Sometimes parents will tell me they are trying hard to set boundaries in a gentle and positive way, but it seems like it’s just not working or that they are afraid they are “babying” their toddler too much……
Sometimes it just seems as if gentle discipline doesn’t work.
I really don’t think there is an alternative to gentle discipline though. Or, I guess if the alternative is to be cross and yelling and screaming and hitting a child, I don’t want to live in a house like that. I don’t want to do that to a child. I don’t want myself to be the adult doing that.
Raising children is physically exhausting at times. Children are messy, loud, and immature. Their development is SLOW. Part of YOUR job is to have PATIENCE with the developmental process. Part of your task is to re-frame how you look at parenting – raising a child should not be an inconvenience or a task of raising a child to “obedience” but the thought of raising a healthy adult who is going to contribute to society.
Does this mean no boundaries? Does this mean that it is not frustrating?
Of course not. You must have boundaries, you must guide, but you must also be prepared that it may take 500 times for something to “stick”. You must be prepared that it will take more than just words. You must be prepared that the first seven years have the most pronounced physical behaviors, which do seem to trigger parental anger. Face slapping, running away, kicking, hitting, biting, melt-downs, – all there.
Go back to realistic expectations for each age. Remind yourself that children generally do not work well with only verbal directions well until they are about seven, and even after seven they completely get distracted and need your help to keep on track. Children really do need pretty constant supervision until around age 10 or so to avoid destruction of property.
Go back to your rhythm and how much outside time your children are getting.
Look carefully at the alternatives to gentle discipline and imagine what those will get you in the long run. It may provide short-term obedience through fear, but will it foster your goals for a healthy childhood, for a healthy adult future? You shape, you guide, but you also project confidence that this is a phase (that will be replaced by something else!)
Connect with your children, stay with your children during the times of their melt-downs. I am very against time-outs, I have not seen any other country where sending a child off to their room to melt down in a torrent of emotion is seen as acceptable parenting. I know this is not common in Europe. Maybe some more of my readers in foreign countries can help me out here? Is this common?
Part of parenting is CONTROLLING YOURSELF. Calm down, and GUIDE. That is your part in this. Guide, guide, guide. “Let me help you.” “You may not do that, but you may do this.” “I cannot hear you when you speak to me like that, please try asking again.” Movement, fantasy, re-direction!
I find over and over that while parents have concerns regarding age 2 and 3, the bulk of “am-I-doing-this-right” really comes in at ages 4, 6 and 9 –which are ages of enthusiasm, exuberance, over-the-top behavior coinciding with developmental disequilibrium and the six/seven and nine year old change. Please do go back to the posts on those ages, and the ones filed under the Gentle Discipline header if you need extra help.
Hang in there, and get support! If you need brainstorming as to handle something from a gentle discipline perspective, you can write me! I will try to help! Hook up with your local La Leche League or Attachment parenting group! Join an on-line gentle discipline forum – the Mothering Magazine forum has a good subforum on this!
Be confident that gentle discipline is not only the right path, but really the ONLY path. Be confident that there is strength in setting a boundary, and that you can be gentle while you are doing it.