Many parents have started to hear the term “gentle parenting.” For many parents, the ideas and strategies presented by the gentle parenting movement are foreign and confusing. However, once you start to implement some of the principles of gentle parenting in your own family, you’ll quickly see a dramatic difference in the relationship between you and your kids, regardless of their age.
- Gentle parenting means no punishments
Discipline is meant to instill a sense of responsibility and accountability in a child. Whether it be a directly related consequence, like taking away a toy when they won’t stop playing, or a more abstract consequence, like grounding a child for talking back, the lesson kids usually take away from the experience is different than the one the parent is trying to impart. Punishments just teach kids not to get caught, and to prioritize avoiding discovery rather than taking personal accountability and doing the right thing for the right reasons.
- Gentle parenting also means no rewards
Similar to how there are no punishments in gentle parenting, there are also no rewards. No bribing kids into doing what they should with candy or treats, and no promising presents in return for good behavior. Just as kids should feel an intrinsic sense of responsibility when they’ve done something wrong, they should also feel an intrinsic sense of pride when they do something right.
- Gentle parenting doesn’t mean permissive parenting
Just because you’re gentle doesn’t mean you have to let kids do whatever they want. Gentle just means going about correcting their behavior in a gentle and more respectful way. Rules and boundaries are critical cornerstones to gentle parenting. By establishing clear guidelines about what is and is not appropriate, children have the consistent structure they require. This means a child will feel assured enough to explore new environments while also knowing they’re being protected, giving them confidence.
- Gentle parenting is about teaching lifelong skills
While it may be most convenient for adults at the moment, telling a child “because I said so” or expecting them to do as they’re told without further question doesn’t set them up for lifelong success. As parents, we want our children to learn to think critically, stand up for themselves, and speak their minds, which means encouraging them to do so even with their own parents. Gentle parenting seeks to prepare kids to do these in respectful ways by giving them a chance to practice with their first teacher – their parents!
- Gentle parenting means respecting each other
Gentle parenting doesn’t mean tolerating disrespect from your kids. Rather, it’s a back-and-forth exchange of respect between parent and child, as you would expect in any relationship. By respecting a child’s autonomy, emotions, privacy, and sense of self, you show them how you expect everyone should be treated and lead by example. When that foundation of respect is there, it is much easier to go through conflict together as you will have that strong foundation to lean upon.
- Gentle parenting is about strengthening your relationship with your kids
Gentle parenting is really about having the best possible relationship with your own children. It’s about having respect, trust, and kindness for one another, regardless of the circumstances. While you are still in a position of authority over your child as their parent, you are also building a friendship with them. After all, you as their parent are their first friend, role model, teacher, and partner in life. By having a strong relationship with them, you set them up for success in their relationships for the rest of their life.
- Gentle parenting can be hard
Gentle parenting can seem at first like the pleasant, easy way to parent. With the goal of having no power struggles, no punishments, and no shouting matches, it seems a lot simpler than most parents’ way of doing things. However, gentle parenting can also be a real struggle. Finding the will to resist disciplining out of frustration or raising your voice out of anger can take a lot of strength. Often as parents, we fall back on the methods that were used on us as children, even when we know they aren’t reflective of who we want to be as parents. Gentle parenting takes practice, patience, and time – but it will all feel worth it when you see the positive impact it has on you and your children.