What DO we do Instead of Punishment?

 

Probably the most frequently asked question I get asked by readers in comments of shares of my parenting posts is “what do you do then?” How do respectful parents parent without punishment and other forms of manipulation?

When they hear that we don’t spank, yell, force manners, use time out, take possessions, manipulate or bribe they imagine us left with figurative empty hands.

What do you do then? How do you parent without these tools?

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What about learning consequences?

What about when they are going to do something unsafe?

What about tantrums?

What about when my child hits/bites/talks back?

What about siblings fighting?

I think it’s hard to imagine without having seen it or lived it. But parenting without punishment is possible and incredible. Children are people and deserving of so much more than the current parenting paradigm. We are part of a global society that is used to these methods being used to parent and discipline. Without which kids would apparently be out of control and we would be terribly stressed out. But it really isn’t like that. I imagine that passive means of parenting; without boundaries and a strong foundation, could certainly be awful. But respectful parenting isn’t passive.

Respectful parenting isn’t easy. Particularly if you’ve been raised differently. Not only is there you and your child in the equation but often a partner and family who have influence over the whole dynamic.

It all begins with a lot of unlearning. Unlearning what we are taught to believe about children through our culture (parenting, school, media, etc). Then you build a relationship and connection with your children from that foundation.

“Many believe that parenting is about controlling children’s behavior and training them to act like adults. I believe that parenting is about controlling my own behavior and acting like an adult, myself. Children learn what they live.” – L R Knost.

Truthfully there is no step by step guide to respectfully parenting. Ultimately it’s about consensual living, together and working as a team. This guides all decisions and discussions. It’s not about children or parents being free from responsibility.

So what DO we do then? We:

Teach natural consequences

Learning that every decision has a consequence is a huge thing for children. It’s our job as parents and guardians to help them recognise and understand that their actions and words have an impact on others and themselves.

To be clear, helping children understand natural consequences is about the genuine results of decisions – not about making a consequence (i.e. when people take away ‘privileges’ or possessions after warnings – this isn’t an authentic consequence)

That hurt your brothers feelings.

I don’t want you walk to the park without shoes, you could hurt your feet. When you’re ready to put your shoes on we can go.

 

Label and validate emotions

It’s so important to teach children that it’s OK to feel and express the full spectrum of emotions. Not just the emotions that we are comfortable with. It’s really common in our society to belittle children’s emotions or try to mute them.

It can be hard and I have wrote previously about coping with kids strong emotions. Of course you can help to model and discuss appropriate reactions to different situations and feelings. However, it is most helpful to embrace emotions and label them.

You look like you’re feeling really frustrated. Can I help?

That made you really sad. I’m sorry that happened to you.

I understand that made you angry.

Manage our expectations

Along a similar vein, it’s often key to understand that their response is age appropriate. Society has really set high expectations for children. Sometimes kids are just tired or hungry or feeling pressured. It’s important to assess and manage your expectations and align them with your true ideals surrounding children and not just what you have been taught to think or expect. Remember also that sometimes things may not matter to you; but it matters to them.

She’s three. This matters to her.

He’s tired. This is hard for him right now.

Empathise

I can’t emphasise enough how crucial it is to view the situation from their perspective. This goes hand in hand with managing expectations but it’s important enough to repeat. Empathy is so important.

Sometimes I literally take a breath and imagine the situation from their perspective. I’ll suddenly realise there is a whole lot of noise or new people or new situation – or all three! I’ll realise that I haven’t prepared them adequately, for example. Sometimes it takes realising that the newness of what we know and understand and are comfortable with in this world isn’t the same for these awesome little people.

He needs some time. I’ll be here if you need me.

She is overwhelmed. I’m happy to hold her until she feels safe and comfortable.

Remember the aim isn’t obedience

I firmly believe that the aim with parenting shouldn’t be blind obedience. Intrinsic motivation for all values (morals, safety, positive decision-making, self worth, respect, etc) is far more significant and beneficial.

disobedience respectful parenting

Practice and teach autonomy (yours and theirs!)

In our family, everyone’s rights are respected – so long as they don’t encroach on the rights of others. Body autonomy is so important but just as important is personal autonomy and consistently demonstrating and reiterating what this means out loud.

I won’t let you hurt me.

I can’t let you yell at your brother like that.

Keep them safe

What about when they run in front of a car?

