gentle discipline vs spoiling - Mothering Forums
Gentle Discipline > gentle discipline vs spoiling
stirringleaf's Avatar stirringleaf 02:29 PM 05-26-2003
ok i cant think of a better word. but i wanted to know if you all think it is mean to let my ds work out his anger when he throws a tantrum. when he gets out of control he always thrashes around and head butts me and doesnt want to be held, it just makes him madder. i was just reading a thread about how nursing helps in these situations but my ds gets mad if i try to nurse him when he is already mad about something. occasionally he does want to nurse so i do offer it... anyway usually i just lay him gently on the floor so he wont hurt himself and wait till he stops being so wild, which is just a few seconds , and then i try to comfort him, change the subject/scenery/ etc . when my sister was here i could see her loking at me strangly when i would just lay him down, and she would constantly try to distract him instead. sometimes this would work for her, but its because she isnt ME, you know? it was very nice that it did work, but i couldnt help feeling like she thought i was being so impatient and cruel to him. like she was showing me "see? all you have to do is distract him...." (but it only worked for her cuz she is not the mom) anyway i think she overly coddles her dds , like she doesnt ever want them to cry and they are 2 and 3. they get thier way all the time like the 3 year old always grabs toys from the 2 yr old and gets her way becaasue she will throw the bigger fit. in other words i feel my sister isnt fair with them cuz the 2 yr old alays has to hand over toys, and the 3 yr old has the attitude that she is entitled to all the toys. i just want ds to know that throwing fits doesnt get his way, but that i will hold him etc if he wants me to.

i jfelt like my sister thought i was so cold to ds but i think my approach is just i am second it? i am always kind to ds when he has a tantrum and dont expect him to be calm, i just wait and then offer support when he is ready.....i guess i just need some validation about it.

candiland's Avatar candiland 02:46 PM 05-26-2003
IMHO, your motherly instincts know best. It's sooo easy to second guess ourselves, esp. when the majority of parents do things a lot differently than you do.
In my mind, the difference between AP Parenting and Gentle Discipline vs. "Spoiling" lies in how consistent you are with what you expect, and what happens when those expectations are not met. For example, I have a close friend who claims that AP/gentle discipline did not work for her child... that her child ended up being a spoiled brat, and that she would do things differently with her next child. However, upon closer inspection, this friend's child simply did not take her seriously. Example: "Don't climb up and down those stairs. Sara, do NOT climb up and down those stairs!!! SARA, GET DOWN OR YOU WILL GET A TIME OUT!!!" Ten minutes later: "Oh, whatever, she's not hurting anything. So what were we talking about?" This is spoiling, not gentle discipline. Gentle discipline would be: "Sara, mommy is afraid that you will hurt yourself. Get down, please." "Sara, I will give you a chance to do this on your own, or I will do it for you." And the follow through: getting up, removing Sara and distracting her, or holding her until she understands that playing on the stairs is not an acceptable thing to do.
If gentle discipline always has an expectation, a gentle reminder, a warning, and a follow through, the child will understand that you will not give in... it is up to the parent to mold the child to be a safe, respectful member of our society.
Now, about your sister... maybe it is a perception that you are pushing off on her, because you are not sure if what you are doing is the right thing to do. So you perceive that others are mirroring your own insecurities. Maybe, maybe not. But if your instincts tell you that this is what your child needs, than go for it. What works for a friend or family member doesn't necessarily work with mom, kwim? Although you may want to try distractions before the temper gets out of hand, to avoid it altogether... without giving in to what the child wants and that may be potentially harmful to him.
lilyka's Avatar lilyka 03:03 PM 05-26-2003
Whats wrong with a tantrum? Why do people always want to cheer up a crying toddler? It sucks being a toddler/preschooler somedays. They dewserve the right to cry about it a throw a fit if they don't get thier way. I handle tantrums pretty much the way you do. I make sure there is nothing for them to hurt themselves on, and let them have thier fit. Depending on why they are throwing a fit I either sympathize "I know you really want some more candy but you will get sick if you eat to much. i get sad sometimes when I want candy and can't have it. It is OK to be sad and it is OK to be mad at me for not givng it to you" or I go about my business "when you are done we can talk about it". I guess I would never try to distract my child from expressing htier feelings. Or give into them just because they threw a fit. Ww, you are just asking for it when you do that.
stirringleaf's Avatar stirringleaf 08:05 PM 05-28-2003
you might be right that i was projecting onto my sister. but either way , it was the situation with her kids that made me second guess myself. even though i didnt necessarily agree with how she was handling thier tantrums, it made me wonder if i was being unknowingly neglectful of ds. anyway, thanks for the thoughts, after i wrote my post and thought about it i felt better about it, i really appreciate the support here. thanks
alexa07's Avatar alexa07 01:17 AM 05-29-2003
I am a big believer in not distracting too much.

