Down the road, when “discipline” becomes necessary (i.e. when she has a firm grasp of what we desire, right and wrong, etc., and is no longer being trained as much in those areas), we would prefer to use more natural consequences….which are abundantly available, or simply “time in”, helping her learn what is and isn’t acceptable. I also want to reward our children randomly for positive behavior….because, again, it’s important for children to know how proud you are of their progress, and that you see the positives they’re displaying.
Another practical aspect we feel is important is explaining to our kids “why”. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this out there, especially in the crowds who believe in first time obedience. But we feel that part of treating our children like people is taking into account their feelings, and therefore being willing to explain why they need to do something, or can’t do something else.
It’s also a bit of a “safe guard” for Ben and I. So often, parents end up making mandates just because. Because it’s inconvenient to them, or they just want perfect obedience, or something else that isn’t very explainable. For instance, how often might a child ask to go outside, be told no and throw themselves into a tantrum? Then the parent gets to think over why the child can’t go outside and the fact that there really isn’t anything wrong with the child going outside…except, now they’re tantruming, and allowing them to go out would be giving into a tantrum- something we’re firmly opposed to. I know I’ve been there as an older sibling. If you have to be prepared to give an answer, it’s a lot easier to hold out against tantrums…as well as to only say no when it’s necessary, instead of being provocative to your child. If the only reason the child can’t is because it sounds like an inconvenience for you, then no probably isn’t a good answer. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to let the child out because dinner will be on in 15 minutes- but everyone can go outside for a little while before getting ready for bed later- you have a reasonable base, a good explanation, and no reason to go back on your word when and if a tantrum ensues.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it will help ease our children into deciding for themselves what’s right and wrong, in matters where it is a right/wrong situation. And ultimately, that’s what we want. I don’t want a child to do something because we “said so”, but rather because there are good and bad choices we can make everyday, and they desire to choose the right ones. Someday, they’ll be flying on their own, and we won’t be there to make sure they’re doing the right thing anymore. Our job will be done- unless we’ve managed to become such good friends (as we hope to) that they still come to us when they desire counsel. Ultimately, we want our children to do right for right’s sake. Not just because doing wrong means getting a spanking….or going to jail….or so forth. But because God loves righteousness and “right” is always the most rewarding decision to make.
Having grace for our children- just as God has grace for us- is another practical aspect to gentle parenting. And honestly, it’s one that I’m not sure how it totally plays out yet. I’ve been wondering about it lately with Vivi, as she’s dealt with being chronically overtired after too much vacation and it’s caused more tantrums and meltdowns. I don’t have any desire to give into and encourage tantrums…yet I understand that most of it is stemming from being emotionally out of whack due to tiredness, rather than a desire to manipulate and get her way. And this week, I can relate….and I’m so grateful that God has the grace to forgive me when I get frustrated and have a poor attitude. While I may not understand how it all plays out, I know for certain that I need to give Vivi the grace I so desperately need poured on me.
Essentially, we want to parent the way God parents us. God doesn’t beat us. He doesn’t desire for us to fear Him. He woos us and draws us to Him. He gives grace when we stumble. And always, He loves. Always, He holds out open arms….always, we can feel safe there. We want our children to feel all that in us. Certainly, it won’t be to such a perfect extent, because we’re humans. There’ll be apologies, and too many opportunities to ask our children’s forgiveness. But the base that we strive for- is Christ’s model.
Parenting and discipline- what we intend to do to shape our children’s lives- is a vast topic. It could never be summed up fully in one article or one conversation. But this is the general gist of what we believe, and where we’re headed. Ultimately, if I had to give a one-sentence response to the question of what we think of parenting/discipline, I’d say that relationship-centered parenting and demonstrating God’s personality are most important to us. Everything else tends to fit under one of those, or just be a further explanation of how it plays out.
We’re not the experts….we don’t have any adult children to prove that what we did works. We’re just two parents following in faith and seeking to find the very best for our children. So here we are, on quite the adventure….