Whose kids are these that run out in front of cars? This is the most ridiculous debate that is brought up any time people bring up not spanking or punishing kids. When it comes to safety, you simply remove them from the threat and discuss why after the immediate issue is dealt with. Kids don’t need to be punished to understand that you are serious.

Children are also more likely to take you seriously if you’re not always unnecessarily micro-managing them and telling them no.

Compromise

Having children play an active, genuine role in the decision making process – where possible and appropriate – is vital, too. I know, it doesn’t come naturally and often the initial fear is permissiveness or that you’ll be taken advantage of. But the more responsibility and freedom you give your children to compromise with you – the more they learn how to navigate these decisions effectively.

Children learn by doing. Without compromise and working with children and having them be part of the process, they don’t get that opportunity to grow and learn!

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Continuously work on connection

It all comes down to your ongoing relationship and connection. Children act drastically different when they feel heard, valued, and respected. Just like all humans do, they need to feel these things consistently and fully.

I truly believe this is the hardest thing about authoritarian parenting – the parenting itself warrants the behaviours that leads to the punitive means they believe is needed. It’s a vicious cycle. Remember, it’s not you vs your children.

Develop emotional intelligence

Developing their understanding of right and wrong obviously helps us as parents. The issue here is that people expect it rather than realising that they’re ongoing concepts to learn and explore. As parents we have to help them navigate these choices and understand that people make mistakes. It’s important to talk with them about their choices and the impact they have.

 

Trust

This is a hard one. Trust. Trust that by modelling and discussing and living respectfully with your kids that they will become respectful adults. Trust that children aren’t out to manipulate and ruin you. This is hard when you have a three year old testing boundaries or you have had days of sickness and tiredness and slip up and yell.

You have to trust that your hard work and connection is enough. Because it is. It is enough.

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  1. I agree with 99% of this but I take Alfie Kohn’s view (unconditional parenting) on natural consequences….

    Furthermore “I can’t let you x y z ” to me is no better than no (who is the all powerful being stopping you doing something like letting them go outside. If as an adult you choose to not go outside, I don’t want to go outside because your feet will hurt without shoes seems more honest than I cant let you…. At this moment the parent is being authoritarian you can’t hit/go outside etc I am not debating it here (although I still think with hitting addressing the underlying emotion is important and recognising with age a child can control themselves better and so a problem can naturally disappear) but if one is being authoritarian better to admit it than act like the parent isn’t able to do anything else. It’s a choice – possibly a wise one in the circumstances – but still a choice

  2. My daughter will be 6 years old this fall. I do practice peaceful parenting. However lately she has been so incredibly rude towards me! I’ll simply ask her a question, like ask her if she wants me to put pigtails in her hair and she will rudely say “YES”. Honestly it makes me want to do nothing for her. I don’t know what to do. She never used to be this way. When she gets really angry she’ll even kick me in my stomach – and I’m 8 months pregnant!

    • It sounds like there is something that is bothering her. Possibly she is worried about the new baby and trying to push you away because she feels the baby is going to take her place. I would try to connect with her and talk to her about her feelings. Tell her how it makes you feel when she speaks to you that way and ask her why she does that. Give her some extra one on one time even just 10 min of your undivided attention each day. It helped a ton with my daughter.

    • Wow, perhaps you should think about changing your parenting style, clearly something is not working if your 6 year old is kicking you in the stomach while you are pregnant. That is horrifying. I am not saying this to make you feel bad or blame you at all. I hope that you can get your daughter back on the right path, good luck to you. :-)

    • Definitely sounds like an underlying issue. Love to you, mama. It’s hard when pregnant to keep up with mindfulness and connection. Undivided attention is hard when you’re tired.

      Has anything changed for around or before the time her behaviour changed? School? Friends? Family? Etc?

      It sounds out of character so I’m thinking some reconnection and discussion could help. Send me an email if you want to chat (Racheous@live.com.au)

      • One thing that has changed is that she has entered the second plane of development. Six to twelve year olds have developed the ability to reason and to question the deeper meanings of life. Show her a timeline of fetal development and discuss it with her. And by all means, if you’re angry because she kicked your stomach and don’t feel like putting her hair in a ponytail, explain why you are not going to do in today. Tomorrow is another day.

  3. Thank you for this. My husband and I have been trying to practice more gentle/peaceful parenting over the last 6-9 mo or so and we’re really struggling, especially with our independent, determined and string-willed 3.5 yr old daughter. Can you please elaborate more on how you handle body autonomy situations? For example, your child is hitting or kicking you out of frustration. After you say, “I won’t let you kick me,” then what?

