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    38 Alternatives to Punishment

    Starting on my parenting journey years ago, I found this list* of alternatives to punitive discipline, printed it out, and hung it where I could see it every day. It's not perfect, but it's a good place to start. If you want to stop spanking, if you want to parent more peacefully, if you want to feel more connected with your kids, you CAN. Let go of the need to punish, let go of that feeling of having to "teach a lesson" when your child does something you're not fond of. A little empathy, trust in the natural human learning process, and a lot of love goes a long way. I hope this helps you move along your own peaceful parenting path.


    Use positive reinforcement.

    Create a positive environment.

    Say yes as much as possible.

    Save no for the important things.

    Use natural consequences.

    Use logical consequences.

    Use restitution.

    Leave it up to your child.


    State your expectations, and get out of the way.

    Give specific instructions.

    Give a reason.

    Offer help.

    Give a choice.

    Redirect your child.

    Remove your child.

    Make positive statements.

    Give in occasionally.

    Give your child time to agree.

    Simply insist.

    Make rules.

    Ignore some behavior.

    Avoid nagging and threats.

    Distract your child.

    Use humor.

    Make it a game.

    Be willing to admit your mistakes.

    Stop and think before you act.

    Don't make a big fuss over little things.

    Stick to routines.

    Don't hurry your children too much.

    Get to the root of the problem.

    Correct one behavior at a time.

    Give yourselves time.

    Use the golden rule.

    Model appropriate behavior.

    Think of your child as an equal.

    Always keep your love for your child in mind.


    *from the book, Natural Family Living by Peggy O'Mara

    Posted: Dec 18 2013, 09:56 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    National Spank Out Day - Alternatives to Spanking

    Today is National Spank Out Day!


    What does that mean? It's a day devoted to NOT using physical punishment with your kids. Now, not spanking doesn't mean not disciplining. But what can you do instead of spanking, especially if you have spanked in the past? Some ideas on how to discipline gently:


    1) Breathe, stop a moment, focus on yourself before responding to your child. Think about the message you're about to give. Will it help your child? Will it come out in a way you'll feel good about later? Say what you want to say in a way that YOU would want to hear it.

    2) Give a hug or a gentle touch; or just get down on the floor with your child - being at the same level can be calming & give you perspective.  We adults can look really big - and scary - when we're standing up.

    3) Acknowledge big feelings: "I understand you are VERY frustrated right now". And your own, too: "I'm feeling angry too". Empathize with the feelings, and demonstrate how to move through them gently, without force. You are your child's first and best teacher. How would you WANT your child to act when they are angry? Act that way.

    4) Offer a choice, instead of an ultimatum: "Do you want to put your toys away yourself, or would you like some help?" Choice is empowering and motivating.

    5) Distract & redirect. Get everyone out the door for a walk, take a bath, make cookies. You don't need to be in "behavior correction" mode all the time. Give yourself and your child a break.  When you're back to feeling good, being connected, then you can talk about the behavior that happened earlier in the day.

    6) Fake it. Gentle discipline and mindful parenting in the face of a temper tantrum can be really REALLY hard; but it's very worthwhile. But, sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Pretend the "best parent in the world" is watching; what would you like them to see? Do that. The way you feel afterwards - knowing you were just a superhero in the face of a really difficult situation - will give you the power to do it again next time, without having to pretend.

    7) Forgive. Be gentle with yourself, as you'd like to be with your child. You won't always "get it right"; but you're trying - and your child will see that. Forgive yourself, and move on. Next time, you'll do better.


    I hope you'll use today to try an alternative to spanking. Keep in mind that whatever lesson you want to teach can be more effectively communicated when you are BOTH calm & connected. Cool off, calm down - you'll be more creative and your child will be more responsive.  Connection is what good relationships is all about. When you connect with your child, helping correct behaviors will be so much easier.  You can do this!


    Peace to you.


    Sit With Your Anger

    I read a book with my son last night, Anh's Anger (written by Gail Silver; illustrated by Christiane Kromer), that was absolutely wonderful.  It's about a young boy, Anh, who is stacking blocks when his grandfather tells him it's time for dinner. As many young boys who are in the middle of playing, he didn't want to stop playing. He gets very angry, and knocks down his tower, which makes him even more angry (anyone ever experience this with young boys? Yes, I thought so) . His grandfather acknowledges that he's upset, then gently requests that he sit with his anger, then rejoin him when he's calm. While on his own, Anh meets his anger in the form of a big red snaggle-toothed monster. They bang around a bit, vocalize, dance, and then sit and breathe. And as they sit and breathe, anger gets smaller, and Anh gets calmer. They talk about who anger is and why he's there, and how they can help each other. And once Anh is calm, he and his grandfather reconcile, and life continues on.


