it's official.. Gentle Discipline is not possible with my child :( - Page 9 - Mothering Forums
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Gentle Discipline > it's official.. Gentle Discipline is not possible with my child :(
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 08:28 PM 08-16-2004
Well, I've spent some time chatting with bunnysmama, and read many of her posts here, and I think she is more GD than she thinks. I, too, have appreciated her input. Some things I agree with, and some I don't. But as someone else said, it's helpful to hear all POV's because occasionally I learn something unexpectedly!

I also agree with newmainer that it depends how you define "reasoning". I agree with bunnysmama that current theories suggest young children are not capable of reasoning. But I don't take that to mean that they can't participate in problem-solving, etc. As bunnysmama said: their world is very "me-centred", as it should be, and it takes quite some time before kids are able to put themselves in others' shoes, or consider options that aren't in their direct self-interest.

Hmmm...I don't know if I'm saying this right. I don't think my child is ready for the sort of reasoning that allows her total freedom of choice, or that she will necessarily understand consequences of certain actions. For example, it's reasonable to assume if you run out into the road without looking, you may get hit. I can explain this to 2 year old DD 'till I'm out of breath, but it's not reasonable for me to expect her to get that...does that make sense?

JeanetteL's Avatar JeanetteL 01:36 AM 08-18-2004
WHEW! Now that took me some time to read! Well worth it though, what an incredible exchange of ideas. I've been away from the board for a while (on an extended vacation in Canada) and it was good to come back and fall right into a discussion that provides so much food for thought (pun intended).

I have been doing a great deal of thinking about my parenting philosophy lately. My MIL and I have had a total breakdown in communication, a huge blowout actually (ParisMaman I feel your pain) and one of the main factors is my parenting style. I'm planning to try and paste together an entry for my online diary on the subject using posts I have written on other boards and blogs (seems this topic has been coming up for many of my online contacts lately). I think my passion for this way of parenting is starting to rival my passion for birth - and I just need to spend some time articulating it all so people around me understand on some level. I'd love to share it here when it is finished and hear comments from you all.

Anyway.... through reading all the posts on tantrums, I noticed that there was much discussion about how to deal with tantrums once they have occurred, but very little mention of giving children specific tools to help them deal with rising emotions BEFORE they hit the boiling point. I've been giving this a great deal of thought lately - I feel I need a big bag-o-tricks (GD-style) to deal with the many dilemmas and situations I face as a parent, so that I have a set of tools on hand and am not having to resort to impulsive, reactive parenting. That is the main reason I love this board - because I get ideas and tips that I never would have thought of or been exposed to otherwise. This line of thought led me to begin thinking about how my dd (almost three) could probably use her own bag of tricks beyond my simply modeling behaviours to her, and respecting her emotions when they occur. I began to wonder how much more empowered she might feel if she knew she had something simple, concrete techniques to fall back on in times of stress. I'd love to hear from any of you who have developed "tricks" that your young children can use to help themselves in situations where emotions are starting to run high.

One simple, and very effective tool we have come up with (a total fluke actually) works to provide a physical break for dd when things start to heat up. When we start to notice her getting to the frustration stage where words just don't penetrate, we act out the following (mostly just verbally directing her at this point - but at first it seemed very important that we were doing the actions along with her). The actual sequence is totally random, just what came to my head the very first time I tried it, I imagine you could substitute just about anything. I’ve had parents come up to me all over the place asking about this and how we came up with it !

-Raise your hands in the air
-Touch your toes
-Raise your hands up high again
-Tickle your armpits (this almost always gets her giggling)
-Take some deeeeeeeep breaths

I am telling you, as simple as this sounds, it has worked amazingly well. It provides enough of a break in her building emotions, and just a little bit of physical movement to work out some energy. All except for a handful of times, she’s been able to calm herself enough that we can move forward and work through the issue that got her heated up in the first place. The few times it hasn’t worked (when she told me "Mommy, I do not WANT to raise my hands in the air!") I’ve recognized that she really does need an emotional release, things have gone too far to cut off and I try to support her as best I can. I've even witnessed her do the whole sequence herself at one point (she was trying and trying and trying to open the fridge door - not asking for help so I stayed sitting - but getting visibly and audibly frustrated. Just when I was expecting her to have a mini-meltdown, she stopped, raised her hands in the air, went through the whole thing and then calmly stepped back to the fridge and opened the door.