I think doing this robs a child of this important lesson: "I can be really mad and upset... and then I can get over it and feel really happy again." Wow. What a thing to know.

I know adults who don't seem to know this. My parents helped me learn this. It really helps one get thru life.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 01:58 AM 05-29-2003
By distracting a child you are sending the message: "It is not okay/appropriate for you to be feeling upset/angry/frustrated in this situation. Instead you should be feeling interested/happy/amused."

I firmly believe in validating children's feelings and allowing them to work through it their own way. Like alexa said, it gives them the lesson that they can feel this emotion, process it, and then get on with it. How can they learn to process it if they are being distracted?

I think most adults cannot imagine what it must be like to feel frustration for the first time. I think we take our emotions for granted, and our ability to judge whether a situation is worth getting upset over or not. Kids need to learn this. I think you are doing a great job!

stirringleaf's Avatar stirringleaf 02:21 AM 05-29-2003
i just had to respond again to say ,wow, yeah! thos last couple of posts are well put. that is really very validating to hear. it makes so much sense to me that my sister is so incredibly intent on distractions, because in our family negitive emotions are not ok, and nobody knows how to process them. i do think distractions are good for some things, but i am just saying that i think my sister, with good intentions, has taken the concept to an extreme. not to bash her, shes a great mom, its just an observation and something i dont want to do myself. but what you guys are saying makes me feel much more confident in my initial instinct, and i feel i have more of an intentional direction with it when i think of it as teaching him that good feelings follow bad ones, and that its OK to be mad, etc. (which is what i do think, but the way its said here is much clearer than my own thoughts were) thanks again
alexa07's Avatar alexa07 02:41 AM 05-29-2003
Originally posted by Piglet68
By distracting a child you are sending the message: "It is not okay/appropriate for you to be feeling upset/angry/frustrated in this situation. Instead you should be feeling interested/happy/amused."

That is an excellent point.
sunbaby's Avatar sunbaby 03:29 AM 05-29-2003
hey, piglet, i was just about to say that!
stirringleaf, i think we have a similar situation. i have a friend who is a super patient, awesome mom, but her approach to crying is inevitably distraction (which i use in limited situations). i feel kinda pissy when my dd crys and i am there supporting her verbally, physically, emotionally, and friend jumps in with a plethora of amazing distraction tecniques. i feel like hey, let her have her tears, shes ok. punishing, shushing and distracting all feel like rejections of a necessary emotion to me.
Tanibani's Avatar Tanibani 03:38 AM 05-29-2003
I love this thread. How did you ladies get so smart?

I was very ANTI-crying/distress in the first year. Up till recently, I was afraid that letting my son have a hell-out tantrum was hurting him. It is something I really struggled with from age 1 onwards. I thought saying no to him and causing him distress was harmful to him. Weird but true. Turns out... that giving in too much (for example, at every request/demand to nurse...) has made him feel omnipotent - which is WORSE.

So now I'm letting him "be." It is wonderful to witness him have a fit, then calm down (usually me holding him quietly) and then hearing him say "I feel quiet now."

I was never really into distraction, I just gave in a lot.

Live and learn. I guess better late (age 3) than never (age 33). :
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 04:52 AM 05-29-2003
Thanks, alexa. I was inspired by YOUR post, lol.

I'm also smack dab in the middle of "researching" discipline and parenting, so the words I wanted came easy to my mind.

