This article on gentle parenting covers the following topics »
- Introduction: What Is Gentle Parenting — A Mother’s Perspective
- A Real-Life Example of Gentle Parenting Technique
- Why I Chose to Embrace Gentle Parenting
- How to Discipline Your Child Through Gentle Parenting
- 7 Benefits of Gentle Parenting
- Possible Challenges of Adopting the Gentle Parenting Approach
- A Few Tips to Adopt Gentle Parenting
- Summary of Do’s and Don’ts of Gentle Parenting
What Is Gentle Parenting — A Mother’s Perspective
Gentle parenting is a sound parenting approach that centers on parent treating their children with kindness, empathy, and respect. It’s about creating a safe environment where your children feel comfortable exploring themselves and their world in a non-judgmental space.
To me, it means putting the needs of my child before my ego. It is about letting go of things and emotions that suppress my child from expressing hers. I try to communicate openly with my daughter, listen to her needs and feelings, and give her choices whenever possible.
Gentle parenting encourages good behavior through positive reinforcement rather than punishment. In my view, gentle parenting is about building strong bonds between my children and me. This requires me to be emotionally available, comfort and support them, and respond to their needs in a loving and responsive manner.
Overall, gentle parenting is an approach that prioritizes treating children with kindness, respect, and dignity. Intuitively, the approach feels just the right for nurturing my child’s mental and emotional development as she grows up.
A Real-Life Example of Gentle Parenting Technique
Let me share an example from my own parenting journey. I was replying to emails and my 5-year-old daughter Myra was playing in the same room, her non-stop chatter serving as background music.
All of a sudden there was pin-drop silence and as a parent you would know: sudden silence rings alarm bells. I immediately turned around to check and there she was, sitting in a pool of water, that she had spilled all over the floor and the new rug, with a look of fear and embarrassment over her face. My first impulse was displeasure, but I took a deep breath, walked up to her and told her “It is OK, let’s first get you out of the damp clothes”. I then asked her to clean up the mess [with my help, of course] and later, over lunch, I asked her why she was playing with water on the rug, when I have told her clearly that it is not allowed. Like all kids her age, she kept dodging the question and finally promised that she will not do it again.
This does not mean she will keep her word, but I keep reminding her of what is allowed and what is not. This is an example of gentle parenting techniques, and I am a gentle parent.
Why I Chose to Embrace Gentle Parenting
As a child I was verbally abused, hit and slapped; I was made to feel guilty for the smallest mistakes, made to stand in front of the altar and made to feel bad because I made “God” unhappy. I was clear that I didn’t want to do that to my child. I want her to be able to trust me, I want to be her safe space. It’s not easy doing this. There are days I yell at her too—I’m human after all. But one thing I will always do, which my parents never did: I will apologize to her. I will apologize to her, no matter how small the hurt is.
As a kid, when I broke or messed up something, the first reaction of my parents was to yell. Perhaps it wasn’t intentional, but that’s how they were raised and they thought that was the way it is done. Breaking something would result in a long lecture instead of being asked, “Are you hurt?” This instilled a lot of fear in me. In fact, at the age of nine, I actually ran away from home, because I lost a pair of socks and I was petrified of facing the fury of my parents. I don’t want my child to feel the same way and that is why I choose to discipline her gently.
How I Discipline My Child With Gentle Parenting
Contrary to what many people believe, gentle parenting isn’t devoid of discipline—it is an integral part of the approach. Here are some ways I discipline my child in a gentle way:
1. Set clear boundaries
I establish clear boundaries and guidelines for my child, explaining the reasons behind the rules. I help her understand that rules are there to keep them safe and healthy.
2. Offer positive reinforcement
I praise my child when she makes good choices. I try to focus on the good and avoid referring to the not-so-good. Some parents offer rewards or incentives as a means to encourage their children to behave well, though I don’t do this.
3. Let them learn from natural consequences
I allow my child to experience the natural consequences of their actions. That means that she breaks a toy, she must live without it for a while, and if she doesn’t clean up her mess, she can’t play with friends until she does.
4. Use redirection to distract them from undesirable behavior
When my child starts to misbehave, I try to distract her attention and energy towards positive activities. As an example, let’s say that when she is throwing a tantrum, I might suggest we read a book or go for a walk instead.
5. Use respectful communication
I speak to my child in a calm and respectful tone, even when I need to correct her behavior. I try to use “I” statements to express how her behavior affects me, rather than blaming or shaming them.
As a gentle parenting mom, I have come to believe that gentle parenting helps me discipline my child in a way that teaches her responsibility and respect, while also maintaining a positive and loving relationship.
How Gentle Parenting Benefits Your Children
There are many reasons to be a gentle parent. Here are some of the key benefits of the approach:
1. Builds a strong and secure attachment with your child
Gentle parenting is about building a strong emotional bond between you and your child, creating a safe and nurturing environment for the child to thrive.
2. Promotes positive behavior among kids
Gentle parenting focuses on positive reinforcement and redirection rather than punishment, which helps encourage good behavior and reduces negative behavior.
3. Enhances their communication skills
As you listen to your child’s needs and feelings, and respond with empathy and understanding, you are teaching them to communicate in the same effective way.
4. Develops their emotional intelligence
Gentle parenting helps your child learn to identify and express their emotions in a healthy and appropriate way, which is an important life skill.
