Gentle Parenting Concepts we follow in our House
Through trial and error, we’ve found that a more gentle approach to discipline works in our family. I’m an executive coach and spend a lot of time trying to teach adults concepts of emotional intelligence. These techniques are pretty common sense but seem to me like a good way to build emotional IQ in our kids from an early age. I’m sure you use many of these concepts anyway. We really appreciate you integrating as many of these ideas into how you interact with our kids so we can be as consistent as possible.Gentle Discipline is a style of discipline based on mutual respect. Parents who use gentle discipline avoid punishments such as spankings, slapping, time-outs and shame. Instead, gentle discipline focuses on helping children work through difficult emotions and frustration in a supportive and empathetic environment and using discipline as a method of teaching children instead of simply punishing them for misbehavior and rewarding them for good behavior. Gentle discipline does not primarily aim to control children through external motivators such as rewards, praise or punishment, but rather aims to teach children how to control their own behavior based on their own judgment and motivation. This intrinsic motivation has been shown to be more rewarding and satisfying than external motivators. Gentle discipline aims to raise children who are able to make decisions about the right thing to do by themselves instead of being told what to do by someone else. (http://www.theparentvortex.com/wordpress/gentle-discipline-101/)
This means, we don’t:
1. “Punish” our kids
2. Spank or hit in any way
3. Give Time Outs (research has shown that they don’t work well and they don’t teach children to deal with their emotions effectively. They basically say to a child, “you are having a strong emotion, go away until you can suppress it, then you can be with us.”) As a side note, I have made a promise to Samantha that we will not use Timeouts and she holds me to that and gets very upset if other’s try to use timeout with her.
4. Use shame as a means of coercion. IT’s not easy, but we try to remember that they are still learning and will make mistakes along the way. Our job as parents is to provide a safe space for them to practice and make mistakes along the way they will learn from.
5. Yell. We are trying to model staying calm in the face of upset and managing our feelings. When we yell, we are modeling a tantrum. (It’s hard to do, but we try!)
6. Try to talk our kids out of their emotions. This means we don’t tell them, “Don’t be scared.” Or “There is no reason to cry about that”, etc. Instead, we ask how they are feeling, or having them pick the face that matches how they feel on the feelings chart.
7. We try not to say, “Good job”. Research shows that it’s a form of manipulation; teaching kids to only do the thing others praise and diminishes their own since of accomplishment. But it does slip out a lot. We just try to make sure the motivation is a genuine expression of enthusiasm and not a desire to manipulate behavior.
Here’s what we do instead:
1. We look for the emotion that drives the behavior, both good and bad, and help our kids label them, discuss them, and deal with them. For example:
a. When Samantha gets frustrated putting her socks on by herself, she’ll squeal and cry and yell for me to help. I respond with, “I can tell you are very frustrated that you are having trouble with your socks. Let’s take a deep breath and try again, and I’ll help you if you need it.”
b. When one of the kids has trouble sharing, I’ll remove her from the situation, usually by scooping her up and sitting on the stairs or the bed and I say something like, “It’s hard to share our toys isn’t it? It’s hard to want to play with something that someone else is playing with. How does that make you feel? How do you think it would make Sally feel if you took the toy away from her right now? Let’s see if we can find a way that you can both play with the toy for a while and be happy. What ideas do you have?”
c. "I can tell you are really happy because you get to spend the day with your Grandma. Let's be sure to tell her how much we love her and I bet she'll be happy too!"
2. Set limits while acknowledging their opinions, feelings, etc. For example:
a. “I can tell you are mad that your little sister tore your picture. It’s OK to be mad and to tell her No, thank you, but it’s not OK to hit. I won’t allow you to hit her, because that will hurt her and we try really hard not to hurt the people we love don’t we?”
3. We try to make requests instead of commands, and when we can compromise we do. This gives are kids a sense that we are in this life together and they do have a say when it’s appropriate. Some examples:
a. Instead of, “Don’t do that, it’s not nice” we say “What you said hurt her feelings, see how she is crying.”
b. We have a large egg timer in the house that helps us transition to new activities. We tell the kids that in 5 minutes, its bath time, or time to come in for dinner, etc. When we can be, we are flexible with this. I’ll ask them, “How many more minutes would you like to play before we go to the store?” This seems like a simple thing, but is a huge help for transitioning to new activities, especially when they are things that aren’t as fun as what they are doing.
4. We co-operate. This doesn’t mean we tell the kids they need to cooperate (aka, do what I say right now). We try to find ways to do things together (“Let’s clean up the toys, if we all do it together it will go faster.”) and compromise. (“I know you want to watch Dora right now, but Mommy’s show is almost over. Can I watch mine first and in 5 minutes you can watch Dora?”)
5. We give choices when we can. Maybe it’s, “Which vegetable should we have for dinner?” or “Which outfit do you want to wear today?” We don’t go crazy with this and let the kids make all the decisions, but when we can we give them some freedom to pick. It gives them a sense of empowerment and they are more willing to listen when we can’t give them a choice (like on what time we have to leave for school).
6. Instead of saying “good job”, we simply say what we see or ask questions to see what they are proud of. For example:
a. “You put your shoes on by yourself.”
b. “That drawing has a lot of purple.”
c. “What was the hardest part to draw?”
d. “How did you figure out how to clean up that spill?”