Tag Archives: family values

Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part Two

Today, I wanted to look more closely into the concept of “Gentle Disciple“, “Simple Discipline“, “Loving Authority” or “Respectful Discipline“. I think this subject is often a sticky web of mixed concepts and expectations, including strands from our own childhood, inconsistent societal expectations, cultural overlays and personal expectations. Through this three-part series I will attempt to piece together what Gentle Discipline is, how it’s different from traditional punitive models of discipline, and most importantly how we can strive to consistently use it in our homes. A lot of my research on this subject is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, Kim John Payne, Magda Gerber, Janet Lansbury, Joseph Chilton Pearce, John Holt, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Alfie Kohn, to name a few.

How is Gentle Discipline different than the traditional Punitive Models of Discipline?

Alfie Kohn lists the way punishment fails in his article Punitive Damages:

  1. It makes people mad.  As a form of control punishment enrages and disempowers the receiver and even worse, the victims may eventually become victimizers.
  2. It teaches power.  Punishment provides the child with a model for expressing power over another.
  3. It eventually loses its effectiveness.   As children become more and more desensitized to punishments they become less and less effective.
  4. It erodes our relationships with our kids.  When we punish we become power enforcers instead of carers who lovingly connect and guide our children.
  5. It distracts kids from the important issues.  Punishment doesn’t lead to children reflecting on their wrongs- instead it turns their anger (and distracts from the original issue) towards the punisher.
  6. It makes kids more self-centered.   A child’s focuses on how h/’she is personally affected by the punishment (or potential punishment) instead of exploring why there is a boundary that needs to be met in the first place.

So now that we know that punishments and rewards are not helpful, what is the difference between a punishment and a boundary?

For me, Gentle Discipline infers remaining connected to your child while simultaneously setting and holding boundaries. As an ever-evolving parent with ever-evolving children the boundaries I set are also constantly evolving. But I am getting more and more clear about how to set them and how to hold them.

In Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, Barbara J Patterson writes about “being a calming force in the midst of chaos”. Meghan Leahy describes boundary setting as the parent being the beautiful garden wall (boundary) that is neither punitive nor judgemental- just loving, firm and unwavering. Carrie Dendtler describes holding boundaries as remaining “Ho Hum“. When we reflect on our own children it quickly becomes clear that they are more responsive to loving guidance when we empathize with them and resist the temptation to be punitive.

As a parent it’s important to remember that you can move and shift boundaries if you feel the need. They are not set in stone. Of course consistency is important, but often when we’re not holding a boundary it’s because we as the parent do not have clarity about why we are holding it in the first place. When you feel that there is a specific boundary that your child is constantly pushing and which you are not holding well, re-connect with your WHY. Ask yourself, Why am I holding this boundary in the first place? Why is it important? Simply answering this question clearly is enough to resolve the issue one way or the other.

Boundaries have a myriad of purposes- boundaries keep children physically and emotionally safe, healthy and happy. Boundaries inform older children about group dynamics and foster empathy for others.

The final part of this Gentle Discipline series will delve into how we can create and hold boundaries in our home depending on our children’s ages and developmental stages.

For me personally, not allowing anyone to snack before dinner is a very easy boundary to set and hold (even if it means a lot of emotional upset from hungry children), limiting screen use is another very easy boundary for me to set because I feel it is a strong family value for us. Boundaries I have trouble with are things like limiting my eldest’s bedtime (he just loves reading- “one more page”, he begs! “And reading is so good for him”, I think…). I also have trouble preventing little ones from toddling into our bed in the middle of the night (my need for a proper night’s sleep clashes with the empathy and attachment I feel my three-year-old needs at night sometimes, plus I know she will eventually grow out of it). For me, the boundaries I struggle to hold are clearly the boundaries I feel wishy-washy about myself. When the conviction is there, I hold them. When I do not feel clarity about why I am holding a boundary, I simply don’t hold it. And in these cases I need to re-assess why and if I want the boundary to be continued to be held.

Do you struggle with setting and holding some boundaries in your home? Which are easy for you to hold and which are more difficult?

