How Gentle Parenting Makes a Better Parent
Do you remember what it was like before you had your first child? I remember spending time thinking about how I would go about raising them. How would I deal with situations as they arose? I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would be parenting my kids and what type of parenting approach I felt would be right.
We chose to be gentle parents. Gentle parenting is a style of parenting that respects a child’s feelings and teaches them proper behavior, using age-appropriate boundaries and discipline. Being compassionate and understanding are key to being truly gentle parents.
As a parenting approach, gentle parenting emphasizes building strong relationships you’re your kids through communication, empathy and understanding. This takes work to do consistently but it is worth it!
How is Gentle Parenting Different from Other Parenting Styles?
Authoritative parenting is essentially the technical term for gentle parenting. Supportive, caring and nurturing, these parents have firm boundaries for their kids. They are willing to discuss these boundaries and rules with their kids and listen to their viewpoints so they understand but in the end, the parents decide what those boundaries are.
Permissive parenting is the opposite of authoritative parenting. “Everything goes” is the motto in these homes. No consequences for inappropriate behavior and lack of structure or boundaries can lead to discipline problems later in life for these kids.
Attachment parenting is a parenting approach that can be summed up in one word: closeness. Being physically close, or attached, throughout the day (carrying baby in a sling) and in the evening (co-sleeping) as well as feeding on demand are all common practices of this parenting style.
What are the Benefits of Gentle Parenting?
We all want the same things for our families. Great relationships, strong values, respect and we want our kids to be prepared with the life skills that will lead to success and happiness in the future. Being gentle parents gives you the best chance for achieving all of these milestones!
Strong Family Bonds
Strong family bonds are built through communication and respect. Gentle parenting emphasizes giving your kids what they need when they are young. Giving your time, attention and focus to your kids and giving them age-appropriate discipline leads to strong family bonds. Life can get hectic and it isn’t possible to be a supermom all the time with a career and your other responsibilities. To avoid burnout, slowing down and focusing on being with your kids is a powerful way to center yourself and grow these bonds.
Being gentle parents means showing your kids, through your actions and your response to their actions, how to handle situations calmly and empathetically.
Above Average Social Skills
Reacting to your kids’ behavior calmly and respectfully can be difficult but it is an investment worth making. Kids will repeat these behaviors as they grow up, which is one of the greatest benefits of this parenting style.
Learning these behaviors has other benefits as well. Children with gentle parents have been found to better cope with anxiety, which is a skill worth having in today’s world!
Why Gentle Parenting May Not Work All the Time
Wouldn’t it be nice if the parenting style you choose to implement worked every time? Of course, it would! Will your parenting approach be perfect and foolproof? Absolutely not! No one can use this parenting style 100% of the time but what gentle parenting does do is put your relationship at the forefront of your parenting priorities.
The main reason you may have challenges with gentle parenting is that, as a parent, it can be hard to stay the course. For a lot of people, reactionary parenting is what they know, what they grew up with and what they naturally do. Gentle parenting takes time to be implemented and to reap results but it is well worth the wait.
How Do I Use Gentle Parenting?
To apply gentle parenting practices takes a shift in mindset. You need to look at your kids and the way they do things from a new perspective. What does that look like?
- Understand that they are children and will do child-like things.
- Have empathy for them and try to see what the situation is from their perspective and have grace with them.
- Respect them as a person. By showing them respect, instead of simply telling them what to do, you are paving the way for a strong relationship.
- Have firm boundaries. Your kids have feelings and they will display certain behaviors that demand discipline. Use age-appropriate but firm boundaries to help them understand natural consequences and the behavior that you are looking for.
Is Gentle Parenting Effective?
Absolutely! Gentle parents produce well-balanced, emotionally stable and socially adept children that can be successful and have healthy self-images. This happens because this parenting style teaches them how their behavior and the expectations that are placed upon them are related without making them feel unloved if they don’t meet those expectations.
As a parenting approach, it helps develop a well-rounded and resilient child that is confident and can be challenged without feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances.
How to Start with Gentle Parenting?
Everything starts with you as a parent! Your behavior will need to be the first thing to change. Next, the way you address a situation with your kids will also change. Gentle parenting places an emphasis on the actions and not the child, separating the two. Lastly, gentle parents discuss tasks and suggest courses of action as opposed to barking orders and demanding compliance.