    Also, what do you do when there really aren’t any natural consequences? For example, at bedtime we all work together (parents and 3 kids–ages 5, 3.5 and 1) to clean up before starting our bedtime ritual, but oftentimes my middle daughter refuses to help. Taking away toys would be taking away the toys of the other kids too, which doesn’t really seem right or fair. How should we handle situations like that?

    • It takes unlearning for the children too if they’re used to different parenting. So 6 months is definitely in a transition period for you all! I love hearing from parents who are changing though because I know it’s hard but it’s so very worth it!

      For body autonomy if the child continues to hit or kick we will say “I am going to need to move you/move away if you continue.” and afterwards we discuss how things hurt and ask questions (i.e. do you want to hurt ______? how do you think that made me/them feel? etc). I often reiterate how anger and frustration can make you feel and better ways to deal with those feelings (i.e. “Sometimes when I feel really angry, I feel like screaming and kicking. It’s not kind to kick people or yell at them but it’s okay to feel angry) I find validation of emotions goes a long long way.

      For cleaning, I recognise that it’s related to age and expectations. My daughter is 3.5 and I wouldn’t expect her to help cleaning up sometimes. Particularly when tired. I thank them for helping and talk about helping family and keeping things functional and clean. My 5.5 year old is very helpful but it wasn’t always this way. It comes from nurturing a family culture where we help each other and he’s grown to expect to feel valued and heard. If he says he’s too tired, I understand, for example.

  4. I have an almost (in 3 weeks) 2 year old with a slight receptive language delay. I’m struggling with not yelling when he’s always hitting me. He likes the sound slapping makes and I haven’t found a suitable replacement for my skin! He also climbs everything and we have tried natural consequences, he’s fallen off, yet he keeps going back. I try just taking him down and walking away or telling him no. Some days it feels like that’s all I say. Now he’s in daycare and he’s learned even more behaviors. This weekend he slapped me across the face, twice. Any advice would be welcome!

    • Perhaps he’d like drums or even slapping his own knees? With climbing we’ve always given suitable alternatives and also trusted them to know their limits. We’re all about manageable risk taking and the awesome benefits learned.

      I can’t help with advice for daycare, I’ve never and wouldn’t use it. Hope that helps.

      • Wow. Sanctimonious much? You never have and won’t use daycare. I’m sorry that some people have to work and don’t have a choice. I live in a city where the cost of living is so high that one income doesn’t even cover rent. As for suitable things to climb on, what exactly would that be? We live in an apartment it’s not like he he a yard to play in.

        • Also did you not read the part about a receptive language delay? He doesn’t understand a lot of what we are saying to him. So “explaining” doesn’t work. Yes I can model for him but I can’t exactly climb on the correct things for him.

          • You’re choosing to be defensive and upset by me stating my situation. I didn’t say it’s not okay for you to use daycare?

            I don’t feel like you genuinely want help or advice. I am giving my opinion and advice and time for free just going to help others. There’s no need to attack.

      • I thought about considering the advice in this blog until I started reading the comments. I am not sure why you felt the need to state that you would never use daycare. Get off your high horse! By stating that, you are are making other parents feel bad if they use daycare.

        • Parenting is hard as it is. And if Racheous doesn’t want to use daycare, that’s perfectly OK because it is her kids, her decision. Why should that be (mis)translated to think that parents who DO use daycare are doing something wrong. If that’s what they want to do, that’s THEIR choice.
          There is no need to attack her.

    • Sara,

      I’m sorry to hear you are having troubles with your now 3 year old son. With regard to slapping, some children are more ‘daring’ than others and a simple reminder or talk won’t do in stopping the behaviour. This is especially true for a child with a language delay!

      You need to physically remove them from the harm or gently restrain them when they are causing harm. In the case of slapping, I would hold the child’s hands in mine after the slap and say “No hurt mama” firmly (no yelling at all – Just use a firmer than normal tone). I would also wince or fake cry for no more than a second or two so, so the association that slap = pain starts to form. Some might say this is manipulative to fake cry for a couple of seconds, but I don’t think so. For children with a language delay, changes in expressions help them more than words ever could. Then I would re-direct him to slapping something else like toy drums.

