The art of 'gentle discipline'

Attachment parenting is all about gentle parenting, not permissive parenting. We are very strict with our 3 year old daughter (I often worry that we are too strict) but we very rarely shout (rarely but sometimes, we’re human) and we never ever smack. Here’s how we do it:

Model the behaviour you want

If you are the kind of person that loses their temper, throws tantrums, holds onto anger and shouts easily; your child will be as well. Following an “act as I say, not as I do” approach, does not work. Your child sees how you behave and will behave like that as well. We all know how toddlers are little sponges (especially when it comes to swear words!) and this works the same with their behaviour.

Next time your child throws a tantrum, slams their bedroom door or shouts angrily at you, look at your own behaviour and see where it can be changed. Saying that, toddlers do throw tantrums, they are feeling a lot of different emotions and don’t have the adult tools to manage them, so they cry.

Instead of smacking and yelling, let them get it out, and when they are finished ask them if they would like a hug and chat about what upset them. Nine times out of 10 they will come and crawl into your lap for some cuddles. Respect them, in order to earn their respect. The fastest way to ruin a child’s trust and lose their respect is to smack them when they are having a meltdown, that’s when they need you the most.

Keep calm

We all get irritated with our kids, but yelling will aggravate the situation. Kids can be irritating little brats at times. Sometimes I want to scream and shout and yes, even smack. I constantly have to remind myself that we made the decision to parent gently for a good reason. So when I feel like that, that blood boiling anger, I take a deep breath, close my eyes and try to stay calm. Whenever I do lose it, the situation is always so much worse.


When I do lose it (and it happens more than I would like to admit) I make sure I always apologise. Saying “I'm sorry I shouted at you, but you’re so annoying!” does not count. Apologise unequivocally. Show your children that mommy is human and makes mistakes, but can admit to them and apologise when she is wrong. 

Have strict boundaries 

We have a very strict no tolerance policy in our house. We have very few rules, but the ones we do have are always for a good reason and are non-negotiable. I am very strict with manners and playing nicely with one another. Our daughter knows that there is a no tolerance approach and that we will not bend. We pick our battles and enforce the important rules. 

Nip the problem in the bud 

If Lily is doing something that is inappropriate; running in the road, climbing on something she shouldn't or just being unmanageable, I immediately get down to her level. Tell her to stop that behaviour and distract her. If that doesn't work, remove her from the situation. We count to three and follow through. No empty threats. 

These steps don’t always work. I yell. She yells. Sometimes my husband has to step in as the voice of reason and send both of us to our rooms for some quiet time. The fact is that we are human, and sometimes we screw up. We TRY though. Every day we strive to be better, to parent better, and more gently. She can see that. She can see that I try to do my best for her, and try to give her the tools to be a gentle adult one day, in a very non gentle world. 

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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