How to Turn Passive Parenting into Respectful Discipline

A great article from blogger Janet Lansbury which can be found here:

There are two extreme approaches to discipline that do not serve a toddler’s needs. One is overly strict, punitive and non-empathetic. It involves maintaining control of the household through punitive discipline and other manipulative tactics. The child is perceived as innately “bad” and out-of-control, needing to be taught how to behave through fear and shame. Respect is demanded from children, rather than being something children can be trusted to return to us when they have been treated respectfully from the time they are born.

 On the other end of the spectrum are parents who are reticent to engage in conflict and will do almost anything to avoid their child’s disagreement. These parents hope boundaries will be accepted by their toddler, so they set limits timidly, softly, perhaps with a wavering tone that asks “is this going to be okay with you?”

Perhaps they over-identify with their child’s feelings, so their instinct is to go out of their way to “make it work” in order to keep the child happy. The parent’s thought might be, “Why not avoid an emotional outburst whenever possible?”  The parent rationalizes, “I wanted to go to the bathroom alone this time, but I didn’t really need to.” Or “it’s probably okay for us to be late while I wait for Alice to decide she’s ready to get into her car seat. I can’t force her.”

 There is a lack of recognition of the healthy need toddlers have to express their burgeoning will by resisting whatever their parents want…and their need to release intense feelings.

These parents might worry that their child’s spirit will be crushed or she’ll stop loving or trusting them if there is a conflict of will. They coax or distract their child into the behavior they want (or out of the behavior they don’t want) rather than risk being the mean guy that says “no”.

 “Basically, most parents are afraid of disciplining their children because they are afraid of the power struggle. They are afraid of overpowering the child, afraid they will destroy the child’s free will and personality. This is an erroneous attitude. “         Magda Gerber

 Passive parents often give too many choices, overanalyze or respond ambiguously when children need a definitive, honest intervention. In the extreme, when a child hits a peer her parent might ask her, “Was that a good choice?” (Hard to believe, but I know someone who witnessed this.)

Every tear a child sheds goes straight to the sensitive parent’s heart. But no matter how caring these parents are, the child’s testing continues. It has to, because the child is still not getting the help she needs.

 “There is no way over-indulged children are going to be happy, because they seldom get direct, honest responses from their parents. …When you say “No,” really mean it. Let your face and posture reflect “No” as well”Gerber

These children might seem adrift and uncomfortable much of the time. There may be a lot of demanding, crying and whining rather than healthy coping and resilience, which can send even the kindest, gentlest, most loving parents over the edge.  “How could our child keep pushing us when we are so loving, kind and respectful?”  But the child’s behavior is not in spite of the parent’s efforts to please, or their gentle, peaceful attitude. It is because of it.

If this passive approach continues, these children can become unpleasant company, not only for their parents, but for their peers, teachers, family and friends.

 “A positive goal to strive for when disciplining would be to raise children we not only love, but in whose company we love being.”Gerber

Guess which of these two discipline approaches I have more experience helping parents with? That might be because “follow the child” philosophies like the one I teach (RIE’s Educaring Approach) can confuse parents about their role. Parents are encouraged to respect their babies, trust them to develop skills naturally according to their inborn timetable and lead play.

As facilitators of these aspects of child development, rather than teachers, we learn to observe, practice staying out of the way. But this must not be confused with passivity — it is mindfulness.

I (Janet Lansbury) recommend these respectful parenting perspectives:

Positive Child Guidance: A Look At Discipline vs. Punishment by Amanda Morgan, Not Just Cute

The Secret To Turning A Toddler’s “No!” Into A “Yes!” and Let’s Talk by Lisa Sunbury, Regarding Baby

How To Raise Decent Children Without Spankings Or Time-Outs by Emily Plank, Abundant Life Children

I Stuggle To Balance Boundaries And Freedom and The Most Valuable Parenting Phrase After “I Love You” by Suchada Eickemeyer, Mama Eve

Entitlement And The Pursuit Of Happiness by Rick Ackerly, The Genius In Children

No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines), Setting Limits With Toddlers – The Choices They Can’t Make, and When Respect Becomes Indulgence on this blog

About katepflynn

International Montessori teacher (birth to 12 years), RIE Foundations Course graduate, and Infant Development Specialist teaching Bradley Childbirth, Parent-Infant (pre-walkers), Parent-Child (walkers) and Toddlers.
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