Google+ Authentic Parenting: Gentle Discipline? Or Something Else? (rerun)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gentle Discipline? Or Something Else? (rerun)

No matter how I turned it, the term gentle discipline always felt wrong to me. That's why I never had a label for it and just stuck with peacefull parenting.
Somehow, peaceful parenting seemed to sit better with me and would cover a much bigger array of things I talked about.
I often felt uncomfortable at the kind of topics that were discussed under the term, things I didn't endorse, ways of tricking the child into doing what you want them to do.

During a discussion on one of my unschooling groups I had an epiphany. It is actually the word discipline in 'gentle discipline' that did not sound right to me. Discipline means to teach, and as you might know, we unschoolers do not try to teach, we want to have our children learn naturally.
Discipline is about cooperation,in exactum, your child cooperating with you, which is leaps away in the right direction when you come from a punitive parenting system, but peaceful parenting is about collaboration, and this is quite some steps away from gentle discipline still.

In many of these post I have written about alledged Gentle Discipline, I came to the constatations that it was more about changing your way of thinking about things and following your child then it was about finding these tips and tricks to convey them.

It's not about clever ways to not have your kid walk on the table, or finding fun ways to have him brush his teetch when he doesn't want to. It's about having your children discover what they want/feel/need to do in these situations, instead of imposing things on them.



  1. "as you might know, we unschoolers do not try to teach, we want to have our children learn naturally."
    I just want to challenge that statement, and the implication that teaching children and natural learning are mutually exclusive. In a social species, it is natural for adults to teach the young. Therefore, learning from adults, and parents in particular, is a form of natural learning. I believe it is unnecessarily limiting, and may be extremely frustrating, to deliberately avoid teaching our children.
    Yes, there are many other ways for children to learn. Yes they are often (but not always) better. Yes we need to beware of having a mental checklist of things that our kids *should* be learning and trying to teach those things regardless of their interest level or readiness. No, that doesn't mean all unschoolers choose *not* to teach. Of course, you are free to take that path if you choose, but not to make it part of the definition of unschooling.

  2. By saying we try not to teach, I mean we do not teach with an agenda, like setting down your child to teach them something, which is often what people understand from teaching. Learning from adults happens of course, and certainly at a young age that is how children learn most.
    Indeed teaching in the way of explaining, showing and guiding does happen... I should have been more clear on this point, thank you.

  3. Learning from others is not the same as teaching. Teaching implies an agenda on the part of the teacher. I show my children things, just as they show my things. However I do not teach, or instruct nor educate. They are not empty vessels but full unique humans.

  4. Thanks, Faith, for eloquently saying what I was trying to point out :)

  5. And I still disagree that uschoolers *as a group* deliberately avoid 'teaching, instructing or educating'. Some do, but others see teaching as a standard part of the role of a parent. It is not 'un-unschooling' to have an agenda.
    How is 'explaining and guiding' different from 'instructing'?
    Perhaps you feel I'm splitting hairs, but this is a bug-bear of mine, the suggestion that teaching is not a natural thing to do. Partly because my husband is a natural-born teacher. If we tried not to teach, it would make our lives miserable.

  6. To put it another way, when a mother lion gives her cub an injured piglet to practice hunting, she is deliberately providing a learning opportunity. That, to me, is teaching. She certainly has an agenda. What the unschooler (and the mother lion) won't do, is *push* that agenda on *unreceptive* young. We offer, the child has the right to refuse. If they are receptive, we teach.

    Or to put it another another way ;), the adults in those unschoolish 'democratic' schools are still called 'teachers', even though it is the students who set their own agendas

    Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now, I'm not necessarily hoping to change your mind :) - just felt something needed to be said for the benefit of someone reading your blog who might otherwise get the wrong impression :)

  7. Claire, I completely get your point, and you might not see it as such, but I do agree. I think indeed humans naturally 'teach' their children in the sense that you mean it. Like bringing stuff along that might interest their children, pointing things out as you take a walk, explaining things... I try not to call this teaching, because of all the other implications that come along with the word 'teaching' like agenda's and discipline and...

    When I go somewhere with my daughter that might be seen as educational, it's because I think we might have fun doing so, and when I explain something to her, it's because she is interested, not because I am keen on her learning something (though, if completely honest, sometimes I do think about the things she could or should or might be learning, but that's MY cultural preoccupation).

    I might indeed have to rephrase that one sentence because unschoolers are all so diverse, we all have different approaches.

    Thanks for having this discussion, I like the interaction here

  8. Hi, I just had a daughter less than 3 months ago. I started learning about attachment parenting while I was pregnant and since I've had her found a lot about discipline and how to raise a child. This is all very new to me as I was raised "spare the rod, spoil the child". I am now leaning away from that as I have now experienced the love of actually having a child. I do have questions, though.
    You talk about not teaching with an agenda. What do you do IF your child hits or bites or snatches things from other children? I haven't read any of your other blog posts yet but plan to when time permits.

  9. With hitting or biting, we redirect and state to the child that shows that behavior what it does to the other child: it hurts him, he gets upset, he doesn't want to play anymore. It takes a lot of repetition. Just bare in mind that these are impulses, it's not purposely bad. They just need to grow up and get new tools for when they feel overwhelmed. Moreover, biting, or hurting can have a range of underlying reasons, so it's necessary to investigate those too.
    with snatching I would tell the child to ask first and try to hand him another toy. If it doesn't work, try to get them both involved in a collaborate game.


I love comments! Drop me a line