Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gentle discipline: Addressing the myths

James Dobson is discussed at in an old article.

Focus on the Family faulted a study that said an end to spanking would reduce the national level of violence.
The study was released by Murray Straus, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire. He stated that when parents use corporal punishment to reduce antisocial behavior, the long- term effect tends to be the opposite, causing children to lie, cheat, and disobey. It also sends the message that violence is an acceptable way to solve disputes.
Focus on the Family claims the study was severely flawed. The group said "at least eight previous studies have concluded spanking is actually beneficial when used in proper balance."
The communique from Focus on the Family was part of The Pastor's Weekly Briefing (8/22/97), a newsletter faxed to pastors on Thursday evenings. Many ministers use the material in The Pastor's Weekly Briefing in their Sunday sermons.
It comes as no surprise that Focus on the Family, the mega-ministry headed by psychologist James Dobson, objected to the study. Focus on the Family was built on sales of Dobson's 1970 multi-million best-seller, Dare to Discipline.
In the book, Dr. Dobson wrote that spanking is "a painful disciplinary measure to make a vivid impression." When spanking doesn't work, he wrote, "The spanking may be too gentle. If it doesn't hurt it isn't worth avoiding next time." Dobson recommends "a firm thump on the head or a rap on the fingers."

That is terrible to say if it doesn't work try hitting harder!

gentlechristianmothers. com talks about adopting more gentle practices and this is something endorsed by the laleche league as well. Here is a discussion on the myths of GENTLE discipline.