We have known for a long time that when she is at all emotional, Bella needs physical reminders of things, words just don’t cut it – she needs to DO something or be physically SHOWN something. When she was having a bad tantrum issue at one point (when she was younger), we showed her how she could jump up and down to get her frustration out. She has a whining button (her nose), a volume button (her ear) that I can just touch at times when I know she is not able to *hear* me with her ears. These serve as a reminder to her that she is doing something that people around her have a hard time dealing with. She loves to test out how well these buttons work on others as well – which gives us a good opportunity to model the negative behaviour, so she understands what we don’t’ like, and also see adults stop themselves from doing it. The touch gets through to her when nothing else will, and usually we are able to move on in a calmer manner so I can actually understand her needs and not feel frustrated and stressed myself. As with the tantrum thing above, sometimes she tells me "But I want to/have to cry/yell/whine", and when she tells me that I trust that she knows what she is talking about. For her, physical interventions like these really work, and she picks up on and internalizes them very quickly. It is beautiful to see her connecting with these coping mechanisms and using them on her own.

I get frustrated with the generally accepted notion (not around here of course) that my job is to ‘make’ my daughter into a ‘good’ child. Most people I encounter are surprised and more than a little perplexed by the fact that I care very little about raising a child to fits into the mainstream mold of what a ‘GOOD’ child should be. My focus is on building a framework for the type of internal discipline that will server her well through her life, so I try not to worry to much about whether she has a tantrum at the mall or whines for a toy. I deal with those of course, one at a time as they occur, and feel that every parenting ‘problem’ is actually an opportunity for teaching and learning (not just on Bella’s part, but most assuredly on mine as well). At each uncomfortable crossroads we have reached on this parenting journey, I try to ask myself "Is my reaction to this situation empowering my daughter to develop a sense of internal discipline?" Later in life, when the stakes are much harder, that is what will really matter. My main goal is that parenting in this manner will lay the groundwork for a child who can think outside the box, who knows that not all situations have a cookie-cutter solution and who EXPECTS to be respected and to have her voice heard. I actually want my children to question authority. Yes, even mine.

No, parenting cannot usually operate as a true democracy, but on the other hand, I have no interest in running a dictatorship For me, the final frontier on my total conversion to GD is one of the main topics of this thread – the whole food issue. In fact, I’ve been meaning to come here and post about it for ages. This is the one area where I fear I have been more dictator-like than I would hope….reading all these posts has been a wonderful lesson for me in other ways to approach the situation.

I hope this post continues, in whatever meandering fashion it takes. I love how it has made me think and reevaluate thus far, and I think both of those are essential as I continue to evolve into the very best mother I can possibly be.
3 little birds's Avatar 3 little birds 01:50 AM 08-18-2004
Wow! Thank you JeannetteL for that post. Those are wonderful ideas. I am going to try them out tomorrow. I have been looking for something to do when the words just aren't heard.
OneCatholicMommy's Avatar OneCatholicMommy 11:27 AM 08-18-2004
Regarding the television:
Good for you for turning it off. I decided yesterday that my children would no longer be watching TV on a regular basis during the day. Even programs like The Wiggles (which I love too!) because then it escalates into "We wanna watch just one more show...." and that would create a battle. I will pop a video in if I have an important phone call to make (like to the insurance company) but I'll try to avoid that too.

I can't control that my husband lets them watch TV. But I can control it when they are with me.

Good luck to you.
Mizelenius's Avatar Mizelenius 11:33 AM 08-18-2004
PM, yes, yes, and YES.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 02:10 PM 08-18-2004
JeannetteL: wow....

Thank you for that amazing post. I have copied it and saved it in my personal files to read over again. What wonderful ideas, and an inspiring description of your discipline philosophy!

