A GUIDE TO GENTLE PARENTING
Gentle parenting is generally not widely well known by the masses. It is a term you may not be too familiar with. In this beginner guide with briefly explain the gentle parenting approach and how you can easily implement it effortlessly into your everyday life.
When becoming parents for the first time around, choosing which type of parenting style we implement sometimes isn't a conscious decision, it is something that happens naturally through winging it and remembering details of what your parents did with you or your siblings or doing the complete opposite to that.
Most of us when pregnant, learn so much about the pregnancy and how to look after a new-born that the following on parenting style education kind of slips off as we are so bogged down in the usual jobs of being a parent, trying to survive on barely any sleep and constantly adjusting to new routines. It can feel overwhelming to then learn and implement a whole new structure of a parenting style.
Gentle Parenting doesn't follow strict rules or set guidelines as such but rather centres around your child being a capable being, welcoming their emotions, understanding their behaviour further than the words 'tantrum' and a balanced approach of being a partnership, you and your child. An all in this together approach.
What is gentle parenting?
The goal of gentle parenting is to guide their child forward, for them to become a positive, healthy, happy member of society that joyfully can contribute to the world. Gentle parenting isn't a fad that was invented by a celebrity or endorsed by a mummy influencer. It is a positive philosophy which has a whole host of mindful strategies which may be already familiar to you.
Sarah Ockwell-Smith, parenting expert and author of The Gentle Parenting Book, sums up gentle parenting in three words: empathy, understanding, and respect.
This parenting style asks you to become aware of your child's emotions and feelings in a positive way. The way you also model your emotions, feelings and general behaviour is also important. Gentle parenting encourages an internal partnership between the both of you to encourage willingness.
General misunderstandings of gentle parenting
A lot of parents who only hear the phrase gentle parenting usually assume that gentle parenting means no discipline, which in turn then leaves alarm bells ringing 'no discipline = no control'. Leaving a child with no discipline could lead them into having no boundaries to knowing what is safe, how to respectfully treat others and themselves. But please be rest assured, Gentle Parenting does not avoid discipline or boundaries.
Instead of using angered words or commands, a parent using the gentle parenting method sends the message across not only with boundaries but also with a long-lasting positive impact. Children learn that their parent is their partner whom they can trust, keep them safe and are encouraged to learn about situations.
Gentle parenting operates from a concept that our children learn from what we do. And the end goal is that when our children become adults, it is proven that they are more confident in their own mind, they do not have self-esteem issues and they know that their own emotions and feelings are valid.
Which is in contrast to children that have been brought up in an environment which has not allowed them to express their feelings positively, they then in adulthood with not know how to express their emotions, usually have self-esteem problems and a lack of confidence.
Children want to know their boundaries; they feel a sense of security when they know where their boundaries lie. A parent should set clear, healthy, consistent boundaries and guidelines for your child as well as being nurturing and responsive.
Whilst the suggestions below may not work for everyone, here are some tips we think that every parent should know about.
Understanding their emotions
Going deeper than 'throwing just another tantrum' - for example figuring out why they just had 'another' tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, was it something totally out of their control or is it something that you can positively help with next time?
Communication is key here. Parents can encourage their children to feel their feelings or even name their feelings so that you are able to then understand what emotion it is that they are feeling rather than just a combustion of tears and screams.
For example, is the supermarket break down because of boredom, frustration, a toothache/stomachache? Acknowledging what is happening allows you to understand and potentially prevent the same happening on your weekly shop.
As a lasting thought, if you are asking your children to talk about their emotions, name their feelings, then you should too, as a parent everything our children do is mirrored by our actions.
Be selective with the word 'No'
Our children may hear the word No about 100 times a day if we are not careful. Throwing around the No word in this way will 100% loose it's meaning and impact. As a 'no' can be said something as simple as 'No' it is time to put your shoes on to something extremely serious like 'No' do not run into the busy road.
Gentle parenting would encourage more communication surrounding the word no and dropping the term 'no' all together. Instead look for other ways of saying no, that also deliver understanding and empathy.
For example, 'you cannot have that cookie as it is time for you to go to bed, how about we put this cookie on your plate ready for tomorrow'. This means there is no power struggle between parent and child, the child doesn't hear the word 'No' but hears an alternative with a firm boundary. Then if this causes upset, we can follow with 'I can understand how this can feel frustrating as you want your cookie now, it is okay to be disappointed'.
We want to coach our children not control them. Children need constant guidance and coaching; this is where gentle parenting comes in.
If you view it as simply as your children are new here, like the new person at your workplace, they need lots of support, guidance, and patience to be successful in their new role. They are learning and growing every day, having the respect, and understanding that they will slip up or make a mistake is all part of it.
If you remember, we spoke earlier about a Tantrum in a supermarket? If your child had heard 'No' for the 100th time that day, most likely this had something to do with their high emotions. Practising empathy involves putting yourself in your child's shoes from time to time. If the card machine kept repeatedly telling you 'No' whilst trying to buy your yummy lunch or snacks, then you also would be feeling frustrated. This is your child in the supermarket.
When trying out any Gentle Parenting techniques, the general vibe is to be strong but soft too. Knowing to deliver a firm 'No' but also comfort and support. We hope that this brief guide could prove helpful to you and your children.