Friday, July 8, 2011

Gentle Discipline and Ghosts in the Nursery

My parents were not gentle disciplinarians. That isn't to say that they never used those techniques, but I don't think they've ever heard of it. We were punished in my house and sort of rewarded (we were supposed to get money for good grades but I don't remember that being consistent). When I say punished, I mean it. My parents spanked, put me in the corner, put me in my room, put me in time-out, threatened to sit on me, to things away from me, etc. People who've gone through this have told me that they turned out okay as children. I did too (at least I think so). But I don't remember any reasons for why I was punished, with a few notable exceptions. Most infractions I don't remember at all, but I remember the punishments to this day. And unfortunately, because of the punishments, I haven't ever developed a very trusting relationship with my parents. My father and I have a decent relationship because he was not nearly punish oriented and as I grew older he treated me like an adult. My mother, on the other hand, doesn't like my opinions. I think it's hard for her to see me as being a separate person and not an extension or representation of who she is. In other words, I'm her child.

For this reason, I decided that I would not spank my children. I never completely did away with all forms of punishment, but I limit them. And limit them a lot. They are the final and last thing I try.

Gentle Discipline for me is a mind set. I have taught myself not to get frustrated. I'm not saying that I don't, but it's easy in other forms of discipline to set yourself up for frustration especially when you've placed your child in time out for the upteenth time because they won't stop hitting their sibling. They haven't learned anything and you're blood pressure is through the roof.

The idea is the gentle discipline is all about communication and distraction. Children get frustrated too. It's unreasonable for me to expect my child to sit still in the grocery store for two hours while I shop. For one thing, stores are eye candy for adults and children. Candy bars are strategically placed at eye level as you wait in line. Boxes are colorful. If sane adults have impulse control issues in the store (oh look chocolate pudding. I shouldn't, but...) then how can I expect a toddler to stop themselves. So what do I do. I don't take him with me and if I do, it's only for something quick so he doesn't have to sit down for very long.

Children are not little adults. They can't control themselves like we're supposed to (but fail utterly at). Someone once told me to ask a child to sit still for long periods of time is like asking an adult to stand on one leg. It's uncomfortable and we'd rather not. Ask a child to stand on one leg and they will stay in place.

The other day my child spilled soda (which was my fault for not putting someplace else) on my dining room table. If you are close GD you'd let your child play with the soda and get them to help clean it up. But under the table is not stain resistant carpeting. Yes, some crazy fool thought carpeting your dining area was smart. Why do people do that? And this fell under one of my rules.

I have two rules: 1) You cannot destroy valuable property. I think destroying a soda cup from some fast food place isn't bad. 2) You cannot hurt yourself or others. And I believe that these rules can be applied to all ages and stages. Teenagers shouldn't drink or have sex because it hurts themselves and others. Young children should not throw around lap tops because that's damaging to valuable property. And spilled soda in the dining room area must be cleaned up. Although spilled water on the bathroom floor was okay and became a sliding thing for HB (the floor is linoleum in there).

Other things I've learned are not to scream and to step back out of situations to find a better way to handle them. You only want to scream if there's an emergency to get a child's attention. If you scream all the time, they ignore you. Today I screamed. My child reached over and pinched my other nipple hard. In order to show how much it hurt (and because I couldn't help it) I screamed. I've done that for biting before. He immediately went on the floor and cried. I think it both scared him to have me scream and because he realized he had caused it. So far after that whole fiasco he has not pinched me and kept his hand open. He learned that it hurts.

Gentle discipline is all about natural consequences and setting up parameters were a child will not "fail" so much. We want our children to succeed and to revile in it. It makes them keep trying and boosts their self-confidence.

I'm not saying that I don't have my moments. I have. But overall I'm proud that I've set him up to succeed and do good things without pulling my hair out. And it's made it a lot easier to not go into flashing anger and paddle his behind. I can't wait for the next phase which will be responsibility. He already takes direction well. He will close the door when I ask him to (note: ask not tell). And he flushes the toilet and he turns out the lights (with me holding him up). He likes doing those things because they are adult things and responsibilities. Hopefully after we move we can start teaching him how to clean up his toys.

So while Gentle Discipline is all about being gentle. It's more about the adults being gentle toward the child and the child learning how to take responsibility. It's also called Graced-based discipline.

For more info:
LLL's overview on Gentle Discipline
Gentle Christian Mothers Online-a support resource of Christians
2nd Annual Carnival of GD- check out what other mothers have to say about it

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