What is Gentle Parenting? A Definitive Guide to Help You Foster a More Gentle Approach
Before you have children, you often have pretty visions and ideas of how things will be. Maybe you’ll be the parent who takes your child to the park each morning. Or, the one who cuddles up and reads stories each night. Maybe you’ll bake with your children and gobble up delicious (healthy) cookies on the weekend. That favorite movie of yours would be something you bond over together.
When you think about dealing with those moments when your child misbehaves or does something like talk back to you, or worse, not listen at all (gasp!), maybe you had a plan for that too? Or, maybe it wasn’t something you even considered until you were faced with it in real-time.
The reality is that parenting, once you’re actually a parent, rarely goes how you thought it would before your children came into your life.
Hopefully, many of the happy and positive visions came true, and if not, even better ones than you could have imagined took their place. As for what you thought discipline and boundaries would look like, it probably wasn’t as easy or as straightforward as you expected.
As any parent knows, parenting isn’t easy, and there isn’t one right way to do it. All children aren’t the same, nor are all parents and each of their individual needs.
The gentle parenting approach has become popular among many of today’s parents. Would you like to become a more gentle parent?
Let’s take a look at what it’s all about.
What is Gentle Parenting?
Gentle parenting can be thought of as a team approach between parent and child. Together, you and your child are on the same side, and you, the parent, are the coach figure. This can promote a strong and healthy parent-child relationship.
This type of parenting relies on modeling behavior that you would like to see from your children. It varies from the traditional approach of punishment and rewards, instead focusing more on boundaries and natural consequences, while aiming to be mindful and understand the root of the behaviors. It also takes into consideration the developmental abilities of children at any given stage.
The goal is to raise happy, confident, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent individuals by using a more nurturing and respectful approach.
4 Pillars of Gentle Parenting
In today’s fast-paced world, it can be challenging to slow down and really understand why your child is behaving a certain way. This is what gentle parenting is all about though; getting on their level and striving to understand your child’s emotions and needs.
Try doing these 3 things when showing empathy:
1. Actively listen
2. Validate feelings
3. Respond with compassion
Tip: Acknowledge and name your child’s feelings. This will help them as they learn self-awareness. When you give feelings a name it’s easier to see how you can best process and move through them without shame.
A strong relationship is often built on mutual respect. Gentle parenting encourages respectful and calm communication between parent and child. It can be hard for children to understand the need for showing respect if they aren’t on the receiving end of it.
Tip: Model respectful behavior. Children are some of the best imitators of observed behavior. Let them watch you speak in respectful ways to those you might disagree with. Let them experience respectful interactions with you.
When parenting is approached from a place of understanding, it’s easier to find creative solutions and meet your children where they are, instead of the traditional approach of following a rigid set of rules. Understanding is also about helping children process and discover themselves to create more emotionally intelligent humans.
Tip: Use reflective questions to aid your children in handling emotional situations. For example, “Why do you think you’re feeling this way?” or “What do you think would make you feel better?”
Healthy boundaries are an important part of gentle parenting. Boundaries will vary based on age-appropriateness and individual need. Gentle parenting isn’t an excuse to dismiss boundaries. On the contrary, boundaries should be thoughtfully made.
Tip: Discuss boundaries and try to stay consistent. However, it’s okay to make adjustments tailored to individual situations. Sometimes it can feel like you have to hold the boundary no matter what, but gentle parenting allows for understanding and empathy too.
Gentle Parenting vs. Positive Parenting
Are they the same thing? Not exactly. Gentle parenting is a form of positive parenting. They both emphasize building a strong parent-child relationship and focus on using positive communication and understanding.
Positive parenting is a broader approach that encourages using positive reinforcement to teach accountability and foster independence in children. It utilizes more specifically the discipline techniques of redirection and praise.
Though they aren’t exactly the same, they have many similarities.
Both Gentle Parenting and Positive Parenting Methods Prioritize:
● Respectful communication
● Parent-child bond
● Nurturing the relationship
● Child’s well-being
Fostering a Gentler Approach
Be patient with yourself as you parent your children. No one has it all figured out or gets it right all the time. This may seem like an obvious statement, but we all need the reminder sometimes.
Implementing new habits or ways of doing things takes time and patience. Developing a more positive parenting approach won’t happen all at once.
When you don’t act or react the way that you wish you had, it’s a great opportunity to model healthy ways to try again.
At its heart, gentle parenting is about the bond between you and your child. As you focus on parenting with empathy, understanding, respect, and creating healthy boundaries, you’ll be able to foster a gentler approach and stronger family relationships.
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