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:


http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [dis-uh-plin] noun, verb,-plined, -plin·ing

If you read the various definitions at Dictionary.com 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?


http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [puhn-ish]

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

2.to 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 http://mudspice.wordpress.com/Welcome 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


23 thoughts on “Welcome to the Carnival! What is Gentle Discipline?

  1. Thanks so much for organising this Carnival Paige and for including my entry. Your organisation of this has been phenomenal. I've loved reading today's entries and am looking forward to the rest of the week.

    Really well done on a wonderful Carnival; it's great that you have split it into days; it feels so much more manageable for reading everything and allowing myself time to absorb and digest.
    .-= Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com´s last blog ..Life coaching with Michelle Zelli. =-.


  2. Thanks so much for organising this Carnival Paige and for including my entry. Your organisation of this has been phenomenal. I’ve loved reading today’s entries and am looking forward to the rest of the week.

    Really well done on a wonderful Carnival; it’s great that you have split it into days; it feels so much more manageable for reading everything and allowing myself time to absorb and digest.
    .-= Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com´s last blog ..Life coaching with Michelle Zelli. =-.


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