As a practitioner of responsive/intuitive parenting, the "gentle discipline" aspect is the piece I just don't have a handle on at all. I know very little about what it means ideologically and even less about how to put it into practice. We are solidly an anti-spanking family, but we do sometimes yell and the terms "being good" and "being bad" are used regularly. We use threats of time out,. loss of privileges (TV, playdates, etc), and going to bed early without a story. These threats usually garner compliance, but they cause a huge tantrum and a lot of tears and shame on the part of our little girl. I began to wonder if the word "discipline" was automatically connected to guilt, shame, and power struggles or if inside the concept there lies the secret of a confident and respectful child.
According to Dictionary.com, there are three definitions for "discipline" as a verb:
to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
to punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct;chastise
I suppose the "gentler" definition is the first one. To train by instruction and exercise. In terms of developing socially appropriate manners, exercise and drill would be effective and gentle. Of course instruction should come first (explain to the child why we say "thank you" when someone does something nice for us). The exercise would eventually become a habit--instruction internalized.
The challenge comes in imparting our values to our children without indoctrination. In allowing the tantrums and tears over bedtime because it is developmentally appropriate for a 3 year old to melt down. In teaching when and why to apologize rather than demanding a begrudging "sorry."
Expect to read more on this subject as I seek out resources to better parent my own children and navigate the dicey world of character education.