There was a time when I feared any kind of parenting that didn't include strict punishment and strong training. Those "experts" whose ideas I had read, taught that parenting any other way would be permissive, and lead to wild, uncontrollable children.
Thankfully, that period in my parenting was very short lived. Sadly, it's consequences for my children are not forgotten.
Tonight, I was talking to my 12 year old son. He vividly remembers being spanked. And he knows it was a very long time ago. But if I shout, I still scare him. Even though he's as big as I am these days, he still finds me intimidating. Truly, that makes me sad. I don't want to scare my children. I'd like their respect, not their fear.
My parenting style today is so different from then, and I have no regrets about giving up spanking. It turns out that gentle discipline isn't permissive. And I can raise good kids without a "rod".
When a child is misbehaving, I stop the behavior immediately, and there are consequences. But I also take the time to figure out why my child has chosen to act this way, or do this thing. That not only helps me to plan strategies to keep it from happening again, but it helps me to get to know my kids and how they tick.
As my kids have gotten older, gentle discipline has made it possible for them to know that they can talk to me, and that I will listen to the whole story. They know that I will try to be fair, and it allows them to be more honest with me. They don't have to fear giving me an answer that will end in physical pain for them. And with honest answers, I give much better advice.
The knowledge that I've developed from years of seeing the world through their eyes, has allowed me greater insight into who they are as individuals, and it's helping me forge deep personal relationships with each of my children. That's something I wouldn't trade for the world.
My children want to please me, because they respect me, and don't want my disapproval. They are polite, because I have been polite to them, and taught them the importance of simple things like "please" and "thank you". They are generally kind to each other, because I have stressed the importance of kindness. And they understand that no one has the right to hit them, because I tell them so, and I don't violate that just because I'm bigger or in a position of authority.
My kids aren't perfect. They're kids. They're still working out how to get along with each other and in the world. But I'm not perfect either, and I'm an adult. Gentle parenting allows me to show my kids the same grace and mercy that has been shown to me. I pray that when the days of goldfish and pull-ups is over, and my kids are grown, that the respect we have shown each other allows our relationship to change, and that they will call me both mom and friend.