It is imperative to understand that effective parenting is focused on the child and not on the parent. Most of us are not conditioned to think like that but it is true that any style we adopt is for the benefit of the children, to bring them up well.
Unlike most other child-rearing approaches, gentle parenting is an approach that helps raise confident and happy children. It comprises of four pillars:
Setting Healthy boundaries
The idea is to help cultivate those habits that you would want the child to display as mature and compassionate adults. Gentle parenting is by no means lenient. It borrows the best from other styles. Parents enforce discipline that promotes learning important life lessons without authoritarianism. There is also healthy communication that is not too permissive and definitely not avoidant.
While gentle parenting is all the rage, there are both pros and cons to this style. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Children Learn Empathy – They associate actions with feelings. When you do something keeping in mind the child’s feelings, they are conditioned to do the same. Children learn to put themselves in others’ shoes as part of their actions. This also helps them behave kindly and with respect.
They Learn to Play Multiple Roles – When you are discipling children, they understand how to implement their learnings. When you support and coach them when they fail, they learn how to help and motivate. When you back them in tough situations, they learn how to stand up for themselves and for others by upholding their values. Gentle parents play multiple roles and children get to observe and learn from them.
Time Consuming – Technically, this shouldn’t be seen as a negative, but parents need to commit themselves and a huge amount of time to incorporate this style of parenting. You need to be involved and actively present if you want to play varied roles in a child’s life. It all starts with making family time a priority. It is a huge task for working parents even though the payoff is great.
Establishing Healthy Boundaries – While we want to develop a healthy relationship with our children, it is important that children do not view us as buddies. At least, not until they are young adults. Establishing boundaries is crucial and must be consistently reinforced, so children understand that they must modify their behaviour according to situations. While reinforcing boundaries, make sure you keep in mind not to project your experience with your parents on your children, particularly if you had a negative experience. Try to unlearn and relearn on your parenting journey.
If you are ready to give it a go, here are some useful tips on how to start.
Setting Expectations – Have a sit down with the family and establish clear family rules. Help the little ones understand which behaviours are acceptable and deviations that are not welcome. You want everyone to be on the same page.
Positive Encouragement – If you adopted gentle parenting since the day you became parents, it may not be new to your children. And still, you can expect mishaps sometimes. If you are newly adopting this approach, allow buffer time so the children get used to your new way of doing things and respond appropriately. It may not be realistic to expect them to get into the new way of things immediately.
Consistency is Key– This is probably the most important point. You must be consistent with what you are doing. Don’t lose your cool at the first instance they mess up. Take some time to collect your thoughts and figure how you want to approach the situation.
Your Family, Your Team – Remember that it is not parents versus children. Make sure everyone understands that it is the family against any negative behaviour that you want to eliminate. Identify what triggers you and your young ones and work towards reducing them.
Do not mistake gentle parenting to being gentle. The idea is to be a coach, a cheerleader, a mentor, or any other role your child needs you to be as per their age and emotional readiness. This style of parenting is more likely to help you develop a deep bond of friendship with your child during their adolescent and adult years.
As parents, you are living your journey along with your children. Embrace trial and error. It is a job learned on-the-go, so never beat yourself up for not meeting every expectation that you have set for yourself. Use advice that suits you best and make sure to customise it as applicable to your unique family. 😊