Book Club : Simplicity Parenting Chapter One

Today I will be summarizing and discussing the first chapter of Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting. In a world where childhood seems to be flooded with too much, too fast and too soon Payne helps parents clear the way to a simpler, more connected and whole-hearted family life. After reading this book parents will feel empowered and ready to declutter spaces, establish stronger home rhythms, cut down on screen-time and most of all to slow down and prioritize meaningful moments with their children. Most remarkably, the book is truly applicable for all families regardless of their diverse faiths, backgrounds and values. It is completely free from dogma and instead, offers practical and adaptable advice to all.

Chapter One: Why Simplify?

Payne starts the book with the story of an eight-year-old named James whose parents were both working professionals and very involved in world issues and politics. James was not sleeping well at night and he had stomach pains seemingly unrelated to his diet. James was described by his parents as cautious and mature. Payne advised his parents to completely eliminate James’ exposure to adult talk and media. “They aimed to keep their discussions of politics, their jobs, and their concerns to a time after James went to bed.” p.4 Over a period of a few months, James improved dramatically- he was more adventurous, his appetite increased and he was markedly more social, creative and courageous. But, as Payne asks, “Was all of this directly attributable to the changes James’ family made?”. His answer is no, and yes. The changes absolutely helped, but what’s more his parents brought an awareness to their parenting that they hadn’t in the past.

Quite Simply: By simplifying we protect the environment for childhood’s slow, essential unfolding of self. p.6

Payne then goes on to describe his working background- in his early twenties he was involved in social work at refugee camps in Jakarta and Cambodia. Later on he worked in the UK in a number of private schools as a counselor seeing children diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, OCD and ODD. It finally dawned on him in the early 90s that the treatment plans he was developing for these Western children was the same as the ones he had developed for children suffering from PTSD in Refugee Camps.

Quite Simply: Our society- with its pressures of “too much”- is waging an undeclared war on childhood. p.8

Payne called this new psychological imbalance “cumulative stress reaction” or CSR. The level of stress described by CSR is different from regular everyday stressors in a child’s life in that it is consistent and frequent. Constant CSR affects a child’s resiliency. CSR is caused by “a daily life submerged in the same media-rich, multi-tasking, complex, information-overloaded, time-pressured waters…”p.10

Payne calls for a reexamination of at what is stake- childhood and consequently our children’s well-being. He asks not that we as parents make changes out of fear, but because we have a vision for our family: a dream “of the comfort of a family where each member could be their authentic self, well known and well loved.” p.16 He believes making simple changes will provide our children with greater ease and well-being.

Payne often begins his “Simplification Regime” by decluttering children’s (and sometimes adults’) spaces around the home. He has found that by simplifying the environment a space is created in a family’s “habit life and intentions”. p.23

He points out that a child’s natural quirks can be turned into disorders when cumulative stress is too much. For example, a child has the endearing quirk of collecting things- with stress this can lead to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). A child who has a quirky fiery nature when faced with too much stress can be labelled as ODD (oppositional defiance disorder).

Quite Simply: Stress can push children along the behavioural spectrum. When you simplify a child’s life on a number of levels, back they come.  p.26

Payne embarked on his own study to prove the effectiveness of his simplicity regimes. He and his researchers took 55 children diagnosed with attention difficulties and devised a simplification plan with an emphasis on simplifying environment (including diet), screen media and schedules. They found the “68% of the children whose parents and teachers adhered to the protocol went from clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional in four months and a 36.8% increase in academic and cognitive ability.” p.28 These children were treated with no drugs whatsoever. They repeated the study again with very similar results. Payne speaks of the research done in the field of neurology and affirms that the evidence of our brain’s plasticity offers hope to parents who are tired of messages of genetic and chemical pre-determinism.

Quite Simply: Our children come to us with a deep destiny that needs to be honoured. p.33

What we bring to our attention, presence and focus to is what becomes our reality. With simplification we are realigning our daily lives with our family’s vision and values.

Finally, Payne shows us where to start. He advises we begin with imagination: imagining a life and home that moves slower, is less cluttered, and where we have more time and space to be together and honour one another.

What did you insights did you gain from this chapter? Could you relate to stress as a trigger for behavioural problems? Have you noticed when your children are overstimulated or over-scheduled that their behaviour changes? How?

