Gentle Discipline = Connection Plus Boundaries

We have been talking quite a  bit of late about power, authority and boundaries in parenting.  Our book study of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate spurred the discussion, but boundaries are something I have ALWAYS discussed on this blog.  You can go through the archives or use “boundaries” in the search engine to pull up back posts.

If things are not going well in your home with discipline, here are a few quick tips:

1.  Where are you emotionally and spiritually?  It all begins with you.  Children need to see you modeling how they should be behaving and what values you hold dear.  What comes when as your children grow? When can they go to a friend’s house without you, when can they walk somewhere alone, when can they ride their bike to the corner store, when can they have their first sleepover?  Befriend some mothers with older children and see what issues are coming up for older ages; this helps you plan because you will be there one day as well!

How do you show reverence, how do you show gratitude?

Where is the rhythm of your home?  Where are your moments of laughter, joy, fun, wonder?  What are you doing for demonstrating real work, what is your child doing for real work, what are you doing for sleep, rest, warming foods and nourishment for the soul through singing and verses and stories?  What are you doing to get energy out/outside time?  These things help children of all ages!

How do you speak kindly in your home?  How do you use your words to help each other? 

Are you communicating to your small children that the world is a good place?  That people are helpful and kind?  How are you showing your older grades-aged children beauty?

What is your physical health like?  It can be  hard to be emotionally and spiritually stable and growing if your physical body needs your attention. Sometimes illness, bed rest, an accident can all be a blessing and force us to grow in ways we otherwise would not have, but I am generally speaking here of mothers who run around in their day to day mothering without a thought of water, healthy food or exercise for their own bodies.

2. Are you trying to do this ALL ALONE?  Many mothers are, for a variety of reasons.  Some just will not let their husbands do anything; some are single mothers; some are alone in their marriages.  I have written quite a lot about marriage and even some posts on being alone in marriage, you can refer to those for some encouragement.

You cannot do this all alone; it takes a community of loving family members and friends to help raise a child.  By the time your child is five, this community is increasingly important and by the time your child enters the grades even more so. 

Where do you fit into the equation of the family’s needs? 

3.  Are you connected to your child?  Connection is the basis of discipline.  You do not need words to connect with the small under 7 child, and even the child of 7-9 does not need so many words.  A nine year old does not have logical thinking and less words are truly better!  Connect through being warm and loving, through a steadiness in the home, through physical touch and through play.  Connect with your child by being emotionally stable yourself!

Meditate and pray about your child, look into your heart and see where they are and what they need.  What would uplift them THE MOST at this very moment? 

Sometimes growth comes in spurts with regression, especially for a younger child, and we can tailor our rhythm to these demanding stages. However, very often what an older (six and a half year old and up) needs as they struggle with emotional growth in childhood is to not be rescued and have that feeling of being uncomfortable taken away and alleviated.  Older children, as they grow, need to learn to deal with all of their  feelings, positive and negative, with peers and with people who do things differently. 

4.  What are your boundaries and do you understand what tools are available for each age to help you stick to those  boundaries?

What do you do when your child will not adhere to the boundary?  Sometimes a time-in together or just a little bit of space together outside in the backyard can change the energy just enough – but you still have to go back to the boundary.

Is what you are asking REASONABLE for the age of the child?  And remember, we don’t ASK small children to do things – we do it together.  Exhausting, but alleviates so many problems.

Parent your child for the age that they are – do not treat your ten year old like a three year old and do not treat your three year old like a ten year old!

Look for the next few posts to be from our book study.

Many blessings,


15 thoughts on “Gentle Discipline = Connection Plus Boundaries

  1. Carrie,

    I have been reading and loving your blog for a while now. I always come and just read and read when I am really feeling the need for inspiration and to remind myself of what I am trying to do! I am so excited to actually post a comment (silly, right?).

    Anyways, great post as always. I love the line “parent your child for the age that they are…” That just sums up the solution to so many of the problems we come across as parents, doesn’t it? Sounds easy, but I for one must constantly remind myself! Thank you for everything you write!


  2. Carrie,
    What a great post. I as well love that line “parent your child for the age they are”. I have been struggling with my inlaws because we have different things that we expect from our 12 yr old than we do our 8 yr old. They don’t think it is fair that more is expected of him or that he gets more privlages. They feel we need to treat them the same but in my oppinion, it is not possible to treat the differnt ages the same because they are not. I have tried to explain why but that phrase sums it up. I will be using that soon 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for this. We had SUCH a rough day today. I had way higher expectations than I should have of my little ones, raised my voice more than I’d ever like to and felt far too angry all day. Overall a failure of a day in the life of mothering three small ones. I feel a LOT of guilt and wonder how on earth I can rebuild trust after being such a grouch. (I am doing too much of it alone and am not getting nearly enough sleep, not that it justifies harshness though.) As they sleep peacefully beside me, I am asking forgiveness and praying tomorrow will be better. Tears.

    • Oh Meg, Hugs! Be easy with yourself, this parenting is a striving and a growing. One of the most valuable lessons you can show your children is how to rise up and try again. Tomorrow is a new day!
      Many blessings, you are a good mother!

  4. Hi Carrie,

    I just wanted to thank you for your website.

    I am a recovering former Michael Pearl/Gary Ezzo/Richard Fugate disciple. I have two older sons and two younger children. Part way through my older boys’ teen years my husband and I realized we were on a destructive path and took a sharp turn out of our authoritarian parenting style…much to the chagrin of our fellow church members. Rejecting this parenting style ultimately led to our leaving this church which left me with all sorts of baggage connected to my role as a Christian mother.

    I recognized our need to parent more compassionately and in a less controlling manner, but wasn’t able to articulate much more than “I’m not going to parent like THAT anymore,” and have been tending more and more to what you call the jellyfish parent (that was a really helpful description for me) marked by short bursts of the return-of-the-whip-and-chair-parent to regain order. We were limping along okay until my daughter turned nine and then it became apparent that this really wasn’t working for us.

    So last night I googled the two concepts I’m trying to meld (gentle and discipline) and found you. I read different posts until midnight and started the day with a new perspective and at least a couple of new tools in my mothering kit.

    I would love to share one sweet moment that came from this, although I’ll try to keep it short because I see that I am going on a bit here.

    This morning my daughter had a melt down about having to do a chore she didn’t like. Normally this would make me feel like a failure as a mother. Today I simply said to myself, “she is young and has not learned to handle her disappointments maturely yet.” Instead of sending her to her room, I brought her to sit on the sofa with me. She railed and moaned and told me I was mean, unfair, etc… I didn’t say much, but periodically patted her back, answered her questions, nodded. And after a little while she was calm. I resisted the temptation to provide a little mini-sermon on controlling emotions and instead invited her to come eat breakfast. She then went to do her chores.

    Afterward she came in and said, “I’m so sorry I acted like a baby earlier!” I gave her a big hug and said we all continue to work on handling our emotions and it will get easier as she gets older. This response from her was everything I could have asked for and she managed to come up with it all on her own with just a little support from me.

    I am very encouraged. Thank you so much for taking the time to paint a picture of what this looks like. Trying to figure this out on my own has been like trying to reinvent the wheel! You are a blessing!

    • Gracie,
      Your comment just made me cry. If there is anything I can do to help you, please email me. You are not alone in recovering from the Pearl/Ezzo methods…What you did with your daughter the day you wrote your post was amazing! What a journey you are one!
      Thank you so much for writing in, and I hope you enjoy the 707 posts on this site, so many of them are on gentle discipline.
      We are glad you are here!
      Many blessings,

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