Baby Dust Diaries

A Life Less Ordinary

Tag: gentle parenting

Are Parents a Friend or Foe?

1010206_802204776492736_3804007470436320531_nThe meme was making its way around Facebook yesterday to a chorus of “hell yes” and tagging teen offspring so they know you’ll “hunt them down.”

I’d like you to try a thought experiment with me (suggested by my friend Ginger). Replace parent with another relationship in your life like your husband/partner.

I am your husband.
I will stalk you
Flip out on you
Drive you insane
Be your worst nightmare
Hunt you down when needed
Because I love you.

Does that sound like a healthy relationship? When someone says they love you is it ok for them to treat you like this meme suggests? Of course not! We recognize if your “love” holds such control and conditions that it is not in fact love at all.

For children we throw all the normal rules of healthy relationships out the window. This is a particular crime because kids learn how relationships work from watching their primary caregivers and the way the treat others.

As parents we model relationships for our kids. Everything they take into adulthood about how relationships should be come from their earliest formative experiences with the adults in their lives. Do you want this to be the message your kids hear?

This meme isn’t about loving your kids. It is about controlling them, wielding power over them and teaching them that life is a hierarchy and they need to submit to those above them and force submission from those below them. This meme is about a non-consensual relationship where the object of “love” has no say in their treatment. It is one sided.

There is another way. And guess what? It works better. Lectures? Anyone who has a preschooler knows lectures work about as well as spanking. Which is to say it may cease the behavior but it never lasts and carries the scars of knowing mom only loves you if you “behave”.

Luckily Joni over at Tales of a Kitchen Witch created a much better version of this meme.

11026039_921735471180943_1973685582210676202_nNow replace this one with “partner” or “spouse”. Does that sound like a relationship you want your daughter to have one day with her significant other?

Instead of stalking, lecturing, and being a nightmare how about we listen, guide, and be a cheerleader.

That is the definition of love I want my kids to see when they think on our relationship. I want them to know from this example that ANYONE who treats them like an object by lecturing, stalking, and hunting them is a predator and they should not have a relationship with that person because they deserve unconditional love and always a consensual relationship.

How to Not Potty Train in 3 Easy Phases


I’m deep in walk training right now.  Yesterday my kid got 3 stickers for walking across the kitchen but today he’s been crawling all day!  I keep admonishing him that we don’t crawl anymore and I make him get up and walk for 10 minutes every hour.  This is exhausting!  I can’t wait till he’s walk trained!

Sounds funny, huh?  We don’t walk train or talk train our kids so why do we potty train?  Kids learn to walk and talk because we walk and talk and they become ready to imitate us.  Why isn’t the same true for learning to potty?

Now, I acknowledge that outside influences might force you to “train” your child to use the potty (daycare).  If you do need to potty train check out Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Potty Training Solution.  But, let’s admit that any potty training we do is for our (or another adult’s) convenience.  Using bribes or threats to get your kid to use the toilet benefits YOU in that you don’t have to buy diapers (or wash diapers) or spend time changing them.  I don’t believe there is any benefit to the child of potty training.  

Bodily Autonomy

In fact, I think there is great benefit in letting them lead the way.  Why?  To teach bodily autonomy.  Bodily autonomy means knowing that you are in charge of your own body.  The concept of bodily autonomy is so important to raising kids that respect their bodies and do not allow others to abuse it.  There are several ways to teach bodily autonomy but I think the biggest way is to LET THEM HAVE BODILY AUTONOMY.  That means they are in charge of what they wear, eat, and do with their bodies within safety guidelines.

What does this look like?  Well, my kids are naked a lot because what they wear in the house is not worth my trying to control.  Of course they have to be dressed to go outside but they can wear what they want.  My kids are not perfect little cuties in perfect little clothes (well, to me they are.)  It means I don’t force my daughter to have pigtails if she says no (although I do insist on a daily brushing).  It means they have access to food when they want and aren’t forced to eat something when I want them to.  It means I make bedtime enjoyable but they can go to sleep when they’re ready.  And it means that I am willing to change diapers until they don’t want me to anymore.

