2 : offering or expressing a choice <several alternative plans>
3: different from the usual or conventional: as
a: existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system
<an alternative newspaper> <alternative lifestyles>
Peaceful parenting, unconditional parenting, attachment parenting, consensual living, connection parenting are all descriptors or labels for similar ways of being with our children. I posted a link on my Facebook page this week about why "Time Outs" may not be the best way to deal with undesirable behaviors. Here are more of my thoughts on parenting without ANY punishments (time outs, loss of privileges, sent to room, groundings etc.)
I labeled this post "alternative parenting" because parenting without punishments is definitely not the norm in our culture right now. But I was also struck by the idea that the first meaning of "alternative" really has to do with having a choice. I believe that this is a huge stumbling block for many parents who may want to parent differently but aren't sure *how*. In essence, it isn't clear *what* the choice is - *how* do we parent without punishment, *what* do we *do* instead?
There are whole books on this topic (see Alfie Kohn in my inspiration tab) and many ideas out there easily found in the "blogosphere" for anyone willing to take the time to look. But I am going to take a stab at putting some of my thoughts and experiences into words.
First of all if you are looking for a "quick fix" then you are not going to have an easy time with this. I've only been a parent for 5 years but in that short time I've learned from my daughter that time is the ultimate "fixer". Many of the issues we have (or think we have) with our children will really resolve themselves as our children grow and change. When you are in the midst of a challenging time it can be difficult to remember, but often the quirk, habit, or difficult phase will resolve or disappear without you even noticing!
But what about behaviors that are truly unacceptable? The answer will depend on lots of variables, including the age of the child, where you are, if anyone's safety is involved etc. Besides just waiting for your child to mature, modeling and talking with your child about what is acceptable, appropriate, kind, unkind, unacceptable etc. are important ways to guide your child. For younger children less words are usually more effective and appropriate. I myself am a "talker" and have found how powerful short statements or not saying ANYTHING can be.
But really modeling and BEING the people that we want to be is the most powerful way to show our kids what we value. Ironically, the more I value peaceful ways the more I feel the violence inside of myself. I find my temper flaring and really, I understand wanting to... PUNISH, to... YELL, to... just VENT! But I realized that if I cannot be peaceful and loving when I find my child challenging, then I really am not valuing peace at all. What good is it to say, "I am peaceful, kind, loving... when you are 'good' or when you behave the way *I* want you to?" That is the same as being a fair-weather friend, the ultimate hypocrisy. When we are not seeing eye-to-eye with someone (whether our child or not), that is the most important time to find compassion within ourselves. So I am finding ways and tools to be the person *I* want to be... with my kids.
I think that maybe I am on a tangent here. It's not crystal clear, but it's a start. I can tell you that we are parenting without punishing. Rewards? Well, we do sometimes sweeten the deal if we want our kids to do something with us, but really Marisol has never been one to be easily bribed - she's been above that since she was a baby. Yes, she wanted the sweet, the treat, whatever it was, but on her own terms, not ours. She has been my "teacher" from the start.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts or questions. I welcome more opportunities to clarify in my own mind this "alternative" approach to parenting. I believe it's important that we feel like we are *choosing* the best path for our families not just doing things because everyone else is or because there is no other way.