I believe in gentle discipline. The term “discipline” comes from a word that means “to teach.”
With a baby and young toddler, gentle discipline was relatively easy. I hid away breakable or dangerous items. The “terrible twos” weren’t so terrible if I could anticipate my child’s need for food, rest, or snuggles.
When my older child was three, she turned the tables and taught me that I needed to re-think my discipline techniques and that different things work for different ages. I initially gave her “time out” for a few minutes on the stairs to remove her from a bad situation and give her time to think about what she had done. I soon realized that all she thought about was how mad she was at me! I talked to a friend who used what she called “time in.” Time in involved getting down on my daughter’s level and holding her if she wanted that, and talking about the kind of behavior that was acceptable and not acceptable. I realized that many times when my child was acting up, she was really looking for more attention from me. It was a lot better for both of us if I gave her positive attention in the first place, and refrained from negative attention like yelling and shaming. Clearly, we were both learning and growing!
I still face challenges every day as my children change and grow. Right now I have a hard time with the whining, that grating and annoying, “Mom! Give me that! But I want it! Pleeeease can I have it? Why can’t I have it?” When I am able to be patient, I model the tone and words I would like to hear. “Mom, may I please have that?” When I make a mistake and raise my voice, I apologize to my child. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. Sometimes moms make mistakes too.” It’s not easy, but that’s probably one of the most important things I can teach my children.
I have taken a lot of comfort in the fact that each day is a new day, and each day I can choose to use gentle discipline. I can start over again if I don’t quite achieve my goal, and I can learn new and improved methods of gentle discipline from my children and my friends.
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