I’ll begin with this: Somehow, I could never picture Jesus hitting a child. That thought, alone, was enough for me. However, since other parents and family members and strangers on the street want to discuss discipline method, I thought I better research something about my “method.” For me, it is all about grace. I found a neat little book called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he gave me a framework. Then, about the same time, a well-meaning mama introduced me to the Pearls and their frightening manifesto–To Train Up a Child. It turned my stomach and strengthened my resolve to research this idea of gentle parenting.
I found out first that there is a name for it: Positive Discipline (coined by Jane Nelson). And it was more than just “not spanking.” It was about skipping rewards and punishments altogether. Wow. No rewards or punishments?
Then I found a community of mamas who had been there/done that. There are many such communities. Find one and learn. For example, Norah started defiantly (I mean, really defiantly) spitting on us one night. Nothing I did worked and I couldn’t think of a “natural consequence” for spitting. After Norah was asleep, I jumped online and asked for ideas. Turns out that lots of mamas had the same situation and they all offered the same solution! I would have never found that in a book.
I began filling my toolbox with all sorts of ideas that really work! Here are a few:
Toddlerease: This one only worked for a certain developmental stage (between 15-22 months). I might pull it out again some other time. It is an empathy technique described in Harvey Karp’s book The Happiest Toddler on the Block.
The Five Steps: I found this one from Pastor Crystal Lutton’s book, Biblical Parenting. I do not understand why it works but as soon as I ask Norah if she needs help (fill-in-the-blank), she responds almost instantly.
Playful Parenting: This one seems to come easily to me (most days). An example of how this works: I ask Norah to clean up her toys. She doesn’t want to. So, I tell her she’s a big elephant picking up peanuts with her trunk. Picking up toys becomes a game.
Comfort Corner: I don’t know who “invented” this one. I only know I love it. Rather than put Norah in time out, we have created a comfort corner. Think of it as a coffee break spot for tots. I sometimes suggest she go there to recharge, refocus. Sometimes I go with her. Sometimes she chooses to go on her own. Norah’s CC is an indoor tent filled with objects she loves. We never discuss unacceptable behavior in the CC; that comes later. She decides when to come out. It is an important life skill we all need–to learn to step away and regroup.
Bottom Line: The world is not a place of grace. My home will be. And I do not want to raise a child who obeys every adult who crosses her path–there are some scary adults out there. I do not want to raise a child who cannot think or question. I want her to have spirit and voice. I want her to develop self-discipline and independence and critical thinking. I do not want a trained pet who sits when I say sit in anticipation of reward or in fear of punishment. And most importantly, I want her to know God’s grace–something she cannot be good enough to earn. And something she cannot be bad enough to lose.
Some additional links:
A word about Christianity and spanking–it seems like many Christians interpret “the rod” verses as commands to spank. In looking at Jewish interpretation, it in interesting to note that these verses were not commonly translated as meaning physical punishment. When they were interpreted as such, it was understood that Proverbs was referencing boys over the age of about 10. If you are interested in researching this topic further, check out:
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin