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Positive parenting

Gentle Parenting: What Is It and Is It Worth It?

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The word ‘parenting’ has more meaning to it than you think. Just Google the word and you’ll find a long list of links pointing towards different styles of parenting, tips and tricks to being a good parent, what’s effective and what isn’t and so on. Well, I’m not promising you something different but at the same time, this blog is not about something mainstream.Today, we’ll be discussing gentle parenting. We’ll dive deep into the subject to help you understand if you are ready to be a gentle parent.

What is Gentle Parenting?

Like I said before, I’m not going to talk about something mainstream and gentle parenting falls perfectly in this description.

Gentle Parenting is a scientific, evidence-based, approach to raising confident and happy children.

-Sarah Ockwell Smith (Childcare Author and Parenting Expert)

Gentle parenting is just another style of parenting or disciplining that takes a different route than the traditional methods. If you were born in the 1990s or before, it’s more than likely that you’re grown up in an authoritarian style of parenting. It includes the system of reward and punishment. The word ‘grounded’ will help kick in more nostalgia for the younger times.

But, when we talk about gentle parenting, it doesn’t include the concept of reward or punishment. In simple words, gentle parenting is more focused on the parent’s attitude and its effect on the parent-child relationship than that of the child. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely some emphasis on the child but the inclination is more towards your attitude and the way you deal with situations to build or break a bond.

As a gentle parent, you are expected to understand your child, their motives, intentions and mindset and act accordingly. You have to create a bond with the child where he or she feels that their voice can be heard. The method requires you to be supportive of the right things and understanding about the wrong ones. Develop mutual trust and respect so that the child feels that their home and parent is a safe space.

Here’s a quick overview of the dos and don’ts of the gentle parenting method.

Dos of Gentle Parenting

Your job is to connect with your child and be guiding and encouraging. Give them space to be themselves and guide them wherever and whenever necessary. Always remember, the way you deal with your child is the way they’ll respond to you. If you are kind and understanding, you will observe the same in their behavior too.

Don’ts of Gentle Parenting

As a gentle parent, you are not trying to be controlling, punishing or demanding. Try not to project your wishes, ideals, opinions or feelings onto your child. They are their own being. Understand that and act accordingly. Spend time with them. Play a game (I love chutes and ladders) or go to family dinners. Try to build a strong parent-child relationship.

What Are the Core Values of Gentle Parenting?

Gentle parenting style doesn’t really have any clear-cut book of rules. It’s very dynamic in the sense that a parent can work around its core values and define their own way of gentle parenting. So, let’s talk about these core values to help you better understand how to go about this parenting style.

Gentle parenting style is all about building a relationship with your child. How you go about it is your choice. But, as Sarah Ockwell describes in her book, you must try and build the bond on 4 core values or pillars. These are:

  1. Empathy
  2. Respect
  3. Understanding
  4. Boundaries

Empathy

In the gentle parenting method, you need to follow the technique of ‘mind-mindedness’. Simply put, understand that your child has their own mind, thoughts and opinions. Be empathetic to their emotions and feelings and respond accordingly.

Respect

Never let yourself slide into the thought of ‘it’s my child, I’ll parent in whatever way I please.’ This attitude will lead you to pressure your child into things you feel are right or appropriate. Remember, it’s your child but it’s also human. So, you must accept their right to be treated with dignity and respect. When you respect them, they will respect you too.

Understanding

You have to start thinking from the perspective of your child. Don’t expect your 2-year-old to behave or act a certain way everywhere. Understand that their mind isn’t developed like that of an adult. If they are behaving inappropriately or different from usual, try to understand their perspective. Ask a question like why, who, where, when and how, to figure out what led to something. There’s always a reason behind your child’s behavior. It won’t always be a big issue but a reason will always be there. Try to decode the situation in every case.

Boundaries

Gentle parenting involves boundaries. In any case, gentle parenting does not take away the role of a parent, that is, of authority. So you can be strict and have rules but at the same time, you’ve got to be warm and open.

You can decide these boundaries on your own terms (keeping all the other values in mind). But, it should neither be all about leniency and saying ‘yes’ to everything and nor about being extremely strict. Find a center that works for both of you and move forward.

How is Gentle Parenting Different From Other Styles of Parenting?

With all the other styles of parenting in the picture, it can be difficult to pick the one that’ll be right for your family. So, let’s understand how gentle parenting differs from the three other popular styles of parenting.

Authoritarian Parenting vs Gentle Parenting

Authoritarian parenting involves expecting obedience from the child in every aspect. More often than not, an authoritarian parent sets expectations from the child and tries to mold the behavior of the child to fulfill those expectations. One of the most common aspects of authoritarian parenting is the concept of punishment and reward. While such reinforcement might help build or curb a behavior, studies show that it has a negative impact on a child’s psychology.

Gentle parenting steers clear from the one-way communication of authoritarian parenting. Parents are open to discussions and try to build a relationship where the child feels no hesitation to express themselves. Reinforcement techniques of reward and punishment are avoided.

Attachment Parenting vs Gentle Parenting

Attachment parenting is all about attachment. For the first few years of growth, the parent creates a bond with the child using attachment techniques such as co-sleeping and quick response to their needs.

Gentle parenting doesn’t restrict itself to babies or young children. While the technique may be similar to attachment parenting such as the principle of being gentle but it’s more about being kind and creating mutual respect and understanding in the long run.

