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Carnival of Gentle Discipline

This is a guest post by Paige from Baby Dust Diaries who is trying to get the word out about an upcoming blog carnival she is hosting.
Only a third (33%) of parents think it's a realistic possibility to raise well-behaved children by relying solely on positive reinforcement and teaching by example. Far more - 63% - believe it's sometimes necessary to rely on punishment or threats, even if they don't quite believe this tactic works for the best. (Source: A Lot Easier Said Than Done, by Public Agenda, 2002.)

I find these numbers disturbing. Six out of every 10 people I know actually believe that punishments and threats are necessary for raising children. That certainly shifts my perspective of the spanking debate. When I frame a discussion around not spanking, which is my passion, I'm missing the larger problem - many parents don't know an alternative. The void left by not punishing is too expansive, in their mind, to fill and thus my arguments about why spanking is not in a child's best interest fall on deaf ears. As the study quoted above shows, people know that punishment is not "best" and yet it appears the only way to raise well-behaved children - the trait of a good parent.

There is a better way! A way that respects a child and works. This way is just waiting for parents to discover it and we can help by spreading the word!

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at  http://mudspice.wordpress.com/April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month (in the US) and April 30th is National Spank Out Day USA! In honor of this Baby Dust Diaries is hosting a week long Carnival of Gentle Discipline April 26-30 . We are looking for bloggers to submit original posts on topics related to gentle, positive, non-punitive parenting practices. Tell us why you choose gentle discipline, how you implement respectful parenting, or how you deal with difficult situations. Submissions are due April 19th.

Blog carnivals are lots of fun and a great way to meet like-minded bloggers but this can also serve a much greater good. The more people who read about how more effective alternatives to punishment exist the more we can change children's lives for the better.

Will you join me?

Head over to Baby Dust Diaries to learn more about the Carnival and get started with your submission.
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Reader Comments (24)

I have a 2 yr old and I find myself falling into this trap so often. My husband and I are both very much against spanking, and I don't even like the idea of "time outs" or "punishment" in general. I try to find natural, logical consequences for behavior and show him positive alternatives rather than focusing on the negatives.

But it's HARD! I had a very bad week recently where he was testing my limits so much, and I didn't know what to do. I could feel that voice of the "common wisdom" of our parenting culture saying, "he needs to be punished, he needs to feel bad in order to learn the lesson... otherwise I'm letting him 'get away with it'" which I don't agree with at all, but it's hard to shake this societal conditioning. It gets so deeply ingrained, and now I have to fight it off.

One of my personal struggles is that a lot of the gentle discipline strategies I hear of (and love) seem to be geared towards children older than my son. I almost feel like I'm in this weird in-between spot, where I need to be disciplining him and showing him right from wrong, but many techniques don't work well yet. So I suppose I'm looking for ideas on how to deal with "misbehaving" at this age...

April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

I'm not in favor of spanking or punishment. However, it is important to note that the gap between letting kids do whatever they want and abuse is very wide and very gray.

I'd say that parents can make their kids do things and manufacture consequences with or without making it a war. When the parents get upset, whatever they do is done for them. When they remain calm and focus on the best interest of the child, what they do can be a learning experience for the child and help them grow, even if it is temporarily uncomfortable.

I also find that parents don't know alternatives, but also that parents focus on behavior and discipline, so they don't go looking for the right alternatives anyway. Teaching them to respect their kids is by far the biggest attitude changer and simply redirects their parental creativity towards far more loving and mutually beneficial options.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Matters

"Only a third (33%) of parents think it’s a realistic possibility to raise well-behaved children by relying solely on positive reinforcement and teaching by example."

I don't think it's a realistic possibility. I know it is. My wife and I have done it twice (daughter now 24, son 14).

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob Collier

I'm a bit confused - are you deliberately conflating punishment and spanking? Or just failing to draw a distinction?

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe


I can't speak for Paige (who wrote this post). However, for me punishment is a broad concept which can take on many forms, including corporal punishment (i.e. spanking), confinement (e.g. jail or "go to your room") and penalties (e.g. paying a fine, having a privilege removed, etc.). Personally, I consider spanking to be abusive and would not consider it appropriate discipline under any circumstances. I consider other forms of punishment to be generally undesirable and frequently counter productive. I wrote more about my thoughts on punishment in these posts:

http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/10/20/my-discipline-spectrum/" rel="nofollow">My Discipline Spectrum
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/05/27/when-all-else-fails/" rel="nofollow">When All Else Fails
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/06/20/new-reason-why-punishment-doesnt-work-the-law/" rel="nofollow">New reason why punishment doesn't work: the law

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree completely, especially the part about parents focusing too much on behaviour/discipline. Seeing children as people, rather than as little beings that we need to control, makes the world of difference in our ability to approach them with respect and patience.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Ailbh- I concur with what Annie said. Punishment is any action that inflicts harm (physical or emotional) and is intended to stop a behavior deemed "bad" by those in power. I do see a difference between spanking (which I believe to be abuse) and other forms of punishment. My distinction is that gentle discipline provides methods that avoid all types of punishment. In that respect I lump all forms of punishment together as being equally undesirable and counterproductive.

I also wanted to point out that some of the issues brought up here. (punishment v spanking @ Ailbh and punishment v permissiveness @Family matters) will be discussed during the Carnival! I hope we can spark some great conversation about topics just like this!

Marcy - I agree strongly abot the societal conditioning thing. It is a daily task to ignore the voice in my mind telling me my daughter is intentionally "misbehaving."