OneCatholicMommy: let us know how it goes. DH and I have talked about it, but finally made the decision. We are moving at the end of the month, and will not be hooking up cable in our new apartment. I feel DD watches too much TV. Mostly it's on as background, a bad habit even I fall into. I am actually really looking forward to the experiment. I think I'll be listening to more music and radio, which I love but never seem to get around to doing! I'm a bit fearful (I've always had TV), but remind myself that I don't think I've sat down to watch a show I really enjoy since the Sopranos ended, lol. I'm actually quite excited about it, though I have a feeling DD is going to be demanding "NOGGIN!!" for a while (hopefully the new setting will aid in her not expecting the routine to continue).
mommabear's Avatar mommabear 04:33 PM 08-18-2004
JeannetteL, that is such a beautiful post -- thank you so much. Your post really illustrates to me how important it is to parent consciously and be wide awake to the unique individual that is each child. Bravo!
princessalex's Avatar princessalex 08:49 PM 08-18-2004
Originally Posted by JeanetteL
I actually want my children to question authority. Yes, even mine.
What a beautiful post, Jeanette! So amazingly inspiring!

This statement meant the most to me, though. I wholeheartedly agree.

Thank you,
phoenix, az
Annais's Avatar Annais 12:11 AM 08-19-2004
This is an amazing thread. It's taken me 4 days to get through, but well worth it! I want to print it out!

DD will be one in 2 days, so I thought I'd start thinking about this fairly early so I can be consistent. I was just wondering, it seems like this comes so naturally to many of you, where as I think I'll need to be consciously thinking about it every time, KWIM? At least for awhile..

For instance, dd loves to play in the dogs' water bowl. My first instinct is to say no and redirect her. Why? Who knows?! After reading this thread, I thought, so she gets wet, so she makes a mess, who cares?
Thanks for reading, and thanks for this thread!
Mizelenius's Avatar Mizelenius 01:00 AM 08-19-2004
Jeanette, I wholeheartedly agree with your post. A book that I love helped me realize that if I coerce DD into doing things, I'm setting her up to be a victim in the future . . . if I can "get" her to do things, then that means other people will be able to, too . . .which is a scary thought!
Fianna's Avatar Fianna 11:42 AM 08-19-2004
Jeanette, LOVED your post. Thanks for taking the time to compose it.

Annais, I think the majority of the moms here would say that GD is a whole lot of work. The more you do it, though, the easier it becomes. Turning off those default non-GD reactions can be very challenging, but with time and consistency, those defaults can be rewritten. It does get easier. It really is, for me anyway, a mindset. And it is very much dependent upon my being able to stay in the moment. For instance, one of my challenges is to not react negatively to something just because there have been a series of challenges in a row. I consider myself a work in progress but it's something I focus on every single day.

I must say that some of the concepts in Jeanette's post really hit home with me right now because I now have a child who is "out in the world" in school. Having a child who respects others but who also has enough respect for herself to stand up for herself (and even question authority to do so!) makes all of the challenges of GD worth every moment. I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to me that my very reserved 5-yr-old has been brave enough in these last two weeks to question some classroom policies (and had a seating arrangement changed to her benefit because she was willing to approach her teacher) and end some bullying that was happening to her. And on the other end of the spectrum, she spent part of last week trying to comfort another little girl on the playground because the little girl was obviously sad and my dd wanted to help her.

Having been raised in a rather authoritarian home myself, I don't think I would have been as assertive as my dd is at that age. I know I allowed myself to be bullied in school because I didn't have the mechanisms in place to handle the situation. GD is SO much more than just not hitting your kids. It is a mindset, an atmosphere of mutual respect and love, that pervades every interaction between family members. And it is worth every single second of hard work.
JeanetteL's Avatar JeanetteL 12:32 PM 08-19-2004
Thank you all SO much for your kind words. At this particular juncture in my life, and with all that transpired with my MIL I find myself needing much reassurance, and this entire thread has proved brilliant in that regard. Yes, I am doing this for a reason, a darn good reason - and if I stick to my guns and not listen to the naysayers around me, it will pay off a million times over.

So, because the universe loves irony, the last two days (since I typed my post) have been very tantrum-y days. Yesterday she had the first real meltdown she has had in weeks and weeks - and because this thread was so much on my mind, I think I was able to do a much better job than ever in allowing her to feel the full extent of her emotions, and supporting her through them as best as I could. I know I took much of the advice and words of widsom here to heart, and it really came through in how much more comfortable I was in validating her feelings. I had been working on that before, but somehow it just felt more authentic and natural yesterday, and I have you all to thank.