      For suitable things to climb on – indoor climbing domes are fantastic. If you have space for a play room in your apartment, I would suggest a large foam pit he can jump in from a certain safe height. He will remain safe and fulfil his sensory needs, and you will be also be able to relax knowing he is safe and happy. He sounds very physical like my own son, who is a climber, runner and also funnily, was a slapper!

      It will get better with time. Bless you for doing the right thing by him and remaining gentle in your approach.

  5. Great article. I practice respectful parenting, but am a bit at a loss lately with my 4 year old pushing and pushing limits. I strictly enforce “no hitting the dog” or “no being unkind to the dog in any way,” but he continues to do it. I have a zero tolerance policy, so as soon as he does it, he has to come inside and can’t play outside anymore (our dog spends most of her day outside and his play structure is out there, so he really likes to be outside.) Any recos on how to handle differently, or do I stay the course with what I am doing until the behavior stops?

    • I would likely do similar at that age and in that situation. I would explain that being unkind to our pets is not acceptable in our home and that if he does, we will go inside. I would not give him the chance to hit the dog either. As in, stay close to him when outside and physically stop him. I’d chat often outside the actual events about not hurting living things.

  6. I have been working towards peaceful, respectful parenting ever since my son was born nearly two years ago. As for your comment that “whose children run in the road…?” Well, mine. My son loves cars and we live in the country and have a long driveway. The weather is starting to cool down a little, but this summer has been brutal and while I know how important it is that children play outside, I have been so frustrated by my son refusing to play close and wandering on the property, particularly trying to get to the road. There are other trucks and cars which occasionally come down out driveway, to go deeper into the property where some other folks have weekend cabins, lakes, etc. so even though we rarely get through- traffic, I feel I must always be able to see my son and keep him relatively close. It can be maddening to feel like I have to wander around the yard just to satisfy his outside times, safely. But that isn’t the whole story- he has been biting, scratching and hurting me on purpose for over a year and none of the above techniques you are describing have helped me get through to him about the behavior. He will even come up to me and scratch or bite when he is frustrated with a toy or another person, but he goes after me viciously when I tell him no for any reason. I use empathy regularly, and everyone in my family, including my husband, views my parenting as too relaxed, though I strive to set clear boundaries and follow trough wih natural consequences. I’m incredibly discouraged. Why won’t he stop hurting me? It makes me question the whole foundation of peaceful, respectful parenting- it feels like it doesn’t work, and now I’m torn between continuing what isn’t working for me, and doing things like time- outs or other things that seem to work for other parents, who have happy kids who understand the rules of their home. Please – address this behavior if possible.

    • Almost 2 is still very young to understand that what he’s doing is hurting. At that age they have no impulse control. If you switch to time outs or other punitive methods it may actually make his behaviour worse. Physically preventing him from hurting you may be your best bet, by gently holding his hands/arms/legs and saying “I can’t let you hit me, that’s hurts.” And then being there to empathise with the feelings that pour out, which it sounds like you are already doing. Keep going, you will slowly see changes and it will be worth it.

    • My 18 month old was also running toward the road. In fact, she’d run toward it laughing and yelling “no, no, no.” I was talking about it with my husband over dinner one night, and he simply said, “she wants you to chase her.” Once I started to reconnect and engage with her (she likes to be chased, and for mommy to run through the yard with her) she stopped going for the road. Good luck, mama!

    • Great responses here. My daughter was similar and yes it took physically stopping her to get her to cope with the underlying emotions. We will say “I am going to need to move you/move away if you continue.” and afterwards we discuss how things hurt and ask questions (i.e. do you want to hurt ______? how do you think that made me/them feel? etc).

      I often reiterate how anger and frustration can make you feel and better ways to deal with those feelings (i.e. “Sometimes when I feel really angry, I feel like screaming and kicking. It’s not kind to kick people or yell at them but it’s okay to feel angry) I find validation of emotions goes a long long way.

      It’s hard that sometimes it comes with time. Time to learn and make mistakes.

    • I’d ask him “Did mommy ask you to bite me?”…Then say “No I didn’t because biting hurts me” at this point name things he can bite or hit…I started using this and showing them what they could hit it bite ex: a pillow or an apple to bite and within a few days that behaviour decreased drastically…

  7. Just like the previous posters, my husband and I too are struggling with our dd’s behavior (she just turned 3). Constant limit pushing (on everything of importance: from hand washing to diapering, to eating meals, picking up food mess and toys, to dressing/undressing, bedtime) and dealing with major aggression during times of frustration or minor disappointments (hiting, scratching, kicking, yelling both her father and I and her 5 month old sister). It’s very distressing. We have used gentle, respectful parenting approaches since day 1. It worked great, up until she turned 2.