Mindful Parenting : Gentle Discipline Part One

Today, I wanted to look more closely into the concept of “Gentle Disciple“, “Simple Discipline“, “Loving Authority” or “Respectful Discipline“. I think this subject is often a sticky web of mixed concepts and expectations, including strands from our own childhood, inconsistent societal expectations, cultural overlays and personal expectations.Through this three-part series I will attempt to piece together what Gentle Discipline is, how it’s different from traditional punitive models of discipline, and most importantly how we can strive to consistently use it in our homes.  A lot of my research on this subject is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, Kim John Payne, Magda Gerber, Janet Lansbury, Joseph Chilton Pearce, John Holt, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Alfie Kohn, to name a few.


Part One- What is Gentle Discipline?

The word ‘discipline’ comes from the latin discipulus. Discere is from the latin ‘to learn’. Pullus  refers to a pupil or student. It is interesting to note that pupils (students) and pupils (the small black part of our eyes) come from the same latin root- pupa which means doll (think of puppets).

Self-knowledge can be obtained only by looking into the mind and virtue of the soul, which is the diviner part of a man, as we see our own image in another’s eye. And if we do not know ourselves, we cannot know what belongs to ourselves or belongs to others. – From Plato’s Alcibiades.

With this etymological background in mind, I believe that discipline does not infer just the guiding or teaching of an other, but begins with the Self.

Gentle Discipline begins with the parent

  • For me, mindful parenting means taking responsibility for and being fully present with our own feelings and actions and modelling this awareness to our children. This definition indicates a certain level of self-awareness and self-control over our moment-to-moment reactions
  • We as parents need to be inwardly clear with what we expect and why we expect it so that when we do create an expectation we have the resolve to follow through so that this expectation is met

Gentle Discipline moves beyond punishment and reward systems

  • Punishment and rage break the child’s will, the capacity to overcome obstacles and explore the unknown, which is learning itself. They will leave him or her with no self-confidence, no faith in themselves and they will fumble or retreat at every little difficulty of challenge“. – Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Studies have shown that punishment and reward systems are detrimental to a child’s healthy emotional and cognitive development
  • Instead, we as parents should aim to use appreciative and descriptive praise and learn to rely only on natural consequences

Gentle Discipline requires follow through

  • Language affects a child’s mind – focus on what you want to have happen instead of what you don’t want. Avoid negatives such as “Don’t hit your brother” and replace them with positive guidance such as “We use gentle hands” or for the older child, “Please be gentle”.
  • A useful parenting affirmation is: “My word is gold. I will walk my talk, I will follow through, I will consider before I speak” If we know we can’t follow through or realize we don’t care that much- don’t make idle threats!

Gentle Discipline is unique for each child

  • Recognizing that what works for one child will have no effect on another is important. We are all unique and come to this world with differing temperaments and personalities. Even when we’re in the same family our environment and the way we perceive it is completely individual.
  • As a family unit, yes there are some boundaries that need to be met by all of us. But within those boundaries there can be creative freedom and interpretation.

Gentle Discipline requires forgiveness, unconditional love for both your child and yourself

  • Holding grudges or resentments is never helpful or productive. Do not focus on past emotions and conflicts – instead focus on the current conflict or challenge that you are facing now.
  • Before bed, go through your  “bad day” in your mind. Review each moment, where you were triggered and ask yourself why. Reflect on this and then the hardest part- let it go!
  • “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher

If you find some time to do some inner work this week, it might be helpful for you to explore (and journal) what discipline means to you. When and how does it work in your home? When do you have trouble with it? And diving even deeper into self-inquiry: Why might that area be challenging for you?

We would all be honoured to hear your thoughts if you’d be courageous enough to share.

Book Club : Sanctuaries of Childhood Chapter Eight

Today I will be summarizing and discussing the final and eighth chapter of Shea Darian’s book, Sanctuaries of Childhood: Nurturing a Child’s Spiritual Life. The book is written for parents or caregivers who are looking for inspirational ideas on how to nurture spirituality (non-denominational and all-encompassing) within themselves and their children. I will share a chapter summary… read more