Gentle Parenting Success Stories and Suggestions #2
Today’s post is our first gentle parenting QUESTION (aka “suggestions”) post – please read to the end and give this mama some feedback on how you handle gentle discipline with more than one young child.
Today I am glad to present a guest post by Chrystal. Chrystal is a mother of two little girls, Zoë born 5/9/08 in the US and Kaylee born 2/14/10 in Uruguay. She is a professional freelance writer who believes in living every day like you’re on vacation. She has a BA in Public Relations and was a Marketing Communications Professional before becoming a mother and starting her own consulting business. You can find her at her blog: www.happy-mothering.com. Here is her gentle parenting success story:
The Subtle Art of Discipline
The post “A Chance to Choose Nurturing Instead of Punishment” really made me think. My husband and I do try to parent using nurture and love over punishment. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that is our ideal. The best example I can give of that is one area where we struggle the most . . . our daughter Zoë, like Kieran, LOVES water. If I give her a cuppie with water in it, I do need to watch her. She has figured out how to dump the water out of her so-called spill-proof cuppies.
But instead of screaming at her or trying to convince her that she is a bad person for dumping the water out of her cuppie to play with (don’t we all like to play?), we decided the best plan of action was to turn her into our “helper.” We conveyed early on that it is important for family members to help each other. So anytime one of us says, “Zoë, can you be our big helper and do XYZ?,” she almost always does so with enthusiasm. I shared in another post on my blog she even thanks us for the opportunity to throw away a dirty diaper. I don’t know about you, but I would never thank anyone for asking me to touch a dirty diaper.
Back to my point: when Zoë spills the water in her cuppie all over the place, all I have to do is illicit the “helper” in her and give her a towel. She does all of the cleaning!
Before I was a parent, if you had asked me, I would have wondered why so many parents struggle with the right way to discipline their child. Once I became a mother, however, that changed.
The Beatles said it best: “Love, love, love!”
I have really tried to see myself in Zoë’s eyes whilst shaping myself as a disciplinarian. How would I feel if someone three times my height and five times my weight was screaming at me, or even hitting me? Probably not so great.
So, I try to keep that image of a giant chasing me down, threatening me and physically hurting me in my mind at all times, although it’s not easy when she’s out of control and has just kicked her sister in the head or pushed her over, and she’s laying on the ground crying. Sometimes it’s clearly an accident—other times I’m not so sure.
Most days, we do pretty well, we try to reason with her and explain to her why what she is doing isn’t a good idea. Other days, we aren’t so successful in following our ideal path of parenting and she ends up in time out for a few minutes. But when we send her to time out, it’s not to shame her into submitting like some parenting techniques preach; it’s to separate her from the action that is causing the problem.
Three’s Company, Four’s a Setback
When it was just Brian, Zoë and I, discipline was not an issue. If she did something “wrong,” we would get down at her level and explain the issue to her. Maybe she didn’t always understand, but we knew someday she’d understand. And we have always preferred understanding to fear.
Things changed the day we brought Kaylee home from the hospital. Our patience quickly turned to fear of the baby getting hurt, and we realized our “explaining” form of discipline wouldn’t work as fast as necessary for some actions.
As expected, Zoë is a very excited and active toddler. Unfortunately, sometimes that means she’s so excited that Kaylee gets kicked, hit, head butted or knocked over. We’ve tried explaining why she needs to be calmer around the baby, but Zoë’s a toddler and the message just doesn’t resonate like it we would like it to, and that is understandable.
So, we’ve discovered that on some occasions where she isn’t listening, we DO have to separate her from the situation. In our house, that means a couple minutes in time out. It was a very difficult decision for us because it isn’t what we’d like to do, but we feel it’s necessary to protect her little sister and put an immediate consequence in her head. Zoë is a very social little creature, and being put in a separate room is probably the harshest punishment she could ever imagine. Thank goodness it IS the harshest punishment she’ll ever have to imagine at our hands.
So, while we would love to provide discipline with love at all times like we had imagined, sometimes when the second child is born and you’re first is still practically a baby herself (Zoë was only 21 months when Kaylee was born), some of your dreams are shattered by reality and you do what works best for your family. This is why we try our best not to judge other families’ parenting styles, you never know what someone’s life is like until you walk in their shoes.
My question for other parents of children that are close in age is, what gentle disciple methods have you found work best for you?
How do you avoid time-outs while respecting the needs of both children?
There are two resources that have been the most helpful to me in my own gentle parenting journey. First, reading about others’ experiences: real-life examples of challenges met with respect and compassion can be both educational and inspirational. Second, when I face a challenge of my own, I have always been able to turn to my local AP group for a fresh perspective and creative ideas.
I’d like to provide a resource like that here at Code Name: Mama, so I’ve introduced a series that will feature your stories and questions. In particular, I’d love to feature stories that build on consensual living principles or the techniques and ideas discussed in books like Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids; Playful Parenting; Unconditional Parenting; and Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.
I am not looking for stories about parenting techniques such as time-outs, negative consequences, coercion, or punishment.
If you have a gentle parenting success story or a question on how to gently handle a challenging situation with your toddler or preschooler, please read the contributor guidelines and contact me. Let’s not go through this journey alone!
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"Gentle Parenting Success Stories and Suggestions #2"
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