    I have a degree in child development; I’ve been trained to implement respectful caregving and behavior guidance approaches. I’m doing everything I know: connecting and bonding with her, respecting her feelings, giving choices, saying “yes” when possible, setting limits when needed and following through with natural/ logical consequences, discussing things with her. I feel her spiraling more and more out of control everyday.

    I hate the thought of using manipulative (bribery, fear-based, or punishment-based) parenting techniques. I cringe when I see parents use such approaches. But I am amazed when I see children cooperate and how the parents are not fighting to get their children out the door, or do xyz. (“You can have the treat if you say goodbye.”)

    It makes sense why these manipulative approaches work, and when relationship-emotional based, respectful approaches seem not to forany children. Young children are naturally egotistic… they understand their feelings and desires. It is hard for them to take the perspective of others. So If I explain, its important to change her diaper promptly to avoid getting a rash and that she can go right back to playing after, it doesn’t matter to he because she wants to play NOW… even a choice of changing just a few minutes later or when she’s ready won’t work because she still wants to play THEN. (Egotistic about what she desires). Manipulative parenting plays off of those desires and the egotistic developmental stage to gain compliance.

    I just don’t know how to reconcile. I feel manipulated by her when following respectful /gentle approaches with her. I explain how it saddwns me when she hits, ect. (not in a way that aims to place guilt or manipulate, but just to make her aware) She seems happy to know that she has succeeded in upsetting me, as if that is the goal of her misbehavior. I have tried connecting and reconnecting with her to get past it, to no avail. I don’t know what else to do…

    • “She seems happy to know that she has succeeded in upsetting me, as if that is the goal of her misbehavior”

      I think you just hit the nail on the head. She needs your strong, confident, unruffled leadership and is testing boundaries to find it. Act like her behaviour doesn’t phase you in the slightest (easier said than done, I know!) and it loses its power. Continue setting boundaries in this way and connecting with her at other times and you should see her behaviour change.

    • The thing is that punitive methods don’t help in the long run. I understand the motivation from an immediate-obedience angle. The toddler ages (2 and 3 year olds in particular) can be challenging. My daughter was the same except it only began around 3. It’s slowly changing and I know by looking at her 5.5 year old brother that it’s worth it <3

      • Rachel,

        How can you say punitive methods don’t help in the long run? If you steal from the store the thought of going to jail has no effect on you?

        The majority of ppl believe stealing from regular ppl is wrong, but I have talked to those ] who believe that stealing from big corporations in not. Because they have so much anyway, they wont feel the difference of a few pens lets say. so even white stealing, like paper and stationary is ok. Why do they it? Because there is no punitive consequence in sight, its tolerated. If you take that out of the equation and you put a banner on the office door: stealing office pens will result in lay off, I think it will definitely keep the pens and sticky notes in.

        Why? Because we are humans and we have desires that are hard to control! We help each other by having punitive consequences that are explained and easily understandable.

        There is also forgiveness to be taking into consideration. And balance. Show the kids you forgive them as well, not punish them for every misdemeanor. However, letting your child hit you is much more unhealthy in the long run, 20 years from now, then using natural punitive methods.

        Lots of love,
        A

        • I disagree. I think if anyone is only not stealing purely to avoid punishment and not because they morally feel it’s the wrong choice, then they need to reassess.

          Do you understand what I mean? Fear of punishment shouldn’t be the motivation for anything. That’s not authentically teaching or modelling values to children.

          As I said in the article, I don’t let my children hit me or others. In fact, I implicitly say “I won’t let you hit me,” & will forcibly hold them so they can’t if necessary. What I don’t do is punish them for age appropriate boundary pushing and learning.

    • Katie,

      Do you set any boundaries with her? Little people(that’s what children are: people that are little) like people need boundaries in order to feel security. Boundaries are also a way to express love to people, no mater if they are big or small. Imagine if she was your friend or coworker, would you let her treat you like that? She is going to be someone’s coworker and friend, and even if she is not going to physically bite, I believe that if you let her bite you, she will think that there is nothing wrong with that and act in a hurtful way later on.

