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Book Review

by Hilary Flower
Softcover, 360 pages
Available from LLLI
No. 1717-12, $14.95

reviewed by Edith O'Nuallain
Greystones Co Wicklow Ireland
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 1, January-February 2006, p. 28

Until now, many parenting books available to LLL members have been written by authors with little or no connection to LLL, although they may have shared the philosophy of loving guidance. This LLLI-published book offers its own spin on a much written about and discussed topic. ADVENTURES IN GENTLE DISCIPLINE is written by an LLL parent for other parents. In fact, much of it has been written by a large group of parents since the text is regularly punctuated with real-life stories and experiences.

The book is divided into four parts. Part One examines and defines gentle discipline, concluding that it is more of a philosophy and belief system than a set of rules. Gentle guidance is parenting with compassion, empathy, and respect. Parents who choose this route learn to parent in a manner that is unique to themselves and their families. With compassion at the heart of their parenting practices, parents remain in tune with their own personal values and are motivated by an abiding love for their children. They look to gently guide their child's behavior while respecting the child's feelings and capabilities, temperament, and developmental level. This is not a one size fits all approach; discipline needs to be tailored to each child.

For any discipline to be effective, a child's basic needs must first be met. A hungry, tired, or over-stimulated child is hardly in a position to learn from any form of guidance at all. Flower writes:

A great deal of gentle discipline involves setting your child up for success...Most people don't think of food, love, sleep, and the like when they think of discipline....But if it isn't there and solid, you're literally unsupported.

Wise parents are aware of their child's limitations and try to prevent or manage them as much as possible.

Once physical and emotional needs are satisfied, the real work begins. Gentle discipline is not necessarily about ending irritating behavior right now, though it is always pleasant when it works this way. Rather, the goals sought are long-term, such as helping our children develop their own inner discipline, along with qualities like empathy and respect for others. Since parenting is a long-term project and not just about seeking strategies for immediate conflict resolution, it is important to examine our own beliefs, dreams, and ideals.

In Part Two, Flower examines gentle discipline from a parent's perspective, including what triggers our anger and impatience, and how we can learn to overcome these knee-jerk reactions. Furthermore, since our children always give us a second (and third and fourth) chance, we can learn from our mistakes and gently discipline ourselves in the process. One mother writes about responding to a difficult situation by asking herself, "What would a good mother do now?" and then she strives to do just that. Gentle discipline is not about having all the answers, all the time.

Part Three looks closely at 10 common problems in daily parenting and brainstorms ways of using a gentle discipline approach. We get ideas and pointers from mothers who are dealing with the daily challenges of whining, temper tantrums, bedtime, or car seat battles. This could very well be the section of the book that most parents will turn to first -- just remember to return to Part One for the overall context of gentle discipline.

Finally, Part Four is the reassuring section of the book -- the part to read last thing at night after reviewing the ups and downs of the day with little ones. This section offers a wonderful variety of personal essays from real-life mothers who give gentle discipline their best, even when they seem to spend a lot of time making mistakes.

When it comes to gentle discipline, there is no such thing as success or failure; there is only a connection with our children from a base of compassion and love. Sometimes we feel and show this love more clearly than others. This book teaches and encourages us to parent from the deep love we feel for our children, as we learn to parent with gentle discipline.

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