5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

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Do You Over-React to Your Preschooler?

The ages of three to five can be such a hard time for many parents.  These ages see a change in behavior from when children were two, especially for first children who previously were interested in being at their mother’s side.  I have had many parents of three and four and a half year olds write me and ask me what is going on with their child that they have changed SO MUCH.  “They were sweet, and now they are not” is a common refrain I hear.

Your child IS still sweet, but now they are realizing they can use their bodies and will forces in all sorts of ways.  Much of it is simply to see what happens without an preconceived ideas of what will result; much of it is repeated since the capacity for memory typically is not well-developed until age six or seven.  Words often are of little help until about four and a half.  For example, a two and half or three year old can often repeat something such as “we don’t hit”, but then will turn around and hit a playmate.

In many developmental phases, it is important to remember that when parents describe children as “bossy, tense, rigid, demanding, explosive” this really covers up the fact that the child may actually be experiencing a sense of insecurity or uncertainty as development shifts.

Ho-hum, ho-hum is your friend! Find your ho-hum and turn it on. 

Consistency and rhythm is so important and the number one thing I see parents struggle to attain.  Much of this stems from the fact that there is societal pressure to exposure small children to many different things – exposure is seen as good for tiny children. Also,  things seem to need to be “bigger, better and more stimulating” because it is exhausting to “entertain” a three to five year old all day long.  But remember…

You shouldn’t have to entertain your child all day long and you shouldn’t have to leave your house in order for your children to be happy.  Meaningful work is the key to this, along with being outside.  I have many back posts on these topics!

Distraction with verses and singing is still your very good friend when you have three to five year olds.  Going outside can also help.

Keep activities outside the home limited.  I know it is the “norm” to have children in preschool and classes  at age three, and I will continue to rally against this.  Even two or three hours out of the home is a lot for a three year old.  They do not need lessons, classes, or structured activities for their own development at this age.  “Play is where it is at!”  Studies have shown that children in play-based settings (again, though, we don’t need a program to play!) have greater academic gains in fourth grade than students who were in academic learning programs from an early age.  Earlier is NOT better.  We CANNOT rush development.  Development of the child has not changed.  If your child has to be in a program because you work, look for a play-based program that involves lots of time outside in all kinds of weather.

Tantrum tally for you!  It often is not about what our child is doing, but how we react because we are exhausted, tired, trying to do too much, alone with a small child many hours of the day.  Dealing with anger is a real part of parenting!Try this back post about regarding dealing with anger and also this one about anger and forgiveness.  .  Also, if you look under “Book Reviews” in the header we went chapter by chapter through the wonderful book, “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma”.

No screens.  Screen do absolutely nothing for the development of a child these ages.  Movement, movement, movement – not sitting still and focusing on a screen.

Lots of love to all my parents of small children today.  You may not hear it enough, but you are doing a wonderful job!

Blessings,
Carrie

Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Six

 

Today we are up to common discipline challenges and responses for our terrific ten year olds!  Our last post about the nine-year-old and the nine year change, can be found here.

 

Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.   In Part Two of this series,  we focused on birth through age 4.  In Part Three we looked at ages five and six and in Part Four at the ages of six and seven.  The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

As a quick recap of development up until this point, birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” NOT as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue but play and social experiences now expands during these years.   Ages seven and eight see a dichotomy in developmental outlook, with seven often being more insecure, wailing, gloomy;  a time of feeling the world is unfair and eight taking the bull by the horns with brash boasting and exaggerated tall tales. The nine year old is in a time of great change in the inner life of the child, typically with a more insecure and inward gesture.  The ten year old typically is in a smoother stage of childhood development with a niceness, goodness and friendliness about him or her.  Usually ten year olds love their family very much, love activities and outings,  and they typically don’t resist too much what you ask them to do; a fairly happy age.  The challenges parents write to me about  their ten year olds are as follows: Continue reading

Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Five

 

Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.   I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning.  I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.

In Part Two,  we focused on birth through age 4.  In Part Three we looked at ages five and six and in Part Four at the ages of six and seven.  The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

Birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue.  However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation).  Play is the main theme for these years, and also a  look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control.  Ages seven and eight see a dichotomy, with seven often being more insecure, wailing, gloomy;  a time of feeling the world is unfair and eight taking the bull by the horns with brash boasting and exaggerated tall tales.

Now we head into the world of nine.  The nine year change is one that gets a lot of press in Waldorf Education as a time of great change within the inner life of the child.  It can also be a time of increased maturity, with a child looking for more responsibility and a time of reaching out into the world for greater independence.

The best practices for discipline with a nine year old includes: Continue reading

Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Three

 

Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.

I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning.  I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.

In Part Two,  we focused on birth through age 4.  Today we are going to look at ages five and six.    The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

Birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue.  However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation).  Play is the main theme for these years, and also a  look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control. Continue reading

Gentle Discipline Techniques By Age–Part One

 

Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.

I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning.  I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.

 

First of all, we cannot talk about gentle discipline and guiding without talking about parenting as the spiritual and inner journey of the adults involved in raising children.  Whether you are mother, father, helper – it is a spiritual journey for you and spiritual practice for you!  Your own techniques for inner development: Continue reading