Gentle Discipline

“Children are the only people in this society anybody is allowed to hit. All the rest of us are legally protected.”–from the article “Physical Punishment in the Home” by Penelope Leach.


What is gentle discipline?

It can mean different things to different people. In general it is used to refer to a method of parenting that is nonpunitive, both physically and emotionally. This does NOT mean permissive. There is a wealth of resources available to parents who choose to gently discipline their children that does not include spanking, slapping, punitive time-outs, verbal tongue-lashings and other such forms of discipline. There is also a wealth of research supporting gentle or “positive” discipline.

Parents who choose “gentle discipline” or “positive discipline”, do not spank, but instead will use things like distraction (for toddlers) and natural and logical consequences (for older children). If they do use “time-outs”, they tend to use them in a nonpunitive way–a break, away from a situation where the child has lost control of themselves and need to take a couple minutes to get control again. Generally the parent will participate in this “positive time-out” with the child, as opposed to sending them away to “think about what they did” or to punish them.

Natural consequences and logical consequences are also ways that followers of gentle discipline teach their children appropriate behavior. Natural consequences allows the child to experience what naturally happens as a result of their actions…for example, your child refuses to put away a favorite toy that is lying in the driveway behind the family car and Dad drives over it on his way to work the next day, not knowing it was there. The child then remembers to put toys away in the future. Obviously there are some natural consequences that no parent would (or should) follow through on, such as the natural consequence of playing in the street.

Logical consequences are logically related to the offense. An example would be that your child again refuses to put away a certain toy, and is given a warning that either they put it away or you, the parent, will put it up for a set amount of time. (Perhaps store it in a closet for a week.) The child doesn’t put away the toy and it gets put away and they learn to put things away when asked. A consequence that would NOT be logically linked to the offense would be something like taking away tv priviledges for not picking up the toy.

Its important to note here that no one is trying to say there is an EASY way to discipline, or that there is a wrong or right way to discipline. Every child and every parent and every family is different and will need to find their own mixture of discipline techniques that work for them. There is, however, a wealth of info and research out there on how punitive styles of parenting simply don’t work in the long run, and/or should be used very sparingly because of detrimental effects.

Check out these informative links on gentle (positive) styles of discipline.

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