      Before implying any for of boundary you have to check if your child is not acting that way because he has an unmet need. ALWAYS check first. Are you not giving her attention because of the 5 month old? Do you have one on one time?Playtime? Do you tell her with actual words that you care for her, love her always no matter what she does?Do you touch her, hug her, kiss her?If yes, she has her love trunk full and she is now crossing the limit to see how far she can stretch. And its your job, not anyone else’s, to show her that you love her through setting boundary and natural consequences.

      I am a TRUE BELIEVER in natural consequences. You have to see the situation where your little person will become a person and imagine how do you want her to react? For example:
      I am a big person, I have to go to work. If I don’t go to work I have no money for food. It sounds simplistic but its very true. The responsibility of going to work fulfills daily necessities. I would never HIT or violence my child, but life could result in it(being a brat to other kids got me hurting). Will my clients hit me if I don’t show up to a meeting? no. But if I badmouth or hurt another child, a teacher or my boss, that could get me in a serious trouble and I may get hit. Not be beaten into submission, but a very light stroke on her hand, enough to pinch and show you mean business is not going to send her into therapy for 20 years. But letting her do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, will. And will also not prepare her for real life consequences.

      If she acts out when you try to take her off the playground for only 5 minutes, and you calmly explained her that its for her own benefit and she still acts out, then the natural consequence is to go home. You are giving her a gift by taking her to the parc and letting her play with friends, if she does not reciprocate with a behavior that shows gratitude then next time there will be no park. This is real life. If she acts like a little jerk now she will do that later on, and by not doing anything about it she believes what she does its ok.

      You are her standard of right and wrong. Both by personal example and by what you teach her. IF you let her do wrong and let it pass she will understand that it is ok. Teach her real life consequences and always, ALWAYS make sure her love tank is full before you do.

  8. This is the life I want for my children. The one I am working towards. It’s not easy when I’m tired or having a bad day. And it’s not the way I was brought up. I’m still learning new ways of dealing with my children’s behaviour and emotions.

  9. I have been following this perspective on parenting, it is very helpful and respectful. Our toddler has blossomed and is full of self-confidence. We take this approach and also incorporate the spiritual principles of our faith, for example we do value obedience. Obedience to us means a respect for authority/rules. Everyone (or most everyone) has authority figures in their lives. So I think rewards and punishments are part of natural consequences, or maybe “how the world works” is another way to say it; it is not always manipulative to use them. Just my two cents!

  10. The messages contained within this article are so real and valid especially for myself.. I find them to be a reiteration of the thoughts and emotions I’ve always felt even before I was blessed to be a parent.. now as a parent I’m finding myself battling with the societal influences that have been and continue to take root within my actions and responses to my kids… I find that working and trying to balance the efforts of making a living causes me to make snap decisions and exude behaviour and lack of patience which all boils down to me feeling so tired and frustrated from that fight and existence that I don’t take time or raise my energies enough to be the patent I know I should be… it is the sustenance of articles like these and my life’s partner who incidentally is the one who shared it with me… these things help to get me back on track when I lose my footing… She’s the greatest mom and I thank her for sharing her life and the lives of our children… we only want the best for our kids and we are committed to raising souls who will be balanced with their emotions, desires and their lives will be limitless with possibilities…

  11. How do you handle when one child takes a toy out of the other’s hand and then the child screams and hits the first child for taking it (both being in the wrong for different things)? What about when you politely ask them to put their shoes on so you can go run an errand and they keep playing, but you have to get out the door? I have practiced being polite with them since the beginning, but I almost always have to ask them to do the same thing a few times before I start threatening consequences and it gets quite tiring.

    • You could simply say “We need to leave now. You will have to walk to the car in your socks if you do not have your shoes on by the time I count to ten.” The natural consequence of not listening to your polite request to put their shoes on, is to leave the house without shoes. They can put them on in the car. If they get cold or wet feet, that might help them learn that when you say “It’s time to leave” you really mean it!

      I also find repeating the key word “Shoes!” helps to get the point across, when they have not registered my request “Please put your shoes on now” the first time.

  12. Thank you so much for this article. I agree wholeheartedly with your style of parenting. I have a strong willed, outgoing 7 years old who I am raising the same way. I was raised very similar to this style and found it to be most effective. I didn’t realize that this kind of parenting wasn’t the norm until I became a parent myself, when my son had meltdowns or tantrums friends asked why I didn’t beat my son. My thoughts on this subject are that hitting your child is teaching them an unrealistic consequence. If my child does something I deem as wrong and I hit them, they learn to then hit when they feel that someone has wronged them. As an adult we can’t lash out and hit our co-worker or friend if their behavior or actions are less than desirable to us. Our purpose as parents isn’t to raise well controlled always behaving robots, it is to guide these beautiful souls and to teach them how to think on their own and regulate their behavior through self discovery.

