No rules without reason

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As you might remember, I sold my husband on the merits of cloth-diapers and bed-sharing. Now I want to sell him on gentle discipline. But it’s a lot more complicated and less cut-and-dried and more emotional than either of those.

Gentle discipline is the part of natural parenting I find most difficult but it may be the most important. Gentle or positive discipline is non-violent, solution-focused, respectful and based on child development principles. It’s challenging but can also be joyful.

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at
I want to get better at gentle discipline to improve my relationship with my children and also to model it for my husband, Mark, so he can adopt it and improve his relationship with them. I want us to work as a team to raise children who are able to make good choices and understand why they are making them rather than because someone punished them for doing the opposite. There are many times when he says or does something discipline-wise that I do not agree with. But I don’t say anything because I think contradicting a co-parent in front of a child is even worse than anything he might be saying or doing.

Early this year we had been working on the Time-In method of discipline. It didn’t really stick. We had in the past tried 1-2-3 Magic but also didn’t follow through with it. I was focusing too much on the rules and techniques instead of on the logic and reasons for the rules. Just like when we tell a child, “Stop pouting,” we are focusing on the rule instead of on the reasons behind it. So if I, as an adult, can’t stick with this type of program, how can I expect a 5- or 3-year-old to respond to rules without reason?

I’m not saying I never lose my temper with the kids, and if you follow me on twitter, you probably know I get frustrated with them nearly every day. But I have been trying lately to understand why they are doing or saying what they are. I have been trying to find the root of their misbehavior rather than just yelling “knock it off!”

I want to be able to show my husband how well this method works so he never again needs to say, “I don’t care what you want right now. I am so tired of ‘I want I want I want,’” like he did as I was typing this post and Grace was saying she wanted to sleep in our bed instead of hers.

He’ll never again whine back at Grace so she can “hear what she sounds like.”

He’ll never again say, “Connor! What is the matter with you?”

He’ll never again say, “No, you are not hungry. You just ate.”

I know he won’t take the time to read all the blog posts I’ve read about this subject or read Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, as I want to. So I need to become a gentle discipline expert so I can model it and make a happier, calmer, more loving household for all of us.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

16 comments for “No rules without reason

  1. Deb
    May 12, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Good luck. It sounds like one of those projects where the important bit is the doing, not necessarily the achieving. So when it gets hard, you’ll be able to look back at lots of little victories and remind yourself how far you’ve come. And it looks like you’ve already started.

  2. May 12, 2010 at 12:28 am

    My husband was really concerned about the discipline topic whenever we discussed parenting even before we got pregnant. I wonder if they think it’s their role as men to be the disciplinarian or something, or if they’re modeling (or think they have to model) their own fathers. As it happens, my husband was actually more concerned he couldn’t discipline that way, because naturally he aligns with gentle-discipline techniques, so win-win there once he got over his anxiety about his role.

    BUT, one thing that struck me as an idea for you: There’s an Unconditional Parenting DVD that sums up the ideas of the book in lots less time than it takes to read. Our library has the DVD, so maybe yours does or would order it or would do interlibrary loan for you. My husband wasn’t going to read the book, but he loved the DVD (so much so that he’s read the book twice now!!).

  3. May 12, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I think your problem is a pretty common one. Tom and I go back and forth sometimes about gentle discipline techniques. He gets really frustrated (and often overly dramatic): “so I’m just supposed to give in? Is that it?!” (sigh) No. I wish he’d read some of the books/posts I’ve read too. Maybe that’s what I’ll ask for for my birthday ;)

  4. May 12, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Good luck on your journey. I hope that as your husband witnesses the positivity and cooperation in your relationship with your children he is inspired by your example. Perhaps then, he will read at least a few articles?

    • Jen
      May 12, 2010 at 12:37 am

      Acacia – He read this post. That’s a start, right :)
      Lauren – I will pick up that DVD. I think he will like that.

      We both did a lot of yelling tonight while trying to get the kids dressed and out the door. :(

  5. May 12, 2010 at 12:32 am

    I wish you luck with this. I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who practices true ‘Gentle Discipline’. I do have completely different thoughts on raising kids than my husband and recently had to give him some parenting tips (which coincidentally I wrote about today). Hopefully, he will see your success and mimic you.

