Gentle parenting involves implementing respectful, understanding parenting practices, whilst ensuring discipline is carried out in an empathetic way. Keep reading to learn more.
Parenting is challenging and we may often question whether our parenting style is the most effective for our children. There are various parenting styles which range from being very strict to being completely permissive – we’ll focus on gentle parenting.
The aim of gentle parenting is to guide children in an empathetic way, by showing them respect and understanding but also by setting limitations and boundaries. Gentle parenting involves disciplining from the same side as the child, by trying to understand the reason behind the child’s negative behavior and coaching them to express themselves in a more positive way. For this reason, disicpline isn’t seen as a punishment, but more as a teachable moment.
Gentle parenting is seen as a parenting technique which is successful in raising confident, happy children while assisting in encouraging their independence. Keep reading to learn more about what gentle parenting entails.
What is Gentle Parenting?
The aim of gentle parenting is to raise your child to be confident, independent, and happy, by allowing them to grow up in an empathetic environment, where their feelings and thoughts are taken into consideration when implementing discipline and not labeling them as “naughty”. In fact, a 2019 study found that gentle parenting boosted children’s confidence, and it was especially beneficial to shy toddlers who responded well to gentle encouragement.
Gentle parenting does not mean simply giving children everything that they want. Instead, parents and caregivers show compassion, encourage emotion regulation, and praise positive behavior. Instead of implementing threats or taking away privileges when a mistake is made, the child is brought closer and the reasons behind their behavior are recognized and discussed.
For example, a toddler screams when given his drink in an orange cup. Rather than getting angry and telling him not to scream, gentle parenting would mean listening to his needs. He is upset because he wanted the blue cup, although we may not understand his reasoning, we need to respect his feelings as this is important to him. So to combat these kinds of tantrums in the future we can offer two choices of cups next time. This does not mean the parent is “giving in”, rather they are using empathy to understand their child.
Is Gentle Parenting for Me?
It’s true that gentle parenting requires a lot of patience and it is a long-term learning process, so don’t expect instant results. However, with persistence, it can be a very successful parenting method and leave both parents and children feeling less stressed.
One of the key things to remember with gentle parenting is that you, the caregiver, are responsible for modeling the behavior that you expect of your child. It’s normal for young children to copy and emulate what the adults around them do, so if they always see you yelling when you get frustrated, chances are they will do the same.
Gentle parenting means showing children empathy. For example, if a toddler keeps waking up at night, it is important to remember that they are not doing it out of a desire to annoy you. Gentle parenting means finding the root cause of waking, such as a fear of the dark, needing the toilet, or a drink. Once the cause of the problem has been established, some solutions can be implemented to reduce further wakings, such as using a nightlight, going to the toilet before sleeping, or providing a glass of water by their bed. Comforting the child shows them that you are providing empathy and helps the child understand that there is nothing wrong with their feelings.
If you’re interested in trying gentle parenting, you may want to take a look at yourself first and think about how you deal with stressful situations and manage your emotions. Having a short temper will not work with this parenting method.
How to Discipline the Gentle Parenting Way
Consistency is key when setting boundaries to ensure that children are not confused by ever-changing rules, this improves their confidence as they know what is expected of them. Discipline in gentle parenting involves using empathy to understand a child’s needs and turning the situation into a teachable moment, for example, if a child keeps calling their sibling names, discipline may be necessary, but the child also needs to be taught what is an appropriate way to speak. The aim is to enable the child to understand how to behave more appropriately, while not being shamed for their emotions.
It’s important with all parenting techniques to remember that age-appropriate discipline is essential. For example, trying to get a one-year-old to understand how they feel would be ridiculous, but trying to get a three-year-old to label their emotions can be effective. You could say to them “you’re mad because you want to finish watching your TV program before dinner, that must be frustrating”.
To apply gentle discipline, parents first need to set clear expectations to make sure children know what is required of them and what will happen if they disobey. Explaining why these expectations are set reduces power struggles between caregivers and children. Logical consequences help to reduce negative behavior from being repeated. Here is a clear example: if a toddler keeps touching something when you’ve told them not to, instead of yelling at them, an alternative is to redirect their attention to something else. A “time in” may be applied to older children, not as a punishment, but rather as a short period of time for them to calm down and reflect on their behavior. Their behavior can then be discussed later, not necessarily at the end of the time period.
Praising positive behavior reinforces that what the child has done is good, and kids naturally want to please, so will likely repeat the good behavior. Behavioral reward charts can be used so that the child gets a sticker if they don’t say any bad words all day. This can help to keep them motivated and more responsible for their own behavior.
Gentle parenting involves teaching kids how to regulate their emotions by using empathy and understanding to acknowledge their feelings, and teach them to be confident and independent, whilst setting clear boundaries so that they understand what is expected of them.
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