5. Improves your child’s self-esteem
When you provide your child with positive feedback and encouragement, and treat them with kindness and respect, their self-esteem and confidence gets a fillip.
6. Encourages the spirit of independence in your child
Gentle parenting allows your child to make choices and decisions for themselves, which can help them develop a sense of independence and autonomy.
7. Supports long-term mental health of your child
By nurturing your child’s emotional well-being through gentle parenting, you can help support their long-term mental health and happiness.
Possible Challenges of Adopting the Gentle Parenting Approach
As with any parenting approach, there may be challenges associated with practicing gentle parenting. Here are some possible challenges and ways to deal with them:
Difficulty setting boundaries
I have found that setting and enforcing clear boundaries with my children is never easy even when I know that boundaries are necessary for their own safety and wellbeing. I try my best to communicate this to them.
Dealing with challenging behavior
Gentle parenting may is not that effective in dealing with difficult behavior, such as aggression or defiance. In such situations, you might want to seek professional help and support from a qualified therapist or counselor.
Managing frustration and anger
Gentle parenting requires patience and self-control, which is not always possible. I have been learning to manage my own emotions so that I respond to my child in a calm and loving way as much as possible.
Balancing your child’s needs with your own
Gentle parenting can be time-consuming and emotionally draining, which can make it difficult to balance your child’s needs with your own. I struggle to prioritize self-care but I try and seek support from family and friends when I can.
Dealing with criticism from others
Some people may not understand or agree with gentle parenting, and may criticize or judge your approach. In such times, I remind myself that as a mother I know what is best for my child, and I must continue to trust my instincts and beliefs.
Overall, it’s important to approach gentle parenting with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to challenges as they arise. Seek support and guidance from trusted sources, and prioritize your child’s emotional well-being above all else.
A Few Tips to Adopt Gentle Parenting
If you have any doubts about whether you are equipped to embrace the gentle parenting approach for your kids, read what parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith says in her book The Gentle Parenting Book: How to raise calmer, happier children from birth to seven: “Gentle parenting requires nothing more than love, dedication and consistency. It isn’t reserved for the most naturally calm or highly educated parents, for stay-at-home parents or those with only one child. Money, qualifications, and temperament are not relevant; and it doesn’t matter how well you were parented yourself or if you started your own parenting journey using a different approach.”
Here are a few tips to help you get started on your journey to become a gentle parent.
Be kind to yourself first
Unless you are kind to yourself, you won’t be kind to your child. Don’t let guilt overrule your mind. Very often our guilt causes us to react very wrongly and that results in us being mean to our kids.
Identify your child’s triggers
Children throw tantrums not because they are badly behaved, but because they aren’t able to self regulate emotions. They need help to do so and it’s on us to provide them that help.
Identify your own triggers
Knowing your own triggers helps you stay mindful in the face of a challenging situation. One of my triggers is that I can’t tolerate my daughter crying loudly, without a reason — it drives me up the wall. So if her dad is around, I walk away and ask him to take over.
Go down to your child’s level
There’s nothing which beats this. Kneeling down in front of your child, taking them in a warm embrace and speaking to them gently. Speak to your child in a gentle soothing voice. Validate their feelings, tell them you know exactly how they feel, hear them out, a warm cuddle is worth more than a 1000 words sometimes.
Talk to them about their mistakes
It’s important to let kids know that they did wrong, but not in the heat of the moment. Do it later, when the child is calm. You could have a conversation about their behavior at bedtime. Talk to them about what they did. Ask them why they did it and then gently explain to them why it was not such a nice thing to do. Being gentle doesn’t mean always having to say yes to them, it means hearing them out first and then telling them why they can’t have everything they ask for.
Summary of Do’s and Don’ts of Gentle Parenting
- Show your children love, kindness, and respect. Treat them the way you would want to be treated
- Communicate with your children in a calm and respectful manner. Listen to their needs and feelings, and respond with empathy and understanding
- Use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. Praise your children when they do something well, and help them understand why their actions were positive
- Set appropriate boundaries and guidelines for your children. Explain your expectations and provide clear consequences when rules are broken
- Prioritize building a strong and secure attachment with your children. Be emotionally available, responsive, and supportive
- Be generous with expressions of love — shower them with hugs with or without reason.
- Never use physical or emotional punishment to discipline your children. For instance, never withhold love and affection from your children, no matter what the provocation as doing so can damage the trust and attachment between you and your child
- Don’t ignore your child’s needs or feelings. Even if you can’t fulfill their request, acknowledge their emotions and show them that you care
- Avoid criticizing or shaming your child for their mistakes or misbehavior. Instead, use their blunders as opportunities to teach them about better choices.
- Don’t use fear or threats to control your child’s behavior. This can create a negative and stressful environment for your child.
- Don’t assume that your child is intentionally misbehaving or acting out. Try to find out the underlying cause of their behavior and address it in a loving and understanding way.
Gentle parenting focuses on building strong attachments and using positive reinforcement, redirection, and respectful communication with children. This approach helps promote positive behavior, enhance communication skills, and support the child’s long-term mental and emotional health. While gentle parenting may come with its challenges, such as setting boundaries and dealing with challenging behavior, the benefits for both parent and child are clear. By prioritizing empathy, understanding, and love, parents can help their children grow into confident, resilient, and emotionally intelligent individuals.
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