The reason for her first upset - her dress sandals didn't fit anymore (she hasn't worn them all summer) and she was truly upset and devestated about it (yes, i do also think she was tired, and I've been packing to go home so she's probably somewhat anxious about the changes to come - so it wasn't all about the shoes). At one point she was saying "Ow, Ow, Ow". and i asked "What hurts you, Bella?"

She replied "My feelings, Mommy. My feelings hurt because my feet got too big for my shoes".

GD is SO much more than just not hitting your kids. It is a mindset, an atmosphere mutual respect and love, that pervades every interaction between family members. And it is worth every single second of hard work.
Brilliant!! That was beautiful - actually a good enough motto that when I get home I am going to print it out and post in on my fridge. Thank you for those wise, wise words.

Keep it coming mamas, right now I feel about ten feet tall...bouyed by all the wisdom and beauty and love that comes from each of you mothers so devoted to your children that you give the way you parent so much thought and research and consideration.

Bravo to all of us!
newmainer's Avatar newmainer 06:48 PM 08-19-2004
Another big thank you for your post Jeanette... I loved your take on prevention, rather than just damage control. And it actually got me thinking that perhaps the term "gentle discipline" is not accurate, because in my mind, discipline is a reactionary thing, where as gentle discipline is more of a parenting approach that one does *all* the time, not just when dd is in the water bowl (annais- mine loves to play in the water too, and sometimes i let her, and sometimes i put it up on the counter. She often slips in the water so it becomes a hazard). So then i think, its' more of a parenting style. hmmmm, isn't it AP? but then, as we've seen, there are many people who consider themselves AP but dont' necessarily use what we understand GD to be, so

but, I think my point is exactly what you illustrated, Jeanette, that there is alot to GD beyond just reacting in the moment to a temper tantrum, food battle, etc...
EnviroBecca's Avatar EnviroBecca 02:06 PM 08-20-2004
Great post, Jeanette! It sounds like you are doing very well in getting Bella to recognize her feelings--she still has tantrums because, well, sometimes those feelings are so big that a tantrum is the only way to get them out. Heck, I'm a grownup, and I still have occasional emotional states that CANNOT be worked thru without an extended period of sobbing--it's like the feelings are knotted up inside my head, and the ONLY way to get rid of them is to melt them and blow them out my nose! :-p

The part about a physical break reminds me of a strategy my mom used to use on my brother: As he was getting out of control (either mad or rowdy) she would say firmly, "I think YOU need to go run around the house five times!" She would not quibble about whether he needed shoes or a jacket; he could put on whatever he chose, or not (once he took OFF all his clothes, to the horror of passing missionaries who decided our house was a lost cause! ), and if he got wet or cold that could be dealt with when he came back, providing further diversion. It worked very well. Eventually he started deciding for himself that it was the appropriate thing to do, and at least once when he had a friend over and they were getting on each other's nerves, he said, "I think WE need to go run around the house five times!" and they ran in opposite directions, making silly faces every time they met, until they were both laughing and panting and the original quarrel was forgotten.
JeanetteL's Avatar JeanetteL 03:03 PM 08-20-2004
that is brilliant - so much better than sending a kid to his room for expressing his emotions. And what a great way to teach kids exactly how much emotional release we can get from physical exercise! I'm going to have to make a mental note of that for next time.

More tantrums the last few days, but keeping this thread in mind I am staying the course, recognizing and validating her feelings and helping her see I realize those feelings are strong, while still expressing how difficult it is for me to "work" with her when she's in that state, and talking about things we can do to help make us feel better when we experience strong emotions. It has been a great exercise in practicing what I preach and being mindful of the values I wrote about in my first post. Its not easy, but it feels right. I tell you, she's my teacher - not the other way around!

The past few times I've also tried to put the ball back in her court, instead of directing her to do something to help her calm down - I've asked..."What do you think you could do to make yourself feel calmer so we can go outside/eat lunch/etc?" My sister and I gave a few suggestions and left it at that. Seems to be working for today at least!

