I have a love / hate relationship with attachment parenting. I love fostering closeness with my children, I love being gentle with them. I love when my kids and I successfully communicate. I enjoy taking care of my little ones in a loving way.
What I don’t love is how challenging discipline can be. The stereotype is that people who choose gentle parenting DON’T discipline their kids, and this accusation is not totally unfounded. True attachment / gentle parenting is not permissive parenting, and it is not avoiding setting boundaries, but in practice… setting and enforcing boundaries gently can be a huge challenge.
When we set out figuring out how to discipline our child I knew a few things: first of all, I did not want to screw up my kid or give her problems later in life. I knew that there had to be some kind of order. However it happened, I did not want wild kids with zero boundaries. I did not want our method of discipline to exhaust me. (Hard is okay, but it had to be manageable). I also knew that I didn’t want to be cruel, violent, or for my discipline to lack meaning.
What I’ve settled on (for now, I tend to change things when they stop being effective), is that boundaries work for us. Meaning what we say works for us. Natural consequences work for us. We don’t spank, we don’t do time-outs, we don’t assign out punishments that are the same for every offense.
My two year old is a professional boundary pusher
It feels like your baby is manipulating you– she won’t stop crying, she won’t sleep in her crib, she is asleep until the SECOND you put her down, she demands to be held all the time. Your friends kids don’t do this do they? Maybe your relatives think you’ve spoiled her by holding her too much and just need to suck it up and let her cry.
Does this sound familiar? To many moms, it does. You are not alone. You are among a sea of women who have heard this before and have talked about it and searched for solutions. Much research has been done. Many theories have been tried. Now let’s find what works for you.
Yesterday I was sitting at my dining table talking about motherhood with a friend I hadn’t seen in about 5 years, (the amazing writer, journalist, radio lady Kate Powell) and we were discussing how much harder parenting was before my baby could speak. One of the most important things I think I have ever helped my daughter to learn is to say what she is feeling. Once Miriam first began to learn how to express feelings and needs, she was happier, more comfortable, and had this “aha” moment where she understood that we cared what she was thinking and feeling, and that she could communicate those things to us.
Katie and I joked around that many 40 year olds don’t know how to express their feelings, and it’s much harder to learn at that point. Unfortunately, this is very true. Somehow in all the education we receive as young people, talking about what we feel and what we need can fall through the cracks.
I have yet to meet a parent or child who says, “I love time outs, I think they are such a great and effective tool”, and yet, the use of time out as a discipline method is still extremely popular. Trying other options, new parenting techniques are slow to catch on because people have a “well this worked for my parents” or “why test it out on my kids” approach. I won’t write you some hooey story about how letting your kids run wild is best for them, or that setting boundaries is wrong. What I will try to do, is empower you to set comfortable boundaries and teach what is right and wrong in a way that you and your child both feel good about.