  6. May 12, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Men in general, IMO of course, 1. ) don’t read up on these things like we do and 2.) not having been raised to do the business of parenting (a sweeping generalization so maybe I can only speak for all the men I’ve known) leave it up to us. But then they have trouble understanding all the stuff we get into due to issue #2. I go through this with my hubby too and while I can explain it away it doesn’t make it much easier does it?

  7. May 12, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Good luck in your efforts to model gentle discipline. It’s not easy, as you said. But I believe that it’s worth it. And I also believe that even if only you do it, then that’s huge in and of itself. Having even one adult treat them gently and respectfully can make all the difference for kids, I think.

  8. May 12, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Oh yes, I have a unique perspective in that my son’s have different fathers. DS1′s bio-father would whine at (then toddler) our son, would resort to hitting him (when I was at work and again when DS1 lived with him for 5 months when he was 6yrs old). It was an AWFUL situation.

    My current partner takes the time to TALK to my oldest son (as the baby is just more content to attack the tv remotes lol), to figure out WHAT is upsetting him. Has never EVER resorted to name calling, hitting, shaming, etc.

    It’s amazing, to me anyway, to go from one extreme to another.

  9. May 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Wow Jen the new site looks amazing. Congrats I know you have put a lot of heart, soul and time into it. You can tell. Well done!

  10. May 13, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    So glad to see another family won over for gentle discipline. Kudos to you and yours! Remember, realisation and self-awareness are already half the effort

  11. May 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Being a mom to only a 14 month old, I am just beginning to learn more about gentle discipline. It is absolutely the route both my husband and I want to follow and clearly takes a great deal of committment. I believe it’s never to late to move in the direction you want to go. I look forward to reading how this journey works out for you and your family.

  12. May 17, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Thanks for the book suggestion, and I will be reading your blog posts too. I am very interested in gentle discipline. Although I was not at all an abused child, I definitely got my fair share of smacks. I know my natural instinct is to smack, to say NO and so on, but I want to learn to do better. Thanks for providing the motivation.

  13. Casey
    May 22, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I have a 4.5 year old, an almost 3 year old, and one on the way. I have to say that it has only been recently that I’ve felt like I’ve been able to see the results of gentle parenting. Before I *knew* I was doing the right thing, but some days I wondered if my kids heard anything I had to say. In the past couple months, it’s become obvious that they do.

    We don’t really have “house rules” so to speak, although the goals in our house are these: Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Take care of this place/stuff. This pretty much encompasses everything I usually need a rule for. When we do have conflicts, I try to remember to enter gently and to try to understand what’s going on. After that, I often try to give the kids words to express what’s going on. I don’t succeed nearly as often as I wish I did. Often I’m crabby or frustrated or impatient.

    My husband isn’t nearly as interested in gentle parenting as I am, but I do see him trying to use a similar technique to what I’m doing. Once in a while after the kids are down, I bring up a quick example or thought with him. He’s usually receptive if I don’t push it too much or put him on the defensive.

    If you are looking for books to read, I’d suggest Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. I really found a lot of good stuff in there. I also found stuff I ignored but definitely some good stuff.

    Best wishes!

  14. May 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    I’m not sure if this applies to older kids, but the major thing I try to do with my 14 month-old is treat her with the respect I’d give to an adult as much as possible. I don’t hold her head down to do her hair just because it’s easier for me because that’s not what I’d do someone older. When she wants my attention and I’m busy, I explain to her that I’ll help her right after I finish what I’m doing. Basically, when I feel the situation is out of control I just step back and think “how would I want to be treated?” I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works often.

    Also, I try to pick my battles. I try to decide if it is really, truly vital for her to do/not do something she doesn’t want to. Is it really important that she let me put her pants on when we’re inside anyway? No. If we’re trying to leave? Yes. I figure there’s no point in getting us both upset over things we don’t really need to get upset over.

    Hope these tips help your husband. I don’t have a lot of time to read right now so I just try to keep those two things in mind because they’re easy.

    • Jen
      May 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      This is not at all ridiculous! Just because they are kids, doesn’t mean they aren’t people. :)

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