviour occurs. Be utterly undisturbed.

All the best

a

The anti-Ezzo king
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#4 of 13 Old 11-28-2014, 03:43 AM
 
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Attention and Empathy

Two things that really help when I encounter challenging behavior with my 2-year-old daughter:

First step: Get down to toddler eye-level (kneel, sit on the floor, whatever you need to do. Sometimes this plus a little affection/connection, is all it takes to get these little love machines recharged. A lot of times they are just looking for your attention. And that's a good thing!

Step 2 is that sometimes I'll say, "Look at mommy's eyes." and then I'll try to describe what emotions she's going through. A little empathy goes a looooooong way with toddlers! It must be so frustrating that you can't open that container/get that puzzle piece in/put on that sock by yourself! Can I help you with that?/Would you like to try it again a different way? It must be really hard to sit still long enough for mommy to change your diaper! Let me finish up and then we can play with your trains again. We've been cooped up inside all day with this terrible weather. You must be needing to get some energy out! Let's put on some music and dance. That vase of Grandma's looks very tempting to touch, doesn't it? It's very delicate though so let's put it over here and find something else to play with.

I try my best to avoid any language that shames the child for their behavior. If you think about it from their perspective, everything they do has a very logical reason. Their job as toddlers is to explore their world intensely every day in order to learn how to live in it. They need our guidance, for sure. But not punishment.
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#5 of 13 Old 11-28-2014, 07:35 PM
 
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So, post #3 tells post #2 to use time out, whereas post #4 tells post #2 to use time in.
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#6 of 13 Old 11-29-2014, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Seems so, muddie!
@Alexander , have you read Marcy Axness' article The Trouble with Time-Out and this one by Chaley Ann Acott? Would like to hear your thoughts on them.

Mothering also published an article on "time-in" which was really great, though I don't think it was placed online. That approach is along the lines of what MamaTilden is advising.

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#7 of 13 Old 11-29-2014, 04:09 PM
 
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Since I'm a teacher, I tend to think of discipline as teaching. So to make it a learning experience, I try to frame interactions like this:

What was the purpose of the behavior?

What did I want the child to do instead?

How can I teach the child to use better skills next time? (Model the correct behavior, or teach the child how to fix the problem for the long term (problem solving skills/conflict resolution). Often this means soliciting ideas from the child.)

Often the solution is simple.

For me the gentle part is removing blame/shame completely from the equation, respecting the personal integrity of the child, refraining from power struggles, and putting the focus on the big picture (what's important vs what is not).

This sounds pretty abstract but what it boils down to is that for me, gentle discipline is all about modeling how nonviolent human relationships can work.
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#8 of 13 Old 11-30-2014, 12:50 PM
 
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I appreciate you answer absolutely, it is a very wise method of children treating. My grandmother was a teacher, and in my family we had the similiar situation, nowadays I understand that she was right)
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#9 of 13 Old 11-30-2014, 04:32 PM
 
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I think a lot of things count as gentle discipline, as long as the child gets some guidance and there is no violence or manipulation.

When I think about what I'm doing, I think about my responsibility to impart procedural knowledge. In order to function in society, children need to learn the rules of conduct that everyone accepts. It's kind of two steps: how can I get what I want with the least cost to me and to the person or people helping me, and what should I do when I don't get what I want in spite of my excellent and reasonable requests?

That all sounds very elevated, but if you think about teaching your child to say "Please," or "Thank you," or how to cope with difficult emotions when they have to share or are disappointed, you can see where I'm going.

What makes it gentle is that the parent is on the child's side. We want our children to have their needs met and most of their wants, too, if we can do that. We know we can't always say yes, because it's not always a good idea. We don't want to let them to play outside until 11PM or to eat doughnuts for breakfast every day. Sometimes we say no in order to create the conditions for more yes.

For me the biggest thing has been slowly piecing together an explicit list of the things I think my child should know. Sometimes, I have had to learn to do them myself.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#10 of 13 Old 12-02-2014, 08:04 AM
 
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Their job as toddlers is to explore their world intensely every day in order to learn how to live in it. They need our guidance, for sure. But not punishment.
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#11 of 13 Old 12-02-2014, 10:25 AM
 
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For me the crucial idea is that we're all people together. Some of us are more experienced people who show the newer ones how it's done. This means that we give instructions about correct behavior, but we also have to model correct behavior. We can't yell, "Be quiet!" or spank a child to teach him that hitting is wrong; it doesn't make sense.

I don't entirely agree with Alexander's advice:
Quote:
Show no personal displeasure when meltdown or undesired behaviour occurs. Be utterly undisturbed.
It's true that being gentle means not freaking out over every little thing, and it's especially important to be calm and factual when correcting a behavior for the first time when the child might not know it's problematic. However, when the behavior is one that we don't do because it hurts another person's feelings or body, acting robotically serene does not get the point across and actually works against making the point. My older child is challenging in many ways, but he has very rarely attacked me physically, and I think it's because when he did, my reaction was, "OWW!! You hit me! It hurts!" with a very shocked expression, and this got him to apologize and try to make it better--much more effectively than my ignoring the pain and sending him to time out.

My goal is not to teach my children that they'd better behave to avoid being punished by someone else, but to teach them that we do the right thing because it is right.

One of the most helpful strategies to calm myself is to remember that my child is really only very small. That resets my perspective and helps me to work with him instead of defending myself against him.

Recommended reading:
Adventures in Gentle Discipline by Hilary Flower (best for kids under 7)
Liberated Parents, Liberated Children and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (useful from the beginning but mostly applicable to older kids)
Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon

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I've got 15, 12, and 2 year old children. I started off worrying about how to discipline, but now I realize that's not the issue at all. I needed to think about how to better train my kids!

It's not about who is in charge. It's about teaching and guiding your little humans.

So I'd like to rename gentle discipline to gentle training. I've found that it's so much more effective to think of training your child rather than disciplining your child. Discipline implies punishment, which really has never been effective. Training, prevention, repetition, and environment modification have been the most important tools.
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#13 of 13 Old Today, 11:30 AM
 
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To me, "discipline" also carries the connotation of self-discipline. I discipline my children as they learn to discipline themselves.

"Training" has the connotation of being what you do to dogs.

So it's all about which connotations are most important to you.

Mama to a boy EnviroKid 9 years old and a little girl EnviroBaby !
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