Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gentle Discipline Failures?

This morning showcased a couple of rather spectacular failures with gentle discipline.  I will spare you the gory details, but they involved nearly two dozen eggs smashed all over my bedroom (right after we had run out of laundry soap and on a day in which there was no time to clean up the catastrophic mess) as well as weeping and gnashing of teeth from all parties.  It was ugly all the way around.
Smashing Eggs
Image credit: mattck on Flickr

At one point, I was ready to write off this whole gentle discipline thing as a failure.  It didn't produce the behavior I wanted in my kids or myself.

It is true that my application of the principles of gentle discipline has been flawed.  Sometimes, I have been too busy or lazy to teach as diligently as I ought.  Sometimes I have veered towards being too permissive and then crashed with punitive reactions.  I have yelled, and at times shamed or reacted punitively.  Like today.

I really think that after nine years of immersing myself in gentle discipline, it should come a lot more easily to me, that I should not lose my temper, that I should instinctively respond with grace and wisdom.  And often I don't.

That punitive soundtrack in my head is harder to erase than a despised commercial jingle.

But I cried on the virtual shoulders of my Gentle Christian Mother friends.  I received sympathy, encouragement and wise counsel.  I made amends with my kids.  They made amends with me, including working all afternoon to help clean the mess and offering their own money to replace the eggs and other supplies.

Once I could breathe again, I realized that mistakes do not define us.  Our response to them is so, so much more important than the original error.  I have already been down the road of legalism and perfectionism that focuses on mistakes.  I know where it ends.  It isn't healthy and it isn't what I want for my kids. 

Even with my imperfect practice, gentle discipline is NOT failing my family.  Look at the rest of the story!  We broke the cycle of shaming and anger and disconnection.  We repaired the relationship.  We worked together as a team to fix the problem. 

My kidlets learned that regardless of how much fun and entertainment there seems to be in smashing eggs, it isn't worth it.  At one point I overheard, "I can't believe that it only took a minute to throw them and it is taking forever to clean it up!  This is soooo much more work than I thought it would be!".

I learned (again) something much more valuable.  That people are more important than things.  That my children do care about my feelings, and that trying to make them feel worse will not improve their behavior or attitude.  That there is great healing when we share our frustrations with loving friends who lavish us with grace in those moments when we cannot find our own.  That when we apologize and make amends it all gets better.  And that is worth far more than a couple dozen eggs and an afternoon of cleaning. 


Christie M said...

I can't help but giggle a little at the thought of kids smashing eggs for entertainment. But OH how I can feel how frustrating that would be. :)
Isn't the Lord amazing in how he teaches us to let go of things?
You are a wonderful mama. :)

Unknown said...

My one year old has smashed many eggs, lol. She's a button pusher that one. Recently, I've been really struggling with how to deal with her. She'll be 2 next month. Will I still be sane then?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your transparency! This brought tears to my eyes as I have been there as well - not specifically with the smashing of eggs, but with others things. I appreciate your sincerity of heart. ♥


Alicia said...

Thank you! I really appreciate your thoughts and hearing your story! I look forward to your posts on my blogroll feed. I am a new mom by five months and love hearing youe experiences