GAPS Diet: The missing link in positive discipline

July 11, 2011 · 27 comments

mother and son

mother and son

I am all about positive discipline, but I don’t think I’m alone in acknowledging how difficult it can be. Raising young children is hard work and emotional, and it’s not easy to keep a clear head.

It’s even harder when you’re sleep deprived and you have a child (or multiple children) who test you. Constantly.

There have been many times where I’ve had to walk out of the room and throw something in order to stifle my urge to throw something at my children. Sometimes I just can’t take it.

But that is changing.

Last month I discovered I have a gluten intolerance. That simple realization changed my life.

The most profound way is that it made me look even more closely at what my family eats and how that effects us. I learned about the GAPS diet, and my family is now working through the GAPS Intro Diet.

We started a week ago, and I could write a years worth of posts (and maybe I will) on the ways it has changed us.

One of the amazing changes is in my older son.

He has always been sweet, charming, hilarious, and cuddly. But he also has a side of him that troubles me. He takes toys, habitually. He is impulsive. He hits, kicks, throws things, and yells.

I know these are common toddler behaviors, but I always had a sense that in him it was a bit different. It’s one of the reasons that positive discipline resonated so much with me, because it was so clear to me that punishment was no use (in fact, it made almost all these behaviors worse).

I worried and hoped he’d grow out of it, and we had good days and bad. But they never showed signs of changing, even on my best discipline days, when I was patient and firm and understanding.

As I learned about how our diets can affect our behavior, I found hope that I could change it, and we decided as a family to try.

I’d cut gluten, dairy, and most sugar from our diets about a month before starting the GAPS intro diet, and it was a difficult time. My behavior was worse, and so was my children’s. It wasn’t until I learned about die-off and how changing conditions in the gut can release toxins, did I realize that behavioral changes almost always get worse before they get better.

We’ve seen that since starting the GAPS intro diet.

But most promising, we’ve seen amazing progress. My son is waking up cheerful (very rare before). He no longer hits. He’s stopped throwing things. I can see him thinking about his actions before he does them, and suppressing his impulses.

It is nothing short of miraculous.

There are other more subtle changes, too. He stopped asking to watch television. He’s able to entertain himself with toys for a much longer period of time. He eats his meals in one sitting, neatly, without spilling or getting up (we’ve worked on this for a looooong time).

He responds when I tell him something hurts, or makes his brother sad. I feel like I’m suddenly able to reach a part of him that I never could before.

All the things I couldn’t do with my interactions with him have been achieved by changing what I feed him.

Yes, the diet is restrictive (no processed foods, no starches, no grains), and a hefty protocol to begin.

But for us it’s freeing.

For me, no migraines and more energy. I can be present with my children like I’ve never been able to before. It’s tempered my own aggressive tendencies, so I have much more patience and empathy. I no longer have those feelings of anger or dread that need to be tempered when there’s a middle-of-the-night wake-up or sibling tussle that needs my attention.

For my son, it’s what I hope is an increased ability to empathize, to socialize, and to relate. He’s showing a lot more interest in people around him, and a desire to spend time with friends. And of all the silly things, he started dancing again . . . something he used to do all the time but stopped (I think out of concern for what other people would think).

The GAPS diet is changing our life. It’s making the possibilities with positive discipline absolutely endless, and it has me so excited to see what will come as we work through the rest of the intro diet and start eating more foods. I feel like we’ve finally found the solution to what’s been troubling us, and I can’t wait for what comes next.

Photo credit: Chris. P on Flickr

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