By 12 months old people (cough, Mom) started asking me about potty training.  Because Aellyn was “smart” she was clearly “ready”.  What they meant by that is she clearly had the communication skills and understanding for me to use behavioral conditioning to make her use the potty.  Behavioral conditioning (also called Operant conditioning – think Pavlov’s dog) is training someone to do something based on a consequence.  For example, use the potty and get a sticker or have an “accident” and get punished.  At this point, parents begin putting baby on the toilet often, asking if they have to go often, and giving rewards if they use the potty.

Since I had decided to not train we tried hard to ignore the naysayers.  This is hard!  I was often worried that she WOULD be the 18 year old in diapers!  But, I calmed down, trusted my instincts, and waited for Aellyn to be ready.  Here’s how it went.

Phase 1: Observation

Aellyn sees mommy and daddy use the potty often.  Some people are very private but I don’t think that serves well with kids.  My kids see me naked, see me shower and get dressed.  It isn’t like “now I”m going to show you how to sit on the potty” but just casual observation of how people do things normally.  Like walking and talking, kids want to do it because you are.

By 2.5 years old she was often saying “When I grow up I’ll go on the potty like mommy and daddy.”  She would also tell me BEFORE she went poop.  So, I’d ask calmly if she’d like to go on the potty.  She’d say “no” and go off to poo in her diaper and then come to me to change it.  She clearly had knowledge and control of her urges (the pressure to “train her, train her!” became stronger) but she said no and I respected that.

Phase 2: Responsibility (and Waiting)

I don’t know if this contributed to her finally going on the potty but I”ll put it in here in case you want to try it.  By 3 she could dress herself so we bought pull ups and she became responsible for changing her own pee diapers.  She was excited about this and I wouldn’t have done it if she had shown resistance.  She took off her own wet diaper, threw it away, got a new diaper and put it on.  When she had poops she came to me to change her.  During this time, since she’s often naked, she would run around “accident free” naked and then go get a diaper when she wanted to pee.  I would again ask her if she wanted to use the potty and she said no.  (I can literally hear my Mom saying “OMG TRAIN HER!”)

Phase 3: Click!

One day, when Aellyn was 39 months (3 yr. 3 mo.) her friend Caelan was visiting and she went potty on the toilet.  Aellyn watched.  After Caelan left Aellyn wanted to pee on the potty.  She did.  A few hours later she pooped on the potty.  I put a diaper on her that night and the next morning let her put on panties.  That was it.  She never wore another diaper.  Day or night.  She’s had 3 accidents.  She pooped once in her underpants and cried!  That was after we moved to the new house so I think she was holding it.  And twice she’s woken up wet; and really just a little wet and then she goes potty.  Better yet, she doesn’t need me at all.  She goes potty on her own and I never ask her if she needs to go.  She wipes herself and I decided not to intervene or “check” and a few times she had an itchy butt and we talked about wiping good and once she had an ouchy vagina and we talked about front to back and getting dry.  I’ve just been completely hands off about it.

Honestly, I’m not exaggerating!  It was in her time so when she was ready there was no training, or transition, or anything.  It was like walking – one day she did it and then she always did it.

I’m so glad we trusted her timing.  I had promised myself not to get worried until 4.5 years old (and I had to remind myself again and again).  Clearly, seeing a peer use the potty was her catalyst but I’m sure something would have eventually played that role if not Caelan (Thanks Caelan!).

(note: this post refers to traditional diapered kids and potty training.  I don’t consider Elimination Communication to be the same as potty training.  To learn more about EC check out these great posts.)

Gentle Discipline Warrior

… But here were educated, loving parents who were making a decided choice to hit their children as part of an overall parenting strategy that wasn’t neglectful or abusive

Continue reading

Carnival of Gentle Discipline Wrap Up

What a wonderful Carnival! Thanks to all the bloggers who wrote so eloquently from their hearts and a huge thanks to all our readers and commenters.

