gentle ways to discipline kids

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Some time ago, I wrote about our story of raising a child without punishments (or time-outs), and I realized that the most difficult thing for me was to find ways to discipline my son while still being a positive and gentle parent.

If you are looking for gentle ways to discipline young kids and avoid punishments, here are 5 things that worked really well for us!

gentle ways to discipline kids

The most important thing about positive discipline

We often tend to associate discipline with punishment because we are used to thinking that the only way to correct negative behavior is to punish the child. This is not true!

In fact, studies show that punishments are inefficient in the long run and have several negative effects on kids. Instead, using gentle discipline methods is a great way to raise happy and confident kids!

When I think about positive parenting, I keep in mind one important thing that I learned from Dr. Tina Payne Bryson (the author of “No drama discipline“): the right way to discipline a child is one that doesn’t make the child (or the parent) feel bad at the end.

Punishing and spanking certainly don’t have this outcome. Instead, a gentle discipline method will help the child feel understood and learn a lesson in a positive manner.

Pam Leo (the author of “Connection parenting“) wrote:

“You can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse”.

This is such precious advice for every parent! The fundamental concept of positive discipline is that there are no bad kids, just bad behaviors. So we don’t need to punish the child, we just need to teach him how to behave better.

Once we acknowledge that punishments and time-out are not the best alternatives for our children, the real challenge is to find those gentle methods that really work. And this is not easy at all!

For me, the greatest inspiration for finding these methods was the book “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind”. It contains a lot of ideas and practical examples, and it is a great way to start discovering positive discipline.

After reading the book, I’ve started to look for methods that would work for us. In time I’ve managed to discover some powerful positive discipline tools that I want to share with you. I really hope that they will be helpful to you as well!

1. Prevent challenging parenting moments

Although this is not really a discipline method, I can’t emphasize more how important this is! A lot of difficult moments with our kids can be prevented. Prevention is far better (and easier) than dealing with tantrums or negative behavior.

Here are 3 efficient ways to prevent some of the difficult moments:

  • building and maintaining a strong connection with the child by spending quality time together every day. (A child who feels connected with the parent is less likely to misbehave.)
  • spending special time with the child to create a safe place for them to express their emotions and fears.
  • identifying the triggers before the situation escalates. (Sometimes children misbehave because they feel tired, hungry or frustrated. If you are able to identify the triggers on time, you will be able to prevent a lot of moments when the situation goes out of control.)

2. Use time-in instead of time-out

Parents often use time-outs because they want to punish negative behaviors and teach children to calm down. The problem with time-outs is that they send the wrong message. Kids understand that they are not “wanted” when they misbehave and that they have no support in dealing with difficult feelings.

A more gentle approach is to use time-in. This basically means that the parent takes the “time-out” together with the child.

This is a great opportunity to teach kids how to regulate their emotions and find better alternatives to negative behaviors.

If you want to implement time-in with your kids, here is how to put it into practice: The best alternative to time-outs that will help your child behave better.

gentle ways to discipline kids

3. Set limits with empathy and respect

Gentle parenting doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t have to follow the rules or that the parent isn’t in charge of setting the limits.

The only difference is the way we set these limits. We must be firm about following the rules, but we also need to be empathetic. It’s normal for kids to protest against some limits we set, so it’s our job to explain the rules over and over again and make sure that the children follow them.

Sometimes kids cry a lot when parents set limits, and they really need support for dealing with the frustration. Kids need to know that the parents will not change their mind even if they throw a tantrum.

But, at the same time, they need to know that they are entitled to feel upset and that the parents understand their struggles.

An efficient way to reduce the frustration caused by setting limits is to offer two choices to the child. This allows kids to feel more in control of their lives and helps eliminate a lot of negative feelings.

4. Involve the child in finding a solution

Positive discipline states that negative behavior is the way kids tell us they need our support in dealing with powerful feelings. The way that we react makes the difference between making them feel worse or teaching them a powerful lesson.

It’s always important to discover the reason behind the negative behavior. Once we know what triggers the behavior, we can help the child to deal with it and behave better.

Having a discussion with the child about what makes them misbehave is a great starting point. After you establish the real cause, you can also involve the child in the problem-solving process.

Sometimes kids come up with amazing ideas, and they are more willing to respect a rule if they were involved in creating it.

gentle ways to discipline kids

If the child doesn’t have any ideas for solving the problem, you can present them with two alternatives and let them choose. Next time when the negative behavior is happening, it’s helpful to remind the child about the previous discussion.

A short reminder of the rule that you set last time can be very useful for stopping the behavior from happening again.

5. Never decide anything out of anger

There are moments when we get angry, and we say or do things that we later regret. This is why we should never take any disciplinary decisions while we are still mad.

Instead of taking any action out of anger, take a short time-out to help you calm down.

I share more tips about this here: What helped me become a calmer mom and be gentle with my child even if I’m angry.

If you are able to regain your calm, you will not let your emotions interfere with the way you discipline your kids. This will allow you to find gentle methods to deal with the situation and build a strong relationship with your child.

Finding gentle ways to discipline young kids is a difficult mission! For me, it was a real struggle to be able to find these alternatives.

If you want to discipline your kids in a gentle manner, here are two books that are packed with great tips:

⏰ Limited time: Download the strategy that will help you set limits with calm and empathy, and encourage kids to follow your guidance without threats or punishments!Click here to download the free guide

If you are looking for gentle ways to discipline young kids and avoid punishments, here are 5 positive discipline tools that worked really well for us! 
--- Positive parenting tips | Gentle discipline | Disciplining a child | Alternatives to punishments

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  1. I really like the solutions you have recommended! I totally agree that we need to be calm and to talk with our children, but sometimes it’s really hard and it’s so easy to shout and to send them to their room! It takes a lot of control to do all that, but it’s worth it on long term.

    1. Raluca Loteanu says:

      You are right, sometimes it’s really hard to manage our own emotions! I feel this every single day!

  2. I was raised the “old fashioned” discipline way. I never felt unwanted or neglected. There are always new and better ways, and although I take great pieces of information from “No drama discipline” methods, I also feel that sometimes in life, we are not always going to get gentile behavior from others, and sometimes in the real world we don’t get “options” for avoiding negative feelings, we learn to cope with them with the tools we have available to us. Now, I’m not saying to scream and beat your child every 5 minutes, but I knew with just a look from either of my parents, there would be consequences that may or may not involve a swat if I didn’t reign myself in from the behavior I was doing.
    As an adult I am healthy, have had a great career and now am a SAHM
    I guess every house hold finds what works for them though.

  3. My son puts himself on time out but not as punishment (it lasts maybe 20 seconds). He does this when he needs his space. I never put him on time out. We always work through his feelings together so that he will always feel comfortable coming to me when he has intense feelings or a problem to work through. I never want him to feel banished or isolated when he needs help to sort his feelings. Hopefully as a teenager he wont isolate himself when he is the most confused and emotional.

  4. Hej Raluca,

    My son is 4years now, he is been getting very frustrated or agitated if a toy is not the way he wants.. this is mostly in times of he being tired so I speak the emotion loud to him and sit with him and talk about it.
    Sometimes I tell him can he gentle with his toys but in few minutes it’s the same rough throwing the toys or doing it more deliberately and here I just feel he is testing my patience.
    I sometimes give him sometime to calm out in his room and just stand out saying I’m here for you when ever you need me and ready to talk.
    It works mostly but then it’s the same tantrum story in the shop, if we go to get groceries, I feel I am losing my connection with him!
    I’m really confused of what I can do better.
    Will wait to hear from you.