Before we can get into any of the how-tos of gentle parenting, you need to understand what this type of parenting is. Gentle parenting is also commonly referred to as authoritative parenting. This parenting strategy focuses on high warmth and high expectations. In other words, gentle parenting is not to be confused with leniency because while a great deal of understanding and warmth is needed, there are also a number of rules and expectations that need to be followed.
Gentle parenting functions based on three core principles: understanding, empathy, and respect. You need to recognize that your child is a child whose world does not function the same as your world does. They do not yet have the same experience you do, shaping how they view the things around them. Gentle parenting also places the focus on empathy and consideration. Rather than getting caught up in routines, take time to empathize with your kid. This can also help teach them how to empathize with others in the future.
Finally, gentle parenting is based on mutual respect. Yes, your child is a child and therefore will not be as responsible and reliable as a fully developed adult, but they are still living, breathing human beings who can (and will) make their own decisions. Approaching your child with respect shows them how to be respectful of others and gives them the opportunity to learn and grow as human beings much more effectively.
Benefits of Gentle Parenting
Gentle parenting can bring tremendous benefits to your child (who is growing into a functional adult in society) and your family as a whole. When our kids feel valued just as much as anyone else, they are much more likely to grow up into the kind, respectful, and understanding individuals you are hoping they become. This is because they are shown from a young age the behaviors you are modeling for them — the exact behaviors you hope they bring with them into adulthood.
Some of the most positive benefits of gentle parenting include:
- Inforced positive social skills
- Improved parent-child bond
- Reduced risk of anxiety
- Better understanding and empathy
How to Practice Gentle Parenting
Finding the right balance between respect and leniency can be extremely challenging — especially if you did not grow up with these values in your own childhood. But, just because you didn’t grow up with it, doesn’t mean you can’t provide this environment for your children.
Here are some tips that you can follow to begin incorporating gentle parenting into your day-to-day life as you raise your children.
Start with Respect
As we mentioned earlier, respect is one of the core parts of gentle parenting. Recognize that your child is their own person and has their own desires and needs. Try to understand their perspective and respect their wishes rather than forcing your own opinions or desires on them.
Recognize that Your Kids Are Doing the Best They Can
How the world looks to our children is incredibly different from the way the world looks to us. Have you ever made a choice that you can look back to and, in hindsight, realize there were many other better choices you could have made? Unfortunately, for the most part, kids do not really have any “hindsight” experiences that they can think about — this means they make decisions based on what is in front of them.
They do their best with what they have — this should not be punished or discouraged. Instead, you can use some of the less-than-ideal experiences as a learning opportunity for future reference.
Model Good Behaviours for Your Kids
From responsibility to honesty to kindness, our children learn many behaviors from us, the parents. This means we need to ensure that we are modeling the types of behaviors that we want our children to learn. This can mean modeling good social skills with others or even healthy self-care habits so our kids can learn that kindness to our bodies is just as important as kindness to others.
Set Rules and Boundaries
Gentle parenting is not leniency. You must ensure that you have clear guidelines for what is and is not acceptable behavior. Without this structure, the ideals of gentle parenting can easily turn into leniency and spoiling, which will not help your children to grow into the respectful and functional adults you are hoping they will become.
Comment on Behaviors, Not People
When we say “you did ___” or “you are being ___,” it can cause our kids to become defensive and less receptive to the comment overall. This is because we appear to be calling out our child rather than calling out the behavior.
So, rather than calling attention to your child, try highlighting the action as the area that needs attention. This can help our kids to realize that the action is the issue that needs to be addressed — not them. This way, you can work together to find a better behavior for the situation.
Swap Out the Commands
As we get older (and address people the same age or older than us), we tend to make “suggestive commands” rather than using actual commands. For example, you may ask your partner if they can please pull out the plates and silverware for dinner. But, when it comes to our children, we can overlook this more suggestive approach and opt, instead, for commands.
Remember that your children are just as deserving of respect as your partner or anyone else. This means that we should approach talking to them in the same type of way — which, when it comes to commands, leans more towards friendly suggestions that inspire cooperation rather than authoritative control.
Provide a Safe Environment
Your children are going to have tantrums or get into arguments with you about something at some point in their lives. This is natural, and it is a part of growing up. The best thing you can do in these situations is to provide them with the safe and understanding environment they need. First, your kids need to get these emotions out. Then, once the strong emotions have been let out, you can go back and discuss the issue and use the experience as a learning experience for them (and for you as well).
Work With a Therapist
Sometimes trying to implement new ideas and tactics can be extremely challenging to do on your own without any guidance. The tips above can help you start practicing gentle parenting techniques for your children, but it can be hard to know exactly how to respond in certain situations or how to best provide the type of support your children need as they grow. This is one area where a therapist’s help can be incredibly helpful.
A lot of people may not think of therapy when it comes to honing in on and practicing their parenting skills, but it can be a great resource for anyone wanting to adopt an effective and nurturing parenting strategy that focuses on growth and development for your children. Gentle parenting is a great example of this type of parenting. The therapists at Love Heal Grow practice these techniques, making them an incredibly valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn how to use them. So, if you want to learn more about gentle parenting or work on your own parenting skills, please do not hesitate to reach out to Love Heal Grow today to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.