If you are a parent, chances are by now you may have heard of Gentle Parenting.
It is a new parenting style that is gaining a lot of acceptance from parents tired of struggling with discipline and challenging behaviors in the early childhood years.
When we grew up parenting was more authoritarian. You listen to the elders in the family or else you get punished/spanked. Understanding the child’s point of view was not really commonplace.
Our parents are not to be blamed, they did what they thought was the right way at the time. But as more research has come ahead we now know this style of dominant parenting caused a lot of damage in the long term, especially with regard to the social and emotional development of children.
WHAT IS GENTLE PARENTING?
Gentle Parenting is a way to parent through connection, understanding, and empathy. Where you treat the child as you would an adult, with respect. A strong emphasis is given to understanding and communicating, over bribes and punishments.
L.R. Knost describes Gentle Parenting as “guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding.”
It took a while for me to write this blog post for you because I wanted to experience the so-called terrible twos and threes to see if Gentle Parenting really worked.
And the answer is a big “Yes” The success we experienced by using Gentle parenting (Positive parenting/Peaceful parenting; I think all these terms fall in the same category) techniques are worth sharing with other parents.
I know how hard parenting can be, especially when you are doing all of this for the first time, sometimes solo (my husband travels a lot!) and without a support system. It is difficult. No sugar coating it. But, gentle parenting is offering us a way to get on the same page as our children and lead a more peaceful parenting life with very little struggle.
In this post, I will talk about the 4 pillars of gentle parenting in our home. 4 important aspects that we focus on as a family.
These are not the only values to consider, there can be more for other families, but these 4 important points helped my husband and me on our Gentle parenting journey.
4 PILLARS OF GENTLE PARENTING
Treat children as you would treat another adult. It is really as simple as that. Yet how many of us talk to our children as if we own them?
The child senses when he is treated as an equal and is more willing to work with you.
A child seeks your attention and respect. Even though he may be unable to articulate in words, the feelings of being included, loved, and heard are understood and felt by young children.
Any tantrum the child has is a way for him to let you know he is uneasy and does not feel heard or accepted. Once you look at tantrums as a way for the child to communicate, you can break away from the traditional parenting structures.
The way a child communicates with us may be different than how an adult would, but a child is just as much a sensing and feeling human who deserves respectful treatment.
Parenting is not all about you. Your child throwing a tantrum does not reflect how you are as a parent. It reflects some issues the child is having to deal with. An emotion that is bigger than him. Your job as a parent is to try and meet your child at that moment of discomfort.
Empathize as you would empathize with a hurting friend or relative.
Listen. Our children are already telling us many things through their cries, tantrums, and little sentences.
When we entered the twos, and the first set of emotional outbursts started to happen I felt unprepared to handle them. Suddenly my calm and happy baby was unhappy all the time.
But I started by listening. What is my child feeling right now? How can I comfort him? Simple questions all mothers ask.
Gradually I learned about strategies to deal with tantrums and even discipline in a gentle yet effective way. And you know what happened? I started noticing that I was getting good at diffusing tantrums, in some cases, I was able to avoid tantrums altogether. It all started with putting myself in his shoes.
Another positive I noticed about Gentle Parenting, our son began to understand our reasoning and learned to voice his emotions better. He knows no matter how horrible he feels his mom and dad are going to listen and help him find a solution. This simple “knowing”, has made an immense impact on his overall behavior.
AN ATTITUDE TO SEEKING SOLUTIONS
When there is talk about developing a positive mindset in life you will hear people talk about a mindset shift. A mindset that focuses on solving problems rather than moping around, or waiting for things to resolve on their own.
The same applies to Gentle parenting, as a parent you become the solution seeker. Gentle parenting does not mean permissive parenting.
You actively seek solutions to your child’s current challenges. This way the child begins to consider you as his trusted support system. He knows to confide in you and reveal his innermost worries and thoughts. He knows “my parents” will help me figure this out.
An example of solution-seeking instead of yelling: Your child has been afraid of the dark and refusing to sleep in his bedroom. A solution-seeking parent can gain the child’s confidence by saying, “Is there something in the dark? Let me go in there and check for you”.
Bring a torch. Look under the curtains and the bed, then assure your child you checked everything and there is nothing there. Leave on a bedside lamp and give them a reassuring hug and kiss.
This solution may or may not work, but time and again showing your children how to solve problems -real or perceived, gains the child’s trust and also makes the home a calmer place. No yelling, no screaming just finding solutions to the challenge at hand.
Yelling and screaming do not solve the problem they only teach the child, that he can’t voice his opinions or feelings lest it anger/hurt your feelings.
Another very important aspect of Gentle Parenting that took us a while to get accustomed to was adjusting our expectations. There are times when you are truly expecting your child to follow along on aspects that are not age-appropriate yet.
Toddlers have not yet developed their brains, so many actions that sound reasonable to you may still be a task for their young brains to comprehend. Check your child’s readiness for skills per age and then realign your expectations. Losing your temper on actions that the child is clearly not developmentally ready for is a big waste of time and energy for everyone involved.
For example; If you are expecting mess-free meal times below the age of 3, you may be asking too much from your child. Instead, you may need to figure out ways to reduce dinner time messes and provide the child with shorter, easier instructions to understand.
Impulse control below age 3 is not yet a developed skill. Focus on strategies that help distract the child, remove the bad behavior-causing objects from the environment, and talk with the child. As the child grows more verbal you can lay down more firm limits and boundaries until then continue the conversation around what is okay and what’s not.
Useful resources for further reading
Gentle Parenting Books:
Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey (Gentle Parenting Workshops) by L.R. Knost
How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting (The Peaceful Parent Series) by Dr. Laura Markham
The Gentle Parenting Book – Sarah Ockwell-Smith
A brief overview of the developing brain: How you can help your kids thrive as they grow
Most importantly realize that Gentle parenting is not about perfection. It is a process. It takes time to unlearn and break free from already set patterns.
There are days, like every other parent out there I too feel like I am failing. Over time I have learned a big part of parenting is not expecting perfection. Give yourself grace. And then refocus and get back to what matters to you the most.
Our children notice us and trying harder is just another way we make them feel cared for. In time you will figure out how to communicate effectively with your children and Gentle parenting becomes the ethos of the family.
2 thoughts on “What Is Gentle Parenting? And How Does It Work?”
This is a much needed post for a lot of parents out there who feel stranded between the two queer ends of the parenting scale – Over disciplining & Pampering.
I loved how lucidly you have laid out the solutions with relevant daily-life examples, Ophira.
Thank you Ashvini. Glad you found some use gentle parenting tips here.