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I heard over and over again people telling me that a child cannot be raised without a strict discipline and punishments. That a child raised without punishments will not respect us and will make only what he wants. That I need to make sure that my child knows who is “in charge” and that any wrong behavior must be punished so that it doesn’t happen again.
The truth is that I never felt like this. In my heart, I always knew there is a better way to raise a child without making him hurt and I truly believed that gentle and loving methods can work! So I decided to raise my boy this way and I made myself a promise to never give up, even when we will face difficult times.
My boy is now 3 years old and I have never punished him or put him in a time-out. I wanted to share our story to let other parents know that this is possible and if they feel that they want to raise their kids this way they should do so!
Raising a child in a gentle and positive manner doesn’t make him misbehave more or disrespect the parents. My boy is very kind and cooperative, he knows our rules and respects them (most of the time 🙂 ) and most of all he knows that we accept all his feelings and we treat him with respect. Of course, he throws tantrums sometimes or doesn’t listen to me from time to time, but this is normal.
We went through difficult times when no gentle method seemed to work and we had to be very patient and be confident that what we do is right, but every time it was worth the effort. Bogdan had moments when he was aggressive or very angry or he refused to do the things we asked, but all these are normal stages of a child’s development. All kids go through these stages at some point, the only difference is how we react to them. I think these are crucial moments for all parents who choose gentle parenting. Sometimes it may seem that gentle parenting is not working and the other methods (including punishments and time-outs) are more efficient because they promise immediate effects. From my point of view, it is more important to build a strong relationship with the child and gain his cooperation in a gentle way than only making him obey us and do everything we ask. On the long run, punishments don’t work and they only make the parent-child relationship worse.
When you are in doubt, you can just ask yourself how you felt when you were punished in your childhood. Did punishments made you a better person or just made you hide more from your parents and learn to lie them when you did something wrong?
For me, the best motivation is to see Bogdan growing as a happy and confident child. The fact that he is so kind and understanding is a proof that our efforts to raise him gently have paid off.
When we have difficult times and all the explanations and playful methods I try just don’t work, I always say to myself that it is only a stage and I need to have a little more patience until I find the right approach for dealing with it. There is always a way to do it in a positive and gentle manner! And sooner or later we always found the solution and got over any difficult time! At the end of all those moments, our relationship became stronger and I learned new lessons about how to be a better mother for my son.
A lot of people imagine that raising a child without punishments and time-outs means not giving him any discipline at all and just let him do whatever he wants. This is totally wrong!
We do not use punishments, but this doesn’t mean we do not set clear boundaries and do not teach our child to follow some rules. The only difference is about how we do this. Gentle parenting involves a lot of explanations for making the child understand why he must follow some rules. Boundaries are good and kids really need them, but they can be set in a gentle way.
We always stop the negative behaviors, but we do not punish them. I first try to find out what really caused the negative behavior (kids misbehave because they want to let us know they feel bad). Then I discuss again with him about our rules and what he did wrong, allowing him to express his feelings and trying to help him eliminate those negative feelings.
We do not use time-outs but instead, we use “time in”. This means that I sit together with my son in a quiet place and hug him (or just stay near him, if he doesn’t want to be hugged) until he feels better. When he feels better we can discuss what happened and find a solution together. I also use a kind of “time-out” for me, when I feel that I am too angry to handle the situation in a gentle way: I say to my son that I am angry and I need to calm down and I ask him to let me alone for a while. Usually, after a couple of minutes, I regain my calm and I can handle the situation better. This avoids a lot of moments when I would be tempted to yell or to say something I will regret.
There are a lot of ways to avoid punishments and each parent can choose what he feels more appropriate for him. The most important thing is to know that there is always another way and that punishments don’t have to be part of a child’s life!
This is something I learned from a conference about discipline held by Tina Bryson. She said that often parents think that if they started parenting using punishments there is nothing they can do to change this. The truth is that it is never too late to change and that every child deserves this!
If you feel that you don’t want to punish your child or to put him in time-outs every time he makes a mistake, you can change this!
It is not easy, I’m sure, but I can promise you it is worth the effort! When you will eliminate all the punishments and time-outs and you’ll give gentle parenting a chance, you will certainly discover a whole new perspective and you’ll find new ways to communicate with your child and to find solutions for the problems you are facing.
If you want to start parenting in a positive way, you can find some very good books to inspire you. I wrote here about my favorite ones: 4 positive parenting books for raising happy and confident kids. You can also find some great articles about gentle parenting on AHAparenting.com, I always find inspiration on this site.
I shared my story hoping to inspire other parents to try raising kids without punishments and time-outs by letting them know that this is possible! And even more: it is really wonderful! I am only at the beginning of this journey and I am sure that more difficult times are ahead of us, but I truly hope I will be able to always keep the promise I made to myself to raise my boy in a gentle way. It was my choice to raise my child in a gentle way and I truly believe it was the best choice I could make! My child will never have to look at me with fear when he does something wrong because he will always know that I am here to support him and not to make him feel worse! This is the gift we want to give him every day: the certitude that he is loved unconditionally by his parents!
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