    Sit with your anger.


    What amazingly simple, perfect advice. Something that I don't typically do; I'd venture that's true MOST people. I'd say more often than not, we act on our anger right away - which can result in doing or saying things we wouldn't have otherwise done or said, and consequently, feeling badly afterwards. When you can acknowledge your anger, work with it creatively, and try to understand it, it's far less scary. You can become an observer, analyzing, considering, and then releasing.

    (image credit: amazon.com)


    So what does sit with your anger mean to a child?


    In our post-reading conversation, my nearly 6 year old was able to recognize Anh's monster was not a "real" thing, but rather a representation of the feelings we get when we are angry. He understood the message was that it's okay to FEEL angry, but that you shouldn't act out in anger towards someone or something else - even when you felt like it. He said that it was okay to express your anger in ways that didn't hurt anyone (even yourself) until you were calm enough to think a bit about it; in other words, to have a conversation with your monster. And then, once you've had the conversation, to breathe in, breathe out, calm, and come back to being yourself. He really enjoyed the book as we were going through it, and it inspired some fantastic post-read discussion as well.

    (image credit: gailsilverbooks.com)


    The illustrations are bright & simple - charcoal, paint, and collage elements. At ~30 pages (of words & illustrations), I found it just the right length for a bedtime story (and plenty of conversation afterwards).


    We all struggle at times with our anger - and our children, who are so new in this world, can often find anger frightening and overwhelming. Heck, so can adults. This book is the perfect springboard for talking with your kids about creative expression of anger - without shame, without punishment - you just might find yourself examining your own ways of dealing with anger. And that can only be a good thing for everyone.


    Peace to you.


    Inspiring Parenting Quotes

    I love quotes; little bits of wisdom & inspiration to brighten the moment, and help keep me on the right path. I've often gone on the web in search of parenting inspiration in the form of quotes, sifting through the many negative quotes about parenting to find the inspiring and encouraging gems. On one of my recent searches I realized, hey, maybe someone else does this too, and might like to have positive, peaceful parenting quotations all in one place. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites. Enjoy! And please, if you're inspired... spread the love!


    The law of love could be best understood and learned through little children.


    It is one thing to show your child the way, and a harder thing to then stand out of it.
    ~Robert Brault


    Children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today. They are entitled to be taken seriously. They have a right to be treated by adults with tenderness and respect, as equals.
    ~Janusz Korczak


    Children can be conceptualized as mirrors. If love is given to them, they return it. If none is given, they have none to return. Unconditional love is reflected unconditionally, and conditional love is returned conditionally.
    ~Ross Campbell, MD

    Parenting is a path of maturation & growth if we dare to learn more & teach less.
    ~Naomi Aldort

    It's okay to be kind to our children. It's okay to give them a feeling of abundance. Knowing that their own needs and wants are valued will only make them want to help others to meet their needs and wants too. Kindness begets kindness.
    ~Rue Kream

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


    It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time.
    ~Peggy O'Mara

    Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
    ~Robert Fulghum

    What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.
    ~P.D. James

    It is better to bind your children to you by a feeling of respect and by gentleness, than by fear.


    Discipline must come through liberty... We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.
    ~Maria Montessori

    If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.



    If I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, whose good opinion and affection you valued.
    ~John Holt

    Meeting a child's dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable.
    ~Elizabeth Baldwin

    Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
    ~Mother Theresa

    We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
    ~Stacia Taucher


    The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.
    ~Peggy O'Mara

    (thank you Jamie @ I Am Totally That Mom)



    Posted: Jun 23 2011, 08:22 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    If Not Spanking, Then What?

    I love my children, and I know that the world can be a hard and angry place. I want to be a haven for them. A gentle place. I want to reflect love and tolerance back to them so they can carry that gift into the world.
    ~ Alex Iwashyna


    I recently read a post over at LateEnough.com on why mom-of-two Alex chooses not to spank her children. I agree with her wholeheartedly, and believe there is no room in parenting for violence (of any kind – physical or verbal/emotional). We should all be aware of crossing the sometimes fuzzy line of punitive discipline in our homes – not just because it can lead to escalating violence – but because parenting through fear, intimidation, anger, or violent outbursts is no way to raise a child, nor to live as a parent (you know it just stinks to be a constant rule-barking angry disciplinarian – parents end up missing out on a lot of the joy & so do kids!).  If we want our children to grow up to be empathetic, caring, and peaceful with others, we have to treat them with empathy, caring, and peace.