OneCatholicMommy's Avatar OneCatholicMommy 10:28 PM 09-28-2004
Piglet68, well, it went well for a while, then last week we were all pretty sick so all bets were off! But I'm proud that we have cut down on TV during the day ...for the most part NO tv during the day.
gonebatty's Avatar gonebatty 03:43 PM 02-20-2005
hello. i have been a nanny for years. i have raised several children from 6 months old till kindergarten age. they all throw fits. what i have observed in 24 years, is that you CAN NOT GIVE IN! do not make food part of a treat. if she wont comply, she doesnt deserve a treat. stop with that right away. i have left many baskets full at super markets because i would not tolorate a fit. i just leave the cart, take the child and thats it. i tell them if they cant behave like a big girl/boy, then they are not old enough to go into the store with mommy/nanny kelly, and mean it! DONT TAKE her to the store next time. ask a neighbor to watch her for a few minutes. crying isnt going to hurt her, it does get bothersome but once you have done it, it gets easier and easier. my last job was caring for twin girls who's parents thought that love was equivilent to money. the more money and gifts they gave their girls , the harder my job was to take care of them properly because their parents always changed the rules, and never followed through on ANY punishment because they couldnt stand the crying. i quit my job after 2 1/2 years. it wont hurt her to say no and follow though on it! it may be hard now, but it will be harder when she is 12 if you dont help her correct her actions. i tell my kids" everyone is allowed to get mad, it is what you do with that anger that counts". good luck.
ps. yes, i have a very opinionated mind! no offense inteneded to anyone !
mommyofshmoo's Avatar mommyofshmoo 04:57 PM 02-20-2005
Hey- haven't read everything here, but I have a dd the same age and also very opinionated. Here's what I've been working on that's worked.

Limit TV- we don't have a daily quota really, but if dd watches more than 1 hour at a time she gets nutty. I turn it off at the end of a show to be respectful. The longer she watches, the bigger the struggle.

Prevent tantrums- changing activities, leaving a crowded place, getting a snack, enlisting her agreement before activities. All these help prevent blowouts. Plus, planning less stuff during the day and giving her more time for stransitions.

Always Hug a tantrum- My dd's tantrums are never seldom about manipulating me, but more about her emotional state spiralng out of control. I try to get past the trantrumy "I want this or that" to what is really bothering dd. She's too young to understand deep breaths, but I hold her untill she calms down. Otherwise I help her go to sleep, or leave a tantrum inducing situation.

CHOSE YOUR BATTLES! I can't say this enough. The only time I really care hat dd wears is when she goes to preschool, and even then I'm very lax. If she wants to eat a tofutie cutie before her eggs and toast, so be it!

A word about "spoiling." I have parents who handed me "stuff" when I cried, then spanked me if I was ungrateful. They left me with nannies or babysitters all the time and alone in my crib at night. Maybe I seemed spoiled, because I learned to accept "things" in place of love.

Kids always look spoiled when they are crying, holding some new toy they just whined to get, crying because the bow isn't tied the right way or because it's not blue. What is important to remember is that this child is not getting what they need right then. What they need is love and understadning, and money can't pay for that.

Gotta run, hope this isn't too redundant!
mommyofshmoo's Avatar mommyofshmoo 05:17 PM 02-20-2005
Quick note-

It's hard to know what the tantrum is about- that is why hard and fast rules don't apply.

Some tantrums really are because something is important to the child. In those cases, i have to think through how firm my position really is. Sometimes I change my stance because I didn't realise how strongly dd felt. I don't see that as giving in.

Some tantrums are thing related, but not about the thing at all. We see this with "I want the red, no the blue, NO the OTHER BLUE! NO! THE BLUE BUT THE OTHER WAY. THE AOTHER WAY!!!!!!!" Tantrums. These arc a cry for help.

Some are simply about being overwhelmed and have nothing to do with a thing. Like my dd and I went for a bagel and she started crying because she said she "wasn't hungry". The usually calm place was crowded and we'd had a busy morning. This is when we have to be the parent. I said "Are you scared of all the people? Do you want to get out food to go." The answer was yes. She wasn;'t being tricky or manipulative or lying, she just neeed me to help her interpret her feelings.

Anyway- tantrums are hard. The faster we get over the feeling that they are somehow about us the better off we are I think.

By again.
Mizelenius's Avatar Mizelenius 03:42 AM 02-21-2005
mommyofshmoo, ITA!!!!
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