Discipline Without Punishments? Yes, There Is a Gentler Approach
Children need discipline. There’s no way around that. It’s an important learning tool for teaching good behaviors and the importance of rules; and it’s essential for raising happy kids that function well in society. But discipline doesn’t have to mean punishment.
More and more parents are moving away from traditional methods of discipline that often end in frustration, resentment, power struggles, or shame. Conventional discipline can often create a power balance that puts parents and children at odds, driving them apart over time. Gentle discipline is an alternative approach that puts respect and empathy at the center of parent-child relationship.
We caught up with Meagan Wilson, founder and creator of Whole Family Rhythms to learn more about gentle discipline. Whole Family Rhythms is dedicated to providing support, resources, and information on conscious, connected parenting. Meagan is a mother to four beautiful children aged 9, 7, 4 and 3. With a background child development, her mission is to help other parents raise happy and successful children while promoting love, respect, connection, and understanding.
Meagan, could you tell us a bit about Gentle Discipline and how you came across it?
Gentle Discipline is term used by parents and educators to describe the way in which they set loving boundaries without the use of coercive or physical force. I knew when my first child was born that I didn’t want to discipline using a traditionally punitive style but at the same time, I wanted to provide my children with the supportive boundaries that they craved. I believe that discipline doesn’t just mean guiding or teaching your child, but that it begins with the self.
What are some of the issues with more traditional forms of discipline in your opinion?
Gentle discipline moves beyond punishment and rewards systems. Punishment leaves children with little inner resources, low self-confidence, and no faith in themselves. Appreciation and descriptive praise as well as natural consequences are stronger and more effective disciplinary tools.
What does discipline look like in your home? Can you give examples to illustrate the gentle discipline philosophy in action?
Gentle Discipline requires follow-through…Your word must be gold, you must walk your talk and follow through if you say you’re going to do something. If you say no food before dinner, you need to own the kitchen and make sure that no one grabs a snack without asking.
Gentle Discipline is unique for each child. What works for one child may have no effect on another. 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. A simple talk is all my son needs to shift whereas my daughter needs a lot of redirection, reminders, and one-on-one time for her to start following a new boundary.
Gentle Discipline requires forgiveness and unconditional love for both your child and yourself. Holding grudges or resentments is never helpful or productive. I often review and reflect on my day before bed, plan to make amends the following day in some way (if I haven’t already), and then try to let go and move on.
What’s your advice for parents who want to take a gentle discipline approach at home? Techniques to use? Outcomes to expect?
If someone is just starting out, my advice would be to:
- Have age-appropriate expectations from the get-go. For example, you cannot expect your two-year-old to refrain from drawing on the wall. You can only make sure the crayons are not where she can reach them unsupervised.
- Connect with your child everyday using physical touch, eye contact, and present listening.
- Limit choices. Choices overwhelm young children not empower them. No choices at all for children ages 1-5 years old and two options maximum for children ages 5-7 years old.
- Have a strong family rhythm. Seasonal, weekly, and daily rhythms are the anchors that provide security to your child. The stronger the rhythm, the less likely you’ll have an argument or challenge on your hands.
- Do your own inner work. Take some time each day to fill your own cup however you do this: prayer, meditation, journaling, or exercise.
- Speak pictorially to your young child. Avoid commands or too many words. Instead of “come here” say “Little Kangaroo hop over here for dinner.”
- Use time-ins. If your young child has crossed a boundary, sit him or her on your lap and explain “we don’t…” or “now you must sit with me until…” and have an open conversation of what transpired.
- Lead by example. If you ask a young child to tidy their toys, help them! If you lose your temper, apologize. No matter what, be a role model in their lives.
You can follow Meagan Wilson on Instagram @wholefamilyrhythms or visit her blog: www.wholefamilyrhythms.com
Are you interested in taking on a gentle discipline approach with your kids? Why or why not?Tags : conscious parenting mindful parenting relationships discipline