    Of course that’s easier said then done, right? The word peaceful doesn’t always seem congruous with life with children. Children are perpetually in motion, breaking rules, testing boundaries, and outbursting. And as adults, I believe most of us have moments where we really feel like we could or want to spank or scream at our kids (or anyone). And, I believe that we ALL have moments where we actually do react less-than-peacefully, in spite of our best intentions. There are times in parenting where our children can be frustrating. Days that are long after nights where sleep was elusive. Sometimes our patience is short and our creativity lacking. And when all of these things come together, it feels much easier to fall back into modes of parenting that were used on us, or methods that work for others, or just what comes out of frustration – even if those methods aren’t how we would ideally want to parent.

    But even if yelling or spanking seems easier, it certainly isn’t better.  Violence towards our children – in words or deed – isn’t okay. It escalates our stress, it makes our children afraid or worried, and it clouds whatever messages we were trying to send to our kids – because all they’re focusing on is our anger or avoiding being hit or yelled at. I think that most parents understand this and don’t want to resort to violence – whether as a planned out form of discipline, a knee-jerk reaction, or even a last-resort method. But it's not always easy, and it takes awareness, and practice. And more practice.


    So, how can we reconcile the desire of “needing to discipline” our children with an innate feeling of wanting to maintain a peaceful home and raise open, empathetic, and loving children? What CAN we do instead of spank to get our message across? And what options are there instead of yelling to get your frustration out and be heard?  How do we get beyond the feeling of wanting to act angrily, and into actually acting peacefully?


    Here are some ideas that I’ve used to help calm down when I’m angry, and help me move towards creatively disciplining, without resorting to spanking or outbursts. It doesn’t always work – I’m not perfect – but I’m trying every day to be a better parent.


    When you know better, you can do better! And our children (and ourselves) will all be better for our efforts.



    Calming techniques & alternatives to spanking for parents AND kids:


    Count to Ten. Or Twenty. Or One Hundred if need be. Whatever number you need to reach in order to gain some distance between anger and action. You can do this out loud in order to better focus your anger on counting instead of what you were about to scream instead – or – do it in your mind as a metal exercise in patience.  Sometimes the sudden Silence Of Mom will get kids’ attention, too. They might ask you what you’re doing. And even participate. End tantrum. Begin teaching.


    Walk Away. If mental distance (a la counting) doesn’t work, try actually separating yourself from the situation. Tell your children – as calmly as possible – what you are doing, so that they can understand (and hopefully model in the future!), “I am feeling REALLY frustrated. I’m going to take a break.” Try NOT to put any blame on this statement – as in, “I’m going away because you guys are acting like maniacs!!!!” Of course, this may in fact be true, but screaming it as you’re separating defeats the purpose of calmly removing yourself from the frustrating situation in order to calm down and at the same time, puts bad, and potentially damaging feelings out there. You can scream it in your head whilst walking away. Or… see the next idea:


    Scream into a pillow. Seriously, this works. Just make sure you didn’t slam the door on the way into your bedroom towards the pillow into which you’re about to scream. :) Once screaming is done, tell yourself you’ve released all that negative energy, take a deep breath filled with positivity, splash some water on your face, and re-greet the situation refreshed. Chances are in the meantime, everyone else has cooled down a bit too.


    Relocate. If your child is old enough (and calm enough), ask her to remove herself from the situation to calm down. Not in a punitive way, as in “go to your room!”, but in a suggestive, empowering way like, “I see you’re feeling frustrated.  Maybe you’d like to take some time away to get calm”. Once the storm has passed, you might try building a “calming down” area with your child that she designs with things that are comforting – maybe a photograph of kittens or flowers, an iPod with soothing music, a favorite book or puzzle, a soft blanket.


    Distract. Sometimes the only thing that works to break everyone out of a potentially volatile situation is simply changing the scene. Start telling a joke. Start juggling or singing or dancing or doing jumping jacks. Open the back door & walk outside. Turn on the shower or turn on the TV. Break out the bubble gum (sweetened with xylitol of course). Dump out a bucket of legos on the floor (didn’t that feel good?). Just changing it up – allowing everyone to move out of their current frame of mind, then revisiting the issue once all is calmer – often does the trick.