My daughter is 14 months so I have a post planned during the week of the carnival on the topic of "discipline" and the young toddler/baby.

I agree as well. I almost didn't want to call the carnival "gentle discipline" because I think discipline is erroneously regarded as a control/punishment issue. I thought of just "gentle parenting" but I did want to focus on alternatives to traditional discipline. I think the root of the problem is the way we view children. If my daughter repeatedly throws food from her high chair and my view of children is that she is intentionally defying/manipulating me then my response will be entirely different than if my view is that a child's *job* is to test everything.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! I am adamantly against spanking and other forms of punishment that we see as "normal" in our society. I'm not sure how I'll handle it when Alexa acts out once she's older, but I'm reading Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting now and hoping that it provides me with some real alternatives to spanking and time outs.

I feel like talking goes a lot further than most people believe. While children may not be able to voice their feelings and beliefs as well as adults, it doesn't mean they don't understand them. I mean, my baby doesn't talk yet...but she sure as hell understands what I'm asking her to do. What makes me think that when she's 2...and able to speak...that she won't understand heaps more than she can express?

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

BTW thank you for giving me the push to finish the book! I will be participating in this carnival for sure :-)

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

So the conflation of the two was unintentional. That makes the whole thing make a lot more sense. Thanks.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

Isn't part of the issue the definition of "well-behaved"? For some people, that means "obedient," and there isn't an alternative definition they understand.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

I don't find a time-out to an unreasonable consequence for misbehaving. I agree it is over used which does make it a useless punishment. I rarely used it for my 3 year old now because I believe other methods are more effective. But when she was younger it was a consequence she understood which helped her in turn choose not to misbehave. Also children aren't little people. They have no ability for abstract reasoning and have trouble controlling their emotions. They do need to be treated differently. I'm not saying they should be ordered around. They should be treated with respect but they should not be treated as if they are a very short adult.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Maday

Everyone always comments on how "well-behaved" Claudia is. I have been using gentle parenting since day one. Between 6months and 1 year that meant a TON of re-direction, but by the time she was 1 she knew the concepts of toy, not a toy, and for work. (We thought her for work, so she wouldn't touch other people's computer's or phones. She knows that not all phones are "touchable"). She picked this stuff up like a sponge --she even corrects me sometimes!

She has learned that actions have consequences. I have let her roll of the sofa and get a bump after telling her that she could get hurt (we only do this for the "small" stuff) and she has learned to trust my judgment. I think trust is a big thing when it comes to parenting. We have never used the "Because I said so" --she wont learn consequences and reasons from that. My parents and the ILs think I am way too permissive (sometimes even DH). But a non-hungry almost 3y/o is not going to stay at a dinner table with adults talking without getting bored, so I don't expect her to.

It is funny, the people who think I am too permissive are the ones that think she is an angel. :

She is not an angel, I just know what to expect from her and I play to her strengths. Why punish a kid when she has a tantrum at the toy section of Target when you were the one that brought her tired and hungry? It boggles the mind (and DH has done this to C and then asked me why she had a tantrum with him and she never has one with me at the store)

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Jessica Maday: I find putting myself in "time out" (not words I use; I say "going to sit quietly until I feel calm" or, if very stressed, "until I can cope again") very effective.

Andy: My children are much better behaved when I don't have PMS and I'm not hungry. If I have PMS *and* I'm hungry, they are little demons. Luckily, chocolate solves that...

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

Funny - Just went from this post in my RSS reader to one from NPR: Spanking leads to more aggressive kids: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/04/spanking_can_cause_children_to.html?sc=fb&cc=fp

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

[...] the word out about the wonderful Carnival of Gentle Discipline. I just found out about by way of PhD Parenting who linked to the source at The Baby Dust [...]

So interested to hear about this! We have an almost 3 year old and are staunch supporters of Gentle Discipline. I hope to participate!

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

I'm looking forward to reading posts from the carnival, especially after I logged on to check my email this morning and read an article about the latest study that indicates spanking is an indicator of future aggression. I should know better by now than to read comments on Yahoo, but I was disgusted by the number of commenters who believe that spanking is a neccesary discipline tool. I'm not at all convinced that all spanking is bad, because, as a previous commenter said, there are so many shades of gray and it depends on the child, the parent, the infraction, the intent behind the spanking, the anger level. But having never spanked my children, who are remarkably well behaved, it floors me that so many people think ALL children who are never spanked are coddled, spoiled little dictators who will grow up to be spoiled, difficult adults.

I've also found that understanding development and age appropriate behavior keeps me calmer and saner when it comes to correcting my children and teaching them the right way to behave. So many people expect way too much of kids and want them to act like adults far before they have the maturity to do so.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I wanted to apologize. My blog was eaten by blogger this morning (perhaps because of a picture of me nursing, the verdict is still out) and I had to move to Wordpress. The link to the carnival page is: http://www.babydustdiaries.com/?p=537

Sorry for the inconvenience and I hope to see you all during the Carnival!

Spanking is hitting. It ruins the relationship between the parent and child. My son and I have a very good relationship. The other day I said something and ended it with "or i'll beat you senseless". my son giggled and stuck his tongue out at me because he knew I WOULD NEVER do that, that it was a joke. He trusts me. He doesn't worry that i'm going to wallop him if he messes up, that i'm going to threaten him. I value him as a human being and would never intentionally cause him pain... how could a parent do that?!

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaclyn

For those of you still following comment here the Carnival of Gentle Discipline is going on now! Great posts from some powerful voices in parenting! http://www.babydustdiaries.com/2010/04/what-is-gentle-discipline/

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