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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Road To Nonpunitive Parenting

Road blocked by landslide

We are all on a journey. If you're reading this blog, you must be somewhere on the spectrum of positive parenting, or at least interested in it. Nonpunitive parenting is, I believe, on the right end of the spectrum.



It took me nearly a year to travel the positive parenting road before I reached my destination of nonpunitive parenting. This may not be your destination, and that's okay. It's quite a change from traditional thinking, and you may not be comfortable with such a big leap. If so, then your destination may somewhere else along the spectrum.

Positive parenting, to me, means:
1. Treating children respectfully.
2. No physical punishment.
3. Basic understanding of child development.
4. No shaming, name calling, or screaming.
5. Use of natural plus logical consequences.*

Nonpunitive parenting, to me, means:
1. No physical punishment.
2. Focusing on relationship above all.
3. Treating children respectfully.
4. Allowing natural consequences.**
5. A focus on problem-solving in place of logical or imposed consequences.

Conscious parenting means: (Thrown in just for good measure)
1. All of the above.
2. An awareness of how your past has shaped your own actions and reactions.
3. Knowing your triggers and working to deactivate them.
4. Focusing on being present in the moment, responding instead of reacting.

I began on the left end of the spectrum. I was looking for positive methods to control my children's behaviors. I started with the traditional advice on many of the "positive parenting" sites. I put my kids in time outs on a bench in the hallway for 1 minute per each year of age, just like all the articles said I should. That didn't work! Hello power struggles!! So I picked up the book 1-2-3 Magic. It sounded positive to me, as all I knew was that I didn't want to spank or yell. Counting to 3 and sending them to bedroom time seemed like a positive way of disciplining my kids. That really seemed to work! I got to 3 a few times at first, but then I never got past 2. Magic! At first. One negative behavior stopped but another popped up, and I felt more like I was training a puppy than raising a child.

Cue Love and Logic. If nonpunitive is too extreme for you, I actually recommend Love and Logic. It's a respectful approach that focuses more on teaching and on natural consequences than on punishment. However, L&L does suggest "The Uh-Oh Song" for young children where you sing "Uh Oh" and put the child in their room for a couple of minutes and tell them to come out when they're ready to be sweet. For older children, they recommend bedroom time. I found some of it to be little harsh***, but the focus is on connection and relationship, so overall, its a good "method" and I had good results using it.

So if I had good results, why didn't I just stay there? Well, because I kept reading what I was posting on PPTB. Thanks to Love and Logic, I had the "seed planted" of connection and relationship, and this pulled at my heart strings. I wanted to know more. My search naturally lead me to conscious parenting and nonpunitive parenting. Then, of course, one neuroscience article and I was hooked on that. This is where my mindset shifted. I began to understand more about their developing minds and more about the importance, the necessity, of relationship. I began to understand that my influence came through our connection, not through my consequences.

These were MY revelations. This was MY paradigm shift.

Your story could be different. I now believe nonpunitive/conscious parenting to be the optimal philosophy. I also know that not everyone can or is willing to reach this destination, though I think that many will. Wherever you are on the positive parenting spectrum, you have my respect and my support.

Most of us have the same goal in mind. We want children who are able to discipline themselves. We want children who are happy. We want children who are respectful and kind. We want children who come visit often after their bedrooms in our homes are empty. I believe positive parenting (anywhere on the spectrum) gives us a good shot at seeing that come to fruition. I believe that nonpunitive/conscious parenting gives us the best shot at seeing that come to fruition.

Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you find PPTB and this blog to be helpful. I hope you are seeing positive changes in your homes and in your children. Please comment and let me know if you are. Your comments make my heart happy. :)



*A logical consequence relates to the behavior. For example, taking a toy away that the child has thrown or leaving a playdate if the child hits someone.

**A natural consequence is what naturally occurs as a result of the action, without the influence of a parent. For example, if you don't wear a sweater, you get chilly. If you leave your toy outside and it gets destroyed, you've lost that toy.

***Love and Logic suggested, at one part in their book, to let a child slip on rocks and fall instead of warning them they are slippery in order to let the "natural consequence" teach the child. (Sorry, I'm not going to let my kid fall if I can help it! The book also suggested doing things like picking up their belongings they refuse to pick up themselves and putting them up in the garage, in view but where they can't reach them, to remind them of the consequence. To me, that crossed over to a little rude.
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6 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful, thorough post! For me it usually comes down to this issue of "obedience." I don't want an obedient child. They grow into obedient adults who are easily manipulated.

    Disobedience is not an issue if obedience is not the goal. ~Daron Quinlan

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  2. Teacher Tom, I hadn't thought ofthe long term results (consequence?) of obedience in quite that way before.

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  3. Thanks for this post. I've been struggling between being harsh and being too soft with my boys. Thanks to reading your posts, I can now focus on being loving and positive. It gives me a lot to think about, considering my fairly strict European upbringing.

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  4. Fantastic post, thanks. This is the way I parented my son- it was the only way I felt comfortable. Occasionally, of course, I lost my cool... but then I made sure to admit that to him. It was really hard to maintain the positive course at times, especially in the face of pressure from various partners (now ex-partners) to be 'firmer'.

    BTW, I tried confiscating the toys once. It didn't work. He just lay on his bed enjoying his own thoughts... while I felt stupid! There's the danger of raising a child who can entertain himself!

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  5. I loved this post! Your journey so closely mirrors mine. I'm working very hard to get to a state of conscious (or mindful) parenting. I love the way you broke it all down and detailed what lead you to where you are now. I really love your blog and think you are doing amazing things for all parents by sharing the road you're on. And I love what Teacher Tom said about obedience. A brilliant observation!
    - Gina

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  6. I am a mother of 2 one is 32 months and one is 11 so i am still somewhere in the middle my goal has been to reach an equillibrium and slowly go solely love and logic and it has been going well, but i was wondering how, provided the parents have been consistant with love and logic for at least three years, how the children behave under the supervision of other adults...

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