Tanya, I hear ya! I think the hardest thing for me is going to be letting DD process her tantrums. I think that adults are just plain *uncomfortable* seeing such raw emotions. And why wouldn't we be? Almost all of us were raised thinking tantrums are things that "rotten, spoiled" kids do. Our own tantrums were suppressed or punished. We want to intervene in SOME way, we think it's b/c we are helping them to be better people, but I am beginning to believe it's only because WE are uncomfortable with it.

DD hasn't had a tantrum yet (fingers crossed, lol) but I am trying to prepare for the inevitable!

Boy, pretty deep for almost midnight!
DebraBaker's Avatar DebraBaker 09:23 PM 05-29-2003
It isn't the tantrum or the AP parenting it's the "giving in" to the tantrum or appeasing your child instead of having the courage to be the parent.

You don't need to appease or try to stifle the tantrum. If the child wants something you, as the parent, have decided he shouldn't have it is reasonable that he might become frustrated and pitch a fit but it is only when little Jr. gets the candy bar because you're embarassed because he's pitching a fit in the check out line that he's in real danger of becoming "spoiled."

Of course your children know how to play you like a zither but so what.

Debra Baker
stirringleaf's Avatar stirringleaf 03:29 AM 05-30-2003
maybe some moms have a hard time with letting the toddler tantrum it out, cuz it seems so much like Crying it Out, KWIM? i just made that connection righ tnow, and maybe thats why tanibani , you thoguht you were harming your kid by letting him cry. i had a slow transition from APing for a baby's needs and adjusting to toddlerhood. one day i was like DUH, i can let him cry sometimes now, hes ben properly atached to me! theres just so much stuff about being a quick responder to the baby cry, but a toddler cry has so many other meanings, and when you AP, most of it is just preverbal communication, not cries of utter distress or anything. that was a big one for me to realize.

just a thought, i am psychoanylising too much ill stop now, lol
Nanner's Avatar Nanner 02:39 AM 06-02-2003
Letting my dd have her tantrum, is a lifesaver for me and her. She will be 3 in September and she will, often, scream and cry and lay on the floor over "minor" things. She can go anywhere from 5-30 minutes. And she will even try to engage me, saying she wants something, or whatever, only there is no way to appease her, so I just ignore her. I am not mean, I just sorta go about my business while she screams and cries.
I do it for 2 reasons- for 1, nothing really works to stop it anyway, and for 2, my nerves get really raw trying to "help" her when she is tantruming, so I *have* to sorta shut down when she gets like that so I don't get aggravated and then end up making it worse.
The 2nd reason is my main driving force, if the truth be known. Dd can be so negative and really good at wearing down my nerves, plus I have enough trouble keeping my own equilibrium (not blessed with a naturally laid-back attitude- actually me and dd are a lot alike!).
It is very interesting to see that when she is done, she will pop back into normal mode pretty quickly. I try to change the subject, just move on like it never happened. She will sometimes talk about it afterwards (her tantrums tend to last awhile, and though she calms down, they can linger on for awhile sometimes).
All in all, she seems to feel better when she just gets it all out with me doing nothing, and it helps my sanity when I let myself off the hook and not get emotionally engaged in the tantrum.
Momtwice's Avatar Momtwice 05:07 PM 06-02-2003
A mom above posted

"Turns out... that giving in too much (for example, at every request/demand to nurse...) has made him feel omnipotent - which is WORSE."

This is one of those times that reminds me that parenting is an art, not a science. Nursing very, very, very often soothed my dd's tantrums and made her a happy child who felt "right."
But another mom in another situation might need a different solution. This stuff is not easy! Every child is different, every DAY is different......

the other members here already posted great stuff about tantrums. In my opinion they are CLEANSING. They wash the nasty stress and guck out of a child and then the child feels better. If you distract or interupt it, (understandable in the grocery aisle!) it will only come out again later....hopefully at home and not in the grocery aisle!!!
Momtwice's Avatar Momtwice 05:12 PM 06-02-2003
Nanner wrote:

"She can go anywhere from 5-30 minutes. And she will even try to engage me, saying she wants something, or whatever, only there is no way to appease her, so I just ignore her. I am not mean, I just sorta go about my business while she screams and cries.
I do it for 2 reasons- for 1, nothing really works to stop it anyway, and for 2, my nerves get really raw trying to "help" her when she is tantruming, so I *have* to sorta shut down when she gets like that so I don't get aggravated and then end up making it worse."