Next Steps

If the posts this week resounded with you and you are or you want to strive to be a gentle parent there are several things you can do:

Show the world that you are a Gentle Parent!

If you have a blog or website or you post on message boards you can add the Gentle Parent Badge to your site/signature.  Please keep the link back to the Carnival so anyone who sees your badge can read the wonderful bloggers from this week.

Copy and Paste this code into your blog (an HTML widget usually works):

<a title="Carnival of Gentle Discipline" href=""><img src="" alt="Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at" width="120" height="120" /></a><br />

If you are on a message board that does not allow html you can copy this code into your signature:
There are two other pledges that you can take that are beautiful.  Edenwild has a Pledge of Gentle Love that says “I don’t believe in tough love.”

I also like Holistic Mom’s Declaration – Mindful Mama: Authentic Self.  This declaration is beautiful because it focuses both on being gentle to children and to yourself.

Parenthood is a gift.
I have many passions.
My child is my heart.
I am a multifaceted being.
My child’s needs come before my own.
Not ‘in place of’ my own.
Nothing is a sacrifice.
I choose to do from love.
I am there when my child needs me.
I take space for myself.

Keep Learning

In asking for submissions from writers for the Carnival I also asked them to nominate some of their previously published posts for a Creme de la Creme list of the Best of the Blogosphere on Gentle Discipline.  Enjoy these wonderful articles to help you enhance your repertoire of parenting techniques.

Carnival of Gentle Discipline crème de la crème post 2010

A Chance to Choose Nurturing Instead of Punishment
Arbitrary discipline
Children As Dogs
Chrsitian Child Discipline:  Is Spanking Biblical? No!
Focusing on Children’s Needs
Gently Responding to a Baby’s Bite
I Found The Instruction Manual for Raising Children
Improv and Saying Yes
Intentional Parenting with Grace
Is Spanking Necessary? My Answer from Experience is a Definitive NO
Letter on Christians and Spanking
My Kid is in So Much Trouble!
Respond With Sensitivity – Why Yelling Is Wrong And How You Can Avoid It
Riders on the (Tantrum) Storm
Spanking as just kinda creepy
Staying Patient
Swatting students
Teaching Patience
Tearing a Child Down Will Not Build Him Up
The Tyrannical Toddler: Beyond Power Struggles to Choice, Reason and Negotiation


Last but not least @Birthgoddess of Wild Mother Arts was so kind to donate a $25 gift card to the blogger with the post voted best for the Carnival and we want you to vote!  I know there are 17 amazing posts and it is hard to pick just one, but if you could take a minute and vote for your favorite over on the right that would be great! Wild Mother Arts is beautiful fertility, birth, and nursing jewelry made by a doula, breastfeeding counselor, and mother of 3.  Visit her on Facebook or Twitter.

Final words:  I’m so proud of how this Carnival turned out.  Carnivals are fun and generate great conversation but if even one person learned a new technique to help them treat their child with a gentle heart then it was worth every second of labor.  I said on day one that I think gentle discipline changes more than just a parent and a single child.  It really has the power to change the world. So, I leave you dear reader with these words of wisdom that are over 2,000 years old.

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

— Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All

Did you know that there is an online “Terrible Two’s” calculator?

You have 652 days – 4 hours – 41 minutes – and 9 seconds until your child is out of the terrible twos phase.

I find it so disturbing that we talk about children in this way.  I’m sure most parents don’t mean it with any malice but words are more powerful than we sometimes give them credit for.  If we talk about something as “terrible” and we are counting down the days until it is over how can we honestly be present in the moment?  I don’t think toddlerhood is something to be endured or to learn to cope with but something to enjoy.