Nurture Respect and Passion
When your children see this modeled in you, they will naturally try to copy your behavior. “Monkey see, monkey do”!
Incorporate Empathy and Understanding
If empathy and understanding were not the norm when you grew up, this will take some practice. Always keep in mind that kids are not as developed (emotionally, psychologically, physically) as adults and have a harder time managing their inner states or sticking to certain tasks.
Manage Your Frustrations
Gentle parenting is a process that takes time to deliver results. As all parents know, it can be hard to stay calm when the situation seems to demand a stronger reaction. Work out your frustrations away from your kids and keep calm while you are with them.
How to Practice Gentle Parenting Techniques
Set Boundaries but Provide a Reason
Kids may not always understand or agree with the boundaries that you set for them. In fact, they rarely will! Consistency and clarity are key when it comes to boundaries. They know what they are, why they are there and what happens if they are not respected. Kids will eventually learn to respect those boundaries and down the road, may even thank you for having them.
Be Bold to Say “Yes”!
Encourage your kids to speak their minds! You want confident kids that are willing to express their emotions (while still showing respect) and have conversations with them about your expectations. If they ask for a change, if it makes sense, be bold and say yes!
Don’t Raise Your Voice but Choose Your Words
Yelling rarely gets the job done with kids. It is far more effective to be intentional with your words and speak in calm and normal tones. “We need to discuss what happened this morning” can be far more powerful than “Hey! Get over here!...”
Comment on the Action, Not the Child’s Personality
Avoid commenting on your child’s personality when they are being disciplined. Focus your discussions around the actions that need adjusting. “You’re such a terrible listener”, should be changed to something like, “When Mommy is speaking, I need you to focus on the sound of my voice and what I am saying.”
Treat Your Child the Way You Expect Them to Treat Others
Children model their behavior after their parents. If you treat them with empathy, kindness, understanding and respect, you can expect that they will treat others that way as well.
Help Your Child Learn from Their Mistakes
Mistakes are the best teachers! Instead of mistakes being a negative, turn them into a positive by explaining that the best of the best, in any field or area of expertise, have made more mistakes than anyone!
When you frame “mistakes” or “failure” in this way, it becomes fun to learn! As John Maxwell, the world-renowned leadership author says, “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn”.
Learn from Your Own Mistakes
What attitude needs to extend to you as a parent as well. Some parents seem to have this notion in their heads that, since they are now raising a child, they can’t make mistakes. Not true! Mistakes are made by parents all the time! Make sure to be humble, accept that as a parent, you will make mistakes and make the best of that “learning opportunity” when it happens.
Communicate with your Child
Sometimes all your kids want to do is talk. There may be a thousand other tasks that could get done but taking the time to communicate with your child is critical. They want to know that they are heard and understood. Sometimes, it seems like all they want to tell you about is dragons and magic and princesses but deep down, they want to know that you are there to listen to them.
Spend Time with Your Child
Spend quality time with your kids. Go on adventures. Read great books. Cali’s Books has a great selection of sound and sight books that are both engaging and educational. Teach them how to use their imaginations. Play fun games that challenge and grow their capacity! This is a huge investment in your children’s well-being.
Discipline Instead of Punishing
Discipline is a form of teaching. Punishment is meant as a negative consequence for bad behavior. Whether your child is preschool age, older or even younger, age-appropriate discipline is extremely beneficial.
As an example, if a toddler leaves a room a mess with their toys, a parent could either:
- Punish: “You clean this room now and you are not getting to use your favorite toy for the rest of the day”.
- Discipline: “Let’s clean this room and from now on, before we get to move onto another play area or task, we must clean before we leave. If not, we have to drop what we are doing and go clean immediately”.
As far as parenting approaches go, gentle parenting has it all. Great connections with your kids, strong and resilient self-images, great social skills and more. It is well worth the effort to change your behavior as a parent to model respect and understanding when dealing with your kids. Set boundaries for your kids and explain why.
This will lead to better conversations, deeper connections and well-behaved kids. When it comes time to discipline or modify your kids’ behavior, make sure they know that it is about their actions and not them as a person. Be sure to constantly learn from your mistakes, showing your kids what it looks like to make mistakes and turn them into learning opportunities. Most of all, love your kids. Show them every day, in your words and actions, that you love them deeply. That is the best foundation to build on.
Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books
“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”
I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!
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