    Venus

  13. I have 10 children and a teaching degree so I have some experience with parenting. This is a great foundation for parenting. It works in most situations, however, I think the occasional time-out, yell, or flick is warranted. The families I know that parent like this exclusively have seasons where I don’t want to be around them. I’m not willing to let their 2 year old bite my 2 year old repeatedly while they wait for the child to get old enough to learn what they are trying to teach. That is not fair to my kid. My kid got a flick in the mouth the first time he bit and learned not to do it. It is so much HARDER to unlearn biting (or anything) when it becomes a habit for them. It’s hard for me to understand why parents would let their child abuse them or other children. It really isn’t doing the kid any favors. Anyway, my intention isn’t to criticize, just to say there are situations that, in my opinion, feel worth it to use more and have them learn the lesson instantly instead of gradually over months while they abuse you or other kids. Anyhow, good read.

    • I am a newbie! Please help me by reading to the end. :)

      Respectful parenting is so far from what I grew up with and was taught. I have been using it with my 2 and 4 year old, and I can see a HUGE difference! Even her teacher can see a difference at school.

      Disclaimer: We homeschool using the classical model and are part of a Classical Conversations community where once per week, 24 weeks per year, she spends a few hours in class with her peers. I am in the class with her the entire duration, assisting the teacher in any way needed.

      Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

      I grew up spanked, as did EVERYONE I know. My brothers and I were spanked with a belt or a switch (tree branch), and never thought anything about it. I have spanked my girls, and still do SUPER occasionally, but the more I learn about this model and philosophy of parenting, the less I use punitive measures for controlling behavior. BUT SOMETIMES they test the limits. Do you veteran, respectful, unschooling parents ever yell at your children? I do sometimes, and later say, “I’m sorry I lost my temper. I just get so frustrated when you _______ or when you don’t listen,” etc. Sometimes I’m just very sleep deprived and don’t have the level of patience I usually do, in which I apologize and ask if they can forgive me.

      The girls and I are close, but they usually challenge authority. If I ask them to do something, they just won’t, simply bc I have asked. I understand that she is 4 and simply does not want to do it, and therefore is not going to. But……ugh!!!! Sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to do. “Sorry, kiddo, but when your Sunday school teacher says it is time to put away the toys and begin today’s lesson, you just have to do it. It shows respect to your teacher to do as she says, and you are a respectful little girl. That is what obedience is: Even when you don’t want to, you do it anyway.”

      This probably isn’t super coherent (sorry), but I think this is my question: Is there any room for yelling or raising your voice? Respectful parenting seems so pushover-ish after reading the above comments. It should not be pushover-ish.

      My Hispanic friends were slapped in the face and spanked. My Chinese friends were never spanked, but were yelled-at. Respectful parenting seemingly doesn’t allow for either of these. But parents can’t be pushovers. I just don’t know what discipline looks like. Punishment, I am beginning to understand, may not be necessary, ever; but discipline? What does respectful discipline look like? I need concrete details, por favor!

      I thought this article would give me more nitty-gritty, I guess. What do you do during the sibling squabble in the market or a restaurant? What if she absolutely refuses to do lessons because she wants to play with Barbies? Formal lessons take less than half an hour. You have to do lessons. Children must learn to be obedient and respectful whether respect is earned or not. I have had bosses who were not remotely worthy of respect, but I still gave respect, bc 1) Christ commands it, 2) I am a respectful person 3) Giving respect often yields respect. BUT SHE IS 4. She doesn’t have a condescending, ignorant boss. She just wants to play Barbies and paint tree branches.

      I need to bridge the gap between my background and the life I am living and building for my family, but I find myself in uncharted territory in a foreign land where I know nothing of the language. Please help.

      Sincerely,
      Rachel

  14. I love this! This is exactly our parenting style, but I have never seen such a thorough description/explanation. Kids are people, just like us (only smaller, and less experienced). Thanks for sharing this perspective on parenting! We’ve only been blogging for a few months, and have only just begun to tackle some of these topics.

  15. Thankyou so much for sharing these things. Your writing is such an encouragement to me in my parenting journey. I have lots of Littles (and two bigger ones), and am so often overwhelmed, but blogs like yours give me permission to fall down, get the courage to get up again, forgive myself and move forward!

