When people learn that we have ditched timeouts, one of the most frequent responses goes something like this: "Well, how do you expect them to listen to you?" or, "He's going to walk all over you, he's going to be out of control."
I am here to tell you that this is a frequent myth that is connected to gentle parenting. There is a heavily circulated myth that supports the idea that unless child are punished severely (spanking, timeouts, etc) that they will not learn the lesson. That, my friends, is a myth. Gentle parenting does not mean lax discipline. I repeat: gentle parenting does not mean lax discipline.
Sure, spanking and timeouts can be effective. Of course, they work. Who wouldn't want to comply in order to avoid being spanked? Spanking works, but that doesn't make it right. So, what can a parent do to discipline their child in a gentle yet effective way? (Fun fact: discipline means "to teach")
Effective alternatives to time outs and spanking
Instead of having a time "out" to calm down, try a time "in" where the child is not separated from the rest of the family. This is helpful because a child can calm down without feeling ostracized from the family.
Many, many tantrums have escalated due to misunderstandings. Tantrums get even more out of hand if I join in the chaos with yelling and craziness. If I lose my temper, then there is no way to solve the problem peacefully or easily. If I make it a point to to have a conversation and ask bluntly specific questions (Why did you take your brother's milk?), I usually can figure out why my child did X, Y, or Z behavior. Learning the why often leads to a good opportunity to have a conversation about the proper behaviors with our child. Of course, this doesn't always work and it definitely doesn't work so great with toddlers, but it's good to keep in your parenting toolbox.
This is a great option for younger children, especially toddlers. Remove the temptation from them and save yourself the sanity too!
Consequences that "fit"
I want to use disciplinary methods that my child can actually learn from. For example, if my son dumps his milk on the floor, I do not send him to time out. Instead, he must clean it up. I teach him to grab a cleaning rag, how to wipe it, and what to do with his rag afterwards. This consequence will actually teach him, rather then just punish him.
Hug it out
Nurturing touch, one of the principles of Attachment Parenting, plays a huge role in the peacefulness of a home. Sometimes, a child's behavior starts to spiral out of control when his/her love cup is running low. A simple hug can go a long way to improving a child's behavior.
What are some effective gentle discipline methods that you have used? Comment below!
Wife & Mama with a passion for peaceful parenting, natural living, homeschooling... and my daily café au lait.