If you ever thought about gentle parenting like I used to, then you may have thought that gentle parenting means not saying no to your child. But I am here to let you know that is not true at all. In fact, I’m gentle parenting is not what you think it is when you hear about the stereotype of it.
What Is Gentle Parenting?
The most common misconception is that parents who practice gentle parenting are too soft on their kids or that they say yes to everything. But after taking the time researching it and learning more about it, I now understand why it’s so highly recommended and why it works so well!
Gentle parenting (sometimes aligned with attachment parenting) is a connection first approach to parenting. It’s focused on promoting a healthy parent-child relationship where the relationship is the priority. It’s about improving emotional intelligence and fostering respect and empathy in the child as they work through their emotions to have healthy relationships, self-esteem, mindfulness, and self-regulation. It’s about not parenting out of fear, stress or anger but rather helping a child understand their emotions and behave in an appropriate way.
Gentle parenting any child is not going to be easy. Primarily because even as adults, many of us struggle to self-regulate. Truthfully, it’s going to take time, a whole lot of patience… and maybe some wine, if I’m being honest.
As parents, and more specifically as mothers, we are still going to lose our shit from time to time. We have a lot on our plates at any given moment. And it’s okay, so long as you explain to your child that you are human and had a bad moment. The key is to have less and less of those moments, and more moments of clarity and patience with your kids.
Gentle Parenting With an Older Child
When I first started gentle parenting, my child was past the toddler stage so it was more difficult in my opinion. But it’s never too late to begin gentle parenting.
My daughter is five, about to turn six. I began to notice that she was starting to yell back at me, just as I did to her. She was starting to have more and more attitude and more angry feelings that she didn’t know how to deal with. Honestly, I also did not know how to show her to deal with her feelings in a positive or constructive way which lead me to do some research on the way to approach this.
My previous parenting method came from my childhood. It wasn’t something I thought deeply about until recently. My parents were old fashioned and still are. I parent the way they parented. And I’m sure they parented my brother and I the way they were both parented. But I’m trying my best to break that cycle.
I now talk to my daughter about her feelings. I give her space but also make sure things are spoken about and we always try to end a situation in a positive way. Phrases like “we’ll do better next time,” “we tried our best,” or “it’s ok to feel upset, we all do, but we need to work through it.” All of these are positive and constructive phrases that help to improve emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and the parent-child relationship.
I try to always remember these key factors. Kids are human just like us. We can’t demand respect from a child, would we speak that way to an adult? We have to remember that little kids have big feelings and it’s ok as long as they know how to express them in an appropriate manner. As long as they know they have us at the end to be their safe space.
Now that my daughter is older, gentle parenting is tough.
She is an only child and is around adults quite a bit. At times, I can’t believe how smart she is. She attempts to take advantage and tries to be lazy with things that I know she knows how to do. At times, she’s yells back at me when I am talking to her calmly. Then there are times when she says profound statements like, “I wish things were different so that I didn’t have to bother you and daddy all the time.” Now we have never made her intentionally feel this way. However, I do see why she had that thought and from the moment she said that, we immediately changed everything. Now I can’t sit here and dwell on what I wish I had done differently for the first five years of her life, but I can try my best to do better and be a better parent.
It’s my first time being a parent and I am still learning as I go. They say you and your first child learn together and I now see why. I am still learning from her, just as she is learning from me. She teaches me everyday to be more patient, more respectful, and to take deep breaths when we need to have a moment to ourselves.
It’s incredible how much wisdom a little five year old can have. Yes, it may not be the kind of wisdom you have when you’re 70, but children have this innate way of knowing how to express empathy, knowing when to show they care, and just being there for you, even when you are having a bad moment. We are learning together.
Since we began gentle parenting, my daughter now reminds me when I may be raising my voice, when it’s not needed. Instead of taking is as disrespect, I commend her and acknowledge when she is right and try to start over with a calmer voice.
Another thing, my daughter now knows when she is upset about something, she tells me, “Mom, I need a minute and will then come back and have a good conversation about what just happened.”
We have more of a mutual respect for each other and I have set more boundaries which enables me to say yes to more, rather than no. This was a major thing for me. I used to say no to everything. Imagine, as an adult hearing no all day long. It’s frustrating and downright defeating. It’s not what a child should feel. I quickly saw a difference in my daughter once I changed that up.
Choosing gentle parenting with my now older child has proven to be rewarding in so many ways.
It’s still a challenge at times, but we work on it every day. We know actions have consequences and likewise, they have rewards. Also, we’ve learned that giving alternate options is a great way to not say no. We know that when we respect each other, that only good comes from it.
If you haven’t already tried gentle parenting and are struggling with your children, I would highly recommend it. Do your research, read up on it, and know how to deal with different situations with all the right methods.