That isn’t to say it isn’t a challenge.  But, remember that egocentric trap?  If we step back from that and imagine toddlerhood from your toddler’s perspective:

I’m a toddler and,

  1. I have trouble explaining myself because I don’t have a good grasp on language
  2. I *want* (really bad) to do everything myself but I’m not always capable
  3. I don’t have much experience with my emotions
  4. I have a hard time caring about other peoples’ feelings because I’m just grasping my own
  5. I’m learning that I’m separate from you and I have my own opinions (mostly? NO!)
  6. I’m learning that I get pleasure out of things (like a toy) or activities (like the park) and I have a really hard time letting go (sharing) or saying goodbye
  7. It seems like everyone over 4 ft. tall gets to make all the decisions!  It isn’t fair!

Can you imagine how some of these things would make you feel?  I think this is an area where parents need a change of perspective.  Imagine each of those toddlerisms with a positive spin,

  1. Every day my child is learning new words and how to express themselves
  2. My child has amazing perseverance and is learning how to do very complex tasks every week
  3. Every day my child is learning how to identify and express their emotions
  4. I know every time I name my child’s emotions or my own they are learning about empathy
  5. When my child says no it isn’t about me but evidence that he’s processing his thoughts and opinions and communicating them
  6. My child is learning about his preferences and how to care for his things
  7. By letting my child make some decisions he can learn high order thinking (and when I make the decisions I can explain why so he can see)

See?  It is just perspective!  Our writers today have some great tips and tricks to share as well.

The Terrible Two (and Two Parenting Strategies to Replace Them)

Dionna at Code Name: Mama (guest post on Good Goog) defines the terrible two’s for us,

Terrible Twos
Function: noun
1. An annoying alliteration used to describe the emotional breakdowns that occur (in both toddlers and parents) when parents spend more time attempting to control behavior and engage forced cooperation than they do in nurturing their toddlers’ natural growth, independence, and curiosity;
2. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

She tells us that the real terrible two is spanking and yelling which are counterproductive, depriving your child of valuable expression.

Allowing your toddler to fully express his feelings has both short and long-term benefits. In the short-term, he will recover more quickly from emotional and physical hurts if he feels that he has been heard and acknowledged. In the long-term, allowing your toddler to experience his full range of emotions will help him “become emotionally resilient and capable of facing and resolving difficulties. [Children] must experience living with emotional storms if [they are] to master them[1. Aldort, Naomi, “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves”].”

She has a great technique that will be a salve on your frazzled nerves (teehee, play on words  – trust me go check it out)

Gentle Parenting Ideas from a Toddler’s Perspective

On her own blog, Dionna also has a moving letter in the voice of her toddler.  This reminds me of Rambling Rachel’s article about Cry-it-out – if our kids could tell us what they think our parenting might be vastly different.  Dionna’s toddler gives us pointers on six common “issues” for parents.  One example, is his advice about dinnertime,

Sometimes I get overwhelmed sitting in my booster seat when all I want to do is run around and celebrate the fact that papa is home from work. And sometimes I’m just not that hungry – I am learning about my body’s hunger cues, so it’s probably best not to force me to eat. It’s nice when I have the option of eating at other times, and grazing is a great way to keep me on an even keel all day.

There’s a tear jerker in there too (for me at least) so take a hanky and go hear the little guy’s perspective.

A Positive View on Tantrums

Lisa at Edenwild tackles the big fear with toddlers …Tantrums.  She points out that although tantrums are normally seen in a negative light they are actually good.

I see [tantrums] as a good thing. My child is expressing himself, and I have an opportunity to listen. My child is upset, and I have an opportunity to let him know that I am there for him. I can show him that I will always be there for him, regardless of his mood, or how he behaves, or even if he is angry with me. I know he is not being naughty. On the contrary, he is doing something he very much needs to do–he is releasing his emotions. In a society where men are suspected of dying younger than women because they are better at bottling up their emotions, I see a healthy emotional release as a very good thing. And, when he has gotten it all out, he feels better than he did before the tantrum occurred. Isn’t that a good thing?

