There we were hanging out with our forest playgroup at a new urban wilderness playground. My son was alternating between begging me to leave and hitting other kids.
Then I called him a butt, and his face fell in hurt and disappointment.
How did we end up here? There has to be an explanation for how this went so wrong!
Let’s back up.
I love the outdoors. My entire life, being outside has been a critical component of a life well lived. I’m in love with hiking and camping. I’ve been rock climbing, sky diving, white water rafting, and canoeing. I like to sleep under the stars, and I’ve got a thing for the full moon and the summer solstice.
Being outside and having outdoor adventures is part of ME.
But, as my kid will grumpily tell you, he hates nature. Our outdoor playdate organization has the word “forest” in the name. My son says, every time we go, “I hate the forest.”
Now, I’m big on including kids in the decisions about their...
No, wait, that’s not right.
We have no charts, star stickers, chore lists, threats, or bribes. I’m not even sure my 5-year old knows the word “chore.”
And yet, our house is cleaner than some people’s, messier than others, and doing alright.
Dylan doesn’t care if his toys are all over everywhere.
Which of our preferences should take priority?
I don’t assume that my way goes just because I’m an adult.
Because the living room is shared family space, when I want it picked up, I do it myself. I let Dylan know when I’m picking up so he can help if he wants to or move any projects out of the way.
Dylan’s room is 100% his. Just like my room is mine. Wouldn’t it be pretty...
That’s right, I absolutely NEVER punish my child. If I’m being completely honest I did punish him once, I guess just to give it a try. It felt so completely wrong that I’ve never even been tempted again, and that was 3 years ago.
Pissed off parents have no shortage of punishments to choose from. There’s spanking, of course, or the ever-popular time out. There’s grounding your kids, taking away things that they like (that’s the one I tried), or forcing them to do something unpleasant.
If you’re looking around for justification for punishing your child, you’ll find that, too.
But there’s another radical option. It involves having a connected, cooperative relationship with your child instead. I know. Far out, huh?
To have the kind of relationship where you come together in joy, you have to give up punishments. You just do. Punishment has no place in a family.
Let’s talk through the reasons I don’t punish my child and why...
Special Note: If you are a beginner to the idea of non-coercion, you might want to start here - The Gentle Discipline Big Idea Book has 50+ alternatives to punishment. Check it out!
I don’t let teachers coerce my child.
He was not forced to read at the developmentally inappropriate kindergarten age. He is not forced to suffer through the equivalence of a full time job just to be educated according to politicians’ guidelines.
I don’t let other people coerce my child.
I tell him that his body belongs to him and that he sets the rules. I give him the language to respond to people who are trying to get him to do things he doesn’t want to do.
I don’t coerce my child.
We work together on bedtimes and the contents of meals and what kind of clothes he will wear. For things he “has” to do, like those related to health and safety, I have a vast commitment to cooperation, and we figure out something that works for both of us....
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