Myth 1: Gentle discipline means no boundaries. Being respectful and compassionate toward your child and yourself means having good boundaries. You are not respecting your child if you let him walk all over the people in his life, and you are certainly not respecting yourself or those around you. If you always say "yes" to your child's requests, he won't learn the meaning (and value) of "no." Firm boundaries, where necessary, help children move harmoniously and safely through their days.
Parents who practice gentle discipline put a great deal of thought into which boundaries are important, and how best to help their children learn to meet their needs within those boundaries.
Myth 2: Gentle discipline means passive parents. On the contrary! Because boundaries and respect are important aspects, parents who use gentle discipline need to be doubly active. In some traditional discipline methods, a parent can make a demand from the couch and then punish the child for noncompliance and consider that discipline.
Practicing gentle discipline requires active participation from parents. Parents consider what expectations are realistic given their child's developmental level. They take the time to get down on their child's level and communicate with him in a way that reaches him. They try to be proactive, heading off problems when possible. They learn about their own reactions and cultivate peaceful ones. They involve their children in seeking solutions and offer physical help as needed. It's hard work!
From your heart to your actions, gentle discipline calls you to be fully present and engaged.
If my child is hitting in an unsafe manner (as in hitting another person or an animal) and I turn a blind eye, this is not gentle discipline. It is the absence of discipline.If, on the other hand, I intervene before someone gets hurt to explain to my darling child that hitting or hurting others is not okay, and then let my child know that he can hit a drum or the floor or the bottom of a pot with a wooden spoon, that's my definition of gentle discipline.It is every minute of every day. It's repetitive because children need lots of reminders. It's getting creative and choosing my battles. Is this truly harmful or do I just find it annoying? The bottom line is one of respect and kindness—two very important things I want to pass on to my son. Mary Beth K.
Myth 3: Respecting your child weakens your position as the parent. What kind of strength do you want to have? Think of the stern old school marm with the ruler. She's from the fearsome, powerful, and unyielding school of "strength." But look closer and you'll see a puffed-up authority figure, alienated from the children in her charge. The children may obey out of fear or self-loathing, but it is unlikely that the stern school marm will ever bring out the best in them. Is that the kind of strength you want as a parent?
Respect and empathy for your child call you to embrace a different kind of strength. A strength that comes straight from your own humanity and connects to your child's. A strength that helps you listen to your child and take his needs into account along with your own. It takes more courage to make yourself vulnerable to your child than to lean on an authoritarian role and superior might.
True respect is a two-way street. There is a pervasive fear in our society that in treating your child with respect, you will erode his respect for you. Some discipline methods insist that respect is a one-way street; parents deserve all of it, children none. We do well to re-examine this belief.
I inherited the belief that children must show respect to adults, but adults aren't required to show respect to children, that children's needs and feelings are not very important. But in reality all people, including children, have equal rights to dignity and respect.Lisa S.
Bear in mind that to say that children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from. These are assets you bring to your child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does. Your child is looking to you to exercise your authority in ways that keep everyone safe and life flowing as well as possible. The more respect and empathy you can bring to your child, the more you fortify your authority as benevolent.
Respect has the most vitality when it is two-way. When you treat your child with respect, you make it more likely—not less so—that he will seek respectful ways to treat you and others.
Gentle discipline doesn't mean chaos and confusion. I simply treat my child with the respect I wish to be treated with. I teach him by setting a good example and being respectful of him as a person. Anyone in "authority" that I have ever respected has not been a dictator or authoritarian, but someone who worked with me and treated me with respect. I think this is true for most people. Also, I strive to be the kind of person I hope my boys will be.Laurie D.W.
Empathy isn't mushy! On the contrary, true compassion for your child gives you strength as a parent, calling you to proceed with care. It clears your vision to see the beauty and goodness in your child. From there, you can find the most positive and powerful solutions. Sometimes it may take patience and focus on your part to get in touch with your compassion for your child, particularly if you're in conflict. But when you can do so, it empowers you to make more humane choices for your child and yourself.
For me, gentle discipline is the communication technique with which I wish to treat all humans and the way I wish to be treated. It is all about setting boundaries, teaching respect, and disciplining with love instead of fear. I do not believe discipline is the same as punishment.When my daughter does something I don't like, I treat her with the same respect that I would show my husband. I have gentle ways to express myself. First and foremost, being able to tell her that her behavior makes me angry, sad, or frustrated.I aim not to criticize the person, but discuss the behavior. In my experience, fear and anger-based tactics do not open the lines of communication. I want to demonstrate to my daughter that she should expect respectful treatment throughout her entire lifetime from me, from her friends, and from her future husband. Jessica K
Myth 4: Gentle discipline is not effective. Because gentle discipline focuses more on guiding your child than on simply eradicating behaviors, it helps you make room for your child to continue to make mistakes as he learns. Once again, the effectiveness of gentle discipline can be measured more aptly by the quality of the relationship between parent and child, rather than by how quickly a behavior has been made to disappear.
By bringing fear into the equation, traditional discipline may sometimes be quicker to stop an unwanted behavior. But the implication that traditional discipline is more effective even at this goal seems more fantasy than reality. Often the overtly active nature of the punishment makes it seem as though the parent is being very effective indeed. But look closer: in many cases, the behavior and the punishment keep repeating, even escalating. Sometimes, the child learns how not to get caught rather than what might be problematic about the behavior, much less how better to meet his needs.
Gentle discipline offers ways to establish and maintain boundaries in ways that encourage the child to become an active participant (rather than a passive or resentful one).
One of the criticisms I have heard of gentle discipline is, "I don't know why there seems to be such a low expectation of a child's behavior." My experience is the opposite. If anything, gentle discipline has a much higher expectation of a child's behavior, which is why we seek to guide, rather than subjugate. I believe that children can learn without being humiliated or "controlled." If I had low expectations, I would simply dictate rather than teach. Jessica K.
Am I doing it yet?
Whereas some people suffer from the misconception that gentle discipline is non-existent parenting, many worry just the opposite, that it will demand more of them than they can possibly do. Indeed, many parents who believe wholeheartedly in the importance of empathy and respect in their parenting are uneasy about claiming they "do" gentle discipline. "Oh, but I'm far from perfect!" is one of the reactions. What is wrong with this picture? How did gentle discipline become the domain of the mythical Super-Mommies and Daddies?
Let's step clear of that costly misunderstanding and take a hard look at what gentle discipline is not:
Gentle discipline is not about doing it "right."
It's not a list of things to do and not to do.
It's not a lofty standard for us to somehow measure up to.
It doesn't make adults able to parent in reasonable, calm, and fun ways all the time.
It's not a way to have idealized children, always cheerful and cooperative.
It's not an insurance policy against times of struggle.
These ideas are holdovers from a more traditional style of parenting, which places a great deal of emphasis on right and wrong and tends to have unrealistic expectations of both parents and children. These notions often become mixed up in perceptions of gentle discipline, but they actually have nothing to do with it. Gentle discipline seeks to get past right or wrong dichotomies and embraces a realistic view of both parents and children.
If you are earnestly endeavoring to place empathy and respect at the center of your parenting, there is really no way to "do" gentle discipline wrong.
Gentle discipline is at heart a belief: the more gentleness you can bring to your child and yourself, the better. You either believe it or you don't. You can't get it wrong.
As you take that belief forward into your family life, there's all the room in the world for you to be yourself, for you to engage in the messy and meaningful art of developing a relationship with your child, to make mistakes, and to feel good about yourself as a parent along the way.
When you consider saying, "I practice gentle discipline," do negative thoughts come to mind? "But my child's behavior sometimes embarrasses me in public." "But sometimes I lose my temper." Bringing these thoughts to light gives you the chance to make room for more of your humanity and your child's in your concept of gentle discipline. Thinking about where any negative reactions might come from, perhaps comparing notes with a trusted friend, may help you come to terms with them and replace them with more positive beliefs about your parenting.
Gentle discipline is not something distant or unreachable. If you want it, it's yours, right now. Like a favorite comfy sweater, gentle discipline is a belief that can nurture you and your child if you let it.
We can change the world.
Our society as a whole is in many ways torn apart by a self-perpetuating habit of power and control. This pattern is reversible. Recent generations of parents have been making headway in turning away from the harsh authoritarian models of the past. As it picks up pace, the movement toward more compassionate parenting has tremendous potential.
You can't snap your fingers and change the world in an instant, but you do have power over your own orientation in life, how you treat the people you encounter, and most importantly, you can author new possibilities for your family.
You can change the world from your family outwards
Thank you to the Laleche league for offering these insights on their website!


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