I think viewing tantrums as an opportunity to be seized rather than a problem to be endured is a great idea!

Gentle Parenting During Toddler Tantrums

Krista at Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense continues on the same vein with parenting during tantrums.  She points out that we treat our babies with respect by

spend[ing] countless hours responding to their cries and talking them through their cries “It’s okay baby, your diaper is wet but mommy is going to change it” or “Aww you’re a hungry baby! It’s time to nurse you again”.  Gradually our babies start to tell us or show us what they need and the crying becomes less.

And yet when they are toddlers we suddenly expect them to understand without explanation.  What if instead we remembered that they do need help.

We can give them the words they are lacking. Just like we did when they were infants “I know it’s frustrating for you when the toys don’t work like you want. Would you like some help?

Krista has several great examples for working with your child through a tantrum or avoiding them altogether.

I have often heard that parents are most likely to spank children under 5 because by 5 years old the child is better able to understand and control themselves and thus listen and obey.  How awful is it that we are spanking a child because they are developmentally unable to understand and control their emotions.  Aren’t these the children that most deserve our patience and understanding?  I hope today’s posts gave you some great ideas for embracing toddlerhood – tantrums and all!

Tomorrow is the last day of our carnival and we have some special surprises and the poll will be opening for you to vote on your favorite post this week!  One of our wonderful writers that have shared so much with us to promote gentle discipline will win a $25 gift certificate at Wild Mother Arts.  Wild Mother Arts is beautiful fertility, birth, and nursing jewelry made by a doula, breastfeeding counselor, and mother of 3.  Visit her on Facebook or Twitter.

So, please stop back tomorrow to celebrate a wonderful week of gentle parenting!

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA.  In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent?  Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All

Creating a “Yes” Environment

A no-no environment or a YES environment?

This week we’ve talked about what what gentle discipline is, how to choose joy in parenting, and reasons not to spank.  Today we are talking about creating a “yes” environment.

Before I had kids I thought child-proofing your house was such a stupid idea.  I mean kids die every year from drowning in the toilet[1.]!  I always thought outlet covers were just an excuse to be a lazy parent.  Now, I feel quite different and I think today’s writers explain why.

Parenting a Toddler with Loving Guidance

Sheryl at Little Snowflakes explains the benefit of “baby-proofing”

At a year he was too young to understand the repercussions of his actions.  So quickly we babyproofed our house and installed gates, locked cabinets and toilets, and removed all clutter.  What a difference it made!  I no longer had to follow him closely telling him no all the time.  He was free to explore our house and I could relax.

This goes back to Tuesday’s posts about choosing joy.  Sheryl could follow her son around so that “he learns” but what would the mood and the environment be like?  I couldn’t find a reference[2. GASP!  For shame.] but I read somewhere that parents of toddlers say “no” on average nine times every 15 minutes.  That seems like it would create a very tense environment and tip the balance toward frustration for the parent.

Sheryl lists several examples and some great books for further reading.

A Tiny Word with a Powerful Impact

Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog let’s us in on a wonderful parenting secret word:

It’s one that stops tantrums in their tracks, brings you closer together and makes yours and their lives a whole lot nicer.  It’s free, available to anyone and you don’t need any training. You can teach others to do it, in fact you’re already a master at it, but perhaps you’ve forgotten …It’s fun, uplifting and you’ll feel like the best parent in the world!

That word is ‘yes’.

By saying yes even when you are busy/irritable/late/overwhelmed, helps your child and you.

I guarantee it will turn your mood around in an instant and it will stop any escalating feelings of anger or sadness on your child’s part and irritability or stress on yours.

Mrs. Green has some great examples!  Go check them out!

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA.  In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent?  Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All

50’s Childhood

This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.

This is a guest post written by Connie.  If you are a reader of my blog you’ll see her post comments as Mom – that’s because…she’s my mom! 🙂  I found her submission for the carnival (her first since she isn’t a blogger) to be very moving.  Enjoy.

When I was around 3 years old I was smacked on the cheek (slapped across the face seems a little harsh) by my father because I wasn’t doing what he was telling me to do. I was holding a large bowl of popcorn with buttery hands and it felt like it was slipping when my dad told me to give it to my bigger sister. My sister put her hands on the bowl, but I was not letting go after being told 2 or 3 times to do so……….and my Dad wanted to teach obedience.  Well  I let go of the bowl and climbed up on my mothers lap to cry, I think I felt humiliated…..I remember being able to tell that my dad felt bad about doing it but felt that the lesson learned was important.

Now I love my Dad dearly – he has always been my hero – the most honorable and dearest man I have ever known.  I was never spanked or hit ever again…and all my memories of my parents are of gentle teaching, love and respect.  So I tell you this memory because of another event that has made me think differently about the whole incident ever since.

When I was 56 years old my husband and I were in a Cardiac Rehab Stress Management Therapy session with a wonderful Psychologist at a community hospital.  The therapist had us close our eyes and imagine ourselves alone and standing in a spot light on a stage. Then we were to turn into the child we once were – as young as we could remember – and tell our parents what we most wanted to say.   To my astonishment I was transported back in time to the scene with my parents and sister having popcorn in the basement celebrating the new play area mom had painted for us. I hadn’t thought of that for years and suddenly I was crying and telling my Dad that I was sorry I didn’t listen to him,  that I thought the bowl would fall to the floor and break if I let go, that I loved him and forgave him for hitting me……………………It was very powerful.   It bothers me that I didn’t remember the time we all went sled riding on the biggest hill ever and climbed on our bellies on the sled – dad on the bottom, mom on top of him, my sister on top of mom and me on top of my sister and went heads first down that hill laughing all the way, falling off in the snow at the bottom and climbing the big hill to do it again. Why didn’t that come to mind or the many other great times we had together?

I do believe that we need to teach our children, but I ask you…. What will your child remember?

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA.  In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent?  Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)

False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy

Welcome to day 2 of the Carnival of Gentle Discipline.  I hope you got a chance to read the wonderful articles yesterday about the basics of Gentle Discipline.  Today we are going to look at one of the pitfalls that can trip parents up and how to make a different choice that will change your outlook!

Expectation and Intentions

Two ways that parents can fall into a negative pattern with their kids is through false expectations and intentions.  Having unrealistic expectations, for example expecting your toddler to sit quietly during dinner for an hour, sets parents up for frustration – thereby undermining gentle intentions.  Imagining malicious intention can be even worse.  Imagine your 11 month old throwing food off of their tray.  If you imagine she is doing it intentionally to annoy you your reaction will be very different than if you imagine she is having a great time learning about her power over objects.

David Elkind, in his book The Power of Play, calls this the egocentric trap.  He says, “This trap, which all parents slip into on occasion, is looking at situations entirely from our own perspective and failing to take the child’s point of view.”  In order to take your child’s point of view into account it is important to understand, from a developmental, perspective what your child is actually capable of.  Can an 18 month old sit quietly for an hour?  It is also important to relate to your child with empathy.  It is ok if these ideas don’t come naturally – practice makes perfect.  I recommend Elkind’s book and Baby Hearts by Susan Goodwyn.  Both books will help you change your expectations, assign reasonable intentions, and enjoy parenting.

Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally
Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child a…
by Susan Goodwyn Ph.D.
The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Natu…
by David Elkind

Assuming the Best Intentions

Lauren at Hobo Mama looks at the intentions we assign to children’s’ actions (and even adult’s actions) and how they usually says more about us than about them.

There’s a tendency to see misbehavior in any behavior that inconveniences us as adults…We’re not immune from taking this attitude even into our adult relationships. Ever had a partner or roommate leave the toilet paper roll empty? Was your first reaction righteous indignation and an assumption that it was done on purpose to spite you?

