Sunday, February 27, 2011

GD as a Second Language

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

This post was selected as one of the Crème de la Crème of gentle discipline blogging! Click on the image to view more Crème de la Crème posts!
If you have ever learned another language, then you are especially equipped to understand the learning curve for gentle discipline when it was not the language you grew up speaking.  Most of us grew up speaking punitive parenting.  After several years, we became fluent in shame and punishment.  The thought patterns were so ingrained that we could respond automatically.  Then, as we became parents ourselves, we decided to learn a new language--one of respect, empathy, and peace.

Learning a second language is challenging.  Some people will find that they have an aptitude for it--it seems pretty easy for them, especially if they were exposed to a lot of gentle discipline in childhood.  Others will find that it takes tremendous effort.  Either way, it is possible to become fluent in GD.  It just takes commitment and a lot of work.

In the beginning, there is the challenge of learning a new vocabulary.  Many start off with basic phrases, like greetings and so on.  Then they start to memorize numbers and the alphabet.  In the same way, you can give yourself a script of some of the basics in gentle discipline, or some of the situations that you most frequently encounter.  Believe it or not, the most basic things are often some of the most difficult to master, because they are so deeply embedded in our thought patterns.  I love Naomi Aldort's SALVE for this:

Along with the new vocab, it is important to learn the structure.  If you can grasp the patterns for verb conjugation, you can learn the language.   In Spanish, that means dropping the ending from the infinitive of the verb so that you have the root, and then adding a new ending to indicate the subject.  In GD, it means getting rid of the old ending to actions, and finding the root of the issue.  Once you know what the true subject is, you can add a new ending to reflect that.  Each new tense has new endings to learn, but once you grasp the basic principles, you can adapt much more easily.

Books are helpful, of course.  In the beginning, they can help you learn grammar and vocab, and as you begin to read more and more books in the target language, you start to pick up on more subtle nuances, more colloquial phrases, and usage patterns.  Reading books on GD can be very helpful, both in the beginning to show you the basics and as you progress, to deepen your understanding and expand your toolbox.

In order to really become fluent, though, you need to immerse yourself in the language.  Speak it every chance you get.  Listen to it daily.  Surround yourself with native speakers, if you can.  If you are around people who speak your first language all the time, it is incredibly difficult not to go back to it.  In the same way, it is extremely hard to practice GD if you are constantly hearing and seeing punitive parents.  Do everything you can to immerse yourself in GD--give yourself daily exposure.  Listen to gentle, nonviolent words--if you don't have real life friends to practice with, find GD models on the internet or wherever else you can. 

Move past translation into whole thoughts.  Most students start off trying to translate the language.  It is understandable, but much of the time, it doesn't work.  I once had a student tell me that on the weekends, he and his friends get a little wild.  He put it through an online translator, and came up with, "Mis amigos y yo obtenemos un pequeño salvaje."  (My friends and I obtain a small savage.)  With gentle discipline, if you are trying to translate it through a punitive program, you will wind up frustrated, looking for "consequences" that will make your children feel bad enough to change their behavior.  Even if your words are GD, it won't work until you change your very thought patterns.

Never allow fear of embarrassment to keep you from speaking.  If you are unsure of your skills in the target language, it is extremely difficult to force yourself to speak in public.  If you are in a publicly embarrassing situation with your child, GD suddenly becomes a hundred times harder.  You fear the judgment of those around you if it doesn't come out as smoothly as you would wish.  Remember that how you respond to your child's actions is far more important than how your child is acting.

Practice, practice, practice.  Every moment is a possibility.  Be intentional.  Study in advance--don't just show up on test day and wing it.  Chances are good that you will fail the test unless you are constantly practicing.  Don't wait until you are angry and frustrated--work on things before they get to that point.

Overcome discouragement.  Learning a new language is often discouraging.  It takes time.  If you have spent an entire lifetime immersed in punitive parenting, it is unlikely that you will be completely fluent in GD in a matter of days.  I've spoken Spanish and English for years, and still make mistakes in both.  Even  native speakers screw up from time to time--how much more those who are still learning the language!   Don't allow the occasional misstep to make you decide to go back to your original language.  Sometimes parents get frustrated and want to bounce back to punitive parenting.  (And, FYI, speaking punishment louder won't make you better understood.)  Apologize and try again.  If you look at your progress objectively, you will be able to see how far you have come!


Erika M. said...

What a great post! Thanks!

Christie M said...

oops! That was not Erika, that was her mama. :)

dulce de leche said...

:D Thank you so much!

Hippie Housewife said...

How true! Never is this more obvious to me than when I'm tired or sick. Suddenly that "first language" of mine rears its ugly head. I pray I will see less and less of it as the years go on.

melissa said...

What a brilliant connection! As a lover of language, I really appreciate how you brought these two topics together. The learning curve is certainly similar!

dulce de leche said...

Thank you so much. :) Hippie Housewife, that is an excellent point! It is always harder to communicate clearly in a second language when you are ill or stressed, just as it is hard to practice gentle parenting when you are at the end of your rope.

I think many people feel that all they have to do is toss out spanking and then they are practicing GD. Of course, it is so much more than that, and so frustrating unless we can approach it as a life skill that we are learning.

Claire in Tasmania said...

What a clever analogy! hilarious and inspirational at the same time - just what I needed after a long day ;)

I especially loved the 'punishing louder' bit :D

Maria said...

I'm definitely a continuous work in progress when it comes to the GD language, but I work on getting a little better each day. Thanks for this great post Dulce. :)

Staci said...

I love this! This really makes a lot of sense!

Melissa said...

This is so true! I feel like I am fumbling for words so often, and when I am surrounded by people speaking my first language, it is so hard not to slip back into it.