1) What is Gentle Discipline?
Gentle Discipline (also called Grace-based discipline, positive discipline, and empathetic discipline) is a parenting philosophy. The main thing is how the parent responds to the child. The parent treats the child respectfully and gently. There is no punishment or reward system used.
2) No punishment or reward system...isn't this permissive/passive parenting?
No, gentle discipline requires more out of parent than traditional parenting styles. You can't shoot a look across the room and expect something to happen. You have to engage with your child and set up boundaries for them. Permissive parenting is more neglectful. A parent ignores their child. Passive parenting and Gentle Discipline are complete opposites.
3) How does Gentle Discipline work?
It's not one size fits all. And there are a variety of techniques that parents use. For younger children it's child proofing and redirection. For older children it's using reason and empathy. Also natural consequences are used too. Sometimes compromise, democracy, or controlled choices are used. Modeling good behavior is also a part of the philosophy. Parents learn how to guide and teach their children based on what works for them and their child. Parents learn how to handle each situation as it arises based on what's age appropriate, if their child is hungry, tired, bored, or feeling ignored. Most Gentle Disciplinarians talk about listening to their child as being the most important thing.
4) This can't possible work. How can a child do what I tell them without punishment?
Gentle Discipline isn't about ordering a child around or obedience to a parent. Gentle Discipline is all about mutual respect and teaching a child self-discipline. I don't know about you, but I want my future teenager to say no to drugs not because he's afraid of me but because he knows the consequences of his actions (reason) and can make logical decisions based on what he knows. It's never too early to teach a level of self-discipline to a child. Furthermore, children as young as three can empathize and understand logical reasons.
5) Sounds like as a parent you have to be perfect all the time. How can this philosophy be realistic?
That's the beauty of it. You don't have to be perfect. You can also be gentle with yourself. There are times when we loose our tempers and say things we regret. Gentle Disciplinarians will apologize to their children or rectify the situation. It's unrealistic to expect happy perfect children. And therefore it's also unrealistic to expect yourself to be the perfect parent. This is why the philosophy is also called Grace-based discipline.
Gentle Discipline is not perfect. No parenting philosophy is. The idea is that you want to strengthen the child-parent relationship, teach self-discipline, and teach empathy. This philosophy is equally about you as the parent as it is about a child's behavior.