By taking a moment to step back (and out of Elkind’s egocentric trap) we can honor the impulse behind the behavior,

Is he running away? He’s connecting with me through play and seeking attention. He’s also showing his trust that we won’t truly lose him.  Is he making a mess? Children are messy creatures. They need to be free to experiment with objects and materials if they want to learn.  Is he being loud? He’s finding his own voice and honing his musical skills.

Lauren provides several great examples and resources for learning how to better assign intentions to our children.

Choosing Joy

Arwyn at Raising My Boychick provides us a great tool for checking if our expectations are reasonable,

Helping him meet our expectations means making sure that they’re reasonable, that there aren’t any impediments, and that he has the tools and guidance that he needs. Reasonable expectations take into account the world he lives in, and his abilities — both his limitations and his strengths (for children are often far more capable than we think). When he’s tantruming on the floor over his popped balloon, we consider that possibly he’s in HALT TOT (HALT TOT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Thirsty, Overstimulated, or in need of a Toilet), and seek to rectify that and address the underlying problem.

She also reminds us that checking our expectations has a positive effect for us as parents – it feels good!

[G]iven the choice, I would rather feel good. I would rather look at my child and smile because he’s being rambunctious and learning about his body than tense up and get ready to yell because he’s being wild and tearing through the place. I would rather take the time to find creative solutions that leave us all satisfied than waste hours feeling angry and resentful and listening to him cry and be grumpy. I would rather practice finding joy in chaos than create frustration trying to control that which is not controllable.

Her post reminds us that every day is a choice.  Why not choose joy?

Making it Fun – The Power of Play

Shana at Schmoopy Baby has definitely got choosing joy down pat!  She gives us some great examples of parenting through bringing out your inner goofball. Being silly can go a long way with kids, as she shows in this example,

Is it important to you to have dinner together as a family at night, but sometimes your little schmoo is more interested in tossing around his books in the living room at dinner time? Try bringing out a few pieces of a yummy dinner-friendly snack (grapes are my little one’s temptation) and pretend you’re a train taking the grapes to the kitchen table. Be sure to include lots of fun sound effects and dance around a bit as you make your way.

Could I pick him up off the floor and storm into the kitchen while yelling, “I said it’s dinner time. That means you come when I call you. I’m your mother and you better learn to respect me and do what I say!”? Well yes, I suppose I could. I could put up with a lot more crying and screaming and anger and frustration. But why would I choose screams when I can get giggles? And how would that contribute to the positive family vibe I am trying to create by having dinner together in the first place?

Giggles or screams?  I choose giggles.  Go read her post for some great examples of playful parenting (including some silly songs!).

I hope you enjoy today’s posts.  Join us tomorrow when we’ll talk about Choosing Not to Spank.

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA.  In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent?  Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All

Welcome to the Carnival! What is Gentle Discipline?

I’m so excited and honored to be hosting this carnival.  Promoting gentle parenting is so important to me not just because it can have a huge impact on children and parents, which it can, but because I honestly believe it can change the world.  This whole week I’m going to be featuring some amazing voices in parenting talking about different aspects of gentle parenting.

What is Gentle Discipline?

Gentle discipline is often seen as a short-cut for “not spanking” and while that is certainly part of what it means it has so much more to offer.  Let’s look at some of the definitions of Gentle Discipline:

dis·ci·pline [dis-uh-plin] noun, verb,-plined, -plin·ing

If you read the various definitions at you’ll find references to punishment, training, rules, behavior, and other terms that, frankly, give me the willies!  I would rather look at the origin of the word –  Discipline comes from the Latin, disciplina meaning instruction and related to discipulus (“pupil”) from discere (“to learn”).  I like Wikipedia’s take that “In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a discipleTo discipline thus means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct.”  At this level I agree with discipline as my job as a parent.  I hope to guide and help Aellyn discern (“to learn”) about the world.