I can TOTALLY relate to this. I think it brought up memories of being spanked for me, and gave me the urge to spank. I believe that the hormones from nursing soothed me, as the momma of the nursing toddler. I felt much less rage as a nursing mom of a tantrumming toddler, than I had with ds who was not nursed as a toddler.

Anyway I relate....leaving the room when I had the urge to spank meant that I did not do it. I knew spanking was wrong, (and I did not do it) but sometimes I needed a little space to cool off when I felt the urge.

I know a mom who spanks her child when the child has a tantrum. Which onlymakes her scream louder . I don't hang out with this friend anymore. And I cannot remember everything , but I strongly suspect that I was parented this way myself. I do know that negative feelings were not allowed and spanking was used sometimes.
ilovemybaby's Avatar ilovemybaby 06:38 AM 06-04-2003
The idea of letting the child just get their feelings out sounds so familiar - sometimes I just need a good cry and DH will come in and say, "What can I do to help you?" "Nothing," I said, "I just need a good cry." I guess the little ones need that, too. Make sense?
candiland's Avatar candiland 10:14 AM 06-05-2003
Okay, I'm a bit confused here about the distraction thing, as it is totally AP.
Yes, once they are in the throws of a tantrum, you need to support them emotionally and blah, blah, blah. But if your child is ABOUT to lose it because, let's say, he sees a piece of candy and you don't want him to have it, distraction would work wonders. Saying, "No, no candy... but look at this great puzzle we have! Or how about we finally read this new book we got yesterday?" That, in my mind, is what distraction is. Nipping the tantrum in the bud before the child has an all-out tantrum. Children do not know how to distract those end-of-the-world feelings when they are denied something they really, really want. That's what us grown-ups are there for
Nanner's Avatar Nanner 01:50 AM 06-06-2003
Candiland- I think your example was a good use of distraction, but if they are already in full-out tantrum mode, then that is when distraction might not be a good idea. Or, there might be situations where distraction is not good from the get- go (mushy brain tonite, can't come up with example right now!).
But, I think in that type of situation, for sure, it is best to offer a replacement and try to stop a tantrum in it's tracks.
Like a previous poster said (wish I could remember the name now! This is genius!)- parenting is a science and all kids/situations are different, so I think you are right, that there are certainly times when nipping the tantrum in the bud is just the right thing to do. I think a Mom can usualyl tell whether her child *needs* to get those feelings out, or if distraction would work better.
delighted.mama's Avatar delighted.mama 02:29 PM 06-06-2003
Candiland, I was just thinking about raising the same issue myself when I scrolled down and read your question re: distraction! I had the same question after reading the various posts.

My initial instinct, especially when dd was younger, was to distract. That's what my mom always taught me to do and it seemed so much easier on both me and on dd. But, once she got a little older and knew what she wanted, it became harder. Her attention span isn't quite as short, KWIM? so the distraction doesn't work. That's when I started letting her have her tantrums. I would stand by her or hug her (if she let me) and tell her "I know that you are (fill in the bank) but, X is (dangerous, dirty, not for baby....etc, etc).

That being said, however, after reading all of the above posts (which were totally awesome and enlightening, I might add ) I started to wonder if distraction is always a bad idea. EXAMPLE: If I know that dd is going to make a bee line for the refrigerator when I open it (because she has this weird obsession with it! ), the I try to hand her an empty plastic dish and a spoon and distract her with it. BUT, if she is already poking her head in the refrigerator and it is time to close it (because we have already spent 10 minutes looking at the food: ), then I let her have her tantrum when I close the door, which she inevitably does. I used to try to distract her but I stopped because it seemed to make her even more mad, not because I thought it was wrong. NOw, she has a short tantrum and it's over.

I wonder, does that send a bad message too?? Does it send the message that it's ok to throw a fit any time you don't get what you want? I'm just thinking out loud here.