    Offer a choice. A choice moves the control into your children’s hands, and gives you a moment to cool off while they think about the choice presented. Even if the choice is: do you want to stop running wildly right now or do you want to leave (fill-in-the-blank-place-where-wild-running-isn’t-acceptable) right now? Of course, if said place isn’t actually fun for the child, this may backfire… but still, it gives everyone a moment to think, and if you do end up leaving, you can also offer the option of returning.


    Realize YOU have a choice.  Every moment you have a choice. You may feel like you don’t. You might feel like you HAVE to discipline in this moment. That you HAVE to “teach a lesson”. Believe me, I’ve felt that. But you *always* have a choice… and often the best choice is simply to wait it out. Get everyone calmed down by whatever method works best, and THEN talk about the behavior you didn’t like. If it’s a situation that requires immediate intervention (say running into the street or a child hurting another child), intervene swiftly and firmly (a scared voice & face really does work to alert a child to danger – better than a spanking), and separate the child from scene. Then, choose to talk about it later. You never have to spank or yell. You can always choose to do something else.


    Pretend someone is watching. If what you are about to say or do isn’t something you’d want your spouse, neighbor, best friend, mom from playgroup, (someone whose parenting opinion you *value*) to hear or see you say or do to your child… don’t do it. Instead, say or do what you’d want someone to think, “Wow, that Mom has her act together!”. I’m not saying we have to live for anyone else’s expectations, but *sometimes* feeling like someone is watching over my shoulder helps me be more measured in my response.


    Assess your (and your child’s) current state. Are you hungry or thirsty? Are you trying out a new diet or routine? Did your plans for the day not work out? Are your jeans too tight? Did your child skip his usual nap? Are your hormones out of the norm (because of pregnancy or menstruation for example)? Did you get in an argument with your spouse?  Sometimes these smallest things that seem unrelated to parenting can cause big upsets in our ability to react well to situations. Sometimes just realizing, “Hey, I didn’t get my coffee yet this morning!” and sitting down for five minutes with a hot mug of joe puts things into perspective again. The same goes for children. Potty learning, a new sleeping arrangement, starting or ending school, a new sibling, a growth spurt... all of these "little things" can have big effects on little people.


    Imagine you are your child. This is a really powerful tool. Getting in the shoes of the person with whom you’re angry is never easy… but it’s so worthwhile. If your child was looking at you, would they like what they are seeing? Would they want to be covering their ears? Are they actually able to hear what you are trying to teach, or is your message so wrapped up in being angry about behavior that they can’t hear anything other than, “you’re doing it wrong”? Imagine what you would want to hear your mother say or do at that moment – and then do it. Maybe it’s a hug, maybe an offer for a snack, a walk outside, a do-over. I can guarantee it isn’t a verbal lashing or spanking.




    Please remember that using these ideas instead of spanking or yelling doesn’t mean you don’t discipline. It just means that you are demonstrating to your children that in the face of irritation, you can be calm, measured, and in control. A tantrum isn’t enough to faze you – and kids need to feel that and see that! When they know that it’s possible not to go crazy when they are angry, they’ll begin to do it themselves (let me tell you, it is positively heavenly to hear my child yell, “I’m taking a break” than to hear other, angrier or hurtful things yelled). Once everyone is calm, THEN you can talk about whatever rules were broken or whatever misbehavior occurred, and begin to discuss logical consequences to the action if necessary. Chances are you will be able to be more fair in your assessment of the situation and children will be more open to hearing you out and wanting to fix the problem than in the midst of an angry outburst or while trying to avoid a spanking.



    Online resources on the effects of spanking; plus, gentle discipline techniques:


    Spanking: Facts and Fiction http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=factsnfiction


    Gentle Parenting During Toddler Tantrums  http://typical-ramblings.blogspot.com/2010/04/gentle-parenting-during-toddler.html


    101 Things to Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking http://codenamemama.com/2010/08/31/100-things-to-do-instead-of-yelling-or-spanking/



    Books to read on non-punitive discipline & keeping cool while parenting:


    ScreamFree Parenting by Edward Runkel


    Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort


    Adventures in Gentle Discipline by Hilary Flower


    Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen

    Posted: May 18 2011, 15:11 by kelly | Comments (22) RSS comment feed |
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