Should we let children learn right and wrong on their own?

Imagine a world where children are not disciplined. A world where children learn how to do the “right” thing for the sake of doing what is right, not because their parents have told them what to do. A world where there are no rewards for good behaviour and no punishment for poor behaviour. No sticker charts. No bribery. No time outs. No yelling.

It may sound like the making of a post apocalyptic fantasy movie but it is actually a reality to many parents. And it’s called gentle parenting.

This is the newest addition to the world of “aparenting”, where parents take a step back and allow their children to learn right and wrong through their ‘natural inclination’. Discipline takes a back seat to friendship, trust and independence. And what gentle parenting hopes to achieve is for children to internalise good behaviour for its own sake.

So what does a house without gummy bear bribes and a naughty corner look like?  It consists of choices, rather than commands – would you like to brush your teeth before or after you put on your pyjamas? – and playfulness rather than work – let‘s play a game of cleaning up your mess.

Gentle parenting does not force affection (children do not have to kiss their parents goodnight if they don’t want to), manners (please and thank you are optional) or chores (children can decide if they want to partake in the daily tasks).  Parents take the time outs, rather than the child.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like a modern-day parenting version of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Rebecca English, lecturer in Education at Queensland University of Technology, points out that while gentle parenting invites children to learn how to live in a community as productive members, it takes a lot of parental self-control. Parents need to take a step back, to trust that their child will do the right thing and to go into the parenting journey as a partner, not as the boss.

Sure, it sounds amazing in theory.  How great would it be to not have to punish your children, to have them automatically know not to cover their bodies with the open bag of flour in the pantry, to fall asleep at 7pm without the inclination to take off their nappy and wee all over the floor first…..

But I am calling their bluff. Or, at least with my two children I am.

Given the chance, will children learn right and wrong on their own? Or do they need rules, reward charts, guidance and the occasional gummy bear?

What do you think?

(via The Conversation)


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