Permissive Parenting vs Gentle Parenting

Permissive parenting comes from the other end of the spectrum that includes parents treating their children as equals. So they do not get into their business and the child generally gets away with most things. They never say no and always try to please the child in whatever way they can. In simple words, it’s a ‘hands-off’ parenting technique.

Gentle parenting involves kindness but does not have a hands-off style. It includes the creation of boundaries, rules and regulations but by keeping in mind the other principles of respect, empathy and understanding.

Is Gentle Parenting Effective?

Yes, gentle parenting is effective. But, it’s not a style that will give you immediate results. The primary idea of gentle parenting is to understand that a child is an individual that is growing. At every point in time, they may have a different mindset or outlook. So, your technique might also not work at times.

But, that’s what it’s about. You’ve got to change your attitude and way of dealing with your child accordingly. That’s how you’ll be able to have a child that turns out to be kind, independent and expressive.

Benefits of Gentle Parenting

Gentle parenting might be a new way of parenting the child but it’s effective and in some cases even better than the traditional methods. If you are trying gentle parenting or think of giving it a try, you can be more sure about the results with the following benefits that the method entails.

  • The child learns about self worth.
  • The child turns out to be intelligent.
  • They are better at regulating their emotions.
  • They are more independent.
  • They are more sociable.
  • They develop healthy adult relationships.
  • They are less secretive.
  • They are more empathetic towards others.

Gentle parenting is not only beneficial for the child but it’s also a good thing for the parents. When you have a better bond with your child, you have less worries about the child hiding things from you or behaving in a way that you don’t know how to deal with. In the long run, you have a kid that’s independent and knows how to differentiate between wrong and right.

The family dynamic is not tense and there’s no room for resentment to build up. The boundaries created by the parents feel less like restrictions and more like a way of developing a sense of security.

Parents realizing that they have no control over the emotions or feelings of the child helps them not blame themselves for things they can’t control. So, eventually, gentle parenting results in the happiness of both the child and the parent.

What Are the Drawbacks of Gentle Parenting?

Most people question the style of gentle parenting mostly because it does not have a specific definition. It’s more like a mixture of all the important factors or different parenting styles that can be molded by the parent according to what they need. It’s dynamic nature is often seen as a pro as well as a con.

Some people think it’s too lenient. But in reality, gentle parenting can be stricter than other parenting styles. It all depends on the way you create boundaries for your children.

In addition to this, it may be difficult for parents to mold themselves into the parenting style. You have let go of the way you were brought up and think in a way that generates kind responses and an understanding attitude. It’s hard work and may even take years to show results. But, in the long run, you invest in a healthy and happy home and an independent, empathetic and wise child.

Are You a Gentle Parent?

There’s no foolproof way to determine if you are a gentle parent or not. But, to have some idea about where you stand, try to answer the following questions.

Are you kind to your child?

You have to be kind to your child in every situation. The idea of punishment, time-outs and yelling is not practiced by a gentle parent.

Are you patient?

A child is still learning. So, their behavior will be unpredictable at times. You cannot lash out at them for it. Take some time, reflect on the situation, try to understand it before responding.

Are you treating your child like a ‘mini-adult’?

It’s crucial to understand that a child is a child. If you are expecting your child to behave, learn and respond like adults, you are in the wrong direction. Gentle parenting will help you develop realistic expectations from your child.

Are you creating a safe space for your child?

Gentle parenting emphasizes creating a bond with your child. It should be strong enough for the child to feel safe and expressive around you.

Are you projecting your opinions on your child?

Your expectations from your child shouldn’t be based on your idea of what’s right and what’s not. You have to be a parent that’s parenting without being selfish.

How to Practice Gentle Parenting?

Like we’ve discussed already, gentle parenting is all about developing a relationship using the 4 core values. You can use it to create a gentle parenting style that will work for your family. But, if you need some help, here are a few ways you can try to begin.

Gentle parenting for bedtime

You don’t stop parenting your child during or after bedtime. Use the pillars of gentle parenting to soothe the child. If there’s something that’s bothering them, be there to talk to them. Whatever they need, be there to deal with it like a gentle parent.

Gentle parenting for improper behavior

Children are not born with the gene to figure out what’s right and wrong. So you will face situations where you have to deal with improper behavior. But remember, with gentle parenting, you are not punishing or laying threats on your child for inappropriate behavior.

Take time to access the situation and choose a path that will help the child fix their behavior. For instance, if a child breaks a very important vase, instead of getting furious and punishing them, make them glue it up instead. Whatever you do, make sure you give them a clear explanation of why you decided to do something. It helps clear any tension and helps the child understand limits and rules more effectively.

Gentle parenting alternatives to yelling

Yelling never helps ease a situation. It builds tension in your relationship with the child. Instead, try to replace yelling with some gentle parenting techniques. Calm yourself down, understand the predicament of your child and move forward. This way you are neither stressing your child nor yourself.

Gentle parenting techniques for building a relationship

Let’s be honest, building a relationship with your child can be challenging. It’s difficult to maintain a balance between being a parent and being a friend. But, if you wish to be a gentle parent, you have to find the sweet spot. To do that, remember these four points:

  • Listen
  • Understand
  • Respond
  • Communicate

Takeaway

There’s no lack of parenting styles out there. Each has its pros and cons. You can take your time to find out which one will suit your family.

When it comes to gentle parenting, it’s a happy mean between authoritarian, permissive and attachment parenting. Each of these methods focus on excessive control, child pleasing attitude and excessive attachment, respectively. But, gentle parenting is all about not being selfish, being there for your child and allowing them to express while being aware of the boundaries.

So, are you ready to be a gentle parent?

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