Friday, June 11, 2010

Gentle Discipline: Laying It Out

Recently I discovered Baby Dust Diaries by way of her gentle discipline carnival (she found one of my posts, and left me a comment to let me know that she had linked me). She has lots of links there, numerous posts of her own, plus she does the GD carnivals monthly now.
I especially liked her post Getting it Wrong: What Gentle Discipline is Not, and I hope she doesn't mind but I wanted to share a short excerpt of my favorite part (it's really worth going over to read the whole thing, but this chart is awesome!)

Below is one of my favorite charts showing parenting styles. I like it because, unlike most quadrant-based charts on parenting styles this skews it on its side so you can see the continuum of effectiveness down the left side and because it shows the shaded blending of the styles. What she is describing is called permissive parenting typified by low levels of expectation and high levels of nurturing responsivness. As you can see in the chart, permissive parenting rates quite low on the effectiveness scale (only slightly higher than being completely disengaged). Authoritarian parenting, where punishment falls, actually has high levels of expectation in common with gentle (nurturing in the chart) parenting.
Gentle parents, like authoritarian parents, care a great deal about the behavior and discipline4 of their children. And, as you can see from the chart authoritarian parenting actually has a high level of effectiveness (as measured by child behavior) as it scales with the level of responsiveness/nurturing.
Gentle parents are no more permissive than Authoritarian parents are uninvolved. To assume so ignores the intention and creates an inflammatory divide. I don’t assume you beat your kids. Don’t assume I let mine run wild.

I admit to having been guilty of exactly that last sentiment--I was raised in a household that was more on the authoritarian side. We were extremely well-behaved kids by most folks' standards, and since the end result was good I assumed that the method must be good as well.
Then I met my Wolf.
Nothing I had been raised with worked with him. He was his own kid and frequently could not be convinced or even coerced into things he didn't want to do--not by anything or anyone. Punishment had little or no effect on his behavior. Attempts at force were usually ineffective. I had to learn something new, and gentle discipline is where I have ended up.
In my younger years when I saw a kid who was out of control, I thought "well if only his mom would set boundaries, or give him a good lecture, or a swat on his naughty little behind..." Over time (due to living with Wolf, reading many books, and talking with other parents) my perspective has shifted.
I am not by any means a perfect "gentle parent." I've used spankings and time outs, I've yelled and threatened and completely lost my temper. Over a year ago I wrote a post on spanking and said I planned to never do it, strike. However I am trying. I think I am improving. For every time I fall down, I get up again--and in my opinion that's the real measure of a good parent (or a good person)--no matter how often they make mistakes, they keep trying again to be better next time. I continue to read and ponder and try to develop my sense of what I want my parenting to be like...and I continue to work on bringing myself closer to that idea.


Katie said...

"I've used spankings and time outs, I've yelled and threatened and completely lost my temper."

I'm right there with you. I really beat myself up over it though. Like I feel that I don't really deserve anything, and I'm not a good person because of this, and my kids are going to be damaged and destroyed, and it's all my fault. But, like you, I keep getting up and trying again.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Good post. I'm in the same place. I do hold the values of gentle discipline and practice them most of the time. We all slip and I've had my share, for sure. Although, I've been spank free for a long time now. My "downfall" is yelling- but I'm surprisingly ok with the way I yell and how I use my raised voice.

Mallory said...

I, too, am not a perfect "gentle parent". I try, and fail. And try again. And fail again. I think one of the most important things (beyond trying) is showing the increase of love after punishment, like we are counseled to do by the leaders of our church!

natalie said...

Very interesting... I generally feel like I really don't fit into any "camp" of parenting, since we practice a lot of attachment parenting things (babywearing, cosleeping, nursing on cue, extended nursing, some EC) but I don't think that spanking is always wrong either.

Although, I have to say, reading complaints of those who practice gentle discipline (like on the MDC forums) definitely prejudices me towards assuming that practitioners DO let their kids run wild... even though my head says not all of them do.

BonnieKaye said...

I was just talking to my sister about disciplining. She has a 2 year old and I recommended doing a little research on types of discipline. So when I read this I immediately sent her the link. Thanks for all your thoughts.

Destiny said...

I'm currently in the middle of reinventing my parenting style, as what I used on my first seems to be ineffective with my second (I have four). I just finished reading Love and Logic, which focuses on being loving authority figures and sounds a bit like your gentle discipline. I was wondering if you've read it/heard about it, and if so, if you've implemented any of the techniques or just what your main thoughts were.

Mommy Bee said...

I have read Love & Logic. I think it has some good practical ideas, but I am bothered by the part where he talks about "basic german shepherd" as though kids need to be trained like dogs. Kids aren't dogs! Then he talks about "remedial german shepherd" for kids who don't have obedience down by whatever age...again, parenting shouldn't be remedial anything.

I think that L&L has some good practical suggestions for specific situations (like I said) but I think the underlying philosophy--the parent-child relationship--is deeply flawed. I am not my child's master. I am their leader, guide, mentor, teacher...

Paige said...

Thanks for the link love!

I'm not MDC anymore (LONG story, lol) but I agree with natalie. Sometimes message boards attract all the worst issues and stories and show a skewed view! I definitely thought this with breastfeeding I thought for sure I'd be in bleeding agony - I wasn't prepared to have an easy time.

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