Wikipedia goes on to say “Usually, the phrase ‘to discipline’ carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order – that is, ensuring instructions are carried out – is often regulated through punishment.”  This is a connotation that has been added to the word over years because of its conflation with punishment.  So what is punishment?

pun·ish [puhn-ish]

–verb (used with object) subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault: to punish a criminal. inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.): to punish theft.

Reading this does not inspire me to incorporate punishment into my parenting repertoire.  But, to be fair, maybe this word has also been twisted over the years from its original meaning?  According to Wikipedia, “The word is the abstract substantivation of the verb to punish, which is recorded in English since 1340, deriving from Old French puniss-, an extended form of the stem of punir “to punish,” from Latin punire “inflict a penalty on, cause pain for some offense,” earlier poenire, from poena “penalty, punishment of great loss”. Latin punire possibly was inspired by the Phoenician method of execution by means of crucifixion. Therefore the Carthagian crosses were called signae poenae “signs of the Phoenicians”.

It is hard for me to get off the word “pain” in there but you know what the more significant term is?  Inflict[1. definition of inflict: to impose as something that must be borne or suffered: to inflict punishment.  to impose (anything unwelcome)].  I don’t think that inflicting is something you do to someone you love.  When I get home late from work without calling and my husband is upset at me I don’t want him to inflict anything on me.  I want him to share with me how he feels and work with me to come up with a mutual solution.

Doesn’t my child deserve the same respect and empathy that I want for myself?  This is the heart of Gentle Discipline.  To guide with empathy and respect.

Gentle Discipline 101

Michelle at The Parent Vortex talks about Gentle Discipline in this way,

[G]entle discipline focuses on helping children work through difficult emotions and frustration in a supportive and empathetic environment and using discipline as a method of teaching children instead of simply punishing them for misbehaviour and rewarding them for good behaviour. Gentle discipline does not primarily aim to control children through external motivators such as rewards, praise or punishment, but rather aims to teach children how to control their own behaviour based on their own judgement and motivation.

Michelle also offers a variety of wonderful resources for learning more about gentle discipline.  But watch out!  You might find, as she did, that learning about gentle discipline can change the way you think about everything.

Golden Rule Discipline

Alison at Novel Mama builds on the concept of treating children with love and respect as you would also want to be treated by looking at Jesus’ call to follow what we call the Golden Rule.  She points out,

We would never dream of telling an adult to go sit in time-out and think about what they’ve done, nor would we consider one adult slapping the other as an acceptable way of teaching anything. (And implying that God condoned that slap would be considered by most to be spiritual abuse.) Yet we have no problem banishing children to a corner or a room to sit, alone, rather than getting to the root of their behavior, and many people see no problem with deliberately causing a child physical pain to “get a point across.”

She also asks what effect this has on a relationship,

Do you trust people who deliberately hurt or belittle you? If your husband or wife slapped you or shamed you or sent you off alone every time you exhibited poor behavior, what would your relationship look like?…At the heart of the Golden Rule is the concept of grace. We want it extended to us–why should it not be extended to children as well?

Her article is very well written and speaks to parents regardless of their religious affiliation.

The Power of Praise

Marcy at Mighty Marce talks about the power of praise and reminds us it might not be what you think.

Children instinctively want to please adults, and giving lots of very enthusiastic praise can cause them to start doing things in order to please and get that praise, rather than because they truly want to do them (to use creativity in art as an example, they may start making the kinds of drawings that tend to get them lots of praise, rather than what they may want to draw for their own enjoyment).

In this way, praise, can become another tool of control that we inflict on a child to gain something we want.  Marcy offers some pointers from her experience with the Montessori method and some additional resources for learning more about the power of praise.

Today’s feature posts are a wonderful primer to rethinking the way society tells us to think about discipline.  Throughout the week we will have posts that talk about specific ways to incorporate gentle discipline into your daily life.  Please stop back and visit our feature posters!

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA.  In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent?  Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All

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