  16. NEED HELP!
    I am the mother of a 4 1/2 year old who has run out in front of cars multiple times, usually in parking lots. He runs away if he doesn’t want to go home from the park and he hides behind cars. He knows that if he does this, he won’t get to go to the park tomorrow, yet he continues to do it. When he finally gets into the car (he has to do it on his own since I can’t catch him anyway and chasing him just turns it into a game), then he throws a huge fit because we won’t be going to the park tomorrow… yet the next time we go, he runs away again when it’s time to leave.
    We’ve been following this way of parenting for the last 3 years, yet I can’t count the number of times he’s landed on his head (onto hardwood floor) when jumping on the bed or on the sofa, yet he continues to do it every single day. Thankfully he’s only been electrocuted once before he stopped plugging and unplugging the lamp… and we have child safe outlets.
    So my question is, how do you stop kids from running out in front of cars? It’s so dangerous! He’s old enough to understand the dangers, but I don’t want him to actually get hit by a car before he stops. My husband broke down in tears last week after a near miss. I could tell that my son was a bit startled, but I don’t know if he finally understands.

    • I would make him hold my hand in all parking lots and tell him that he is has not demonstrated the ability yet to make safe choices for his body and so you can’t allow him the freedom in this situation. Encourage him heaps every time you see him look after himself. I believe children should be given more responsibility as the demonstrate a growing ability to make good decisions.

  17. Thanks for all the excellent reminders of what we should be doing! I feel like I should print this post, and hang it on the door of the fridge. We’ve had great experiences with empathy, especially the part about preparing the kids for what’s coming. Our kid who’s resistant to changes does echelons better when we sit down, and discuss our entire outing including possible transit changes before we head out. It takes a minute or two, but avoids many minutes of potential fits if he’s caught off-guard. The trust and expectations sections are great reminders for me. Because this kind of parenting works so well at producing autonomous kids, I occasionally find myself having to remember that everything is OK when I’m surprised that they’re having typical kid responses to things. Thanks again!

  18. Hi Rachel,

    This is a brilliant article and so well-written.
    My wife and I are parents to a wonderful 10 month old boy and we have been following attachment parenting since his birth.
    Watching him grow from a new born to an infant to a fast-approaching toddler, I must say I find myself wondering on both ends of the spectrum: I am absolutely amazed at how he responds to communication as we have always communicated with him using our words right from the beginning, while during the difficult times I wonder how the next few years are going to be.

    However, we want to follow attachment and respectful parenting and I just keep hoping that we never give up on it! Reading real life stories from amazing parents like you really helps in restoring our faith and trust in this approach!

    Thank you so much for sharing about caring :)

  19. I just found your blog in my search for respectful parenting insight, and I love every article I’ve read so far. Each article resonates with me 100% deep down where I know the work of change is beginning. It’s so hard and many times downright painful to face the wrong values you hold within on parenting as a result of your upbringing and begin to change those for the sake of raising your own children in a way that is better for them, and you. Thank you for this wonderful resource of your blog!

  20. I love this.
    I’ve been trying so so hard to parent this way, since my kids were born, and I feel a natural urge toward knowing this is true. It pains me so much to see my close friends who disagree, trying to dominate their kids into submission, only to see that it creates manipulative kids who are unhappy.
    I will be following your blog (I’m a first time reader!) and you are my new hero.

  21. Pingback: Gentle parenting  – Mimmo

  22. I Just wanted to thank you for that blog and your articles for it is very hard indeed to try to raise your Kids in a non violent way when it’s not how you’ve been raised. Thank you because I felt understood when reading you.

  23. I’m glad my kids are older. What a challenge to unlearn all the indoctrination!

    I spanked up until 2 years ago via instruction from the church. I’ve since shed that and am learning everything new.

    My youngest is 14. I cannot express how things have changed for him! Now that he receives the respect and appropriate behavior from me, it’s like he’s EXPLODED into this amazing, wise, happy, responsible, capable young man. Every day or nearly every day, he does or says something that blows my mind…how did he know to respond that way? I never taught him that! His wisdom exceeds most adults i know.

    Now, my only concern is, how will he ever find friends or a companion who is so awakened…i don’t want him to feel he is alone in a dumbed down society.

  24. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this type of parenting. Thanks so much for the concise insights. Another great resource for this style of parenting is called Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey. I highly recommend it.