Cygnet09's Avatar Cygnet09 03:54 PM 06-06-2003
I have been the same way - DD1 was never allowed to really cry as a baby, but then that translated into never crying as a toddler, too. Like Tanya, we both felt that she would be irreversibly harmed if we let her cry because she wanted something but we weren't giving it to her (for what was a valid reason on our part). But then I read Solters' Tears and Tantrums and started feeling differently. I am now OK with allowing her to cry out the bad feelings - she is so obviously relieved afterward - but DH has a really hard time with it. He and his siblings were left from almost Day 1 to cry alone in their cribs down the hall, so he has a lot of negative emotions associated with crying and not having needs met. Personally, I feel that it brings up all of his feelings of loss and abandonment and he will literally begin to cry himself. (This happened mostly when DD was 12 to 16 months or so; it doesn't happen as much anymore) So I do think that some people who have a hard time with babies crying have some pain themselves - as Piglet said about we as parents being uncomfortable with it.

That said, DD1 has never really had tantrums. She cries (and if she's with me I let her get it out), but we tend to see it coming and distract her, or sometimes tell her outright that she can't do "X". Then she will pout or cry a little bit and move on. I have also noticed on occasion that if she needs a good cry, she will do stuff that will make her cry - does that make sense? But because she doesn't tantrum much, I am wondering if she is getting a non-verbal message from us that it's not OK. It certainly wasn't OK for me to have bad, angry feelings and I do wonder if I'm passing that on.
stirringleaf's Avatar stirringleaf 03:15 AM 06-07-2003
i just wanted to respond about the distraction thing....

i think the last few posts are in agreement with everyone else. this thread just got on a tangent about the possible *overuse* of distraction but not that distracting kids is bad. i personally am not down on it at all , i was just reacting to the idea that tantrums were "bad", or that a kid crying is a bad thing& i was second guessing myself about it. distraction is very AP . thats the whole thing though, i want to be AP and then i find some situations just arent really in the books! AP *can* get taken too stringently literal, and then life hapens and some people like me feel overly guilty when thier insitncts say to let thier sweet ds cry in some situations, but the "rules " of AP say "NEVER LET THEM CRY" .....i am like the queen of guilt, just give me a reason and i will feel guilty, no i take that back, no one has to give me a reason at all...i will find one myself ! but thats T

anyway i think as far as what kids tantrum vs what kids dont...yes we can/should take credit for alot of the wonderful healthy results of our APing and be proud, but then of course every kid is truly different. some kids just like to pitch a good fit. some kids never really do it. what i want to do is just nurture my kid for where he is at and not think if he has a tantrum it is nessecarily due to my horrible parenting skills, or neglecting him when he needs me. (unless it really is...) i do make mistakes but thats when i get to come here and talk to you guys about them! i think gentle discipline and AP do not create these identically perfect calm children who all express themselves the same way. AP and GD just give them the best possible chance for all thier human idiocyncracies, flaws, strengths, loudness, quietness, etc to coexist peacefully within them so they arent as neurotic as , say, *I* am , and they can function healthily in life.
Momtwice's Avatar Momtwice 10:24 AM 06-07-2003
"What attachment parenting is not" By Dr. William Sears

Attachment parenting is not indulgent parenting....attachment parenting is responding appropriately to your baby's needs, which means knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no."
Attachment parenting is a question of balance –not being indulgent or permissive, yet being attentive. As you and your baby grow together, you will develop the right balance between attentive, but not indulgent.

Attachment parenting is not rigid. On the contrary, it has options and is very flexible. Attachment mothers speak of a flow between themselves and their baby; a flow of thoughts and feelings that help a mother pull from her many options the right choice at the right time when confronted with the daily "what do I do now?" baby-care decisions. The connected pair mirror each other's feelings. The baby perceives himself by how the mother reflects his value. This insight is most noticeable in the mother's ability to get behind the eyes of her child and read her child's feelings during discipline decisions. One day our two-year-old, Lauren, impulsively grabbed a carton of milk out of the refrigerator and spilled it on the floor. As Lauren was about to disintegrate, Martha mellowed out the situation and preserved the fragile feelings of a sensitive child and prevented the angry feelings of inconvenienced parents. When I asked how she managed to handle things so calmly, she said, "I asked myself if I were Lauren, how would I want my mother to respond?"

PS I totally agree that a crying child brings up the emotional baggage of the detached and or violent way many of us and our partners may have been parented. SO VERY TRUE!!!!! How many of us have cried right along with our babies and found it very liberating? I know I have!