Kids…they DEFINITELY don’t come with an instruction manual. If you’ve ever been frustrated, wondered how to invite cooperation rather than a power struggle, wanted to stop yelling at your kids, and create an open and loving relationship with them then gentle parenting might be the parenting philosophy for you!
If you haven’t heard of gentle parenting this post will give you a great overview. You can also check out my recent post with 16 Awesome Gentle Parenting Books for the Nurturing Parent to dive deeper into the philosophy and techniques of being a gentle parent.
Gentle parenting actually has many different names that basically describe the same philosophy. You may have heard of positive discipline, attachment parenting, peaceful parenting, or respectful parenting. Don’t let all these different names throw you off!
Gentle parenting is the belief that the golden rule applies to children – we should treat them the way we want to be treated. The way we WISH we would have been treated as children ourselves. It’s about meeting your child’s difficult moments with empathy, understanding, and kindness.
This doesn’t mean that gentle parents let their children do whatever they want! This actually is considered permissive parenting and is not a part of gentle parenting philosophy. Rather, gentle parenting is about enforcing limits that keep the child safe, respectful of others, and solve problems while honoring the dignity of each person.
Tips for gentle parenting
So how can you be a gentle parent? Here are a few ways to get started.
Understand that all behavior is communication
When a child acts out, they aren’t doing it to frustrate you, annoy you, or harm you. They, quite literally, don’t have the ability to tell you what’s wrong or what they need help with. Even adults sometimes struggle with understanding the emotions behind their behaviors.
Notice what was happening right before the unwanted behavior and show your child a better way – “You were frustrated that Tommy took your toy so you hit him. Next time tell Tommy that you weren’t finished playing with it yet or ask me to help you. We always use soft hands.”
Acknowledge your child’s feelings and frustrations
We all feel better when we know that someone understands what we’re feeling even if they can’t change the situation for us. The same goes for children.
Acknowledge their emotion, name it for them, and use empathy and respect to let them know that they are understood. “I know that you want to keep playing in the park! You’re so frustrated and disappointed that we have to leave. I bet you wish we could play in the park all afternoon! I get sad and mad when I have to leave a fun place too.”
Create an environment of yes
We all get frustrated when we are constantly hearing the word no or can’t. Do your best to make your child’s space a yes environment and you will avoid many tantrums and frustrations.
This could include baby proofing, putting devices out of sight (and yes, out of your hands too), giving your child their own space that they can be free to roam, only setting boundaries that are really important or safety concerns, and allowing your child to learn through their own mistakes (only intervening when unsafe, requested, or required to teach acceptable social behavior i.e. respect for others).
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about gentle parenting! There’s so much more to discover – like why time outs don’t work and actually make behavior worse, using natural consequences, offering your child choices, and the danger of parental praise.
I hope you’ll consider looking into more about gentle parenting and seeing how it can transform your relationships with your children.
Alexis Robinson is a wife and mom living in the Southwest. She considers herself a sorta crunchy mama on a journey of gentle parenting, lower toxicity, and slower living in a laid back and common sense way. She can be found blogging over at Mamma in Pearls about all things sorta crunchy!